The ongoing pandemic upended my career plans and led me to Terra. I would not be writing this piece were it not for the encouraging Terra community convincing me to continue pursuing my passions. Here is a snippet of my story.

Before the pandemic, I led a comfortable life in Manhattan’s East Village, finishing my last semester of undergraduate studies at NYU. I spent time with friends, studied for the few remaining courses in my degree, and enjoyed the city as if it would be the last time I lived there. While my friends talked about their future plans to work in the city, I had charted a much different route for myself. My post-graduation plan was to spend a year working in Africa through a fellowship program, and I was thrilled about the opportunity. What could go wrong?

As a function of my undergraduate degree program, I spent nearly half of college studying overseas, globetrotting through Europe, Asia and the Middle East. However exciting, those travels didn’t have nearly as much influence on my career path as my 10-day trip in Ghana did freshman year. Supporting community-driven development initiatives in the rural village of Woadze Tsatoe transformed my understanding of how I could use my business degree for social change. I learned how some marketing, accounting and management concepts were near universal, able to be channeled for economic development in an entirely new context far removed from New York City. Struck by how the emerging field of social entrepreneurship could improve livelihoods, I set out to learn more about its applicability to the continent that impacted me so much in such a short period of time.

Returning from Ghana, I was struck by my lack of knowledge about the world – and especially about Africa. As many people growing up in the U.S. may attest to, world history and geography were sometimes glazed over in favor of U.S. history. African history, in particular, was barely taught, and often stereotyped in problematic ways when it was. To this day, such limited and one-sided coverage often causes Americans to have a misunderstood image of the African continent. For decades, Western media has flashed images on TV screens of crippling poverty, widespread corruption, and wars throughout post-colonial Africa. The average American would have a hard time finding Ghana on a map (it’s on West Africa’s coast bordering Togo, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso), let alone knowing that there are 54 countries on the continent. The landmass is so big that you can fit the U.S., China, India and most of Europe inside of it – oh, and still have room for Japan too. It is also the most linguistically and ethnically diverse continent in the world, but this fact I only learned years later after I returned from Ghana and started studying all I could about the continent.

Africa is changing rapidly, as I learned, quickly shedding any misperceptions that I had before. The continent is not, in fact, only full of rural people living in poverty, home to safaris and wild animals, and people living without technology or access to modern amenities. On the contrary, it is the fastest growing by population, fastest growing by GDP and fastest urbanizing place on earth. By 2030, more than half of Africans are projected to live in cities. The top seven fastest growing economies were located in Africa last year, an annual trend that continued despite the pandemic. While there are still insurgencies and reports of terrorist activity in certain places, the continent is considerably more peaceful than it was in the 20th century. And most of Africa is also now democratic, at least on paper. All of these indicators, might I add, are influenced by the effects of climate change, which will be felt most in the Sahel and East African regions. I may have only spent time in rural Ghana, surely an incomplete picture of where the continent is heading, but it was enough for me to itch for more.

It may seem hard to believe, but my 10 days in Ghana also opened my eyes to the field of social entrepreneurship. This pioneering concept to do business and do good at the same time led me to join Bridges for Enterprise (BfE) in 2017, a volunteer-based non-profit that I now lead, and it’s what lights the fire underneath my resolve to build a more sustainable world led by social enterprises. During my involvement with BfE, I have witnessed time and time again the profound impact that environmentally-driven social enterprises can have on local communities. Pearl Entrepreneurs Academy, a Ugandan startup selling solar lanterns and clean cookstoves to last mile communities, is one such example. But there are many more out there. When I studied abroad at HEC Paris [Business School] in 2019, I had the pleasure to work with the wonderful team at Proteen, a different Ugandan social enterprise using insects to transform food waste into sustainable protein feed for livestock farmers. If the future welfare of humanity depends on Africa’s development trajectory, and the future of industry is circularity, then Proteen combined the best of both elements. I was lucky to be involved in the company’s early days.

So, where does Terra fit into this story? I’m getting there. It may be obvious but my post-graduation plan to work in Africa fell through. When the pandemic ripped through New York City in mid-March last year, I flew home to Chicago to live with family instead of to Kampala Uganda. I planned to meet with the Proteen team, tour apartments, and get acquainted with life in Uganda’s capital, helping me to make some future decision about working with the startup or working with a different company through the fellowship I had just been accepted to.

I never got to make that decision. The fellowship turned into a “virtual opportunity,” reduced the number of fellows from 55 to 15 and didn’t pan out. I felt stuck. Living at home with my parents, finishing classes on Zoom and graduating virtually from my couch some 800 miles from New York City felt like a true calamity. Everything I had worked so hard for during college – doing non-traditional internships, prioritizing passion over pay and crafting a unique narrative to set myself up for success – seemed to come crashing down within weeks. I deviated from my business school peers by pursuing a non-lucrative, impact-focused career, only to have the pandemic cause a major setback that wiped away the plans I had before. This was not only a job that went awry, but also a temporary halting of the trajectory I started plotting for myself throughout college. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. How could I somehow gain practical field experience in Africa while working from home? I felt like I needed to spend more time on the continent truly understanding social entrepreneurship to prepare myself for graduate studies and perhaps a PhD. It didn’t make any sense.

Shortly after, I luckily found out about Terra through the Climate Tech VC newsletter. Terra’s 12-week comprehensive climate school seemed like a perfect fit for my situation. I was stuck at home, keen to learn, and looking for ways to supplement my business background with more climate-focused knowledge. The Orcas cohort of 100+ fellows from around the world gave me a sense of community I hadn’t felt since I was living in New York. Moreover, the knowledge I gained equipped me with a more holistic understanding of issues – from energy to economics – that I could apply to my work with BfE. I’m grateful that Terra was available at a precarious time in my early career when I really needed it.

While I’m still figuring out what my next steps are career-wise, I feel more optimistic about the future. The Terra course may not have radically altered my career path, but it did strengthen my resolve to go into the social entrepreneurship space, ideally with a focus on Africa or other emerging markets. Moreover, deepening my understanding of climate justice, migration and other developmental effects of climate change – all topics that have significant relevance in Africa – has opened my eyes to concepts I hadn’t considered much before. I attribute the Terra modules and weekly lab group discussions to equipping me with new sustainability knowledge that I can speak to in future professional settings.

But my experience with Terra is only one manifestation of my resilience during a pandemic that disrupted my post-graduation plans. Since May of last year, I’ve interned in an Africa-focused role (from my house!), helped spearhead new initiatives within BfE, and built a personal website to document more of my journey. While I’m still very unsure when I’ll return to Africa for work, thanks to Terra, I know that I’ll be a more capable, thoughtful and skilled person when I do. Perhaps this is what personal resiliency is all about: staying motivated in a time of great peril, developing new skills to deploy at some unknown point in the future, and pursuing my passions even when the world seems to conspire against it.

Jordan is a graduate of's Orca cohort of the Climate Change: Learning for Action Course. He is the global president of Bridges for Enterprise driving social change and inspiring climate action.