How I Turned My Passion into a Degree

Tiffany Ly / Otterbein University »

At some point in your life, you have probably heard the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Most kids would say, “I’m going to be…,” and they would follow that with any profession ranging from doctor to teacher or even astronaut. However, as you grow up, you begin to realize the jobs you fantasized about as a kid are a lot harder than expected. Apparently, you can’t just magically diagnose a patient with a fake disease, just like you did with your stuffed animals. As a teacher, you aren’t allowed to teach whatever you want every day. Even as an astronaut, you can’t just walk on the moon whenever you feel like it! All of these professions require a lot of training and a lot more school.

One of the hardest parts of trying to figure out who you are is what you want to do for the rest of your life. The most difficult part for me has been trying to choose just one career path since I liked to dabble in everything. As a kid, I had many aspirations. For a while, I wanted to be a musician since I played the violin, oboe, and alto and soprano saxophones. Then, I wanted to be an early childhood education teacher since I loved working with kids as a summer camp counselor. One of my high school teachers suggested I combine both ideas and become a music education teacher. For a while, I believed that I would teach kids how to play music, but as I thought about it and shadowed music teachers, I realized that this profession was not for me.

Compared to my other siblings, I would classify myself as the “go with the flow” middle child. I didn’t have the expectation of being the best like my older sibling, nor was I expected to be the smartest like my younger sibling. All that was expected of me was to not mess up my life. My older sister is going to be an optometrist while my younger brother aspires to be an engineer. For me, all I knew that I wanted was to be able to do something that would keep me on my toes and that I was also passionate about. I didn’t realize what I was good at, so I chose a school where I knew I would be able to explore different majors, talk to faculty, and be in smaller sized classes. The school that felt right for me was Otterbein University.

Otterbein University fulfilled each standard of what I was looking for in a school and exceeded those expectations. Faculty at Otterbein made sure that I had different opportunities that allowed me to figure out what I wanted to do. I finally chose Otterbein because I felt at home and included in the community, and I knew that a smaller campus would allow for me to have more attention from faculty members. However, I was still indecisive on what to do with the rest of my life. 

The head of the Otterbein Communication Department approached me one day and had specifically nominated me to introduce a famous author to the whole first-year student class, professors, and community members as well. At first I was hesitant, but I soon realized that my professor not only believed in me, but she was also willing to provide all the resources to help me succeed. I also understood that this would be a fun opportunity for me to do something new and get out of my comfort zone.

This was all made possible because I attended a small liberal arts institution. I had the opportunity to get involved because my professors saw the potential in me. This experience happened to me my first semester of my first year because there are advantages to attending smaller institutions. With small class sizes, faculty are more likely to spot your potential. I was able to get involved early on in the curriculum which lead me to my decision on what I wanted to major in.

After the event, I felt energized. Being up on the stage made me feel good and gave me the confidence I needed to know that communication studies and public relations was in the right major for me . After participating in this event, I decided to get even more involved on campus. I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America, participated in the Otterbein Wind Ensemble, observed the public relations aspect at the Columbus Blue Jackets, and attended many mixers, where I met people in the communication and public relations field. However, after being involved, gaining great experiences, and making memories, I still felt unsure of what I wanted to do exactly. It wasn’t until I talked with one of my professors in the Otterbein University’s Communication Department that I realized what I wanted to do.

I had told them how jealous I was of my peers who already knew what they wanted to do with their careers. This professor gave me advice that impacted my perspective on my future. “Don’t worry about what you are going to do in the future, you still have time. Just find something you are passionate about and you will know what to do next.” Then the professor proceeded to ask me, “what are you passionate about?” At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do… I wanted to pursue a career with the Walt Disney Company. I knew that I wanted to pursue this career because of how passionate I am about all the memories and magic this company has created for me. I just never realized that I could actually have a career with them.

When I had my epiphany, I talked with many of my professors about the reality of me being able to get an internship with them as a freshman and potentially a job offer in the future. To my surprise, they were very supportive and best of all, they seemed to truly believe in me and wanted to help me succeed in my dreams.

My game plan was to be a part of the Disney College Program, then apply for a professional internship with Disney, and lastly get a job as a public relations professional for the Walt Disney World Company. However,  the odds of me getting in as a freshman were very low. Less than 20 percent of people who apply are accepted in and most of those people are over 21-years-old, but that didn’t stop me.

Even though the odds were low, I still decided to apply. After talking with a couple of faculty members at Otterbein, they helped me through the process with my resume and helped support me emotionally. I had never wanted something so badly.

After finishing the last interview, I was emotionally drained. The longer Disney took to call me, the more confidence I lost. I began to question whether this career path was for me. My friends and professors at Otterbein were so kind to me and continued to cheer me up and instill confidence in me. While I waited, my friends, professors, and my family helped me realize that I would be okay if I didn’t get the internship. I still had plenty of time to re-apply and I then decided to take my interviewer’s advice and to never quit because if I were really passionate, I would keep pursuing, and I was ready to be in it for the long run.

After two more weeks of waiting, I finally received some news. I was accepted! I was extremely excited and now I can’t wait until the future comes. I am ready for it. What this journey taught me is that if you find something you are passionate about, don’t lose hope. Find people who are going to give you reassurance and root for you. Certainly, Otterbein University and my family were my support system and I have them to thank for believing in me even when I lost hope.


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Since its founding in 1847, Otterbein has been recognized for its pace-setting ideals: its nationally groundbreaking integrative studies curriculum; its standing among the country’s first coeducational institutions; its commitment to experiential learning; and its long-standing values in serving and advancing a greater good. Today, Otterbein continues to boldly anticipate its responsibilities to advancing the public good. The Point, Otterbein’s newest home to accelerating potential, is bringing industry, education, and community together in one space to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem that will take product and process from ideation to the marketplace.