When I applied for the Karel Fellowship three years ago, I had no idea how it would shape my life. At the time, I was intrigued by this abstract field of “public interest communications” and wanted to spend the summer before my senior year of college in a major city. I was passionate about health and this led to my placement with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

I spent my Karel Fellowship immersed in the complexities of tobacco control, learning how public health advocates used policy change and public education to change societal norms about tobacco use. In my final blog post as a Karel Fellow, I wrote: “When I graduate next spring, I will look for jobs in health communications, whether it be at a non-profit organization, foundation or medical center… I hope to someday relocate to D.C.”

Guess what? That actually happened!

Flash forward to November 2014, when I received the incredible opportunity to return to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as a communications associate. My Karel Fellowship experience opened my eyes to the world of public interest communications, and I knew I had to take this opportunity.

I love being a public interest communications professional. I use my skills in writing, media relations and social media to communicate policy campaigns that work to reduce tobacco use in the United States and worldwide. I’ve worked on campaigns to raise tobacco taxes in cities across the country, the campaign to implement an indoor smoke-free law in New Orleans and an ongoing csmokefree nolaampaign to end the use of chewing tobacco in Major League Baseball. That’s only a tiny glimpse into the pots of projects I place my hands in!

But the most rewarding experience I’ve had so far is the opportunity to mentor another Karel Fellow. Last summer, Aaron Zeiler joined the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as our 2015 Karel Fellow, and I had an incredible time working with him Picture1to make his Karel Fellowship as memorable and educational as mine was. (I hope it worked, Aaron!) I look forward to working with another Karel Fellow this summer.

My Karel Fellowship became a pivotal experience in my life, a time that opened doors and led to a future I would’ve never predicted. The Karel Fellowship is an opportunity like no other to dive into the world of public interest communications and experience life in the nation’s capital. The field of public interest communications is a unique blend of advocacy, journalism and public relations. It’s been a great fit for me, and I may have never found it if it weren’t for my Karel Fellowship.