Julia Zamatajeva – Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
My name is Julia Zamatajeva and I am from a tiny European country named Estonia with a total population of 1.3 million people and 3 times smaller area than the state of Illinois. I grew up in a little town Haapsalu with a total population of 12,000 people. If somebody had told me that one day I would sell educational books door-to-door in United States I would have said he was crazy!
It was my sophomore year in college studying Gene Technology when I received a call about the Southwestern Advantage Internship program. At this point I already had a real job working as a waitress in pretty high-ranked restaurant in Tallinn. Made enough to live apart from my parents and to go to university. But even a part-time job is not only about the money. I felt that I was stuck there, only advantage was financial opportunity, nothing to learn, no challenge, such a crazy schedule. I really liked the idea of the Southwestern Advantage summer program. There were only 2 problems: there were no guarantees and I spoke no English. I was, however, willing to learn.
As my student manager promised, it was simple but not easy. In my first day I actually sold a set of Student Handbooks and should have felt terrific, but around noon I was sure I was such an idiot for signing up for this program. I cried at least for an hour. I didn’t care about my goals- to improve my English, to earn good money, to make new friends, to travel, to get an experience… What did matter was a commitment to myself that I would not give up and would make my parents proud of me. So I got up and knocked on the next door. In fact every time when I felt like I just couldn’t go on, I repeated a sentence I heard in sales school: “This summer you will discover how strong you really are” so I kept going to find it out.
And it didn’t get easier next day. In fact, waking up next morning was a pain cause my body wasn’t use to my new job yet. My shoulders were hurting from caring a bag all day long, my legs from riding a bike, and I still have no idea why the rest of my body felt like I had just had my first weight training session.
My first 2 weeks I cried every single day. Seriously. But that’s because I am too emotional. People were actually really nice, they listened to me, they were buying books from me, but as soon as they asked “It must be hard to go door-to door, isn’t it?” or “You are far away from your family, don’t you miss your mom?” for me it was enough for new crying session. And I actually felt really angry that I couldn’t control my emotions. “We are building a character in young people…”- was the Southwestern mission statement, and that exactly what was happening. Building character was hard!
However, around the third week out I started to enjoy my job. No miracle happened to me, somehow my mind and my body got use to selling books. I really started to enjoy it. I met many many cool moms every day, had fun with American families, and forgot to cry. Days just flew by. Guess what: that’s what happens with good habit! After my 6th week I was pretty sure I would do it again next summer.
There was an awesome goal, a burning desire, that helped me trough all the challenges my first summer: I wanted to earn enough money to take my little sister (she is 9 years old now) to the Disneyland. Last spring we went to Paris for 5 days and and spent 3 of them in Disneyland. Dreams do come true!
So for me it’s gonna be 3rd summer selling books in USA and probably not the last one because it’s the best thing to do! It’s just amazing how much you get back for working hard and persisting: financial opportunities (in fact my mom doesn’t make as much money a year as I made in 3 months), traveling all over the world, English practice, communication skills, experience for resume (guess what- I am not working in a restaurant any more), building your character, problem solving skills, self-confidence, sales experience and of course ton of new friends all over the world! In my opinion that is the best opportunity for college students to start their own independent life and get to the next level! Thank you Southwestern Advantage!