Student Life

Alumni Story:
Stephanie Lepine

InterFuture Class of 2009

Research Project: Secondary School Students’ Motives to Volunteer in Environmental Organizations: A Study of the United States, Ireland, and Tanzania

Seven years ago I was accepted into the undergraduate thesis program, InterFuture. Now an alumna, I am grateful to be able to share a few words on what the experience has meant to me.

Being a member of the InterFuture Class of 2009, I attended conferences in 2008. Make no mistake, the conferences were as much, if not more significant than the actual travel experiences. The June conference tugged at the carpet of comfort and academia until it came swiftly from under my feet and landed me square on my you-know-what. It asked, “What do you love?” It brought me, a mere sophomore in college who was neck deep in interior design classes the realization that yes, interior design was the path I wanted, but there was MORE to it than that. Cue Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way.

I have always been one to march to the beat of my own drum, but my core behaviors and defense mechanisms had never really been pulled apart like they were in the August Conference. It asked, “What are you trying to say?” and “So what?” It was like that best friend one keeps around if one needs little tough love. I asked myself, ‘Have I really gone through all of these years of school and theater and still don’t know how to speak?’ The answer was frighteningly, yes. I didn’t know where to begin with building an argument or concluding a hypothesis... So what?

So, InterFuture has meant an increased awareness of technical research methodologies and presentation skills. It enforced clarity and accuracy. It taught me that it’s okay to not know the answer or not have a conclusion. It taught me to listen to myself as I speak, and more-so listen to others when they speak. It taught me to explain with personal details because that’s the interesting stuff; engage and interest others with tangible details. And, finally, it taught me that sometimes what you think matters, doesn’t really matter at all.

What made InterFuture special was that it not only addressed the intellect, but it also took into account the heart of every scholar. For my heart, it meant truly letting go of external influences that I had internalized over the years, which left room for what intrinsically mattered to rise to the surface. It meant reuniting me with me, which in-turn, gave me the grounds to confidently support myself and my project. This program leaves the scholar truly autonomous: self made and self governed, with a team of alumnae there to question and guide along the way. This attention to the inner me and the guiding questions aided me (and has continued to aid me) in reconnecting with myself, heart and mind, leading me evermore toward a life lived wholeheartedly.

With these valuable skills allowing me to clearly understand and articulate what matters to me, I stand out. I no longer feel intimidated and instead engage with people, and they take notice. Today, at 27 years old, seven years after my InterFuture experience, I am moving to a new city and starting my own business as an interior organizing professional. InterFuture helped me not be afraid of the world, but observe, analyze, and take part in it.

What are the cultural factors of me? InterFuture is one of the largest cultural factors that has shaped who I am and how I view life in a hundred thousand undetectable ways and I will be forever grateful.

Posted on July 12, 2015

Tags: Alumni Stories

Alumni Story:
Felicia Homan

InterFuture Class of 2010

Research Project: Fashion Dictators or Style Promoters: The Relationship between Fashion Magazines and Consumer Behavior in Costa Rica and the United States

When I landed in Costa Rica it was so dark I could barely make out the difference between the U.S. city I had left and the Central American city I would soon call home. I awoke the next morning in my host family's house to the smell of coffee and five family members waiting to greet me in Spanish. Only in Spanish.

For the next 6 months I was fully culturally immersed. My family taught me colloquial phrases and cultural taboos, such as never say "pues." This insider knowledge proved helpful as I conducted my self-directed research on fashion trends with locals. After only a week on locale, I landed an interview with the head of the fashion magazine I was researching. It was invigorating to watch my research unfold and develop in more vivid colors than I'd ever imagined.

I arrived a wide-eyed, naive American student eager to learn about Costa Rican culture. I left a Spanish speaking Tico with a new appreciation for culture, an incurable love of adventure and invaluable research experience.

Posted on July 12, 2015

Tags: Alumni Stories

Alumni Story:
Elizabeth Kelleher

InterFuture Class of 2012

Research Project: An examination of the cultural factors that influence voter turnout of college students in presidential elections in San Jose, Costa Rica and Boston, the United States.

During my first InterFuture conference I was captivated by the community’s incredible travel stories. But even more, I was inspired by a recent alum who said that participating in InterFuture would be the single best way to get academically published by the age of twenty-five. At the time, I distinctly remember thinking “Maybe for you, but there’s no way that I’ll be able to accomplish that.”

Fast forward to less than two years later and not only had my work been published, but I had been regionally and nationally recognized for my research. I had a job offer directly related to my project. Altogether, this was accomplished leading up to my graduation from undergrad and before my 22nd birthday.

So how did I go from “not for me” to “this is my life”? Countless hours of background research, three months’ worth of coconuts opened by machete, community support from some of the smartest and savviest people I have ever had the pleasure of associating with, and interviews ranging from the top political scientist in Costa Rica to a tattoo parlor technician who told me about his view of political participation while piercing my ears. My experience was hardly linear. Instead, I was forced to find my best practices by researching and designing plans of action and then having the courage to put those plans of action to rest when they did not work. InterFuture gave me the opportunity to realize my own adaptability—it allowed me to fall flat on my face and learn not only how to stand back up on my own but learn how to ask for help getting back up, sometimes in a foreign language. For the first time in my life, I was unable to simply get by on my smarts and a quick review of notes for an easy grade. I was the one charting my own standard of success.

InterFuture was an opportunity to push towards the best version of myself. It meant individualized challenges on academic, cultural, linguistic, and personal levels, which are unparalleled to any classroom, or study abroad option that I have come across. My training through InterFuture empowered me with the skills to overcome these challenges, and made me realize that I was both brave and bold enough to take them on. The impact has been long lasting as I have taken these skills to continue charting my personal and professional goals in the post-grad world.

I both challenge and welcome those who are ready to start this global and personal adventure and look forward to seeing how and where their InterFuture experience leads them.

Posted on July 12, 2015

Tags: Alumni Stories

One Amazing Day

One of the happy milestones in living abroad is finally feeling like you have a grasp on the “everyday,” having your own routine in a new place.

Still, there are moments that stand out. We asked a few InterFuture scholars to share some of their significant days on locale:

Jamaica

Elaine, IF ’98

“One amazing day was when I interviewed a few musicians: Bob Marley’s sons and Tony Rebel. Both are famous reggae artists. Tony Rebel treated me beautifully and picked me up at my house and took me to one of his charity concerts. I had a great time. Also, I got to be the audience to the Marley boys playing soccer in the same parking lot their father, Bob Marley, did when he was alive.”

Paraguay

Alison, IF ’08

“I really enjoyed everyday, but I think my favorite days were when I went fishing with my host family, and staying at a farm for a week, playing with animals and having my very own horse to ride whenever I pleased.”

England

Dave, IF ’07

“There was an event that I will always remember. It was an FA Cup football match: Middlesboro v. West Brom. My host family and I had to drive 4 hours to the stadium, but it was by far, the best sporting event I have ever been to. The atmosphere, the fans, the hatred between the two teams, the team songs; it was an amazing experience. (It ended on penalty kicks and our team won!) The game was thrilling, heart wrenching, everything!”

Spain

Christine, IF ’99

“I mean it when I say, no one parties like the Spaniards, and when it comes to special occasions, they pull out ALL the stops. I went to the Semana Santa processions in Cadiz, and Las Fallas in Valencia – witnessing a tradition of setting on fire huge papier-mache effigies, while eating paella. Both were not to be believed.”
Posted on January 3, 2013 by: Halley Cohen

Tags: Quotes

Attenborough on InterFuture… er, cultural studies

“Changing the way we measure things is vital. So is decompartmentalising society – making sure that economics and politics are not divorced from other crucial areas of life.” David Attenborough
Posted on January 3, 2013 by: Halley Cohen

Tags: Quotes

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