Author Archive for Adriana Popa

Throwback Thursday to a Seeple’s Winter Break

[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.

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | Vieux Quebec]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | Vieux Quebec]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | Me with toffee bears in the toffee shop in Quebec]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | Me with toffee bears in the toffee shop in Quebec]

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!

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | Hard at work in the archives]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | Hard at work in the archives]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | European Institute fellows trying on cowboy hats]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | European Institute fellows trying on cowboy hats]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | European Institute fellows with Ike's statue on the grounds of the archives]

[Photo courtesy of Adriana Popa | European Institute fellows with Ike’s statue on the grounds of the archives]

A Seeple’s take on managing a student budget

Being a student generally means you’re poor. Or you feel poor. There, I’ve said it! Now, that’s not necessarily the case for everyone, or all the time, or an inescapable situation. SIPA makes shrinking budgets particularly painful, because most students come from working for a few years before SIPA (it is a graduate/professional school, after all), and losing that stream of full-time income can be downright depressing. However, fear not, future or current SEEPLES, there is a method to the (financial) madness! Read on!

If you’re lucky enough to have generous support from your family, significant other, awesome government, etc., and ALL of your living and tuition expenses are covered, great! You may read the rest of this post as pure amusement or if you really care about saving a few pennies. But really, you can just skip the rest of the post and go have a relaxing afternoon!

For the rest of us plebes: it really comes down to three things: take advantage of cost-managing resources (campus and off-campus), try finding additional sources of income, and manage your expectations.

  1. Cost-managing resources: while general wisdom dictates that being a student is financially sucky, I tend to disagree. Students have a variety of perks available to them, which allow them to get access to everything from academic resources to leisure/entertainment choices for a fraction of the cost “normal people” have to pay for them. A few of my personal favorites include:
    • Cuts on buying and renting books (if you think you need to pay at all! I haven’t bought a book since my freshman year of college. They’re all usually at the library, or the profs have copies you can borrow).
    • Cuts on electronic and IT equipment and software (stores from Apple to B&H offer student discounts)
    • Fitness/physical education discounts at gyms throughout the city, including Columbia’s own Dodge Fitness Center, where you get special rates
    • Entertainment/art discounts (see Columbia’s Art Initiative for free concerts and plays, discounted performances, and special events; also, if you’re a Met Opera fan, like me, check out their Met Students Program – you pay $ 25 for seats that are normally in the hundreds!) Cost management also includes assiduous financial aid research – apply to everything you are eligible for!
    • You should also talk to the Admissions and Financial Aid Office, OSA, advisors, etc., and identify external and within-Columbia/SIPA fellowships, scholarships and funds you can apply for. I had my second year and half of my first year entirely covered, tuition-wise, all thanks to fellowships and scholarships! I also got reimbursed for participating in conferences and other academic opportunities, such as research fellowships.
  2. Find additional sources of income: from campus opportunities (assistantships: TA-ships, PA-ships, Reader-ships; paid research opportunities; fellowships and scholarships) to off-campus streams of income (paid internships, part-time jobs, consultancies, etc.), you will find that with careful planning and excellent time-management skills, SIPA allows for enough room to take advantage of these options. But it’s up to you to find them. They will rarely fall into your lap. I have successfully supplemented my income with most of the above-mentioned (some of the oddest, and least-SIPA related have involved modeling and selling stock photography. Some of the most-SIPA related have included paid research and assistantships).
  3. Manage your expectations: you will see this stressed everywhere, and even though I’m not personally a great believer in it (do you adjust your dreams to your life, or your life to your dreams?), it is worth mentioning. My mother always reminds me that I’m a “student” now (again! gah!), and that I’m supposed to live within my means. Luckily, I have a SO who disagrees, and an ambitious, resourceful personality that helps me in finding opportunities to support my needs and interests. But generally, yes, it is a very wise and mature approach to downsize your travel, living arrangement, eating preferences, entertainment, etc. to match your available resources while at SIPA. It might hurt in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it, and remember: it’s temporary!

So there you have it, peeps, the essence of managing a student budget! Fret not, you will not be on it for long! 🙂

[Edited Photo by Donald Bowers Photography | Adriana Popa, MIA 2016, holding stacks of money and listening to music, because why not?!]

A peek into the ‘Contemporary Diplomacy’ class

Today we met for a special session of the Contemporary Diplomacy class, with Professor John Hirsch. Read More →

A Week in the Life: Adriana Popa

We’re featuring a new mini series, A Week in the Life, to highlight all of the wonderful experiences our students have had in the program. Read More →

All about the International Fellows Program

I first applied to the International Fellows Program when I applied to SIPA, but was not accepted. I tried again for my second year, and the second time was definitely a lucky charm. Read More →

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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