[From January 2016]
This winter break held special significance to me, since it is the last while at SIPA – I graduate in May. It was also poignant as perhaps the last winter break when I feel like a student and a young person, with future “winter breaks” likely spent as an adult, likely wherever my career will send me, and with other potential added personal responsibilities. True to myself, I made sure to leave time for “work” and “play” (no “break” has ever been completely a break for me – I feel unproductive and quickly get frustrated if I sit idly by for too long, even in the most magnificent of sceneries), but uncharacteristically, this time, I “played” first and “worked” later.
My significant other surprised me with a wonderful Christmas escapade to Quebec City (see main photo), where we enjoyed an enchanted few days at Château Frontenac (we have a thing for castles – last time we stayed in one, it was in Tuscany’s beautiful Castello di Montegufoni) and took our time exploring the charming bistros hidden all about Vieux Quebec (I highly recommend “Bistro Sous-Le-Fort”, almost at the foot of the Funiculaire), as well as holiday markets and other attractions. I relished in the opportunity to converse in French on non-professional matters (since I get plenty of “professional talk” in my work at the UN), and also enjoyed knowing that, while in a very different world, I was only a few hours away from my beloved City. I first discovered Quebec in 2008, attending the World Youth Congress – it was my first stop on this continent, and I made my way to the US afterwards, to start college. It was therefore a nostalgic, almost full-circle return to the beginning of the 8 years I have now spent in the US, and marking the beginning of a soon-to-unfold next chapter in my life, where I expect my career to take me outside of the US.In January, it was time for “work,” and I flew to Kansas to work in the presidential archives in Abilene with a group of fellow Columbia students as part of my European Institute research fellowship. My work on Cold War diplomacy and Radio Free Europe, while extremely rewarding, was also tiresome, and the very limited healthy options for food intensified the feeling that we missed New York. Kansas was, overall, an interesting experience, both academically, and socially, and we appreciated the generous opportunity awarded through this fellowship, one of Columbia’s many exciting programs. We will be going to Budapest next, and then to Stanford, through the same fellowship, so the next few months (before and right after graduation) are bound to be stimulating!