My name is Arvin Alaigh and I am the resident W&M in DC blogger for the Leadership & Community Engagement Institute. I am a rising junior majoring in Government and American Studies and minoring in Philosophy, and I hail from the beautiful state of New Jersey. My hobbies consist of watching of TV shows, primarily The OC, House of Cards, and Game of Thrones. I also love Buffalo Wild Wings, making music, playing/watching basketball, and studying Roman history. Current events are cool, too. On campus, I am involved in AMP Music, Campus Radio, the International Relations Club, and research with the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations.
I try to be funny but it’s not really successful most of the time, but it’s okay. I’m over it. In the words of the illustrious Aubrey “Drake” Graham in the 2010 hit “Over” off his debut album Thank Me Later, “I’m doing me”.
Monday, May 13 marked the first day in a 12-week long journey for the thirteen selected Leadership & Community Engagement fellows. This Monday morning, we were greeted by the normal, weekday morning Washington DC metro traffic en route to the DC office. This marked the first time I had ever commuted within a big city, let alone during rush hour. It began by paying an exorbitant amount of money – about five dollars round-trip – for what turned out to be a roughly eleven-minute train ride. While on the train, I had the pleasure of losing my bearings on several occasions, getting tossed around by the turbulent ride like a pinball as we approached each stop. It was exhilarating, to say the least. Upon exiting the train-car, I held up about six commuters behind me as I struggled to find the location of the ticket-scanner. In the words of the fabulous Sarah Adler, I fully embodied the “Metro-noob” stereotype, which undoubtedly ran rampant among my fellow out-of-state peers. All in all, I could not have been happier having truly received the delightful “first-time-commuting-in-DC” experience.
About an hour and fifteen minutes after leaving our Arlington apartments, our group of about twenty fellows finally arrived at the promised land: the William & Mary Washington Office. An eclectic array of sandwiches and pastries were provided for lunch, which was certainly a nice touch. Our group orientation followed, lasting roughly three hours, and detailed the logistics of the DC program at great length. The topics discussed were diverse in nature, ranging from practical tips about safety in DC, and networking at site visits, to seemingly bizarre advice regarding emergency protocol in the event of nuclear attack. We broke off into our smaller institutes at about 4:00, and for the first time, all 13 fellows, as well as Professor Drew Stelljes and our wonderful TA, Maggie Scott, met together as a group.
Individually, all thirteen fellows hail from diverse backgrounds, both in our personal and collegiate lives. Yet, we are all united under the common goal of affecting positive change within the community. This is essentially the goal of the Leadership & Community Engagement course – to better understand our goals and ourselves as leaders within our respective communities. While we are not assigned copious amounts of reading and writing assignments, I wholeheartedly maintain that our work is still toiling, but in a different nature than the typical William & Mary class. Self-reflection is our major mode of assessment, but it is difficult to operationalize something as abstract and personal as self-reflection; nevertheless, Drew does an excellent job in ensuring we have mulled over concepts discussed in class, as well as encouraging us to think outside the box when dealing with and studying leaders. We have tremendous chemistry as a group, which is especially beneficial for fostering thoughtful discussion within the classroom environment.
Despite my seemingly inauspicious start, which manifested itself in a multitude of misfortunes, I believe that the past week and a half have been more enriching and thought-provoking than I ever could have imagined. I am proud to say that I eventually mastered the art of the Metro, and I now scoff at the Metro-noobs who clog up escalators and/or hold up lines – although, I must admit that a little part of me does commiserate with them as I fondly recollect my first days as an inept, confused commuter. Overall, I am certainly looking forward to the ensuing weeks and adventures to come, and I certainly look forward to documenting them!