© 2013 studentservices

A Day in the Life…

Cortney Copeland…of Cortney Copeland, IEM/MPA 2015!

6:30 am-7:00am:

  • I think that’s my second alarm going off. I usually set 3 or 4, on different devices. It’s about 6:30am and I fumble around for a bit before I get up and out of the house, wearing the fuzzy Disneyland hoodie people rarely see me without.

7:00am – 12:00pm:

  • It’s a pleasant sunrise walk down the hill to East Village Coffee, where I settle into one of the coveted spots near an electrical outlet to work on my last few assignments of the semester. I have to switch the language on my computer back to English before I start working on my paper about indigenous education in Peru – I was writing in Spanish yesterday, finishing a different essay for which my partners and I had interviewed a local man about his life as a Mexican immigrant.
  • Five hours, two cups of tea, and a sandwich later I finally relinquish my spot at East Village to go and take my usual midday study break. I bid farewell to the other MIIS students there to work on projects (there are always a few), head back up the hill to my apartment, and change into my breeches and boots to go horseback riding.


  • It’s hill work day for my horses, who live a 15 minute drive from me in Pebble Beach. People are often surprised that I hauled my two thoroughbreds with me to graduate school, but to me it makes perfect sense. They lend me perspective. If I can keep calm and problem solve when an 1,100 lb animal bolts off with me, unaware that galloping downhill into oncoming auto traffic is a bad idea, then I can keep calm and problem solve in any situation graduate school could possibly throw at me.
  • Luckily, today my horses are both delightful and we spend an exhilarating couple of hours trotting and cantering up and down the hills in Del Monte Forest. They’re born to run, and they love it. I put them away, give them their grain and hurry off to my policy analysis class.


  • Today is our last policy analysis class of the semester, and professor Jeff Dayton-Johnson has brought in some translation and interpretation experts from the MIIS T&I department to prepare us for working with interpreters. The class is leaving for a fieldwork practicum in just a couple of weeks, and we’ll be working with Spanish-Quechua interpreters in the Peruvian Andes. It is a joint project with the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development, an organization founded by MIIS alums.
  • As I ask Jeff a quick question on my way out after class, the woman who led the T&I presentation catches my attention:

“Hey, you sing with I Cantori, don’t you?” she asks.

“Yes, I do!” I Cantori is a local choir run out of nearby Monterey Peninsula College, and we have just finished our winter concert season.

“I was in the orchestra,” she tells me. “I play violin.”

Then I recognize her. “Oh! Were you the one playing the harmonics?”

“Yes, that was me.”

  • After our brief conversation, I bid her farewell, noting simultaneously that Monterey is a small town, and that if our T&I presenter can make time in her life for both career success and music, hopefully I can keep doing so too.


  • I earn a little extra money by babysitting several days a week, so every Tuesday and Thursday after policy analysis I have to hurry off and drive to Pacific Grove to pick up a couple of girls from school.
  • After I learn the finer points of playing Wall Ball and manage to cook up some mac n’ cheese while keeping the girls out of their parents’ candy stash, we set up a game of checkers. The older sister asks me if I have money to buy a Christmas tree for myself. When I tell her I don’t, the younger sister asks why there is such a thing as money at all. “Money is stupid. Why does it even exist?” As I try to sift through all the economics facts in my head to find an explanation graspable by a 7 year old, her sister steps in to save me: “If we didn’t have money, why would people work?”
  • Her younger sister is not entirely convinced, and I’m reminded of the fact that the systems we function in are systems we ourselves have built. Children have a remarkable ability to re-imagine their world, and therefore my hours spent babysitting are worth a good bit more than the money I make.


  • Once the girls’ mother gets home, I’m off to Peter B’s Brew Pub for a happy hour meeting with my fellow Peru-bound classmates. Adam and Aaron, the two alums who founded the Andean Alliance, are in town to help us plan our trip. Our group takes up an entire section of the pub, and over beers we try to envision how our upcoming study of connectivity and poverty fits in the larger plans of the organization. I would like to stay longer, but I have another event to get to.


  • Despite being in the thick of final projects and exams, some of my MIIS friends are making sure we do a little something to get in the holiday spirit. They’ve organized a Secret Santa gift exchange, so I head up to their house toting my present. We hang out just long enough for everybody to exchange gifts, laughs and hugs before we all get back to our studies.


  • The library is open late for finals week – a good thing since I still have to edit and submit that Spanish paper, put together a comparative education website I’ve been procrastinating on, and write something comprehensible about postcolonial theory. My Spanish partners are up late too, and we collaborate virtually via Google Drive to finish our assignment. I stay in the library until a security guard reminds us that yes, we actually do have to leave at midnight. Then it’s back up the hill to my apartment, where I once again set multiple alarm clocks to wake me up for another day.


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