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An all-in-one Journey: Teaching and Counseling

Bethany Lee ’25 shares key moments of self-discovery during her first year at NC State that allowed her to better align her future career goals. She hopes to help students explore and embrace their identity, values, and goals so that they can be the best version of themselves. In addition to being an educator, she wants to be the fuel that propels students toward their personal and academic success!

When I first came to NC State, I never imagined I would be talking to my friends and helping them figure out their degree plans as if I were an academic advisor – planning out courses in MyPack, helping them find appropriate minors, and discussing what they see themselves doing for four years and then in the future in their career – but I’ve done that with more than five people already. The desire to pursue an undergraduate degree and a career that is fulfilling is something that I feel many students experience. There are so many factors that can influence a student’s choice to major in a certain area, such as a history of family members working in a certain profession, scholarship requirements to stay in a certain college or field, or uncertainty about options relevant to one’s interests. However, one factor that might not be considered is that some students haven’t been taught how to figure out their identity – how they view themselves, defining their strengths and weaknesses, what aspects of their background or personality are important to them, and so on.

When I was growing up, I often struggled to talk about myself in a positive light, or even list what my strengths are. As an adoptee in an interracial family, I never felt Chinese enough to understand and celebrate my culture, but I also never felt white enough to feel like I fully share experiences with my family or the other kids in the areas I lived. Furthermore, I had so many ideas about different paths I could take in college and for my career because of my varying but underdeveloped interests. Figuring out my identity wasn’t prioritized, and feeling like I didn’t know who I was or what I was passionate about made me feel unprepared and inadequate once I started taking college classes like calculus and biology.

However, as an education major and a Goodnight Scholar, my first semester included two courses (ED 100 and GSP 250) that required me to consider things like my ethnic racial background, family values, and experiences that shaped me. At the end of the semester, I had hotpot for the first time, a quintessential dining and social experience in Chinese communities, with my fellow board members for the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association. This semester, I’ve participated in training for my Summer Start Mentor position through New Student Programs and I’ve had the opportunity to do early fieldwork in a middle school classroom, so I’ve gained experience working with students and preparing for roles that allow me to guide them.

Through my courses and experiences, I’ve been able to explore my own identity and better pinpoint what my interests are. I can now say that I’m someone who is supportive, a problem-solver, and genuine – using those words to describe myself has helped me find that my original degree and career plan wasn’t designed to help me feel fulfilled and like I was being the person I wanted to be for my students. Rather than limiting myself to teaching high school science for my entire career, I’ve determined that I could have a future moving into higher education to help other students explore who they are and what that means for their degree plan and career trajectory, whether it be through academic advising, directing programs for students, or some other role like nutrition counseling.

My ultimate career objective, regardless of the job title, is to help other students along their journey of discovering who they are and how that fits into their own goals – just like I’ve had to do during my first year here at NC State.