Sixteen government scholars have taken to Facebook and LinkedIn to announce the end of their year-long sabbaticals in New York City. They declared themselves ready to begin serving the public, but reflected fondly on their year of rest in The City That Never Sleeps.
Gary Leong, 23, wrote that he gained valuable skills while in America. “I know people question the value of funding our stay in such an expensive city, but we’ve gained new skills for public service,” he said. “For example, I now have a deep understanding of quantitative methods, double-entry bookkeeping, negotiation, and contract law – all that, just from our weekly poker sessions! Seriously, the growth in our human capital is staggering.”
Others pointed out that they gained more than just technical skills from their stint in New York. Meredith Yeo, also 23, said her horizons have expanded over the past year. “One of the great things about getting a stipend for doing nothing is that you have both the time and money to travel,” she explained. “Nominally, I’ve been in New York, but actually I’ve spent just as much time in South America, Europe, and the West Coast. Travel really broadens the mind – I’m confident my exposure to global thought will help me bring a different perspective to the civil service.”
“Besides,” she continued, “it’s not like we were staying in downtown Manhattan. We’re basically living in Harlem – rent is cheaper here.” When informed that scholarship stipends were based on the city and not neighborhood, she declined to respond, saying only that analytical rigor was overrated.
Responding to enquiries, Public Service Division (PSD) spokesperson Shanti Bothra stated, “We encourage scholarship holders to explore new areas of expertise and growth. Every school is a good school, every programme is a good programme, and every year is a good year. We are satisfied that scholars who spend a year in New York perform to the standards expected of them.” She admitted, however, that New York was not for everyone. “Manhattan is best for young scholars straight out of undergraduate studies. If, after five or six years of government service, older civil servants need a break, we prefer sending them to Boston instead. There’s a world-class R&R programme there.”
Unfortunately, not all scholars in New York found their time restful. Brendan Koo, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Operations Research at Columbia University, was too busy to answer our questions. His finsta revealed he still had three final projects, four exams, two coding interviews, and one thesis defense to complete before graduation. Meanwhile, Gary’s insta story showed him scuba diving in Costa Rica.