Bread, Butter and Resumé Boost 3: The most colorful basement you will ever be in

Your dearest is back! Many of you know me as the person behind this IEDP admissions blog (and if you read Ale’s post, you also learned that I’m behind the Instagram account of the program as well!) and here I am to introduce you to another world of mine at Penn. I work at Family Resource Center as an Education Fellow whose responsibilities include managing the day-to-day operation of the facilities and designing programs catering to the Family Center members’ educational needs and interests. Some of the programs I have organized are English lessons, family cooking class, sensory play and story times. No, I’m not an expert TESOL instructor or a cook or a storyteller — My job is to reach out to the right people who have the appropriate expertise, plan out the logistics and prepare materials and space so the experts could come in and do their phenomenal jobs! In that way, I guess you could think of my job as something similar to program manager/designer than implementer, if this international development analogy makes it easier to understand!

A glimpse of what the Center looks like

Let’s take a step back and look at how I landed on this position. Sometime in March or April after getting accepted to IEDP, Lauren sent out an email to the accepted students announcing that Graduate Student Center and Family Resource Center are hiring new fellows. I clicked the link she sent and read the job descriptions and became instantly interested in positions at the Family Center. I was down for any of the positions really, but I especially wanted the Education Fellow position more than any others because as you can guess, it sounded the most relevant to what I would like to do after IEDP. I had to submit my resumé and answer some of the questions about how my previous experiences could contribute to the Family Center’s effort. About a week later, the Director and the Associate Director reached out to me to set up a time for an interview. It was a Skype interview with behavioral questions to which I had to explain what are the steps I would go through to plan an event, etc. And very fortunately, I received an offer for the Education Fellow position!

Ale and I working at Welcome Back Play Date event!

At the beginning of every semester, the full-time staff and fellows gather for a programming meeting where we review the operations duties and talk about programming ideas for the semester. Before the meeting, I would have to research and come up with a few ideas that I would like to work on. During the meeting, we coordinate the dates for the programs to make sure they do not overlap and see if there are any room for collaboration with another fellow for an event. Once you receive green lights for your ideas, you would start planning! As I explained above, the planning process starts out with reaching out to the right people and continues with procuring ingredients, space and materials, and advertising it to the Family Center members.

Though the photos I have included in this post makes the job look so… eventful, I spend most of my time as an Education Fellow in the Fellow’s Office, overseeing day-to-day operation of the center. When new people arrive at the center, I introduce them to the center’s policy and explain how to become a member. I would make sure that supplies are well stocked and there is no broken toy, furniture, etc. in the center. Many steps of the program planning take place while I am sitting at the Fellow’s Office. I would make sure to keep my eyes out for the things happening in the space but for the most part, I would be working on the computer at the office, sending emails, ordering supplies, gathering information, etc. etc.

Then on the days of the events, I would come in a bit early to set up and facilitate them, usually by assisting the experts who are leading the sessions.

Working the desk shift and preparing materials for Sensory Play!

Last semester was more of a transition period for me, so I had fewer events to orchestrate and had fewer desk shift hours. In total, I probably spent about eight hours a week working for this position. This semester, I have a lot more events going on, and many of them are series, which means I have to prepare a lot more sessions. I think I spend about 12 to 15 hours a week for this position this semester.

True, you do sometimes have to miss fun and exciting events, talks and panel discussions on campus as you have to be in the center to ensure everyone is having a great time there. But other than that, I can’t really think of any cons of this position! I really enjoy working with my supervisor who is always willing to provide constructive feedback and support, and planning programs with other fellows has helped me hone my communication and collaboration skills. Perhaps not directly relevant but I do see how some of the responsibilities for this position can be translated and expanded to become relevant to what I might do in the future after IEDP. (Read: Short term and long term educational program design!)

Well, sometimes you do become an in-house expert (in sensory play, in this case) and lead the sessions yourself!

Now I think of it, I am SO SO SO glad I had been reading Lauren’s emails thoroughly. If I had not, I would have missed this great opportunity! On-campus jobs, a lot of times, will not be sufficient to cover your tuition but they for sure help putting bread and butter on my table every day. Knowing that I would have some sources of income prior to arriving on campus was a big relief. Also, many of the positions that Lauren and other IEDP faculty members forwarded to us were open to international students who were not eligible for work-study. That was a big life savior in retrospect because a lot of the positions you might find on on-campus job website tend to be work-study eligible only.

Some might ask (actually, quite a number of people already asked) “isn’t it overwhelming to have two on-campus jobs and study as a full-time student at the same time?” Well, it’s actually not that uncommon as you can see from these two fabulous IEDPers blog posts but I guess it does require you to be on top of your game. I’m sure many of you had an experience of having to juggle multiple responsibilities at the same time, and the same rule applies here: clear communication and time management is a must. If you ever get overwhelmed by the workload of if there ever is a time when personal circumstances make it difficult to carry out your duties, communicate to your supervisor and team ASAP. The team will work together to figure something out. Time management — we’ve already talked about this too many times so I will save my words! 😀

Event flyers can make great wall decor!

On a concluding note, I want to say another thing I love about working at the Family Center is getting to meet students from different parts of the campus that I would not have run into otherwise! Seeing Penn beyond the IEDP and GSE enriches my experience here all the more! Sure, it all started for bread, butter and resumé boost. But I’m glad it developed into something more than that.

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