Oberlin Blogs

Takeaways and Lasting Impressions

February 9, 2014

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

Happy first week back, everyone! A couple posts behind and many a themed idea later, here is a final rundown of my Winter Term and a few possibilities for what might be next for me.

What did I do exactly?
I spent a month in New Orleans, LA, interning at a charter high school, Sci Academy, in the college success department mainly focusing on resource development. A lot of my time was spent revamping student resources that were already in place as well as adding new ones (like an alumni wordpress blog!). Something that I truly enjoyed was interacting with students through one-on-one meetings, workshops and q&a sessions that my friend Tiffany and I hosted for students. As far as my Mellon research goes, I really wanted to get a comparative feel for the educational landscape by unpacking what I saw daily in school, analyzing some statistics on black achievement and interacting with different educational leaders to get their perspective on educational attainment.

What did it matter?
The cool thing about Winter Term is that it is what you make of it. My initial reason for going was to visit my friend and host, Sheena, alongside my other friend Tiffany. We got that done and had a ball together both at home and at work. Equally important as enjoying the folks I was with, I was offered yet another opportunity to apply my Africana Studies and Sociology majors into a job setting. Thankfully, I discovered that a high school environment is not the place that I feel best suited to be, so back to the drawing board. On top of that, I now have a solid context for my research that I would not have necessarily picked up from the literature. My next research moves will be more impactful and intentional since I now have a base of experience, fact and scholarly literature going forward.

Did I learn anything about myself?
Tons! In the course of reflecting on my experiences in NOLA through my Winter Term blog, I was able to see the progression of my own maturity. Simply put, I could see myself growing up and writing my own story right in front of me. The kind of growth I experienced was far deeper than I would ever have expected, but, of course, I am incredibly grateful for it. Some things about myself have been reaffirmed like my love for the little things, close relationships and doing randomly silly things with my friends. At the same time, a few things are being re-evaluated for me like career choice, and that is all good too.

What is the most significant takeaway?
Perhaps the most significant takeaway is that everything is contingent on points of perspective. Many times during my internship, I was challenged to see that there was more than one way to problem solve and understand where people are coming from. My friend Tiffany, in particular, is amazing in the way that she connects with and motivates students, which often left me awestruck at her abilities. The bottom line is that Tiff is amazing and part of her being so incredible is that she was able to make me better by offering another perspective, pushing back at me to unpack what I meant and really asking me what I thought about things in a deep manner. As a team, we are incredibly strong and I now see the value in teamwork and what it can do when cultivated properly. All in all, my internship gave me several opportunities to see the merit in having diverse ideas brought to the table since no one person has the all-inclusive solution.

So to encapsulate my broader thematic intention, I will leave you with a quote taken from one of my Winter Term postings entitled "Simple Joys are the Best Joys":

"It's the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them." ~ Paul Coelho

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