And with a final swipe of my student ID, I have clocked out of work for the last time this semester and at this time tomorrow I will be on a train heading home for three weeks. This semester was a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. Academically speaking, I began and successfully completed my first kitchen class, finished my foreign language requirement after passing Spanish 2, created an entire employee handbook as my final project for Human Resource Management, and I took my first ever psychology class. While my classes definitely made an impact on me this semester, it was all of the events, programs and experiences that happened outside of a class setting that really made this semester so unforgettable.
My first semester on campus I didn’t really get involved in anything and I wanted to change that, so this semester I went forward with the mentality of saying yes to every experience that sounded fun or interesting. The first step I took toward putting myself out there was to look for stages. The concept of a stage originated in France (stagiaire is French for trainee or intern) and it is simply an unpaid internship for a set amount of time where a cook or chef works briefly, for free, in another chef's kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines. I did two, one daylong stages in New York City over the course of this semester. My first one was at a restaurant namedilili. It is a Lebanese-Mediterranean restaurant located in New York’s Flatiron District. My second stage was at Dominique Ansel’s Kitchen in the West Village of New York City. Both of these experiences were eye opening in their own ways. At ilili I was able to experience desserts from a cuisine that I had never even tried before. It also opened my eyes to just how small and crammed kitchens in New York City truly were. My time at Dominique Ansel’s Kitchen was eye opening in a different way. The kitchen was still crammed, so that wasn’t a surprise, but my time there made me realize that I really wanted to go into plated desserts and not a bakery route. Until that point I still had some indecision about which path to pursue and that experience helped me to solidify my decision.
Another way I became more actively involved on campus was with Dr. JJ and Nathan. Both of these guys do amazing things around campus and I have had the opportunity to work with them multiple times. Nathan mainly does the large events on campus along with any of the SPICE programs. I had helped him organize and set up the Cook(ie) Off in December before Winter Break and I volunteered to help him again this semester to organize the annual Chili Cook Off on campus. Dr. JJ does more small-scale events around campus. This semester I helped him prepare the food for a few of his Comfort Food programs and at the end of this semester myself and a few other volunteers spent 10 hours with him preparing and serving food for his Late Night Breakfast program. I love working with both Nathan and Dr. JJ because I get to see different sides of event planning and I truly enjoy helping organize these events.
Along with classes and volunteering I also hold a couple of jobs on campus. I have been involved with the Catering department on campus since last September picking up random events here and there and last semester I also started working with the CE department so I could have more regular hours and it also allowed me to work in a kitchen, which I loved. This semester I also started another job at Post Road Brew House, and it has definitely opened me up to new experiences and possibilities. I never thought I would ever be trusted with so much responsibility and respect in a kitchen, especially not at 19 and yet here I am.
In those few rare moments when I am not running from class to work or vice versa, I have managed to get off campus a few times for some of the trips they offer through our Student Life department. On one of these trips I went to see my first Broadway Play and loved it. I am now looking forward to the next Broadway Show they offer; I am hoping it will be Lion King. We also went snow tubing, which was an adventure in itself, due to a few of the students getting sick along the way and my roommate flying out of her tube where she landed on an ice patch hitting her head pretty hard. And most recently I went rock wall climbing on St. Patrick’s Day. I have never done something that was so physically exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I have a huge fear of heights and that was the hardest thing for me to get over, but eventually I got so absorbed in climbing that the height didn’t even faze me.
Overall, I would say that this semester has been a huge success. I have learned many things about myself that I never could have even imagined, and I have made so many amazing friends along the way. Opportunities I could have never expected presented themselves to me, and to the shock of myself and those close to me, I said yes to almost every single one. I am not saying that it easy to push yourself outside of your comfort zone but at least for me, it was definitely worth it. Now, I have three weeks at home to refresh myself and reconnect with those I love and then it is off to start my next adventure!
~ Remember to Smile :)
Push yourself and never stop
The first time I came to The Culinary Institute of America, I wasn't too sure how to feel. It was a weekend trip my mother and I agreed on making, one of her first attempts in getting me to agree on going to college. We drove the 12 hours, stayed in a questionable hotel, and arrived at 8:30am for a “Perspective Students’ Day” program they were offering. They had a registration table and a breakfast buffet set up outside the entrance to Danny Kaye Theater. We signed in and each grabbed a small plate of food. I remember I had a glass of orange juice and on my plate was some fruit and a small croissant. We entered into Danny Kaye and I’m looking around while following my mom to a seat when all of the sudden, my foot slips on the stairs and I’m falling backwards. I hear the glass shatter, I hear my mom swear and I feel the hard stone stairs slam into my ribs. I remember laying there for a second starring at the ceiling with people running over to me, trying to help me up. I am so embarrassed. All I wanted to do in that moment was cry and hide. My first moments on the campus of my dreams and this is how it began.
Skip a few months forward and it is July of 2017 and I am back on campus. This time as an accepted student! I am here for the weekend for an event called “Green and Gold Weekend”, it is the school’s way of getting students familiar with the campus and take care of things such as medical papers, safety orientation and activities to help everyone become friends. I am miserable the entire time. I start questioning if I made the right choice, if this is really where I want to spend the next 3 years of my life, and what kind of lies could I create to have my mom come get me. I spent the entire weekend by myself because everyone in my group made friends with each other right away and formed clichés and I was still trying to muster up the courage just to speak. I left that weekend feeling deflated and hopeless. I spent a few weeks questioning if I had made the right decision, but my mom and friends back home convinced me that it would get better and so I continued on.
Fast forward a little over a year and it is September 10, 2017 and I find myself standing in my new dorm room. I am terrified. My mom is trying to unpack everything for me, my grandma is cleaning the bathroom mirror complaining about how many Clorox wipes she was using to make everything clean, and I am just standing in the middle of it all trying to soak it all in. We eventually unpack everything, my two other roommates arrive and we get swept up in the excitement of it all. Jump to the next morning and I find out that my little brother was in an accident and was rushed to the hospital the night before. My mom is a wreck and is torn between going home to him and staying in New York with me for my toque ceremony, the ceremony where I receive my toque and become an official student at the CIA. It killed me inside to know that my mom wouldn’t be there to share in the moment with me but I told her to go home because I knew that’s where she needed to be. So I spent the ceremony with friends and stayed by myself afterwards as everyone took pictures with their families. I was excited to begin this journey but couldn’t help being sad that I was alone.
Jump forward again to September 23, 2017 and I am walking into my first job on campus as a server in the Catering department. I enter into Caterina de’ Medici for the first time ever, feeling as nervous as could be and debating if it is too late to turn around and run back to my dorm room. I awkwardly stand just slightly inside the doorway, hoping somebody would notice me and tell me what to do. No luck. After a few moments I step in further and get the attention of a girl and ask her where and how to clock in. She smiles and takes pity on me and walks me through the process. I get situated and we are setting tables, folding napkins, placing menus, all simple stuff. Then in comes a man who has way too much energy, is very smiley and introduces himself as Jason. I recognize the name from the email I received, asking for help for this event, which is what led me to registering to work this event. I go introduce myself to him. He welcomes me happily, gives me a quick run down of the event and is gone again. I quickly learned that this was just how he was, always moving, always happy and never short on words. The event kicks off and we are told it is a five course dinner with wine pairings. Problem: I’ve never poured wine before in my life. I get some very annoyed looks as I mention this but one of the guys who was serving gives me a quick run down of how to properly pour wine. I am thankful but terrified. Not even five minutes after learning how to pour wine, I am sent tableside to serve a table of eight. My hands are shaking, all I can think about is not spilling wine on anybody and I forget to even interact with the guests. I pour the wine and run. Success! I didn’t spill any wine and I survived. The night goes along and I begin to get more and more comfortable and I eventually ended up enjoying myself.
Finally, jump to now. It is April 4, 2018 and so much has happened since those first few moments I ever spent on campus. I have completed my first semester and am about to finish my second semester. I have continued to work for the Catering department here on campus and I love it! I have become close to everyone in the department, it led to me getting my current job at The Post Road Brewery, which has introduced me to so many new people whom I now call friends and has taught me many lessons. I work in the CE department and have also gotten close with everyone there as well. I now walk the halls and say hi to friends continuously. I know that if I have a problem, there are people here who care about me and are willing to help me. So many great things have happened to me since coming here, things I never could have imagined, and things I still cannot even fathom are yet to come. The whole point of this post is this; Keep pushing. I could have given up so easily at any point leading up to now. But I didn’t and neither should you. Nothing worth fighting for will ever come easy, and if it does come easy then you are not reaching far enough outside your comfort zone. Do the things that terrify you, that make you so nervous you’re not sure if you can keep going, and then push yourself to take another step; and then another until you are walking so effortlessly that you question why you didn’t do it earlier. When you get to that point, find a new goal and keep going. Never stop… That’s where I’ll be. I’m out pursuing my goals and seeing just how far I can push myself, I’ll see you there.
~ Remember to smile :)