Moving: A Small Part of Growing Up

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 9.28.42 PM

Home is a really special place for me. It signifies family, friends, and a secure place of love and joy. I have lived in the same home since I was three years old, and I guess I expected that my childhood home would always be there. It has been the place where my aunts, uncles, and cousins gather for birthdays and holidays, and the place where my brothers, sister, parents and I get to reconnect when we all come home during our breaks from school. I thought it would be a really long time before I had to say goodbye to that home. But then I learned that my parents were planning on moving.

The reason I chose to write about this is that it is symbolic of my life for the past year. 2016 is only four months young, and it has still been one of the most transformative years of my life. This year I changed my major, decided to step down from my position as an RA, and now I am saying goodbye to my childhood home. For me, these are all signs that I am really entering my adult life. I am making hard decisions, leaving parts of my childhood behind, and preparing for my future as an independent adult and professional. Through all of these processes, I have learned a lot about myself and how I respond to change. I have learned how to make big decisions. I have also learned how to let go of the past and embrace exciting and sometimes scary things to come. All of these experiences came fast and unexpectedly, and they have prepared me for the unknowns and unexpected happenings of the future, and leaving my childhood home has helped me realize that.

Alpha Phi Omega


This past autumn, I started to feel upset that I had not yet joined a student organization. I remember walking around the involvement fair freshman year and feeling that I did not find a club that really stood out to me or seemed like it would be a good fit. I decided to try again this year, but change my focus. I decided to go to the involvement fair and just gather information, instead of going with the expectation of finding a student org I was ready to join at that moment. When I did that, I ended up finding an organization that is the perfect fit for me.

Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a co-ed service fraternity, is centered on three cardinal principles: leadership, friendship, and service. I remember going to an info session before joining and realizing how central those principles had been to my life before college, and that I was not actively pursuing them in college. When I realized that I had done less than 5 hours of community service since graduating high school, I decided to join APO. That turned out to be one of the best decisions of my college career.

Since becoming an active brother in APO, I have completed nearly 40 hours of community service and attended multiple leadership seminars and conferences. I have made a group of friends with whom I share similar values and with whom I have created a lot of unique bonds. APO has given me the feeling of fulfillment and humility I often get after serving individuals and communities, and the sense of empowerment I get from learning how to be and from practicing being a better leader. Thanks to this organization, I have a network of individuals and a collection of skills that I will be able to utilize in my future professional life.

First Campus Job


I have always been someone who wants to work. I started looking for my first job when I was ten years old, and I “worked” for a neighbor whenever their dog needed to be let out. I did this for four years until I got my first “real” job at a shoe store in my hometown. When I left for college, I was sad to say goodbye to my boss and the store and I decided to start looking for a campus job right away, and that’s how I got my job as an Office Assistant at the Smith-Steeb front desk.

What I expected to be an opportunity for employment turned out to be so much more. Last Spring was probably the worst semesters I’ve had at Ohio State. I fell into a really difficult time of depression and isolation, leading me to be disengaged and generally not myself. One of the few saving graces during this time was my job as an OA. When I was at the front desk, I could fake a smile and peppiness that ultimately pulled me out of my dark place. I had coworkers who were always there to cheer me up. Having this obligation to work was the one thing I needed to keep me motivated and to get me to leave my room and try to have a “normal” day. Eventually, I was able to come out on the other side of the depression with the help of family, friends, and counseling, but I truly think being an OA was a vital piece of me making it through last Spring and getting to the place I’m in now. My job ended up being a little light in a hard time, and that has been more valuable than I ever could have imagined.

Major change

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.59.30 PM

I have loved math ever since I can remember. I love the logic and concreteness of it. I always thought I wanted to be a math teacher, until my mom heard about actuaries through a coworker. After looking into the career, I decided I wanted to study to be an actuary. I made that decision in 9th grade, and was excited to begin the path to being an actuary when I got to Ohio State. When I was taking my major prerequisites, I was anxious to get into my major classes. However, when I got into my major, I was extremely unhappy. I was not doing well in my classes, and I had no interest in learning the material. It took me a while to realize that I was simply in the wrong major. The actuarial science major is largely focused more around money than it is around math, which was not what I was looking for in my major. I also realized how energized I felt when I was learning about things in my other classes- such as learning about languages from my Spanish professor who is also a candidate for his PhD in Hispanic Linguistics. Through some serious self-reflection, conversations with close friends and family members, and guidance from a counselor and Career Counseling and Support Services, I decided to change my major.

Even though this was a change that would ultimately make me happier, it was still an extraordinarily difficult decision to make. I was letting go of the plans I had made when I was 15 years old. I was letting go of a major that all but guarantees a career with an attractive salary upon graduation. And, I was entering into a lot of unknowns about the future. Grad school, something I had never considered, became a really sensible option. I had no clear path to a career the way I had before. I was not sure that I could graduate in four years. But, the most important thing, the thing that made all of those scary things pretty insignificant, is how much happier I am and how much more excited I am about my academic career now that I have switched my major. It did not come easily, and it was most certainly a process of letting go, but it was the best decision for me and I would make it one hundred times more if I had to.



I’m not very good at failing. In high school, everything came easily. Even my first semester of college was not too challenging. And if I ever did fail (or not meet the expectations I set for myself), it was because I had decided to not fully apply my skills or myself. I had never really had a significant failure in which I had tried my absolute best and not succeeded. At least, not until this past December.

I was sitting for my first actuary exam- an exam required for certification, and an exam with a 30% pass rate. I had been preparing all semester for it, studying my six-pound study guide and putting in countless hours of my hardest work. I felt confident- perhaps a little too much so. I was expecting to pass, even though every single person I had talked to failed this exam on their first try, and even though seventy percent of people who sit for that exam fail it. I thought I would beat the odds.

When I sat for this three and a half hour exam, I was shocked. By the time I was half way through I was exhausted. I had skipped more questions than I had answered, and I was feeling more and more defeated as I continued to take the exam. I didn’t even have time to finish every question. When I got my results, I learned that I had failed. I was devastated. It seemed like an entire semester’s worth of hard work had been completely worthless. And though it really hurt to have failed, I learned a really important lesson- I learned how to take failure.

It was right in the middle of finals week, and I wanted to just go home and cry to my mom over this failure. Instead, I had to buckle down and prepare for the two finals that were just days away. I had to take the failure, learn how to improve, accept it, and move on. I had to humble myself. Up to that point I had been pretty arrogant about succeeding. But through this exam, I have learned that while confidence is definitely a key to success, over-confidence and arrogance does no good. I have also learned that failure is inevitable, and everyone has to face it. It is how we learn and how we improve. It was one of my first big failures, and I know it won’t be my last- but I learned more from failing than I expected, and for that I am grateful.

Being an IA Scholar


When I came to Ohio State, I think I underestimated just how big of a school it is. I came from a high school of 1,400 people where we all knew each other, even if just through mutual friends. My community at home is extremely tight knit, and I think I was expecting that type of community when I got to OSU. However, I moved in early and was the only individual on my floor, and I did not really find a group of friends for that first two weeks before the official move in date. I was really worried that I had chosen too big of a school.

Once everyone moved in, those worries went away. I was living on the International Affairs Scholars floor, and we immediately had that close-knit community I had been craving since I arrived on campus. There were always individuals in the lounge either chatting or studying, there was always somebody to grab dinner with, and there was always a new perspective to engage with. I did not realize until after last year was over how vital it has been for me being an IA scholar. Not only has it been essential to building a global awareness, and provided me unique opportunities like studying abroad in India, but it has also given me a great group of friends and really solid community that I would not have if it were not for this scholars program. These relationships are made stronger through going to IA events together or talking about global current events or taking a 15 hour flight to Delhi together. I love that I can walk across campus with a guarantee of seeing a friend or fellow IA scholar. I am a person who needs to feel at home, who needs to feel apart of a group to truly thrive, and IA has fulfilled that need in every way.

About Me

Hi!  I’m Gianna Rotondo, and I am a second year Theoretical Mathematics and Linguistics major! This is my second year in the International Affairs Scholars program and I am on the International Community track. One of the biggest pieces of my identity is my hometown. I am from Warwick, New York, a small, rural town about 1.5 hours from New York City. I was born in New Jersey, but I moved to New York when I was three years old and have lived there ever since. I absolutely love my hometown.  There is a really amazing sense of community because it is a relatively small town. There is also some of the most beautiful scenery, and I love driving around Warwick and looking at its beauty.  I also adore New York City, and I love taking the train with my friends or family and walking around to see street art or going to a park or museum.  Being from New York has truly shaped my personality, and it has also created my love for street art and big cities.

Another huge part of my identity is my family and family heritage.  I am 75% Italian, and I have a huge family. I have two brothers and a sister, and I also have a ton of cousins, aunts, uncles, first cousins, first cousins once removed, etc.  My family always gets together for birthdays and holidays (our biggest family gathering always occurs on Christmas Eve) and it is always a time filled with great food, a lot of laughter, and immense love.

One of my most shaping experiences was in August 2012 when I had the opportunity to travel with World Vision, a non-profit organization with a mission to end world hunger, to Zambia.  I fundraised for World Vision’s world hunger awareness and fundraising event, the 30 Hour Famine, and because of my work with that event, I applied and was selected to go on World Vision’s Study Tour to Zambia.  For ten days, I went with seven other teenagers to see what World Vision was doing to improve the lives of citizens in villages of Zambia.  We traveled to a new village every day and saw their water sources, schools, homes, and learned about their everyday lives. Through this experience, I learned about my love for traveling as well as my desire to connect with and help people.

Another important experience for me was a class I took my senior year in high school called Critical Thinking in the Humanities.  We examined art, beauty, spoken word and other humanities in different cultures, and looked at how we could apply those concepts to our lives.  My teacher for this class really showed me how much we pass during our everyday lives that could teach us and shape us if we took the chance to stop and think. My teacher once asked us, “if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you live your life today?” He taught us that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we need to really go after the life we want, but he taught us this using different art forms and critical thinking activities. This class turned me into the thinker, learner, and person I am today and still influences a lot of my thoughts and actions.

These two experiences are two of the main reasons why I decided to join IA. As an actuarial science major, there is not much of a focus on international affairs or the humanities, which I learned are two of my main interests. While I still have a huge love for math, which I live out through my major, it was really important to me to have international affairs be part of my academic life as well. IA was and is a really unique and important way for me to look at life around the world and critically think about various happenings in society while still pursuing my dream job of being an actuary. IA has continued to shape how I think and open my mind to new cultures. For example, last year I traveled with IA to India for the May study abroad program. I probably never would have chosen to travel to India on my own, but I was able to go with the scholars program and I ended up learning more about myself than I ever could have imagined. I was able to apply some of the concepts from the Critical Thinking class in high school, as well as gain more information about different cultures and religion, and really examine how my identity fit into that.

Overall, being part of the International Affairs Scholars program has been an integral part of my experience in higher education, and has helped shaped my identity in unexpected ways. I suspect that I will continue to learn and grow even more through my journey in IA and at Ohio State in general.

Year in Review

This year was in every way a year of growth and maturation for me. When I started the year, I was unhappy in my major and insecure in my job as an RA. Now, I have switched my major and grown more confident in my RA role while simultaneously realizing that the job is not for me. I have learned so much about myself this year, and this introspection has led to a lot of transformational decision making and growing more into who I am and what I want out of my college career and future personal and professional life.

In the beginning of this year, my academic expectations were to have passed my first actuary exam and officially get into the actuarial science major. Professionally, I expected to grow in my role as an RA and prepare to return to the job next year. Neither of these expectations were met, but instead they were altered and I learned that they were not fitting expectations for me.

First, I realized how unhappy and uninterested I was in my major. It was difficult for me to come to terms with this, but once I did, I allowed myself to find the majors that excited me. Through this self-reflection, I finally decided to double major in Theoretical Mathematics and Linguistics. As a result, I am much more excited about my academic future and more motivated in my classes.

I also realized that I prefer task-oriented work with tangible results. Because of this, I found the RA role to be quite draining and unfulfilling. That is not to say I did not gain any skills, learn anything, or have no enjoyable parts of the job- because I most certainly did. It is to say that the job does not fit well with my strengths. After learning this, I have decided to step down from my position as a Resident Advisor and instead find a campus job more similar to my previous job as an Office Assistant.

Though this year did not go as expected, it allowed for a lot of change and self-realization. By learning from these set-backs and unexpected changes, I have grown and become much more excited about my future.


Global Awareness:

Last May, I studied abroad in India for two weeks with IA and learned a lot about the culture in northern India specifically. This summer, I will be studying abroad in Madrid and living with a host family, so I will have the opportunity to learn about and participate in the culture and everyday life in Madrid.

Original Inquiry:

I hope to participate in undergraduate research at Ohio State in the math department, particularly research that involves number theory. I also would like to perform original research and pursue my Ph.D. in either Mathematics or Linguistics after I finish my undergraduate career.

Academic Enrichment:

Last Spring I took a course called Everyday Life in South Asia. We learned about the history of South Asia and the culture and customs of various countries in the region. Then, in May we traveled to India and were able to actually see a lot of what we learned about in the classroom. We went to a variety of places of worship and talked to many locals and gained real world experience to enhance what we learned in the classroom.

Leadership Development:

I have developed my leadership by being an RA, where I am a mentor and role model to residents on my floor and in my residence hall. This has given me experience in conflict resolution, organizing and facilitating events, and working with my peers.

Service Engagement:

Through my service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, I engage in at least fifteen hours of community service every semester. One of my favorite service events is helping at a food pantry in Grandview, Heart to Heart. There, we help unload trucks of food and stock the shelves so that families can get groceries and toiletries for free.