Post Food Thoughts (Self Reflection)

Gabriel Gjyla

Professor von Uhl

Writing in the Social Sciences


Post-Food Thoughts (Self-Reflection)


Throughout this semester, I have gained valuable knowledge that I believe will only further my academic progress. Of course, I have struggled along the way, due to the fact that this is my first year in college, but I am proud to say that I have tackled it head on and went for the touchdown! When the semester began, I knew I had areas in which I needed major improvements upon, all the while hoping that I would meet some friendly classmates and an equally friendly professor. I took this course mainly to improve my grammar skills, but I have to admit that I learned so much more than I ever expected.  One of my favorite quote is “It’s not how you start the race, but how you finish it.” This speaks of my overall experience during this semester, and especially of how I’ve grown as a student and writer.

Out of all the assignments that were assigned, my absolute favorite was the interview. The reason is because I got to get up close and personal with a member of the sub-community with which I was researching. I got a first-hand experience of how it was like to live in Arthur Avenue. Salvatore, the person I interviewed, gave such invigorating insight about his life, the neighborhood, and his concerns that I felt like I was part of everything he was talking about. I frequently go to Little Italy to get fresh groceries and engage in fine Italian dining, but I have a newfound respect for the neighborhood. I feel like I have integrated myself in it as well, from the evidence that most of the merchants at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market now know my name and greet me like I’ve been there for most of my life. During the interview, I felt the real emotions that Salvatore was going through, from growing up in the crime-ridden streets of the Bronx to having concerns with his neighborhood being flooded with people from new nationalities and having their cultures mixing in with the Italian majority neighborhood. Although he had some controversial opinions, I feel like if he were to join a community meeting, he would benefit from it by listening to the concerns of the new neighbors. This interview was a very important assignment because I had to exclude my opinion and only listen to what Salvatore was speaking about, therefore hear what the true thoughts of the people were.

As the semester moved along, I found out that the free-writes are as important to my writing style as the actual assignments. They have allowed me to openly express my opinion in a way that I would never write in my important papers. For example, I am able to freely talk about anything I want, be able to use “bad words”, and even talk about topics that would be controversial if it were to be spoken aloud. I have grown accustomed to engaging in free writes, and will use them in my future classes. They are like an opening to my thoughts about certain subjects, which is why it is interesting to write about and easy to keep myself engaged in my work. To add, I feel like the free-writes can be seen as a stepping stone for my writing, which is helpful in starting an outline for my assignments. To go even further, the free-writes have assisted me in the other classes, especially the history courses. The reason for that is that there is an abundant source of information to be taught in history classes, and it is difficult to remember every date, event, and person in history. Doing free-writes in history classes helps to get an understanding of numerous contexts and a way to remember the class notes by writing down the information that I find most important.

I have progressed as a writer in large part because of the peer-reviews. Because I have taken five classes this semester, the workload has gotten significant at times. Because of that, the essay assignments were usually finished about a day before they were due, which understandably had some grammar issues. However, the peer reviews in class really elevated my writing to another level because of important and valuable feedback for my classmates. I saw what I was doing wrong, and my classmates pointed out the small changes in my grammar that could have a big difference in the sentence flow, paragraph structure, and overall presentation of the essay. Furthermore, taking part in peer reviews opens up different writing styles that I am not used to. To add, these new writing styles allowed me to find different ways of constructing my work, especially in the introduction. For example, I usually start off an assignment with a general statement of the prompt, but I have been exposed to new methods such as opening up with a question or a quote. For most of my essays, I just start off with the question of the prompt, but I have new methods to make it seem more interesting. After all, if a long essay isn’t interesting, it will just bore the reader.

The assignment that I had the most difficulty in has to be the first observation essay. The reason for that is because it asked me to walk into a sub-community and basically take notes and write a whole essay based on my experiences. That seemed boring to me at first, mostly because I am a social person. I also am a regular at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, so it was hard to not talk with merchants that I frequently converse with. But it opened up a new way to recognize the community that I am used to. I allowed myself to really see how the retail market was such an important part of the community. Not just because of the food, but it offered a place for the members of the community to get together and interact with one another, whether it is lifelong friends, college classmates, or families looking for a quick bite. As I observed, I found out much more about the neighborhood by staying quiet and observing then usually talking to everyone. To sum up, what started out as a difficult assignment turned into a valuable life lesson and which will be a valuable lesson in my future endeavors!


“America’s Great Streets” (Picture #4)

Image result for ruben diaz jr little italy arthur ave

  • This is a picture that shows various elected officials, most notably the Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr., showing off official paperwork that recognizes Arthur Avenue as one of America’s “Great Streets”. One of the main tourist hotspots in The Bronx is Little Italy, located in the Arthur Avenue section. There are tour groups that plan visits to learn the history of the original Italian Americans. Also, they come to eat great Italian food, and there is an almost endless supply in the area. For the Bronx Borough President to officially recognize the area as one of “America’s Great Streets” shows just how important and valuable it is to the community. Because of this, there will be even more tourists from all over America and the world coming into the neighborhood to see what makes it so special. In addition, this indicates that it will have to accommodate even more visitors, and that will in turn bring valuable revenue to the area. The money earned would be put to good use through the community, whether it includes fixing the infrastructure or holding community relation meetings/holiday events. In all, this has been a much-needed source of welcome pride that the neighborhood is known for.

Arthur Avenue Retail Market (Picture #3)

Related image

  • This is another store inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. It is called Peter’s Meat Market and has been around for generations. To add, it is one of the first stores that a customer can see when they walk in, proudly showing off their Italian and American flags. The owner of the store is Italian, while the employees are almost all of Mexican backgrounds. This signifies the growing diversity in the neighborhood, which can bring about some conflict. The Mexican employees seem to have integrated in the neighborhood(along with the other nationalities) because of how well they understand the demands of the customers. One visit to the store and you would think they’ve lived there for most of their lives, when in reality it has been around 10-15 years that they’ve moved in. This would bring an interesting conversation as to whether or not the older Italians would accept other nationalities so integrated in the community.

The Life of the Neighborhood (Picture #2)

Image result for cafe al mercato

  • This is in the Cafe al Mercato section of the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. Hordes of people in the community gather here every day to talk with each other about anything and everything. It is where the lifelong members of the community tend to spend the most time in their day, which is where I interviewed Salvatore for my assignment. This is a prime example of the community at work. In the morning, there are the people who rush to get to work.  They get their coffee and muffins, such as the firemen, educators, sanitation workers, etc. In the afternoon, usually there are more students that are conversing about their struggles with being full-time students and part-time employees. During the evening, there are families that get ready to finish off their day with a fresh cappuccino. Over time, there have been new ingredients and menus added because of the continued diversity in the area, such as new Mexican, Greek, and Albanian dishes. This is a great area for the community to converge and gather to talk about their opinions and concerns.

Community Gathering (Picture #1)

Image result for feast of saint anthony arthur ave

  • This is the annual feast of Saint Anthony’s. In this festive celebration, there are upwards of thousands of people throughout the neighborhood; conversing, eating, and playing games. This is a major tourist attraction for the area, but for the Italians it’s a part of life. It brings together all the members of the community, offering non-Italians an historical lesson about the history and traditions of Italy. Community gatherings like this feast are important because it offers a sense of belonging for everyone in the community- which can build stronger bonds.As a result, a celebration like this would make the residents more willing to learn about the different cultures that are present in the community, and possibly open up different holiday festivities from the other members of the community.

Links to Research Referred to in Annotated Bibliography

  1. Krase, J. (2006). Seeing Ethnic Succession in Little Italy: Change despite Resistance. Modern Italy, 11(1), 79-95. doi:10.1080/13532940500492340

2.  Bencivenni, Marcella (2015) “A Great Conspiracy against Our Race: Italian Immigrant Newspapers and the Construction of Whiteness in the Early 20th Century.



3. Steiman, Adina, publisher, “Arthur Avenue is the Biggest (and Best) Little Italy in America.” October 11, 2016,

4. “Ethnic Stereotyping.” New York Times 31 Jan. 2010: 9(L). Business Insights: Essentials.

5. “Portrayals of Italian-Americans in the Media.” New York Times 6 Feb. 2010: NA(L). Business Insights: Essentials.






Research Proposal (includes annotated bibliography)

Gabriel Gjyla

Professor von Uhl



                                                          Little Italy’s Future

New York City has often been called the “melting pot of America”, a term used to describe the various cultures and traditions that thrive here. Over the course of America’s history, each cultural group has made a substantial impact which has helped developed into what the current state of the country is in. Italians are one group which have immigrated and thrived in America. There is a special place in Arthur Avenue in The Bronx, which is known as Little Italy, where the original Italian immigrants first arrived. Ever since, their grandchildren have grown up and continue to live there. However, the community is stuck between accepting new cultures to move into the neighborhood or keep it as Italian as possible.

The Problem:  I will address how members of the Little Italy community feel based on the different cultures of people moving into the neighborhood.  I want to thoroughly examine how the new cultures moving into the neighborhood will have an impact on the Italian Americans who have lived there for most, if not all of their lives. In order to do this, I will need to examine resources that help explain why the people of the neighborhood don’t want others moving in. The neighborhood has had a long history of tradition and customs, which is why it has been labeled as the “melting pot of the Bronx”.

Background:  In the Arthur Ave section of the Bronx, there is a neighborhood known as Little Italy.  This area has been surrounded by Italians ever since the original Italian immigrants came to America, between the years 1880-1920, in search of a better life that was free from oppression, religious persecution, and poverty. As times have changed, Little Italy has continued to provide one of the best examples of the Italian culture within America. Based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of the neighborhood was 27,378. The racial makeup of the neighborhood was white (19.7%), African American (18.5%), Asian (2.3%), and Latino/Hispanic (58.2%). Within this area are numerous Italian-based restaurants, cafes, mom-and-pop shops, some of which have been passed down from generation to generation. Over time, one of the most important and recognized area in Little Italy is the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, which is a mixture of numerous merchant stores ranging from meats, cheeses, dairy, markets, etc. It has been an integral part of the community. This retail market was created by then-mayor LaGuardia, who wanted a safe and productive way to share Italian food in the New York City area without having shops in the streets. Mayor LaGuardia has had a very significant impact on the community because apart from being Italian himself, he created the retail market in order to fight against illegal pushcarts and vendors. He is beloved by Italians everywhere, which is shown in the annual St.Anthony’s Feast-during which a portrait of LaGuardia is flown high for all to see.  To add, there have been many different people from different cultures, such as Mexico, Greece, Turkey, Albania, and the Dominican Republic that have moved into the Little Italy section that aren’t Italian. Furthermore, these people have brought their customs and cultures along with them, such as opening up new restaurants (Greek, Mexican, Turkish, and Yemen). Because of this, some members of the community have frowned upon the new people moving in because they don’t like seeing their culture being infiltrated. As a result, there has been tension within the Italian American community, arguing about how they should preserve their culture and what the future of Italians in Little Italy will look like.

                                                   Annotated Bibliography

Krase, Jerome (2006) Seeing Ethnic Succession in Little Italy: Change despite Resistance, Modern Italy, 11:1, 79-95, Academic Search Complete, DOI: 10.1080/13532949500492340 (Assessed April 8, 2018)

This source is important to my proposal because it offers an insight into what exactly makes the Italian culture in Little Italy so seductive and praised by people from all over. It will help to understand how the community has been preserved over time and continue to show the customs of Italy. Because of this, it would help to examine why some Italian Americans might feel that their culture might be disturbed if more and more people from different cultures move into the community. As a result, valuable information would be gathered from groups within the community to support the study, focusing on situations as to how communication is vital between the people in the community.

Bencivenni, Marcella (2015) “A Great Conspiracy against Our Race: Italian Immigrant Newspapers and the Construction of Whiteness in the Early 20th Century.” Journal of American History 102, no. 3 (December 2015): 904-905. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (Accessed April 8, 2018)

This source is important because it gives an explanation for the history of Italian Americans in America. There is a focus on the original Italian immigrants and how they integrate into American life. I will use this important source to gain a deeper understanding between the Italians in Little Italy- the ones who are welcome to change and the ones who don’t want change and want to keep the community as much Italian-based as possible.

Steiman, Adina, publisher, “Arthur Avenue is the Biggest (and Best) Little Italy in America.” October 11, 2016,, Accessed April 4, 2018

This article is important because it explains the importance of Little Italy to the business of the Bronx, and New York City in that case. There have been tour groups that have recently opened up in Little Italy- with guides explaining the history of the area. This has created jobs for people in the area, helping to increase the tourism industry. In a way, this is preserving the history of Little Italy while offering other people a lesson into Little Italy’s history. I can use this as an example to show the different Italian Americans in the community that a plan to preserve the culture and expose it to other cultures is possible- and can bring revenue to the community.

“Ethnic Stereotyping.” New York Times 31 Jan. 2010: 9(L). Business Insights: Essentials. Accessed May 5, 2018

This short article is important because it introduces another side to the argument: that Italians still have some negative stereotypes even after they have integrated themselves into American society. Although my work will be between the Italians in the community and the new cultures that are moving in, it’s important not to forget that not everyone will automatically think highly of Italians. For example, when Italians originally immigrated to America, there was a sense of fear and disapproval from the Americans. Even though Italians have planted themselves in America, there will always be the prejudice by some people that they are just mafia members or something similar to that nature. When undergoing this investigation, it’s important to keep in mind that the Italians who don’t want others moving into the community might be scared of not being liked by other people.

  “Portrayals of Italian-Americans in the Media.” New York Times 6 Feb. 2010: NA(L). Business Insights: Essentials. Accessed 5 May 2018

This academic source is another valuable part of the understanding of the Italian-American community. Similar to the one stated above, it highlights the portrayal of Italian-Americans in the media. The current case of president Trump and his constant disapproval towards Mexicans is a prime example of how the media can be used to degrade a particular group of people. This article discusses many of the problems that Italian-Americans face, specifically the stereotype that Italians are good at being gangsters and making pizza. There would be a proposal to make sure that the community would get involved with each other, learn from each other, and to eliminate negative stereotypes that prevent groups from peacefully living in the same neighborhood. For example, one prime negative portrayal is the Jersey Shore show, which portrays a group of Italian- Americans as party-loving, loud, and obnoxious members. This negative portrayal would upset the Italians in the area, which is why I will include this show in the interviews with the members of the community.

Objectives:  As I will hold interviews with the members of the community, whether them being the lifelong members or the new residents (from other cultures) that have moved in, I expect completely different feedback from the subjects. I will anticipate controversial language and feelings from the interviews. In all, I want to open up opportunities for the people to let their feelings be known. As a basis for the old people within the community, I expect them to be rooted in their Italian traditions, up to the point where they fear that the new residents moving in might disrupt and destroy their traditions. I will talk to the younger members of the community as well, especially to the teenagers. For the teens, I will focus on how they feel about their Italian heritage, how it is like to be Italian-American, how much patriotism they show, what kinds of people they interact with, and how they think they want their community to be shaped like in the future.  I will also want to conduct interviews with the new members on the block- to get an insight about how they feel about the viewpoints towards them. Also, I want to gain opinions on how they will try to integrate their own cultures into Little Italy, and to see how they would react if their cultures will be overshadowed by the main Italian festivities.

Methods: My main idea on the methods will be to conduct interviews/study group interactions. I will like to gather members of the community one-on-one, and share their opinions to the other members being interviewed. Furthermore, I will attempt to share my findings in community gatherings. Most notably, I will focus on the town gatherings/community board meetings to gain an edge into how the community is working to make sure that all the people of the community are treated fairly. To add, I know that this study will take quite a while to successfully assemble, which is why I want to focus on the children of the close-minded individuals ( like Salvatore from my original interview), and see how they think about the different cultures living together as well as hear their thoughts on the future. Over the course of my study, I will focus on the celebrations that will be honored in the community, especially asking the Italians how they would feel if more celebrations from other countries would be viewed in the streets of Little Italy.  To add, I will open up a blog for the community to unanimously share their feelings about the area, and what it means to live there and work there. I want an open experience without the fear of saying the wrong thing.

Conclusion:  The history of Little Italy in the Bronx is as big and thick as the cheeses that are made fresh everyday in its stores. The Italians have long maintained a stronghold in the community, preserving their culture and keeping their customs around through their restaurants and holiday celebrations. However, as more people have moved into the community, there have been tensions between the Italians who want Little Italy to remain Italian based and the Italians who are open to sharing their culture and community with different cultures.  In relationship to current issues, this piece of work is valuable because America seems to have an immigrant problem of its own yet again. With many people in America being split between being willing to accept new immigrants vs. those that believe the new immigrants will bring problems, it’s important to study this community to gain a feel of how the national opinion is about new changes and people. I anticipate discovering the nature of the people within the community, whether it being open or closed to change. Also, I want for the people to feel like they can share anything with each other, which is why I believe the online blog for the community will be very essential. If this historic community is to continue to thrive, it needs to have serious talks within its members, young and old, to make sure they are on the same page.

Interview Assignment

Gabriel Gjyla

Professor von Uhl



                                                    Get the Spaghetti Out of Your Head!

Salvatore Ambrossio sat in his old, wooden, and broken down chair that he has claimed for the past fifteen years. No one dared to sit on his chair because they knew it was his, even though there was no written rule that said anything. He is an old school Italian- also known as “everyone’s favorite uncle” on the Arthur Ave section of Little Italy. He has a skinny frame with big and bushy eyebrows that looks like a mustache on top of his eyes. As he laughed, his hoarse voice started to show his many years of chain-smoking, not that he seemed to care.  Furthermore, the cigarette in his hand started to follow his hand movement whenever he moved, distracting me from paying attention to what he was saying at any particular moment. As a regular and weekly customer at the Arthur Avenue retail market, I have gotten used to seeing Salvatore there, but I’ve never spoke to him. As I got to talk with him, I learned that he knew more about the neighborhood then I ever thought, and his thoughts about the community were honest and controversial- even for a guy who has lived in the community for as long as he has. Learning that he has lived in the neighborhood for all fifty-five years of his life, it is safe to assume that he is an historic part of the neighborhood, which is why I chose to interview.

I met Salvatore in the Café al Mercato, which happens to be my favorite place in the market. He seemed to know everyone in there, always making sure to acknowledge every person that walked through. He even seemed to know them enough to ask personal questions about their lives, which got me thinking as to how important he could be to this community.  As I asked him about his role in this market, he seemed to be like a living encyclopedia for the neighborhood, especially for the market. His aunt used to be one of the merchants that sold Italian dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and meats. His aunt’s store had the recognition that labeled it to have some of the most reliable and freshest products in the market. It was loved by the entire Italian community. However, that seemed to change when the Italian community seemed to have new residents from other cultures and the original Italian immigrants eventually got enough money to find bigger and better homes upstate. As I looked around the Café that I was seated at, I couldn’t help but notice the colossal Italian and American flags circling around the whole market, making sure they were the first things to be seen when the customers walked inside.  The meat store right next to the Café was nothing short of mesmerizing-with the smell of dried beef, pork, and lamb in every corner of my nostrils. As I have been around this particular neighborhood myself, I have noticed some new restaurants that have been opened that focused on food from other countries such as Mexico, Greece, and Turkey. I wanted to see how Salvatore would feel about the neighborhood in the current state, and how the ideal future would look like in his point of view.


Me: So Salvatore, can I ask you about what you remember most about this grand market?

Salvatore: Man, I’ve had so many adventures here that I don’t really know where to start.

Me: How about if you talk about your aunt’s store?

Salvatore: God rest her soul. My aunt Maria had the brightest smile that made ever customer naturally come to her. The food was so great that she received a newspaper article one day, citing how special and fresh her food was. But she decided to close it one day because it wasn’t receiving enough money. I remember her telling me “I got to shut this place down because these new people won’t give me enough money to survive in the future.”

Me: What do you think she meant by “these new people?’

Salvatore: It’s the people from the new cultures moving into the neighborhood! They are trying to take our neighborhood like it’s up for sale. I ain’t having none of it.

Me: If you don’t mind me asking, why don’t you like people from different cultures moving into the neighborhood?

Salvatore: Listen kid, you seem like a smart guy. I understand you go to college (I was weaing a CCNY hat), so I hope you can understand my point. These new people are disrespecting our Italian culture. They come in here to open new restaurants and new stores, but they don’t respect our culture. This whole neighborhood was made by our grandfathers and grandmothers who worked their whole lives to make sure our lives would be better than theirs.. And I want my kids and the next generation to have an all-Italian community when they grow up too! Is that too much to ask?

Me: I see what you mean Sal. You just want the Italian community to continue to thrive in this neighborhood. So I have to ask you, what do you suggest for the other people that have been recently moving in?

Salvatore: Find a different spot. In fact, make something similar to “Little Italy” of their own. Just don’t come into our neighborhood and try to take it over.

Me: Would you go into a restaurant that is not Italian-based?

Salvatore: Of course I would kid! I love trying things from different places. The problem I have is if the stores move into my neighborhood. I would definitely go try a new meal in Chinatown, but I would not want to live there! They should open food-based restaurants based on where the community is focused on.

Me: Sal, if I can ask you, what specific cultures would you not want to see come into the neighborhood?

Salvatore: I’m not saying that I don’t want people coming to eat here. They can come observe the beautiful Italian culture and eat. But they should find their way back home at the end of the day. In the past five years, I’ve seen new restaurants that are from Greek, Spanish, Dominican, Albanian, and Russian cultures. But when these new restaurants open in the community, it means old Italian restaurants are closing. And you know I don’t want that.

Me: Do you feel like the Italian identity of the neighborhood is slowly being lost?

Salvatore: Yes! (with a loud bang on the table) Now you get me kid! I feel like the Italian identity is being lost if we let more cultures come into our community. It’s bad enough that most of the original Italians have left, but now there is competition from other cultures.

Me: Ahh. I see, it’s like you’re losing your memories from childhood, in a way?

Salvatore: Kind of.  It’s like this younger generation of Italian kids have forgotten what it means to be Italian; to attend Saint Anthony’s Feast, have family- style Sunday dinner (without using the iphones), to love and take care of your grandparents while they’re still alive.

Me: So you feel like the young Italian kids in the neighborhood are neglecting their “duties’?

Salvatore: Mamma mia! These new kids have to get the spaghetti out of their heads, I swear!

Me: (While laughing) That sounds pretty funny. What do you mean by that?

Salvatore: It’s an Italian thing, you wouldn’t understand.  

Me: Can you help me understand?

Salvatore: I’m saying that people have to realize the beauty of what they have over here before it disappears. If new restaurants keep opening up that aren’t Italian, it won’t be long before the people from those communities pour in this neighborhood. After that, it won’t be long before the Italians become a minority in our own neighborhood!

Me: I understand your feelings Sal, but what do you think about the different immigrants that bring new cultural experiences to America?

Salvatore: They can come to America, but they should just find places where they can have a community similar to Little Italy of their own.

Me: One last question, if I may? How do you feel that I, being an Albanian, regularly shop in this market and love the Italian community?

Salvatore: I love it kid; in fact I would never tell you to stop coming here. Any way to view Italians as great and hardworking people is always a good thing. As a matter of fact, there’s this new Italian store that I heard will open up in the next year. If you want, I can tell you what meals are the best ‘cause I know the guy that will hire the chef. It will be great, and as the Italians say- Buon appetito (Enjoy your meal)!

                                                         (End Interview)

As the interview wrapped up, I kept notice of some particular things that Salvatore had placed significance on. He wants the new generation to embrace their Italian heritage, beginning with buying from the market, as well as take part in the holiday festivities. I understood where Salvatore was coming from: he was an aging man who had traditional viewpoints about Italians being in the same community and taking care of each other. The new ethnicities moving in threatened the very existence of that, which is why I understand his dislike for them. Honestly, I feel like this is the current state of America at the moment- scared of new changes. There seems to be a fear of the immigrants, especially brought down by the negative connotations by our current president towards immigrants coming into the United States. Although Salvatore offered an honest disapproval towards new communities of people moving into his neighborhood, it seems like it poses a problem that makes the public scared of other people that aren’t the same as them.  However, if everyone felt that way towards immigrants, then America would lose its sense of identity, mainly because America was built by immigrants! The main point is that even though some of the people in the community might have negative feelings towards change, it is up to the rest of the Little Italy community to be welcoming and willing to offer help for the new immigrants, just as their families were offered help by people from different cultures back during the early 1920s. As the community continues to evolve with different cultures and groups of people moving in, it makes me wonder as to how this beautiful market will change and evolve to meet the new demands of the next generation, and how long it will continue to be an all Italian market.

Letter of Introduction Assignment Gabriel Gjyla

Writing in the Social Sciences




Dear Ms von Uhl,


My name is Gabriel Gjyla.  This is my second semester at CCNY and I feel like I have been opened up to a brand new world. The transition from high school to college hasn’t been an easy one, especially with having to learn the important life skill of time management. Honestly, I feel like I have cruised through high school, worked hard to get high grades and become the salutatorian.  As I entered my senior year, I got into sports and joined my soccer team, focusing most of my after school activities on team practices and games. Senior year was definitely the year were I made the largest impression on my school, but I think I could have done much more. In terms of time management, I was a wreck in high school, due to late night conversations with my friends. I often woke up late and came to class in the second period. I thought that since it was my final semester, it wasn’t that important to have to turn in on time. That is one of my biggest regrets from my high school career, and the class that I ended up going late to everyday was creative writing, which brings me to this current class I’m taking.

I have always been interested in writing because it allowed me to put my thoughts onto paper in a way that I can’t do on the iPhone. Using my imagination to think of literally anything is what I am interested in, so it makes sense that free-writing has always been a favorite free-time activity for me to do at home (don’t tell my friends that because they will think it’s lame). An important fact is that I never have liked math, which is why, I believe, I have chosen writing and literature as topics of interest. Throughout this semester, I hope to enhance my writing skills as well as learn many different new ideas and concepts to use in my writing, whether it being for an assignment or just a quick free-writing session at home.  To evolve as a writer, I aim to use my personal experiences to translate what is going on in my community, culture, and society that have influenced human behavior and how others change their mind on certain topics.

I was born in the country of Albania, which is located on the south-eastern part of Europe. I arrived to America with my family when I was six years old, first to Connecticut and then the Bronx. Ever since, I have been living in the Bronx, which is where I spent my teenage years.  A neighborhood is important for any individual, helping to grow and decide which groups of people they will interact with as they grow older. My neighborhood in Pelham Parkway is filled with Albanians, so much that it is unofficially deemed “Little Albania.” I have kept my Albanian culture an integral part of my life, celebrating it whenever the occasions arise and always quick to tell non-Albanians about the culture with much enthusiasm. However, the high school that I attended, Herbert H. Lehman High School, was filled with people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, with the most common being Hispanic and African American. When I first arrived at that high school, my friend Alex and I felt like we were out of place in the beginning.

To other people, being different from others around them is a scary thing. Nonetheless, I decided to take advantage of it. I have always been a social person, especially when introducing myself and my culture. As I learned more about the different Hispanic cultures that my new classmates were from, I realized how little I knew about the Hispanic community around me. The main Hispanic countries that my classmates came from were Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. I was introduced to new foods that were passed around during our school’s annual Thanksgiving potluck party, learning to love maduros, pernil, and arroz con leche. My classmates even told me about an ongoing feud that the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans have with each other, bragging about which culture is better and who makes better Hispanic food. Overall, I feel like my experience in high school that led me to explore different cultures has made me a wiser person and better writer, the latter helping me to use different cultures in my writing to try to connect with my audience.

As a social scientist, I focus on the issues of immigration, pop culture, family structure, human innovation/achievements, and the impact of sports on my writing. These topics interest me the most because they are what I care about and tend to focus on.  In this course, I am open to writing about anything I get assigned to, especially with the free-writing sessions. The things that excite me the most are the things that makes me the most nervous, the topics that are controversial. I am talking about the topics that no one wants to talk about such as the Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter movements, the faltered American legal system, the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on the American workforce.

During this course, I aim to successfully be able to cross out the course learning objectives as stated in the syllabus, hoping that I have completed them to the best of my ability.  I want to incorporate different writing styles in my work, not just the styles I normally use. Something that I will keep in mind is my audience, knowing who I will be writing to and what kind of language to use when addressing the people. Teamwork is a very important part of any group project, and that is when I feel like I can shine. As stated, I can be a very social person when I want to, and I really enjoy the group work in the class, whether it being small talk with another person or a bigger project with more people to interact with. If the topic of the project was based on culture, then you can bet I will work the hardest I possibly can to tell you about my Albanian culture!  Furthermore, reviewing another person’s work is instrumental in being able to give and receive feedback, which is why peer reviewed work is so helpful. In this course, I believe we are all social scientists, and scientists have to be open to criticism as to why they believe certain things are the way that they are, which is why I always look forward to peer review. It is a way for me to solidify my work with the help of other students, gaining valuable insight as a positive outcome.

As you can see my experience as a social scientist is brief, being that I have just recently graduated high school and have entered a whole different level of work expected in college. However, my love for free writing is evident in my life and I will use what I have learned to further my progress in different writing styles. My experience with my Albanian culture and the various cultures I have been exposed to since I came to America have helped me to understand the world from another viewpoint, which helped to express different topics while keeping in mind not to negatively disrupt anyone’s culture. I will look back at the end of this semester and see how I have evolved and progressed as a writer and social scientist, focusing on the things I’ve struggled with and how I handled the hard situations in life. The experiences as a writer in this course will always be with me, just as important as basic skills needed to survive in today’s world.

  • Sincerely, Gabriel Gjyla



Box 11 Assignment Gabriel Gjyla


Gabriel Gjyla

Professor von Uhl




Box 11 Assignment

As I ponder about my time spent at the field site I chose, which is the Arthur Avenue Food Market, I am able to see how certain things happened because of my privilege. I think that if I were someone else, I may not have gotten all the opportunities to get into conversation with all the people I talked to, maybe I might have gotten the silent treatment from some merchants. I can concur that some obvious privileges that I have are based on my age, gender, nationality, freedom of travel, education level, among others.

The Little Italy section in Arthur Avenue is known for having an historic Italian community, which is why there are so many Italian restaurants that are highly rated. Since I am Albanian myself, I was able to use that privilege to gain more knowledge from the people at the merchant stores. Albania and Italy are very close to each other in Europe, and their people tend to welcome each other. I feel like the Italians in the stores welcomed me with open hands. One big part of the warmness towards me might have been because of my Albanian nationality, but I think a bigger reason is because the community in there is just welcoming in particular, towards all people. The main goal is to attract customers, so the employees have to think outside the box and try different methods to make their stores stand out. I would say that I feel like family to these people, in the way that they started to talk to me about their own problems like I was their own family. I have to say that they succeed in making the customer feel important.


The age factor also played a big part in my privilege as well. As soon as I told them that I am 19 years old, that’s all they needed to hear! Throughout my essay on the field site, there’s some stuff that I decided to leave out due to spacing issues. However, the four friends in the cigar store treated me like a man, if I really think about it. They talked to me like I was part of their group, giving me advice on relationships and family. Furthermore, they even gave me a free cigar after showing me how to roll one and determining which kind is the right one for me. I don’t know if I am old enough to legally buy a cigar, but they just gave it to me and I smoked with them like I was one of the Italians in The Godfather movies.  To add, I feel like my age would be a big factor for attracting the younger people. I would assume that the merchant employees saw this as an opportunity to try to branch out for people my age, giving me free food samples in the hopes that I would tell people of my generation about this retail market. It seems like a good business opportunity, but I just really love the free samples. I guess that it would be a win-win for both sides involved. I would give them more customers by telling my friends about the market, who would tell their friends and so on, while they would keep a loyal customer and I still get my free samples.

A privilege that I didn’t really pay attention to, but is still very important, is my socioeconomic level.  Having two parents that work very hard to support my brothers and me, I have always admired their work ethic. Their hard work meant that my brothers and I usually get what we want when we ask for it. In terms of food, we never have gone hungry, with my dad always making sure we eat what we want. Case in point is this retail market that I chose for my field site. I do get free samples, but we spent more than others when we buy our groceries. My dad wants to buy food that is always fresh, which is why we shop at the food market at Arthur


Avenue. However, the total bill means that we spend a majority of our money on food/groceries because we are a big family. What I am trying to say is that if my parents didn’t earn the kind of money they currently do, my family might not always get to shop for the freshest and more admired food we want. I take into consideration the yearly wages my parents make, and although it doesn’t add up to six figures, they still find a way to make it work. I can understand how my socioeconomic level allows me to fill the grocery bags with the freshest foods I want, even while the food prices are always rising.

To sum up, my experience in being in the field site of the Arthur Avenue Market allowed me to witness a community of people going about their everyday lives, such as shopping, eating, communicating, and just laughing with their friends. I felt really welcome and loved by the people that I interviewed, although that might be a smart and effective way to make the customers want to come back every time and spread the word about the warmth and hospitality about the market. I got to acknowledge the privileges that I have which usually give me special access to certain things. In all, the privilege that I have has allowed me to be a good enough researcher in order to fully position myself in my field site.

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