Tammy Zapata, Class of 2018.
“During my time at Augustana College, I majored in Political Science (Comparative Politics) and International Business and minored in French. I also studied abroad during my junior year in Australia! Currently, I am a second-year law student at Fordham University School of Law in New York City, expected graduation in May 2024. Prior to that, I worked as a Special Assistant at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and then as a Congressional Staffer in the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. I am lucky enough to have worked as a legal intern at Catholic Charities in their Unaccompanied Minor Program and will soon be interning at the Manhattan DA’s office – somewhere I’ve dreamed of going since I was 11 years old. Now my path so far has been anything but linear.
In all honesty, I dreamed of being an attorney since the ripe age of 11, and as such my senior year at Augie was filled with studying for the LSAT, writing personal statements, and getting my grades as high as I could. However in April 2018, I decided to take a major sidestep and instead of accepting my admission to a local law school, I made the choice to reject the offer. Instead, I listened to my gut and took a step back to potentially get work experience and make sure I was mentally ready for another three grueling years of school. Problem was, I had no plans on the horizon – being that I was planning all through undergrad to go to law school directly after graduation, I had no job or anything ready to go for May graduation. Fortunately, a few days after my decision, I went to the Fill the Gap Sponsor Dinner Augustana hosts every year, and it is there that I met an Augie Alumni who worked in DC. He told me about his job and I told him about my political science degree and my choice to postpone law school. He then gave me his card and told me to send him my resume – encouraging me to do something I had never before considered, move across the country to the Capitol.
Hesitant at first, I took him up on his offer to flag my resume at different offices I applied to, and within a few weeks I secured an internship at the office of Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17), whose district Augustana College was conveniently located in. The rest is history.
The internships I did while at Augustana greatly helped my resume look strong to future employers – particularly my time interning in Australia and the fact that I held two part-time jobs while in school. Once I moved to DC, little things that I never expected to make a difference (like working at Starbucks) ended up propelling me forward in interviews because they showed work ethic, flexibility, and customer service experience. Never underestimate the value each and everything you do throughout your career can aid. The work you do is much more valuable than you can ever anticipate. It is all about diversity of work, networks, and everything that goes with it.
Now I am a Midwestern girl pretending to be a New Yorker and loving every minute of it. Everywhere I’ve been, I learned new skills that allowed me to grow as a person and navigate new situations I am put in. The key skills I’ve kept with me are the ability to network gracefully, make a conversation in a room of strangers, and be sure to glow with confidence. These skills do not come easy, and as someone who struggled with imposter syndrome for years I will be the first to say having confidence and courage in a room where you feel like the odd one out is incredibly daunting, but it is worth it. What helped me most was my change in mindset once I entered law school. As a tall, First-Generational Latina, I knew I was different than the majority of my classmates in more ways than one, but I took it with stride after I realized that no matter what I did, no matter how I tried to assimilate or mold myself to fit the people around me, people were always going to stare at me. To underestimate me. So I then decided that if people were going to look at me, I was going to give them a reason to do so. I embraced my differences and the things that made me stick out and used them to my advantage. I encourage anyone who wants to pursue a career in the legal field (or really anywhere) to go at it with full force. Realize it may be uncomfortable, but the world is all the better because you are in it.”