Student of the week: Gianluca Avanzato

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Q: How did you first get involved in Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)?

A: Coming to college I was really curious about different religions and philosophies. During the community service pre-orientation, I met a member of IFYC and she invited me to join.

 

Q: What is Interfaith Youth Core?

A: Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is a national organization focused on encouraging dialogue between people of different faith traditions, particularly on college campuses. Interfaith work has always been hard for me to define because I think it’s so all-encompassing. Even if an individual doesn’t identify with a major faith tradition, everyone has beliefs and philosophies that guide their actions and lives. These beliefs can be informed by the teachings of a religion, but they can also be inspired by a song or a book or a lesson you learned when you were young. Interfaith work is embracing these philosophical and religious differences and encouraging discussions that allow us to better understand each other and ourselves.

 

Q: What has been your most memorable moment from IFYC?

A: There have been many special moments in IFYC – mainly when people from different communities and backgrounds interact and have meaningful dialogue. Overall, the best memories are those moments with fellow members – one-on-one conversations that have changed my way of thinking and the times we’ve just had fun and laughed (especially when discussing the name of our events).

 

Q: What challenges do you face while working on IFYC?

A:The same challenges that almost all student groups face: getting fellow students to step out of their comfort zones and attend an event. With IFYC in particular, I think that the idea of talking about religion or faith makes many people uncomfortable – it’s one of those things that society has discouraged us from talking about. These conversations are so important and should be encouraged. Of course, these conversations demand respect and active listening, as well as sincere curiosity and open-mindedness.

 

Q: How has actively being involved with IFYC affected your time on campus?

A: While it’s certainly possible to make a positive change alone, it’s usually easier and more enjoyable when you have a team. IFYC has provided me with both a platform to create positive change and a group of supportive friends who are inspiring, passionate and motivated. There really is strength in numbers and if I get tired or disheartened, there’s a team to energize and re-inspire me.

 

Q: If you could offer any advice to first-years looking to get involved, what would it be?

A: You can’t go wrong with any club or organization on campus. There are countless things to get involved in. More importantly, if you feel that there is something missing on this campus or you have an idea, create something! When I was a first-year, I created a Hindi/Urdu Table so that I could learn some more Hindi and share my interest in the language with others. I was able to do this easily through my Minerva. The Union community is really supportive. There are many ways to create and contribute – you’ve just got to make it happen.

 

Q: What is your favorite thing about Union?

A: The faculty and staff here are wonderful. They go above and beyond to enable students who are passionate. There’s a lot of support for student initiatives, as well as many resources. Along with the faculty and staff, I am constantly blown away by my peers. There are so many students here with inspirational stories and amazing ideas.

Q: Where is your favorite place to eat off-campus?

A: Taj Mahal! Their food is amazing and they have a great lunch buffet that’s affordable for college students. The owners, Shammi and Waheed, have been nothing but welcoming and kind since I first came to Schenectady. I’ve had the privilege to get to know them well and I’ve even learned to cook a few dishes.

 

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