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IMG_3771Welcome back to the Corvias Connects blog! We have been working hard to  make a better blog for connecting our group.  We hope you find the posts to be interesting, helpful, and inspiring. Be sure to check for new posts each Thursday evening.  If you have suggestions or are interested in joining the blog project team, please feel free to use our contact pages.  Happy Reading!

Katie Newton, Blog Editor

The Arts of Timing & Comparison

Sometimes it is difficult to think of a blog topic that may interest, or draw the attention of, many people. I honestly thought about and started writing intros for a few topics and quickly lost interest or realized I didn’t have much to talk about. However, something that has been on my mind & heart for the last few weeks is the importance of timing and not comparing yourself to others.

Whether it be in terms of when to have an important conversation, when to make your next move career wise, when to start a family/relationship, when to get a pet, when to go back to school, or anything in between, proper timing is essential. The outcome often depends on whether the timing is correct – and this is something that I’ve personally struggled with. Most often, the struggle comes from comparing my life to someone else’s, though our stories are always 100% different.

Over the last few months, I’ve fallen victim to comparing the timing in my life to the timing in other people’s lives. As I’ve heard and experienced myself, what others show you via social media and often what they tell you via their words tends to be a “highlight reel” or a culmination of the best things happening. When people are celebrating the victories that you wish you were celebrating for yourself, they often leave out the specifics about the hard work, pain, and suffering that may have gone on in order to achieve these victories.

When people get a dog, they don’t post pictures on social media of the accidents the dog has inside, the 4 am wake up calls to go to the bathroom, the chewed up furniture/clothing items, or the times when the dog just won’t leave them alone despite them spending all day with them. Instead, you get cute pictures of a precious animal that makes it seem like that is how they are 100% of the time.

When people post pictures of their newly-earned diploma, they may caption it with words that allude to the idea that it wasn’t easy, but there isn’t enough space for them to write about all of the things they went through over the 4+ years it took to achieve it.

I believe that our Corvias family should be a group of people who embrace individuality instead of comparing ourselves to each other. It has been so refreshing to see people’s vulnerability and accomplishments through posts in our Facebook group, and to see other people genuinely congratulating them. However, if you are one who sees accomplishments and milestones happening for seemingly everyone else in your life and have been wondering why these things aren’t happening for you – I encourage you to evaluate whether or not the timing is right. If it is – think about how you could better your chances. If it is not, don’t worry – continue to believe in your abilities without comparing your situation to others.

Welcome to 2018’s New Corvias Scholars and Alumni

Corvias in Boston 2018

My Fellow Graduates and New Corvias Scholars,

I first want to say, congratulations to the new graduates and welcome to the new scholars! Meeting the new scholars and reconnecting with the 2018 class in Boston was a rejuvenating experience. Being with such a dynamic and accomplished group of scholars left me feeling even more inspired to set new goals and start my new beginning in graduate school. As myself and many others begin to walk through the doorway of a new season in life, I want to spend some time reflecting on the potential of a new beginning.

Two years ago, I was sitting in an Ancient Philosophy class with one of my beloved philosophy professors, and he made a remark that has stuck with me. Plato said “The beginning is the most important part of the work”. My professor said this quote in reference to what felt like a thousand page long essay about the importance of philosophical thought but it applies to so much more than just academia. New beginnings are a blank slate that have endless possibilities, and sometimes this can lead to difficulty in identifying where to start in your new beginning.

Whether you are just joining your campus community, joining the workforce, or continuing your education, choosing where to start in your journey can be a daunting task. The possibilities can be overwhelming. There is so much blank space to work with, but I encourage each of you to walk into the unfamiliar and begin painting that picture that is your new life.

To all those starting undergrad this fall– congratulations on your accomplishment! I hope during this new and potentially challenging time, you lean on your Corvias family for support and guidance because believe it or not, we have all been there before. You are not alone in this journey and we want nothing more for you than to see your success and help you through your shortcomings.

To those of us who just graduated– I am so proud of our accomplishments and the change we have made on our campuses and in our community. I hope you continue to engage with the ever expanding Corvias family and continue to take advantage of the opportunities that this community presents us with.

So whether you are beginning your undergraduate career, going to graduate school, starting a new job, or still trying to figure out what’s next in your life, I wish you luck on your new beginning. I will leave you with this quote from Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Welcome to your new beginning!

Scholar Spotlight: Katelyn Mann

Current Corvias scholar Katelyn Mann recently finished a semester spent studying abroad with the School for International Training in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Katelyn is heading into her senior year at Green Mountain College in Vermont and is a passionate advocate for sustainable agriculture and community development. Her incredible adventures and rich learning in Argentina are a testament to the power of study abroad experiences, and Katelyn agreed to discuss her experience with the Corvias Connects blog so that other members of our community can use her experiences as a way to better understand what it’s like to live and learn abroad.

  • What made you want to study abroad?

As an army brat with both parents in the service growing up, I moved 19 times and never lived in a place for more than two years until college arrived. I attend Green Mountain College, a small (less then 500 students) environmental studies and sustainability-focused university located in rural Vermont. Two weeks into my freshman year at Green Mountain, I moved onto a student cooperative where I lived in the same room and community for two and a half years before I spent junior spring studying in Argentina.  It is an incredible feeling having a comfortable place to settle into and call home, but with my childhood structure I have the wanderlust and ants-in-my-pants lifestyle sewn into my personality. I knew I needed to step out of Green Mountain for a bit to come back for my senior year rested and rejuvenated. I also wanted to expand my educational horizons—I am a huge believer in the power of experiential education and gaining wisdom through exploration. I worked at a dairy cooperative in Peru during a gap year before starting college for this reason. I wanted to step once again into a completely different environment to see how what I was learning about sustainable community development at Green Mountain applied in another context.

  • How did you decide to study in Argentina?

Argentina suffered one of the most recent dictatorships in South America, ending in 1983. In 2001, Argentina suffered an extreme economic crisis. These two disastrous historic periods set the seeds for strong grassroots social movements in Argentina focusing on human rights, social justice, and environmental justice that still thrive today. I wanted to study the growth and theory behind these social movements, especially with the current political environment in the U.S. and the growth of social movements state side. At Green Mountain, I study sustainable community development and agroecology. I love looking into participatory planning, community led facilitation, and other tools for locally led development. Grassroots participation in social movements is a huge tool for positive change.

  • Could you explain to us what the School for International Training is, and how its programs work?

First off- SIT is incredible. Here is their mission statement: “SIT prepares students to be interculturally effective leaders, professionals, and citizens. In so doing, SIT fosters a worldwide network of individuals and organizations committed to responsible global citizenship. SIT fulfills this mission with field-based academic study abroad programs for undergraduates and accredited master’s degrees and certificate programs for graduates and professionals.” SIT has college study abroad programs—semester and summer—all around the world, focused on critical issues such as environmental health and sustainability, just urban development, peace studies, immigration and discrimination. Incredibly important current topics. The programs are run by local staff and the professors are from local universities or organizations, where ever you are. Many of their programs in Latin America are taught in Spanish, which is why I was first drawn to the program. They have a reputation for being an academically challenging, and rewarding, program. I would say that to be absolutely true. During my program, we were based in Buenos Aires at a faculty office space in a building which we shared with a few other research organizations and NGOs. We had lectures and classes by professors that were the experts of their fields- we would be reading articles written by our professors. We took two large trips—around 10-14 days—in which we traveled in the South and North of Argentina to meet social movements and organizations and learn about their place-based issues, work, and campaigns. While in the city, we had opportunities to meet with urban movements and organizations and join or observe protests and manifestations (which in Buenos Aires, happen a few times a week). The topics of the issues ranged, as did the backgrounds of the students, so each of us had the opportunity to focus in on what we were most passionate about. The semester was packed full, and the best experiential education opportunity I have ever had.

  • What kinds of classes did you take in Argentina?

I took History of Human Rights in Argentina, Social Movements Theory, Research Methods and Ethics, Spanish, and in my last month I completed an Internship and mini-thesis with the agroecological cooperative Iriarte Verde.

  • What has it been like to live in Argentina?

Living in Buenos Aries was hectic, fun, and smelly. I play Ultimate Frisbee, which has a small but loyal following in Buenos Aires. I joined a women’s and a mixed team and made amazing friends on my teams. Argentineans are night owls, so I got very little sleep throughout the semester, even though I am not much of a partier. I bought a teammate’s old bike and we would bike around the city late at night when the traffic had subsided, exploring new neighborhoods and stopping at various plazas to toss a frisbee and drink mate (a traditional South American caffeinated beverage). One of my favorite hangout spots was a bright light lively bar with a vast amount of ping pong tables, free on Tuesday nights. Coming from rural Vermont, living in Buenos Aires seemed like the exact opposite of the setting of my last years of college. Plenty of great restaurants and cafes to explore, various public university faculties that offered open lectures, cultural centers all across the city that hosted free dance classes—you can fill up all your time in a city like Buenos Aires. I loved it, although I did get to the point in which I yearned deeply for a large expansive forest. But the overall best part of living in Buenos Aires was the people—my ultimate teammates and a few students at the University of Buenos Aires that I befriended and I will always keep in touch. I plan to return, and I still send frequent WhatsApp voice memos to my buds to keep my Spanish in tune.

  • Have you been able to travel much previously? What have been some of your favorite experiences?

I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, mostly for educational opportunities and conference participations. The most impactful experience was traveling to Peru after graduating high school and living in a small rural village in the mountains, learning and interning at an organic dairy cooperative. I was able to help herders milk their cows, see the centuries old method of community water management, and facilitate a discussion about community sustainability issues at one of the monthly meetings. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn from the cooperative and community members. Another highlight was my first time couchsurfing (an online platform that connects travelers with locals who are willing to host travelers for free for a night or two). I was traveling before a conference I had received a scholarship to attend in Australia. I spent a week with an artist in Sydney, who was also hosting a German women and a Polish family. We all went dumpster diving in the evenings at the organic grocery stores and cooked dinners together, sharing recipes and travel stories. It was incredible to see the generosity and curiosity of everyone, and realize how similar we all are, sharing human emotions and sentiments. My travels have taught me to relish diversity and be open to new experiences at every turn.

  • What has surprised you about the study abroad experience?

What surprised me the most was the lack of curiosity some students had for the unknown and new experiences. I would suggest to anyone studying abroad to put a lot of effort into making local friends and practicing the local language. The study abroad experience can be exponentially improved by breaking out of your comfort bubble.

  • What have you missed most about the United States?

The ability to buy hummus and good, inexpensive vegetarian food. In Vermont, I am fortunate to have a proliferation of local farms around, making access to organic fresh produce easier than in Buenos Aires, or in many areas of the United States. I had a difficult time finding good lunch or snack foods for an affordable price.

  • What advice would you give Corvias Scholars who are thinking of studying abroad?

Get out of your comfort zone to make friends from wherever you are. Join a sport, or art class, or try to go on a date—whatever. Just get out there. Don’t ever be embarrassed by your language abilities—just practice and try to speak the language as much as possible. When my Argentinean friends speak to me in English, I always respond in Spanish, showing them my stubbornness and want to improve. And if you like a bike, try finding one. It made my daily commute much easier and opened up access to the city for me.