Category Archives: Fall 2015

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.

Saying Goodbye

Most of the tasks I completed this semester were similar to those I had accomplished last spring. We continued to compile monthly newsletters that reported on the events the Center had sponsored, as well as previewed some of the more anticipated events for the next moth. I also continued to blog about my experience as an intern, though many of my blogs were focused on my dreaded internship event – a.k.a. the bane of my existence. I created lots flyers for various lectures, which became one of my favorite tasks while an intern at the Center for Global Studies. It may sound silly, but I enjoyed creating their design and took great care and joy in finding an aesthetic that reflected the lecture and speaker effectively and appropriately. In addition to all the lecture series, newsletters, and press releases, I also had the opportunity to interview one of the speakers. Michael Gaw currently serves as an Assistant Director in the Division of Trading and Markets of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington DC. He works on issues relating to trading rules and trade reporting for equities, fixed income, and derivative securities. Mr. Gaw graduated from Harvard College in 1990 with an AB in Social Studies, the University of Cambridge in 1992 with a MPhil in European Studies, and from Boston College Law School in 1995 with a JD. Mr. Gaw came to Penn State to talk about his unconventional education and career path and the journey the started with him studying Social and European Studies and ended with him working at the SEC. I was able to interview him and gain his perspective on the current state of undergraduate education and Liberal Arts degrees, as well as his advice for current college students, who are searching for a meaningful job or career, but may have degrees that are stereotyped or overlooked by employers. As a soon-to-be college graduate with a Liberal Arts degree, daunted by the job market, I found his insights to be very direct, sincere, and comforting. After all, like he mentioned, “…just because everyone expects you to have it all figured out at twenty-something years old, doesn’t mean you have to have it all figured out. You’re young, and it’s okay to move refrigerators for year before finding your career.”

This semester, I also had to complete my aforementioned, dreaded intern event. To sum up my feelings on the lecture, I will say this: I am glad I hosted it and I think it included honest, constructive discussion on global topics that are easily ignored, however, I am ecstatic that I will never have to plan one again. The time and exhaustive effort that I dedicated to executing that event were well worth it, but not something I would gladly endure again. Trying to match up schedules and curate content and designing marketing materials, while ensuring to get the “ok” from the speaker on everything was a constant, enduring struggle on my end. Luckily, I decided to host Dr. Lee Ann De Reus, an Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and Women Studies at Pennsylvania State University-Altoona and the co-founder/assistant executive director of Panzi Foundation USA, who is not only knowledgeable in the area of international work, but an absolute delight. Dr. De Reus is personable and relatable and can easily incite college students to actively participate in profound discussion – no easy feat. I am very grateful to her for volunteering her time and for leading such an engaging lecture and conversation. Thank you Dr. De Reus.

This will be my last blog as an intern for the Center for Global Studies, as I will not be returning next semester. I am grateful for this experience and I wish Sarah Mary, and Bridget the best of luck for the spring semester. Thanks to everyone who has helped me during this internship!

Conquering Mount Everest

As the semester comes to an end I’m finally able to take a step back, take a breath, and reflect on the battlefield behind me. In 3 ½ short months I’ve accomplished more in developing myself than I have in the past couple of years. The Center of Global Studies has helped me to achieve this goal.

I’ve already spoken on press releases, newsletters, weekly events, and flyers. Now it’s time to discuss the end goal. As a sort of “final project” for the internship, each intern and graduate assistant was tasked with planning, coordinating, and managing our very own global studies event on campus. The project is meant to put into practice the accumulation of skills we’ve gained throughout the semester.

For my event I chose to screen the movie, Young and Restless in China, a documentary that follows the lives of 9 young men and women in China as they learn to live in a rapidly changing economy and society. I created a press release and flyer for the event, and even spoke with a few teachers to ask them to incentivize their students to go. The end result was magical: there wasn’t an empty seat or dry eye in the room!…Just kidding. Only 6 people showed up.

Although some people might count that as a loss, I’m personally very happy with the results. The event was a valuable learning experience and it taught me how to successfully plan for the future. I now know that planning an event a few days after Thanksgiving break and two weeks before finals isn’t the most ideal time. I also know that the event should be promoted earlier so students have time to fit it into their schedules. When it comes time to plan my next event, I’ll be ready for the challenges. Now I can say I have the experience under my belt.

This is the way we learn. We try and we succeed or we try and we fail. Either way it’s the process that counts.

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.

A Different Type of Experience

In my last blog I reflected on the experience I was gaining from working as an intern at the Center for Global Studies. Networking, creating press releases, and beginning to plan and carry out my own event for Penn State’s International Education Week all speak to the invaluable professional development the Center has to offer. I’ve even learned a lesson or two over territorial disputes when it came to paying my intern dues and hanging flyers around campus.

As another month passes, however, I’ve learned that I’m gaining a less obvious type of experience through my work with the Center for Global Studies. When I began my senior year this fall, I was faced with the daunting terror of still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Instead of monsters under our bed, senior college students most often fear L.A.D (Life After Graduation). How can you find a job if you don’t even know what interests you most?

This is where I find I owe my thanks to my internship, and why I signed up for another semester. The lectures, film-screenings, and discussions that CGS sponsors and co-sponsors around campus have become my favorite activities to participate in. Often times the speakers that we host at Penn State are highly accomplished individuals who love what they do and have worked hard to get there. To listen to their stories and backgrounds, and then witness the careers they’ve made for themselves first hand, is an opportunity that all Penn State students should take advantage of more often.

I recently interviewed Dr. Prajit Dutta of Aicon Galleries and Aicon Funds, and I was inspired by how he created a career for himself that combined art and economics in a way that didn’t compromise his interests, while still making a difference in the world. Soon after, I attended Dr. Dru Gladney’s lecture on “Globalizing China’s Uyghur Problem,” which related directly to my studies as a Chinese major. I learned I was fascinated by Dr. Gladney’s work with minorities in China and the experiences he gained throughout his lifetime abroad.

With each event I attend, I’m learning something new about myself. I’m discovering what fields I’m interested in, and learning about new career paths every day. In our lives we’re often told that jobs are cut and dry. You can be a biology major and become a doctor, or you can be an English major and become a writer. I’m learning that our careers are what we make them. While they may not know it, the Center for Global Studies is providing excellent career services for a lost student like myself, and that is a type of experience that is proving more beneficial to me than the type you can put on a resume.

An Anxious Intern Awaits the Awful Intern Event

We are now pretty much halfway through the semester and the work from this internship hasn’t killed me yet. The infamous “intern event” looms in the distance of next month, but my anxiety and uncertainty about it has subsided. Okay, well my anxiety hasn’t totally subsided, considering I still need to make the flyer and the press release for the event and actually execute it, but the uncertainty is definitely gone.

For my event, I enlisted the help of Lee Ann De Reus, an Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and Women Studies at Penn State – Altoona. Dr. De Reus is a close friend of an organization on campus called Global Brigades, where I’m on the executive board. Due to this pre-existing relationship, Dr. De Reus has already traveled to University Park to give talks about international work and advocacy multiple times and was happy to accommodate my request for a lecture.

Dr. De Reus is also the co-founder/assistant executive director of Panzi Foundation USA and travels regularly to Panzi Hospital in eastern DR Congo to conduct research, develop programs for rape survivors, and inform her advocacy work in the U.S. She co-leads annual field experiences for PSU students to Rwanda and Mozambique and co-founded Beza Kids in support of vulnerable women and children there.

The talk is entitled “Daring to Make a Difference: Finding Your Voice For Global Change” and will take place on Tuesday, November 17th at 111 Chambers starting at 6:30 p.m. for those interested in attending.

I’m very excited to host Dr. De Reus for her talk next month and listen to her ideas on helping students find their on voice for global change!

Events that Raise Global Awareness

After almost three months working with the Center for Global Studies, I can definitely say I now have a better feel of what the Center does and its purpose on campus. When I applied to this position as a Graduate Assistant, I was drawn by the fact that the Center’s interdisciplinary research initiatives: justice, sustainability, and ethical leadership, however I was not really sure how a small office in Old Botany Building will be accomplishing all those things.

The Center for Global Studies does a tremendous amount of job bringing top quality speakers from all over the world to raise awareness on global ethical topics not only in Penn State, but also in State College, PA. Every speaker who comes to the university to discuss cultural or global matters is promoted by the Center and with these events, the CGS manages to have a strong impact on the local community.

My experience so far has been very hands on, and this month we were given the opportunity to plan our own event for International Education Week. Penn State’s International Education Week aims prepare Americans for a global environment and to celebrate the benefits of international exchange. As soon as I got the opportunity to plan an event for this week, I decided to do it on a topic that I believe needs more global awareness and it is also very near and dear to my heart.

I decided I wanted to help raise awareness on the current political situation of my home country, Venezuela. This is a relevant current topic that is not receiving as much media coverage as it should due to conflicts of interests between foreign governments and Venezuela’s government.

For this event I decided to contact an expert on this subject, Alfredo Malaret, a Venezuelan graduate student from Penn State’s School of International Affairs specializing on Development Policy and International Security Studies.

Planning an event is always time consuming, you have to pay attention to details, make sure you get the right venue, create a flyer and a press release to promote it properly, and constantly communicate with the speaker to make sure that you both are on the same page. However, despite the fact that it is hard work, it is very rewarding, especially when you are given the opportunity to work on something that matters to you.

I am infinitely thankful for this opportunity, and I am looking forward to see all the hard effort pay off with a successful event.

Venezuela: From Dictatorship to Democracy will take place on November 11, 2015 at Chambers 108 from 4:15-5:00 p.m. If you are interested in learning more about this topic I invite you to join us and expand your global knowledge!

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!

Expanding my knowledge and balancing my time

When I applied for the Graduate Research Assistant position for the Center for Global Studies, I did it not only because I thought it would be a good work experience, but also because I was genuinely interested on the center’s interdisciplinary research initiatives: justice, sustainability, and ethical leadership. Being from a third world country (Venezuela), where every day is a battle for justice against unethical leadership, I can closely relate to those topics.

By joining the CGS team I expected to gain exposure to professionals in these fields, and also to interact with people who shared the same passion I did on raising awareness on global matters.

I am happy to say that so far my work experience at the center has lived up to my expectations. I get to help with the organization of events that educate students on ethical issues all over the world, I get to promote the teaching of foreign languages to young children, and expand my cultural appreciation.

One of the events I helped promoting was a discussion on girls and women rights in Afghanistan. By promoting and attending the event, I learned about how the laws in Afghanistan are changing slowly but steadily to stimulate fairness on how women are treated. Besides this extraordinary learning experience, I also got to meet the speakers. The networking aspect the CGS provides was something I did not expect when I joined the team, but I definitely appreciate it.

I have other tasks besides event planning. I am in charge of the CGS’s social media accounts, I assist in administrative tasks, and I will be helping with grant reports.

It is the first time in my life I am working and studying at the same time, so I am also learning to balance two different aspects of my professional formation and I am further developing my time management skills.

So far, I can say I have been enjoying my time at the center, and I am looking forward to learning and meeting more professionals that are making an ethical impact on the world.

Round Two

Here I am! Back again! After another panic attack this year after realizing that I will be gone for half of another summer abroad, making an internship experience, yet again impossible, I have double-downed and re-upped with the Center for Global Studies as an intern.

This semester, I am the most experienced and longest-standing member of the intern staff, which is a little daunting considering I’ve only been here one semester. But, with my flyer-making skills and newsletter-writing abilities now honed, the internship somehow seems less intimidating this semester even though I believe that I’m currently putting in more man hours per week.

Also, last semester I somehow managed to weasel my way out of planning the dreaded “intern event”, by placating Sarah by present my research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium at the University of Pittsburgh. This semester, there will be no such relief. With November and International Education Week fast approaching, I can already feel the anxiety starting to creep up on me. While I have a pretty solid idea of the event I’d like to put on, (which I have already started attempting to execute with a flurry of emails) I can only hope everything will be set in time for November.

I am glad to be back for another semester, however, and experience a bunch of new event the Center has to offer. Last semester, was the Spring Series of events and most of the interns’ time and effort was put towards executing the World Stories Alive series at the Schlow Library every Saturday morning. While that was rewarding in its own ways, I’m very excited to be experiencing a slew of new events and lecture series this semester and what seems to be an awesome line-up of guest speakers. Considering I’m not huge on interacting with small children, I think this semester will be much more interesting for me in terms of attending events.

With this better understanding of the internship under my belt, I think that I’ve finally appropriately prepared myself for all the challenges and obstacles that might be thrown my way this semester.