Brea Harris: Shifting Life Pursuits and Becoming Your Own Best Advocate
Updated: Jul 17
For those of you out there that find themselves interested in many things, especially when it comes to the work you want to do, it might be hard to focus on the one thing that will lead you into the rest of your life. There is no harm in that, and it can actually feel rewarding to be knowledgeable of multiple skills. As with all experiences, it can teach you to focus inward and discover new things about yourself. It can also be the thing that makes you shift gears and follow a new path. Brea, a dedicated and resilient student, began to realize that the industry she studied and loved did not look quite the same as it did when she first began her studies after recently completing a study abroad. In this moment in time when we are each faced with the challenge of searching a little deeper into ourselves as individuals and how we choose to live, work and play—Brea had to re-consider the direction of her career. She is now thriving as an individual in the world, which has brought her to decide upon how to live the next phase of her life. This for her means turning a passion into a career. It takes courage to act upon an intuition, and Brea proves to be just as dedicated to obtaining this passion as much as this world will allow.
Can you give a few words to describe yourself and what matters most to you?
Determined, genuine, kind, and patient. I love that you had me do that, because I believe these words reflect my perception of work and education wholeheartedly. I realize that things may not always go my way or that I may need to wait and see how things turn out. But I also know how important it is to make sure I stay determined and driven to reach my goals because nobody is going to want that more than me.
You are about to graduate from Columbia College. What did you study and how was your experience? I was a Fashion Studies major with a concentration in merchandising and during my time at a university abroad I studied marketing and business. Studying at Columbia has its good days and frustrating days—I think most students at any university would say the same. I’m grateful to have access to so many amazing resources that have allowed me to execute some pretty awesome projects. I was planning to participate in the graduation ceremony this year and am pretty bummed that I’ll have to miss out on that moment. Nonetheless, I am grateful that I will still be able to graduate on time and be on track to starting up my career.
What has stuck out to you during your academic studies? There are two people I was most thankful for during my academic journey. Dana Connell and Brian Marth. I studied abroad and, while that experience is irreplaceable, it was not even close to easy to make happen nor was the aftermath that resulted from it in the end. These two people are who I have to credit for helping me throughout the entire process and keeping me motivated to see things through. I am incredibly grateful for Dana and her persistence in supporting me even though she was thousands and thousands of miles away and an entire 15 hours behind. I am incredibly grateful for Brian because I owe my ability to graduate on time to him. He was my best advocate and guided me through that uncertain time.
How has the current health crisis affected your studies? I would be lying if I said this health crisis hasn’t affected my studies in any way. It certainly has, but I have promised myself to not allow the circumstances to stand in the way of my ability to finish what I started. Honestly doing online school is not fun, especially as a fashion student, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like I’m getting an overwhelming amount of work to do as well. I believe this format makes it hard to actually learn new things, because all I find myself using my time to do is complete the assignments. Before, when I would attend a class in person, I would use that time to gain more knowledge whether it was from the teacher or a reading that was handed out... now I feel incredibly disinterested in reading anything extra. My only motivation, with the little I have left, is to get my assignments turned in on time.
"My perception on my purpose and life in general has been challenged and I am beyond grateful for this, because I feel so much more connected to and understanding of people because of it."
You recently did a study abroad program. I think now after dealing with a global health crisis, the decision to study far from home is going to be very challenging for many students in the future. Can you talk about what it was like for you? You are absolutely right. I have thought about this so much recently and it makes me feel anxious and sad at the same time. Studying abroad in Singapore will be one of the most life-changing experiences for me probably for as long as I live. I studied marketing at Nanyang Technological University and made friends with people from at least 15 different countries. I now have connections in Canada, Sweden, Australia, Ireland, Lithuania, S. Korea, Tunisia... and the list goes on and on! There are many reasons why I believe studying abroad is crucial, but it is this very reason that I believe makes it most important. My perception on my purpose and life in general has been challenged and I am beyond grateful for this, because I feel so much more connected to and understanding of people because of it. I hope that one day, even if it’s a 100 years from now, that students will have the opportunity to study abroad and feel safe while doing so.
What are your future plans? What do you hope to find in a career and the people and culture of a business? So I studied fashion right? Well I’ve made a bit of a career change... I still and will always love fashion very much and who knows I may choose to explore that industry some more one day, but I have decided to explore the industry of travel and blogging. I know it’s totally different right? Well, after I returned from Singapore, I had a bit of a realization. Remember how I stated one of the most important parts of my study abroad experience were the people I met from all over the world? I became obsessed with that notion and figuring out how I would be able to make a career out of connecting with people through travel. Also, with me studying marketing, I was given an opportunity to learn more about digital branding and having the privilege to express yourself in this way. So one day, I decided to do a google search that literally was this, “summer travel intern” and to my amazement there was a result that came back. It was an opportunity to travel anywhere I wanted in the world and simply write about my experiences, and make reviews about working in an international co-working space. I immediately reached out to the blog owner and he responded rather quickly. We met up for lunch and right then and there he hired me to be his travel blogging intern! This all happened before COVID-19 of course, and so at this time I won’t have the opportunity to travel and blog about my experience, but I’m grateful because I’ve still been able to produce content for the blog and have been assured a full-time position as the Content Creator and Editor for the blog after graduation. I am so excited and have found, through my time interning so far, that this is certainly a passion of mine especially when I’m writing about what I love most - which is travel. Feel free to check out the blog, https://www.coworkaholic.com/
How do you try to establish connection, collaboration and positive group/social dynamics in school, work or even leisure activity? This can be hard for me sometimes honestly. People always think I’m extroverted and super social, but I don’t normally agree with that. I’m not that person that is always with a large group of friends or spending time late at night socializing at the club. Instead, I believe people perceive me as social, because more than anything, I just care about making sure everyone feels included and noticed. This goes back to two of the words I used to describe myself: genuine and kind. I always try to make sure I am a listening ear for people, honestly even when it may not be a good time for me, because in my eyes that one encounter or conversation may be the best part of that person’s day. Plus, I usually end up learning something new about that person or something I’ve never known about. So to me, it’s worth doing.
Advice to other students? I want to share something that my mother always tells me and I believe rings true over and over again. “Always remember it never hurts to make a suggestion even if it seems a little self-centered. You’re always your best advocate.” Nobody is gonna fight as hard for you as you will. People love to help, but nobody can help if they’re not aware that you’re in need of their help. You have to make sure you’re taking the initiative. I’m not saying be pushy or arrogant, but try making a suggestion; you never know where it may get you. What I love about this advice is that it can be applied to various aspects in your life. Not just school or work, but possibly even relationships or friendships. Give it a try! :)