Friday, September 11, 2009

A New Year and Looking Back

The beginning of a new school year is, quite simply, decision time.

And I have never been very good at decisions.

This seems to be quite a common attribute among the American Studies community. We can’t choose among our passions; we desire connections, not strict classifications. Fragments frustrate us. We want to take a literature class, and a history class, and a sociology class, and a philosophy class, and… well, you get the point. To me, American Studies offered the best means to channel these varied interests, which encouraged my switch from my original intention: Communication and Media Studies. When I declared an American Studies major I took on a whole new set of decisions. Now, I pursue Communications as a minor, and can see my exposure to various disciplines as contributing to my future role in the communications field or elsewhere.

One of the first decisions that faced me this year was the question of study abroad in the spring. As the application deadline rapidly approached, I found myself wavering about whether it was the right thing to do. I found myself asking the all-too-obvious question: If my objective is to study America, does it make sense to leave America to do so? However, I am very interested in the outside perspective on America, especially after a class called “Development and Globalization” increased my interest in the impact we have on developing nations and on the global scale. The program on which I settled ultimately offered an opportunity to view America from the outside—specifically, from a transatlantic perspective. And with that, I decided to apply to a program at the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin in Ireland. Nothing is set in stone yet (in fact, I have only applied to Fordham’s own office of International & Study Abroad Programs so far), but I think it would be an enriching experience and I am very excited about the possibility.

As far as this semester goes, I think I am through with the tough decision-making part for now. In addition to the “Approaches to American Studies” course, I am taking a literature and writing class about “The American Voice”, a sociology class entitled “Media, Crime, Sex, and Violence”, and a Lincoln Center class that focuses on “Communications for Social Change.” I will also be continuing my internship at the Fresh Air Fund—but I will probably be writing more on that in a later post. I am definitely looking forward to this new semester.


On a more serious note, it seems important to mention the importance of this day, when we recognize and remember once again the indelible impact left on our nation and our lives eight years ago. We will hear many people recounting their stories of “where they were when," reminiscent of those our parents share regarding the JFK assassination and other historic moments. One such narrative is carried, I believe, in the heart of every American, and it does not fade with time. I am still not sure I have found the words to try to address the events of September 11, 2001. What does this anniversary mean to us as students of America and of New York City? Can we ever take a step back from our personal, very intimate relationship to the events of our lifetime and look at them in a purely academic way? Should we even try? Perhaps not- but perhaps we can use our shared and collective experiences with our own history to deepen our studies and understanding of America and her people. I have included the quotation below simply because it puts much more eloquently than I could the things I appreciate a reminder of on this important day of remembrance and reflection.

“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”-Arundhati Roy

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