As a rising senior, I have accrued plenty of knowledge and skills over my last three years as Brandeis student. Above all, I am most grateful for the flexible, proactive approach to opportunities that I have developed since my first days at Brandeis. My college career started a little unorthodoxly when I received my acceptance letter to Brandeis as a midyear student. As a high school senior, I had daydreamed of walking to class in the beautiful New England fall. I never imagined that I would be moving into my freshman dorm in the dark, cold month of January after spending the fall at home.
Despite this unexpected twist, being accepted as a midyear was one of the best things to happen to me. When I began in January, I was surrounded by a cohort of midyear students who were mature, adaptable and ambitious. We each had diverse paths during our fall semester, but we all began our college years shaped by our experiences and eager to jump into campus life. Although all Brandeis students are passionate and inquisitive, I believe that midyears are exceptional in their open mindedness and initiative. Midyears are open to challenges, see opportunity in the overlooked, and are ready to hit the ground running.
My exposure to other midyears and integration into the Brandeis campus cultivated the flexibility and resourcefulness that had enabled me to take advantage of my gap semester. The Brandeis community has so much to offer, both on-campus and resulting from its location in the bustling Greater Boston area. Being immersed in a student body that is passionate and eager to learn taught me the value of reaching out and keeping your eyes peeled for opportunity everywhere. This is how I found my summer internship at National Consumers League. I saw a listing for the WOW pre-approved fellowship while going through my clogged Brandeis inbox. Going through my emails with diligence is one habit I’ve adopted at Brandeis, since you never know what random opportunities may be nestled into a message from Hiatt or a club listserv. This instance was no exception; National Consumers League seemed like a perfect fit, and the WOW stipend made moving to D.C. a financial possibility. Much like my choice to enroll as a Brandeis midyear, I decided to move to a new city and take on whatever it had to offer me.
Since arriving at National Consumers League, my adaptability and Brandeisian initiative has served me well. Although I am mostly working with LifeSmarts, NCL’s consumer education competition for high schoolers, there are always additional projects and events for interns to take advantage of. I’ve been able to write blog posts about environmental policy, work on press releases in support of lifesaving legislature, attend hearings on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, and sit in on several congressional committee hearings (including one where Alexandria Ocasio Cortez gave a rousing argument in support of Obamacare). I would not have been equipped to participate in these experiences if it wasn’t for the ability to bounce between projects and jump in wherever needed and be proactive. These strengths, cultivated on the Brandeis campus, have allowed me to make the most of my time at NCL and in D.C., a city with countless cultural, professional and educational experiences to take advantage of.
I see a similar open mindedness and passion in National Consumers League itself. The organization has four main priorities–Health, Privacy, Labor and Food–but often shows flexibility in the work it takes on. The NCL understands that many other issues are interwoven into these topics. They show a well-rounded commitment to the consumer through collaboration with other groups and a willingness to speak up on issues beyond their immediate scope. One perfect example of this occurred last week, when the staff attended a protest organized by educators’ unions to call for better conditions at the border. Although NCL does not have an official focus on immigration, the staff understands that immigrant rights are inextricably linked to many issues within our labor department. It is inspiring to see the intersectional nature of social justice work firsthand at NCL.
It has been eye-opening to see how national nonprofits like NCL and other like-minded groups interact. When doing social justice work, it is essential to remain flexible, collaborate and find solidarity wherever possible. I believe that the adaptability, can-do attitude and proactivity I have gained as a Brandeis student and NCL intern will be an asset to me in the future, inside and outside of the nonprofit sector.