Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.
By Saga Norrby
— Many are the students of academia who have at least once considered dropping out and leaving it all behind. Someone who turned thought into action and left the path her academic studies had put her on, is Katherine DeWitt.
On Earth Day 2017, April 22, DeWitt joined a celebratory yoga retreat in London, where she lived at the time. As the participants sat in a circle and introduced themselves, DeWitt – half exalted, half confused – shared with the group that she had just given notice to quit her job as a corporate lawyer. Fast forward to now, and she is running a small yoga studio in Amsterdam, called LUVI.
DeWitt was born in 1984 in Westborough, a small town outside Boston in the United States. In high school, she was introduced to both yoga and living abroad, when she spent a semester in Bahamas. She later studied economics at the Liberal Arts and Sciences school of Cornell University, and went on to get her law degree at Georgetown University Law Center.
Looking back, DeWitt said, “I think I went to law school because it was the easy choice in a way. You do that, and then you have a very linear career if you want it. It’s a way to not have to make any more decisions, really.”
Not too long after DeWitt graduated in 2010, she and her husband, Zachary Schwartz, left the US to try their luck in Europe. They went where work took them; first Dublin, then Amsterdam for a while, and then London. There, working for a big law firm dealing with high yield bonds, DeWitt finally experienced the work of a lawyer as she had imagined it to be. “It gave me a thrill and I think that’s what I had always associated with being a lawyer. Being that high power person, really feeling important to your team, and having a lot of client contact – that job gave all of those things,” DeWitt said.
Nevertheless, DeWitt had a growing sense that she would not be a lawyer for life. She remembers a story going around about a managing director of a big bank in London, who bragged about missing the birth of his child because he was doing a bond deal. While the story itself may be an urban legend, it bothered DeWitt that no one around her seemed to think it represented something gone wrong. “There’s no respect for anyone’s personal life,” she said.
DeWitt did not, however, imagine herself as a yoga studio owner until some sobering words from her reflexologist planted the idea of such a career switch in her mind. “She told me, ‘You’ll be happy if you get a law job of course, but will you ever really love it? Probably not, whereas maybe you’ll really love this other thing; that’s what you come in here and talk about when we’re chatting, like what you’re going to make for dinner, or what yoga retreat you’re doing,’” DeWitt recalls.
So DeWitt quit her job in June last year and moved back to Amsterdam, where she took a yoga teacher training over the summer. In October she found the space for her future studio in what was then a Chinese games hall. She got the keys on January 1, and LUVI opened its doors a month later.
Among the things DeWitt has come to love since then, is seeing people return after their first visit. A yogi who has become a regular at the studio is Maebh Flanagan, 29. “I go to many studios, but LUVI is the most personal one,” Flanagan said. “You’re greeted at the door, people stay for tea before and after class, and the teachers are great.”
Another thing DeWitt says she loves, is when people come to the studio and comment on what she has posted on LUVI’s Instagram account, because while posting she thinks “Nobody’s watching this, you are delusional, what’s wrong with you?”
Her husband offered far fonder words to describe DeWitt’s efforts. “Kate has really jumped two feet in on LUVI, so if anything she’s even more of a superwoman than before. That’s saying something when you consider the life of a high yield bond lawyer in London,” he said.
A few months into running her studio, DeWitt consistently works longer hours than she did as a lawyer, and she has come to realize the days of being able to finish her to-do lists are over. She has no regrets regarding her decision, but part of her still burns for the thrill she got as a lawyer in London. For that reason, she has big plans for LUVI. “I want this to be a big brand that’s well known, that has food, that has maybe a café at some point,” DeWitt said. “I’m not disappointed in what it is thus far, but to me, this is such a small piece of it.”