BY TAMAR KEVONIAN
A petite girl with ivory skin, rosy cheeks and eyes that take up a third of her face, Arda is a fresh faced 19 year old about to embark on the quintessential university adventure. After a summer of putting in a few hours a week at the family business she is getting ready to go for her first “real” job interview.
“I’m going to interview for a public relations internship,” she says where the position will entail her setting up events hosting speakers related to government issues. “This month they’re hosting the ambassadors to Libya and Mexico. Twice a month public speakers come to discuss issues that are happening in the U.S. and its foreign relations.”
It is a job that fits in nicely with her course of studies at the university. “I’m majoring in International Relations. It’s a good foot in the door,” she says about the internship. Arda started out studying economics and is now studying political science but has always wanted to study business. “Once I graduate I think maybe I’ll get my MBA [Masters in Business Administration],” she says with the nonchalance that is the luxury of those with plenty of time to settle on a course they will follow for the rest of their lives.
Arda will begin her first quarter at UCLA [University of Southern California] this fall. “Yeah, but I’m going in as a Junior,” she says to clarify. She’s spent the last couple of years at a local community college taking the basic course requirements. It’s a practical approach to education that saves both time and money.
When asked why she chose this particular field she responds with “I don’t know” but soon her reasons become very clear. “First I was an Econ [Economics] Major but then I couldn’t do calculus so I feel like a failure,” she says and laughs with a self deprecating shrug. “But my Econ professor kind of got me into politics. Once I got into politics I saw that I liked the international rather than domestic policies. I like the fact that each of our policies, even domestically, had to do with economic issues,” she explains.
Now Arda is excited about attending UCLA. “It wasn’t my first choice but I never had my hopes set anywhere specific,” she says. She is comparatively pragmatic about her educational choices. “I never really had a first choice. Wherever I got in, I was going,” she says of her strategy for selecting a university but admits that for a long time she had a desire to attend UC Berkeley but doesn’t really know why. Perhaps because of it’s location in Northern California or its reputation as an activist school or simply because it had an excellent reputation as a top university. But she’s happy with her choice of UCLA because they have a good International Relations program.
Although she lives in a suburb of Los Angeles, UCLA is still a far enough away that commuting to the school will take up a hefty chunk of her time that could better be spent studying, or more likely, partaking of the active campus student life. For this reason Arda, with her parents support, has chosen to live close to campus. “Friday we’re going to go, get measurements [of the apartment], go to Ikea and do all that good stuff.”
She met her roommate earlier this year. “We hit it off well but I don’t know her too well so we’re not going to step on each other’s toes,” she says with a positive attitude. Many of her friends already attend the same university and all have opted to live within the same block in a neighborhood bordering the campus.
It is the first time Arda has moved out of her parent’s house and is excited by the prospect of living on her own, albeit with a roommate. She is not preoccupied with thoughts of being away from her parents. “I’m not dependant on them really so it’s fine for that.” What she means is that given her active involvement in community activities like the scouts and other youth organizations, and her strenuous course work preparing for UCLA which kept her away from home for very long days and nights, she has developed a sense of independence and identity that will not hamper her in the transition to living away from her childhood home.
Currently Arda’s focus is strictly on her education. She is already considering a post-graduate degree. “I’m thinking about an MBA,” she admits. Her circuitous educational path has led her from economics to political science to international relations and eventually into business. She doesn’t see a conflict amongst these fields of study. “Next summer I hope I’ll get an internship. When I do that I’ll see if I really like doing what I’m studying and I can continue on my path or I’ll change direction,” she explains referring to a public relations firm in New York City she has her sights on whose focus in on international issues and the fiscal planning of various countries.
Given her global perspective Arda is firmly planted in her native L.A. Although studying Spanish as a second language, she’s not sure where her planned path will take her. “I know there’s going to be a transitional period between my undergrad and my MBA. In those two years – it’s like a temporary period anyhow – maybe I’ll move away, but I’ll move back to L.A. and finish my school here,” she says. When asked if her decision is based on whether there are better schools here or whether it is closer to home she responds by saying, “I think it’s because this is where I’ve grown up more or less so I want to go to school here so I can establish myself here.” She goes on to add, “but if opportunities take me to different places then I’m open to that.”
Robert Burns, a Scottish poet and farmer of the 18th century, wrote the poem entitled To a Mouse On Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plow. In it he penned the now well known line “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew,” referring to our very human habit of making plans in life that often go off track. Will Arda go to New York for an internship? Will she ultimately settle in her hometown? Will she pursue her MBA? Or will other options and avenues open up to her and will she take advantage of them. This is the beauty of being her age and on the cusp of the rest her life -everything seems and is possible.
She turns to pull a final brushstroke through her hair as she prepares to leave for her interview. She inspects her reflection in her mirror and asks “Which shoes should I wear?” after which she asks her final questions before heading out towards her car, “Do you have any tips for the interview?”