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Turning Interests Into Opportunities Bo Garfinkel '21 talks about the experiences she's been afforded recently as a recipient of a Public Policy and International Affairs fellowship and a Gilman Scholarship.

portrait-800x533 Turning Interests Into OpportunitiesBo Garfinkel ’21

“I owe a lot of people at W&L great debts for these amazing experiences.”

~ Bo Garfinkel ’21

Hometown: Englewood, Colorado
Major: Sociology and Anthropology

Q: You were selected for both a Public Policy and International Affairs fellowship (PPIA) and a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship this year. Were those experiences impacted in any way by COVID-19?

Most definitely. For the PPIA, I was selected to attend Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy. In non-COVID years, the fellowship is hosted on Princeton’s campus, where the fellowship recipients live together and study policy with their cohort. I was fortunate enough for this experience to not get canceled, but because of COVID-19, we knew pretty early on that we would transition to Zoom. Likewise, when I applied for the Gilman, I initially planned to study abroad in Taiwan. Of course, that wasn’t an option, so I ended up attending an online program based in Shanghai to continue studying Chinese. I completed both virtual programs from home in Colorado.

Q: How did the remote PPIA go and what did you get out of that opportunity?

PPIA was run quite smoothly given the circumstances. I think it obviously would have been a stronger experience if it had been in person, but I still learned so much. I spent the summer learning about global systemic risk and applying policy to the nuances of the 21st century. It was really empowering to be in a cohort of people who were as passionate as I am about social policy, and the summer was a great way to help me feel more confident about the policy-making process and how I can manifest my beliefs for a better world to create tangible change.

Q: Tell us about your experience studying virtually at East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Since I’m a senior, I couldn’t defer my study abroad plans to another semester or to next year, as the Gilman Scholarship initially suggested, so I had to find another option. Fortunately, I found that East China Normal University in Shanghai created a really great program to meet the language learning challenges posed by COVID-19. I studied there in person during my Spring Term Abroad class with Professor Hongchu Fu, so I knew that the quality of the instruction would be excellent. I really enjoyed my virtual program. Not only was my professor incredible, but my classmates came from all over the world, and it was really heartwarming to connect with each other, even though we couldn’t physically be together.

Q: When and how did you get involved with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)? What has that work meant to you?

As a Bonner Scholar, I began volunteering with Project Horizon, Lexington’s local shelter for survivors of domestic violence, immediately upon starting at W&L. I found the work to be really meaningful, and I became increasingly interested in working in that field. I extended this interest during my internship at the House of Ruth in Maryland, but I really wanted to see what this type of work looked like on a national level. RAINN is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization combating sexual assault and supporting survivors. COVID shut down RAINN’s training for a really long time, but when it opened up again in June, I immediately reached out and got involved.

It definitely takes an emotional toll hearing the atrocities that go on behind closed doors, but working at RAINN has been incredibly rewarding.  As a hotline worker, I have helped children escape abusive homes and connected survivors with free resources that help them start the healing process. I’m so grateful that there are organizations like RAINN, and I have deep respect for the people who dedicate their lives to supporting these survivors.

Q: What else have you been up to?

I recently started as an LSAT instructor for a company called the LSAT Nerds. I really enjoy the social aspect of getting to meet new people, even if over Zoom. For the most part, I’m just tying up all my loose ends and getting ready for graduation.

Q: How did W&L prepare you for all of these experiences?

I owe a lot of people at W&L great debts for these amazing experiences. Through the Bonner Program, I was able to explore issues that I was passionate about both in and out of the classroom. Furthermore, my amazing professors and mentors gave me  unconditional support that allowed me to carve out my own path and seek out how to turn my interests into opportunities. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience at W&L.

Q: What’s up next for you?

I’ll be going straight through to law school after graduating! I still haven’t decided exactly where I’ll end up, but I’m really excited to start this new chapter of my life.