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Country Roads to City Lights

posted Dec 18, 2013, 7:02 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 14, 2014, 10:36 AM by Unknown user ]

Michelle Flanagan

A 2009 graduate of Van Buren, many people remember Breann Zerby for her talented solos in the show choir and ovation-worthy acts during Cabaret. After her graduation, however, many people don’t know what happened to her.

In the fall of 2009, Zerby started her college career at Ohio Northern, studying to earn a double major in pharmacy and musical theatre. She was involved in theatre, rugby, and the University Singers select choir. During her senior year of college, she changed her mind and decided to graduate with her theatre degree and attend grad school (preferably in New York) to pursue a degree in international relations.

The switch occurred after saying goodbye to the U.S. for a while. “I realized after a summer abroad in the Dominican Republic that there was so much need internationally and how little countries understood each other. I thought it more appropriate that I adopt an occupation which would allow me to fight corruption in foreign countries and improve universal development.”

Since graduating from Ohio Northern, Zerby has left the state of Ohio and is currently in New York City. She explained that she has wanted to move to NYC ever since her first visit at age 10 when she fell in love with the array of opportunities and experiences the grand city offers; it wasn’t until this past February that she saw the possibility of moving to the city becoming a reality as she received acceptance letters from grad schools in the surrounding areas. It’s general knowledge that moving is stressful, and moving to the biggest city in the country only adds to that. In preparation, Zerby worked as many hours as possible in order to save as much money as she could.

“I packed everything I would need inside a single suitcase and wrote out a complete budget for myself. I tried to cut back on my coffee habit, but that was apparently unattainable and unreasonable,” she explained.

Zerby also mentioned that she originally planned to move towards to the end of August, closer to when her classes would be starting, but the apartment that she and her roommate found had a lease beginning the last week of July. This meant they had to quickly change their plans, and begin the adventure a month early.

Since arriving in the city, Zerby has put her degree to work and been involved in a theatre production of Hair, and is again saving as much money as possible in order to attend auditions for additional musicals in the spring. Since she’s also a grad school student, she’s currently feeling the pressure of finals week, which means that a lot of time is spent doing research and writing papers. She does, however, see shows when it’s possible, and stops celebrities for autographs when she’s feeling brave enough.

Just like it was as a child, Zerby’s favorite part of the city is how “every celebration and event in the world is here on my doorstep!” She admits that she misses being able to drive and sing in her car, but has adjusted to the “local means of creating a personal bubble,” listening to music and playing games on the subway.

         Within that personal bubble are big dreams: Zerby hopes that she’ll get the chance to break a leg in theatre, but also wants to use
diplomacy to change the world. She explained that while performing on Broadway would give her the ability to touch thousands, working internationally would allow her to “develop a world which may be otherwise unreachable.” She hopes to work with the UN to aid the impoverished and underrepresented Latin American and lesser-known European countries.

Did little old Van Buren help her attain any of these goals?

She says yes; show choir taught her musical discipline, hard work, and commitment to performing, while quiz bowl helped her develop as an all-around person and Junior Statesmen of America taught her about the political system. She emphasized that being involved in these activities on top of marching and concert band, track, choir, student council, and the annual musical taught her the most valuable lesson: time management! She believes it’s the best skill a person can have, regardless of their chosen career path.

The biggest difference between her home as an 18-year-old and her home now?

She said, “I can buy a delicious bagel, microwave, or a lava lamp at 3 a.m. on Christmas if I wanted. I can also hear seven different languages being spoken as I walk three blocks from the subway station to work or home.”