Learning the Ropes at the State Department

By Alyssa Macaluso, FCLC 2023

On a sunny Friday afternoon, I wrapped up my 12-week-long internship with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in a flurry of emails, thank-yous, and promises to keep in touch. It was a semester unlike any other, in part due to our return to fully in-person classes after two and a half semesters online. But it was also the first semester during which I essentially balanced a full-time job on top of school, my extracurricular activities, and my social life. 

I wasn’t nervous about the challenge of waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, working until the early afternoon, and then going to classes and club meetings. Nor was I apprehensive about the work I was doing, the gravity of it, or the consequences should I mess anything up terribly. For me, the discipline of working on a different schedule than the rest of my roommates and friends, was the most difficult part of the semester. 

I am a night owl, through and through. I work best between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m., when no one else is awake except for the other New Yorkers who also thrive in the dark and quiet. This semester, however, I couldn’t justify staying up that late to work on an essay or finish an assignment: The bulk of my work took place between 5:30 and 11 a.m. It almost felt like a betrayal to turn of the lights and will myself to sleep at 11:30 p.m., the earliest to bed in my suite, because I knew that if I stayed up any later, I wouldn’t be able to work at my best the next day  — and I am proud to say that I never pulled an all-nighter. If this semester taught me anything, it’s how to maintain a schedule that may, at first, seem incompatible with the rest of my life. 

Apart from working on time management, learning how to work within a team embedded in a very firm hierarchy was another hurdle I had to overcome this semester. In college, usually you work in teams of peers, all of whom are more or less equal in age, experience, and authority. For my team at State, however, there were clear leads and no ambiguity about where everyone belonged on the ladder. This really surprised me because we worked so intimately as a group. Every morning at 8:45 a.m., we’d log onto a call together to figure out assignments and recap the week’s events. Throughout the day, we’d email one another for help or advice or to flag memos. At times, it felt like there was no rigid structure in place, even though the roll call each morning reminded members where they ranked. This may be more a revelation about working in a setting where people of many different backgrounds — especially ages and experience — engage, but working with my team at State certainly provided insight into what it was like to navigate such a structure while also not losing sight of the camaraderie.  

One last insight I gained from this internship was networking. As interns, especially virtual ones, we were encouraged to reach out to anyone and everyone at State to set up individual meetings to learn more about different career opportunities, experiences, and stories of those working at State. I met with almost all of my team members individually, but I also reached out to staff in other sections and branches who held portfolios that interested me. It was sometimes nerve-wracking to send the initial email, even though plenty of colleagues assured me that they received emails from interns all of the time, but I’m very happy I did, since I was able to meet and form connections with so many new people. Learning to network with people professionally, especially soliciting meetings from them and even talking with them during meetings, is an invaluable skill that I will use without a doubt in my future endeavors. After this internship, I can say that I feel more prepared for whatever adventure I embark on next. 

Crazyflie Quadcopter Drone Research

By Meredith Coen, FCLC 2023

Crazyflie 2.1 Open Source Quadcopter Drone

When I was beginning to search for an exciting research project to engage with during my junior year, I felt torn between a variety of STEM interests I had developed during my time as an undergraduate student. As a result, I was thrilled to discover Dr. Damian Lyon’s research team in Fordham’s Computer Vision Robotics Lab, where I was able to apply the concepts covered through my mathematics, computer programming, and physics classes in drone research. As a team member during my junior year, I worked to expand the research to analyze the efficacy of gyroscopes and accelerometers in the lightweight Crazyflie 2.0 quadcopter drones. 

More specifically, I analyzed the efficacy of the gyroscopes and accelerometers’ ability in determining the presence of walls at different angles in the vicinity of the flying drone. This required re-running previous experiments and collecting new data, and then altering the Python code to achieve angled flight and data collection. In addition, I worked to have data collected by the gyroscopes and accelerometers in the drones to be classified continually using the RandomForest data classifier, in the hopes to make the classifier generalizable to other Crazyflie 2.0 drones, and other drones in general. Finally, I worked to improve the circumstances of the experiments by configuring and implementing an external Loco-Positioning System (LPS) to track the flight of the drones using GPS technology, as opposed to data collected internally by the drones’ IMUs. While the drone flight was still controlled by Python code, the LPS system allowed additional data to be collected for better detection of flight variation between drone flights, as well as more specific data to be collected about each flight.

During my junior research experience, I was thrilled to learn about and improve my skills in Python coding, data mining, managing drone hardware, and the independent work ethic that is required to be an efficient and productive researcher. I learned the value of being meticulous and the importance of putting in the hours of consistent lab time. In STEM coursework, I have found that the number of hours I put into a project will result in a perfectly balanced amount of productivity and reward. In research, I learned (time and time again) that hours of work may result in only a small fraction of progress towards the end goal. Learning to appreciate the process and embrace the roadblocks is what made me a more effective researcher, beyond garnering greater technical skill or comfort within the lab. When I began the project, I imagined perfect drone flights and expansion of the project threefold. Months in, when I had been stunted for weeks at a time by things like a power outage, a missing comma in thousands of lines of code, or a few faulty software updates of the LPS system, I learned to greatly appreciate one simple drone flight experiment with traceable or random error. I am thrilled to begin my senior year and senior thesis with a better understanding of the work it takes to complete an effective research project and the appropriate scale to take on in order to make a research project meaningful. 

Teaching about Health over Zoom

By Frances Murray, FCLC 2022

Peer Health Exchange volunteers behind a table in a high school

During my junior year at Fordham, I began working with an organization called Peer Health Exchange (PHE). Their mission is “to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources to make healthy decisions.” College aged students serve as teachers to discuss health, sex, drug, and mental health education with high school students. PHE gave students the knowledge on how to interact with health providers so that the students would be able to self advocate and communicate their own needs. The program primarily looks for educators from marginalized communities so that the students are able to feel comfortable discussing topics that may not be brought up in class or at home. PHE exchange also provides resources and teaches the students how to utilize them. 

When I first heard of PHE, I became very interested as learning and discussing health is important in my life. I am a natural science major and pre-Med because I admire the body and understand how mechanisms and medicines function. While I am undecided about what field of medicine I want to study, I have always been interested in women’s health because of the way that the doctor must build a relationship and learn about the life of the patient. I have also decided to minor in anthropology because it allows me to study the way that medicine, institutions, and society are impacting people’s lives and how we live in the world. As I began to look into PHE, I felt that I could really benefit from volunteering because it would allow me to use my own knowledge of wellness and work with younger students to understand it in their own ways. In many ways, PHE aligned with a lot of my beliefs about how health involves the entire life of the patient. A 15 minute doctor’s visit could never begin to unravel this, and so by teaching people to examine and understand their own health needs, they are more able to seek correct treatment and explain themselves to professionals. 

While working with PHE, I taught 3 classes at various high schools in the city over Zoom. I had one or two other educators that I would normally be working with and I reported to coordinators from Fordham who had been with PHE for more time. Each week I had a lesson that was constructed by PHE to teach to the students. I normally adjusted the information a bit so that it fit the needs of the class. For example, one teacher I worked with was very invested in PHE and so we would meet before class to make sure the students would understand the material. Her students came from places of low socioeconomic standing and it was a sensitive topic for them to talk about. So we would substitute those parts of the lesson by talking about race or gender, topics of high importance that the students were able to relate to much more. In addition to teaching, I would meet with Fordham’s PHE division with weekly meetings over Discord. We would meet to talk about events and messages for the week, and we would learn about topics that would be brought up in the class. These would be lessons for the educators on topics like being transgender, race marginalization, and helping the kids to open up over Zoom. 

Working with the students was the best part of PHE, but I truly feel like I got cheated because of COVID. The most fun in the classes would be when the students would comment and as questions, but it was really hard being over Zoom. At the very end of the year, some kids were back in class and the participation increased. Some of the classes had a lot more participation than others. However, two of my classes were freshmen students so they had never even met their classmates in person. Getting them to open up enough to ask questions about mental health or sex could be very hard for this reason. All of my host teachers expressed excitement about going back to school in person because of the toll of staying at home on the students. At times we would also talk about more complex issues like microaggressions, privilege, or  intersectionality, and at times it was hard to gauge whether or not these topics were sticking. I personally had remembered learning about these things in high school, but  it took until college for me to really process and understand the reasoning behind these ideas. Despite the challenges, so many students did love to talk. We had great conversations about alcohol and genitalia at 8:20am!

Overall, I really enjoyed working for PHE exchange. Like any job or volunteer work, there is so much communication, learning, and interaction that are required. I was happy to share my own knowledge and even more so when the students would ask thoughtful questions. It was a great experience and many times I felt myself wishing that I had this type of health education when I was in high school.

My Internship at Busted Halo

By Jillian Rice, FCLC 2022

Busted Halo website logo

After a spreadsheet full of nearly 30 internship applications, most of which I got no response from, I was feeling dejected about finding a position in my dream field of editing. I’d been an editor on our school newspaper for three years, but apparently that line on my resume about my strong eye for detail wasn’t enough for publishing houses or other similar publications to think I was right for the job.

Then came an email from Busted Halo, the media company owned by the Paulist Fathers at St. Paul’s next door. Would I like a Zoom interview? I sat down at my desk under my loft bed in between studying for my Greek final which I had later that day, and long story short, I got the job. I began working remotely for them in June 2021, and I’ve continued (still remote) through the fall semester. My life plan is to be an editor — somewhere, somehow — and as a Catholic Studies concentrator, this was pretty perfect.

We interns do a variety of things for the company, from posting on the website to answering Instagram DMs, and I even spent a lot of time adding captions to YouTube videos. I went into it expecting to learn more about editing in the real world (and I have; no question about it), but I’ve picked up so many more skills along the way. 

Since we’re a small team, I’m never simply editing, though the editors do play to interns’ strengths (and they don’t give me graphic illustration work to do all the time!). I’ve written more tweets than I thought one human could write (but I am now very familiar with TweetDeck) and even been a guest on a radio show!

As Esme said on one of her posts, coming into a place and creating graphics for them isn’t just making pretty pictures. They have a brand (or in our case, a set of colors on Canva), and anything you make has to be visually appealing and not too busy. As someone with very little graphic design knowledge besides what I’ve picked up by osmosis on the newspaper, even seeing that a graphic I made is getting posted on Instagram is still a thrill. 

Working at my internship is just like being at Fordham, since two of my three bosses graduated from Rose Hill, and both my fellow interns over the summer were Fordham students, too. It seems that a lot of media publications in New York like hiring Fordham students, which bodes well for us newspaper kids as we graduate! 

At Busted Halo, when the news came out that Fr. McShane was retiring, we had a little gossip session as to whom we thought the next president might be. A few weeks later, we were sharing Fordham parody videos that different comedy groups created while we were each at Fordham. It’s conversations like these that make me a bit less terrified to graduate and leave the world of schooling.

This internship has given me very marketable skills like social media writing and engagement, and working with experienced professionals has helped me understand and hone my (already plentiful!) love for grammar even more. I’ve also learned that trying to juggle an internship, many hours a week at the campus newspaper, five classes, and time to relax or sleep isn’t easy — my advice to anyone reading this: please be honest with yourself about how much you can handle in a semester, and remember to give yourself time to enjoy Fordham and New York (our campus, after all) on top of your other duties. 

A Summer Spent Uncovering More

By Ritamarie Pepe, FCLC 2022

Uncovering More website logo

Professional social media is challenging — despite what your boomer parents may think. It’s more than just pretty pictures and emojis. It takes high caliber organization, research, creativity, project management, and much more. With my previous communications experience, especially in planning, leading, and designing social media initiatives, I have been privy to the hard work that goes into creating successful social media content. However, the knowledge of the difficulty of social media creation and curation could not prepare me for the time and energy I would (willingly and excitedly) pour into my social media internship with Uncover More.

Uncover More is a guide offering hyper-local and tailored experiences on what to eat, do, see, and shop in NYC at your fingertips through social media accounts, a newsletter, and the UncoverMore app! The founder and CEO is Arianna Sartzetakis, a proud Brooklynite who balances her full time job in finance with this passion project. 

My first lesson with Arianna and Uncover More was the importance of networking. Arianna is the sister of one of my best friends — therefore, I had heard a lot about Arianna and Uncover More. I had been following Uncover More for years before I had the opportunity to connect with Arianna during a Q&A panel I organized for my online publication, grain of salt mag. Although my role was to moderate the conversation between Arianna and our other guests, I couldn’t help but grow more and more personally fascinated with Uncover More’s origin story and the work Arianna puts into the brand behind the scenes. I wanted to know even more. So, after the Q&A event, I reached out to Arianna to set up a coffee chat in our neighborhood to hear more about the Uncover More story, the in’s and out’s of working in social media, and ultimately, after falling even more in love with Uncover More, to pitch myself as a potential intern. Months later, I look back on that moment and pride myself on having the courage to ask for the opportunity to work with Uncover More and gain invaluable experience — you never know what may happen by simply chatting with people and asking questions!

One of my first assignments for Uncover More immediately thrust me into the world of content creation. Arianna asked me to attend the Flower Festival in the Meatpacking district to gather TikTok and Instagram content — which sounds simpler than it was. Not only did I have to worry about creating engaging and aesthetically pleasing content, I had to do so while dealing with large and bustling crowds who kept interrupting my picture perfect shot. My simple task of taking video and photography content turned into a deeper dive on camera angles, camera functions, and most importantly, taking the shot. By “taking the shot,” I generally mean putting myself out there; in this scenario, I am referring to moving past my insecurity about how “weird” I looked to outsiders while trying to grab the best content, and even getting over having to be a bit pushy in the crowd in order to secure what I needed. Social media content creation is certainly not for the faint of heart, and you must be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone! Even though this experience definitely challenged me, there was nothing better than seeing my video and photography featured on the Uncover More social media channels.

Besides content creation, I focused a lot on caption copywriting. As with content creation, there is more to caption writing than meets the eye. Uncover More has a specific caption writing style, and captions are very well researched in an effort to “do the research for you so that you can spend more time uncovering!” This research can include information like special deals, age restrictions, extra costs, fun facts, and more. Consequently, a lot of time is spent researching each recommendation. Furthermore, this information must be transformed into consumable, concise, and engaging information “bites” written in Uncover More’s friendly and whimsical, yet informative, tone. It definitely took a lot of practice in the beginning, but this experience has been incredibly valuable in improving my writing skills for different styles and across different social media platforms. 

My internship with Uncover More has provided me with the opportunities and experiences I was looking for in order to improve my communication skills. With most of my communication experience in newsletter writing and brainstorming and planning social media content and initiatives, I felt like I was missing the “hands on” work that I needed in order to understand every step of the content creation and curation process. Working with Uncover More allowed me to get down to the “nitty gritty” of professional social media, which will only make me a better professional and leader in the communication industry.

Besides the professional growth, I appreciate Uncover More for the personal growth it has inspired within me. I’m a workaholic, and sometimes find it difficult to step away from my work in order to enjoy what are supposed to be the best years of my life. But when your “job” encourages you to explore the city you were born and raised in and love so deeply and motivates you to keep “uncovering” more in your everyday life, it does not feel like work — it feels like a celebration of life.

Covering the 2021 NYC Mayoral Race

By Grace Getman, FCLC 2022

Zoom meeting with 2021 NYC mayoral candidates and a New York Times reporter

I knew I was in trouble getting pizza with my friends one night. The conversation had turned to the upcoming 2021 NYC Democratic mayoral primary, and my friends said that they could name all eight leading candidates. Why, you ask? Why could a group of four out-of-staters with little interest in local politics know so much about this race? Because I hadn’t stopped talking about it for this entire past semester. 

Last spring, I interned at The Gotham Gazette, a New York City news outlet that calls itself “The Place for New York City Policy and Politics.” The Gazette (GG as it’s affectionately known) prides itself on providing comprehensive reporting on New York City political affairs, with a particular emphasis on issues and races so local that GG might be the only outlet covering them. Depth and breadth were prized over more superficial (but more readable) write-ups at other places. 

As a Reporting Intern, it became my job to write up summaries of the various minutiae of the candidates’ platforms, and to cover small forums at which the candidates appeared. My shortest article was around 2000 words. My longest? Over 6000. 

To tell the truth, I’m no Pulitzer Prize wannabe. As an Urban Studies major, I discovered GG as a part of a New York City Politics class this fall. I found out about the internship while working (read: procrastinating) on my final and offered my student newspaper experience as my bona fides, despite never having taken a journalism class in my life. 

I’ve been drawn to the world of local government for a while now. It is the realm where our day-to-day lives are usually shaped. The garbage we avoid on the street, the parks we go for runs in and the potholes we complain about are local governmental affairs. And yet we treat politics at lower levels of government like Legos we step on in the dark, only acknowledging its existence when we stumble into problems. How many people only realized the influence of city budgets on police reform issues last summer? Or the role of the mayor in New York City after de Blasio started closing schools during COVID?

What drew me to GG was an opportunity for a crash course in New York City politics, and boy, did it deliver. 2021 is viewed as being a major year in the New York City political world, with the pandemic, the introduction of ranked-choice voting and a crowded Democratic field swirling together to create a new political landscape for the city in 2022. If there was a time for me to hop on for the ride, this was it. 

Writing about the candidates’ different platforms (such as Kathryn Garcia and transit, or Dianne Morales and the economy) and hearing their ideas at forums was an incredible bootcamp and learning experience for me as someone who wants to work in some capacity in the municipal political landscape. From movers and shakers in New York City to different policies and programs, I was given a real chance to learn as I wrote. 

My passion as I discovered this world, of course, became my friends’ problem as I talked their ears off about it last spring, from who the candidates were, their various foibles at forums, or how cool or far-fetched I found their platforms. If any of my victims are reading this blog currently, thank you, and I appreciate your sacrifice. I’m sure they were as excited as I was for the June primaries, even if only for the chance to stop hearing about the race. 

The Importance of Teamwork

By Rose O’Neill FCLC 2021

Click here for Rose’s experience while interning at the Met during the Covid-19.

One of the most challenging aspects of adapting to remote workplaces over the past year is navigating communications with colleagues.  Outside of the office, the process of quickly asking a co-worker a question takes more time and feels more formal.  Being new to an office in which I did not know anyone made it even more intimidating.

Luckily for me, everyone in New York City Ballet’s development department was extremely welcoming.  My supervisor called me in the morning every workday to check in.  This gave me a good opportunity to ask questions that seemed too low-stakes to be the sole purpose of a phone call or email. It also allowed me to get to know him better, and we sometimes spent a few minutes chatting about more personal interests.  

A number of my assignments also necessitated collaboration with other members of the department.  One of my favorite things to work on was WordFly communications.  In WordFly, I drafted messages and inserted images into an already-uploaded template.  These elements formed emails to go to donors.  Because the emails would be seen by so many people, they could not have any mistakes.  Another member of the development team taught me how to use WordFly.  Once I had written drafts to work with and selected possible images to include, I would send a test email to other people in the office to ask for their suggestions.  I received critiques over email. Sometimes, I had so many questions about the feedback that I would need to set up an additional call to ask these questions.

Once I had gotten the necessary people in the development department to look my test emails over, I would send the test to the marketing department.  The marketing department would reply with even more feedback, sometimes giving me preferred verbiage or editing the images for me.  When I needed clarification on this feedback, I was able to reach out to someone else from the development department for help.

Because of the kindness with which I was treated at this internship, I now realize more fully the importance of having a group of colleagues that can give advice.  I look forward to meeting some of my co-workers in person this summer at New York City Ballet’s outdoor engagements at Lincoln Center.  

My Experience Working with Underserved Communities at SALUD Lab!

By Elizabeth Breen, FCLC 2022

Hello! My name is Elizabeth Breen and I am a Junior Neuroscience/Theology major in the Honors Program at Fordham Lincoln Center. I was lucky enough to secure a research position at the beginning of Spring Semester my sophomore year, in January 2020, meaning that once Fordham shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rest of my lab and I were able to transition completely remote, which provided an opportunity to stay totally involved in the research process from my home in Illinois. 

The lab I joined is the SALUD laboratory, which is dually associated with Fordham University and Mount Sinai Hospital. We are led by Dr. Monica Rivera Mindt, a professor of Psychology and Latinx Studies here at Fordham. I actually learned of her work by taking a class, Biopsychology, for my major, and was so interested in her work that I asked to join her lab! Our work primarily focuses on investigating the effects of HIV, aging, substance use, and substance use treatment on the brain, functional outcomes, and health disparities – especially among U.S. Latina/o and Afro-Caribbean populations. I was particularly drawn to this lab by the combination of studying cognition and HIV’s effect on the brain from a scientific perspective with the strong social justice intent behind SALUD laboratory’s work in achieving equitable healthcare.

I have been working for SALUD laboratory for over a year now, so my responsibilities have grown immensely over the past months. On a typical day “in-lab”, I usually start out by responding to emails and setting up meetings for both myself and Dr. Rivera Mindt – there’s a lot of administrative work that goes into research! I also do things like source papers that may be relevant to our research and investigate opportunities that could lead to further outreach for our lab. The bulk of my time, however, is spent with participants. One of the things that initially drew me to SALUD laboratory was the potential opportunity to work directly with research participants as an undergraduate, and after COVID, the chance to start seeing participants over the phone along with the rest of the graduate students.

Today, I saw a participant for a neuropsychological interview. In this interview, we test participants using standardized psychological measures of thinking and memory that, when scored, will give us insight into different areas of the participant’s cognitive abilities. Administering these tests over the phone can be a bit tricky, but I really cherish the opportunity to interact with people over the phone, especially since so many of our participants, who are generally older adults, do not get the chance to go out due to the pandemic. I also saw another participant to finish up a questionnaire call, where I administered a variety of questionnaires to the participant to learn more about their demographics, education, language use, and many other sociocultural factors. These factors give us insight into why some participants do better on their neuropsychological tests than others. 

Overall, I enjoy my time in SALUD laboratory immensely. I’m so fulfilled by the opportunity to do outreach in underserved communities, especially given the pandemic situation and the fact that I’m only an undergraduate. The research we do isn’t just interesting, it has the potential to make a massive impact on how community-based research is done and how funding is distributed by the NIH. I am so excited to continue this kind of work in my future education and research opportunities!

Reflections on Berlin

By Amy Chang FCLC ’21

Click here for Amy’s reflections on her Berlin experience in the Fall

On Friday the 13th of this past March, I found myself standing in a long line of travelers at the Reykjavik airport, waiting to board my connecting flight home to JFK. I shudder to think of it now – only a handful of travelers wore masks as we crowded together, nervous voices rattling my ears as people placed phone calls to their families about the coronavirus. My study experience in Berlin had ended two months earlier than intended. 

Fortunately, I had already experienced a full semester in Berlin during the fall; I felt worse for my friends who had only been in the city for just over a month and barely ventured into the rest of Germany. Still, abruptly leaving a city I had come to love was no easy task. I already miss seeing the strangely charming patchwork of Brutalist and Renaissance architecture of Berlin from the S-Bahn and making day trips to the quaint neighboring city of Potsdam. 

One of the most memorable experiences I had in Berlin was volunteering at a refugee assistance center called Moabit Hilft. Since the period of Syrian migration to Germany in 2015, such organizations have become indispensable to refugees. The center offers a comprehensive variety of services and resources to anyone who seeks its help, including free daily lunch, clothing donations, legal assistance, and German language lessons. My main task as a volunteer was to organize the high volume of clothing donations in the backroom and manage the browsing area. I worked with a few other volunteers who were the first Berlin locals who did not immediately resort to speaking English for my benefit, although they did speak English well. One was a young man from Afghanistan a few years older than myself; another was a university student from France who studied at Humboldt University. It was a daunting though welcome opportunity to speak entirely in German. Still, despite my many mistakes, we managed to communicate about what needed to be done. Many of the other volunteers and visitors did not or barely spoke German, but spoke Arabic, Farsi, and Russian, among the languages I heard. Regardless of language, people communicated through universal hand gestures or even pictures drawn on a whiteboard. The center is one of the most global and welcoming communities I have ever seen. 

While volunteering, I learned the stories of refugee families who frequented the center or even became volunteers themselves. One woman lived in total uncertainty about whether her son was still alive back in Syria. Many visitors struggled with housing problems, legal issues, and unemployment; some were not refugees but homeless people, who received priority consideration for heavy jackets in the winter months. 

Ever since the pandemic emptied the streets of the world, I have thought about the refugees in Berlin who often depend on Moabit Hilft – closed during the pandemic – for daily necessities. I wonder how refugee families, particularly those with young children, have fared throughout quarantine as the pandemic has exacerbated racial and economic discrimination around the world on top of public health risk. Despite its reputation as a diverse and progressive city, Berlin is no post-racial oasis; I have both heard and once personally experienced racial slurs in Berlin. During my first semester there, the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg witnessed a significant surge in popularity of the right-wing party AfD during its election that mirrored the nationwide increase of the party’s support. 

Considering the country’s Nazi past, the present rise of right-wing nationalism and white supremacy in Germany is an especially alarming phenomenon. Nonetheless, I consider Berlin to have been the perfect study abroad city for me because of, not despite the echoes of this historical background. Through classroom lectures and visits to the country’s most important political and historical landmarks, I have gained valuable insight into how the country that contributed both some of the world’s greatest intellectual achievements and greatest atrocities grapples with its past.

Dancing in Quarantine

By Vincenzo James Harty

Dancing has kept me sane my whole life. Through my childhood, through applying to colleges, through the stress of freshman year classes, and adjusting to real school for the first time in my life (since I was homeschooled until college), ballet has been there. 


That’s something you learn from ballet, from the ever-the-same order of exercises in class: plié, tendu, dégagé, ronde de jambe, fondu, frappé, développé, grand battement, stretch. And that’s also something ballet has given me — a consistent presence in my life, supporting me.

 As the pandemic started last year, I was so thankful for the speed with which my local company made classes available on Zoom, and grateful to the director as well for letting me use one of the empty studio rooms not just to take my Fordham classes but also to take ballet. Every day throughout all of March and April — alone by myself in a large empty mirrored studio– I listened to scratchy piano music as my teacher’s voice yelled through the far reaches of cyberspace. 

As I started working with the Hampton Ballet Theatre School last May, I was excited not just for learning more about the ins and outs of running a school, but also for the opportunity to engage in more teaching . I had been teaching classes on and off for several years at the company, but I was eager to be working more consistently. Teaching a ballet class requires so much preparation. Even those teachers who don’t write out every single exercise in longhand before class (and I was one of those in the beginning) still need to know their planned music inside and out. It can take so little for a class to go awry, so I spent time preparing to  teach the best class possible.

But what I certainly wasn’t prepared for was having to teach classes over Zoom. The first month or so was horrible, filled with computer shut-offs (who knew Zoom drained so much battery?), unmuted snippets of twenty different kid’s noisy home lives, weird camera angles that either showed me just feet or just head but never a whole body, or even better, an off-camera and no interaction whatsoever. And although things got better as we all became adapted to the medium, there was definitely something missing, a personal connection that is such an important part of dance. 

As classes were slowly allowed to restart in-person meetings in August, I saw the lingering after-effects of all those hours of zooming. Kids were shyer, had picked up so many bad habits from being by themselves instead of with a teacher for months. The process over the past six months of slowly becoming reacquainted with how to dance together, how to live in real time and not on the artificial reality of Zoom, has certainly been one of my favorite parts of teaching. Talking with these kids, you realize how vital in-person instruction really is for children and young adults, how important social interaction in general is. The few children who are still entirely on Zoom I have such difficulty in connecting with: A— who always keeps her camera off, G— who listens but seems so disinterested, so disconnected from class, V— who has lost any attention span and just stares into space for most of the class. 

But I love teaching all of these kids, even the ones on Zoom. Watching them progress daily, watching first this one then that one successfully learn a new step, is all incredibly fulfilling.

I haven’t only been teaching dance. In December, realizing my family’s difficult financial situation, I put an advertisement in the paper offering piano lessons. I now have twelve piano students, all under eleven, who I see half an hour each every week. This has been another joy, if also for some reason ten times more stressful than teaching ballet classes. Being solely responsible for these children’s musical education gives me more anxiety than the more collaborative atmosphere of the dance studio. Still, teaching these children, really learning with them, as I learn each week how one actually teaches piano (spending time studying online, creating games, making lesson plans) has been such a joy.