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Posts Tagged ‘first year’

Earlier this week my policy group and I officially completed the first round of lab.  It was definitely a tough haul but everything worked out in the end.  The process itself is very interesting: we spent several weeks going in one direction on the project, but then had to shift and go in another direction – two weeks before we had to present to the client.  With the deadline looming, we re-worked our entire analysis, even to the last minute.  After our briefing, we went to work on the analytic brief, adding information that didn’t make it to the briefing, filling in spots that the client requested, and clarifying key points.  Five people working on one document – not a party.  The whole thing was stressful, time consuming, and very irritating.  The result?  The client is very pleased.

Lab really is one of those experiences that helps you grow as a student, as a professional, and as a person.  Yes it’s stressful.  Yes it’s time consuming.  Yes it’s irritating.  But it’s good for the soul.  And I really do mean that.  Depending on the group you have, you can build very strong bonds with your group mates.  That 12-hour analysis session of yesterday will be the nostalgic joke of tomorrow that you all laugh about.  You learn to work with people.  You learn to compromise.  You learn when to lead and when to follow, when to speak up and when to shut up.  It’s tough, rough, and not fun by any recreation standards.  And it’s all worth it.

On Monday I’ll get a new group and a new policy issue.  And it will all begin again.

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I’ve just started my second semester here at Milano.  As an urban policy student, I’ve been thrust into the intensive experience know as the laboratory in issue analysis.  It’s technically a course but it’s more like being a consultant with training wheels.  My only other class is statistics (we’re advised to take only one course in addition to the lab).  The change from first semester to second semester is quite dramatic.  Last fall I was taking four classes and auditing a language course.  With a total of five classes my schedule was packed.  This semester I have a lot more leeway as to how to spend my time, which is a double-edged sword.  Structure can help one focus.  At least, it helps me focus.  With the lab, my schedule is much more fluid.  I may have different commitments from week to week, so time management is essential.

On top of navigating the lab, being a second semester student brings its own challenges.  In one sense I’m veteran, having completed a quarter of the program.  In another sense I still feel like a new student since I’ve been in class for less than six months.  After coming back from a long winter break, there’s a bit of disorientation.  Some of my classmates from the fall have switched to other programs within the school and so I hardly see them anymore.

On the flip side, I haven’t really spent time with most of the people in the urban policy program yet, much less the entire school.  The policy lab will definitely give me an opportunity to do that.  So plenty of opportunities lie ahead.  First semester was great (and tough), but now we move onward to meet new people, make new friends, and tackle to social issues of the day.

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Growing up there were always those kids who relished the last day of school. They counted every day, hour, second until the final ringing of the bell and the opportunity to loosen the tie and to get out the ‘monkey suit’ commonly known as our school uniform.  For me I knew that summer just meant a different schedule, but structure none the less. By college I regarded summer break as the opportunity to process and store away the previous semester before returning to the trough in the Fall. Part of the beauty of having 4 years to complete undergrad is if you fall of track you have time to get back on track … or at least a summer or two to find your way back.

This June as I finished up my first semester I found myself exhausted. Mostly mentally exhausted but by proxy a little bit physically exhausted.  For my first semester I expected more reading. I expected a scheduling that would be a challenge having hoofed it from 9 to 5 for the last few years.  I expected a learning curve for writing, and most of all I expected to be physically exhausted by the end of the semester.  What I definitely didn’t expect was the group process to kick my tail. It challenged me at times, it begged me to catch up at other times and most of all by the end of the semester I realized it had enriched what I learned through the course readings.  By June I had transformed into one of those kids counting off the days to the ‘official’ start of summer.  I spent a few weeks trying to get back some semblance of my pre-grad school schedule. I spent another few weeks decompressing….and boy was that fun.  But before I knew it I was hit with the panic.

For the full time (2 year program) student you have one summer to make sure you haven’t fallen off track, aren’t about to fall off track or to figure out what your track should be. Many, arguably most paid internships take place during the summer (corporations/organizations use paid internships geared towards grad students as a stop gap on projects during the summer months when salaried employees are often using vacation time). Besides the internship route summer makes an excellent time for figuring out post program fellowships.  By the time I decompressed and before I knew it…it was July and I had 35 days  left  to summer.

Of course by July most paid internships are gone. While I’ve squandered part of my summer and have lost some internship opportunities I’ve been plugging away with figuring out the post-school-fellowship-thing. Also to make sure I am on track to finish up strong in my program I have been reworking my resume, updating my interview skills, working references, looking for spring or (next) summer internship opportunities that I will be able to parlay into employment opportunities …. cause the job market is no joke.  While summer is about decompressing it is more about keeping focus for year 2 and staying on track to capitalize on the grad school experience.

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Welcome to all of the incoming Milano students!

I was lucky enough to help out this week with new student orientation. Thanks to many of my fellow classmates (Tanya, Johanna, Julian, Rachel, Galina, Amy, Eugene, Tushar, Steve, Marie, Eric, Shana, Sally, Evelyn, Analia, Dania, Bryan, Christine, Ritu, Helen, Vicki and others) all new students who were in town were able to get an proper welcome to Milano and New York City. I enjoyed meeting two new students at our Dutch Treat lunch at Artichoke Pizza (woo-hoo to Jimmy and Ilana!) and many other students at our informal happy hour. My favorite event of the week was the Student-to-Student potluck dinner. For this event many of the continuing students mentioned above cooked and prepared delicious food for a potluck dinner held at 65 5th Avenue on the 7th floor. It was wonderful to chat with all students (new and old) while enjoying home cooked German  potato salad, summer bean/corn salad, chocolate chip cookies and generous amounts of beans and rice! The event was so successful that many of the attendees trickled over to Bar 13 to continue getting to know each other and catch up. I am happy to say that I was inspired by these fun events and truly look forward to the beginning of the semester!

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