Nana Grace Kwapong
“Don't worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try.”
- Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul
How do you write a deserved tribute to a place that has shaped you through both sweet and tough love? A place that has given you amazing experiences and friendships? A place where you endured so many ups and downs? It's been about 8 months since I left Minnesota, and I am finally able to write the tribute it deserves.
I spent the past 4 years schooling, working, and living in Minnesota, in the Twin Cities to be specific. I first lived in Minneapolis for three years and then in St. Paul for a year. I was a full-time MBA at the University of St. Thomas for two years and worked in a few marketing positions for another two years after graduation. I was able to nurture and grow some existing friendships and develop some new ones. I had some really amazing times and some rather low valleys. Through it all, I realized that the Land of 10,000 Lakes will always have a special place in my heart.
How Minnesota and I First Met
I met Minnesota 11 years ago when I landed at Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport on my way to Luther College in Decorah, IA. At the time, I didn't know that the state would have such a profound impact on my life. During my junior year of college, I visited the University of St. Thomas, spoke to an admissions counselor, looked around the campus and fell in love. I would however not have a fully committed relationship with the state and with the university until another three years had gone by.
Before that, in addition to landing at the airport on my way to and from Luther, I visited friends at Macalester College in St. Paul during breaks, until I graduated. I had no idea that my sister would be a student there 2 years later and that I would be spending a large part of my time there. Post graduation, I visited The Cities every year to see friends. How I didn't realize this was where I would end up for a while is beyond me. But sometimes, a good thing can be staring you right in the face, and you may not be able to see it until the time is right.
Schooling and Working in MN
My time at St. Thomas was life-changing. I came in thinking I was going to focus solely on entrepreneurship. Then somewhere along the way, I remembered that I also had a love for marketing. That love morphed into a passion for digital marketing. I started working towards a career in the marketing field, picking strategic classes that I knew would give me the opportunity to interact and work with real-life clients. In addition, I started finding courses and certifications online to hone my marketing skills and learn what at the time was not being taught in the classroom. You can find a list of some of the course this blog post.
During the MBA program, I had two summer internships, as a Marketing and Digital Strategy Intern at the American Academy of Neurology and as an MBA Marketing Research Consultant at the Forum for Workplace Inclusion. I then worked as an Integrated Marketing Communications Consultant for the AMA Alliance, the spousal network for the American Medical Association, a Project Coordinator/Market Researcher for Neka Creative, a Marketing Consultant for the Graduate Business Career Services office at St. Thomas, a Market Researcher for the Executive Education office at St. Thomas, a Digital Marketing Consultant at LeGen Leaders, and a Web and Social Media Specialist at the Opus College of Business at St. Thomas. I gained a lot of experience that has equipped me for my current role. Thank God for the journey. It was interesting but made me who I am today.
Remember how I said I had some valleys? Well, I am not going to linger too long on this, because the past is the past. I had some naysayers cross my path in my 4-year stint in Minnesota. Rather than let their words determine my destiny, I decided to surround myself with mentors who would give me constructive feedback and direction. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying don't listen to feedback. You just have to make sure it is constructive and builds you up, rather than tear you down and discourage you. I was very fortunate to find people who took a chance on me, nurtured me, and allowed me to grow my craft. Though I cannot mention them all by name, I would like to single out the following organizations: the marketing team at the American Academy of Neurology, the marketing and Executive Education teams and the career services office at the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas.
Life in MN
My sister, friends, and I spent a lot of time exploring parks, concerts, museums, galleries, and eateries. I know many people think the Fly-over States don't have much to offer, but the joke's on them. We got to see Lauryn Hill, Corinne Bailey Rae, Ibeyi, Lizz Wright, Lianne La Havas, Yuna, Bosco, ZuluZuluu, Fela Kuti, Bernhoft live, just to name a few. We got tickets to see movies before they premiered. Thanks to my awesome sister, I got to meet wonderful people like Mama Nikki Giovanni, Papa Haile Gerima, Uncle Gary Hines, and Big sis Danai Gurira. Shout out to Macalester College students and alumni for making me feel like a Scot.
We used to take walks around The Cities, exploring paths along the Mississippi River, discovering paths and trails we didn't know existed. We walked around lakes and got to know each other better, having all sorts of conversations. We even went on road trips within Minnesota and to other states, to places like Mankato and North Field and Rochester and Decorah and Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument and Devil's Tower and Yellowstone and on and on.
We ate at so many places during the four years, but few places could match the delicious global delicacies Grand Ave in St. Paul had to offer, including Vietnamese Pho, Indian Keema Naan, Falafel and Mint tea, Afro-Latino inspired Rotisserie Chicken and Yellow Rice, and the best Thai Green Curry money could buy.
Now, lest you think Minneapolis had nothing to offer in the culinary arts, she too would show off with amazing eateries dotted along Eat Street and Hennepin Ave. Cafés, brunch spots, and some of the best Bandeja Paisa I have ever tasted, Oh, and I must mention my beloved Fogo de Chao. I could write so many posts about just the food alone.
Throughout all these experiences, the ups, the downs, Minnesota was my home base and refuge for four wonderful years. And so I say with a heavy heart, farewell for now dear Minnesota. I am sure our paths will meet again soon 💜.
Stay tuned for an update of what I am doing now in a couple of weeks.
Thanks for reading!