The Final Hour: A Review of Theatre in a Day at The Schwartz Center

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January 24, 2015 marked the return of Theatre in a Day at Cornell University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. 

Overall, it was an enjoyable performance coordinated by over 40 Cornell students in a commendable tradition of devising what I can only describe as near-instant theater.

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For those unfamiliar with the event, Theatre in a Day is performed each semester, typically in the Schwartz Center’s Black Box Theater. It was previously named The 24-Hour Playfest but was recently given a fresh title due to copyright concerns. For each show, a small body of Cornell students come together to write, audition, direct, block, rehearse, and perform a set of several 10+ minute short plays within 24 hours of the performance’s opening. To ensure that writers don’t come in with pre-written material (and also to encourage creativity and zaniness), each show has a theme and a twist which must be incorporated into each of the short plays and is only announced to the students when they first meet 24 hours before the show.

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As a result of this experiment, Theatre in a Day produces several interesting works with the diligent effort of participating Cornellians. This year, five plays were featured in the production, all of which took a comedic spin on the show’s theme (film) and twist (dance). While some performances’ duration were a little longer than ideal (cutting scripts is difficult in a time crunch, after all),  the performances overall were entertaining and featured several familiar talents among its actors/actresses, directors, and writers.

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Seating was limited to 72 audience members and, since the show was free, the production followed a “first come, first serve” policy. This policy was especially critical for anyone who wanted to attend. Not only did the production pack a full house, but its line began almost a full hour before the show even started!

With the success of this semester’s Theatre in a Day, I highly suspect it will return next semester with a whole new set and cast. This year, Theatre in a Day was part of the Department of Performing and Media Arts’ collection of performance, #150events. #150events is the department’s contribution to the university’s campus-wide celebration of Cornell University’s sesquicentennial year. It includes the department’s regular performances during the academic year in addition to several new programs and productions added specifically for this special line-up.  For more information about these events, see pma.cornell.edu/150events.

IMG_0059Theatre in a Day and its related productions in the #150events sequence are incredibly important because they give students in the Department of Performing and Media Arts, as well as students in other majors, opportunities to practically apply techniques they learn in PMA courses and related academic forums. Theatre in a Day is particularly unique because its time commitment for participating students is jammed into 24 hours, instead of the several weeks more common to on-campus productions. This semester, the facebook page of Theatre in a Day boasted that over 40 students participated in some way or another to make the production happen.

That turn-out is not just great; its critical for the advancement of the department. The more students who participate in events like Theatre in a Day, the more students can spread the word about what it’s like to participate in such productions and encourage others to do so as well. Additionally, the department serves its objective of giving its students practical experience to compliment their academic learning–a key and competitive facet to its major.

IMG_0125Luckily, the people at Theatre in a Day allowed me to take a few pictures from my spot in the audience to share here as an illustration of their featured plays. The pictures throughout this article are just a few of those snippets from the show. For due diligence, I will also include at the end of this article the full line-up of plays and participating students so as to better highlight those individuals who made this production possible. Before finishing up this post, however, I want to emphasize for a final time how much I enjoyed the show and issue a final congratulations to the cast. Hope to see you all again in future productions!

 

 

List of Productions and Cast from Theatre in a Day (Spring 2015):

Long List of Ex-Lovers
Written by: Trevor Stankiewicz
Directed by: Sam Morrison
Stage Manager: Sarah Bryne
Cast:
Sophie: Shanti Kumar
Ryan: Alec Newport
Evan: Colin Sears
Danielle/Charlotte/Laura: Carla Perez
Julie/Juliette/Emily/Lisa: Emma Zhu

Bring Back the Oscars
Written by: Gloria Majule
Directed by: Aleksej Aarsaether
Stage Manager: Adriana Guzman
Cast:
Melodrama: Lauren DeLorenzo
Romantic Comedy: Jorge Guevara
Horror: Olivia Howell
Musical: Christian Kelly
Action: Megan Rossetti

Iowa the Intimate
Written by: Oakley Loeb
Directed by: Max Joh-Carnella
Stage Manager: Michaela Barry
Cast:
Indigo: Chisom Awachie
Patrick: Sean Doolittle
Dick Thruster: Author Egitto
Daisy: Grace Gliva
Robin: Jessi Silverman

Dynamite
Written by: Jazlin Gomez
Directed by: Rudy Gerson
Stage Manager: Anca Dogaroiu
Cast:
Producer/Grandma/Lafawnduh: Keisha Target
Regina George: Maple Chen
Johnny Castle: Will Isenberg
Napoleon Dynamite: Kay Wilson

Not Love, Actually
Written by: Rachel Ellicott
Directed by: Alexander Quilty
Stage Manager: Matthew Lam
Cast:
Nora/Waitress: Monica Burnett
Jack/Fabio: Evan Needell
Felicia: Ellen Pyne
Brad: Irving Torres

Theatre in a Day was coordinated by Jillian Holch and Claire Stack. Its lighting, sound, and projections were coordinated by Brian Murphy and Sarah Bryne.

Continued Frustrations with Work Study

During all four years of my undergraduate career at Cornell University, I qualified for federal work study. Each year, I took on different work study jobs on- and off-campus, oftentimes concurrently. It was always a struggle to balance academics with work, but I managed to do just fine so long as I planned my schedule meticulously and maintained a good work ethic.

As a senior undergraduate student, I am once again looking for federal work study employment. Participating in a Fall academic credit internship forced me to give up all of my on-campus job positions last summer, including my usual position as a food server in one of Cornell’s eateries. Additionally, my position as a tutor at Fall Creek Elementary–a job I acquired through Cornell University’s Public Service Center–ended last Spring after a transition in student leadership over the program left me in the dark about my scheduled hours for Spring 2014. Several calls and emails to the program’s leaders, including visits to the Public Service Center, left me with no responses or information regarding whether I could return to work in the Spring or whether my scheduled hours were changed. Teachers and program leaders at Fall Creek Elementary didn’t have a list of what students were scheduled to appear, nor when, and could not tell me if I was scheduled to work. Even though they were happy to have me there, I couldn’t continue working without a guarantee that someone somewhere was aware of my hours and that my paycheck would come in without problem at the end of the month. I couldn’t afford the insecurity and, just like that, in the Spring of 2015, I ended up without a on-campus job (sans blogging for Life on the Hill), despite 4 years of experience balancing 2-3 jobs during any given semester.

So I employed my own advice. A few years ago, I wrote a post on this blog identifying different ways that other work study students like me could find job postings for on-campus and off-campus jobs. I looked through own post and started a new search. Being a senior, I had a few new priorities limiting my job choices:

  1. I couldn’t take any job that required me to work into the summer or for more than one semester. Graduation is just around the (river) bend (beyond the shore), so I couldn’t commit to being in Ithaca beyond May 2015.
  2. Aside from classes, job interviews and visits home to New York City are new important time commitments constricting my schedule. Flexibility is now more important than ever. Luckily, I’ve saved enough money that I can get through the whole semester on just a few hours a week of work at a decent on-campus rate ($8-$10/hour). Plus, I am free every Tuesday–guaranteed. An ideal job, therefore, would give me one or two consistent shifts on Tuesdays, the ability to work flexible hours, or the option to work from home. Otherwise, the job wouldn’t be worth the hassle it would present in necessitating a reorientation of every other commitment in my schedule.
  3. Finally, I needed a job as soon as possible. With savings and Christmas gift cards, I bought all my textbooks and supplies for my final semester, but food costs, bus tickets, and other expenses are already threatening to compound beginning February 2015. I can’t make interviews or visit my family without money. I can’t cover basic living costs without money. If anything should go wrong–for example, if my compute breaks down or if I discover that the textbook I purchased is the wrong edition for my class–I’m going to need money to resolve those issues. Unlike many students, I have familial support than I can depend on if things truly go awry, but I don’t want to resort to that option for fear of burdening my family or discovering that they can’t cover the costs. Already, they pay exorbitant tuition and housing fees. They are no longer a guaranteed safety net. However, if I don’t acquire a job soon, I’m not going to get a first paycheck in time to balance out these expenses on my own and the strings on that safety net are going to be tested, whether I want them to be or not.

So with all these factors in mind, I searched for on-campus jobs through Cornell University’s online job postings for work-study students and I looked around campus for posters advertising open positions. I applied to several jobs and waited weeks for a response. To date, I still don’t have a job.

Now here is where things became frustrating.

I had some free time on my hands during the first weeks of this semester because I had completed some preliminary reading assignments for my courses during the Winter Break. So I took that time to investigate what happened to my applications. For some postings, I had waited as long as 3 weeks without any response about the position. I emailed departments, visited offices, called numbers listed on the job postings…to no avail. Several times, my emails and calls went unanswered. A few kind souls did answer me back, only to tell me that they had already given the position to someone else and hadn’t yet found the time to tell me or to take down their job posting from Cornell’s notice boards. Again and again, I was either ignored or denied, until at last I had no one left to call.

So I went back to square one. I looked for new positions. Primarily, I looked again on Cornell’s online job board. It took me several minutes to sort out the job postings advertising positions for which I had already applied and knew were not open anymore. Additionally, I had to set aside several other positions because their requirements for hours, foreign language proficiency, or prior experience eliminated my candidacy. It was particularly depressing to hold back from applying to student administrative II and student administrative III positions because it reminded me of how hard I had tried for three years prior to secure a student administrative I position in order to qualify for those higher-level jobs. It goes without saying, given my current work history, that I never got those entry-level student administrative jobs; too many students, too few positions. Of course, being a food server for three years, as well as a tutor and blogger for 1-2 years, didn’t sweeten my application at all. At least, given the number of rejections I faced, it surely doesn’t seem so.

By the time I weeded out all the positions I couldn’t apply for or manage to keep, I was left with three kinds of jobs: food server jobs on campus, alumni fundraising callers, and social media promotion jobs for external companies. It was incredibly defeating to see those positions crop up. I didn’t want to be a food server again. There is always a demand for new student labor in those fields precisely because those jobs have high turnover. They are difficult jobs, oftentimes with inflexible schedules, poor managers, and comparatively low pay (when compared against other on-campus jobs). I also didn’t want to commit to three shifts a week at a job I knew I wouldn’t enjoy, especially when I didn’t need that many hours nor the hassle that inherently comes with it. Alumni callers are better paid and more flexible in comparison but, from previous experience, I know that the interview and application process can take weeks. In the meantime, you can go broke waiting to be rejected from the position. The social media jobs are similarly inconvenient. A long wait time for a response to your application, few positions, and incentive-based or irregular pay–it’s not the ideal job for someone prizing consistency and immediate hire. My remaining options seemed incredibly bleak.

“Maybe I’m being too picky?” I thought. After so many rejections, I had to face facts that a senior undergraduate student who only wants to work a few hours a week isn’t at all desirable for on-campus employers, even with a record of good service. Before acquiescing to another round of applications, however, I tried one last attempt to find new on-campus job opportunities; I called the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.

Actually, I called twice.

I was hoping the office could give me new ideas for where I could find jobs or guide me in finding better off-campus employment, if necessary. Instead, after my first call on January 23, 2015, I heard a never-ending tone that rang and rang and rang in my ear in a monotonous droll. I had to hang up after a while in order to pick up another incoming call, but I immediately called the office a second time later in the day when I became available again. Around noon I made my second call and, again, the tone rang about a dozen times before…

…something happened. Someone picked up the phone.

And breathed into the receiver for about half a minute…

…before they hung up on me.

But before I could say a word to them–before I could introduce myself to them or say hello or ask for help–they immediately and without a word hung up on me. It was so disheartening that I didn’t even bother to call the office again. I know I didn’t have the wrong number; it’s the only phone number listed on the university’s website for the office. Someone there must have seen the phone ringing, decided to pick up the receiver, and click it down on its base without even asking who was calling. I didn’t hesitate; I know, for a fact, that they did not hang up on me because they thought I wasn’t there or because something was wrong with the line. I could hear the receiver’s plastic click into place in the last second of the phone call, when it didn’t quite fit back into its base. Someone, quite literally, could not spare a minute of their time in that office to see what it was that I needed.

I’m trying very hard not take the event personally and to not assume that the office generally treats individuals calling their phone lines in the same way I was treated earlier today. However, there was no moment more frustrating or upsetting throughout my entire job search than when, after making every conscious effort I could to find a work-study job that fits my needs and fulfill my obligation to the federal government and to the university, and after every on-campus employer had denied my application and almost every other on-campus employer had unsympathetically refused to even acknowledge my inquiries, an office at Cornell University with “student employment” in its name refused to afford me even a minute of help.

Be sure that one of these days I will walk over to that office to see if someone could help me in person.
Be sure that, on one of these days, I will apply to each and every one of those remaining online job postings, despite not wanting to take any of those jobs because of their notoriety.
Be sure that I will continue to look diligently for some kind of employment that fits my schedule and hope, alongside an undoubtedly large number of students, that the supply of us is not greater than the demand for our labor as it seems so often to be the case here on campus.

But, as a comment to Cornell University’s administrators in light of my growing frustration with your work-study system: It should never be this hard for your students to find a job when you advertise work-study as an opportunity for those who could not otherwise afford attending your institution to finance their education through their own hard work. As much as you demand your work-study student to apply themselves to their work with integrity, demand that your departments and student employers show the same courtesy to their applicants and put effort into creating good jobs and maintaining up-to-date job postings. More importantly, ensure that there are opportunities to work where you promised there would be plentiful opportunity, or do a more effective campaign of informing your work-study student of the jobs available to them. At the moment, it is too hard to find a job on a campus where a large population of students need one.

As a side note, please consider that, although my particular job needs at the moment are unique and complex, throughout the years I have spoken with dozens of students with much greater availability and willingness to work who similarly struggled to find a job–any job–on campus as an able student worker. The final recommendation in my post can be defended as strongly through their stories as through mine.

Back in the Fray

After seven months away from Ithaca, I’m finally back! Classes started this week, and I’m still adjusting to the fray. Is it reasonable to feel lost on a campus where you’ve been living for almost four years?

On my first day back, there was a notable absence of people on the streets. However, the following day, when classes officially began, a profound shift occurred and suddenly all my usual hot spots on campus were flooded by returning students. I remember most how Trillium filled up around mid-day. It was difficult to grab a seat and for a while I had to eat on the stairs. Luckily, I was able to grab a quick picture from that spot to help illustrate this blog post, making the situation worthwhile.

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This semester, I will be taking three classes for a total of 12 credits. This more relaxed schedule is a direct reward for managing heavier course loads during previous semesters, and I’m looking forward to taking my time synthesizing the materials from these classes and investing more free time into writing and other non-academic passions of mine. For my first day of class, I attend two of my three courses: (1) ILRIC 3342: Workplace Health and Safety as a Human Right and (2) ILRLR 3060: Recent History of American Workers.

Professor Gross, who teaches ILRIC 3342, spent his first lecture combing through the details of his syllabus and explaining the requirements for our final research project. From what he described, it seems like his class will be heavily dependent on peer discussions during lecture sessions and on team efficiency outside of class. The only non-reading assignment throughout the course will be the research paper I must complete with a team of two other classmates. In the meantime, we will be focusing on international and domestic policies for regulating workplace health and safety in different precarious industries. Wish me luck!

ILRLR 3060 was similar in that its professor, Professor Cowie, spent a large portion of the lecture reviewing the syllabus and clarifying deadlines and requirements for future assignments. However, one important difference in the two introductory lessons was that Professor Cowie followed up his orientation with an exercise in which he asked students to volunteer suggestions of events–political, economic, social, or otherwise–to fill a timeline from 1940 to 1960 of moments which changed the life of American workers. While I didn’t contribute much to the discussion (I’m terrible with recalling dates), it was a great refresher and his side comments on the events listed gave me some insight into what he believes were important changes and trends in politics, economics, and other areas affecting American workers.

The Timeline

The Timeline from ILRLR 3060

At the end of the day, I still felt a little out of place. It’s strange to get back to the habit of attending classes, particularly when I’m not immersing myself completely in the task with a heavy course load. However, it’s not a challenge I expect to experience for very long. The subjects of my courses are engaging, and the campus is coming to life with that good ole’ student hustle. The vibe is infectious. I’m sure it will hit me soon, too.

A New Balance: Work Over Academics

This week, I completed my second assignment for my academic credit internship. ILR’s credit internship program requires that its student completes one large paper assignment, graded by a faculty adviser, to determine the student’s grade for 4 of his or her earned credits. In my case, my faculty adviser and I created a schedule to help keep me on track with finishing a thesis assignment by December. My first assignment was to call her in early October, when I had worked at the EEOC for several weeks, and to propose a thesis topic. My second assignment was compose a project proposal–a document about 3-4 pages long which outlined my thesis topic, my primary and secondary sources, and the implication of my research. The final assignment will be the final thesis paper, due in December.

The first assignment was easy enough to complete. I am lucky enough to have a faculty adviser who I really enjoy talking to, so it was nice to catch up with her over phone on her research and share my experiences at the EEOC. I threw around a few ideas for a thesis topic and, with her recommendation, I finalized my focus.

The next step, however, was much more difficult. Composing a project proposal isn’t a very difficult assignment. I’ve written similar papers for classes in previous semesters within a few hours. Unfortunately, I struggled this time around to finish the paper and submit it on time to my professor, even though I technically had a week to complete it. What went wrong?

Right…that makes sense…

There just wasn’t time.

It seems counter-intuitive given that I had a week to finish the assignment but, in actuality, I did have significantly less time to finish my project than I would have otherwise had if I was still on campus. At Cornell, I had a much different schedule than I do now. Academics were the priority and other time-consuming activities, like work and extracurricular activities, were squeezed into whatever remaining time was left after my homework was finished. Now, it’s the opposite: I have to negotiate time for my academics because the fixed element of my schedule is working, not homework.

When I received similar assignments at Cornell, I would come home from class and work on them immediately. If finishing the assignment required more hours than expected and began to cut into work hours, then I would call out of work to finish the assignment. At best, I would bring my homework to work and attempt to finish it during slower moments within my shift. Now, I would never conceive of calling out of work with the EEOC to finish an academic project. Rather, I rush to finish assignments on my train rides to and from work and in the hour I have free at home before bed. This shift is significant, and I finally felt its consequences this week when working on my project proposal. It’s much harder to focus on academics when other time constraints like work are not flexible.

At the EEOC, I know several employees who currently work full-time and also pursue undergraduate-level or graduate-level schooling at night. My mother did something similar as a young woman–balancing school, work, and taking care of a child for several years. While I always admired these individuals for maintaining this balance, I became aware this week that I barely understand the difficulty of what they have accomplished thus far. I tasted what it is like to have to study in an environment where your schedule is fixed and your daily needs force education onto the back-burner when allocating your time. It’s stressful and frustrating. To have finished so many years of my undergraduate education without experiencing those worries in a crippling extent, as so many others must do…surely I must be blessed.

There is a guy in Bowling Green…

There is a guy in Bowling Green…

Well, first of all, let me tell you where Bowling Green is.

In New York City, if you take the green 6 MTA Subway line to its final stop in Manhattan–right before it crosses over into Brooklyn–and pop your head above ground, you’re in Bowling Green. On any given day, that particular train station is crammed with commuters heading to work at one of the many businesses and government offices which reside there. On the weekends, though, commuters rub elbows with tourists and New Yorkers alike who want a tour on the nearby Staten Island Ferry, through the local park, or into the local museum.

In the middle of all this bumping and touring, there is a guy in Bowling Green who stands every day at the top of the escalators leading out of the 6 MTA Subway station. He wears a red vest and shouts into the air with a cheerful smile:

“Free Newspaper in New York!”

Every seasoned New Yorker who works in Bowling Green need not see him to know why he’s there. He’s one of the legion of AMNEWYORK newspaper distributors across the city. AMNEWYORK is a free newspaper circulated daily by these men and women who stand, rain or shine, in the most crowded public areas and offer them to complete strangers. Oftentimes, these employees will silently hand out their wares, unfazed by the thousands of rebuffs they receive daily from commuters.

This guy caught my attention purely because of his consistent enthusiasm for distributing that newspaper. Every day, he is the most cheerful person I see on the way to work. After taking his newspaper one time and wishing him a good day, he has thereafter said an extra “Good morning, beautiful” to me every morning when I come out of the station. In recent days, I’ve been taking his paper and spending a minute or two to ask him how he is doing. He never complains, and he always exhibits appreciation for my asking. He has taken note of the days when I was ill and smiled on the day I finally reported I was feeling better. Professional but kind, he never forces his newspaper into my hand until after he wished me a good day and never before I ask him for one explicitly. On days when I don’t take his newspaper, he treats me just the same as when I do. On days when I am late, he sends a wave in my direction and welcomes the next commuter to Bowling Green with his usual pitch-perfect pitch. Our interactions last a few minutes or seconds, but he has made an impression on me nevertheless.

There is a guy in Bowling Green who is single-handedly making my morning commute a better trip, and all he says is:

“Free Newspaper in New York!”

And I hope he never stops.

Politicians Everywhere

As November nears and elections creep closer, political candidates are crawling out onto the campaign trail and meeting with potential voters in hopes of securing legislative positions this Fall. In New York City, politicians are speaking in schools, public centers, and at popular events to advertise their name. In the suburbs surrounding New York City, these politicians are most visible in busy public spaces, particularly at train stations.  Before this year, I was never so aware of this sudden sprouting of campaign madness as I am now. Every morning, without fail, I receive a handful of flyers advertising candidates running for legislative and judicial government positions on the local and state levels. Every evening, the seats on the MetroNorth train are littered with these same flyers, forgotten by the passengers who never really wanted them from the get-go.

It’s a stark contrast to the political atmosphere I remember at Cornell University. At Cornell, politics are not absent from student conversations, but they typically focus on national and internal affairs. In addition, while national or state politicians sometimes speak at lectures on campus, my impression of these politicans generally came from what I saw of them in newspapers, magazines, and on the internet. Of course, other students’ opinions also shaped my perceptions of political figures, too. However, I don’t remember being especially concerned with local politics. I can name the current mayor of Ithaca, but only because he was a Cornell student not too long ago and everyone was excited about his connection to our campus.

My obliviousness to Ithaca’s local political scene may not be representative of the experiences most other Cornell students had, but it’s still an interesting change. I wonder why I didn’t feel more of that presence from local politicians campaigning before elections when I was as Ithaca like how I now feel the (almost intruding) presence of local politicians closer to New York City. Is that type of canvassing simply not a popular campaign tool up there? Or was I divorced from the local political scene because I was absorbed entirely by the events of the Cornell community? Or was that local politicians assumed that their time would be better spent pitching their ideas to townies (residents of Ithaca), who were more likely than I to show up to the voting booth on election day?

In any case, I’m unsure of what affect it would have had on my experience at Cornell if more local politicians came to campus and made a concerted effort of campaigning to students. I’m sure it would draw the ire of many students, much the dismay of the politicians themselves. Quarter-carders–students who distribute flyers for on-campus events in public spaces like Ho Plaza–already get a bad rep, and students running for student council positions are usually given the cold shoulder. Again, it would not surprise me if one explanation for why I didn’t see more local representatives at Cornell was that they knew most students don’t have the time to bother listening.

However, the other day, I passed by two middle-aged women who were handing out flyers to every commuter walking into the MetroNorth White Plains station. One was running for an open county council position; the other was running for Senate. I took their flyers, went upstairs to the train track, and learned that my train was running 10 minutes late. Suddenly, I got the idea to go back downstairs and ask the women about how they got to where they are now. Specifically, I wanted to now how they started out in politics. How does one even begin a career in that area? When does one even come to the point where “I want to be a politician” is a viable career dream?

And I did. For roughly ten minutes, I talked to one of those women and she told me about how she began her career in public service. She drew a lot of her support from organizations and communities she joined in college, and she pointed out that the other volunteers who were handing out her flyers that day were either from her church, her current workplace, or her old sorority. She didn’t know it then, but her activities at school and after school were helping her build the contacts and coalition she needed to pursue a political position.

So sometimes having the politicians come to you isn’t so burdensome or annoying. When you have the time, it can be nice to talk with them and have them answer some of your questions. Even ignoring their political ambitions and history, they are still people with unique experiences and perspectives on our communities. Talking with that women answered a question I was very curious about and also simultaneously reinforced the value of activities I am currently pursuing while in university. I may not vote for her, and I may not pursue politics as a career, but I learned something today that I didn’t know before and I learned it because that woman took the time out of her day to be available during mine.

That should be worth a minute or two on the way to class, don’t you think? 

The 5 Questions I Asked At Least 15 Times Before Getting a Credit Internship

Welcome to Part 3 of my 5-part obligation to post about Cornell academic credit internships!

If you’re a Cornell student (or prospective student) thinking about taking on an academic credit internship, then let me be the first to tell you that there are some questions you will need to ask at least a dozen times to your program’s coordinator. To save you that time, here are some of the answers I got from Cornell representatives during my application to the ILR Academic Credit Internship Program:

  1. Can you guarantee me on-campus housing when I get back? Sort of. Once you secure an internship position through one of Cornell’s academic internship programs, the program’s coordinators will direct you to Cornell’s housing department. There, you will receive specific instructions on how to cancel your housing contract for the semester you will be participating in your internship. Concurrently, you will receive instructions on how to apply for housing through Cornell’s housing portal for the following semester, when you will be returning. Regardless of whether you will be returning in the Spring or Fall semester, you will be able to participate in the housing lottery. However, beyond that point, securing on-campus housing becomes a gamble which you take on alone. Cornell University can guarantee you a spot in the housing lottery, but it is still a lottery. Given poor availability or bad luck, you might not be able to live in a building you like, to secure a room size (single, double, triple, etc.) you prefer, or to secure a room you can afford. Still, the housing department will reassure you that most Cornell students never have a problem finding housing through Cornell’s lottery. So rest easy. Know that you will most likely get a room…just not necessarily the room you would prefer.
  2. Is this going to affect my graduation? Probably not. Participating in an academic credit internship can only prevent your graduation in two scenarios. The first scenario is if, by taking a credit internship, it prevents you from completing the credit requirements outlined by your college. However, this scenario is unlikely because most credit internship programs require that you have completed all the required courses for your degree and have a certain number of credit hours already under your belt before you can participate in an internship. It doesn’t hurt to check again, though. I thoroughly recommend it. The second scenario is if you are already failing, or are close to failing, and you fail the seminar or other academic portions associated with your internship. Internship semesters can still affect your GPA, so students on the brink of academic failure shouldn’t rely on an academic credit semesters to be their “easy semester” in college. Once again, however, most programs have GPA requirements which would all but eliminate this possibility. So, 9 times out of 10, if you’re in a Cornell academic internship program, then there is nothing for you to fear regarding graduation. 
  3. When will I know if I’ve been chosen for an internship? Only God knows. My recommendation is to be patient, and expect an answer later rather than sooner. The window for internship offers ranges widely according to industry, companies, and internship type. For example, in my case, some of my classmates secured offers in late April and May when they applied in March. However, other students (including myself) applied in March as well and received their offers in late June, July, and early August. There are many factors which can contribute to the delay. A slow application process and high demand for the position will slow a company’s ability to choose its desired interns. Some industries advertise internship position earlier in the year and take longer to make their decisions. Other industries wait until the last minute but have perfect speedy applicant turnover.  It’s not ideal for you, the applicant, but expect that you might not hear if you even have an internship until several months after you apply. In all cases, checking in with your program coordinator can give you insight into how much longer you will have to wait.
  4. Is there anything else I’m supposed to be doing right now? At some point, you will finish your long to-do list and find yourself waiting for other actors to finish their ends of the deal. Don’t be restless. Check in periodically with your program coordinator to stay on the ball for each phase of the application process, but don’t annoy them with daily emails asking what to do next. Instead, demonstrate your conscientiousness by developing a list of tasks which need to be accomplished and assign them due dates. Completing this list early on in the process and having a program coordinator look over and verify that list can give you some peace of mind at later dates.
  5. How much money do I have to pay this semester? The tuition cost of an academic credit internship semester is, in almost all cases, the same as the tuition cost for spending a semester on-campus. The differential will lie in what you pay for housing, meals, transportation, and other academic expenses. While you won’t need to pay for on-campus or off-campus housing in Ithaca, the location of your internship may demand that you pay for housing in the city closest to your work site. Similarly, you will save on Cornell’s meal plans, but groceries are a new demon you will soon battle. Transportation costs are a new cost which surprises a lot of students, because on campus you can walk almost anywhere. However, depending on your housing and internship location during your internship semester, you may need to burn a couple hundred dollars on public transportation alone. These other costs depend on your particularly situation, and so only you can calculate it exactly. Instead of asking your  program coordinator for this estimate, I suggest you ask them for advice on where to find cheaper housing, transportation solutions, and the like. They might know of some things past students who have interned at your location have done to offset these costs. This advice is what you should be looking for; the math is on you.

And there you have it! I hope this post can be of some use to you. At the very least, I might save some internship program coordinator somewhere on Cornell campus a hour or two of answering these questions for a student 10 or 12 times. In any case, keep a look out for my last list post on academic credit internships, which will be coming out soon! In the meantime, check out some of my other posts below:

So, you want a credit internship…
How to Secure a Credit Internship (Resumes, Interviews, and Other Nuisances)
The 5 Answers I Had To Give At Least 15 Times Before Getting a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)
The Don’t-Forget List for After You’ve Gotten a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)

How to Secure a Credit Internship (Resumes, Interviews, and Other Nuisances)

Welcome to the 2nd post in our 4 part series on Cornell University’s Academic Credit Internships! If you’re interested in reading the first post, which explains what the first 5 things a Cornell student needs to do to get on track for participating in a credit internship, click on any word in this sentence. Not this sentence. Or this one. They will send you to…well, I actually don’t know. Good luck.

In any case, as promised, here are some tips on how to secure a credit internship after you have already applied to a credit internship program with Cornell:

  1. Read up on your internship postings. If you have been accepted by your college into their credit internship program, then your next step will to be to apply to specific internship opportunities at participating organizations. Typically, you will be informed by the program coordinator about how to view the internship postings for your credit internship program. Alternatively, you can look for internship posting on CCNet, a job posting forum available to Cornell students. You can also look on the career websites of organizations you are particularly interested in to see if they offer internship opportunities and discuss with your program coordinator if you can pursue those opportunities through an independent credit internship. These internship postings will state the qualifications you will need to apply, including minimum GPA levels, class years, and application procedures. Review these requirements carefully and make sure you understand all the steps you must take to apply completely for the position. Additionally, save a copy of the internship description, which typically contains expected responsibilities for the accepted intern. It will be useful to you later.
  2. Compose a resume and cover letter. The dreaded act of writing up a resume and cover letter is next. If you are not skilled at this mind numbing task, then consider going to on-campus events tailored to helping Cornell student perfect their resumes. For example, in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations, you can attend Resumaniacs, a regular event which occurs each semester in which Cornell representatives from the Office of Career Services critique your resume. You can also use OptimalResume, an online service which provides templates of resumes and cover letters which you can then customize and convert to other file formats. Additionally, you can pick up some informational publications at any of the Cornell libraries or your college’s Office of Career Services. I personally use a magazine I got my first year in ILR that contains a bunch of sample resumes, cover letters, and interview advice. However, you should pursue an array of options to find out what works for you.A quick tip: don’t try to make one general resume for all your internship applications. Customize your resume for the specific position you are applying for. Emphasize aspects of your work history which demonstrate your capacity to perform the specific responsibilities mentioned in the organization’s internship post. If all else fails and you are still unsure of your resume’s quality, go to your Office of Career Services and ask for some advice.
  3. Rock that interview! More often that not, if your resume piques the interest of a recruiter, they will want to interview you before offering you a position. This interview may be done in-person, via phone, or via video-chat (Skype, Google Chat, etc.). Preparing for the interview will be similar to preparing your resume. Again, you can attend on-campus events to practice your interview skills, and you can apply tips learned from Cornell’s related publications and representatives from the Office of Career Services. Most importantly, set yourself up for success by reviewing the job posting, preparing some answers for common or expected interview questions, and dressing well. Don’t be afraid to ask for a different date if the original date a recruiter asks to have their interview coincides with an exam date or other busy day in your schedule! So long as you ask them politely from the get-go, you will most likely be accommodated and can be more at ease for your interview. Just don’t abuse their generosity; show up on the date and time you agreed upon!
  4. Follow-up! Do it! Throughout the entire process, you should be following up with the recruiter of the organization for which you want to intern and to the director of your college’s credit internship program. Whenever you complete a new step in the process, send an email to these individuals to let them know you’re on track and still enthusiastic about the opportunity. For example, after your interview, you should thank whomever interviewed you for taking the time out of their day to talk with you. You should also let the director of your internship program know that you have been interviewed. These follow-ups are also helpful when you have questions or want to ensure you are doing things correctly. In addition, they can inform you of new opportunities they think you should apply for in the future…but only if you have communicated your interests clearly and have developed a good relationship with them!
  5. Rinse & Repeat. Make sure you continue to apply to new and relevant positions even as you are processing applications, submitting resumes, and completing interviews for desired internships. Not only will you get more experience (which will help you with applying for jobs later on), but you will increase your probability of getting chosen for an internship. However, once you have accepted a position, be sure to follow-up with all the other organizations for which you have applied to positions. Let them know you’re off the market. Otherwise, you will make enemies where enemies need not be made. Also let the director of your credit internship program know whenever you apply for a new position or when you accept an internship. They can then tailor their suggestions for future internships according to your past decisions, and they can inform other students who applied for whatever position you accept that they didn’t make the cut.

And there you have it. Hopefully these 5 tips were helpful, albeit general. As you follow these steps, be sure to check some of my later posts on how to apply for Cornell’s credit internship programs. I promise there will be at least one helpful tip in all that text; there is, after all, so much text.

So, you want a credit internship…
The 5 Questions I Asked At Least 15 Times Before Getting a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)
The 5 Answers I Had To Give At Least 15 Times Before Getting a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)
The Don’t-Forget List for After You’ve Gotten a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)

So, you want a credit internship…

As I promised, today’s post is all about how to secure a credit internship. More specifically, it’s the first of three posts about how to secure a credit internship. If you are a Cornell student (or prospective student) looking into a credit internship, then these posts are a good start for researching how to apply. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments section below! I’ll try my best to answer them…no promises, though.

So, to begin, here are the first 5 things you need to do to get on track:

  1. Check if you qualify for a credit internship program. Each college within Cornell University has its own internal credit and non-credit internship programs. Each of those programs, in turn, have their own requirements for application and range of opportunities. You can find out more information about the credit internship program relevant to your college by scheduling a meeting with a representative from your college’s Office of Student Services. You can also check out internship opportunities available in CCNet, a job posting forum available to all Cornell students. In these meetings and searches, pay close attention to those requirements which can affect your ability to apply. Specifically, look for restrictions like GPA requirements, credit requirements, deadlines for applying, and class year. Before getting yourself excited about the prospect of a credit internship program, it’s best to see whether or not you can even pursue one at this given time. Likewise, you might discover new opportunities previously unknown to you or discover that you have more time than expected to prepare for a credit semester.
  2. Ask yourself the big questions. Is it feasible for you, given your current circumstances, to pursue a credit internship program? Do you have enough credits and time before graduation to ensure that you can finish the credits necessary to graduate? How will you support yourself financially during your internship? Are there certain locations, industries, or organizations in which you would like to intern? Overall, you need to know from the onset what you can do and what you want to do. If they don’t match up, then you should talk to your family, friends, and other support groups to brainstorm how you can make this program work. Or, you may even want to reconsider taking on a credit internship altogether. By the end of your analysis, you should at least have a clearer idea about what you hope to gain from a credit internship. Ask yourself the most important question: what kind of internship would I need to have to make me better off for having had it?
  3. Express an interest in your program of choice. Now that you know which programs you can apply for and what kind of experience you want to have, pick out the opportunities which match your interests. Then, talk to the Cornell administrators of those programs and learn more about those opportunities. Tell them about what you are looking for and ask them if they think these programs are a good fit for you. They might point out something about the program–an additional requirement or special accomodation–which can shape your desire to apply. Then, ask them how you can get more information about the specific internship opportunities available in the program for the semester you want to apply for and about how you can apply. Attending relevant information sessions and talking to past participants in the program can be very helpful at this stage.
  4. Wait, you haven’t applied yet? Well, get moving! Assuming that after all your research you are still interested in applying for a credit internship program, you should apply quickly! Not so quickly that you do a terrible job in crafting your application, but still quick enough that the deadline doesn’t fly past you in a blur to your surprise! Be diligent. Mark deadlines on your calendar and review the application procedures for your program. Make a plan for how and when you are going to finish the different application components. Some programs just require an expression of interest to the program director and a resume. Others require a lot of paperwork. Don’t lose out on a great opportunity just because you forgot to apply on time!
  5. Don’t stop now! There is more applying to be done! Now that you’ve applied and been cleared by Cornell University to partake in their program, you have to convince your organization of choice to let you be their credit intern. Similar to applying for the program generally, you need to research what opportunities exist, consider how those opportunities align with your personal interests, take note of the deadlines and application requirements, and express interest in the position by attending related information sessions and other events. Once you’ve narrowed down the specific internship postings you can apply for and are interested in, you then need to apply for the position. Most often than not, this phase requires a resume, interview, and other documentation. I’ll cover these steps in a seperate blog post entirely. For now, just now that you’re not done until you’ve applied directly to those employers of interest. Make sure you apply through the correct channels, and double-check with your program director that you have taken all the required steps to apply for the postings you most want to acquire. Also, don’t settle for just one posting; cast a wider net (but only for positions relevant to your interest) in case some opportunities just don’t pan out.

Ladies and gentleman, if you have come this far then you have officially applied for a credit internship position through a Cornell University’s alternative semester program! Give yourself a pat on the back and a four-leaf clover for good luck.  Maybe even a cookie or two…or twelve…whatever makes you happiest.

I hope this information can help those readers who are seriously considering applying for a credit internship program. Once you are at the last step, consider reading some of my later posts to continue preparing yourself for the steps ahead. Here are some links to get you started:

How to Secure a Credit Internship (Resumes, Interviews, and All the Other Nuisances)
The 5 Questions I Asked At Least 15 Times Before Getting a Credit Internship
The 5 Answers I Had To Give At Least 15 Times Before Getting a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)
The Don’t-Forget List for After You’ve Gotten a Credit Internship (Coming Soon!)

The New Team: Work-Study & Blogging Off-Campus

Last week, the Life on the Hill bloggers had our first on-campus meeting for the Fall 2014 semester. Usually I attend these meetings in-person. However, I wasn’t on campus last week because of my participation in ILR’s NYC Fall credit internship program.  As result, I could only attend the meeting via Skype. Still, the whole crew was very friendly, and I met all the new students who joined our team this year. We even got together for a group picture before running off to our classes (or, in my case, to another meeting):

There I am on the left-hand side of the computer screen

There I am on the right-hand side of the computer screen

I greatly appreciate the Life on the Hill blogging team for allowing me to continue as a blogger off-campus. As some of my older readers know from previous posts, I rely heavily on my work-study allocation and on-campus jobs to make financial ends meet. While scholarships and federal financial aid pay the bulk of my tuition, other costs like housing, textbooks, meals, and the like come out of my family’s pocket. Having jobs on campus allows me to pitch in and pay for some of those expenses myself.

In past posts, I’ve talked about how difficult it can be for students to find jobs or work-study employment in Ithaca. The Life on the Hill student blogger position isn’t a work-study job, but it pays monthly and the work is flexible enough to  maintain easily alongside other work-study employment on campus. It isn’t the highest paying job I’ve had, but it is the only job which isn’t site-specific. That means I can do the work at any time and at any place, so long as I finish before the end-of-the-week deadline.

As a Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior undergraduate student, I never considered flexibility to be a quality more valuable than pay in an on-campus job. Sure, it was a factor to consider; flexibility was extremely important in balancing my academics and work. Ultimately, however, a higher pay meant that I could cover my bills in a shorter time frame, making it a necessity rather than just a convenience.  I didn’t mind walking in the snow for several miles each weekend to a job site if it meant I could cover my expenses within a week, instead of within a month.

Being able to eat tomorrow always trumped being able to sleep in today. 

Nevertheless, I kept the student blogger job anyway because it was easy to maintain and I enjoyed writing. As a Senior, it is now the only job (aside from my internship) which I still have. I never would have predicted as a younger student that, of all the jobs I would come to have, blogging would be the only job I would retain by Senior year. What I never considered back then was how on-campus employment changes when you participate in an off-campus alternative program. Suddenly, that job which is just a few miles away in the snow is now an impossible 200+ miles away. The jobs which aren’t site-specific are now the only jobs you can have because you no longer live on campus.

Participating in an off-campus program isn’t without its costs, either. You still have to pay tuition and, although you maintain most of your financial aid package, it can be modified in ways you weren’t expecting. For example, my work-study allocation was severely reduced and a federal loan was added to make up the difference. Other students experienced similar changes, as well. It’s difficult to predict what your tuition costs will be for an alternative semester because of these variances. As result, it can also be difficult to prepare for, making student employment even more critical in covering tuition.

Furthermore, while you might not have a housing contract with Cornell, you still have to pay for housing and meals. In my case, my internship is located near my family’s home and I can live there. However, other students needed to rent out apartments in the city–a huge cost. In both cases, there is the added worry of transportation. Train and bus tickets, accumulated every day for 14-16 weeks, can easily add up to a sum equal to or greater than what you would spend traditionally on textbooks.

Cornell doesn’t surprise you with these costs; when you apply, Cornell representatives will tell you time and again that you need to have a financial plan for surviving the semester before accepting any internship. However, those representatives can’t warn you of these costs in your Freshman year, when you are looking for work-study employment and haven’t even considered alternative semesters. You have to anticipate that need for yourself and consider more flexible employment which can accommodate for that special semester.

I was lucky to have this job when I was suddenly acquired my current credit internship. I didn’t scramble at the last minute to find employment I could retain alongside my internship off-campus. There were no hurdles or obstacles; I simply continued working with Life on the Hill as if nothing had changed. Now it helps me pay off my train tickets each month, bringing me to and from my internship every day of the week. It doesn’t pay nearly as much as my prior on-campus jobs, but it covers the one expense I can’t reduce by moving back home, making subtle lifestyle changes, or applying for a new financial aid package. For that financial security, I am especially grateful.

So I have some advice to give to younger students currently looking for on-campus jobs. I still maintain the belief that jobs with better pay and some flexibility are the best positions you can acquire on-campus. It pays the bills the fastest and, while it may not be convenient, it won’t interfere with your academics. However, if you are at all thinking about participating in an off-campus program at any time during your undergraduate career, put a heavier weight on job flexibility in your job search. Look for non-site-specific jobs in Cornell’s job postings and around campus. Try them out while you’re still on-campus to make sure you like the work and that the work is manageable. Ask if the position can be held by students participating in credit internships, study-abroad programs, and the like. Taking the time to research these opportunities in advance will save you a lot of trouble when you want to transition into an alternative program later on. Don’t get caught  without a job at a time when you really need it. The alternative is to save up your money so you can go without working for a semester or, even harder, forfeiting the alternative semester opportunity altogether.

Instead, be prepared. Take the well-paying job now but keep an eye out on those other, more flexible positions. Doing so will keep your academic opportunities open. For students with similar financial needs to myself, this diligence is a necessity.

Not a convenience.