Emily Aquina is currently the Residential Director of South Hall at our New York campus. She has been with EF Academy since January 2015 and has held a number of roles, including Director of Activities. This month we sat down to have a chat about how she came to EF Academy and what she wants to do when she grows up.
How did you come to work at EF Academy New York?
When I graduated from university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, but I loved university and really missed being on a campus. When I got the job as Activities Director at EF Academy, there was no activities department at the time, so I had to learn quickly. I met with the Student Council and we figured out how we could work together to create fun activities and events on campus. That process was really successful and I think we’ve built an awesome activities department since then.
Last year someone asked what I wanted to do when I “grew up”. The dream for me is to be the Dean of Student Life at a university. Finding that direction drove me towards becoming a Residential Director, which is what I’ve been doing since November of last year.
What are some skills that you took away from your university experience?
The experiences that prepared me the most for my positions as both a Resident Director and as an Activities Director were the co-curricular activities I was involved in on campus. I worked with student government, the student events board and my university’s orientation program, which I ended up leading. These kinds of things are what I really loved doing, I just didn’t know until I started at EF Academy that I could do it for a living.
It’s important to learn people skills, how to function in groups and how to learn when you’re in university. Knowing how to learn is crucial when you encounter different challenges at work. You learn a lot about how to work effectively and manage your time, which is relevant no matter what you do.
What are the most valuable things you have learned at EF Academy ?
I’ve learned that I will never work with better people than I do here. I’ve learned that anything is possible with a positive attitude and a budget. I learned that you accomplish more by being kind and doing good rather than pushing your own agenda. I’ve also learned that you need to take care of yourself because burnout is real. I’ve learned that working with students might be tiring but it’s extremely rewarding. I’ve learned that managing staff is more difficult than you would think. But, I’ve also realized that somebody took a big chance on me at a young age. If you give someone the opportunity to step up – and you support them – usually they do, no matter what age.
Do you have any advice that you would give to current students or recent graduates?
For students still in university: get involved. Even if it’s your senior year and you’ve never joined a club or gone to a school-sponsored event, do it now. I know that socializing and hanging out and being with your friends is really important, but the coolest things that you do at school can be things that are organized by your university.
There are so many great opportunities that you just need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do. If there’s something that you’re interested in, university is your time and place to test it all out, because you’ll never have that much free time again. It’s also okay to not know what you want to do after you graduate. Do internships, apply for jobs, interview, test things out. Know that your first job may not be your forever job, but that’s okay.
What are some of your favorite memories from your time here?
Some of my favorite memories actually come from some of the harder times. The three overnight weekend trips that we did with the students in my first full year, as well as planning, organizing, and working Culture Fair was exhausting. But, they were such awesome times with the students. Some of my favorite memories are staying late with the students, ordering food after a basketball game and hanging out.
Do you have any more advice to impart?
For all the alumni out there, and for students who are going to be graduating from EF Academy this year: your EF Academy family is something you won’t have anywhere else. You’ll never be at a place where there are so many different international students and cultures represented on campus. Enjoy it while it lasts – and remember that for when you graduate from university, too! The real world is not perfect, but it’s not awful. You’ll come to find that if you do your best and you try and you’re genuine in what you’re trying to do, you can’t really screw up.