Friday, January 29, 2016

Full Interview with Carley Chavara and Catalina Calachan

In the January 2016 edition of the Global Scholars Newsletter, we featured an interview with Catalina Calachan and Carley Chavara, two enterprising young women who graduated from AU in only two and a half years! Here's the full interview:

What motivated you to graduate a semester early? How did you accomplish it?
Chavara: My choice to graduate early wasn't so much driven by motivation as it was an inevitability. Due to the fact that I brought 27 AP credits with me and took advantage of the Global Scholar option to study over the summers, it made temporal and financial sense to graduate a semester early.
Calachan: The thought of graduating another semester earlier didn’t cross my mind until Summer 2015.  I was studying abroad in Copenhagen and had crafted an entire individualized minor in urban studies that met all of the requirements as laid out by American University. However, when I was abroad, I received confirmation that any requests, and supporting paperwork, for an individualized minor would have had to be submitted a year before my anticipated graduation date.  Seeing that it was Summer 2015, and the submission of paperwork in Fall 2015 would be unsuccessful, I decided to start shuffling around different ideas for the rest of AU experience.  I had enough space to take an entire semester abroad, which is what I was set to do for the duration of the Fall 2015 semester, but the elective classes I hoped to take there were mainly in the urban planning field.  While I wanted to go abroad for other reasons, too, I decided it was in my personal best interest to choose a different route and rearrange my plans.
    While in Copenhagen, I decided to cut my summer study abroad short; enroll in two online classes through AU that met requirements for graduation; withdraw from the fall study abroad program; and enroll in my last semester of classes.  It was a challenge making everything fit the way I wanted to, but I knew that graduating early would save me some money and let me focus on my other interests and passions – academically, professionally, and personally.  I tried my best to pack a lot into my two and a half years at AU, but I was also eager to start the next chapter of my life.
    As I mentioned above, graduating early took a lot of logistical coordination and self-motivation to get everything together.  I really had to put the pieces together and make it work, because there were a lot of instances where I got so far in the planning process and then ran into an obstacle.  For example, even after I had scraped together the classes for the summer and fall that met the requirements for my major and the Honors Program – and still interested me – one of my regional classes for SIS was cancelled three days before the first day of classes.  I tried to do an independent study, and had all of the pieces in place for that, but unfortunately it didn’t work out.  Instead, I was forced to reshuffle my schedule again, and the new class didn’t allow for me to have an internship during the week (it was aMonday-Thursday, 1:10-2:25 p.m. class).  I had to sacrifice having an internship the semester I was graduating, and it took me a while to come to terms with that reality.  In the end, it was worth it.  However, I think I made it work because I have always tended to plan ahead, and I was blessed to be able afford to take Advanced Placement classes in a high school with a multitude of options and a variety of resources.

Who was your favorite professor, or what was your favorite class?
Chavara: As a continuing student of American University I'm afraid to reveal my favorite professor or course. I'll check back in after I finish my Masters next spring!
Calachan: I enjoyed all of my classes for different reasons, and I’ve had a lot of great professors. However, one of my favorite professors is Eve Bratman.  I took her International Development course as a gateway for my thematic focus in SIS, and in my last semester, I took her Third World Cities class.  Professor Bratman has always been an excellent teacher and mentor, and I have been inspired by her dedication and invested interest in what she teaches since I took my first class with her in Fall 2014.  One of my favorite classes was Social Entrepreneuring with Nannette Levinson.  I didn’t know much about social entrepreneurship when I decided to take the course, but I enjoyed the process of learning more about it throughout the semester.  The case studies we reviewed and the strategies we learned about were interesting, and I liked challenging myself to create my own organization for the final case study project.

What was your favorite experience at AU?
Chavara: I was privileged to attend a number of incredible events in Washington though I must say my favorite experiences at AU, specifically, would have to be all my classes. I haven't had a course I didn't love and my memories of the classroom are really going to be what I take with me.
Calachan: One of my favorite experiences at AU was going to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in August 2013, my first semester of college.  It was such a moving experience to be a part of, and definitely a great welcome to the Nation’s capital.

What was your favorite experience as a Global Scholar?
Chavara: My favorite experience as a Global Scholar may have been the site-visit to Atlantic Media. The staff and editors who spoke with us were extremely knowledgeable and it was so memorable to be there in the Watergate complex with all its history.
Calachan: One of my favorite experiences as a global scholar was going to the Pembroke-King’s Programme at the University of Cambridge during the summer after my first year at AU.  I have nothing but the high praise for the study abroad program itself and the coordination between PKP and AU to make the courses work for us.  I took my Peace and Conflict Resolution gateway, my SISU-306 supervision, and an elective called The New City – the class which sparked my love for urban studies.  I am still best friends with people I met during those eight weeks in 2014, and I will always cherish that opportunity.

If you could go back, is there anything you would change about your college experience? Or, do you have any advice on how to make the most of your experience here?
Chavara:  I don't think I would have changed anything about my time at American, quite honestly. I hesitate to use a cliche here, but I think it's true that you get out of the college experience depends what you put into it.
Calachan: One piece of advice I have on how to make the most of your experience at AU, or anywhere, is to be constantly hungry for new opportunities and experiences.  Having an internship and being involved in a group on campus can be a lot of work and it is easy to grow complacent.  However, some of my most enlightening and enjoyable experiences came after I continued to push myself to do more.  Of course, you must also remember how important it is to remember your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.  It’s not about “having it all” but rather, always remembering that there’s more to learn and more to experience.  Another thing I learned through my AU experience was that while it’s unfortunate when you don’t get the internship you want or get into the class you’ve been hoping to take, it’s important to use those roadblocks as motivation, and continue to search for opportunities and seize them when they arise.

What are your plans now that you've graduated?
Chavara:  couldn't not take advantage of the 1-year Masters program! I'm continuing my graduate studies in the Global Environmental Politics Program which, coincidentally, is now directed by my first-year Global Scholar Program Director, Simon Nicholson. After graduation I hope to find employment in the environmental policy field.
Calachan: Now that I’ve graduated, I’m focusing on securing a job and pursuing my other interests in photography, urban planning, and computer science.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Chavara: At the moment, I intend to live in a European city, depending on my future employment offers. Hopefully somewhere where I can use my French minor!
Calachan: I think it’d be fun to live in Denmark for a little while.

Pictured from left: Chavara, Calachan, and Kay Link, another Global Scholar, at their commencement ceremony

January Newsletter!