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.