Monday, February 27, 2012

Albany Internship and Future Plans for Verrazano Junior

Nicole Wallace, Class of 2013, is spending her spring semester as an intern with the New York State Senate in Albany.  Read below for Nicole's second post from her spring internship in Albany.

This is Nicole Wallace again, writing from Albany for the second time this semester. Lately I have been given more responsibilities around the office. I still carry out the small day-to-day tasks of sorting mail and answering phones; however, I have taken a great part in tracking legislation. Tracking legislation is one of the most important tasks in the office. I am notified by email when one of my Senator’s proposed bills is moved from either the committee or the floor. It is my responsiblity to note such movements and make sure the bills are given the proper consideration by each committee. The most difficult part of my job is getting bills moved from committees to the Senate floor. I have to constantly write letters and call committees to try my best to get each bill moved.

Working in Albany for Senator Tom Libous has been amazing. It’s a great feeling to get up every morning, put on a newly dry cleaned suit and walk to work. I have been gaining a tremendous amount of experience, especially working with some of the legislation software. My office has a great deal of unique software that not only helps me track bills, but also helps me research statistics and various articles.

The academic part of the internship is very informative. Each week a different speaker comes to talk with us. Last week we were visited by a women named Kelly Lopez who deals with the budget process. She not only provided the group with some great information, but also offered advice about graduate school. She advised that if we wanted to get into the political science field, it would be best to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration. I never thought about it before and actually decided to research the idea. I found it as a great option and I am currently thinking about pursuing the idea after graduation.

Interns in Albany (from left to right):
Jeremy (senior at SUNY Old Westbury), James (first international intern from Uganda),
Isis (senior at CUNY Baruch), Jake (senior at CUNY Hunter)

At first I was skeptical about the idea of living in Albany for four months. I knew I would be homesick and I was right. However, after working in Albany for over a month, I began to become less homesick and more drawn to the Albany lifestyle. I am actually considering moving to Albany after graduation for law school to gain my JD and Master’s in Public Administration.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Verrazano Student is a Volunteer All-Star!

Angela Dauge, Verrazano Class of 2014, volunteers regularly at Project Homefront and has logged over 150 hours since last year.  Below she shares more about her experience with the organization and how others can get involved.

Staten Island Project Home front (SIPH) is an organization I stumbled upon through a friend while I was looking for different volunteer activities to participate in. It is a non-for-profit organization that collects donations, packs boxes of supplies and ships them every 6 weeks to servicemen and women from Staten Island, New York, or close to New York who are deployed overseas. SIPH collects donations in any form, such as monetary donations or items to send in packages, and it is all tax deductible.

Jack Semich (Executive Director), Angela Dauge (Verrazano volunteer),
Debbie Parsons (Packing and Shipping Committee Chair)

A typical day at Project Home front sometimes consists of organizing paperwork, whether it is letters that are being sent in the boxes or putting together flyers for the organization. Besides paperwork, a big part of the volunteer experience is making care packages for deployed military personnel overseas. Care packages consists of snacks, drinks, sanitary products, shirts, activities (games, puzzle books, magazines), and whatever else is requested. On each day I go to volunteer I am surrounded by caring people who dedicate their time to help others. The environment couldn’t be friendlier or more welcoming than it already is.

Staten Island Project Home front is always looking for community service volunteers to help out, either on a regular day, or during their specialized packing and shipping days. Even after fulfilling my community service requirement I still return at least once a week for the fun of it, and it’s always a great feeling to know you’re doing something that helps others.

There are many reasons I decided to stick with Project Home front as opposed to other community service projects. Being a child of a military veteran, I’ve always been interested in helping out service members anyway I could. After everything they do on a daily basis, they deserve much more recognition and appreciation than they are receiving (such as being denied a parade after coming home from almost a decade long war, yet a football team who won a Super-bowl were given a parade within 48 hours). I feel every little bit of assistance they can receive helps. Many soldiers overseas don’t have a family at home sending them packages or letting them know that they care, so it’s nice to know that the seemingly little bit of time I take out of my day can make a difference. After volunteering there for a few months and reading some of the letters sent back from overseas, I’ve realized what a difference a simple package makes. Sometimes I realize how much we take for granted here, especially when realizing the gratitude expressed by complete strangers for taking the time out to send simple products that they miss such as their favorite snacks, drinks, etc. Every little bit always helps.

If anyone is interested in volunteering and receiving community service hours, the hours of operation for SIPH are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9am until 1pm.  They are located in the basement of the Moravian Church, 2205 Richmond Road, Staten Island, New York.  Any donations of goods for care packages can be dropped off at that address, and any monetary donations can be sent in check form to:

Staten Island Project Homefront
471 Bement Avenue
Staten Island, New York, 10310

Their website is You can find a list of needed items as well as packing and shipping dates for the 2012 year. A list of events they are taking part in is also listed on the website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Snorkeling and Starry Nights in Australia

Joe Bushman, Class of 2014, shares some of the highlights of his winter intersession in Australia.

This was truly one of the best things I have decided to do with my life so far. Everyone in the program seemed to enjoy themselves, even though the school work was a lot heavier than many of us expected it to be. There were many nights where a large group of students from the trip would go to the school after hours to work on their essays. I know I spent a few nights in the computer lab just trying to make sure I was able to complete my work on time. This was probably one of the first times I did not procrastinate writing my papers. I felt the need to be much more organized while I was there because of the limited time we had there. That alone was a big learning experience for me because I usually put things off to the last minute.

I’ve been told for years now that I belong in either California or Australia because of my personal interests and personality. Because of that, I did not feel as much of a culture shock from the Australians as I did living with dorming college students. It was something that I never got to experience being a commuter student at C.S.I. Having a roommate was weird at first because I didn’t even know his name until I arrived at the apartments, but that shock faded quickly over the first few days.

Outside of class, but still through the program, we all took a bus out to the Great Ocean Road where we were able to see a beautiful coast line and go surfing.  I have surfed before so I was extremely excited to go surfing there. I was slightly disappointed in the wave sizes but it was a program for beginning surfers, so I wasn’t actually expecting too much. It was still fun talking to the locals and instructors about surfing here in the states.

Group Jump

Surfing by the Great Ocean Road

Later on in the trip we rented a couple cars and had a local tell us about a waterfall that was just a couple hours outside of Geelong. It turns out that it took us almost four hours to get there, but it was definitely worth the car ride there. The waterfall was beautiful and we saw a ton of wild kangaroos and Cockatoo. I was one of four people who went to the waterfall and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. On the way back home, it was approaching midnight and we were on a long stretch of road with no streetlights for miles. I looked up at the sky and told my friend Kash to stop the car. At first he didn’t want to but my other friend Jasmine convinced him to after I explained they would see something that they will probably never see again. We pulled over to the side of the highway and all got out of the car, everyone was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the stars. We saw two ufos that were probably some kind of space rock drifting around in space. This was the second greatest moment of the trip.

Waterfall three hours outside of Geelong

My favorite moment was getting to do something I have wanted to do for at least the last ten years of my life. I finally got to go to the Great Barrier Reef and go snorkeling and scuba diving. This was just unreal seeing all of the different kinds of coral and fish living in one place. On the boat I took a thirty minute lesson about some of the coral and creatures living in the reef. I already knew some of the stuff they were telling us, but I did not know that one of the most dangerous creatures there was actually a cone snail. While snorkeling I actually saw one of them and made sure to steer clear of it because its venom can kill an adult male in as little as ten to fifteen minutes. I brought my underwater camera with me for this part of the trip specifically and I was able to bring it down to thirty feet below the surface and get some pretty cool photos. If anyone is interested in doing this trip I will gladly talk to them about it.

Clowning around in the Great Barrier Reef

Joe holding a sea cucumber

Friday, February 3, 2012

Art, Gelato, and Weekend Outings in Italy

Deryn Cro, Class of 2012, has returned from Florence, Italy!
I had such an amazing time in Italy and cannot speak more highly of my experience in Florence. I am really happy with my decision to take art history over the winter intersession, despite the fact that three weeks just didn’t feel like enough time! Studying art in the birthplace of the Renaissance really gave me a new perspective on the subject. I enjoyed being able to visit and actually see what was being discussed in class; it also came in handy when out walking around with friends! I am looking forward to applying what I learned about the art world to my work as an archivist in the future. I am sure having this information and experience will prove to be quite valuable.

Top of the Duomo
When reflecting on a trip to Italy it is also crucial to mention the food! I don’t think I will able to look at pasta or pizza for a while. I started every morning with a hot chocolate and croissant. Having never had Italian hot chocolate before, I was immediately hooked! It is a lot thicker than what we have here and is something I will have to try and replicate at home. Lunch and dinner consisted of a rotation between pasta and pizza, which was eaten not by the slice but by the pie. While in Italy I learned that despite the mild weather, gelato is something that can and should consumed at all times of the day. Italians have a very different relationship with their food than we do here in the US. Everything is prepared fresh which makes quite a difference in taste. Even the prepackaged foods don’t taste overly processed. Portions were smaller most of the time but this was often offset by the richness of the food. I do wish that the idea of the doggie bag was more accepted. Many times I was so stuffed I had to leave food on my plate; this also would have significantly cut down on the cost of food. Italian food certainly deserves its highly regarded reputation. I am already having gelato withdrawals, thankfully I have found a few places on Staten Island that sell it. 

Locks on a bridge in Rome. 
Padlocks are attached to fences, gates or bridges by lovers
to symbolize their everlasting love.
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.
During my study abroad experience I also got the opportunity to do a little traveling around Italy. For the first weekend I went to Rome and the Vatican City. Over the next weekend I went on a vineyard tour and wine tasting in the Chianti Valley and the next day took a trip to Milan to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Out the trips I took, Milan was my favorite.  I really wish I had been able to go for longer than a day. I liked that Milan felt like a real city, Rome was beautiful but it was clearly a major tourist destination -  after all, all roads do lead there. Milan had a great atmosphere and I wish I could have explored it more.
Chianti Valley
Chianti Valley Landscape

Being able to visit Florence during the winter intersession was such a valuable experience to me. I met amazing people and got to see things I had only read about. I am already looking forward to going back!   

Milan Cathedral