Bournemouth, Hampshire, UK
Scottish Highlands, UK
Prague, Czech Republic
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Bournemouth, Hampshire, UK
Scottish Highlands, UK
Prague, Czech Republic
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This is my six part summer spanning two coasts and two continents. It began in Boston College, shifted to Northeastern University, migrated to California, and ended in London. This is how it went…
Part 1: Sophomore Year Ends
Part 2: TJX Buying Internship Weeks 1-6
Part 3: TJX Buying Internship Weeks 7-12
Part 4: See You Soon BC
Part 5: Back to the Bay
Part 6: To Be Discovered in London…
Most importantly, 2016 was the year of developing new connections and deepening existing friendships. I am left with overwhelming gratitude for all the people who have entered my life in the past twelve months, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us all.
I was on a student panel today for the Career Center’s Parent’s Weekend presentation. In front of a theater full(ish) of parents, I shared a snippet of my career journey thus far. This is what I learned.
Almost a year ago, I was on 48 Hours, a freshman retreat run by the Office of First Year Experience. On this retreat, one of the activities involved birthdays, and I discovered that I shared a birthday with Biz, the leader of the retreat and Director of FYE. We had a brief conversation that weekend, but afterwards, I sent Biz a thank you email and a brief reflection of my 48 Hours experience.
Two weeks later, I got an email saying that I had been personally nominated for the LeaderShape Institute, a free 6-day leadership development and community building retreat. It turns out, Biz had nominated me. Naturally, I applied and attended. It sounded right up my alley.
LeaderShape turned out to be the highlight of my entire freshman year. It immersed me in a community of like-minded individuals who had greater visions not only for themselves, but also for their communities and the world in general. LeaderShape reminded me that I thrive on one-on-one authentic relationships, which was missing from my first semester. And the notions of living and leading with integrity and having a healthy disregard for the impossible set the tone for the rest of my year.
In fact, the Associate Director of the Career Center was my small group leader on LeaderShape, and it was my relationship with him that got me on the panel in the first place.
During the spring, I also interned for Date My Wardrobe, a fashion tech startup in Boston founded by an amazing female entrepreneur, Amrita Aviyente. Amrita turned out to become a great personal and professional mentor for me to this day, advocating for my growth and exposing me to the intersection between fashion and business. And seeing that I had been interested in fashion since secretly wanting to be a fashion designer when I was eight, this internship was a big step for me towards fashion as a potential career path.
That semester, I also took a course called Courage to Know with Biz as my professor. One of our assignments was to do a vocational interview, in which we reached out to someone with a vocation we aspired to or wanted to learn more about. At this point, I was still flirting with the idea of chemistry or philosophy, but was ultimately undecided with my major and unsure of my direction.
However, ethical fashion was on my mind because of an informational interview I did with Esther Chen Meyers, the founder of bonJOY, over winter break. After stalking the LinkedIn BC Alumni group, I came across Esther and was instantly intrigued by her career path. She was kind enough to respond to me, and we ended up meeting one day to chat about her time in college, her career, and her founding of bonJOY. So to find someone I was interested in the vocation of, I googled “ethical fashion companies in Boston”. One of the first links to pop up was The Good Trade.
The founder of The Good Trade, AmyAnn Cadwell, was also kind enough to respond to me and set up a time to FaceTime (she also knew Esther!). Other than being an all-around inspiring and relatable person, she made a particularly poignant point. She said that although saying yes to one thing might mean saying no to many other things, I have to trust that saying yes will lead to other yeses I can’t possibly foresee or predict. There is something inherently uncomfortable about taking life one step at a time without knowing exactly what you’re walking towards. Nevertheless, my experience at BC has really epitomized that idea of one small moment changing everything.
My conversation with AmyAnn encouraged me to explore ethical fashion, conscious consumerism, and social entrepreneurship as a potential career realm. So I reached out to Esther about interning with bonJOY over the summer. And as I’ve said before, interning for bonJOY was a truly wonderful experience because it convinced me of my genuine passion for ethical fashion, so much so that I see the intersection of international studies, business, fashion, and social good as my potential “end”.
And to think that it all started with sharing a birthday with Biz. Had that connection not been made, I honestly don’t know where I would be. But I am so grateful for all the mentors, experiences, and opportunities in the past year that have fundamentally changed or reassured my direction.
Although the path was very unclear along the way (and still is), everything connects in retrospect. Yet, it required putting myself out there to create opportunities and having the guidance of mentors, formal and informal, who encouraged me to discern my passions and follow my gut.
Last week, I attended a lecture on the Economy for the Common Good (ECG), an idea and a social movement that centers around a holistic economic model in which all economic activity serves the Common Good. The speaker, Christian Felber, is an Austrian activist and the author of Changing Everything: Creating an Economy for the Common Good.
I had never heard of ECG before this lecture, but as Felber introduced the model, the process, and the movement, I was instantaneously intrigued. Essentially, ECG is a proposal to replace capitalism and communism. No constitution across the world states that the economy should serve anything other than the Common Good. Yet, the way we measure success of the economy is through monetary gains: GDP, financial profit, ROI.
Felber discussed the original meaning of the word “economy” and how the definition of economy is distorted today. Derived from the Greek word “oikonomia”, “economy” means “law of the household”—with the two houses being humanity and nature. The economy should have soul; it should serve these two houses. Aristotle contrasted oikonomia, in which money is a means to the good life, with chrematistic, in which money is the end in itself (i.e. capitalism). With an Economy for the Common Good, all businesses and economic activity would fundamentally serve the world as a whole. Isn’t that the dream?
Instead of measuring economic success as financial gains, the Common Good Balance Sheet should be used. This audit would give a point-based account of how well a company fulfills the five most important constitutional values of democratic states: human dignity, cooperation, sustainability, justice and democracy.
And sovereign democracy (i.e. returning sovereign rights like writing and editing the constitution, electing government, issuing money, etc. to the people) is the process through which to determine these Common Good Balance Sheet on local, state, and national levels. As an audience, Felber led us through an example of how this might work. He wanted us, as the Boston constituency, to set the maximum income limit for Boston. One times the minimum income would be complete equality (everyone earning the same regardless of position), and infinite times the minimum income would be complete inequality (i.e. no limit, i.e. capitalism in America). He asked for the audience members to propose how many times they think it should be. The options that were raised were 1, 60, 1000, and infinite. The option with the least resistance would be chosen, with resistance being counted through the number of arms in total held up by the group.
Our group chose 1000 times the minimum income. But Felber said he was very surprised by this result. Apparently, after performing the same exercise with groups across the world, the average maximum income is always found to be around 10 times the minimum income, and he had only gotten this result one other time–with a group of CEOs in Germany. Clearly, individuals at BC (or at least those in the audience attending the event) feel comparably as privileged as German CEOs—disappointing but not surprising. The point of the exercise was that direct participation can make the lawmaking process so much more efficient and so much more representative of what the people really want.
During the presentation, I was so taken by this movement because ECG captures everything I believe in about ethical fashion and goes far beyond it as well. On one slide, Felber showed an image of a QR code. The corresponding idea was that in the future, all products would have a scannable label that would provide an immediate, transparent report about the Common Good of the company in question. This, alongside incentivizing the Common Good, is a way to combat our current, backwards system of less ethical companies being better off than ethical companies because their products are cheaper. And if this were applied to the fashion industry, with each clothing label providing a full report on how and where that item was made, the market would ideally lead to greater awareness, curiosity, and demand for ethical fashion.
Yet, it is not enough to create an attractive model that 90% of citizens agree with if the government and representatives don’t support it. Despite “democracy”, the masses in nations across the world don’t have the power. But we must have hope that it can get better. Furthermore, in comparison to the power of those currently controlling the global economy (large corporations and governments), ECG is a relatively powerless movement. So global collective (and potentially disruptive) action is necessary.
A nostalgic throwback to when I was in Malaysia only two months ago…
I am currently sitting on the 19th floor balcony of my grandma’s apartment in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, and it is absolutely bucketing down with rain. In the past five minutes, I have watched a huge grey raincloud rapidly consume the skyline as less and less light peeks through.
It looks as though my vision has turned entirely blurry, but no cause for worry yet, it is just the sheets and sheets of rain pouring down from the sky. The world is covered in grey mist and not a drop of earth is dry. If only this rain could be brought to my home of California.
The rain no longer falls in individual droplets, but in a billowing waterfall that visibly bends with the wind. A watercolor with no definite lines. The clouds have dropped so low that I can see the rain falling from them at eye level.
Cars continue along the roads below, with drivers behind windshield wipers going at full speed. Gradually, buildings and skylines that were once in sight are now erased by the mist of the cloud. This is the seventh straight day of heavy afternoon rains, but never before have I seen it like this.
The only thing dampening my experience of typing and gazing is the occasional waft of smoke from an undiscerned direction.
I think the cloud is coming closer and closer to me. I feel the mist of the cloud heading toward me with no holds barred. My line of sight has diminished by half and I can’t see farther than a block away. Only the headlights from distant cars are vaguely perceptible through the foggy grey sky.
The smoke continues. I grimace.
My dad walks out and admires the rain, only to comment that he can smell someone smoking cigarettes.
And yep, I am now being rained on. How refreshing. And those headlights I mentioned a couple lines back…no longer visible.