Amelie, you were part of the 2017 community of 24YOU. That’s five years ago. What lessons from that time still accompany you today?
When I now make decisions that affect my professional future, I think to myself: What experiences can I gain here? What are the longer-term effects and consequences? The six months in Berlin after my high school graduation encouraged me to try things out. After all, many decisions can be reversed or you can take a different path.
Do you remember how this realization came about?
Katherin Kirschenmann, the founder of The DO, said in a talk with us at the time: “Everyone will find their way, no matter how many hurdles that person has to clear out of the way.” And that just made me realize: all the people we talked to during the program found their way – we will do so, too!
Obstacles in your way – more than two years of pandemic have changed schools and people. Why is 24YOU an even more exciting opportunity for graduates today?
I think a program like 24YOU can help a lot right now: Likeminded people come together in the same situation, get a taste of professional fields and experience that they are not alone.
It’s a completely different situation than when I was in high school. Recently, everything was much more restricted – both getting to know new people and getting a taste of jobs or courses of study. 24YOU was already special for us, but now it is all the more so.
Graduation – what now? Did you already have a goal in mind for when you have received your certificate?
After graduating from school, I traveled the world for a few months and, to be honest, didn’t have any concrete plans for the future. On the one hand, I could imagine studying, on the other hand, I toyed with the idea of doing an apprenticeship. I didn’t really have focus. So 24YOU came at just the right time.
What was it like when you first hear about 24YOU?
Was your courage rewarded?
Even the start was great. I found my way in straight away and we got along well in the apartment as well. After two weeks, I went home for the weekend and I already missed the other 24YOU participants. In retrospect, I can say that it was precisely this initial uncertainty that made the program so special and unique because every day became a small challenge.
What about your participation in the program was particularly enriching?
The evenings in the shared flat were always great, they really bonded us together – even if we were just sitting on the floor in a room and talking. This resulted in friendships that still exist to this day.
What I also remember are the many coaching sessions and workshops that we had. The My Way Talks, in which inspiring personalities talked about their lives, were particularly great. Sometimes it was individual sentences that I took with me, sometimes a feeling that was left behind afterwards. And I got a completely different picture of many jobs than I had before from the outside.
Compared to school, it was much more interactive learning. We discussed and worked together in the group and that also made me take on other roles, for example, more of a lead on certain topics.
What were the challenges and how did you deal with them?
Working on yourself so much can be exhausting. I only really saw a lot of the progress I made through 24YOU in hindsight. During the program you are in the middle of the change process. In phases where I had doubts, it helped me a lot to talk to the others. There was actually always at least one other person who understood me and felt the same way.
In the area of work, 24YOU cooperates with H&M. How should applicants imagine this cooperation?
I was definitely skeptical at first! I’ve only ever seen the H&M stores and was surprised that it’s so interesting and diverse to work there. We were totally impressed by how much trust was placed in us for working on the challenge and how much feedback we got. Because we visited different areas and departments ourselves, we were able to work much better on solutions to the challenge, which was an exciting experience.
Six months go by quickly – how did things continue for you after that?
In the last phase of 24YOU we got to work on a personal project and mine was to make a plan for my future. Do I want to study, do I want to do an apprenticeship? I then went to various universities, did some research and finally decided on the University of Konstanz.
Since 24YOU I’ve noticed that I don’t have a specific dream job. Rather, I want to do a job that makes me happy and fulfills me, but in which I can also grow and face new challenges. I then came to the conclusion that studying economics offered me the best basis for this.
What do you recommend to graduates who don’t know what to do after school?
Do something you enjoy! Try it and if it’s not for you, try the next thing. I would actually recommend 24YOU to anyone who has finished school or dropped out of college and doesn’t know what to do next. Just know: feeling insecure and having questions – that is part of it and makes the experience all the better in the end.
Apply for 24YOU:
24YOU is a gap year program by The DO, which was launched in 2017 in cooperation with H&M and other international companies.
Graduates spend six months living together, discovering different areas and departments at H&M, and working on a project or challenge. They are accompanied by mentors and gain insights into their strengths, the working world of tomorrow and their plans for the future.
We currently have just two spots left in the next 24YOU program, starting in August. Apply now to secure your spot – applications close July 15, 2022.