Growing Older with EWB-USA: My Transition from Student to Professional Member

Natasha

Natasha (far right) visits a goat farm in the community of Las Mercedes, Ecuador

In May, I walked across the University of Miami’s graduation stage feeling overjoyed to be done with coursework, though reluctant to leave the community I had created through EWB-USA, my engineering classes and more. I was looking forward to my first full-time job in health IT, but not sure how some of my EWB-USA experiences — such as inspecting sewage systems and performing health interviews — would be relevant in this new environment.

Moving back to Northern Virginia after college made my old city feel new again. Immediately, I  joined my nearest professional chapter, the EWB-USA Northern Virginia Professional Chapter. This felt like a comfortable and easy way to meet other earnest, philanthropic professionals in the area.

Meeting some of the chapter leaders at EWB-USA’s International Summit in March further sealed my fate. Someone I knew from my Regional Steering Committee introduced me to her fellow chapter members, many of whom also worked in Reston. They were genuinely excited to have me join, thoughI still felt nervous about the transition. I am so grateful for how easy it is to click with other EWB-USA members, no matter where I go.

Engaging with a Professional Chapter

Sitting in my first general body meeting at my new professional chapter was a wholly different experience from my student days. It was refreshing to not be a leader, just a participant, and see how other chapters organized themselves across the country. After cycling through all kinds of leadership roles in my student chapter, I definitely needed that break. Meeting new people was also easy. I am pretty sure you can ask any EWB-USA member about their project and achieve the same response: their eyes light up and they can talk forever about this topic.

I have now attended a few meetings and volunteered with the EWB-USA Northern Virginia Professional Chapter. I am not sure yet what my level of chapter involvement will be. I still need to settle into my new job in a new field and balance my responsibilities as the Student Representative on EWB-USA’s Board of Directors. However, the chapter’s officers have reiterated that we can contribute how best fits with our interests and availability; I like that flexibility. EWB-USA remains a constant in my life … but the rest of it is a differential equation to which I am still trying to find the particular solution.

Advice for Recent Grads

In writing this, I hope to encourage recent graduates and soon-to-be graduates to stay involved in your EWB-USA networks. I know it can be daunting to figure out the next steps. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Find your nearest professional chapter on this handy map. Comfortably sit back at meetings and listen until you know exactly how, when and where you would like to contribute your skills.
  2. If there isn’t a professional chapter near you or you seek a different type of interaction, consider contributing your skills virtually through various committees. You’ll find committee openings and a host of other volunteer openings by regularly checking our Volunteer Opportunities Board.

Your experience as a student member in EWB-USA is invaluable and would be welcomed with open arms from any professional chapter. Burnout after college is real, but you can choose your role and level of involvement. I think we will all benefit, including our partner communities and chapters, by maintaining the student-to-professional continuity across our organization. As we have been saying for awhile now (and you heard it here first!), we really are stronger together.

 

About the Author
Natasha Koermer recently graduated magna cum laude from University of Miami with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering. She still serves as Student Representative to the Board of Directors while working full time for MAXIMUS in Reston, VA.