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Thomas Jefferson Scholars Alumni Profile: Leah Schaubach

From Thomas Jefferson Scholar to Amsterdam living--Leah Schaubach shares how the scholars program allowed her to pursue her passions in science and the artistic space.

Leah Schaubach combines her love for science and art.

Leah Schaubach currently lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where she’s enjoyed the expat life for over five years. She’s getting ready to marry the love of her life, a German national who she met in Amsterdam, and plans to move to Zurich for a new job.

Schaubach found her way into the technology space after college and has held a variety of sales and customer success jobs. Her current role is a strategic customer success manager for InVision, a platform for inclusive collaboration within digital product design and development. Schaubach works with clients in the Nordics and DACH regions, including Germany and Switzerland to Denmark and Finland. Outside of work, she and her partner love to scuba dive, travel (they just climbed Kilimanjaro before the pandemic hit), and she loves to paint and sketch.

What is a favorite memory that you have of being a Thomas Jefferson Scholar?

My favorite memories have to be the group trips that we went on and our Jefferson-only classes. At the time, all the freshman scholars took Dr. Riddle’s medieval history class and I vividly remember learning about how medieval doctors were actually decently effective by using urine color to assess problems. But most importantly, for our final essay, our class had a good laugh by pretending to be married to each other and writing about our subsequent divorces and affairs to each other. I think we also did something similar in Dr. Kimler’s class in our junior year.

How did your participation in the TJS program prepare you for life after college?

The TJS program gave me an opportunity to fully develop two ways of thinking — scientifically and artistically. Without this program, I would have focused my efforts purely on science, minimizing my personal development and limiting my opportunities post-graduation.

What is your advice to someone considering a dual-degree?

Follow your passions. This is your opportunity to learn and explore not only what degree is your first choice for a career, but explore another avenue or way of thinking. For example, I always loved biology and anatomy and thought that would be a very logical career choice, but also knew art was a huge passion of mine. By joining the program, I was able to extend my college experience a year to fully embrace both avenues and it increased my opportunities post graduation. Also, it gives you a chance to learn how to think in a different way. An artist thinks very differently than a scientist, but my ability to do both helps me stand out from my peers in the business arena.

What advice do you have for current TJ Scholars?

Here are the nine pieces of advice I give to all recent graduates of either high school or college:

1. Say yes to (almost) everything. College is your chance to be completely free to discover the person who you want to be as well as people you want to surround yourself with. So say yes to joining that club, going out with people you don’t really know, and that concert with music you don’t typically like (even if you are tired). It is amazing not only the people you will meet, but what you will learn about yourself.

2. Stay humble and open minded. You can learn something from everyone, and I mean everyone — the janitor, the bus driver, even your sister. Everyone has a story to tell that has been created from their own priorities and unique life circumstances. Try to understand others by putting yourself in their shoes. Most likely, there is a nugget or two of advice you can apply either to your own life or a future situation.

3. Take your biggest dream and triple it. In my opinion, the biggest reason why people do not achieve more is because they don’t imagine it is possible in the first place. If people are telling you that it is impossible, then you know you are dreaming big enough. My dream for years was moving to Europe. People told me on a daily basis it was ridiculous, too hard and would never happen. Look at me now. You are capable of more than you think and you make your own luck.

4. Live abroad for at least three months. Now, the Southern United States is wonderful, but there is so much more out there. Immersing yourself fully in a different culture will challenge you as a person and the values you stand on, as well as expand the ways you are capable of thinking.

5. Do not be risk averse. If you are not failing 50 times a day, you are either not trying hard enough or not challenging yourself enough. You will learn more from a C+ than you will learn from an A+ (given that you are actually trying). The ability to fail, analyze why, and then pick yourself up to try again is necessary to survive today’s business environment and an important life skill. If you learn this now, it will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

6. Decide what you are willing to sacrifice. This is important for both career and love. Are you willing to work 100 hours a week for a six-figure paycheck? Are you willing to date someone even if you only see each other once a month? In my case, I was willing to sacrifice proximity to my family/friends to live in Amsterdam. Yes, I wish I could move them here, but my individual dream was more important to me. Identifying what you are willing and not willing to sacrifice will help prevent you from wasting time on things or people that aren’t going to make you happy. And once you have identified these, don’t make exceptions. At the end of the day, you are responsible for making yourself happy.

7. Learn to speak another language. This is one of the biggest mistakes Americans can make. With mobile technology, being able to fluently speak another language will open doors for you in your career regardless of the industry or job you choose.

8. Major in something you love. This is your one shot to follow your passions without having to worry about paying your bills. Don’t worry too much if it directly correlates with a job post-graduation. When I interview people, I care more about how they think, their attitude and how coachable they are instead of their college GPA or major. In my case, having both a biology and art degree makes me a more interesting candidate because I don’t have the typical business degree.

9. Master the art of persuasion. Everyone is in sales whether you like it or not, and most of the time either you or your idea is the product. You will need to sell yourself to get the promotion, the job, the pay increase, or sell your team on why they should do the project your way. The key is to understand your audience and be able to tell a short, concise story about what’s in it for them. Your communication classes will be the most applicable post-college.