Colombian Cultural Literacy 101

by Matthew Skibiel, FCLC ‘21

Achoo!  

Bless you, right? Not really.

Learning a language is one thing, but learning a language in another culture is something entirely different.

My first month in Bogotá, I made sure to respond to every sneeze—of friends, strangers, even my own—with a cheery “salud!”  That is how I was raised; it would never occur to me to do otherwise. Nobody, however, ever blessed me back. Not a single salud.  To this day, I do not think a single Colombian has ever responded to a single one of my sneezes. “The nerve!” I would think to myself.  

One day, I could not stand it anymore.  I did not understand how the entire Colombian population I had encountered, from the mountains of Bogotá to the beaches of Cartagena, could be so apathetic in the face of another’s sneeze!  In class, two friends were talking face to face, and the one sneezed, but not a word came from the other.  

“Excuse me,” I asked, “why is it that you do not bless each other when you sneeze?”  

They laughed, “why do you?”

I was stupefied.  Why do I? I remember salud being on the very first vocabulary list I ever received during my first Spanish class in middle school.  I really thought about it. Why do I? Why do I bless people when they sneeze? What could that even mean?  I remember reading an article online about it being a short prayer pleading that God protect the sneezer from sickness or death.  It comes from the original phrase “May God bless you.” Interesting.

In Spanish, the response we learn for someone who has sneezed, salud, directly translates to health.  I learned in middle school that it can also be used as a toast before a round of drinks, though Colombians seem to prefer a more ritualized: 

¡pa’rriba, pa’bajo, pa’ centro, pa’dentro!

Up, down, to the middle, now inside as the glasses trace the path of the cheers.  I had to learn that cheer here, as my simple “¡salud!” never seemed to suffice with my Colombian friends.  (If you ever travel to Colombia, you are already two steps ahead. You can thank me later.)

So, what is my point in saying all of this?  No, I am not looking for a pity salud to make up for my several, several sneezes which went unblessed.  My point is something every person learning a language should know: learning a language is not memorizing vocabulary lists.  Learning a language is not being able to recount grammar rules, nor is it the ability to produce perfect orthography. Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough: you never learn a language.  Instead, you are always in the process of learning.  

This process is painful; trust me.  It is embarrassing. I remember telling one of my high school Spanish teachers that I had 17 anuses (that cursed ñ can make all the difference), and more recently I asked for a penis instead of a straw at a restaurant here in Bogotá.  Here’s a tip: always search the proper term for straw when traveling to a Spanish-speaking country.  A simple Google search could save you tons of embarrassment; in Colombia, you would say un pitillo.  Look, now you are three steps ahead.  You are so welcome.  

More funny anecdotes, you ask?  Sure. On my first day of class, my teacher asked what I believed to be “who here is from outside of Bogotá?”  I shot my hand up; surely as the only gringo in the class I was the furthest from being a rolo: someone from Bogotá.  

“From the United States!” I exclaimed.  

“Oh, you bike all the way from the United States every day for class?” she asked.

“What,” I replied audibly, in English.

As it turns out, she asked who rode their bike to campus.  I was mortified. How I understood what I understood: that remains completely beyond me.  I switched out of the class that exact same day.  

As demonstrated in my sneezing epiphany, a language is not just which words to say; a language also encapsulates a culture, which implies proper words to say, proper actions to perform, and when to say or do them.  I learned Colombian greetings and farewells the hard way as well. One day, I was invited to a family celebration of a daughter who had just graduated. The whole extended family was there; there were Germans, Spaniards, Canadians, and Colombians from every stretch of the country.  And there was me, the American. Imagine my shock as every woman came up to kiss me hello, and I was advised to stand to shake every single man’s hand present. Keep in mind, I knew probably about 4 of the 50 people attending. I got the hang of it though, and soon I knew exactly how to turn my cheek to greet the women, and I understood when to stand and just how to shake the men’s hands with a polite mucho gusto.  Then came the time to say goodbye.  I was so confident, until I was approached by a very old man.  Caught up in all the farewells and decepted by my confidence, I kissed him.  On the cheek. He looked at me, and I looked at him. There was an awkward pause, and then he left.  Everyone at the table laughed; men typically do not kiss each other on the cheek unless they are related: especially not older, more conservative men with complete strangers.  This poor guy received way more than what he expected, and I received enough embarrassment to think each farewell or greeting through thoroughly before executing it. No vocabulary list could have saved me there; I had to live it to learn it.  Dear reader, I do believe you are five steps ahead now. Just go ahead and book your ticket, you are now an expert in Colombian etiquette.  

Amidst all this embarrassment, however, I found a bit of relief atop Monserrate, a chapel 3,152 meters above sea level with an amazing view overlooking the massive city of Bogotá.  Remember what I said about learning a language as an unending process? Just ask native speakers. My sister had come to visit me, and atop the mountain we decided to order two fruit juices.  Sidenote: the fruits here are superb. My sister decided on blackberry, and I decided on soursop. As the waitress poured the blackberry juice, she forgot which I had ordered.  

“Guayabo, cierto?”  she asked.

She turned beet red.  Not only had she confused the fruit—guava for soursop—she had put an o at the end of the word instead of an a: the word for the fruit is guayaba.

“Hangover, right?” she asked.

I did not find it to be that embarrassing; a simple o instead of an a is really not that big of a deal.  She seemed to think so. She apologized several times, and nervously laughed during the entire encounter.  My sister asked what the confusion was, and I explained.  

As I explained the simple mistake, I realized how many times I had done the exact same, and how embarrassed I had been.  As I said, the difference between the words year and anus is a simple ñ versus nAño and ano are really so similar.  Looking back, my mistake ordering a straw was part of this same learning process, but now I can order a straw in any Spanish-speaking country knowing exactly what I am actually asking for.  Really, test me. I have made a multitude of mistakes throughout my years of learning this language, but so have the people learning it as their first language.  

So yea, maybe I have kissed a very old man, and maybe my professor that day thought I could easily take home the gold in an Olympic cycling event.  Often times I have to smile at the Uber driver, pretending I understand exactly what he is saying, when in reality I only catch a total of three words in an hour long conversation.  I was surprised to discover that you address your professors by their first names, as I had avoided addressing them at all up until three months into the semester. And I will not even begin to explain how confusing it is that three thousand five hundred pesos equals one American dollar, so a bottle of soda shows up on the bill as 6.500 COP.  I am thankful for these experiences, however, as I recognize them as steps in a long learning process.  

I just hope I relearn to say “bless you” when I get home.




Fall in Berlin

by Amy Chang, FCLC ’21

Hallo! (I know, my German skills have soared since I got here..)

As an International Studies major and a German Studies major, I’ve always thought that Berlin was the natural choice of city for my year-long study abroad plan, and after more than two months here, I can say definitively that I’m glad I came here. 

First, the basics: I’m studying with a program at Freie Universität, which is one of the largest public research institutions in Berlin. The program this semester is about 160 people large and consists primarily of American students who want to study political science and the humanities from a European perspective. I am enrolled in Intensive German, which means 3 hours of German language instruction every morning from Monday to Thursday. I am also taking 3 subject courses: Themes and Issues in Transatlantic Relations, Migration Dynamics and Controversies in Berlin and Europe, and Contemporary Germany from a European Perspective. 

I’m currently living in a studio in a student apartment located an hour away from the FU satellite campus where our program’s classes are held, which means I get to use three forms of public transport to get to class every morning. (Thankfully, the public transport here is practically utopia compared to the MTA – no ticket barriers, clean seats and timely trains a slightly less grumpy commuter make!) Per the tradition of German universities, all students here are commuter students, as there are no residential halls on campus as in U.S. colleges and universities. 

As far as European capital cities go, Berlin is by far one of the most affordable and historically engaging places to be. When I’m not stuffing my face with doner kebab and currywurst, I’m exploring one of the many museums and memorials the city has to offer. I was especially excited to learn that 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th. In between writing my term papers that comment on this very event, I’ll have the opportunity to witness a momentous landmark in European history, and it will be a blast to hop around the various festivals in the city this weekend. 

My program, FU-BEST, has played no small part in providing us with a myriad of unique experiences in Berlin. I (or half of my face) had a brief moment of fame when our German class went as audience members to the central studio of ZDF, one of the largest public news stations on German TV, for their morning news segment. Another remarkable experience through FU-BEST was our recent visit to the Foreign Ministry, which involved a lecture and Q&A session on current transatlantic relations from the former German ambassador to Washington D.C., Klaus Scharioth (2006 to 2011). The lecture was exclusively for students in our program, because the professor for my Themes and Issues in Transatlantic Relations course worked as a diplomat in the foreign service with Dr. Scharioth, who has been his friend for more than 30 years. Later that day, we took a private tour of the Bundeskanzleramt (Chancellor’s Office) for a “behind the scenes” look into Angela Merkel’s office and daily duties, where the original handwritten notes for JFK’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech are on exhibit. 

My German listening skills have certainly improved since my arrival in August, but speaking has proven more of a challenge, as the majority of Berliners can speak English better than I can speak German and often switch to English after hearing me stumble through basic sentences. In my studies, I am continually impressed by the ability of German nouns to span nearly the width of a sheet of printer paper; one of my new favorites is “Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” which is a uniquely German term that means “coming to terms with the past:” namely, Nazi war crimes in the 20th century. It has been fascinating to contrast the American attitude towards patriotism with the ambivalent feelings of Germans on the subject; you can find American flags on the lawns and porches of every block in the suburban U.S., while most Germans pale at the thought of waving their flag, which usually only appears atop federal buildings.

I could go on for ages, but as the semester draws to a close in four weeks, I’m sure I’ll have a wealth of new experiences and insights to share for the next blog post. Until then, tschüss!





Biking to Trinity College, Dublin

by Emma Quinn, FCLC ‘20

I have lived on campus for my entire time at Fordham, and so I never had to deal with a commute to class longer than a walk across the plaza. When I studied abroad in Dublin, however, I lived in international student housing off-campus, and so getting to class became its own adventure.

 There were a few ways to get to class. I could walk, which was free but slow, about a half-hour trip. If it was raining, I usually took the bus, which was fast but cost €1.70. It also involved putting money on my Leap Card, which for some reason could only be reloaded at convenience stores that only took cash. My favorite way to get to class, though, was on my bike.

I’m lucky that most of my family still lives in Ireland, and so my aunt lent me her bike while I was in Dublin. It was purple and only had one gear, but I loved it. I spent €40 on a lock to make sure that no one would steal it, even though the lock probably cost more than the bike. 

My morning commute would start in the bike shed. I would kick the door open, then frantically try to back my bike out of its stand and make it to the door before it swung closed with a heavy clang, which I usually failed at. After sighing and unlocking the door from the inside, I was on my way. 

Once I made it out of the building, I had to walk my bike up a hill, through the parking lot of a tech startup and up to the main road. At this point, I finally got on my bike, and after dodging a bus or another commuter, I was on my way.

 Dublin is much more bicycle-friendly than New York. Where there weren’t designated lanes for cyclists, they shared with the bus lane. Buses may be big, but their drivers tend to be much more careful than an average car driver. I never worked up the courage to run red lights like the Irish commuters, but I also never got hit by a car, so I considered my biking skills perfectly adequate during my time abroad. 

My commute was more or less a highlight reel of Dublin tourism. I began by passing the Guinness Storehouse, which was directly across the street from my student housing. After a few months, you get used to the smell of hops never entirely leaving the air. I would turn left and head towards Dublin City Center. After passing the Lidl, the grocery store with suspiciously low prices and delicious chocolate chip cookies, I usually got stuck at the red light next to Christ Church Cathedral. It’s amazing how quickly the awe of seeing a nearly one-thousand-year-old building fades when you’re running late for class.

When the light finally turned green, I continued on my way, next passing Dublin Castle, the center of the Irish government since the Vikings ruled hundreds of years ago. It was nowhere near as elaborate as Versailles, but that’s not really the Irish style anyway. 

The final stretch of my commute was straight through Temple Bar, the heart of tourist Dublin. Even in the early hours of the morning on my way to class, I had to keep an eye out for tourists wandering into the street, if not just blatantly jaywalking. It was always crowded, the Times Square of Dublin, although it lacked the blatant capitalist sentiment. Instead of being bombarded with ads, visitors are bombarded with overpriced beer and mediocre folk music. 

After about fifteen minutes, I would arrive at Trinity College Dublin. It’s a little mind-blowing to attend a college that was founded before the Pilgrims arrived in the new world. I would hop off my bike and walk it through the arched entranceway, usually having to dodge a few tourist pictures in the process. I locked my bike to the fences just inside the campus and headed to class.

 Now that I’m back in New York to finish my senior year at Fordham, I can’t help but miss my daily bike ride a little. It was incredible to see so much history in such a short time. But it also made me realize how I had stopped noticing all the incredible New York landmarks on my doorstep: Lincoln Center, Times Square, Central Park, the Natural History Museum. All are as close to where I live on campus as the sights of Dublin were to my housing there. By going abroad, I think I learned to appreciate all of those places from a fresh perspective.




Studying Chemistry in French

by Lucie Taylor, FCLC ’21

Hello, Fordham friends (and others)! My name is Lucie and I’m a Junior at Lincoln Center studying Natural Science and French. I’m writing from Paris where I will be for the school year with a program called CUPA. As I write this I am about to finish my sixth week here (!!). Time flies faster in France than even the normal blur of a college semester; it’s the socialism or something. I’m living with a host family- a mother and young daughter- in a town just outside the western border of Paris called Neuilly (as hard to pronounce as it looks). Since you must be dying to know my class schedule, I am taking two chemistry classes at the Sorbonne Faculté de Science et Ingénierie, a Sociology of Police, Justice, and Prison class at a different campus, and a Phonetics and Diction class at a third campus.

The process of registering for classes here was long and chaotic. Never again will I whine about Fordham’s registration system. There are multiple universities in and around Paris, most with multiple campuses. Each department releases its course listings basically whenever they want, up to a couple of days before classes start. Schools start at different times and I happened to be the first CUPA student to have a class (I’m the only science student). My chem classes started three days after I arrived, which I only learned about the day before! You’ll be glad to know I survived the first day and now, five weeks later, have also survived a quiz, test, AND, most recently, actually talked to and befriended a few French peers in said classes. Feeling pretty proud of myself. 

Since college is free here, there is a different feeling to university. On one hand, my friends who are in first-year classes have been surprised and frustrated by the attitude of (albeit younger) French students, saying that it feels like being in high school. Someone explained to me that in France students have a right to higher education, but not necessarily to a degree. So in some ways, the French system is more competitive than in the US because a good number of students are expected not to get past the first year. There is a sort of weeding out, especially in very prestigious, difficult fields such as medicine where there are a limited number of spots for the top students (see the movie Première Année, or The Freshmen in English). Because of this it is not uncommon or looked down upon to redo years of undergrad to try to get better marks, or to change one’s field, since it’s free. However, my chem classes are second year and the students, I think due to the challenging nature of the Chemistry program, are overall pretty serious and actually want to be there. My friends have said that Master’s level classes in other subjects are similar, which makes sense. The first year of university here is almost an extension of high school since there is no risk for French students to attend. Then a ‘natural selection’ occurs with each subsequent year, yet there is little stigma about redoing a year or taking longer than three years to finish your license (bachelors). As someone who hates making decisions, I envy that lack of time pressure, but even more, I appreciate that college is accessible to everyone here.

Managing Events for American Ballet Theater

by Rose O’Neill, FCLC ’21

Events consist of small details that come together to make a beautiful evening.  At my internship with American Ballet Theatre, I am able to see the work every aspect of an event requires, and to appreciate the effort that goes into even relatively minor features.  This past weekend, ABT hosted its Junior Turnout, a social event that included a silent auction for members of its Junior Council. My duties in preparing this event varied. One of my favorite details of the event that I worked on was the framed autographed photographs of company dancers.  We used these photos to decorate the space and they doubled as silent auction items.  

In the weeks before the event, I ordered the prints of the photos and then ran around to various stores buying frames in the correct sizes.  10 x 15 frames are harder to find than you would expect! Those, I had to order online. Once I had the physical prints, we laid them out on a table in the development office and the dancers came in to sign their photos when they had a free moment.  After that came the arduous process of framing them. Pro-tip, courtesy of my mentor Fallon: If the back of the frame is held in place by pieces that need to be bent up instead of rotated, it is much easier to move them out of the way if one slides an ID card under them and uses it to push them up.  

When we got to Spring Place, the venue for Junior Turnout, we arranged the framed photos in a display case.  We had so many that some had to be put on a table! In front of each photograph we placed a label naming the dancers in it and explaining what the photo captured.  At the end of the night, we placed the pictures in bags to be distributed to their respective auction winners.

My favorite photo we used is one taken by Patrick Fraser of Herman Cornejo and Zhong-Jing Fang.  It is dynamic with a bright orange background and diagonal composition reminiscent of Baroque art.  Both dancers have an arm wrapped around the other and Herman Cornejo leans over Zhong-Jing Fang as her other arm and flowy dress trail behind her.  

Tuesday afternoon, I was excited when I walked into the office and there was a large version of this photo resting on an easel.  It is being used to help get the #abtmember hashtag going. People watching the ballets this season will be encouraged to take a picture in front of this poster and use the hashtag when they post it.  A couple of other photos I printed for Junior Turnout will also be printed as large posters in front of which ballet-goers can pose. Working in the office does have its perks; I was the first person who got to take a picture with the photograph of Herman Cornejo and Zhong-Jing Fang, and it is currently in the same room as my desk, so I can look over and see it anytime!

Arriving late to StoryCorps

by Sofia Anjum, FCLC ‘22

This fall I began an internship at StoryCorps, an oral history non-profit in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. It’s a straight shot on the C, but I generally have to hop on the A express and transfer to the C local one stop early. I generally have to do this because I am generally always just a little bit late.

Friday October 18, I was late to the all-staff meeting. At such meetings we listen to StoryCorps’ weekly NPR segment as a team and discuss how the 3-minute cut was distilled from a 40-minute recording. I walked in as meekly as one could, tiptoeing in my pink flats just the two steps I need to cross from the hallway into the sixth floor common space. Then I leaned against the light switch and plunged the room into darkness. I want to die! I clicked the lights back on, and someone was smiling at me. He was older and had gray hair and glasses and looked very familiar. I work on 7. Maybe he works on 4?

He smiled at me and said, “Oh, I did that, too.” His posture was a little poor, his smile gold. I smiled back and whispered, “Thanks,” feeling a lightness disproportionate to his minute acknowledgment of me. Next time I’m on 4, I’ll make sure to ask how his day is going. He totally works on 4. Yeah.

Then this person moved through warm applause for the sixteenth anniversary of StoryCorps to the front of the room. I realized I didn’t recognize him from 4, I recognized him from his Ted Talk and his Wikipedia page and his picture on the StoryCorps website and his Genius grant and his status as one of my personal idols.

Dave Isay had smiled at me. The person who began StoryCorps in a little booth in Grand Central, a booth with two microphones. His vision was to turn documentary work upside down, to record two people (who typically know each other well) having a conversation for forty minutes. To record the conversation for its own sake, its value not contingent upon polish or distribution. Its value contingent upon knowing that every person has a story. 

In his own words, that day in October 2003, “Nobody came.” Until they did. All kinds of people. Everyone. And then they came with force of numbers to recording stations in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, hundreds of partner radio stations and hospitals, the itinerant Mobile Tour trailer, the StoryCorps app…. 

These hundreds of thousands of conversations are stored at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps has facilitated the largest oral history project in human history.

And StoryCorps has facilitated a renaissance in listening. 

On Friday, October 18, I leaned against the same light switch as Dave Isay and somehow, in the dark, he saw me clearly. I’m not saying I’m never going to wash my jacket again. I’m just saying that that is very cool to have almost literally rubbed shoulders with someone whose life work embodies my belief in integrity in communication. 

Communication is the comprehensive art and intimate love of coming to know one another clearly. Clearly means leaving your preconceptions, prejudgments, preferences at the door. Clearly means that when someone needs to speak, you are receptive. You’re there. You’re not looking for the crack in their story that will allow you to neatly insert your own premeditated bit.

Clear communication – human connection – can only begin by listening to others with undivided attention. 

I’ve always believed this in a removed, romantic way, in my little bedroom in Georgia, listening to music, running away in a book. I’ve always known genuine connection to be infinitely powerful. StoryCorps has shown me that it is immediately possible.

A Plea to Read Marketing Emails

by Natalie Grammer, FCLC ’21

*This is part 2 of Natalie’s story. Click here for part 1.

 

Hi (insert individual’s name), 

My name is Natalie Grammer and I’m reaching out on behalf of the Hope for Depression Research Foundation with an exciting partnership opportunity. 

After an amazing summer at my internship at Hope for Depression, I had the opportunity to stay on for the fall semester. HDRF felt like a kind of home to me. I grew really close with my coworkers over the course of the summer and my time there helped me to feel more ownership over my work and more comfortable in my cubicle. 

As the fall started, we turned our attention away from the race of the summer and towards our two large fall campaigns: the HOPE Luncheon Seminar and #GivingTuesday. A shift in the event type –– from an active event to an educational luncheon and online campaign –– meant a shift in my outreach. Instead of calling stores in Southampton, I began emailing stores, companies, and brands based nation-wide about our two fall initiatives, and this time, I had to ask for a donation. This new medium of communication brought an unfamiliar distance in the outreach process. I no longer heard the voice of the person I was contacting, and often I wasn’t addressing a specific individual but emailing a general “info@” address. 

Though I appreciated the fact that an email gave me more control over my initial outpouring of information to a potential partner, I found myself shocked that I missed hearing another person’s voice on the other end of the phone. This is not to say that I missed some of the aggressive or surprising reactions people gave me on the phone. I did not. Rather, I missed the feeling of making a request to an individual person. 

With my email outreach, I had to face the very real abyss of an email inbox. I cannot count how many times I’ve received a marketing email and either immediately deleted it or opened it purely to no longer have a notification in my inbox. It’s very easy to dismiss a marketing email as somehow not generated by an individual person, and therefore not worth my time. 

Email outreach this fall at HDRF has shown me the other side of this interaction. First, these emails are painstakingly crafted by individuals, often with several processes of drafting, checking, and collaborating with members of their team with the self-reflexive tagline, “Thoughts?.” Second, it can be very frustrating when I don’t receive a response; obviously, it can be disheartening when an individual or business you’ve reached out to in hopes of gaining a campaign sponsor declines your request, but it can be even more discouraging not to receive a response at all. 

My internship at HDRF has taught me empathy. Yes, sending outreach emails has helped teach me better human empathy. By putting me on the other end of communication, my fall outreach process has shown me the very real energy and care people put into something as seemingly small as sending an email. It has reminded me to think about all of the hard work people put into aspects of my life that I dismiss or take for granted. I have become a more mindful person (and am working to continue to become a more mindful person) in the types of communication I have with other people because of my time so far this semester with HDRF.

Now, instead of immediately deleting the mass emails I get, which I dismiss as spam, I take the time to respond. At the very least, I open the emails or take a moment to appreciate what team of people wrote that message before I delete it. I hope that everyone does the same, especially if the email comes from Hope for Depression Research Foundation because if so,  there’s a chance I am waiting for an email back.



Researching with the  Social Innovation Collaboratory

by Aidan Donaghy, FCLC ’21

In February of 2019, I began working as an undergraduate research intern for Dr. Marciana Popescu, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Service. Our research involves refugee and asylum-seeker integration in American higher education institutions, and we’re one of eight research teams funded by the Social Innovation Collaboratory, a program at Fordham that focuses on developing innovative solutions for social problems. 

Our involvement with the Collaboratory has made this a particularly rewarding experience—every few months, the eight teams gather for a quarterly research forum where our research progress is presented and responded to. As I plan on further entrenching myself in Academia—I’d like to eventually pursue a PhD in anthropology and teach at a research institution—this has been a really enriching and informative experience. Normally, my role at these forums is that of a silent but engaged observer. While even this is great experience, it was especially exciting to be able to assist Dr. Popescu in presenting our research progress at one of the forums. I mainly presented on our advocacy efforts: Dr. Popescu is dedicated to performing research that informs activism, and in pushing this goal, one of my chief responsibilities has been student outreach. Along with my co-intern, Olivia Quartell (a Junior at the Rose Hill campus), I’ve compiled an outreach list of student leaders and organizations with some social, cultural, or philanthropic focus to create a network of students educated about refugee and asylum issues. This is helpful in advertising various educational events that our team sponsors, and since we’re interested in fostering and tracking student awareness of refugee and asylum issues, there’s good potential for us to effectively spread our findings and message throughout the Fordham community. 

So, what are our findings? At the beginning of the project, the doctoral students on our team conducted a comprehensive literature review with the goal of finding out what is and isn’t already known about the barriers refugees, asylum-seekers, and undocumented students face in American higher education. This is an under-researched topic, and especially overlooked are the identities, subjectivities, and diasporic experiences of these students insofar as they relate to students’ ability to succeed in higher education. Because these groups of students face extra difficulties outside of the higher education setting, it is far more difficult for them to earn a degree. And to that end, universities can be enormously helpful in the integration process for these students—success in higher education increases these students’ capacity to contribute to the socio-economic progress of the receiving country, which means that universities should allocate special resources and develop special programs for these students. Often, this does not happen to a significant enough degree to make refugee and asylum-seeker student success common, so our team has written a survey to be completed by refugees and asylum-seekers to better identify the specific needs of this population. I had the opportunity to help revise this survey with a focus group of asylum-seekers, and we’ve now published the survey and are continually working to find survey participants. We want as robust a body of data as we can get, and I’m very excited to see where this research takes us as the project progresses.



Interning at the Fordham Law Clinic

by Joshua Somrah FCLC ‘20

During my junior year at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, I worked at Lincoln Square Legal Services, Inc., better known as the Fordham Law Clinic. I completed various tasks such as manning the front desk, doing rounds, keeping track of the daily messages and reminders, operating the console that transfers calls, verifying visitors, answering phone calls, taking messages, completing intakes, processing faxes and mail, scheduling meetings, maintaining inventory, monitoring simulations, filing motions in court, and working on special projects from time to time.

         At times completing all of my responsibilities seemed a bit overwhelming because people’s lives were on the line. For example, some of the phone calls I would answer were from potential clients who wanted the Clinic’s pro bono services, but other calls were from clients who were already utilizing the Clinic’s pro bono services for help with their various situations. I had to handle every call with care and provide everyone I spoke with on the phone with correct information.

         My favorite responsibility during my time at the Fordham Law Clinic was filing motions in court. This was an aspect of my job that put me closest to actual legal work because I was responsible for delivering motions to different courts around Manhattan and sometimes in the outer boroughs. Sitting inside the Fordham Law Clinic, it was easy to develop a routine, but when I was sent to file motions in court I felt excited to go to places where other legal work was being done. Filing motions in court allowed me to feel as though I was truly making a tangible difference in the lives of the clients of the Fordham Law Clinic.

Seeing the individual and personalized expertise that the full-time professors, who are the practicing-supervising attorneys, imparted to their students is something that will always stick with me from my time at the Fordham Law Clinic. Although I was only an undergraduate student working there, the professors in the Clinic still made an effort to talk to me and teach me whatever they could. Knowledge can come in various forms through various channels, and I was truly grateful for the chance to work at the Fordham Law Clinic. It was an amazing opportunity

Lessons in Cold-Calling

by Natalie Grammer, FCLC ’21

Hi, my name is Natalie Grammer and I’m calling from the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. How are you? (wait for a response) Is there a manager or store owner I could speak with? (wait) I’m just reaching out to see if you would be interested in participating in our upcoming Week of Hope, a mental health awareness campaign, which culminates in our annual 5K Race of Hope on Sunday, August 4th 

These words, shakily spoken on my end of a landline telephone, left my mouth at least 506 times in the span of my first 50 hours of work this summer. The script became so ingrained in my brain that I didn’t have to reference my initial training document to write the above paragraph. When I started to write: “Hi, my name is,” the rest of the script just fell into place. 

This summer I interned at the Hope for Depression Research Foundation: a mental health nonprofit based in New York City. At the office, I spent the majority of my 10:00am-2:00pm shift cold-calling the small businesses of Southampton, NY. Southampton hosts HDRF’s biggest fundraising event of the summer: our annual 5K race. Prior to this one race, we put on a series of community engagement and awareness campaigns consolidated as the Week of Hope.  My job was to recruit stores and businesses on the main streets of the town to participate by agreeing to let HDRF place a large yellow “HOPE” balloon in front of individual storefronts. No donation was required to participate in this campaign; the town of Southampton had approved it, the balloons were eco-friendly, anchored down, and reusable, and we would set up and take down the balloon for participating businesses. While this may seem like a win-win situation (we get participation in an HDRF initiative, we spark a conversation about mental health through a visual marketing campaign, and businesses merely have to offer agreement to participate), the conversational dynamic of the cold call complicated my task. 

Not many business owners and managers like to be asked, unsolicited, unprepared, to participate in a non-profit campaign. Especially, not when they don’t immediately know that you, the cold caller, are not asking for money. Naturally, this led to a wide array of responses on the other end of the phone. From screaming at me that I didn’t want people to be able to afford their rent (again, I did not ask for donations), to laughing that they didn’t believe in depression, to enthusiastically agreeing to participate and thanking us as an organization for doing important work, I was constantly surprised by each unique response to the same set of words presented in the same way. 

Cold calling –– a term which I learned to expand to include pitching the non-profit and our events to Southampton locals in person –– if I may be so bold, dishabituated me to fear. No matter who I called, if I had called them before, what time of day I called, if I was interacting with someone on the phone or explaining the race in person, I never knew what a person’s reaction to me would be. I had to live in anticipation and not let it distract me from my goal: getting people to engage with Hope for Depression. 

Before this summer, I was terrified of making a phone call, not to mention calling a stranger to ask them for something. I couldn’t call people. It got to the point that if my takeout food delivery order got messed up, I would make my roommate call the restaurant. Now, I can call people. In fact, I offer to make a call when someone else won’t. This change may seem small, but cold calling helped me overcome a very real fear that I had. 

Both the Race and Week of Hope ended with participation and fundraising numbers that exceeded our goals. The Week saw a nearly 200% increase in business participation, and the Race saw over 750 participants attend and raised over $280,000. Even though I felt my heart race for half of the summer as I dialed a new number or walked into a new store, I can’t help but feel like my cold calling made a difference to the Race and to me.

*Click here for the second part of Natalie’s story.