Speaking to us at the end of her I-House residency is Daria Dudenkova, who came to live at I-House in 2016 while she did her postgraduate work in Education as a Fulbright Scholar. During her time here, she embraced many of the opportunities offered to Residents: completing the year-long Women’s International Leadership program, winning a Davis Peace Prize grant, and serving as a Resident Fellow for Language Exchange. We caught up with Daria to talk about her I-House Experience and aspirations.
Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from, and what inspired you to come to I-House?
I’m Russian, from the capital, Moscow. I did my BA in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language at the Moscow City Teachers Training University. Also I was lucky enough to go and live in China for two years to study the language. After that I worked as a simultaneous interpreter for a few years back home, but decided to pursue my passion for education and come to the States. I got funded by Fulbright and they highly recommended that I live at I-House—they had previously sent their grantees there and everyone simply loved the experience.
Tell us about your work. What were you studying during your residency?
Like many at I-House, I’m proud to call Teachers College my alma mater. I did my Masters in Instructional Technology and Media and currently work as a Senior Instructional Designer for the New York City Department of Homeless Services, part of the NYC Human Resource Administration. My job is simply amazing. I develop trainings for NYC homeless shelter staff on how to use different strategies and technologies to complete their job the best, fastest and most efficient way possible. We constantly work with different projects and stakeholders. One of my personal favourite projects was “Fair Fares” – a program created by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and members of the City Council to help New Yorkers with low incomes manage their transportation costs. Using the Fair Fares NYC MetroCard, eligible New York City residents receive a 50% discount on subway and eligible bus fares. It’s fascinating to realize that what I do impacts thousands of New Yorkers and ultimately makes the world a better place.
You lived here for almost 3 years. What were your favorite things about living here? Anything in particular stand out?
I’m in love with foreign languages. I got a chance to be an I-House Language Exchange Fellow and work with so many amazing language teachers. We would have the most fascinating conversations about how a language can shape the way we think. For example, in Russian the word “ambitious” has a very clear negative connotation, whereas in the western world it doesn’t. And that ultimately explains why I’m so bad at writing things like motivation letters and anything that makes me sound ambitious. I just feel like it’s inherently bad because Russian is my native language. All in all, what I want to say is—the more we understand other languages and cultures, the more we can develop one of I-House’s core values – Empathy.
Do you think being a part of the I-House community has helped you progress in your career goals? How?
Networking. Networking. And a little more networking. My dear WIL Fellow ladies and I were treated to a talk by the amazing Kelly Hoey, who said: “Most of your professional opportunities are going to come from the circle closest to you or their acquaintances.” That is so true. I-House gathers such brilliant young world leaders—even now that I won’t be physically in the House, I always know that the connections I will need are at the tips of my fingers.
Someday I might like to open my own instructional design consultancy. Let’s see how it goes. I will be eternally grateful to I-House for the leadership skills I gained. I’m the most introverted person you will probably meet in your life. I’m always tempted to sit in the corner and read my book, virtually in any social situation…and don’t get me wrong, I would still rather do that now, but if I know I have to, I will step up and lead. I-House taught me how.
Finally—any advice for current Residents?
Too many fire department visits last year [for microwave mishaps].