Sunday, March 11

Day 1 of the CIE trip and I am already in a New York State of mind! After a two-hour flight from Chicago to NY, we took a 30-minute shuttle from the airport and got our first glimpse of New York traffic. But amidst all of the taxi cabs, pedestrians cutting through traffic, and nonstop honking, was a city of energy, unbelievable skyscrapers, and people– lots of them.

After settling into our hotel in Manhattan, we attended our first event of the night and got a taste of the famous New York pizza, or should I say “pie.” Now, as a dedicated Chicagoan, I remain fully committed to the one and only Lou Malnatis pizza, but I must say, New York’s pie is tasty– either that, or I was incredibly hungry from a day’s worth of travel. After eating NY pie, we met with our first panel of the evening, the young alumni panel, where we had the opportunity to hear directly from recent IWU grads about how their life has been thus far in the real world.

The five panelists gave us insight into their time at IWU and how it prepared them for the workplace, while they shared with us the challenges and best parts of “adulting.” From the challenges they face in the workplace to living in apartments that are so small they have to put up a fake wall, it was interesting to see how these grads have adjusted from living in Bloomington-Normal to New York. But despite the challenges, these alums have achieved massive success in the workplace, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear their experiences and their journeys to get to where they are today.

It was also extremely beneficial to talk to recent graduates because it gave me a certain sense of reality. I learned that sometimes you might hate your first job and that’s ok. I learned to not be complacent in the workplace, and to make the changes you want to see happen. I learned to take risks but to not be reckless when it comes to decision making. I learned that qualities as simple as kindness that are often overlooked can take you far in the workplace. I learned that GPA and grades are important, but they are not everything. I learned that the real world is not perfect: there is no clear cut path. Instead, it is challenging, at times, confusing and frustrating, but overall, it is extremely rewarding once you end up at the place in the position that best suits you.

As if feeling a new sense of inspiration after this wonderful panel wasn’t enough, after the event we had the opportunity to visit the one and only Empire State Building. Being 102 stories high overlooking the city of New York is an experience that is hard to put into words. There is a sense of peacefulness coupled with awe and inspiration. This city, filled with rich diversity, history and an indescribable energy, is inspiring, so inspiring, you feel as if you can take on any challenge and seize any opportunity. After taking a montage of selfies as we overlooked New York City we headed for the once again, awe-inspiring Times Square.

After visiting Times Square I now know why New York is called the city that never sleeps. It can be 4 o’clock in the morning in Times Square and you would never know it. There are lights everywhere; people everywhere; advertisements and stores and skyscrapers everywhere. There is a sense of energy and life that is hard to describe, and when I first arrived at Times Square this was all so overwhelming yet amazing, that I had to stop several times in the middle of the sidewalk (although that is against New York code) and look around to take it all in.

I was overwhelmed with amazement as I walked into several stores including the M&M store, and stood on the famous steps that Alicia Keys sang on. After experiencing my first day in this land of opportunity, I can attest to Alicia’s Empire State of Mind: there’s nothing you can’t do in New York because it’s a city where dreams our made of, and I cannot wait to hear how people have accomplished their dreams in this concrete jungle in all of tomorrow’s events.

– Vi Kakares ’20

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