- Columbia University in the City of New York
- United States of America
About Jacqueline Yu (she/her)
Hi! My name is Jacqueline Yu, and I am a freshman at Columbia University. I am originally from Richmond, Virginia, and I am a first-generation Chinese immigrant. I am an avid appreciator of the arts, and I aspire to be a museum curator. My other interests include crafts, languages (especially French, Chinese, and Italian), and dance! One of my major goals is to increase the inclusivity and outreach of museums by critically evaluating the unique ethical issues that these cultural institutions face.
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I have gained a litany of skills and knowledge from my summer experience. Due to the varied tasks I work on at the Library, I have learned how to create memos, edit videos on Adobe Premier, use Adobe InDesign, analyze events data, plan/host events, create marketing on social media, and, most importantly, work well in a multi-faceted, bureaucratic cultural institution. Being in another country has also helped me learn/practice French, adapt to new cultures, and gain more confidence in my ability to be independent. My boss has definitely been instrumental in helping me adjust to France and make the most of my internship experience. She is actually a Columbia alum, and she had so much amazing advice for me about my remaining years in college. As a leader, she really gave me the freedom to be creative and make my own schedule. Although she still provided guidance, I appreciated her hands-off leadership style which allowed me to come into my own and be more assertive/confident about my abilities. She clearly trusted my capabilities which allowed me to flourish in my tasks. I am definitely more of a control freak when it comes to being a leader, so it was great to experience a new style from the perspective of the one being led. In the future, I will remember the freedom and enjoyment I had from a more laidback leadership style and make sure to incorporate elements of that behavior into my own work.
Week three: What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other media submission!
Working at an NGO means that every single day is a little different, and all very exciting! My usual routine on a work day involves the food distributions, where we meet at Square Albert-Schweitzer (near the center of Paris) in the morning and go on different routes bringing people without homes food and coffee/tea. There are also weekly language exchanges, in which volunteers and refugees come together to improve English/French language skills, ending with a potluck dinner. However, what makes the work extra exciting is when added opportunities for engagement appear, such as getting to partner with REVERB, an organization dedicated to making tours more sustainable, and getting to see Lorde in concert after volunteering and helping conduct outreach for Serve the City as well as raise awareness about climate change. I also had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to lead a volunteer workshop on global formations of racial identity, which gave me the chance to take some of what I've learned in my CSER classes and share with volunteers from all over the world both in person and virtually (two people zoomed in from Egypt and India!).
While for some reason I can't figure out how to link images, you can see more of the work Serve the City is doing on their instagram.
Hi Faith! Your average work day sounds amazing! It seems like you were able to have a very diverse and fulfilling experience at your internship which allowed you to see all of the different kinds of work that Serve the City conducts. A potluck dinner for a weekly language exchange sounds like a beautiful way to connect with and help form community, and I can't wait to hear more about your experiences in the Fall. P.S. I am so jealous that you were able to go to a Lorde concert in Paris!
Although I generally love Paris and my internship, as expected, I have experienced some challenges in this new city and environment. As I'm sure many of y'all can relate to, adjusting to a different culture and crafting new friendships is incredibly difficult and anxiety inducing. Luckily, many of my Columbia friends are also in Paris this summer studying abroad through the Columbia in Paris programs. I really only had to experience a lonely Paris for a week before some of my closest friends arrived to accompany me on my journey. Due to this great advantage, I believe the greatest issue that I grapple with while here is the language barrier. I can speak an intermediate level of French; however, speaking in a classroom with fellow novices and speaking with real French people is a completely different ballgame. I am often too nervous to speak French confidently, and I have a lot of difficulty understanding fast-paced French people. This makes eating out, shopping, and every day tasks embarrassing at best. Many Parisians speak a functioning level of English, so I have never been severely hindered because of my lackluster language skills. However, in order to make the most of my experience, I aim to speak as much French as possible and it has really been an uphill battle overcoming my inhibitions about making a fool of myself. As time has passed, I have definitely improved in my conversational French, to the point where I can order meals with little to no issue. I found that I could easily improve my confidence by going out with fellow French-speaking friends who could help me in times of language-related crisis. Lots of practice and not letting unsuccessful interactions debilitate my attempts at speaking French were also very beneficial.
Working at the library has expanded my conception of cultural institutions and made me more interested in event-planning/intellectual discourse. The library often invites very diverse and interesting speakers who cover topics from journalism to technology-based philosophy. This interdisciplinary approach has not only been very enlightening in a broad range of subjects but has also made me more appreciative of having an open dialogue between scholars and the public. It is so wonderful to have a free forum for members of the community to learn about and participate in discussions that are often trapped in academia. Although I have always been interested in increasing accessibility, this experience has really reinforced my dedication to making the frontier of research more democratic. As a side note, I have also picked up a newfound interest in poetry since spending 28 hours of my week in a library with an expansive poetry collection.
At the library, I have a very flexible schedule, and I deal with all kinds of tasks. Typically, I go into work Monday through Thursday from 10 - 5 PM with an hour lunch break (as the French do). Throughout the day, I will work on researching speakers and organizations, proposing events, and creating social media content. I often write descriptions and compile memos for upcoming Evenings with an Author. When I complete my boss' task list, I divert my attention to my larger project analyzing the Library's events data from the past 10 years. On days where there are events, my schedule does change a bit. Often, I will come into work around 12 or 1 PM, so I can help set up and take down the 7:30 to 8:30 PM discussions. I help move tables, arrange chairs, and coordinate the check-in booth. I also occasionally attend the events and socialize with the guests. I am having a very diverse and enriching experience!
Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner? If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?
A topic that I have been reading alot about is Marshallese diaspora and have been reading interviews from Marshallese elders and also trying to find Marshallese music as an additional source for my project.
How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?
I would say invisibility of the researcher is better in my case since I am not a member of the community which I am researching. As I have been reading about in the book How to Hide an Empire: History of the Greater United States, racism deeply influenced the U.S.'s relationship with its "overseas territories" which it treated as colonies through exploiting the local resources and geography of small, isolated regions. This was definitely the case in the Marshall Islands as the U.S. established military presence and segregated the island, causing deep community harm even before irrevocably decimating and then contaminating the region through nuclear testing.
It was really interesting for me to read more about the history of the colonization of the Marshall Islands, which interestingly started with German colonization then Japanese and then American after Japan was defeated in WW2.
If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?
The last part of my project is going to be more community-oriented. I will be helping create an exhibit about the Marshallese diaspora. I have been trying to look for advice/read about how to sensitively learn about/discuss experiences of a different community. Ultimately, I try to rely on the perspective of the Marshallese community throughout my research. I've also been brainstorming ways to acknowledge the impact of racism in my study and inform myself on Marshallese local community practices/philosophies etc.
There's still a lot of work for my project and I'm excited to continue learning.
Hi Anna! Your project sounds so interesting. I am especially excited about your exhibit idea, and I am glad that you are looking for advice/reading about how to sensitively discuss the experiences of a different community. As someone really interested in museum ethics, I think relying on the perspectives of the Marshallese community and elevating Marshallese voices rather than speaking over them is an excellent way to make sure your exhibition is as ethical as possible. I definitely recommend looking into famous past museum exhibitions that have tackled this same issue (there are plenty of examples of exactly what NOT to do!). Furthermore, learning about Marshallese culture and practice is definitely a great way to check your prejudices. I hope everything is going well and that my advice is still useful whatever stage of your project you are on (given this was posted 4 weeks ago).
I engage predominantly with the American expat community in Paris; however, I have also interacted with French people interested in English and cross-cultural exchange. As an events intern, knowing that my audience is largely fellow Americans or French people with extensive knowledge of English and the English-speaking world has definitely shaped the kinds of events I propose. I want to create experiences that resonate with this community and allow them to interrogate their unique position in both American and French society. Therefore, I look extensively at speakers who are Americans in Paris or creating panels with both French and American participants. I also want to highlight issues surrounding immigration and explorations of French culture and history.
In my work, I am present although I aim to be invisible. As an art history major and someone passionate about decolonial studies, I am very partial to those topics when planning events. Although I express the most interest in those speakers and books, I do aim to cater to a wide variety of subjects and make sure that the library draws in the largest audience possible.
My interactions with the public are fairly limited to general questions about the library. I have yet to host an event, so I have not facilitated a QnA or interacted with the audience about the subjects of the talks. In terms of connecting with the community, I believe there is an automatic kind of solidarity between most patrons of the library and I due to our nationality being American. This relationship is only strengthened by our international location. It is very comforting to be around people who understand your background and your accent when you are in the middle of a large foreign city.
Week one: As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to address or set aside those insecurities or, better yet, to use them to our advantage?
Hi everyone! My name is Faith Andrews-O'Neal. This summer, I am working with Serve the City Paris, a legal NGO in the city doing work helping refugees and unhoused people in Paris. I am working with the organization as a SAVE intern, which means volunteering and attending workshops as well as developing a capstone project (in my case, two or three because I can't pick one!) over the course of your internship.
The idea of saying something that has already been said is of particular interest to me, as my hope in the development of a capstone project is something both original and impactful for a community I do not know much about. This is why I asked if it was an option to take on more than one, as the issues that I care about do not particularly intersect, and the project they recommended for me did not seem to say/do anything more than what has been done. For my first project, I am leading a workshop for other volunteers on the ideas of formations of racial identity within our respective countries. While I only have a larger body of knowledge of the ideas of race in America, I want to facilitate an open space for discussion of identity on a global scale. I am certainly not the first person to discuss this, but I am hoping that for volunteers (particularly those who are not American), I can bring about new viewpoints and a discussion with different perspectives than what they may have previously encountered.
What I am coming to learn through my volunteer work and the work I am doing for my capstone is that it is okay if you are not the first person to bring an idea to the table. In fact, the communities we serve benefit so much more from consistency and continuation than constant inundations of new concepts. Every tuesday, friday, and Saturday, Serve the City distributes food to four to six of the same routes and to the homeless encampments in these areas. As such, although we are not the first person to bring them food that week or even that day, coming back and doing the same things over and over allow the volunteers to develop long term relationships with the communities we serve. I am able to discuss literature and gardening, and see the ways in which people make lives for themselves in spite of their situations. It's not the novelty that makes the work worth doing, but the recognition and acknowledgement that this sameness does much more service.
Hi Faith! Your first capstone project sounds amazing. As we are both in Paris, I totally understand what you mean about how perspectives differ from America to France. Although I am working in a largely American institution, we have many visitors and speakers from France, and I often find it interesting to compare my beliefs with them. This cross-cultural exchange is very meaningful and important to me and definitely broadens my understanding of the world. I am sure you will bring (or have brought as you posted this three weeks ago) new viewpoints to the audience of your project!
(I am posting this reflection a week late because I have been super busy getting settled! Sorry for the delay!)
Hi everyone! This summer, I am interning with the American Library in Paris as an Events intern, and I definitely resonate with this question. My internship is not heavily structured, and I am the only intern in my position with my supervisor. So, on my first day, I was not given an extensive orientation or the guidance that would have immediately situated me within the library's bureaucracy. I spent my first couple of days fumbling around and figuring out what the responsibilities and expectations of my position were. Furthermore, although I had researched the library beforehand, I was not privy to any of the internal conversations or plans that had not been announced to the public. This obviously led to a lot of insecurity about my level of knowledge and comfort in the library and how valuable my contribution would be to the institution. Rather than set aside these insecurities, I decided to embrace them and use them to motivate me to be more observant and curious. As I clearly lacked an understanding of the usual mode of operation in the library, I was not afraid to ask my supervisor and other senior workers plenty of questions, and they were always very accommodating and willing to share their knowledge. I also picked up some more responsibilities at the library (I volunteer every week for the Children and Teen's department!), so I could further acclimate to my new environment. I believe that this is a good way to confront uncertainty and improve your work!
My project for this summer is different from my project last summer. In 2021, I was researching museum ethics and stolen objects, and now I am working in a library on events programming. Although I am still focusing on public collecting institutions and how they serve communities, I have definitely pivoted my scope, and I am much more involved this year in the community building aspect compared to last year. I think my deep dive into ethical presentations of diverse cultures has definitely impacted my understanding of what kind of events the library should be promoting. I feel very passionate about highlighting marginalized perspectives and focusing on global-facing ideas. As I help plan and execute events, I will be thinking about my research into how cultural institutions help shape one's identity and understanding of the world.
In terms of tools that I picked up from my new project, as my internship is public facing, I've definitely had to refine my people skills. I have also learned a lot about the logistics of hosting an event and all of the marketing, planning, and writing that precedes it. I've familiarized myself with writing event descriptions for the public, assembling a hybrid Zoom set up, and creating social media material. All of these new tools have helped me conduct my internship to the best of my ability.