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Program Analyst for U.S. Department of Agriculture

Erica Antonson
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Program Analyst for U.S. Department of Agriculture

My love of languages, foreign cultures, and literature and my interest in a flexible major that would allow me to explore my academic interests through electives brought me to the Comparative Literature Department at Penn State.  It was an excellent choice.  I minored in Spanish and, after enjoying several History classes, added a double major with History.  After graduating in 2002, I moved to Baltimore, MD, and shortly after that to Washington, D.C.  At that time, I did not have a specific career path in mind, so I looked broadly for interesting work opportunities.  I started out working as a temp while networking and doing information interviews.  Ultimately, an internship in the office of a Pennsylvania Congressman led to my first permanent job and over the next eight years I worked as a Legislative Aide in the House of Representatives.  Along the way, I took a few breaks between jobs to travel internationally and do volunteer work.  In 2012, after deciding it was time to step away from the political arena, I left Capitol Hill and took a job with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, where I now work on regulations and policy for several domestic nutrition assistance programs.

When I began my education at Penn State, I had no idea of the career path I would follow, but I knew I wanted to learn and that I wanted to spend my time studying something worthwhile.  My time in the Comparative Literature Department at Penn State served me well.  It was a great experience and gave me the foundation of writing, communication, language, and thinking skills that helped me find my way to where I am today.  Whatever you do, do not underestimate the importance of these skills in the working world.  The ability to take in information, synthesize it, and then communicate it in a useful and meaningful way is invaluable.  As a Comparative Literature student, you are learning these things and you are learning to see the world from multiple perspectives.  You may not yet have a clear picture of how to translate these skills into the professional world, but you will figure it out once you start working.  While a Comparative Literature degree does not prepare you for a specific job -- which can come with its challenges as you are getting started, especially if you aren't sure what you want to do (as was my case) -- the degree gives you a skill set that can be applied in a wide variety of fields and which will serve you well throughout your career wherever you end up.