No One is an Island

John Donne was a 17th century poet; Common is a 21st century poet. While the two were born centuries apart, their words bring clarity in a period of my life that is anything but.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” – John Donne, 1624, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.

“…I’m not always the perfect man. I’m not always doing the right things. That’s who I am. I’m working to be better.” – Common, 2007, The Guardian.

View of Maxwell from Crouse-Hinds Hall.
View of Maxwell from Crouse-Hinds Hall.

The second semester of graduate school is about my maturation from being curious about data science to being committed to becoming the best urban data scientist I can be. This commitment is not a movie montage moment where I surround myself with books and independently learn how to transition from a student to being an employee. Rather, this commitment involves asking for help from others and believing in myself.

In the spirit of Donne’s writings, I am a part of both the Maxwell School and School of Information Studies. When it comes to preparing for job interviews for policy jobs, no one is better at offering solid advice than the experienced and accommodating trio of Kelli Young, Laura McArdle, and Lauren Meyer at the Maxwell Center for Career Development. But when I need to learn how to showcase my visualization skills or highlight certain software skills on my resume, Christopher Perrello at iSchool Career Services is who I go to see.

Every Friday at the Center for Policy Research, my economics classmates and I go through the weekly problem sets with Professor Peter Wilcoxen. The enthusiasm he has for economics is clear; but to me, the best part is witnessing someone take as much time as is needed to simplify a complex concept. That patience and love of subject are a regular display of what I hope to accomplish in becoming an urban data scientist.

When I’m not getting help from professionals, I’m venting my frustrations with the job hunt with my fellow MPA and iSchool classmates. The best part of sharing my ups and downs with others is that everyone else has a similar story to tell. Reserving the “They want an interview!” or the “Why haven’t they called back?” story suppresses the chance for everyone to vent their experience on this rollercoaster ride.

No matter how high or how low the rollercoaster goes, I believe in myself. Every week I am challenging myself to make a new chart, interactive graphic, or communication skill. Today it is developing an application that visualizes monthly citizen complaints against City of Cincinnati police officers; tomorrow might be something completely different. While where I’ll end up after graduation is completely unknown, at least I have a community to rely on for support through the good times and the bad times.

Happiness Doesn’t Have Just One Address

As a native Californian, Syracuse has provided me with many new experiences since I arrived in July. I was born and raised in Southern California where it is summer about 8 months out of the year.We have palm trees and cacti in our backyards, with snow caped mountains just 30 minutes away. I had never been in weather below 20 degrees before I visited Syracuse in April and I had to ask my roommates for help when buying winter gear. During this time, I have found that it can be calming to shovel snow and scrap ice off of car windows; I even enjoy it sometimes. Weather might seem like a silly concern, but it can be very difficult for some people to acclimate to when it is such a drastic change. I was concerned about the lack of sun Syracuse gets during the winter months and if it would have an effect on my attitude and behavior. Luckily, I have been surviving the snowy days and I try to enjoy the beautiful snow while I can! I love California and I hope to go back after graduation, but first I have to make it through the upcoming winter months.

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What is a Californian to do during the first snowfall? Instagram it, of course!

The weather is not the only new experience for me this year. My undergraduate university was only 15 minutes away from my house, so in order to save my family and myself some money, I decided to commute to school all four years. There were challenging times being an off campus student, but looking back at it now, I wouldn’t change a thing. With that being said, this year has been the first time in my life where I have lived on my own. Not only was it the first time being on my own, I also decided I would move across the entire country! There were multiple times leading up to my move to Syracuse, and even during the first few months here, where I seriously questioned what in the world I was thinking. I love my family; I love hanging out with them and I enjoy our weekly gatherings. I wasn’t ready to leave the pets in my family or my new baby cousins that I already loved so much. I had to constantly remind myself that I’m so fortunate to even have this opportunity to get an amazing education and to learn from some of the brightest minds in the field of Public Administration. I couldn’t let my fear of being on my own get in the way of this.

Six months into the program and I am still not 100% used to being this far from my entire family. I text my mom and dad every day, my sister has been my “best friend” on Snapchat since the day I came back from winter break, and sometimes my family will FaceTime me just so I can see my dog! I haven’t let my busy schedule and different time zone completely get in the way of communicating with my family.  Although this level of communication may seem a bit excessive, it has really helped me cope with moving so far away from home. In my experience, I have found that it is important to talk to your loved ones, but it is equally important to live in the moment and enjoy the short time we have at Maxwell and in Syracuse.

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I was so glad that my mom and sister helped me move to Syracuse!

 

I would be lying if I said this transition was easy. Fortunately, I have two wonderful roommates that have made this experience better than I could have ever imagined. Not only did they help me survive economics and statistics, they have also helped create a home for me in Syracuse. When I first moved here, I called my house “the place I’m living for a year”; I refused to call it home because quite frankly, it did not feel like home. It wasn’t the home I grew up in for 17 years, it wasn’t my room with all my memories displayed on the shelves, and it wasn’t the bed that had a special blanket laid on top for my dog. When I went back to California for winter break, I found myself calling Syracuse my “other home”. This may seem like nothing, but it sure did mean a lot to me. The last six months have taught me that “home” is what you make it. Of course my real home will always be in Highland, California, but Syracuse has given me a special kind of home. I have friends that I adore here and a house that has its quirks but still gives me a sense of comfort every day after school. That house on Broad Street is more than just the place I’m living for a year; it is the place where many memories have been made and it will be a part of one of the most significant years of my life. Whether it is in the desert of California or the tundra of New York, it is important to remember that happiness doesn’t have just one address!

 

Opportunities Outside the Classroom

The Edward R. Murrow program is an exchange program administered by the U.S. Department of State. The “Fellows” are international journalists selected by the U.S. Department of State for a three-week exchange here in the United States. This year’s participants hailed from Central and South East Asia—from places like Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, and more. The point is to expose these international journalists to the important role of independent media in fostering and protecting freedom of expression and democracy.

But the State Department can’t do this alone. So the department partners with leading schools of journalism and international relations to host the participants.

Fellows, administrators, and interns pose for a group picture at the farewell dinner. Photo by Jay Poudyal.
Fellows, administrators, interns, and PD students pose for a group picture at the farewell dinner. Photo by Jay Poudyal.

Enter: the Newhouse and Maxwell Schools.

Last week, Maxwell and Newhouse hosted the Edward R. Murrow Fellows here in Syracuse. As a Public Diplomacy (MAIR/MS PR) student and journalism nerd, this was a dream come true. Public Diplomacy professionals, at our core, are relationship builders. PD is a field based on two-way communication with the goal of promoting understanding and positive sentiment for the future. Hosting the Fellows in Syracuse was PD in action.

The only reason I was able to get involved with the Fellows is because of the opportunities afforded to me by the Maxwell and Newhouse schools. Maxwell houses the National Security Studies program, the Syracuse office with which the Fellows have the most interaction and where I am an intern. As an intern, I was able to assist in the execution of this program while still putting my studies first.

Journalists in ponchos--Fellows bused from Syracuse to Niagara Falls! Photo by Dhanushka Ramanayake.
Journalists in ponchos! Fellows travelled from Syracuse to Niagara Falls. Photo by Dhanushka Ramanayake.

Maxwell and Newhouse made sure that all PD students—interns or not—were involved in the visit, inviting us to dinners and workshops. We PD students were able to see first hand the direct impact our exchanges have on foreign publics and on the United States. Not only have these exchanges affected our world-views, but they have also allowed us to forge lasting relationships with foreign professionals that will undoubtedly extend into the future.

As cool and unique as this opportunity was, things like this are a common occurrence for a graduate student here at Syracuse.