Quincy Mix, 2019 Fellow
Looking back on my time in New York as a Metropolitan Fellow, I find myself fixating on one word: gratitude. My ten-week stay in the Big Apple stands out as without a doubt my favorite experience of my Furman career and by far the most enriching, meaningful, and uplifting summer I’ve ever had. It’s hard to put this kind of experience into words—there’s so much to tell and there are so many feelings and impressions to sort through in one’s head. A few paragraphs certainly cannot do this program justice, but I hope the following will at least give the reader some idea of just how fantastic the Metropolitan Fellowship can be for those who make it their own and take advantage of all NYC and the FMF crowd have to offer. More than that, I hope my thoughts can in some way inspire more future juniors at Furman to take a serious look at the program and envision themselves as part of this tremendous community.
I hesitate to bring up finances and housing in a discussion of FMF’s incredible blessings and experiences—not because the money/living situations weren’t ideal (they absolutely were), but because mentioning them (and doing so first, of all things) gives a false impression that the quality of the FMF experience is founded purely on what money and accommodations can do. Still, in a city like New York considerations of money and living conditions are part and parcel of living a comfortable (and, to some extent, fun) life during the course of a summer. To make sure all bases are covered, then, here’s my take on the money situation with FMF: coming into the summer with a guaranteed grant, I expected to be able to live in moderate conditions with a decent amount leftover to support daily needs and to explore and enjoy many of NYC’s incredible cultural and artistic offerings.
My expectations were met and exceeded on both fronts. Though 2/3 of my grant went toward securing housing (via an unaffiliated housing company that boards college interns), the quality living space and prime location more than justified the cost. Living in East Village just a block from the subway and an incredible restaurant scene, a few steps from stunning sights and parks, and just a 10-minute walk from my FMF mentors gave me the best jumping off point to work, play, and explore; and—like I already said—whatever else I wanted to see was almost immediately accessible via the subway.
The other 1/3 of the grant, then, I used for living/thriving expenses, and it was more than enough: using affordable public transit and maintaining my devout discipleship in the oh-so-sacred Trader Joe’s cult (A TJ’s was conveniently situated near my apartment), I was able to provide for all my needs while also enjoying a plethora of amazing NYC experiences.
In the lead-up to my arrival, I also anticipated that transplanting myself into NYC for ten weeks would confront me with a profound cultural adjustment experience (i.e., I expected major culture shock for this small-town Pennsylvania boy who, despite being 21 years of age, still freaks out a little over the idea of “adulting”). The shock and intense insecurity melted away almost instantly, however. Being a native of the North already gave me a leg up on adjusting to NYC’s faster pace of life, but with the consistent input, advice, and recommendations from my mentors, I was able to learn the city and its layout, its quirks and its hidden gems. Even better, I had another FMF Fellow with whom I could explore and better acquaint myself with the city, and with the participation of another dear friend and intern from Furman we took New York head on.
All this is to say that the FMF program gave me the opportunity to face a major fear (living independently in a massive city), and then helped me diffuse the fear completely: funny as it may sound to people who know, by the end of my ten weeks I had dropped self-identifying as an “outsider” or “tourist” and really felt like a “New Yorker” (though I’m sure longtime New Yorkers would object to my claim). Combining my mentors’ frequent advice with my own determination to fully enjoy my time in the city (and visit as many of the You’ve Got Mail shooting locations as possible) I had come to understand the intricacies of the city layout and metro, had familiarized myself with the cultural norms and attitudes, and could take visiting friends and family around my favorite parts of the city with ease.
Undergirding this newfound confidence and comfortability in the city was the incredible sense of community that the FMF leaders facilitated, not just in terms of setting aside their time for get-togethers and mentorship periods (more on that below), but also in terms of looking after my spiritual wellbeing. Knowing the importance of faith in my life, they connected me with a phenomenal home church on the East Side where intentional community and a young professionals ministry took precedence. That church community and its many events brought tremendous joy, strength, and sustenance to my day-to-day life in NYC and became perhaps my favorite experience in the city. Of course, depending on their own feelings about spirituality and religion, future Metropolitan Fellows may choose not to take advantage of this option, but even just knowing the option was there and that my mentors were willing to support me in my own spiritual walk was in and of itself a comfort to me—a further proof that my mentors cared about me and my personal growth throughout the summer.
This brings me to some concluding thoughts on the FMF mentors themselves. Whenever I needed them, they were there: selfless, accessible, ready to listen, and ready to share their thoughts. Even better, they were proactive. Whether hosting a rooftop party for their friends, planning to attend a professional event, or thinking of heading to a concert in the city, they always made sure to include the Fellows and bring us into their own NYC world. Their hospitality, graciousness, and vocal encouragement were never in short supply, and walking away from each get-together with one or all of my mentors, I always felt deeply valued and respected.
Moreover, after spending 5 months hunting down the best position suited to my communications interests, my mentors made a concerted effort to help me regularly assess and evaluate my internship in the field of public relations. Generous with their time and poignant in their career advice, they shed incredible depth, clarity, and perspective on my professional interests and potential career paths. More generally, they were intent on cultivating my skills and strengths, but even more importantly, they went out of their way to be loyal and caring friends. Indeed, for all my mentors’ insightful career direction, fervent networking, and premier advice/wisdom, their incredible kindness and dedicated friendship are what I will continue to treasure the most from my time as a Metropolitan Fellow. From my very first day in NYC to my very last night, my FMF mentors made our relationship a priority, and never once did I doubt that they would do everything they could to see me succeed professionally and thrive personally.
Again, in light of my mentors’ dedicated investment in my past and my future, the prevailing word that comes to mind is a simple yet heartfelt one: gratitude.