Carolyn Szaiff: The DLG-Proust-Actors Studio Questionnaire

by Joseph McKeown

“I’ve heard that before,” Carolyn says when I suggest that she become a spy. It just seems to fit her: she is a bit quiet, a little mysterious, highly intelligent, a hard worker, and most importantly, excellent at researching peoples' backgrounds on Google.

Carolyn the spy.

Carolyn the spy.

But Carolyn is not going to be a spy. She has a sweet disposition and is a mild-mannered second-year law student at Michigan State University College of Law, where she has made Dean’s List every semester. She is also currently a Summer Associate here the firm, where she worked previously for two years as a paralegal.

She’s happy to be back at the firm for the summer. “Everyone is really nice,” she says “People are allowed to have fun here. It’s not a stuffy law office.”

About moving to Michigan, she says, “There’s a lot of sky. That’s the first thing I noticed. I was obsessed with the sky. It’s everywhere. There are no buildings in the way. You can see forever, and it’s really flat. And it snows a lot.” Her dog Pumpkin has also adjusted well to the Midwest. You can see for yourself: Pumpkin has her own Instagram (@lumpythemutt) with over five hundred followers.

The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, Carolyn was raised in Queens. “I love being Hungarian,” she says. “It’s really important to me, the Hungarian culture: valuing family above other things. And also, the food and drink and all that good stuff.”

“What are some good Hungarian foods?” I ask.

“It can be super unhealthy. It’s greasy, lots of meat, but it’s delicious. Csirke Paprikás is a popular dish.”

“What’s your favorite thing to cook?”

“Fried chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes and cucumber salad. My mother’s recipe.” 

Carolyn does indeed love to cook. In addition to managing her hectic schedule of classes and her daily one-hour commute in each direction, Carolyn not only makes a favorite recipe or a Blue Apron meal nearly every night, she also takes magazine-worthy pictures for her personal Instagram. 

In her upcoming semester at Michigan State, Carolyn is taking an immigration course and participating in the Immigration Clinic, which is perfect because she’s planning on becoming an immigration attorney. A cousin from Hungary suggested she pursue this career when Carolyn was just eight years old so that she could help her relatives come to the US. True to this, Carolyn says of her career choice: “I’m looking to help people.”

“Have you ever been arrested?” I say. “I’m looking for something that will cause a big scandal with this profile.”

“No,” she says. “I’m sorry I have nothing scandalous to tell you.”

Spoken like a true spy.

(Questions taken from and/or inspired by the Proust/Inside the Actors Studio/Bernard Pivot/AnOther Magazine questionnaires). 

What is your favorite word? 
Harangue! (with an exclamation point).

What is your least favorite word? 

What sound or noise do you love?
The sound Pumpkin makes when she’s sleeping. My fiancé and I call it snorfling.

What sound or noise do you hate? 
Any sudden, loud sound. I hate being startled.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Event planning for large companies or educational institutions.

What is your idea of happiness?     
Spending time with the people I love while eating good food. 

What is your idea of misery? 
Being trapped in a small space with too many people. 

Who are your favorite prose authors?     
Paolo Coelho, Chuck Palahniuk, Gabriel García Márquez.

Who are your heroes in real life?     
My mom.

What would your last meal be?     
My favorite selections from Pio Pio (don’t forget the green sauce), a fruit and cheese platter, and red wine. 

What do you hate the most? 
Purposeful ignorance.

What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
Public speaking.

What is your present state of mind?    

For what fault have you most toleration? 

What are you thinking of right now?
What I’m going to eat for dinner. I think I’m going to stop by Fay Da Bakery on my way home.

What makes you laugh?
Most things. 

What makes you cry?
The extreme of any emotion--happiness, anger, fear…

Where do you feel most at home?
Anywhere with family.

Whatʼs the best advice youʼve been given?
My dad always used to tell me, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

What is the biggest risk youʼve ever taken?
Moving to Michigan to start law school, without ever having set foot in the Midwest before.