Knowing vs. Believing

Guest Post By: Jonah Foss, a Junior studying Business Administration. He studied abroad through a Foster Exchange and Direct Enroll at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Z, during Autumn Semester 2023.

The most important thing I took away from my time abroad was the difference between knowing something is true, and believing something is true. The diverse experiences of the people I met abroad pushed me to not just believe, but make decisions trusting, that admission to my major and a Fortune 500 job postgrad weren’t the only ways to “be successful”. 

Case in point, I was afraid that being away for a semester would later put me at a disadvantage in the intern/job market. I talked to my friends about my concerns, and they told me that I’d be fine and even that the adaptability and resilience I’d develop during my time abroad would increase my appeal to recruiters. 

At a certain point, their reassurances felt like another common aphorism like “you only live once”, or “your family is all you have”. While logically I might have known these things are true, it’s taken a personal experience to really make me believe in and lean on them to be confident and decisive. 

Logically, I knew that I’d still be employable if I took time to go abroad. But, deep down, I was still worried. I trusted their words, but I didn’t believe in myself. 

While in New Zealand, my closest friends ended up being a 24-year-old British Masters’ student and a 23-year-old Polish architecture student whose life experiences and decisions were completely different than mine. While we didn’t necessarily talk about the major life decisions and career choices, we excitedly absorbed each other’s perspectives and stories.

Those conversations must have had an impact on me, since before I had even finished my time in New Zealand, I had successfully landed a summer internship but also decided to work a full-time internship for six months to further extend my time away from UW. The version of me that decided to, while abroad, take even more time away from school was certainly not the same version of me that was afraid that taking some time away would negatively impact my employment opportunities. 

Before I left, I knew I’d be OK if I didn’t take the fastest or most conventional path through college and to employment. But, after taking time away from what I thought were the most important parts of my life (schooling and career development), I really believe that I can be excited about, and even thrive on the path less traveled.