Intern Post, Amanda Strusienski: Taking Detours and Finding my Path Post-Grad

ROad TripI love road trips, especially unexpected ones. Recently, I decided to take a drive to check out the wildflowers that bloom around Phoenix in springtime. I had planned on just driving the 60 to Globe, but I ended up veering toward Superstition Mountain and Canyon Lake. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where I was heading as I drove down the road; I was letting the road lead me. It was an adventure that brought me to a quiet trail in the middle of the desert.

Much like my random road trip, my journey toward a career post-graduation has been filled with many different twists and turns down unexpected roadways. After returning from a post-graduation trip I had expected to land the perfect job. After all a degree promises a good job, right? Yeah, my reality check came in a little late. Like many new graduates I struggled with finding a “career” job. Through a series of events I ended up working three part-time jobs for roughly six months until a full-time one was presented. It was a librarian for an elementary school—a far cry from the editor or writer position I had desired.

Writing, by this time I’d almost forgotten what that was. Following graduation I had started two different blogs, both of which had a scattering of posts. It was as though college had removed the desire to write. The pleasure I used to feel when presented with a blank page was gone. Somewhere along the line the writer in me had disappeared.

So where was I to find my inspiration and desire again? Ironically, it was as an elementary school librarian. Before this job I hadn’t read children’s literature since I was a child. I found myself in the midst of book awards and authors unknown to me. In this position I instructed 31 classes per week, kindergarten through 6th grade. The lessons I presented varied in nature, but my favorites were the author studies, genre studies, and book awards. I had the opportunity to explain the difference between fiction and nonfiction. The best was discussing authors and finding what had been the inspiration of Mo Willems or Judy Blume. Though a different form of literature, I still had the chance to learn from these authors and teach it. That was the best. Being able to add a dimension to the lessons I presented because I knew what a writer thought, or could explain the writing process.  Along the way I found my love of literature grow and a desire to use my skills in the education field. I am so grateful for my time in the library because I found my passion for education.

A few months ago I was offered a position as a curriculum coordinator for the University of Phoenix. Given that this was the opportunity for a career position I was given the difficult task of leaving my little library for a “career” job.  It took nearly two years for me to land this position, but now I find myself using skills I gained with my English degree, such as research, proofreading, and analyzing text. I’m also fortunate that I help design education courses for teachers.  Additionally, I’m now doing freelance work for Green Living Arizona magazine; it’s wonderful seeing my name in print after all this time.

When I left the library my coworker told me that in her seven years she had never seen a librarian get the students as excited about books as they had with me. She also added that I got them interested in books that they never checked out. That was such a compliment to me. I’m convinced that my love of literature and writing was so evident that many of my 800+ students caught the same desire. I can only hope the desire will last as they progress through school.

Just like picking the random road to drive down, my road to a career has had similar twists, and detours. The road has been challenging and confusing on occasions, yet it has held the tenants of any true story. A professor told me the best stories are the ones where the characters face nothing but challenges, that those are the stories that we all want to read. Perhaps that’s part of my story, to not give in, despite the challenges. Maybe it’s cliché—but maybe it’s the truth that can strengthen us on all the roads we travel.

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Amanda Strusienski

Curriculum Coordinator at University of Phoenix
Amanda's previous literary experience includes working as a staff editor on the Gila River Review, a literary journal for Chandler-Gilbert Community College; a staff writer on the San Tan Sun News; a social networking intern for Superstition Review; and a contributor for Green Living Arizona Magazine. She is currently a Curriculum Coordinator for the University of Phoenix.Amanda is passionate about education and serving others. In her free time she loves hiking, reading, and spending time with her two dogs.
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