Embracing the Unknown

When I came to Avid Core, not only was I starting a new chapter in my life, but I was also at a crossroads. I had just started my first semester of graduate school at American University working towards a masters in a completely different field than either of my undergraduate degrees. I started living in D.C. by myself with my dog Ozzy. And I started at Avid Core, another foray into the unknown.

At Avid Core, I hit the ground running. On the first day, myself and the other intern that started that day were given an overview of all the projects Avid Core was working on, the style guide for the company, as well as best practices. We met the team over a virtual lunch and then were given our first tasks. At Avid Core, I learned about environmental planning, community planning, community engagement, Title VI, event planning, making slide decks, story boarding, and so much more. All of these experiences I have never had before, and I tried to take each new task in stride.

On the academic side, I was adjusting to graduate school and the workload that comes with that. My life became a balancing act between school and internship and personal life. Eventually, I fell back into the normal school pattern of studying, reading, and writing. My personal life fell into place soon after with friends I had made at school and finding a new favorite walking trail with my dog. My internship, however, never quite fell into a pattern.

Two people holding microphones sing karaoke in front of a TV screen.
Elizabeth (left) and Melissa Gomez, at an Avid Core karaoke event. Both joined the team as 2023 winter communications interns.

Since Avid Core offered an abundance of new tasks, a lot of my time was throwing things at a wall and seeing what stuck. As a recovering perfectionist, this came with a lot of anxiety. But Avid Core was a safe place to do this. When I was tasked with designing a flyer for a project, I put together a few different variations for my team members to review. I received constructive feedback and tailored the flyer to their specifications. Then rinse and repeat until we were all happy with the final deliverable.

When I was asked to put together a slide deck about a topic I knew very little about, I followed the same steps. When I proposed procedures for database management, we followed the same process. Even when I was tasked with making an animated video, something I have never done, I dove in headfirst, throwing out ideas, making a schedule, and asking for feedback. I relied on the skills I had developed before coming to Avid Core and the ones I learned during my internship. I started to embrace the unknown and enjoy the ever-changing nature of the tasks assigned to me.

As I progressed into my academic semester and was exposed to more opportunities in the field, I realized my five-year plan may not be what I want anymore, and I was met with a crossroads. When I first started at Avid Core, I thought I would get my master’s and then move on to get a Ph.D., but as I learned more about the homeland security field, I realized I did not want to go into the world of academia nor did I absolutely need a Ph.D. to do the jobs I am interested in. This left me unsure of what the future held.

It wasn’t until an in-class activity that I felt more comfortable with the unknown. In my Causes of Terrorism and Political Violence class, we were tasked to develop a strategy to handle misinformation in Ethiopia in an hour and a half. During this time, we had to develop a pitch to present to a guest from the Department of Homeland Security. Obviously, this is quite a lofty task for anyone, let alone a group of students. So, we started throwing out ideas to see what stuck. I had the idea to put together a toolkit for community leaders to use. I cannot take credit for this idea by any means—this is something I learned about from Avid Core.

A core value in Avid Core is to meet people where they are so they often create toolkits as a way for leaders to personalize messages to their community. Given the task at hand, this seemed like an effective solution, and our guest from the Department of Homeland Security agreed. He was impressed by this suggestion and our pitch ended up being selected over the other group.

As inconsequential as this in-class activity was, it gave me a lot of hope for the future. Though I may not know what the future holds, I have gained experiences and skills from working at Avid Core that I can use in creative ways in any future position. I also, and more importantly, learned to embrace the unknown and to continue to throw things at the wall and see what sticks.