“Geese Around the Grove”

The following post was published on Around the Grove, the student blog of the Universities at Shady Grove, on 10/28/2016. 

One of the first things I noticed on campus was this quirky yield sign near the Shady Grove Road entrance.

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But it wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in my car on the way to class, stopped in the middle of the road waiting for our resident flock to leisurely waddle their way across the asphalt.

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I had to wait a surprisingly long time for them to cross, but just as I found myself growing annoyed at such a ridiculous setback, I realized just how funny these feathered friends were. They were completely unperturbed by the fact that they were stopping traffic; they just kept waddling at a leisurely pace, absorbed in their own business, keeping me, the supposedly superior human from going about mine. I had to let go of my frustration and laugh at how silly the situation was.

It struck me how similar geese are to people: we’re all very absorbed in our own routines, just like geese get caught up staring at the ground right in front of them, nosing around for some good eats. Geese walk along like they’re the most important beings in the world, not realizing just how silly they look. Seeing geese always reminds me to stop taking life quite so seriously, getting wrapped up in every situation and worked up about every unexpected road block (including large, road-hogging birds!) All of the things I think are the end of the world today are relatively small in the grander scheme of life, and it’s good to take a step back and have some perspective, humility, and humor about the trials and stresses we come across every day.

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This lesson seems particularly apt as we hit the mid-semester crunch of tests, projects, papers, and other deadlines…It’s easy to get caught up in each assignment and overwhelmed by the enormity of everything that’s right in front of you. The reality is that these obstacles, tough and frustrating though they may be, are just one part of your life; you will get through them…You’ve gotten through so many semesters already!

So when you start to get overwhelmed, remember to take time to get your nose out of the grass and admire the beauty (and humor) around you.

Keep on waddling on, USG!

If you ever need help managing stress, you can visit the USG Counseling Center (located in the library) for free counseling or attend their Thursday afternoon free workshops on dealing with stress and anxiety. Consider it a long-term investment in your own well-being!

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Preserving History, Big and Small

I wrote this piece for my school’s history internship blog, Retrieving the Past, about an internship I am completing with a historic preservation organization. You can read the original piece here, which includes photos. You can also visit my website about museum and public history internship opportunities here.

This summer, I volunteered with Save Our Seminary, which is a nonprofit organization in Forest Glen, MD that was formed to fight for the preservation and restoration of the historic National Park Seminary campus. National Park Seminary was a women’s secondary school that was known for its whimsical architecture. The school was a popular choice for the daughters of prominent Americans until the U.S. Army took over the campus to serve as a medical rehabilitation center for returning soldiers in World War II. By the 1990s, the buildings had fallen into disuse and disrepair.

Shocked by incidents of theft, water damage, dilapidation, and even arson, preservationists and local community members formed Save Our Seminary (SOS) to pressure the army to take better care of the property. After a long, hard-fought battle, they were able to arrange for a developer to restore the historic campus buildings and convert them into condominiums, apartments, and single-family homes. Today, SOS continues their preservation work by archiving the site’s history, providing educational programming, and preserving the site and its sculpture.

My internship has involved working in the SOS archive to help organize its collections so that they are easily accessible to researchers. My first project was sorting through an extensive collection of slides featuring pictures from the seminary’s extensive history. Some of the photos dated back to the 1890s and it was fascinating to see images of the campus in its glory days, with smiling young women in Gibson Girl shirtwaists with bouffants piled high posing for the camera with friends.

While the work of archiving – housing, dating, categorizing, and sorting into chronological order – can get tedious at times, I always treasure the intriguing glimpses into the past that often serve as a reminder that history was lived by people not so different from us. And even though the tasks we perform as interns can seem insignificant, each small task contributes to a larger cause: preserving the stories of the past to inspire the people of the future.

For more information on Save Our Seminary and the National Park Seminary, visit the organization’s website at http://www.saveourseminary.org/. 

“When Depression Strands You at Sea”

This is a piece I wrote earlier this year that was published on October 5, 2016 on the blog of To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization that advocates for mental health awareness and treatment. You can read the original posting here.

When depression stranded me at sea, I thought it was the end of everything good in my life. No one could seem to make things better, not my family, not my counselor, not my psychiatrist, not my friends, not my God. I felt myself slipping beneath the waves of emotional turmoil, hopelessness, disappointment, self-hatred, and unspeakable hurt. And no one could throw a life vest my way. Every time I spotted help on the horizon and swam to it, I found it was only a mirage. The ship I was cast from, the friends I thought I could count on to dive in and swim after me, had long disappeared into the distance. As I struggled, the roar of the waves that surrounded me silenced my cries for help.

Finally, I gave up trying to find rescue. I realized that all I could do was tread water until something—anything—came along. There were times I wanted to give in, just fall beneath the waves and let them carry my body to shore where everyone would regret how they neglected me. But I remembered that I had a responsibility to myself—to my younger self who dreamed about the great things she would one day accomplish. So I kept swimming even though those dreams were nowhere to be seen.

I eventually made it to shore, but I found myself in a new country. Although this was not my homeland, I realized I could never go back—not after what happened. I had to make shelter where I landed. So I dropped out of school and accepted the surprisingly difficult purgatory of Rest and Recovery. I quickly found that although I might be safely ashore again, things were not as easy as I thought they would be. I thought that I had closed my story, put the final period on that dramatic chapter of my life at sea, but the memories kept coming back.

It was then that I thought I had come to the end of myself, that there was no hope for me. So I poured out my shattered dreams and watched them get whisked away like grains of sand in the wind. I was stuck. Stuck at home. Stuck in a mire of being too healthy to be hospitalized but too sick to function normally. Stuck in a cycle of old emotions that kept coming back to torment me. Stuck reprimanding myself for being stuck.

But gradually the tides began to change. The poisons that had been destroying me both physically and emotionally with fatigue, apathy, and hopelessness slowly drained from my system. New support systems and treatment were thrown into my path to help me regain my grip on life. I severed ties with those who had shown their true colors as fair-weather friends on my journey and learned to stand on my own two feet. I found a new school that fit my new set of needs and was amazed to find it was an even better place for me than where I had been before. Exciting opportunities have come into view on my horizon, and now I am building my own boat to sail off in this new direction. My crew is still sparse and I still feel a bit jealous when I see the headway others my age have already made while I’m stuck ashore still building my ship, but mostly I am hopeful. Because I know that a mere six months ago I was stranded, fully convinced there was no hope for me.

When I hear news of old friends getting married, getting jobs, and getting pregnant, I think back to the sculpture I made in one of my first art therapy sessions after dropping out of school: an oyster reef. The new organisms make their home on the shells of the departed ones, the living and the dead intertwined. To me, the sculpture represented rebirth: The old, dead dreams and hopes of my past life remained in my heart, but they would now serve as a foundation for the new life I was building. That is where I find myself now: being reborn in so many ways. I am still struggling, but I am also rising from the ashes I thought would be my grave. Now I am stronger, freer, wiser, more grateful, and more intentional about living my life and loving others.

Sometimes the waves start to rise again and lap dangerously at the base of my new boat, and I become afraid that I will go under again. But when I’m tempted to give up hope and sink beneath those waves, I remember that little girl who used to dream of what she would be, and I grab the ropes to begin the journey to safety and recovery once again.

For her.

For me.

To Teach the Future about the Past: Museum Education Internship

I wrote the following piece about an internship I completed in the summer of 2014 for the Grove City College History department webpage. You can read the original piece here and you can learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum here. And if you’re interested in pursuing an internship in the museum field, you can check out my blog where I share information about museum internships.

This summer, I had the opportunity to serve as the Museum Education Intern at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md. For nine weeks, I had the chance to experience the behind-the-scenes work of museums while completing several projects for the museum’s education department. The summer held a wealth of learning opportunities and unexpected surprises, such as shopping for muskrat pelts, holding snails and drawing sharks for 7-year-old boys.
The Maritime Museum is located on the waterfront of the Miles River, a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, America’s largest estuary, on the eastern shore of Maryland. The Maritime Museum is dedicated to sharing the unique culture of the Chesapeake Bay region, which has been shaped by the shipbuilding and seafood industries that have dominated the region. It is a unique museum in that it is made up of 12 historic buildings scattered across an 18-acre waterfront campus that includes docks lined with historic wooden boats, a 19th-century lighthouse and a working boat yard.
My foremost responsibility throughout the summer was helping to run a half-day children’s camp at the museum. Camp was held out and about the grounds of the museum campus, playing games, doing crafts and visiting exhibits related to different themes from Chesapeake Bay history and ecology. This provided me with great experience in learning how to interact with young children and coming up with interesting ways to engage kids in learning.
In addition to working with this camp, I worked on several independent projects designed to make the museum more appealing to the children who visit. My biggest project was developing a Family Activity Backpack for families with preschool-age children to use around the museum. I also put together touch baskets containing objects to engage the attention of children in school tour groups that visit the museum. My favorite project, however, was creating online newsletters to send to teachers featuring information about different history or science topics relating to the Chesapeake Bay. I gained experience in writing, research, and graphic design, as well as delving into topics I never before would have researched, such as the evolution of boats used by watermen throughout America’s history.
Overall, the internship program was a wonderful experience to do independent work in a supportive environment with colleagues who desire to give interns the best experience possible. In addition to the education internship, the museum offers a curatorial internship and a public relations/events internship every summer.

#Winning at Job Fairs

Originally published on Around the Grove, the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog on September 30, 2016.

On October 11, USG is having an on-campus job and internship fair for humanities and social science careers. This is an awesome chance to find out about potential jobs in your field of study and talk to people who work in your field of interest. But job fairs, interviews, and recruiting sessions can be also really intimidating.

Personally, the idea of walking into a room full of people awkwardly mingling in business casual clothing is something straight out of my nightmares. But even if you’re not much of a people person, you can still #win when it comes to job or grad school fairs and interviews. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years that can be helpful in making a good impression on interviewers:

  1. Bring a polished resume. You can work with the wonderful folks at USG’s career center to develop a top-notch resume that outlines all of your skills and experience to give to potential employers to help them remember you after the event.
  2. Dress to impress. Your appearance can speak volumes to a potential employer, so it’s worth bringing that suit out and taking a shower, even if you feel overdressed.
  3. Write a 30-second script to use to introduce yourself. Prepare a short overview of yourself to open up conversations with. Include your major, year in school, what career field or job you aspire to, and what you’re looking for right now (an internship, a part-time job, experience in a certain skill area, etc.)
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    Doge explains job fairs!  (Made using Imgflip.com)
  4. Be an active listener. Even if you don’t talk a lot, you can convey interest to a potential employer or admissions officer by nodding, smiling, making eye contact, and saying “yes” or “hmm” from time to time. (Pro-Tip: This can win you brownie points if you do it in every day conversation…People like feeling like they’re being heard!)
  5. Send a follow-up email afterwards. If you’re really excited about an opportunity, send a short note thanking the person you spoke with for their time and expressing your interest in the opportunity once again. This shows you’re committed enough to go the extra mile and puts your name in the employers’ brains again.
  6. Come up with a couple of potential questions to ask your interviewer. This is a great way to make conversation and impress an interviewer. Questions like, “What is your organization’s mission?”, “What would a typical day look like working in this position?” make you look better and help you gauge whether the company is a good fit.

These are just a few helpful hints. For more help with your job search, check out these resources:

Best of luck…I’m rooting for you!