Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Student Wants to Fly Solo During Time Abroad

DEAR HARRIETTE: I plan on studying abroad some time in my college career. This is probably the only opportunity I will ever have to live in another country for months at a time, and I have set my sights on a small town in South Africa. Upon mentioning my wishes to one of my friends, she exclaimed that she has been wanting to go on this program, too, for the same period of months.

I wanted this trip to be complete immersion in another culture with no safety net of friends, so I do not want to go if we both get accepted. What should I say to "Katie" about my complete 180? -- No More, Syracuse, New York

DEAR NO MORE: The big lesson here is that you talked too much. That said, I think it is shortsighted of you to give up your dream because your friend might try to go and might get in. Her possible presence during this time abroad should not have that much impact on your plans.

Can you say something to her? Yes, you can. In fact, you can be honest with her and tell her how much you wanted to go on this journey independent of any of your friends. You can ask her if she would consider going at a different time than you. Obviously, your entreaty is no guarantee that she won't go, but you can state your case.

Recognize that knowing someone when you are many miles away from home can be a comfort without being a drag. It is also possible that you may discover that some other person you know or who is from your school or city could also participate in the program at the same time. You are not the only one applying for this program. You could choose to relax, see who participates and welcome whatever experience unfolds.

DEAR HARRIETTE: How can I go about earning respect as a younger administrative employee at a company? Some of the people I work with are a decade older than me, and even though we have the same position, I still get treated like I don't know what I am talking about because of my age. My experience and education make me qualified for the job, so do I just have to wait until I get older to gain respect from my peers? -- Young'un, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR YOUNG'UN: This is a classic experience, almost a rite of passage for many young employees. While it is discriminatory for employees to be treated differently because of their age, it happens all too often. There are a few things you can do to support yourself.

Avoid getting into sparring matches with the offenders. They likely are intimidated by the new person in the office and may feel that you are either a current or future threat. Be kind to them despite their bad behavior. Dress professionally. When you look the part, it helps to deflect from your youth. Keep good records of your work and accomplishments so that if anyone attempts to claim your work as their own, you can prove what is yours. Bide your time. After the team gets to know you better, most will relax their unacceptable behavior.

(Harriette Cole is a life stylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)