At the Ballet (at Home)

By Rose O’Neill, FCLC 2021

Click here for Rose’s Met’s internship experience and the COVID-19

When I first started thinking about college internships, I never thought that I’d participate in one entirely remotely during a worldwide pandemic.  Last year, after we were all sent home and it became clear that my spring and summer plans would fall through, I applied to many positions, trying to complete at least one application a day.  I hated being stuck indoors and wanted to at least feel like I was making some type of progress in my life.  

Of course, most of the internships and jobs to which I submitted my résumé ended up postponing or canceling their hirings.  I accepted that, just like the plans I had had before the lockdown, my applications would not work out the way that I hoped.  I was surprised, therefore, when I received an email from the New York City Ballet membership department in December in response to an application I had filled out the previous March.  I interviewed the next week and started the internship a month later.

Working remotely has been a very different experience from going to an office every day.  Being at my parents’ house and then at my dorm, it’s taken a bit more intentional scheduling to make sure I’m prepared for meetings and assignments than if I were at the office.  I’ve gotten to know my co-workers exclusively through emails, phone calls, and video meetings.   I have now assisted with virtual events, a reality that I never considered pre-pandemic.  I was also able to attend webinars and sit in on meetings for different departments I was interested in, which probably would have been logistically more difficult to do if I were not remote.  Even though last year and this year could not happen the way that I wanted, I am grateful that I could

My Met Internship and COVID-19

By Rose O’Neill, FCLC 2021

Click here for Rose’s exciting new discoveries while interning at the Met

On March 12, 2020, I sat in an office at The Metropolitan Museum of Art as it was announced that the museum would close due to concerns about the outbreak of COVID-19.  My jaw dropped; I hadn’t expected that, though perhaps I should have.  The day before, I had packed a suitcase for three weeks away from campus and left my McMahon apartment.  The closing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art suddenly made the pandemic seem much more significant. Up until that point I had interpreted university shut-downs as a method of proceeding cautiously for the sake of the students, not as an action absolutely necessary for public health.

Departing from the museum that day gave me an odd feeling.  I wiped my desk down with Lysol, just in case I had the disease and was asymptomatic, so the custodial crew would not get infected.  Interns were instructed to take all personal belongings out of the office.  The only thing I usually kept at the office was a coffee mug.  It didn’t really fit into my bag, and I considered just leaving it, as I thought I would be back soon, and it would be annoying to have to hold it on the subway and ferry during my commute home.  

At that point, I thought it likely that I could be back in the office a week later.  On the subway, only a few people wore masks.  I called my mother during the commute and talked about how my friends and I had been thinking of going to an amusement park, and how the next few weeks while universities were closed might be a good time to do so.  It all sounds so naïve and laughable now.  The following week, I was constantly checking my email to find out when the internship program could resume.  I soon found out that I would not be able to return to my internship duties this spring.  

Just because I couldn’t be in the office didn’t mean that my learning as an intern stopped, however.  Though my position did not have me complete work remotely, my education within the internship program still continued.  Every Friday, the available interns would meet with Met Education virtually and hear speakers from different departments in the museum.  We were invited to introduce ourselves and ask questions, and most speakers shared their email addresses in case we had follow-up questions about their work after the meeting.  

Internships are intended to be a time of learning through experience and exposure, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Internship Program finds a good balance between productive work for the museum and educational enrichment.  I’ve heard from friends about other internships in which companies focus on what the intern can provide for them, however, my experience with The Met showed me that the museum expects its interns to gain as much from the experience as they give to it.  

It’s More Than Organic Chemistry

By Stephanie Sabido FCLC ‘21

Over the past three years at Fordham, my academic journey has been centered around my long-term goal of getting into a medical school to ultimately become a doctor (not overwhelming at all, right?). As senior year and the realities of my future inch closer and closer, I am stopping to reflect on the difficult but rewarding journey preparing for a health professional career. 

As many of my peers will agree, the pre-med journey is nothing short of challenging. It takes a lot of determination and trust in oneself to commit to a heavy four-year course load, especially when choosing to do so at eighteen with little to no experience. I remember moments freshman and sophomore year where the long journey ahead was anything but encouraging. Occasionally, I would feel some doubts creeping into my mind, making me question whether I am doing well enough in my classes to continue down the pre-med route, or even whether I am sure I want to commit to multiple long years of schooling before I get the job I want. 

My experience shadowing during my junior year has helped ground some of those worries by confirming the main reason I want to pursue a health profession: to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. It is easy to get caught up in the uncertainties of the future as a college student, or the stresses of chemistry class, especially when the reality of a job is years of schooling away. Looking back, I realize that my journey became discouraging partly because I lacked the experience outside of the classroom that would give me a fuller perspective. I needed to see first-hand the results of this journey that stretched beyond the classroom, and to fulfill the part of me that pushed me to pursue pre-med in the first place. This past fall, I started shadowing Dr. Velcek, a pediatric surgeon on the Upper East Side. 

Learning from Dr. Velcek has made clear again the reason for the hard work I have been putting into classes that test my resilience (@ organic chemistry). This past fall I spent time attending her office hours, taking notes as she consulted with patients. The major takeaway from my experience was the comforting manner in which she dealt with her patients. Her main goals were to educate them as best she could on how she would treat the condition and make sure they knew they were in good hands. Her empathetic and comforting manner really made all of the difference in the examination room – unease could be lifted by the time she left the room, which was important to the terrified parents. It was a fruitful experience because it showed how much of my work now will translate into the gratifying experience of keeping others healthy and happy, ultimately helping me to focus on the bigger picture. I am proud to say that I have grown to understand the importance and the beauty of my struggle. I am taking the time to slow down and appreciate the journey, while really taking in that the opportunity to care for others is not just the end goal, but also part of the process.

Exciting New Discoveries While Interning at the Met

By Rose O’Neill ‘21

Click here for Rose’s reflection on Met’s Opera House Season of ABT.

I was very excited in December when I was offered an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The best thing about my internship at The Met is that it makes me better aware of the opportunities at the museum available to the public, opportunities I can take advantage of even after my internship ends.  I now have more knowledge about Watson Library and I am more aware of museum events open to visitors.  Additionally, information about exhibitions that I would likely come across anyway, but then forget, is at the forefront of my mind.  

Take, for example, the exhibition Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe, which recently closed.  During my lunch break, I can leave the building’s office section and amble through the galleries.  While walking to look at some impressionist paintings, I came across the exhibition space.  Though the exhibition was widely advertised, I had not previously thought about visiting it. As I was there anyway, however, I walked through it. I’m delighted that I did.  It was full of objects that fascinated me, including multiple writing automatons, impressively elaborate clocks, and the Picture Puzzle of Christian V.  

Shortly after, the other interns and I were invited to go on a tour of the exhibition in the morning before the museum opened.  Without so many other visitors around, I could get a much better look at the objects, and the research assistant guiding us drew my attention to details and items that I had not previously noticed.  

Leaving the tour, I was even more entranced than before.  I called my mom, saying that she and my dad had to see it and bring my younger brothers.  The next weekend, the five of them ventured into Manhattan to meet me at the museum.  My internship, therefore, not only gave me a richer experience of the exhibition but encouraged me to spend quality time with my family so I could share that experience with them.  


Working From Home: A Work in Progress

By Esmé Bleecker-Adams, FCLC 2021

Click here for Esmé’s reflections on Design in the “Real World.”

It’s true what they say, that it’s hard to work in the same place where you relax; that you should have a dedicated space for productivity which is separate from the space for rest and recreation, but this is easier said than done even under more normal circumstances. As students, it’s hard to remember a time when we weren’t expected to do work at home already, but this still feels different. During the semester, I often go to school on weekends because it’s a place I associate more with getting work done than my house, but last spring and summer I made do with my kitchen table. 

The student newspaper I work on continued to produce issues through the summer, which helped me stay grounded and even remember what day of the week it was because we had a consistent schedule. 

For my internship, I was given assignments to work on and attended the occasional virtual meetings, but I didn’t have specific hours that I worked each day. At the time, my sleep schedule was on the rocks and I found it easiest to get things done around 1:00 in the morning, so it was helpful to be able to work when I wanted. In hindsight, however, I think it would have been beneficial to hold myself to consistent hours. 

For the future, I need to be able to set those hours and guidelines for myself because no one else can form habits for me. I’m glad to have had the experience of allowing myself to get by with a lack of structure because it showed me that I do actually want that structure in my life. 

Remote work, whether for classes or otherwise, is tricky because distractions are right at your fingertips. While in zoom class or a meeting, you have other people to reign in your attention, but working on your own is overwhelming in the amount of freedom available for that attention to wander in. 

Everyone is different, but I find that I have to allow myself a certain amount of distraction, within boundaries. It’s like when you purposely try not to think about something, which only makes you think about it more: the more I try to shut out completely anything distracting, the less I am actually able to focus. Therefore, it helps to listen to music or to switch back and forth between tasks. 

I am far from perfecting the art of Working From Home, but I think it will become a lot more present in our lives from now on. Therefore, I’m glad to have gotten some experience with it while still in school, before I’m totally thrown to the wolves later this year (to be Dramatic about it).

A Reflection on Design in the “Real World”

By Esmé Bleecker-Adams, FCLC 2021

Click here for Esmé’s reflections on a theater production experience at the YMCA.

Last summer I worked as a remote graphic design intern for a company that does affordable data visualization and management for nonprofit organizations. It did not turn out to be exactly what I expected, but nothing ever does. At the end of the day, I think it was an important learning experience, and I’m glad to have gotten a taste of the potential professional applications of design. 

I learned that while an eye for color and shapes is helpful, the real necessity in creating promotional materials and social media content is a gift for effective marketing strategy. In hindsight, I should definitely not have been surprised by this, but I’ll admit I did sort of expect to be drawing pretty pictures. In fact, it’s all about simplicity and using the right keywords to attract attention quickly and from the intended target audience of potential clients. I tend to be overly wordy, which is great for filibustering and little else in life. 

As far as the colors and shapes go, consistency is important; so walking into an already established brand, you are learning the design language of that particular company, which is harder in a way than making up your own from scratch. The tools existed before you and they’ll exist long after you’re gone, but your task is to figure out how to use them most effectively in the time you have. 

In my graphic design class, we read a treatise that said that good design goes totally unnoticed because its purpose is only as a vehicle for the information it conveys. I think this is a little extreme but makes a good point, and while designing in “the real world” is a creative pursuit, it’s also one of utility. 

Since the summer, I’ve been noticing more closely how brands and services portray themselves in the ads on subway walls, on social media and all around me. What story is the particular arrangement of words and images trying to tell, and to whom? I’m glad for the new perspective, and that I’ve come to understand a more expansive definition of creativity and its applications.

Much Ado About Salps

By Zelie Anner, FCLC 2020

Most people don’t know what a salp is. I certainly didn’t, but when I was scuba diving off the coast of Thailand, I became fascinated with them. Scuba diving is an amazing experience that opens your mind to a new underwater world. While all noise appears muffled, you can clearly hear a crunching noise: the white noise of the coral reefs. It’s the noise of parrotfish chewing coral, barnacles opening and closing, sea urchins moving their spines along each other, crustaceans burrowing in the sand. You can only see as far as the visibility of the dive site allows. Generally, this is about 30 feet in tropical areas. While this sounds like a large distance, it is quite overwhelming to consider that there are thousands of fish and marine creatures beyond 30 feet not only in front of you, but behind, below, and above. Anxiety can only be remedied by the acknowledgment that nothing in this part of the ocean wants to hurt you, and most creatures will avoid you.

Except, of course, the salps.

The salps don’t have much control over whether they avoid you or not. They are marine tunicates, one of the earliest chordates to evolve. Many know them as sea squirts, and they are a staple in the Korean hot pot restaurants downtown in NYC. I don’t know the exact name of the species I saw in the oceans of Thailand, but they tended to appear in front of you without you even noticing. They’re clear, with barely discernible features, resembling jellyfish even though they are more closely related to humans. I refrained from poking them, as a significant rule of scuba diving is to not touch anything. They didn’t appear to move when I observed them, but I later learned that they move by pumping water through themselves in what is a most efficient system of jet propulsion. They reminded me of those squishy water tube toys from my childhood, which are apparently called “Water Wiggles.”

Salps play a much more important biological role than Water Wiggles. Apparently, when there are large phytoplankton blooms, salps asexually reproduce in chains and efficiently clear the waters of the algae. They are filter feeders, and when they “eat” too much, the filter becomes clogged. This can lead to salps covering beaches with slimy layers of dead jelly. While this seems inconvenient at best, salps sequester carbon at significant rates, enough to contribute to the carbon trapping abilities of the ocean. Their fecal pellets are heavy and therefore sink to the bottom of the ocean, pulling down carbon to a place where it won’t reenter the environment. 

Most scuba divers would brush off floating salps as boring creatures. Why pay attention when there are parrotfish, sea turtles, moray eels, and barracuda? My research on salps gives a clear answer: they play more of a role in our lives than one might think. As global temperatures reach an all-time high, it is important to understand and appreciate the organisms that are actively preventing even higher temperatures. After all, our futures might be in their hands. Or, rather, their siphons.

Stapling and Story Magic

by Sofia Anjum FCLC ‘22

I loved stapling to the Joy Division beat. I took off my StoryCorps headphones long enough for one of my bosses to tell me that I was a blessing for actually liking stapling. Laminating. Collating all of the colorful, user-friendly training materials for my department, Community Training. For a college student sick of the constant undivided academic attention that college demands, stapling was sweet.

My team was lovely to me and did not want me to staple very much. During my internship at StoryCorps, I also conducted independent research on the crisis of social isolation and the potential role of storytelling in its remediation, coordinated partner outreach, and wrote articles for publication on StoryCorps’ Legacy program. 

But stapling put me in the moment, made me comfortable in the moment. I switched my music from Joy Division to people talking. For as an intern, I also logged interviews and marked segments ideal for production. This was the first step in the process of cutting 40-minute interviews down to 3-minute segments to be broadcast on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Over 99% of StoryCorps interviews never hit the airwaves. The dozens of interviews to which I’ve listened do not scrape the tip of the iceberg of the StoryCorps archive. The real point of SC isn’t to broadcast, it is to record hundreds of thousands of pairs of people and allot them all the same respect — undivided attention for 40 minutes. 

As I listened to the halting, interrupting melody of this interview, I stilled, stilled, stopped stapling, started listening completely, with my hands that I stopped moving and my fingers that I stopped cracking and my head that I stopped nodding and my eyes that I let smart a little bit — a highly uncharacteristic display of emotion. The interview was between two siblings who were children when their mother died. Now in their late 20s, Luna and Gabriel spoke of never being able to tell anyone that they were hurting. They spoke of how much anger they had. They spoke of the healing nature of time. And the violence with which time takes one’s memories. They spoke of how it is impossible to close oneself off to one emotion — in trying to do so, one closes oneself off to all emotions. And they spoke of coming full circle. They spoke many things I needed to hear from a stranger’s mouth, far from my own life. They spoke, and I listened. They spoke, and I listened, and only listened, listened with complete presence, complete absence of self. 

My internship confirmed to me things that I have believed in forever, things that I worried I had begun to believe more out of habit than out of genuine feeling. Things like, simply listening to one another has real and immediate impact on the world. Things like, it is actually possible to step out of one’s own experience and try to understand someone else’s. Things I can only write if I preface them with self-deprecation in order to protect myself — stupid, idealistic, true things like, we can come to know one another though storytelling.

I worked in a quick-paced professional place where it was normal to listen to 40-minute interviews in full. 

That is kind of magical in itself.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Going Down Under

By Zelie Anner FCLC 2020

Did you know that a male echidna has a four-headed penis? How about the fact that female wallaroos can mate with multiple male partners but hold onto the fertilized embryos until the previous baby has left the pouch? What about the reproductively senile dasyurids who stress themselves out to the point of starvation and death if they do not mate successfully?

There’s a lot to know about Australian wildlife. I did a two-week veterinary study abroad program in Australia two summers ago, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The program that hosted the trip is called Loop Abroad, and they have a variety of veterinary study opportunities available around the globe. The Australia trip was hosted at the Walkabout Wildlife Park, which is an education-based wildlife reserve in Calga. I went with a group of students from all over the United States, and we learned animal handling, conservation, and care. There was a classroom component to our training, wherein three amazing veterinarians provided lectures, as well as hands-on training directly from the park rangers.

Now, back to the important matters. We met and learned about many animals, but the most interesting are the marsupials and the monotremes. The distinctive characteristic of marsupials is that they carry their young in a pouch. Monotremes, on the other hand, lay eggs. The only extant (not extinct) monotreme species include the platypus and the echidna. While there are many species that are included in these groups, I will only focus on two.

Macropods, as the name suggests, are marsupials that have large feet. Other characteristics include prominent ears, herbivorous eating behavior, and a strong tail. The most famous macropods are kangaroos, though other notable groups are the wallabies and the wallaroos. When an egg is fertilized in a female macropod, the gestation period is much shorter than that of a placental mammal—generally one month. After this period, the tiny jelly bean joey climbs out of the three-in-one exit (cloaca), across the fur, and into the pouch (which covers the nipples). From there they finish development, sustained by the milk produced by the mother (which, by the way, has four different phases of lactation with varying nutritional compositions). If the mother undergoes extreme stress, she will eject the jelly bean joey from the pouch to conserve energy. At Walkabout Wildlife Park, a ranger told me that sometimes they duct tape the joey back to the nipple so the mother is forced to accept it again.

If you’ve never seen an echidna, they are adorable. Their large spikes might seem dangerous, but they are non-venomous and do not detach. When stressed, they curl up into a sphere and hope for the best. They have a few other strange anatomical features, including the ability to lay eggs and lactate without nipples. The eggs laid by echidnas are soft and stay in the mother’s pouch for almost two months. The hatching itself takes place about a week and a half after fertilization, producing a baby echidna called a “puggle.” When lactating, the puggle simply sucks milk out of the pores of the mother, kind of like sweating milk. Reproduction is equally bizarre. The male echidna penis has four heads, but only ever uses two at a time. This is because the female echidna has a two-branched reproductive tract. One scientist we visited at Taronga Zoo was studying the spines on an echidna penis in a petri dish with a microscope.

Of course, I learned more during this experience than just mating habits and reproductive anatomy. We took care of dozens of animals, learning about their nutrition, habitats, and endangerment. I shadowed zoo veterinarians and pathologists, learned how to make a blow dart for administering medications from a distance, and performed autopsies on kookaburras. Understanding the lives of unique animals is crucial for their survival and protection, especially in these times of extreme global warming. My summer in Australia opened my eyes to just how important these animals are. And, of course, how weird they are.

A Foray into la Fábrica: My Spring with Granadian Luthiers

by Liam Doolan, FCLC 2020

I try not to be a walking cliché. I abhor most tourist practices. Yet in my first months in Granada, Spain, I couldn’t help but want something to take home. Luckily, it wasn’t an ill-fated trip to a tattoo parlor at 3 am, nor was it a magnet of the Alhambra. I was looking for an authentic, hand-made, flamenco guitar. Classical guitars are a culture apart from your average Sam Ash Shredder, and Spanish classical guitars are even more revered. Further into niche-guitar-culture is the flamenco guitar, a lighter, less reinforced instrument that is known for its punchy, percussive sound. I set my sights on a flamenco guitar because my plan was to perform live gigs with it, and a punchy guitar with a bright sound will communicate to an audience in even the worst of sound setups. 

So, I had the ideal instrument in mind, and absolutely no way of finding it. After some preliminary research, I set a miniature itinerary for myself to explore the various guitar stores and luthiers dotted throughout Granada. A few family names kept showing up: Bellido, Perez, and Ferrer. There were plenty of google reviews, in a handful of languages, almost all positive about each luthier. The problem with searching for an instrument based on other people’s opinions is this: people are dumb.  The English reviews were mainly British tourists buying a guitar to put on their wall, not a practical instrument. Many were focused on visual aesthetics, and whether or not the service was nice. None of those variables mattered to me. At all. Some of the Spanish reviews were made by people with last names that were strikingly similar to the owner of the workshop- all five stars. There was no other option but to go in and see what I could find.

My first stop was “The Guitarrería: Miguel Angel Bellido Guitarrero”. A cosmopolitan shop just off of Carrera de la Virgen, Bellido was mainly a reseller. He would find guitars he liked from factories or workshops throughout Andalusia and buy them at wholesale. Slapping his sticker on it, he then sold them higher in downtown Granada. He also had a workshop in the back. 

“Podría ayudarte con un instrumento personalizado, pero no tengo tiempo libre para construcción hasta el otoño.” (I’d be able to help you with a custom instrument, but I’m booked until the fall).

Great. I only had until May to find an instrument. I tried a handful of his midrange guitars,  and while they were perfectly fine, none of them spoke to me. Since I was looking for a flamenco guitar for stage performances, I had a question for each luthier that would test whether or not they saw me as someone in need of an instrument or a price tag.

“Puedes poner una correa allí?” (Can you put a strap there?). I pointed at the heel, also known as the neck joint. It’s a very common place for steel-strung acoustic guitars’ straps. It would also require a bit of surgery to put a peg at the bottom of the body. Surgery that would ruin the thin body’s integrity and the character of the guitar.

“Cierto.” (Certainly.) I had my answer. Next.

My next run-in was an appointment with Señor Daniel Gil de Avalle. His shop was in the rambling medieval part of the city, right by school and my host family’s apartment. Very well decorated, it screamed ‘old, established’ as its biggest aesthetic character. Similar to Bellido, Avalle was a reseller, but also with a bigger workshop and multiple projects in progress. I tried a few of his resells. One particularly mustard number, pictured, had a nice sound. Compared to the four or five from Bellido, it certainly was an improvement. It was trebly, and painfully light. It too, didn’t speak to me. It was a mere fancy. I asked him the question. 

“Cierto.” No mustard for me.

It was frustrating. I hadn’t played in about a month at this point, so I took myself to La Casa Ferrer, a guitar workshop at the foot of the Alhambra. Founded in 1875, Ana is the granddaughter of the founder, current owner, and luthier of Casa Ferrer. Not only representing a bit of workplace diversity, she had all the info on luthiers in Granada. Bellido is the third son of a former competitor of Casa Ferrer. He had a falling out with his father and opened a shop. Gil de Avalle was not trained in the Granadian school of luthiers–a bit of an actor, as it were. Her father trained and developed the body of the Yamaha standard classical guitar. To put it briefly, they knew what they were doing. 

Things were looking good. Then I tried her midrange instruments. All hand-made, in the very space we were standing in. They use slightly streamlined production (not being custom), but they were made by her, not a team of factory assemblers. I found one with a booming low end and a punchy treble–an unorthodox sound quality for Flamenco, but perfect for contemporary singer-songwriter work. I had found an instrument that spoke to me. A beautiful cypress and rosewood top, and light as a feather. It was time for the real test. I asked the question.

Ana looked like I had slapped her across the face. “No lo recomiendo. Cambiará la voz de ella y la construcción no lo permite.” (I don’t recommend it. It’ll change the voice of the guitar and the construction doesn’t permit that kind of change). I made up my mind. La Casa Ferrer won out.

This meandering narrative about guitar hunting in the storied streets of Granada taught me something about commerce. Even in the most welcoming of environments, there are ways to take advantage of people. It’s a hard path to tread and by no means malicious, but it is difficult to ensure you are making the best investment. When it comes to big items like instruments, vehicles, or even homes, salespeople will always have some say in the decision-making process. This was an interesting exploration of commerce, especially given the added variable of translation. Even in the idyllic study abroad world, the specter of the free market rears its head. At the end of it all, I felt like I made the best investment I could have, and that’s enough to keep me happy.