What I did with my freshman summer
By Netanya Weiss US’26 and Jim Stellar
Netanya, we met in Freshman Seminar designed to help students transition to college. I was pleased to learn that you did an internship over your freshman summer. Can you tell us about this experience?
I volunteered at City Mission in Schenectady for the summer with the children of people who are experiencing homelessness. A “homeless person” is simply a person who is experiencing homelessness. The phrase “homeless person” could possibly be an attribution to the person being homeless; being that it is a discouraging way of defining a human. At City Mission, I was pleased to be in an environment where the staff treated the people who are currently living in the City Mission housing no differently than they would treat anyone else. Many of the staff members themselves live in City Mission housing, or have graduated from their program, leaving everyone with the same opportunities, disregarding any judgment or superior beliefs. It was a great environment to be around, everyone always had the most exciting, joyful energy.
What do these observations suggest to you about yourself and your studies going forward?
I think that my major was first influenced by our experience together when I took your freshman seminar. It was always important to me to connect to faculty, just as it was to later connect with the staff at City Mission. So the first thing I learned was that I learn better when I am in direct contact with people. To return to the part of your question about me going forward, I plan to always help out with City Mission. Volunteering with City Mission cemented my idea that this is the type of work I want, and need, to do. I also plan to do more volunteer work with other organizations as well, in order to gain more experiences and apply what I’ve learned, in more environments.
We know that people think on two levels. Kahenman called them thinking fast and slow. Fast is heuristic-based decision making that we might call emotion-based or gut level. Slow is not slow but is deliberative and thoughtful. Both are operating here when we talk about connections between people.
We talk about cognitive/emotional decision-making. How do you see that working in the experiences you write about above?
I took the step of turning my idea of taking a summer volunteer position into reality, and it affected my cognitive/ emotional decision-making process on deciding what I would like to do with my life. I started by thinking about who I strive to be like, and admire most. My mother influenced me a lot. I have observed how selfless, caring, and humble she is, and when I meet others who also have these kind-hearted mannerisms, It brings me joy and purpose to spread that same feeling. In your freshman seminar class, I made the emotion based decision to major in Psychology, knowing that I could do something in this field that could focus on helping others, mentally. I believe that poor mental health can have a detrimental effect on physical health – vise versa. Helping out with City Mission solidified my decision in wanting to work in that type of career and environment.
These foundational properties that you brought to the experience this summer are well revealed in your last answer. Now, as a college sophomore, how will you continue this growth process, and what is the balance between academic (taking classes) and experiences (e.g. internships)?
I find my classes to be very informative. The professors have knowledge and I like how they and all my teachers growing up shared that with me. But I find that incorporating the knowledge I gained from academics, into my own observations and experiences, has implemented my growth, and vice-versa. Children need psychological needs. The children at the shelter have the shelter, food, clothing, and my job was to help the staff provide fun, attention and connection. I observed that the children were polite, always grateful and considerate. I realized, this is how everyone acted in the shelter, they acted with open, helpful arms, and thankfulness. Through observational learning, the children have obtained these mannerisms. With having this experience, helping out CityMission, I understand the importance of hands-on learning, and how much it can help cement ideas into children as well as into me.
How does this affect your future plans as you see them now from your sophomore year?
While volunteering at City Mission, I was exposed to the type of work social workers, and clinical mental health counselors do. I am looking forward to more volunteer opportunities and more classes in the near future. I’m thankful that UAlbany has great opportunities for students seeking out experience and opportunities that contribute to their future.