October 27 2008
Blair Lapres, BSILR '09, Named International Programs Assistant
My name is Blair Lapres and although I live in Southern New Jersey right outside of Philadelphia I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world and my heritage shows it. My maternal Grandmother, hails from the ancient town of Rimini on the Adriatic Coast of Italy where Julius Caesar once said "alia iacta est" (the die is cast) when he decided to cross the Rubicon and invade Italy. In modern times it has become a great place to visit for the younger crowds because of the world famous discotechs. My paternal Grandfather is oddly enough a mixture of Germanic origin and of course French origin. Funny how those two got together in the early 20th century, huh? The rest of my ethnic background lies in those two luminous British Isles; I'm Irish, Scottish and English. No wonder I'm attracted to this beautiful Ithacan weather.
I love to travel and think it is crucial for every person to get to know and respect cultures that may seem a little esoteric at first. The Spring semester of '08 I spent abroad in Rome, which was an amazing experience. I can honestly say that the first hand experience I got in Italy and Europe interacting with other cultures let me learn more than I ever could have in a classroom.
Even within Italy itself, a first world country, there was a great indigenous feel to the culture which was both amazing from a cultural studies view and quite disturbing at times as well. I guess the first instance of this which I will share with you is my visit to a Roma (also known as Gypsies) camp outside of Rome. Currently in Italy there is somewhat of a racial divide that has excluded these people from the workplace and main stream culture and thus they are forced to beg and live in wretched conditions (take a look for yourselves online). Their situation is quite heart wrenching to see especially in such an economically developed society. Although the Roma seem to be going through some extremely rough times now, their cultural individuality and pride in traditions is truly remarkable.
The second cultural experience I will share is somewhat less significant but still interesting from a cultural perspective. While still in Italy I stayed at my Great Uncle's secluded country villa for a week. Never missing a moment to work, my uncle put a shovel in my hand and had me help an elderly local cement mixer work on a project at the house. As this workman yelled at me for doing it all wrong, I realized he only spoke the local dialect which had heavy French and Germanic influences. So I found myself quite randomly at the crossroads of three of my cultural heritages, where the languages and cultures of these distinctive nations seemed to melt into one. It was a truly global experience at such a local level.
Now that I'm back in Ithaca, I am helping to start a new club called the ILR Global Affairs Club (IGAC) in order to help bring the experiences of the international workplace to Cornell University. The entire Executive Board has been working tirelessly throughout the summer coordinating from three different continents to get this thing rolling. We hope to offer all interested students the chance to learn more about global labor issues and to give students practical experience through one of our hands on committees.
Now most recently I have started working at the ILR International Programs Office to help offset some of those expenses that I incurred as a result of that horrible European exchange rate! The programs and events run by the I.P. office are really exciting and coincide with the cutting edge of scholarship in industrial and labor relations. I can not wait to start helping ILR become more international in focus by spreading these opportunities as an I.P. liaison.
But unfortunately as a senior, I am at my last year here at Cornell. Once I graduate I can only hope that wherever I end up my international background at ILR will help me grow as an international citizen and scholar. Alia iacta est…