Cara Navarro ’20: Hanna Holborn Gray Undergraduate Research Fellow

Name: Cara Navarro
Class Year: 2020
Major: Growth and Structure of Cities
Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Internship Organization: Bryn Mawr College
Job Title: Hanna Holborn Gray Undergraduate Research Fellow
Location: Washington, D.C.

What’s happening at your internship?

I’m not exactly doing an internship — I’m a Hanna Holborn Gray Undergraduate Research Fellow. As part of the fellowship, I’m writing a paper on how Washington, D.C.-area Filipino restaurants relate to urban space and how that reflects Filipino-American identity construction. That involves looking at not only the restaurants themselves, but also their neighborhoods and the geographies of their customers and supply chains. It’s a lot to address, but I’m having fun doing it. I’ve been eating at Filipino restaurants and making field notes about my observations, interviewing restaurant owners, and reading academic literature to contextualize everything I’ve found.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied to the Hanna Holborn Gray program primarily because I’ll be writing my senior thesis this upcoming fall, and I wanted to go the extra mile for that in terms of research. As for why I chose my research topic, I wanted to explore questions of cultural identity and urban space—which I’ve been interested in since my first year—in a city I’d never lived in before. With its growing Filipino food scene, the D.C. area was a very good place to do it.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

I’ve lived in seven different cities so far, and through my research, I’m getting to know Washington, D.C., more quickly than I got to know any of them. I’m not just walking around different neighborhoods with friends in my free time, the way I would if I were interning or taking classes here. I’m spending all day immersing myself in the city and talking to new people. I really enjoy the process of discovering a new place, so I love that I’m doing it for work. Getting paid to eat at restaurants is also a sweet deal.

Crispy Chicken Adobo Bao from Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly in Rockville, MD.

Crispy Chicken Adobo Bao from Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly in Rockville, MD.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

As an independent researcher, I’m completely in charge of how I spend my time: I set my own tasks and schedule my own days. While it’s thrilling to be so in control of my day-to-day life, it’s sometimes difficult to stay self-motivated. However, I have structures in place to hold myself accountable. For one thing, there’s a deadline for the final research paper. I also email my advisor once a week, and I stay in contact with other Hanna Holborn Gray fellows.