Saturday, May 31, 2014

D.C. Dreams

What could be better than spending a week in the nation's capital brimming with lady power, both professional and collegiate? 
Not much, I think. Right after graduation, frenzied packing ensued and then my parents drove me to the airport in Syracuse to fly to D.C. I was selected to participate in a conference concerning Women & Policy in the Global Community through PLEN, the Public Leadership Education Network. 

The amazing staff at PLEN filled the week with panelists, site visits, and events with networking possibilities throughout the city. It was amusing to re-orient myself to public transportation, but D.C. seems to have one of the cleanest metro systems, though not the most efficient. Certain days it was quicker and more pleasant to walk to our locations. We listened to women who are humanitarians, lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, diplomats, senior advisers, economists, think tank researchers, and the mind-blowing resume continues. More than anything, it was such a pleasure to meet women who are interested in amplifying the role and influence that women have in policy. We also visited the Capitol building, the State Department, the Embassy of India, the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, and the German Marshall Fund. Every day was finished around 5 PM, which left plenty of time to digest the impressive advice and explore the city.

I visited D.C. for the first time my freshman year for a climate change rally, but the weekend was too busy to enjoy D.C.'s free cultural sites. We made it to the National Mall at sunset, and what do I find but a game of pick-up ultimate frisbee! So of course I hustle over, befriend the players on the sideline, and wholeheartedly accept their suggestion to take off my sandals and play. That's why I love the ultimate community: their open friendliness to share the game with anyone. Did you know that Lonely Planet even ranked playing ultimate frisbee on the National Mall one of the top 10 things to do in the United States?! Thank you, Asana and Elizabeth, for accepting my crazed enthusiasm for this sport and snapping some photos. 

Scoring an ultimate frisbee point on the National Mall at sunset. Is there anything more patriotic (haha)?

The World War II and Lincoln Memorials at dusk.

Our room at the Carlyle Suites Hotel had a kitchen, a lovely budoir and bathroom, two queen-sized beds, and was only a few blocks from DuPont Circle, one of the liveliest districts of the city. Check out my Tripadvisor review!

We spent too much money at Whole Foods and hustled back frequently during the lunch breaks to cook.

Many commuters use the public bike sharing system, so we decided to as well. It was such a great ride from DuPont to Georgetown and along the Potomac.

View of Arlington.

Lafayette Square, near the White House.

The Eisenhower Executive castle Office Building. I was strolling around trying to get a good picture, was yelled at when I stepped on the lawn (just trying to gain a better photo angle!), and then it dawned on me that security was pretty heavy. I think I saw the President land via helicopter, and then definitely witness his motorcade gunning down New Hampshire Avenue! Quite the spectacle, but I bet it's old after the first time when you live there.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was such a spectacle, even with the crazed groups of students.

Views of the Regan International Airport.

D.C. was a much-needed limbo from the shock of finishing college. I'm home now, attempting to convey my ever-evolving career ambitions on paper as I apply for jobs. Cheers to St. Lawrence for sponsoring me and my two classmates to participate in this incredible program. One day, I want to will be one of the panelists advising and inspiring the rising generation of women!

Listening: "Hard Time" by Seinabo Sey

Thursday, May 29, 2014

4 Ways to Stay Social

Much as I have resisted, with college work now at the wayside, I'm firing up my online presence. I'm covering my bases for social media, creating accounts and profiles on reviewer and sharing sites, and building my brand as a generally well-traveled citizen, considering my age. I make subtle adjustments to my blog format every now and then (and it's probably time for a revamp soon); did you notice all the tabs up top? Here's the platforms I'm involved with: 

I have a professional LinkedIn account for networking in my forthcoming career, a Tumblr for mind flashes and things that I want to post immediately with minimal explanation (Blogger is more suitable for long-form writing), Instagram for frequent and engaging visual updates, and even a widget for Twitter.  

As a traveler, Hostelworld has become cornerstone to finding safe, affordable, and fun lodging (you'll notice that my profile contains few reviews because in the past I've made bookings as a 'guest' user, which was convenient); my newly created Tripadvisor profile and Yelp profile for all sorts of institutions, and strictly for the stomach, my actively used Urbanspoon account.

Instant patron feedback is not only for restaurants; travelers can talk about hotels, hostels, monuments, parks, even shopping malls. There's a lot of trust involved here because users may have a bias or connection with owners, and of course you'll find reviews of singular experiences that drastically counter the dominant opinion. I try to be as honest as possible when it comes to restaurants, but I tend to give every eatery a second chance if the first visit didn't satisfy. Overall, I believe that social media reviews have improved travelling experiences for everyone because as clients, our words hold institutions accountable for their performance and service. It's important to glance through the feedback and make a holistic opinion. If you're a first time reviewer, be honest, lose overwrought emotions, provide suggestions, and be succinct--no one has time or the eyesight to be reading more than 200 words on a smart phone. Explore places near and afar, dive in without too many expectations, be kind to any staff you may meet, and hope for the best! 

If you're on any of these sites or have recommendations for what I should join, let's connect! 
(If you're reading this and we've never met personally, just send me a message because I would still network with you)

Listening: "Heal" by Vessels, while tying up the edits on my honors thesis!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Hail, Alma Mater! To thee our heads bow down."

Particularly as a senior living in a townhouse right next to the golf courses, I've realized that St. Lawrence is basically a country club. I have no shame in admitting so because it's been source of some of my best memories, experiences, and favorite people from these last four years. After finals week, most of the underclassmen departed and then we had campus to ourselves for Senior Week! It's all went by too quickly, but our class sponsored events like a casino night, a faculty and student barbecue, beer and wine tasting, a first year program reunion, cocktails with adivsors, and a plethora of drunken, outdoor activities before families arrived on Friday. That's when it all became more real.

Lazily canoeing down the Grasse River!
I made watercolor cards for a close professors.
Signs of spring in the campus trails.
I cooked some fiddlehead ferns and wild endives! Residual knowledge from the singular science course I took at St. Lawrence called The Natural World :).

Another perk of attending a small school is that professors may remember and like you, even if you only had one class with them your first year. Then invite you to their house to feast and figure out how they can help you in your next steps. Thank you, Fred!

My parents were up at the end of the week for academic inductions and socializing.
Normally these cherry blossoms appear before final exams, but they were 3 weeks late. It made a perfect background for graduation, so better late than never!
I'm grateful that this is campus I said goodbye to.
The bagpipe guard performs every beginning and end of the school year. It gets me every time.
The blur that was the graduation ceremony...
Grace Potter, of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, graduated in my class because she received an honorary degree! She spoke to us about finding love and making sacrifices. Her speech was featured on the Huffington Post.
The final photo with my townhouse 501 roommates. As you may know, goodbyes are terrible for me. I was packing and zipping around in a frenzy of disbelief, until it had to happen. These ladies are beautiful, and I wish them all the very best. I know it won't be the last time we're together!
Proud parents!
Here I am, squeeing with my degree and my dear Global Studies adviser, one of the many outstanding faculty I've had the honor to learn from. I'm really proud of what I've achieved in four years, and hopefully it can be quantified and translatable in the non-academic world as I head down a new path. St. Lawrence was everything it could be for me, and I'm torn to have to go. But, at least as a Laurentian alumnus, I've gained a lifetime membership to the country club!! 

"We will sing thy praise through endless days, for the Scarlet and the Brown."

Friday, May 9, 2014

"And when college days are over, From this Hill we've wended down"

So what’s it like to finish college? 
To hand in that final assignment, to make that final presentation, shake the hand of your professors and walk out the class room door, without looking back at the people who have been so pivotal to who you are today? To start saying good bye to the class mates who you've grown with across four years, and the underclassmen that inspire and remind you of what you were like?

It’s anticlimactic, yet incredibly relieving. This afternoon I defended my honors thesis to a panel of some of my favorite faculty, and they tore my work apart, pointing out flaws, misinterpretations, gaps, and numerous areas of improvement … and then they deliberated, and granted me my honors in Global Studies. I pulled a bottle of Finger Lakes Chardonnay-Riesling (Salmon Run vineyard 2011) and we celebrated. I still have edits to turn in before graduation, yet this is was it.

Although most of the Ruckus Bus is seniors, today was also our last practice with the entire team. I was late coming from the defense, but I sprinted barefoot through the soft field in the glaring sun. The plants even seem relieved to finally be able to open their buds. Everything’s coming together.

The reality is a creeping, seizing feeling upon my throat, my chest, my mind, and the rest of my body, knowing that this structure I’ve accustomed to for 17 years will no longer be there. At least until I venture unto graduate school. Last of this, last of that. I’ve been snapping shots with a disposable camera, which will certainly feel like a treasure when the film’s developed.

All the ‘grander’ visions, so to say, that I applied for didn’t work out; I say this with subdued bitterness and a gracious sense of humility. It’s a lesson in long-term planning and figuring out how to move through the rip tide when it’s about to pull you under. Of course this isn’t the end of things; I’ve hardly just begun!

Don’t ask me my ‘plan’, because you know what? I don’t have one yet. I might be spending another summer cooking, but at least I’ll always know how to feed myself and others. This is funderemployment (fun + under employment). The loans are real, and my obligation to debt already haunts me. Still, there is something to be said for veering off the imagined or intended path. Despite all these experiences that college has afforded me, I need this chance to explore on my own.

Before that, before the caps and gowns, we have a Senior Week dedicated to bonding and partying.

I’ll cry later.

"We will love thee yet, we're ne're forget the Scarlet and the Brown."