“It’s important for girls to realize that even people who seem confident and seem like they’ve achieved some degree of conventionally defined success don’t actually have it all figured out,” says Karina Jougla, the keynote speaker for Girls Inc. at this year’s Carpinteria Women of Inspiration luncheon.
Karina joined the organization when she was just five years old and, throughout her time there, received $35,000 in scholarships, which made it possible to go to her dream school, Columbia University. Since graduating two years ago, she’s interned with the Clinton Foundation’s gender-equality initiative and landed a full-time marketing job at Doctors Without Borders, among other accomplishments.
Karina is one of the most engaging young adults I’ve ever met. Over lunch, she diligently keeps notes of movies or books I reference, and appears to be in a perennial state of wonder and learning. “I grew up in Carpinteria, and found my voice at Girls Inc.,” she explains to me firmly. “I went after everything then, and it’s a lesson I carry with me.”
Despite her poise, confidence, and high-achieving status, Karina says she struggled with ““imposter syndrome” at Columbia, doubting her accomplishments and persistently feeling like she’d be exposed as a fraud. “It wasn’t that I didn’t think I deserved being there,” she tells me. “But I felt that everybody else had their lives more together.”
And this is during the time when Karina spoke about women’s rights during climate change at the United Nations, maintained a 4.0 GPA, served as a resident advisor for 120 students over three years, and worked on a fossil fuel divestment campaign that persuaded Columbia to drop its investments in the coal industry.
Karina majored in comparative literature, which required learning Spanish and French, and chose human rights as a thematic focus, wanting to go into the nonprofit sector. She realized that she could help nonprofits better explain their narratives in order to advance their goals.
“Girls Inc. and Doctors Without Borders, among others, attempt to portray their beneficiaries in a dignified and empowering way,” she explains. “They avoid pity marketing.” Upon graduation at Columbia, she received the Alumni Association Achievement Award.
During our lunch, I notice that Karina is extremely polite to the waitstaff. It turns out that she once worked at Esau’s. “Everybody should work in the service industry once in their lives,” she explains. “It’s work that is underrated. There are people who work really hard but are not fully rewarded nor recognized.”
As we say goodbye, this remarkable young woman tells me she’s proud to come back to Carpinteria, but worries that she may be closing herself to bigger opportunities. “I’m starting to wonder that other scripts are possible,” she tells me.
All I can say is : Watch out world, here comes Karina Jougla! She answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’m really proud of the work that my peers and I did to push Columbia University to divest from fossil fuels. We started the divestment campaign my freshman year, and the year after I graduated, Columbia dropped its direct investments in the coal industry to send the message that we need to heed climate science and shift our energy usage to combat climate change.
What is your most treasured possession?
When the fire was approaching Carpinteria, I realized that the only possessions I cared about potentially losing were my childhood journals and paintings. When I visit home, I sometimes like to look back and remember who I was and what I cared about as I was growing up.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Sometimes I wish I were more willing to take risks. I’m trying to work on it!
What is your most marked characteristic?
I would say that I feel a strong sense of responsibility toward others.
What do you like most about your job?
I love sharing the stories of Doctors Without Borders’ patients and staff with our donors and the public. I work on the fundraising mail program so my job is very behind the scenes, but occasionally I get to hear from an aid worker who expresses how grateful they are for donors’ support, or from a donor who is inspired by the work our medical teams do, and I love getting to be the bridge between the field and our supporters.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A camping trip to a remote beach destination with my family and friends.
What is your greatest fear??
Heights. My mom says that when I was a toddler, I would scream in terror on the swingset. I don’t think I could ever go skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.
Who do you most admire?
I deeply admire the staff at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria who helped shape me into who I am today, especially Asa Olsson, who was my theater teacher and is this year’s Carpinterian of the Year.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I spend more than I’d like to admit on La Croix. For the uninitiated, it is the best sparkling water in pastel cans you’re going to find.
What is your current state of mind?
Happy and grateful to be visiting my family and home in California!
What is the quality you most like in people?
Open-mindedness. Being willing to make a good faith effort to see something from another person’s perspective, even if you don’t really understand it.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
I’m not a big fan of selfish people.
What do you most value in friends?
I love my friendships where, even if we haven’t seen each other for years, when we get together it’s like no time has passed and we can pick right back up where we left off.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I say the phrase “I should” too much. “Should” is a very powerful and limiting word. I’ve learned to catch myself when I think, I should be doing this or that, and ask where the underlying motivation is really coming from.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be really good at team sports, which was never something that came naturally to me. I enjoy yoga, hiking, and kayaking, but those can be fairly solitary activities.
Where would you most like to live?
In the long term, I see myself moving back to California one day. While I love New York City, I’m a Californian at heart. I like both SoCal and NorCal, I would just need to be near the ocean. I would also love to spend a few years living in France at some point, where my dad’s side of the family lives.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My brother Jacques. People say we have a similar laugh and sense of humor. I think we’re the only ones who fully get each other’s jokes.
What is your motto?
I’m going to borrow Girls Inc.’s motto: strong, smart, and bold.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Simone de Beauvoir.
On what occasion do you lie?
Generally, I’m a pretty bad liar and feel pretty guilty about lying, so I don’t often try. When I was a little girl, I sometimes liked to tell fantastical stories that I didn’t mean as lies, but presented as the truth when it wasn’t the case. I convinced my brother for a while that I had magic powers.