Archive for SIPA life

Current Events Roundup, September

We are currently in week four of the Fall 2018 semester, and its already been a busy four weeks for fellow Seeple students. Between the General Assembly this week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visiting Columbia to speak with Professor Joseph Stiglitz and SIPA’s Director of the Technologies Specialization, Anya Schiffrin, and the “Rise of the Rest” – Entrepreneurship Across America event, there have been plenty of things to discuss and attend.

Below is a roundup of some notable September events:

The UN General Assembly

The UN General Assembly is certainly an eventful time in New York. Aside from the bumper to bumper traffic and multiple street closures that take over Midtown East, it is one of the few instances where there is such a high concentration of world leaders in New York City at once. This is, of course, a significant point of interest for SIPA students, who in addition to taking geographic advantage are able to participate in the many intersections of SIPA and the United Nations, including classes and events. This year, the General Assembly has been an especially notable one, much of the conversations will center around three key issues: the Rohingya crisis, Syria, and the Iran Nuclear Deal. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an implementation of the Paris climate change agreement. Coverage of the UN General Assembly has varied, but a few key moments have stood out, in particular, the President of The United States’ decision to not meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, among other things. Either way, SIPA students have been busy discussing the General Assembly and keeping a close eye as it will continue to be a key topic in classrooms through the semester.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visits Columbia University 

On June 26th, 2018 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a household name as a Congressional candidate who won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District and beat the incumbent Congressman, Joe Crowley. On September 24th, 2018 she joined Columbia Business School Professor and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and SIPA’s Director of the Technologies Specialization, Anya Schiffrin at the Roone Arledge Auditorium at the Riverside Church for a discussion panel. Students were able to attend and ask questions. Much of the conversation centered around grassroots efforts and Ocasio-Cortez spoke of an increasingly mobilized progressive base and encouraged students to engage in on-campus activism. She also spoke to the Democratic party’s increasing isolation of marginalized communities. She stated that it was important for Democrats to engage minority voters through a renewed commitment to their communities. SIPA students were also in attendance.

“The Rise of the Rest” – Entrepreneurship Across America 

On September 12th, 2018 Dean Merit E. Janow, Steve Case, and Secretary Jacob J. Lew sat down for a fireside-chat discussion on entrepreneurship in America. Case, Chairman, and CEO of Revolution and the Co-founder of AOL talked about his “Rise of the Rest” initiative to support entrepreneurship across America. Secretary Lew spoke of policy changes to encourage entrepreneurship, improving immigration policies, for example, can promote entrepreneurship given the high percentage of immigrant founders. They also touched on the impact of a healthy economy on the development of ideas — as long as ideas are strong and people are motivated, the health of the economy becomes less important. The fireside chat ended with a discussion on the regulation of online businesses — is it possible to apply the same levels of regulations that are applied to brick and mortar businesses?

Conquering homesickness like a Seeple

For this post, I’ve chosen to tackle a rarely discussed subject, especially in grad school. While, as an international, I spend time in groups of international students, I spend the bulk of my time with Americans. I find that the topic of homesickness creeps up in discussions in both groups, under different forms. My Hungarian friend might yearn for guláš, my Texan friend might miss his childhood friends or his high school buddies, and I may reflect on the pace of life in Romania, and how differently things move in New York.

I remember we talked a lot more about being homesick in college, when we had just left home for the first time for an extended period of time (most of us), had arrived in a new/strange country (some of us) and we were younger and less quipped to deal with stress and separation anxiety (all of us). By grad school, when we are supposedly “adults”, have traveled, worked, gone through a variety of social relationships and reached a new level of maturity, it’s almost embarrassing sometimes to admit that we are “homesick”. I said the word to one of my friends in my second semester at SIPA, and they replied with “aww, miss your momma’s cookies?” I laughed it off, but I did indeed miss my mother’s homemade desserts, and so much more.

As for all of life’s deepest existential/soul-related afflictions, there are no easy solutions. But there are ways to cope. I, like most SIPA students, take refuge in my work, in the day-to-day marathon of keeping on top of coursework, jobs/internships and professional opportunities. Making friends in your new environment is also, of course, important, and I am fortunate to have wonderful friends of all backgrounds here in the US, and in New York in particular. Having friends of your own nationality/from your own culture can be even more helpful, if that’s your thing (it’s not mine, but it is most people’s). Reconnecting with your roots can mitigate homesickness – I sometimes go to the Romanian restaurant in Queens, or to the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral on the Upper West Side (not for religious, but for cultural reasons). And, naturally, staying connected to the people you love, the people back home, can do a lot for your suffering heart: I talk to my parents on Skype or WhatsApp weekly, and we text/email daily (I am an only child, and we have a very tight relationship). I also keep in touch with several high school friends. I watch old Romanian movies, listen to traditional Romanian music (I don’t care for the contemporary one) and of course, whenever I can, go back to Romania and go on trips around the country. I also have traditional Romanian knick-knacks scattered around my NYC apartment, and they remind me of home, in a warm and touching way. I have made it my mission, though, to take advantage of New York while I am here, and so, most of the times, I focus on the present and the geographically immediate, immersing myself in discovering this wonderful city.

It’s worth noting that homesickness has been recognized as a factor that affects students, and that there are resources on campus that can help: and

"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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