Radio-TV-Film Pre-Grad Intern Ashley N. Garcia
Unlike most students who collaborated with their mentor's research or worked on a project as part of their IE internship, I had a different experience with this program. As a first generation college student, it is hard to understand the process of acquiring a higher education after obtaining a bachelor's degree but my IE mentor helped me learn more about my own interests guided me to through graduate school experiences that will surely help me in the future.
With many interests in mind and innumerable plans, figuring out what I want to acquire in the near future is still a challenge. However, my mentor, Manuel Aviles-Santiago helped me reach out to people with similar interests in mind. During many of our mentor-mentee conversations, I found out that I want to collaborate within media studies and ethnomusicology areas. As an undergrad double majoring in radio television and film and international relations my interest to find the perfect combination in my two areas of study goes is a priority. Passionate about music and Latin America-especially Mexico-my scholarly dream is to combine the two in an academic research project. Growing up in the Roma, Texas, a small border town in the Rio Grande Valley, I never realized the rich culture that I had in my reach for the past twenty years of my life. In fact, it was not until last semester that I researched about the political and sociological effects narcocorridos have in the southern border areas between Mexico and the United States. Although this genre was not part of my musical taste during my youth, I now find the vernacular music interesting because it is a cultural representation that has resulted from political and economic struggles in Mexico and has slowly impacted society in the Mexican border and the United States. To help me learn more about my interest, Manuel helped me contact Dr. Robin Moore from the music department at the Butler School of Music. The only musicologist interested in Latin American Studies, Dr. Moore helped me realize that my interest in Latin America's culture is not only important to me, but to the country. With a fast growing population of Latinos in the United States, it is imperative for the American educational system to learn more about the culture belonging to the waves of immigrants that create a vast amount of labor in our country every day. Dr. Moore also taught me lessons that I discussed with my mentor, including choosing the best grad school. Although I had thought about this before, Dr. Moore made me realize that my area of interest may fall in different areas of study such as anthropology. In the search of the best grad school program, one must focus on the mentors and not the ranking. While most musicologists and ethnomusicologists focus on performance, mentors under anthropology departments may have a greater interest in the sociological effects of art. With that in mind and Manuel's help I contacted graduate student, Elizabeth Vasquez who gave me extraordinary tips for grad school search and admissions.
Besides finding a specific program of my interest, Manuel allowed me to experience what it means to speak in a conference. Without his trust, I would have never presented his research project to a crowd of graduate students and professors at New Orleans. In the process, I had to learn to understand his project and talk about it. Although it was challenging, I had to learn to become independent, network, and most importantly have confidence in one's work. From the entire semester, this was the most challenging aspect of the internship, but I learned valuable lessons that will become handy in the near future.
Another thing I learned this semester is to learn to write personal statements. I am aware the development of the personal statement is one of the most important steps of the grad school application process that every student needs to master. One of my weakest points since high school, I initially dreaded to practice this skill since it is hard to for me to talk about myself and my background. However, one of things that helped me was to talk to my mentor about my background while he shared pieces about his. With intimidation, I sent my first papers to Manuel. Once he had a compilation of notes, he helped me outline my strongest points and encouraged me to visit the writing center. The development of my personal statement has helped me a lot in the past few months. Even though I have not finalized the final copy that will be used in my grad school applications, the skills learned have helped me acquire scholarships that I would have never received before.
Finally, the last and the most important thing I did in this internship was find the best academic program for this upcoming summer. A goal set by Manuel was to work hard and apply to diverse programs of interest. With several drafts of personal statements, various recommendation letters, and innumerable transcripts that I had to send all over the United States, the process was great practice for the graduate school admissions process. Around March, Manuel and I agreed that it was best if I studied abroad in Brazil and acquired the Portuguese language. However, after I got accepted to the program and received scholarships, I declined the study abroad opportunity because I got accepted to the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute at Duke University. The pre grad school summer program plans to focus in the area of political science research and will provide me with GRE prep courses. As one of the twenty students in the nation selected for the program, I decided to participate in it because it offers a great opportunity to interact with faculty from the Ivy League Schools in America and develop my own research. During five weeks, I will be working closely with a team of researchers who will help me develop question in my area of interest. I am excited about the program because it offers an opportunity in an area of research different from my own. I know I have a lot to offer and I am looking forward to learn researching skills.
As I mentioned throughout, the IE program has been very beneficial to me. Not only have I met a great advisor, but I have learned skills necessary for the near future. It also helped me find a once in a lifetime opportunity that will broaden my horizons in my academic career.