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After years of classes and internships, Carolina Covenant scholar Emma Cohn plans an extended coffee break.

Headshot of Emma Cohn in her Carolina blue graduation cap and gown, the Old Well in the background.
(submitted photo)

A month after Winter Commencement, Emma Cohn will board a plane and journey across the world to Auckland, New Zealand.

She plans to stay for a while. Using a 12-month work visa, Cohn hopes to take a gap year to explore a new country and gradually iron out plans for graduate school.

A year in New Zealand isn’t the norm for most graduates, but Cohn’s undergraduate career was anything but conventional.

Like many students from her class, Cohn’s Carolina experience was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because she also studied abroad in Paris as a junior, Cohn will finish her Carolina career having only spent 2 1/2 semesters on campus. In the end, she maintained a 4.0 GPA while majoring in public policy and global studies and minoring in French.

And Cohn made those straight A’s without being able to participate in the time-honored tradition of drinking at the Old Well for good luck each semester.

“I think that’s my secret: I don’t drink out of the Old Well,” Cohn said, laughing. “Everyone else dilutes the luck.

“I had a very interesting college experience and not a traditional one. It’s not what I expected, but I got out of it what I wanted.”

Originally from Ithaca, New York, Cohn spent her teenage years in Asheville, and she credits the support from Carolina Covenant as a key reason why she chose UNC-Chapel Hill. Interested in the social sciences, Cohn tried a few other majors before settling on public policy and global studies, and she’s been able to put her skills to immediate use through several internships.

While interning for the North Carolina Justice Center, she helped assemble the annual “State of Working North Carolina” report. She analyzed data that exposed her to the economic realities of the state, such as the widening of the wealth gap that occurred during the pandemic.

“I want to be doing work that I feel is, while perhaps not necessarily going to change the world, but it’s going to have some sort of positive impact, even if it’s on a relatively small level,” Cohn said. “I like social science research because it allows me to explore how the systems that we have created work together and set up the world that we live in, on both a local scale and in the broader global context.”

Cohn will be able to see another side of the world altogether when she boards her one-way flight to New Zealand next month.

Headshot of Emma Cohn wearing her Carolina blue graduation cap

She won’t be alone. One of Cohn’s friends at Carolina, Charlotte Dorn, is a 2023 spring graduate and Morehead-Cain scholar who moved to Auckland this summer to begin her career as a research and development engineer at Halter, a cattle technology company.

For Cohn, her New Zealand trip is more for exploration than academia. While she’ll spend plenty of time studying for the GRE and applying to graduate programs, she wants to make the most of the experience in a new country.

Her plan for work?

“I’m interested in coffee, on every level — from a social science perspective, from a drinking perspective, from an academic perspective — and New Zealand is well regarded for its specialty coffee,” she said.

“I just want to get a job in a cafe and learn a ton about coffee and drink a lot of coffee and go to music festivals and hang out with Charlotte – and apply to grad school.”

By Michael Lananna, University Communications

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