by Chloe Raught
On the morning of May 11, 2019, I thought I was putting on a graduation cap and gown for the last time in my life. At the time, I was at Kent State University, completing my degree in Fashion Merchandising, and in that moment, my plan was, for lack of better words, simple:
- Get a job,
2. Figure the rest out.
With the exception of the time I spent at college, Pittsburgh has always been home. Even when I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and spent a semester studying and interning in New York City, Pittsburgh was always the place to return to. My time in New York was perhaps the most exciting and rewarding time of my life, and the idea of returning post-college was absolutely an idea floating on the horizon. But deep down, I knew that, for some reason, the timing was not right. I felt content with the understanding that one day, I would return to New York—but not yet. So, I returned to Pittsburgh, settling back into life at home with my parents, two younger siblings (both still in high school), and our dog Ernie. Life was fine! What was not fine, though, was the fact that my extensive 2-step plan was not playing out the way I had always envisioned.
The summer quickly rolled by, and before I knew it, I was approaching the start of the holiday season—still with no job. My days and weeks for the past many months had been filled with little besides job applications, extensive LinkedIn searches, networking, resume editing, and cover letter-writing. A couple of interviews were even in the mix, but just like the idea of moving to New York, something was off. Of course this time led to an incredible amount of frustration, stress, and exhaustion—no recent graduate wants to be in the situation without the opportunity to put that newly-earned degree built from blood, sweat, and tears to use. There were certainly times where I had a difficult time motivating myself to continue the applications and the networking and all the other tedious tasks that had so far yielded very little results for me. But then, seemingly overnight, all of this changed.
I had always heard people say that terrible events, like getting laid off or not getting a dream job, were the best things that had ever happened to them, but I suppose that until you have personally experienced the results of events like those, it’s a very difficult concept to grasp. Sometime in the fall of 2019, I received one of the hardest job rejections yet. For a lot of reasons, hearing “no” this time was particularly tough to stomach, and I could not possibly fathom how people could ever turn such hard moments like that into really positive things.
The ironic thing is that at this time in my life, I thought I was more independent and less reliant on my parents than ever. Yet, unsurprisingly, my parents are the ones who stood by me, made me pick up my pieces, and move on. And my parents are the ones, in fact, who I can thank for introducing me to the idea of graduate school. That job rejection was disheartening, but before I knew it, I was looking at what would truly become the best opportunity of my life after all: Duquesne.
Without a doubt, the part of this new idea that drew me in most was the opportunity to study and receive an advanced degree in sustainability, a subject that has held incredible significance for me for a very long time. Maybe part of the appeal was also the fact that I could finally, at least for a while, put down the job applications and focus on a very specific goal. Maybe it was also just a chance for me to take some more time to adjust to life outside of Kent State’s campus, redetermine my goals and dreams, and even adjust to the idea of leaving Pittsburgh. Realistically for all three reasons and more, I applied to Duquesne’s MBA – Sustainable Business Practices, interviewed, and got accepted; just a few months later, at the peak of the COVID-19 quarantine, this new journey of my life began.
I could go on and on and on about the wonderful things that have happened to me in this program, despite the bizarre, unfamiliar, and less-than-desirable pandemic conditions. Duquesne is a truly beloved and highly regarded institution, so it was no surprise to me that each professor and faculty member that I worked with were (and continue to be) beyond kind, supportive, and wonderful to know. The friendships I have gained, even through a largely online platform, are more special to me than I can articulate. This little cohort and I have been through the wringer for many, many reasons, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I cannot imagine going through a single part of this without a single one of them.
In no way am I surprised at the intensity and weight of this program—after all, I excitedly pursued every bit of this with no hesitation. But still, to be completely blunt, it’s hard. I’m exhausted, I’m often stressed, and there are some situations that seem so complicated and difficult that I wonder why I got myself into the situation in the first place. But without fail, my friends, my classmates, my professors, and supportive faculty members show me why it’s all worth it. Sustainability is so important to me, and none of the changes that the world truly needs will ever come easily. I am so proud and incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work toward these changes at such a respected university and with such an incredible team of people around me. Keeping this in mind makes the exhaustion so rewarding and way sweeter.
A year ago, I was convinced that the tough job rejection would only ever be a bad situation. But the ironic and funny thing is that now, over a year later, I cannot express how grateful I am for that rejection. Life is truly bizarre and unpredictable, but what I am most grateful for and most hopeful that everybody can truly remember is that the dark times sincerely lead to brighter days. My journey to Duquesne was made up of twisting, confusing paths, but now that I’m here, I would not have it any other way.