CSI Design Student Juggles School, Work and Travel
By Anthony Ferrara
The Law of Inertia states that “an object in motion will stay in motion”. Alison Lopez proves that theory to be relative to human beings as well.
She is a 21 year old Communications and Design student at the College of Staten Island who grew up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn — and she’s all over the place; literally.
She stands on the bus stop right in the middle of the campus at the College of Staten Island (CSI). It’s late at night; about ten o’clock. Her hood is zipped all the way up so that it covers her lips and she dips her nose down into her jacket to deflect as much wind away from her face as humanly possible. If she had it her way it wouldn’t be so cold outside. She’d walk around in her sandals all day.
We had agreed to meet around seven but it wasn’t until after eight o’clock that she walked up the steps and towards the table I was sitting at, looking tired and distracted. “Long day”, she proclaims before she sits down. She quickly opened up her tablet. “Oh great, it’s dying”, she moaned.
Her eyes crept towards the charger I had sitting out on the table. Before I even knew what happened I had agreed to let her use it. She has this sneaky kind of way about her; one that would make you believe that she always gets what she wants. “I have this project I’ve been doing”, she exclaimed, hardly looking up from the screen that she was fixated on.
When she does look up at you it is almost intimidating. She’s somewhat aloof, but friendly at the same time. The aloofness actually seems to come from weariness. Her voice is calm. The bags that she carries with her are full of books, snacks, and art supplies — and would insinuate that she came from somewhere.
Her clothes are not disheveled, her nails are done, and her hair falls naturally down onto her shoulders. I wouldn’t bet that she was any more than five feet tall but she walks in a way that would imply that she’s 6’4; confident and rhythmic.
Alison is inherently occupied with her daily life. “I’m not on any form of social media”, she tells me, without explanation. I assumed she was Puerto Rican. “A lot of people assume that” she told me. “I’m actually Salvadoran”.
Before I could even begin to ask any of the questions that I had meticulously planned out the day before, she started answering them for me. “I could talk all day” she says.
Alison travels, mostly by bus (sometimes train and ferry), from Brooklyn to Staten Island to attend CSI as a full time student. Her commute varies, however, as she also works full time in Manhattan as a salesperson at Kiehl’s. Her days at school end late and so do most of her nights at work.
“The MTA sucks all together”, she spurts out. “I hate when I can’t get a seat. It happens too often”.
After gauging herself in thought, almost as if to relive in her head what she had just told me, she added “It’s scary sometimes; I’m little”. This was the first time that Alison had acknowledged any kind of fear about her transportation, or life in general.
“I was proposed to on the bus once”, she went on. “That was an experience. But what sticks out to me the most was the time I was pick-pocketed. It actually happened pretty recently. I didn’t even notice he had taken anything until I saw him rushing off the bus at the next stop”. She shrugged her shoulders. “Things happen. You can’t control everything”.
She started talking about how most people react to her actually telling them how she gets around on a daily basis. “They feel bad” she said. “It’s annoying”.
The people she meets at school especially, she says, just cannot fathom the fact that she takes public transportation. “It’s different in Brooklyn. When you tell somebody that you just got off the bus they don’t look at you like you have three heads”, she tells me, laughing.
I asked her why she chose to attend college at CSI instead of choosing a CUNY school closer to where she lived. She shrugged her shoulders again, looked up at the roof of the building, and then back down at me before responding. “I never really thought of going anywhere else” she said.
I waited for her to elaborate but it seemed like she had fallen into some type of conscious daze, just noticing and admiring the space around her. She looked up again and mumbled something under her breath about the roof. She smiled, and then spoke up a bit. “It’s cool how they did that” she said, in reference to the design of the high arching ceiling.
She then turned and looked over her shoulder where there were a few guys break-dancing in the middle of the hallway. This time she didn’t say a word. She just watched for a few seconds before turning back to me, eyes wide in amusement. It was the type of look that leaves you wondering whether she hated or loved the dancing that was going on.
She apologized. “What was I saying again?” She answered herself. “Oh yeah, I knew somebody who had gone here about four years ago and they loved it. When I came to visit I really liked how much space it had to offer. The city schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan are very tightly aligned and I liked how much open space this campus provided”.
A multitude of people had very briefly interrupted my interview with Alison just to stop and say hello to her. I figured that she must be popular around campus. After I brought this notion to light she just smiled and slowly uttered, “I’m here all day. I just talk to people, you know?”
She was still typing sparingly on her tablet throughout our meeting and I could see her collection of design books peeking out of one of her bags. She told me that she really enjoys design; both interior and exterior, and that what she was working on was a design project for one of her classes. “Buildings, houses; anything like that is fascinating to me” she said, her face suddenly beaming with excitement. “I’d love to be an art director, producer, or set designer; anything creative”. I asked her if she could ever picture herself working a desk job. “Well, maybe; who knows?!” she chuckled.
The sun had fallen out of the sky and the moon was now emerging through the glass ceiling. It was getting late and Alison had to get going. I walked with her to the bus stop where she waits to go back home. She didn’t cut any corners or walk across the grass to get there.
You see, Alison’s hectic schedule always has her in a rush. The way she moves, however, indicates the opposite. You would never know that she has to be anywhere in a hurry; an enigma at its finest.