Author Archives: rtd5077

A semester in the rear-view mirror

As I sit here at my laptop, thinking about the best way to sum up the semester, I cannot help but wonder where the time went. As clichéd as it sounds, this semester truly was over before I even realized it began. It seems like just yesterday that Sarah met with Leah, Bridget, and I for the first time and outlined the expectations for the semester. I was so full of energy, optimism, and hope at the time, and as I reach the end of the gauntlet that this semester has been, I can’t believe it went by so quickly.

I wish I could say I adhered to that original plan a little more closely, but alas, life got in the way and I never felt I was able to perform at my best. This semester I encountered a lot of challenges I’ve never had to deal with before, such as a broken computer, much more challenging classes, and a crisis of identity and uncertainty about my career goals. However, despite all the missed deadlines, late nights spent wondering what on earth I was doing with my life, and anxiety, I believe that I have grown a lot as a person. The entire time, the Center for Global Studies was there to help challenge me and enrich my life in a multitude of ways.

The wide array of guest lecturers helped me to experience viewpoints and cultures from all over the world. It fostered greater curiosity in me about life outside the cozy (and convenient) confines of America. Each lecturer I interacted with was infinitely interesting, generous, and fascinating to listen to. Michael Gaw, the Assistant Director in the Division of Trading and Markets of the SEC,  in particular struck me as an inspiration. Like me (so far), his college career had an unconventional path without a clear goal for the future. Also like me, he lived in Cincinnati, OH. Speaking with him and hearing his lecture highlighted the importance for me to discover what I am best at, combine that with things I am passionate about, and then figure out a way to market that skill to employers.

Helping to plan the Onward on Climate Rally as my intern event was one way that I felt I was able to do this during the semester. It allowed me to combine my love for environmental activism with my writing skills to help bring a great cause to the Penn State Community, and thanks to the CGS, the event was able to reach more people and make more of an impact.

In the midst of all the chaos of the semester, this internship has given me the opportunity to develop crucial skills for the future and practice tasks that are applicable for many different career paths. Luckily, it also showed me many things I need to do better. Time management and self-motivation certainly top the list.

I am thankful for the opportunities this internship has presented me, and most importantly, the wonderful people it has surrounded me with. Whether it was the guest lecturers, my bosses Sarah and Mary, or my fellow interns Bridget and Leah, the people here have inspired me to grow as a student, employee, and person. Although I will no longer be a member of this fantastic team, I’ll always have a fond spot in my memory of the time spent with the Center.

Finding a direction

This semester has found me drifting through my studies and extracurriculars with no clear idea of how I want to spend the rest of my life or what career will fill my time. A lack of direction has made it difficult to focus on the present challenges and left me struggling to keep up with many obligations. However, being involved with the CGS has assisted me in synthesizing all the different competing interests in my life and helped me find what I care about.

The multiple lectures sponsored by the CGS have brought people of all different cultures and disciplines to speak about what they care most about. Hearing these lecturers and presentations speak about their passions has helped me learn a valuable lesson about my own career aspirations. Finding a specific area or aspect of the world you want to create a change in is critical to finding a sense of self purpose and career direction. Whether, like some of the CGS sponsored speakers,  it is studying dictatorial regimes and how they can peacefully transition to democracy, exploring the root causes of racist ideas and hate groups, or understanding how NGOs are empowering Somali women to learn, I’ve learned how important it is to find your passion and what skills you have in order to forge a direction for your career and life.

This semester for the CGS has helped me to realize my variables of that formula much better. I have always had a strong love for the environment, and through my coursework and events like the Sun Come Up screening and discussion, this semester I have been able to channel that love into a desire to protect the environment through a variety of ways. First and foremost, there is a great amount of research that must be done about the groups of people in the world who will be affected most by environmental and climate degradation. Secondly, mobilizing support for these groups and government action takes a good deal of effort and coordination. These are both areas that I have had experience practicing this semester with the help of the CGS, and areas I believe I can be useful. For my intern event, I have been part of the communications team planning the Onward on Climate Rally, which will be promoting the social injustice behind climate inaction. CGS sponsored events such as the Sun Come Up highlighted the importance of better planning for a future featuring less available land due to rising seas.

The experiences at the CGS have certainly helped me identify what is necessary to find a direction for my future, and to shape something I am passionate about into a marketable skill.

Learning on the Job

I have only been an intern with the Center for Global Studies for one month, and already I have been pleasantly forced out of my comfort zone. While it was originally intimidating and left me wondering if I would be capable of all the things expected of me, I feel confident that the skills I learn will be beneficial for a wide variety of future careers. The help from our advisor Sarah Lyall-Combs and the inspiration from my fellow interns has so far given me expectations of good things to come.

My first assignment was to enter all the classes Penn State offers that have an element of global studies into a master spreadsheet. While it wasn’t what I would consider all that fun of a task, it taught me valuable lessons. I set my standards for how quickly I could accomplish it way too high, and after setting my personal deadline for finishing it too early, I struggled to keep my promise. It is a lesson that only takes once to learn and hopefully one I will remember throughout the semester.

However, already the work here has paid dividends in terms of applying to my interests and potential career fields. The Center sponsored a screening of German actress, documentarian, and director Mo Asumang’s documentary Die Arier. As a German minor, I am always interested in learning more about the culture and language that makes Germany and all German-speaking states such unique places. The film detailed Asumang’s quest for understanding of the roots of the term “Aryans” and how it applies to modern day neo-Nazi groups in Germany and the U.S. The film showed her, a black German, confronting racists head on at neo-Nazi rallies, Ku Klux Klan meetings, and even in their own homes. The film showed the absolute ludicrousness of the racist movements and how useless and misguided the term “Aryan” actually is. The film showed taboo sides of both Germany and the U.S. that don’t get much attention on a daily basis, and was an important reminder that intense racism still exists. It also brought to light the necessity to never relent in the continual education of tolerance and respect, because if anything, the film showed how fundamentally flawed beliefs not founded in fact or reason are cause for so much hate.

Interviewing Ms. Asumang and Rafi Nadiri were wonderful insights into cultures I was unfamiliar with. Growing up in Southwestern Ohio, I was never given enough exposure to different cultures, other than what was portrayed in the media. Being allowed to conduct my own interviews of fascinating people from different places is something I am very much looking forward to. The American media has its own way of portraying places like Afghanistan, and largely ignores the seedier parts of society like the neo-Nazi groups. Being able to speak firsthand with incredible people like Rafi Nadiri (who works to improve the rule of law in Afghanistan and protect the rights of women) and Mo Asumang has already given me alternative narratives of the world. Once again, they are learning experiences that give me valuable professional skills as well as a better idea of the world around us and the endlessly fascinating people that make it up.

I am looking forward to helping the Center bring more guests like Asumang to Penn State to help educate and inform our students. She is a fascinating person, and I’m sure there will be many more with equally important lessons to teach. I cannot wait to be a part of it all!