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!)