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  • Writer's pictureJunto HKIS

Alumni Spotlight: Gabi Vardanega ‘19

Joy Chan

February 27, 2020

Gabi Vardanega ‘19 is paving her own way as an Environmental Justice major at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. As a recent high school graduate and a newly minted college freshman on a full-ride merit scholarship, she shared her valuable insights with Junto’s high school readers. “Take every opportunity you can” I first met Vardanega through an environmental leadership workshop called Nature Works, but for Vardanega, that was just one of the many activities that she was involved in. In her own words, she “did a lot of extracurriculars, definitely too many”.

Throughout her high school career, she completed several internships, including one at The Nature Conservancy, an environmental organization. Now at NYU, Vardanega is a part of the hall council for which she plans residential life activities. In this team that she bonded with people who share the same interests as her. One of the more amusing highlights she mentioned was an excursion to the Museum of Sex with her hall council team! As a word of advice, “when you get to college use every opportunity you can to network, to push your experiences, and make the most out of college” she said. “We’re very privileged at HKIS” While college allowed Vardanega to meet people with similar interests, it also allowed her to meet people who came from wildly different backgrounds. “We’re very privileged at HKIS. I told people stories about interim and all the resources we have available and it’s crazy how little people get” she said.

A prime example she shared was about the college application process. “One of my best friends applied to college without any help. At HKIS we have counselors. We have private counselors. We have teachers. We have such a great support network that is not available to everyone, and it’s surprising how we take that privilege for granted.” She added, “I definitely took that privilege for granted”. “You get to decide your own path.” When discussing her own college application process, Vardanega revealed that in her NYU application she specified that she would only enroll if she was admitted to the university’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. For those unfamiliar with the school, Gallatin is NYU’s small college that allows students to design their own interdisciplinary program to suit their specific interests and career goals. It’s a school where students have majored in comedy and aliens.

Vardanega shared that the highly individualized nature of the program “trains your independence which is something that a lot of people are looking for in job recruitment.” In fact, “there are certain companies that ask specifically for Gallatin students.” Some of the other perks for Gallatin students include being saved spots to take classes at other NYU schools. The one pitfall she mentioned was the lack of science classes at Gallatin. “They don’t teach biology, and they don’t teach chemistry. The closest thing to a science that you have at Gallatin is physioscience.”

“My initial interest was just in environmental science and the research aspect of it.” Taking AP Comp Govt in high school changed that. “[Mrs. Haskins] introduced the public policy and the international relations aspects that interested me even more.”

Currently, she’s taking an undergraduate class at a graduate school on women in public policy and leadership, and next semester she is taking a class on justice and literature. “You’re encouraged to make it as interdisciplinary as possible” she explained. In regards to her career goals, Vardanega said “I don’t want to do research. I want to do public policy and [governmental] work.” Now at Gallatin, Vardanega is able to do just that.


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