Crew Love: An Ode to the IS Program

Originally written for the City College of New York International Studies Program Blog, 

What can I say about the IS Family and SAIS that hasn’t already been said?

Community. At a commuter school situated in the heart of Harlem, NYC : it was very easy for me to be another face in the crowd. Now when you compounded that with the fact that I was a transfer student, I essentially became an island on an island. Sure, I had roommates at the Towers, some of whom I’m still close with and grateful to say so. There were always those fast friends made in classes, but once the semester ended, that was pretty much it (with some exceptions).

Having been fortunate enough to have traveled during my middle school and high school years, (Spain, France and Italy/South Africa/Russia) I knew very early on that a path in the “international” scene was the only way for me to go. Of course, like many people, I got distracted along the way by others who thought they knew what was best for me, or where trying to take me off of my path. Until that fateful day when I rediscovered why I went to CCNY in the first place; for the International Studies Program.

Entering NAC 6/293 in the Spring of 2011, I was redirected to the incoming Program Director, Dr. James Biles, and even as I butchered his last name asking for his signature, I knew I was making the right decision. I finally filled out the major form, and was off to the Registrar in a heartbeat. By the time the Fall semester came around, I started to hang out in the office more and try and get to know people outside of classes, and met the person who started me on my leadership path with SAIS: Jessica Tong. Always welcoming and laughing, she told me about the SAIS Elections and that I should come to get to know people (the funny thing is, I used that line 100s of times afterward to get people to join…it works). Over time, as Jessica and I were on the board, we reached out to others in our IS core classes to get involved as well, and by the time the semester was through, we were a complete e-board over time through Yarilet, Dairanys, and Yani.

The first year of my time with SAIS wasn’t easy. Nobody in the older generations of IS knew me, Student Life didn’t really take our requests seriously, and the campus vibe was that SAIS “just sits around and talks about world politics.” Having conversations with the Diplomat in Residence, Tom Armbruster (now the US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands), organizing Study Abroad info sessions, and attending events just to let people know who where were was critical. This blog, that you’re reading right now, was an initiative during this time to let folks know about the IS Program and SAIS. By the time the Spring 2012 semester came along, we had completed enough ground work to generate interest and be more self sustaining, and Nick and Nazir joined Yarilet and I for the 2012-13 year.

The second year was not easy either, as given our changing reputation and activity, we had a lot of requests and work to manage. Was either year perfect? No.But they taught me how to better handle stressful situations and communicate effectively through trial and error. They taught me how to be vulnerable, and when to say that I needed a break, or needed to grieve the loss of family members. My IS family had, and still has, my back.

In the end of the 2013 academic year, by kicking up or organizing up a notch, utilizing social media, and doing outreach was recognized by Student Life and USG in the form of our first Club of the Year Award. Yarilet, Nick, Nazir and I were a well oiled machine – even if all four parts weren’t visible all the time we did what we needed to do for our roles and as friends.
The best compliments I’ve ever received in my time as a IS major where those who found the same sense of community I was looking for years prior. The pride I feel in saying where I earned my degree comes from those moments, where a simple action of being a genuine person and helping someone, transforms in new generations of leadership and opportunities for friends like Nisha, Yarilet, and Maria D and several others. That means that I did my job, not only as a leader but as a human being, to help others grow and learn in a vibrant community.

My wishes for the IS community/crew/cult are to be there for each other. You never what small action can turn into a lasting impression that inspires something new and exciting for another person. Near or far, no matter what adventures we all go on: as the IS crew embarks on new journeys of personal growth and opportunities. Cheers.

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