As we gear up for another Idealist Grad School Fair season, we’re showcasing some of our favorite success stories. These idealists hail from different places and various walks of life, but they’re all committed to the pursuit of higher education in hopes of building a better world. Here’s how attending an Idealist Grad School Fair set them on their path to personal and professional development, and how you can do the same.
Name: Lexi Johannessen
Idealist Grad School Fair Attended: Chicago, 2019
Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Roosevelt University, 2020
Graduate Degree: Master’s of International Development, University of Manchester, class of 2021
Dream Job: Human rights-centered work with the United Nations or Human Rights Watch
What was your motivation for attending graduate school, and what were you looking for in a graduate program?
I took four gap years after high school and traveled around the world doing international volunteer work with many different nonprofits. It was during that time that I knew I wanted to make a difference through my life and career. I graduated from Roosevelt University in May of 2020 with a B.A. in sociology, but once I realized that my passions were best aligned with a career in human rights work, I knew that I would need to attend graduate school.
I also really wanted to continue my education. I truly love school and wanted to keep learning. I was specifically searching for a program in human rights or international development.
What was the search like for you, and how did the Idealist Grad School Fair help?
I got an ad on Instagram for the Idealist Grad School Fair and was so excited to go. It was coming to Chicago, where I was living at the time, and I knew Idealist specialized in jobs and opportunities in my field of work. I was also very thankful that it was free!
The application process is different at every school, and it took a spreadsheet for me to keep up with all the requirements. What I found helpful at the grad school fair was that I could meet representatives from the schools I had applied to and learn about new programs I hadn’t found on the internet.
I have now committed to attending The University Manchester to study international development, and I was able to meet a representative at the Idealist Grad School Fair. He was so helpful and had all the information and tips I needed! He became my point person for the application process. He also ended up being the person who notified me when I won a scholarship to attend the university! Shout out to you, Daniel—you are the best and have been so supportive.
COVID-19 has impacted the way we are doing things, like attending school. Has anything changed in your situation?
I will still move to Manchester in September. We will attend all our large group lectures online for the first semester, and meet in small cohort groups of about 10 people to discuss content. I do feel a bit nervous about the changes happening due to COVID-19 because my program is supposed to have international field trips to study development work.
I also really hope I get to walk at our graduation since I did not get to walk at my undergrad ceremony due to COVID-19. No matter what ends up happening, I am feeling very thankful for the opportunity to study on this level.
You are just getting started, but what are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation I plan to jump right into a career in human rights work. I hope to work in some capacity on issues surrounding women’s rights, poverty, or human trafficking. I would love to continue living overseas to learn about and experience new cultures as part of my career. My dream job would be to work for an organization like the UN or Human Rights Watch, but I am open to all possibilities that might come my way.
What advice would you give to people considering graduate school?
I would recommend the Idealist Grad School Fairs to anyone with an interest in human rights or nonprofit careers. The fairs are tailored to those particular programs and you may learn about opportunities that you didn't know existed. I also recommend taking information from each person you talk to, as you may end up communicating with them while you apply. It can feel intimidating to walk into a big event like a fair, but Idealist’s was super organized and easy to navigate!
My recommendation to people considering graduate school is to get yourself organized and take the leap! It can feel scary to put yourself out there and face possible rejections, but it also might help you open up the door to follow your dreams.
Interested in learning more about what graduate school can do for you? The Idealist Grad School Fairs are free and open to all students who are interested in a social-impact career. Learn more about Idealist Grad School Fairs taking place this fall and start planning your future today.