By Pooja Tanjore ’23
Time flies. Taking a gap year before attending William & Mary made me realize how quickly one year could go by. Amplifying this understanding is the fact that I am a student in the Joint Degree Program at William & Mary, which means I leave for Scotland after my first year and will return my senior year. Despite COVID-19 cutting my time at William & Mary short, I have learned a lot from my time at the Global Research Institute. Here’s how to get involved with the Institute, and make the most out of your time there.
Realize that you are deserving and capable of getting involved at any experience level.
My journey with the Global Research Institute began when Ana Suarez, GRI Junior Program Manager, sent out a call for Student Leaders in the Global Research Digest. I hadn’t even set foot on campus at this point, so I was sure I did not qualify as a student leader. I was so sure that the call was not for incoming first-year students. After an impulsive morning, I emailed Ana. To my surprise, Ana was incredibly enthusiastic and shared the application with me! When I was chosen for the Council, I was shocked. However, I learned that being a Student Leader begins with initiative. I may have just been an eighteen-year-old in the limbo between high school and college, but I knew how to adapt to new challenges. If you are unsure about your ability to take on challenges, just jump in. Everyone is capable. If you can advocate for yourself and rise to the occasion, you are already ten steps ahead of many.
If you are interested in taking the first step in getting involved, subscribe to the Global Research Digest and contact the Institute with any inquiries. The Digest will give you weekly updates on opportunities, but the information will be worth nothing if you do not reach out. Do not hesitate to inquire about our research projects for individuals of any experience level. Make sure your inquiries are precise, and you remain patient for a response.
Pooja featured in our Humans of GRI campaign on Facebook after being accepted to the GRI Student Leadership Council.
Don’t be afraid to break the silence.
My first day working for AidData, a research lab at the Global Research Institute, was awkward. I was confused as to why all the research assistants were so silent. I wondered if there was some unspoken rule that we all had to work without speaking. I was intimidated by my colleagues because I was so sure that being chosen for a Research Assistant (RA) position as a freshman was a fluke. I thought they all knew something I didn’t. After my fourth day of exhaustion trying to learn something new and struggling alone, I was craving social interaction from my colleagues. So, I spoke up. My voice was abrupt in the silence that enveloped the third floor of the Institute. I did not regret it. Through speaking up, many of the RAs began to discuss their challenges after I spoke up about my struggles. We exchanged numbers, offered up advice, and started joking around with one another. It was the best thing I could have done. At the very least, I always have a colleague to walk home with or get dinner with after meetings. The quality of my work has improved, and through making friends at the Global Research Institute, I have learned more about what is possible.
Getting involved with the Global Research Institute starts outside of the Institute, and continuing to enjoy your work is sustained only by making friends along the way. I found out about AidData through friends from my International Relations classes, and love it more every day due to my friends on the team. Through taking an interest in others, I have seen the possibilities of what can be done. Don’t be afraid to break the silence in a room. Communication is the only way to establish new relationships, and it is your responsibility to try.
If you’re nervous, it shows you care.
There will come a day where you know what you are doing. That day does not have to be today. Embrace the novelty of a new experience and follow your intuition.
I will be the first to admit that I am always nervous when meeting someone new. I have learned that it is merely an emotional manifestation of how much I love meeting new people. One of my more nervous moments was when I met Mike Tierney, the Co-Director of the Global Research Institute. I had read much of his work prior to attending William & Mary, and hoped to meet him at some point during my time on campus. You can imagine my excitement when I realized that I had coincidentally sat by the couches in front of his office, and saw that his door was open. Before I lost the courage to say hi, I knocked on his door and asked if “He was Mike Tierney.” I immediately kicked myself. I could see his nameplate outside of the door. Obviously, he was Mike Tierney. Despite my dumb question, he was responsive and listened to me gush over how much I admired his work. He was very kind, but it was clear that my professionalism had fallen apart due to my excitement. Despite the adrenaline rush of having met one of the coolest people on campus, I could not help but cringe, thinking about how I had introduced myself. A few weeks later, Professor Tierney spoke for one of my international relations classes. He remembered me, and our conversational dynamic was light. If I hadn’t let myself embrace the novelty of meeting one of my idols through uninhibited enthusiasm, our second encounter may not have been one of jokes and joy.
I learned then that first impressions are essential, but that does not mean they have to be planned or perfect. You are young! Let your excitement shine through! Embrace being starry-eyed and thrilled to meet an idol! Go up to every engaging professor you meet at the Institute and on campus, and do not hesitate to talk to your peers. It may take a lot of courage, but you will never part with regrets.
Pooja speaking with Insider Insights guest speaker, Tanya Masiyiwa, social entrepreneur and co-founder of Simba Education.
Embodying the spirit of the Institute requires knowing when to step away.
Lastly, getting involved with the Global Research Institute is not merely a matter of working on 427 Scotland Street. You may not be able to attend every event, and you may not be able to do everything you want at the Global Research Institute before you graduate. However, through internalizing the lessons you have learned and enhancing the relationships that have begun at the Institute, you can take its energy with you no matter where you go. Through recognizing when you need rest, you are more likely to be a joyful, social, and adventurous member of the Institute.
Be sure to stay in touch with everything happening at the Institute via their LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook pages.