Category: School

It’s Been 1L of a Year

To Section Two–thank you for making this school year a great one.

Nine months ago, I sat in the car as my parents and I made the 600 mile trip from Upstate New York to my new (temporary) home in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. Law school began in just a few weeks, I was about to meet a whole new set of people, and I was going to be living in an area to which I’d had little prior exposure. The thought of having to go through this transition–this process of establishing a new life and making new friends–terrified me. What if I didn’t fit in with my new colleagues? What if I didn’t fit in with the Southerners?

This was so much different than my undergraduate experience, where I was only 75 miles from home and the drive was a mere hour-and-a-half. All of my family lived within a two-hour drive of Syracuse, and for all intents and purposes I was home there. Marching band and other activities had made it so easy and natural to make friends. I wasn’t so sure this move to North Carolina was going to turn out as well as Syracuse had. I’d made the decision to attend Wake Forest partly based on the new experiences it had to offer, so part of me said that I was just going to have to bite the bullet and give it my best shot.

Fast-forwarding to the present, I must contrast these early-semester nerves with where I am today in my law school experience. After my first year of law school, I can truly tell you that my fears and apprehensions were absolutely alleviated within the first month or so of the school year. It is amazing at how quickly one can adapt into a new environment and find that it feels more like home than you ever could have imagined.

In the nine months I have been here, I have met some of the funniest, kindest, intelligent, and all-around wonderful people here at Wake Forest. I had the great fortune of being placed into a section of some of the most laid-back, awesome people I could have ever hoped to meet–people that I have laughed with, hiked with, drank beer with, stressed over exams with. In the nine months I have been here, I have met people I know will be lifelong friends–men and women I will keep in contact with long after we are hooded, pass the bar, and enter into practice. People I can’t really picture life without. Our friendship circle has become a tight-knit support system that picks each other up when we’re down and knows how to have a proper celebration when the circumstances so warrant. And that’s exactly the group I needed to find here in law school–little did I know on that drive down here that I didn’t even need to search to find exactly what I was looking for. I reflect on this past year knowing that I both made the right choice in law schools and that I would not have been this content anywhere else.

I’ve also learned a lot–a lot–about the law these past nine months. More than I ever would have thought possible. The mind can really absorb a lot of information. And the amazing thing is that as much as I know now, I have two full years to go. But as much as I loved this year academically–I had great professors who made classes interesting–I’m looking forward to next year even more with its customized schedule (no Friday classes!) and courses that sound intensely interesting (such as Law and Medicine, Jurisprudence, and Pre-trial Practice and Procedure). A whole new year of challenges and adventures lies ahead, and I know I’m ready for it.

There’s also something to be said for adapting to Southern living. Just as with the law school community and new friendship circles, growing comfortable with life in North Carolina happened rather quickly. Winston-Salem is a great little city with quite a bit to offer in terms of recreational activities and nightlife. And besides that, I have adjusted to the more relaxed pace of Southern life, I’ve caught myself using “y’all” on way more than one occasion, and have I mentioned how awesome the climate is down here? Not only has it been well into the 70s (and sometimes 80s) for the past month-and-a-half, but the winter–oh, the winter! We saw probably eight total inches of snow spread over three separate days, and school was cancelled every single weekday we had snow. After spending four years in the Great White North that is Syracuse, New York–trudging through class through a foot of snow and biting, freezing winds without delays or closings–I figure that I have more than earned this. And after a winter spend not hating the climate every time I ventured outside, I could definitely get used to it. Of course I haven’t lost my Northeastern identity, but it has become distinctively blended these past nine months.

As much as I have been loving this North Carolina lifestyle, though, I am really looking forward to coming home and spending time with family and friends. I miss my parents. I miss my sister and her family. I miss my friends back in the Northeast. A summer of work at my internship and relaxation at the lake lies ahead, and it could not get here soon enough. In just a few short days, I begin my 600 mile journey back home to New York, and I am so excited.

To Section Two–I’m already looking forward to being reunited with you all in August; and to friends and family back home–I cannot wait to see you all.

After a successful school year, I’m coming home.

Life as a Deacon and Syracuse Heartache

Today marks two months since I left my home in New York to begin the new and exciting adventure that has been my 1L year at Wake Forest Law thus far. It was not an easy move–I was only an hour and a half from home during my undergraduate years, and the thought of moving almost six hundred miles away frankly sort of terrified me. This is a place quite different from where I’d grown up, in terms of culture, geography, and even language. I never had any good faith reservations about attending law school in the South, but ripping up anyone from their roots and transplanting them into a completely different climate is never an easy proposition.

Fortunately for me, these past two months have been nothing short of awesome. I had the great fortune to be placed into a section of some of the brightest, funniest, and all-around great people I could have hoped to meet and befriend at Wake Forest (1st is the worst, 2nd is the best, something something hairy chest…). I have made friends that I know will likely last the rest of life, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

Culturally speaking, I’ve started to “assimilate,” if that’s the right word for it. I’ve caught myself using “y’all” without realizing it and calling adults “sir” and “ma’am.” I’ve even taught myself how to make fried chicken and gravy (not that difficult, but I’m still proud). Now all I need to do is forget how to use a turn signal, especially when merging into five lanes of traffic on I-40 at 75 miles per hour. Then I’ll be more of an authentic Southerner, I think.

Of course, school dominates every single aspect of my life, and it will continue to do so until sweet freedom (sort of…not really) comes in May 2017. I can safely say that I have learned more about the law these last seven weeks of school than I ever could have imagined I would learn about the law to this point. And that’s just in the first seven weeks. Of my first semester. Of my first year. I can talk about minimum contacts such that traditional concepts of fair play and substantial justice are not offended. I call tell you when “IT’S A TORT!!!!!” And I can tell you with absolute certainly that Justice Brennan loved personal jurisdiction and would be able to find it in literally every case he heard arguments for. And yet, as much as I’ve learned so far, I simultaneously know nothing at all.

But as much as I’m loving life down here in North Carolina, and as busy as school keeps me, I find myself missing Syracuse terribly. I miss my friends. I miss marching band. I miss hearing the Crouse Chimes ringing the Alma Mater and dealing with AirOrangeX insisting that I can’t have Internet access (okay, maybe not so much on that last one). The cruelty of higher education is that it mixes a bunch of people from all over and all walks of life together, allows them to form close and intense friendships, and then rends those friendships asunder when the time comes for commencement.

Fortunately, my Syracuse heartache will be remedied tomorrow, when I fly back to the Salt City for my first homecoming as an alumnus. I cannot wait to reconnect with my friends, see my parents again, take in campus once more, and watch as the Florida State Seminoles absolutely dismember our football team (seriously, SU Athletics? You couldn’t schedule homecoming for a weekend when a win is at least plausible?). But as rough as the game will be, and as many beers I am likely to consume as a result of it, I could not be more excited for this much-anticipated, if not brief, reunion. I have been looking forward to this day since the moment I left campus this past May, and that it is finally here has me shaking in mind-numbing anticipation for going to the Charlotte airport tomorrow. My bags are packed and my boarding passes are printed. I’m coming home, Syracuse.

Making Sense of ‘Scholarship in Action’

At Syracuse University, our chancellor Nancy Cantor’s vision for the University is labelled ‘Scholarship in Action.’ Chancellor Cantor uses many catchphrases to explain this vision, such as “Education for the world, in the world,” and “Education that comes out of the ivory tower and into the community.” This vision and its buzzwords are the butt of many a joke on the Syracuse campus. I often hear “Scholarship in Action? Oh, that doesn’t mean anything! It’s pointless!” But I’m one of the probable few at Syracuse who actually find this vision relevant and even valuable to our college educational experience.

The catchphrases that Chancellor Cantor loves to include in her promotion of Scholarship in Action sum it up nicely–the vision is truly about “Education for the world, in the world.” The mission is to not limit education to the classroom, but to instead give students real-world, hands-on experience in their desired field, all while doing some good work in the community, too. In higher education, it can be easy to remain isolated in the “ivory tower,” and forget that the University is closely connected with the surrounding area. As students, we attend college to earn a degree, with the goal of doing work that will somehow be beneficial to people. Engineers, teachers, architects, musicians–and yes, even lawyers–all contribute to society and the greater good in some meaningful way. Scholarship in Action seeks to give students experience contributing to this good as an integral part of the educational experience. If the work we do benefits both ourselves and society as a whole while we are in school, it will become even more valuable after graduation, when we enter the ‘real world’ and get a job in our desired field.

Scholarship in Action manifests itself in a number of ways at Syracuse. Many degree programs offer (or even require) a credit-granting internship that requires work within the Syracuse community. The Say Yes to Education program offers students real-world experience with children–something that is beneficial to both the community and the SU students gaining experience relevant to their desired career. This style of education is good for both those doing the work, and those receiving the benefits of that work.

Although Scholarship in Action might seem like a vague, intangible thing–even ridiculous, to some people–it is something that is incredibly well-intentioned and truly unique to the community of higher education. It serves as a constant reminder that our education is for a purpose other than just a degree with our name on it. I would like to take my education out into the real world this fall, and perhaps do some light volunteer work for local political campaigns. Doing so would be fulfilling, and give my education a deeper sense of purpose.

So, before you’re quick to dismiss Scholarship in Action as not serious, or make a joke about how pointless it is, remember that we are all driven by a purpose to make a difference in some way, and that this vision could help you achieve that goal. I applaud Chancellor Cantor, and I hope that she continues to lead us down this innovative path.

Reflecting on my Sophomore Year

I stood in the middle of my room in Lawrinson Hall, surrounded by boxes and bins filled with things that had made the space my own during the past school year. I found myself at a loss for words–how could the year have passed so quickly? It seemed as if it was just yesterday that I had arrived back on campus, eager to renew old friendships, forge new ones, and savor each moment of my ever-shortening college career. All of my things had just been unpacked and put in their place; and now I had to undo all of my hard work. The pace at which time passed away seemed almost unjust–what was fair about nine months of college going by in what seemed like mere days?

In college, unpacking and settling in your room can be one of the most exciting (and exhausting) parts of beginning a new school year. It represents a new start–a new year filled with incredible experiences and memories. Making your room “just so” always gives it a feeling of home and a sense that you belong there. The anticipation of what lies ahead is a truly exciting feeling. On the other hand, packing and moving out represents almost the opposite. Moving out signals that the relaxation of summer lies just ahead, but is also a bittersweet reminder of the school year that has become just another memory. And although the promise of another school year always exists in the back of your mind, the cold, hard truth that graduation looms another year closer can be painful.

As I waited for the arrival of my parents, I sat in my desk chair, reminiscing about the incredible year I’d had at Syracuse. Marching band provided me with many new friendships, and the opportunity to play great music and witness some exciting football games from a unique perspective. I continued to see academic success in the first semester, and it was overall a very enjoyable (albeit fast) one. The second semester provided me with opportunities that few ever have in their lifetime. I was able to travel with our men’s basketball team to all postseason games as part of the Sour Sitrus Society pep band. The trips we made–to New York, Pittsburgh, and Boston–were incredible. I saw areas of the country I’d never seen before, and I spent a lot of time with some pretty great people. I realized that over the past year, I’d done a lot of maturing, and that I’d grown a lot as a person. The memories I cling to from the past year are so valuable to me–they take me back to those wonderful days gone by.

Even though my sophomore year at Syracuse was incredibly busy, it went much faster than my first at the University. Before I went off to school, many of the adults in my life told me to enjoy every moment of my college experience, because it only happened once, and it went by quickly. Now, I knew that my time at Syracuse was a one-shot deal, but I doubted that time would fly. Four years of high school seemed to go at a plodding pace–it was as if I was stuck in the doldrums, and there was no escape. Those four years dragged on at a snail’s pace. How could four years of college possibly go any faster than that? And as a I look back on the two years I’ve completed, I know that those people were right to give me that advice. Over the course of my final two years at Syracuse, I will not take one moment or friendship for granted, because before I realize it, it’ll all be over.

As I write this, I find myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next school year. I’ve been home for only three weeks, and I absolutely love being home. It is wonderful to be able to spend so much time with my family and friends, and get away from the hectic pace of college. But this coming fall, another amazing opportunity awaits me. In late April, I was appointed as one of the Drum Majors of the SU Marching Band, and I am already anxious to get to work. I excitedly await the experiences that lie ahead for me–in band, in my new apartment with one of my best friends, and with all my wonderful friends who make my college experience awesome.

Catching Up

Well, I’ve done it again. After my last wave of posts, I told myself “You’re going to  keep up with this from now on.” I suppose that as the semester has really started to pick up, this blog was placed into the basement of my consciousness.

So, I should probably pick up where I’d left off. To date, the semester has absolutely flown. I can’t believe that we’re currently in week six of fifteen! It’s funny how quickly the time goes, isn’t it? It seems as if I was just eagerly arriving back at school, ready for the start of a new half of the year. The spring semester appears to go so much quicker than the fall one does, and I’m not sure why. Anyway, all of my courses have been great – I love the content and the instructors. Studying what you’re actually interested in makes education much more enjoyable for the student. All in all, academics have been going very well.

On a different front, our men’s basketball team is having some kind of season. After a soul-crushing loss to Notre Dame in mid-January, they seem to have picked themselves up and have continued to win (even if those victories come at the expense of the cardiological health of the fan base). What makes this season more exciting for me is the fact that I get to travel with the Sour Sitrus Society (our pep band) to the men’s Big East Tournament, as well as every round of the NCAA Tournament that the team makes it to. Here’s hoping that they win it all!

I was recently approached by a colleague I went to high school with, who asked me to write a piece for a literary magazine at his college. Now, I’ll admit, I had no idea where to even begin; the only guidelines I was given were “poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction.” After toying with the idea of writing a hearty defense of abortion (or other various social issues), I eventually settled on writing a memoir recounting my “conversion” from conservatism to liberalism. This topic is something that I’ve been pressed to explain, and that I’ve taken much criticism for over the past few years. I figure that if I explain the process I underwent – as well as the reasoning behind it – questions may be answered, and wounds may be fully healed. This piece will not be a polemic that defends my liberal ideals, it will be only an explanation of how and why I adopted these ideals. My reasoning and judgment are my own: it would be moot to write a piece which attempts to persuade the reader into adopting my beliefs. The goal shall be to simply to give the reader a greater understanding as to why I did a proverbial “political 180” over the course of a few months. Perhaps once this piece is finished, I will share it will the readers of this blog, as well.

It’s now nearly 3 AM, and I should soon go to bed. This whole “college” thing has really tampered with my already-unusual sleeping patterns. I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming days, weeks, and months. And I promise that you’ll not have to wait another month for my next post.

The Need for Civility in Political Discourse

On Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, my first class is PSC 307: The Politics of Citizenship. Our professor begins each class by asking the students what they’ve seen in the news, and it’s our responsibility to raise our hands to share what we’ve been seeing/reading, as well as give a very brief overview of the story we chose to share. One student raised his hand and told the class about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney revealing that his tax rate is “about 15 percent,” in addition to the discovery that Romney also holds money in the Cayman Islands, thus making it impossible to tax in the United States (I’ll admit, I haven’t heard much about this story, so if the information presented here is inaccurate, I apologize). Our professor then made a humorous remark about how Romney’s current tax rate was so crushing that he must have had to shelter his income off-shore. This remark got a chuckle from most of the class, and as the laughter subsided, the young man sitting in the row behind me threw his hand up in the air. Our professor called on him presumably thinking that he too had a news story to share, but he had something else in mind.

After being called on, he proceeded to start a debate with the professor about taxation rates – a debate in which he seemed pretty angry from the very beginning. After a few heated barbs directed at our professor were met only with calm responses, the debate was concluded with the two essentially agreeing to disagree. Now, the point here is not who I agreed with (although I happened to agree with our professor, for the record). The point is that the way in which this student chose to express his ideas was incredibly inappropriate for an academic setting. At the university level, students are encouraged to question and to share new ideas – blind agreement with our instructors has never been demanded or implied. But the tone of this gentleman’s rhetoric made it difficult to take him seriously.

This is the problem in modern politics – a lack of civil discourse. As we’ve all witnessed in the Republican debates, candidates seem to love attacking their fellow Republicans as much as they enjoy going after their eventual opponent: President Obama. Again, this isn’t to beat a certain political drum or to belittle a particular ideology, it’s merely an observation that the tone of political speech has grown quite hostile. And as I sat there listening to the debate between teacher and student, I realized that our classroom at that moment was a microcosm of the hostile tone that dominates politics. The student vehemently disagreed with the views held by the instructor, but seemed to discredit her opinions on a personal level, rather than an intellectual one. It seemed as if the student’s agenda was to build up his own credibility by tearing down hers (which is no easy task, considering that she holds a PhD from Yale).

In the coming months, as election season heats up, it is my hope that the debate that is sure to come will be a respectful one where we discuss the merits of our ideas and beliefs, not question each other’s intelligence, integrity, or character. As our political discourse becomes more civil: more idea-driven, and less about “You’re an evil Democrat” or “You’re an awful Republican,” the more constructive our debates will be, and the more our minds will be receptive to new ideas.

Where has time gone?

So I’ll be the first to admit it: I sort of forgot about having this blog in the time between the start of summer to the present – the start of the second half of my sophomore year at Syracuse. A friend’s post on her blog jarred my memory, and the epiphany hit: “You have a blog, but haven’t posted since June, you twit!!” A few frustrated minutes of attempting to remember my password later, and here I sit, writing away before I head to bed.

So much has happened since I last wrote. I had a wonderful and relaxing summer, spending quality time with friends and family – including an entire week filled with sunshine and laziness at the beach in Cape May, NJ. But alas, summer came to a close (as they usually do), and it was time to head back to marching band camp at Syracuse.

I’ll be honest: being a “vet” (or veteran member) of the marching band at band camp felt very strange at first. It was strange not having last year’s senior class there, and it was strange to not be the newcomers. But I settled into the rhythm of things at camp, and before I knew it, a week had gone by and it was time to start classes.

This past semester, I actually enjoyed all but one of my classes (thank you, economics – I’ll never take you again). It felt good to be studying topics that actually interested me, instead of being told I had to take a course to merely fill a requirement. Partway through the semester, I declared my major in Writing and Rhetoric, which surprised many people, since this particular major is something that is unique to Syracuse. Apparently, many other colleges and universities don’t have a major in writing, and those with an interest in it must be English majors, instead. I’ll soon be declaring my other major, political science. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that politics is my passion, and might think it strange that it’s my “other” major. Unfortunately, I couldn’t declare that major first, since I hadn’t fulfilled the prerequisite requirements, but they’re now completed, and I’ll declare it this week.

Marching band season went very well this year (although I wish I could say the same for football season). We performed a variety of field shows, ranging from a patriotic show to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, to a karaoke show filled with popular music that motivated the crowd to sing along. New friendships were forged, and old ones picked up where they’d been left off. I had the opportunity to be in band with one of my best friends from high school, Brian Ives. As he and I like to tell everyone, “We live across the street and five houses down from each other.” It’s truly a joy to have him here at Syracuse, and I’m so glad he decided to join marching band.

On a more melancholy note, I was there to witness our football team’s 49-21 drubbing of West Virginia – who was ranked 11th in the nation at the time – only to witness the team fall apart and lose the rest of their games, thus dashing any hopes of a trip to a bowl game. Our basketball team (you may have heard of them) has brightened our outlook on collegiate sports, however, with a 20-0 start and current #1 ranking.

In these, the starting days of this fledgling semester, I look to the future with optimism. So far, I absolutely love all of my classes (and my schedule even more, admittedly). The coming weeks and months promise to bring with them a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I turn twenty in just over a month and a half, I’ll continue to play in pep band for basketball, and my friends and I will make more wonderful memories together. It’s getting quite late, and I’ve got class tomorrow, so I must go. But fear not – my next post will be sooner than six months from now.