From a sledgehammer to a scalpel – my journey at IE was anything but conventional. Clashing with administrators, driving my fellow students to the brink of bewilderment, yet through it all, IE held a mostly unwavering belief in me and the potential to forge paths of extraordinary opportunity.
They say reputation precedes us, and I’ve certainly gained one during my six years at the university. What that reputation is, I leave to your interpretation, though I hope to think it’s one of mixing audacity with adventure. All the same, as I unpack my diplomas and begin my next chapter, rather than opine on IE issues as I am like to do, I felt compelled to write instead about my experiences at our university. Moreover, what can current or new students at IE expect – and what can they do, if they only try?
My time at IE has certainly been formative; it taught me about business, economics, and international affairs; it taught me how to maneuver from sterile office settings to lively cocktail socials; it taught me to somehow blitz through a 102 page joint thesis final project in 8 days (not recommended). Most of all though, it instilled in me a drive for what I’ve come to dub as “high-impact work” – for living life purposefully and ensuring that one’s work truly makes a difference in the world around them, through whatever medium one chooses.
Whatever people think of me, no one can deny my involvement within the IE community and my colorful co-curricular transcript. President of three clubs, class representative for four terms, senior management in six student organizations – through it all, I’ve tried to make meaningful and tangible contributions towards my beliefs, values, and wellbeing.
- Fairness: I saw a lot of inequity going to school in the Vegas ghettos. I was privileged, and it always made me feel angry and guilty – I never liked anyone, myself included, having a leg up. When I learned about discrimination issues that were going on in Spain and even at IE, I offered myself up to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and administration to co-write anti-discrimination polices and ethics reform. In the same vein, I always want people to have the opportunities and the tools necessary to succeed; after co-founding IEUMUN, now the largest charity MUN conference in Europe, people from Kyiv to Addis Ababa have that.
- Truth: I was never shy about voicing my opinion, or helping others to voice theirs. I always felt people should have their say, no matter their opinions or how strong they may be. I wrote several articles for the Stork during my time on the editorial and managerial boards. From exposing unethical practices to encouraging other students to take a public stand, I always hoped The Stork would become a catalyst for discussion and change at IE. I think in some ways, it has.
- Health: As I’ve written before, I have dealt with various health afflictions, mental and physical. The most severe is perhaps my anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Thankfully, I’ve been significantly better for the last two years, but it’s something I’ve never wanted anyone to ever go through, so even as I struggled, I worked to try and improve my own health and others’. I authored literature for my own therapeutic purposes. I volunteered as a peer support facilitator. I even worked with the UN Fellowship and the WHO to disseminate mental health resources worldwide.
Ultimately, I owe a lot to collaborations with the university and their willingness to support me in spite of myself. Without them, much of what I accomplished wouldn’t be possible.
Hammers and Scalpels
Now, I haven’t done so perfectly. I’ve often been described as more the sledge hammer than the scalpel when it comes to my rather blunt methods: an email with some choice expletives to an Executive Director of Campus Life; more than a few public denouncements of the university and its sub-organs; calling out high admin by name when the situation was serious enough. I was always willing to raise the stakes, even if it jeopardized my scholarship or student contract. That may seem excessive, but it’s always a matter of how important the issue is, and finding out… just how far are you willing to go?
I’ve driven administrators, faculty, and students alike crazy too often to count. That just goes to show the enormity of the opportunities present at this university, if only you have the courage to ask for help finding or even making them. Reputation or not, IE won’t hold it against you if you have something genuine to contribute – they may even reward you for it.
“Dare, and the world always yields.”– William Makepeace Thackeray
For any student at IE, or any incoming students or prospective applicants to our university, I encourage you to recognize what lies before you. IE is a tremendous institution for initiative-building and creative problem-solving. I’ve never cared for the overuse of the word ‘entrepreneur’ in today’s culture, but it’s unsurprising its common vernacular at IE, from MM31 to the Tower to the Segovia convent. A good idea, a decent pitch, a unique issue to solve? IE will far more often than not make extraordinary efforts to help you succeed.
Case in point: my health and wellness scholarship. During my third year at IE, between the pandemic, overnight classes, and my ME/CFS, I was struggling. My physical and mental health were becoming increasingly poor, and my grades were noticeably or even severely suffering. My academic excellence scholarship required that I retain high grades or risk losing it, and the anxiety of that reality only worsened my existing medical conditions. Eventually under too much strain, I reached out for help, and IE answered with perhaps the best solution possible: provided I receive routine treatment funded by the university, IE would remove my scholarship’s grade requirements. I was given the tools and time to recover, and my health and my grades greatly improved – so much so that both are now far better than they were before the pandemic.
That ability to succeed with IE isn’t limited to academics either. In the last few years, I became seriously interested in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the idea of making a career centered around the SDGs. I was most focused on SDG 17: partnerships, and how to leverage the private sector for public benefit. During my final semester, I approached program direction, Campus Life, and the marketing department with an offer: given my extensive experiences and dedication, I could serve as an ambassador and partnership broker to foreign institutions in return for some small compensation and logistical help with my class schedule and assignments. Within the span of a little over two months, I flew between Boston, Brussels, Prague and multiple other cities, establishing relations and forming partnerships. For those and other reasons, I was awarded the inaugural IE-UNSSC Graduation Prize in Social Impact.
The Power of Purpose
From my last conversations with the Vice-Rectors and Student Experience offices, even the sacred IE attendance policy may yet be amended to allow for possible exceptions for similar specific performances in high service of the university and the greater IE community. Regardless, whatever your ultimate goals are, don’t be afraid to go for them at IE. Driving Innovation always sounded silly and cliché, but when taken to heart, it really was a rallying call: find your purpose, find the proper problem, find a way to apply yourself to solving it, and IE will give you all the resources you need to make it happen.
If you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend students speak with a Campus Life or Student Experience member, or visit the IE Connects page about opportunities you may not even know exist. Better yet, look to start creating some of your own!
Beyond that, I have little more to say than this: Thank you to IE, her faculty, and her staff for educating and empowering me. Thank you to the clubs, classes, and close friends I am indebted to for making my journey unforgettable. Finally, thank you to The Stork for having given me and so many others a platform to truly amplify IE voices.