Celebrating Students ’13: Ross Gormley

            This summer I was employed by an Italian company called ACLE where I essentially taught English to Italian children in English immersion camps, staying with host families the whole time.

            The first week of orientation training was a pleasantly overwhelming array of English speakers from around the world–Ireland, Canada, UK, Australia, and South Africa (over 100 of them). By day we trained to be counselors and by night we sampled the Italian lifestyle, sipping cappuccinos by day and wine by night. It was all too easy to fall in love with the Italian way of life:  old woman eating gelatos, old men melting away on the beach, and a vibrant culture of both the old and new generations.

            The scariest part of it all was the first day when I had twelve little campers staring at me, trying to anticipate my next move as I stood at the chalkboard with a blank stare. “Name game,” I reluctantly cried out, and then proceeded to demonstrate proper English introductions. The work was frustrating; in fact I was the sole counselor who didn’t scramble out of my classroom to cry in the bathroom (although I did lose my voice a few times (and possibly my sanity).

            I travelled every week from San Remo to Deruta (near Perugia and Assisi), to Turate (near Lake Como and Milan), to Piverone (a small town in the Piedmont [wine country] region). After three weeks, I was exhausted and could barely sit in a chair for fear of it turning into another round of musical chairs. The camp songs “I’m alive awake alert enthusiastic,” and “Monday is a working day,” were seemingly permanent features of my conscious now. By the third week, however, I had assumed a leadership position and was planning and implementing the afternoon activities for the entire camp.

            By the end of the summer, I realized how invaluable my experiences were. Travelling is a beautiful way to gain perspective and confidence. For eight weeks, I travelled to Peru, Italy, and Portugal ultimately to return home with a new sense of myself and the world which I live in.


Celebrating Students ’13: Emma Daniels

The kids who live in Concepcion and Lindavista, two of the poorest neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Jose, Costa Rica, had never heard of lacrosse.  As the rest of the Beyond Study Abroad students and I handed out lacrosse sticks and balls the first day of camps, a flood of questions ran at us from different directions.  Answering twenty questions at once is hard enough, but try doing it in Spanish when you’re trying to learn it.  After three days of lacrosse, most kids were throwing, catching, and cradling with their lacrosse sticks. 

I spent six weeks in Costa Rica this summer teaching sports camps in the marginalized neighborhoods around San Jose.  I worked with a program called Beyond Study Abroad, which recruits collegiate athletes from the U.S. to travel to Costa Rica and facilitates their working with kids.  The first three weeks of my trip consisted of studying Spanish at the University of Costa Rica, working out with my fellow students, and traveling around Costa Rica.  We had the opportunity to visit the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, zip-line through rain forests, and jump into waterfalls. 

But just as amazing as the weekends were our experiences with our host families and with the kids.  In the neighborhoods we spent the most time in, the kids take their shoes off to play soccer because the soles are in such bad shape that running in them is a hindrance, and many of the girls get pregnant early simply to escape their households.  But when we showed up every day with a bag full of soccer balls, basketballs, volleyballs, footballs and lacrosse sticks, it seemed as if every worry left these kids alone for a minute.  We would spend the afternoons learning new sports, playing soccer (of course), and just talking. 

Every time we left, a chorus of “Pura Vida!” followed us all the way out of the soccer field down the street to the bus stop.  Pure Life.  From a group of kids who don’t even get to attend school for a full day every day because the government can’t afford it, to a group of college students who attend some of the best liberal arts colleges in the world.  From a group of kids who can still play a full soccer game with a falling apart ball to a group of kids who receive much of their equipment for free, brand new, every year.  From a group of kids who don’t speak any English, but are more than willing to teach their new “Gringo” friends every Spanish word they know.  Yes, I can say for sure I’m pretty sure that even though I went down to Costa Rica to teach, I came back being the one who learned the most.

Celebrating Students ’13: Guy Geyer

Guy Geyer was awarded Honorable Mention by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.  Out of 1,000 nominations from colleges and universities across the nation, Guy is one of 200 science students who received Honorable Mention in a very competitive process for this recognition.   Congratulations!

Celebrating Students 2013: Dorisol Inoa

This summer I worked for Morgan Stanley’s Learning and Development Department. I worked with a team of six people, including myself. My team was responsible for developing the leadership skills of high performing Managing Directors, in anticipation of preparing them to take a role as a franchise leader. I helped with many of the logistics and details of the programs that were made available. Some advice I was given during my orientation was to be a team player, to build a network, to speak up, and to not be boring. I also learned the importance of being a good communicator. For example, if you feel that you didn’t meet an expectation in one of your assignments, instead of asking, “Where did I go wrong?”, which highlights your imperfection, a better question would be, “How can I improve?”, which instead highlights your willingness to be proactive. Little things like this make a difference in how your colleagues see you and it is important to maintain a positive image in the office.

Another thing to consider when trying to maintain a positive image: pay attention to details!!!  Unfortunately, for some of us, this may be one of the lessons that you learn from experience. It is only when you are pressed for time and have to send out an attachment to your team and realize that you didn’t put a date on the data that you are sending that you will realize the importance of paying attention to details. It is a minute detail, but it counts. Lastly, as an intern, you must become so engaged in the work of your team that you are doing outside research to contribute to your team’s initiative and progress. This is being proactive. It is the proactive interns that get offers to work again. This is just a snapshot of the things that I learned. If you have any questions about my experience and other lessons learned, feel free to email me, dinoa@wesleyan.edu.

Celebrating Students 2013: Ginah Kim

The start of summer of 2010 was spent working 9-to-5 shifts for two film internships in Los Angeles. I helped organize several premieres for movies such as Twilight: Eclipse and Despicable Me (where I met the love of my life, funnyman Steve Carell), and worked on the finishing touches of a documentary on Marvel Comics co-creator, Stan Lee. I then left to spend two weeks in Seoul, Korea.

It was a great experience to be taking full advantage of my summer in LA and to get in touch with my roots in Korea, but the most memorable part of the summer was my stay at Sarang House orphanage (literally translated is Love House) in Qingdao, China. I went with a small Christian Mission Team of about 15 people, where our main goals were to teach English, praise, and play with the kids. The mission trip was organized by International Care Community (ICC), a nonprofit organization that has been sending teams to the orphanage for the past six years. Much of our time in Sarang House was spent organizing crafts and activities, teaching songs and dance routines, creating colorful decorations for the main worship room and dining hall, and basically helping the director of Sarang House in any way that we could. The year’s theme was “Citizenship: How to Be a Good Citizen.” Through stories, activities, and discussions, we taught the kids about being responsible, fair, respectful, trustworthy, and caring. We wanted them to remember that the orphanage is their home and to treat it as such, and that all of them constitute one family.

The trip was truly indescribable. I was touched at how loving and happy the kids were, even though many of them suffered physical/verbal abuse and abandonment by their families. They treated each other like siblings, with the older kids constantly looking out for the younger ones. When we brought them candy and chocolate (rare treats for the kids at Sarang House), they would always offer some to us first before sharing amongst themselves. It is impossible to convey how life-changing this experience was for me. I definitely plan to continue volunteering at Sarang House every summer with ICC.

Celebrating Students 2013: Samantha Jacobson

After taking several government courses, I became eager to experience politics in a real-world context.  I decided to spend my summer in Washington, D.C. doing two internships at a congressional campaign office and at the Department of Homeland Security. This coupling afforded me the opportunity to experience a soup-to-nuts view of the entire political process.

In my first internship at the campaign office, I worked alongside minority members of congress as they sought out victory in their upcoming races. Aside from researching donors and data banking, we organized fundraising events.  One of these events was a “Southern Style Barbeque” to support the efforts of a representative from North Carolina in a bid to retain a high profile seat.  The food was delicious and the company was first-rate.  We had the opportunity to mingle with such dignitaries as House Majority Whip, James Clyburn, and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

After enduring the process of background checks and obtaining a security clearance, I began my second internship in the Department of Homeland Security in the White House Liaison’s office, which gave me an entirely different perspective of government. My primary responsibility was to respond to citizen mail, which addressed issues ranging from immigration to national security. The goal was to provide timely responses to each and every inquiry, so the stress levels in the office could get high. I became exposed to both the inter-workings of the newest federal cabinet department as well as to many of the common concerns among people living in the United States. When I was not at my desk, I could be found, alongside other DHS interns, touring sites such as the White House, the Pentagon, or a dog training facility, and meeting Secretary of DHS, Janet Napolitano.

 I am really thankful for the eleven weeks that I spent immersed in the epicenter of American politics. All in all, my summer turned out to be a win/win situation both for myself and the offices for which I worked. I learned invaluable lessons about government and life that no textbook could begin to teach.

Celebrating Students 2013: Codi Leitner

This summer I explored organic farming in two very different areas of the world, both culturally and in terms of climate: Costa Rica, and Westchester, New York. Just four days after I left Wesleyan, I traveled with a friend to the town of Guapiles, Costa Rica, which is a small rural town on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, surrounded by rain forest. There I worked on an Organic farm that I came into correspondence with through WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms). The farm I stayed at was right on the border of the rain forest. I lived in a bamboo and mud cabana next to a lake, and we had no real company other than the people living on the farm, their 5 dogs, and the animals around us. Each morning we would wake to the sound of howler monkeys and the sight of an active volcano’s plume of smoke just visible above the canopy of the rain forest, and we would go to bed each night once the sun went down. I spent my time cutting bamboo and citronella, harvesting cacao, banana, and pineapple, clearing paths in the rain forest, and traveling about the Caribbean coast of the country.

The town we were in was by no means a “touristy” area, and we were immersed in local culture, from the food, to the slang, to the customs. We had no real toilets nor hot running water, and our electricity came from a hydroelectric water system supplied by a spring coming through the forest. Being in such a different cultural environment really opened my eyes to how diverse the world really is. Even though I was not there for a long amount of time, I quickly grew accustomed to the simplicity of life in Guapiles, the weather, and the giant bugs (I’m talking black and yellow spiders the size of the palm of your hand). Upon arriving back in the United States, I experienced another culture shock when I realized how luxurious and excessive the American lifestyle can seem to the rest of the world.

After I got settled back in at home, I began working on another Organic Farm in Katonah, New York. Our harvest on this farm was very different from that in Costa Rica. We grew raspberries, squash, arugula, garlic, cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupes, and much more. I would wake up to work at 6:30 in the morning a few days a week to head to the farm and perform tasks such as cutting and washing the greens, manning the farm stand, weeding, tilling, and seeding rows, trimming raspberry bushes, and other such labor. The work at the farm in New York was actually much more intense than the work in Costa Rica, and very fulfilling. I would go home every day caked in dirt, but equipped with a bag of free fresh fruit and vegetables.

Working on organic farms all summer has made me really understand the process that food goes through before it ends up on your plate. I have begun to emphasize the idea of sustainability and organic food in my food intake, while simultaneously gaining a new understanding of food and culture around the world. However, I would say that eating such delicious fruits and vegetables all summer has spoiled me a little bit! I guess I’ll just have to adjust to normal (less expensive) produce.

Celebrating Students 2013: Alex Wilkinson

This past summer, I didn’t work in an office or volunteer in a foreign country. I rolled out of bed in the morning, turned on my computer, and helped my dad through the early period of the new startup he helped found: Urbanbloke. Urbanbloke is a company that sells men’s luxury brands online at reduced prices, a business model that has proven to be very successful for women and is just starting to be applied to the male demographic.

What was great about working at Urbanbloke (besides using my bedroom as a personal office) was the variety of responsibilities I had from day to day: manipulating images in Photoshop, inputting sales, crafting brand descriptions, managing advertising relationships with blogs, keeping track of inventory, and more. I even attended meetings we had with brands such as Ike Behar, Tommy Bahama, and Do Denim. We drove to these meetings and picked up clothing samples in our stylish company car: my family’s Toyota Highlander with a Thule box bungeed to the top.

Thus, startup culture is an amalgam of contradictions: casual and formal, funny and serious, exciting and terrifying. I quickly learned that working at a startup requires flexibility (since the future is never certain), creativity (since startups are constantly adapting and improving), and optimism (no matter how good an idea you have, how it will be received in the market can never be fully predicted).

It was an exciting challenge to be a part of this culture, and even more exciting to watch all our hard work lead towards acquisition and investment meetings. It didn’t hurt that I got some free clothes too!

Celebrating Students 2013: Ava Bysiewicz Donaldson

This summer I traveled to a popular destination for college students: Washington D.C.  I interned for Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.  My responsibilities included answering phone calls, distributing newspapers, sorting mail and taking notes at various hearings for the staffers.  Although most of those tasks sound mundane, it was actually extremely eye opening for me.  By answering phone calls and checking faxes and mail, I was able to see which issues concerned constituents the most.  By attending hearings, I became much more aware of global issues.  A huge issue this summer was the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill, and I researched and attended conferences on it.  I even attended a hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building where Tony Hayworth (CEO of BP) testified.  At the hearings I was able to hear incredible speakers, such as Ralph Nader. 

One of my other responsibilities was to give constituents tours of the Capitol. That was definitely the favorite part of my job.  I had never been inside the Capitol before, and seeing it from behind the scenes was indescribable. I did not realize how much history was packed into it, so it was difficult to condense all that information into an hour-long tour.  Overall, this internship was an amazing learning experience.  I became more knowledgeable about our nation’s history as well as public relations and policy.   As a government major, this past summer’s experiences provided me with insights that I could never have acquired in a classroom.