Endings and Beginnings

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on May 12, 2017.

It’s mind-blowing to think about, but this will, sadly, be my last blog of the 2016-17 school year here on Around the Grove. Ending the school year is always bittersweet – there’s the relief that you can finally relax, the sense of accomplishment, but also the overwhelming realization that you might not get to see people again. As classes wrap up, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time at the Universities at Shady Grove and how honestly grateful I am that I was able to come here.

I never expected to go to school at Shady Grove. I spent three years at another school out-of-state and I thought it would be the perfect place for me. But circumstances led my to a crossroads in life where I realized I needed to move back home and change schools. It was really tough to make such a huge change, especially when I just had a year left at my old school, but as I wrap up here at USG, I realize I would have missed out on so many important experiences if I hadn’t ever ended up here.

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Looking ahead and behind (Photo by author)

For anyone considering Shady Grove, here are some of the greatest parts of the USG campus and community:

  • Small campus. USG is a tight-knit community. You usually know everyone in your program and it’s much easier to get to know your professors.
  • Opportunities for leadership. Because the campus is so small, it’s easier to get involved in campus activities and have the opportunity to take leadership roles. I’ve had the chance to build my resume, self-confidence, and skill set through these opportunities that I didn’t have had the chance to participate in elsewhere.
  • Great staff. From the first time I set foot on USG’s campus, I was so impressed with how helpful the staff members were in making sure I had a smooth transition to a new school. When I had issues with credits transferring, a UMBC staff member here at USG spent hours calling other administrators to get help for me.
  • Student services. USG has so many great services for students – the Counseling Center, Career Services, Academic and Student services, summer GRE prep classes – and the staff are always very attentive and friendly.

USG is such a great concept, allowing people who are working or who need to live at home to have the chance to get an education in a way that fits their needs. This is so important in a society where changing careers is becoming more common and people need more and more higher education to get a job.

USG provides the individualized support you need to succeed and fills an important niche that has been overlooked. It can be very lonely being a commuter at a traditional university, so it’s refreshing to attend school where everyone is in the same boat as you.

I’ve learned so much from my fellow students and professors, and been so encouraged by the support of USG’s staff as well as the opportunities I’ve had here to grow and be involved. So I’d like to extend a thank you to the entire USG community. You guys are great and will always have a special place in my heart!

This summer, I am excited to have the chance to continue writing here on Around the Grove about a fellowship I will be completing at Historic Deerfield in Massachusetts. Stay tuned and best of luck with finals!

Girl talk.

Last week, I was expressing my discouragement over the immaturity of the men I interact with to a mentor of mine and was met with advice I’ve heard time and again, “While you’re waiting for a good guy, invest in your female friendships.” I completely see the merit in saying this, but I also stand by my reply to this woman: “Yeah, well the problem is that those are pretty crappy too.” Those words have continued to ring true in my life since I spoke them, so I figured I would share some of my brewing thoughts on the subject, as intimidating as it is so broach such a personal – and political – subject, where it’s so easy to say one wrong thing and set all of social media ablaze.

As much as I’ve agonized over the poor treatment I’ve received at the hands of men over the past few years, I would say that the hurt I’ve experienced at the hands of female friends has been equally, if not more, devastating. I spend a good chunk of my time lamenting with other women about the lameness of guys — how on and off again their affection is, how judgmental and condescending they can be, and how they can fixate on another woman who isn’t as good of a person as you. But if I think about it, I’ve experienced all these same types of betrayals by many of my female friends as well.

As what I predict might one day be called a Third Wave of Feminism has exploded in the past several months, it’s been interesting to see how some women I know will post photos at marches and then cut me down in a text a few weeks later. I’m a big believer in the mantra that “actions speak louder than words” — as much as I love words and the power of written language, if your actions contradict your fine phrases, your declarations really mean nothing. I’ve seen a lot of what my sister dubbed “Instagram Feminism” in the past months; women who make a show of decrying institutional injustice, but return to real life, if you will, the next day and cut down, ignore, and mistreat their fellow woman. What is especially baffling to me is when women pour their efforts and energy into the men in their life at the neglect – or even expense – of supporting their female friends and coworkers.

I’m not one to say that I’m super happy to be a woman or anything — I’ve had my period too many times for that. But I will say there is something special when you get together and really bond over the shared experience of the uniqueness of the female life cycle (including a good complaining session about the menstrual cycle.) We all have some common ground in terms of our experience and outlook on life that men will never understand. I think there’s something really beautiful that happens when we come together and open up about our hearts and lives and embrace and support one another through the unique trials and triumphs of womanhood, helping each other find our way and our identity as our own perspectives shift and the world around us evolves.

I know I’m as guilty as anyone of the aforementioned critiques. I’ve never been much into politics, and I’m guessing some women I know have judged me at one point or another for not marching or sharing op-eds on social media or ranting about the news. I’ve had my share of anger about the comings and goings of this election cycle and its aftermath, but I’ve ultimately decided that it’s not worth risking my mental health to get worked up about things I feel I have no control over. I’m not judging others who do, but I will say I’ve found more fulfillment in looking around me and seeing the individual needs of the people in my own life and doing what small things I can to try and support them.

I can do even more in this regard, but I think this is how change happens — little actions and words of encouragement. Asking people to meals. Forming small groups of friends to create solidarity to support one another in the face of both larger political and cultural trends as well as the “small” barrages of life. I’ve experienced some tough crap in my life, and it’s only been made worse when my fellow women have not stood by me, or have even judged and mocked me.

I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every woman you meet; you should evaluate people based on their character and actions and break off friendships that are more toxic than uplifting. But if you call yourself a feminist (or even if you don’t), take time to consider how well your actions and attitudes align with that label. Think about how you can better support other women. If we believe that we are not treated fairly by society, then we need to be the first ones to set the tone by treating one another with respect, appreciation, sacrificial kindness, attentiveness, and dignity.

Presentations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The following is another piece I wrote for the student life blog of the Universities at Shady Grove, Around the Grove, originally published on April 14, 2017 at this link.

I recently signed up to give a presentation on the research I’m doing for my senior thesis at the University of Maryland Baltimore County‘s undergraduate research day. Presentations are pretty nerve-wracking – if not downright terrifying – for most people, but giving a good presentation is a really important skill to have both in academics and in the work place.

If you get the chance to practice this skill in your own school’s program or in clubs, I definitely recommend taking the risk to build up your courage. The Universities at Shady Grove also has a Toastmasters club where you can practice public speaking in a supportive, informal environment to help overcome public speaking fear.

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Made using dogr.io

So what should you do if you have class presentations coming up at the end of this semester? I’m no expert, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:

  • Start working on your presentation early. The biggest mistake people make is being underprepared or doing a rush job. If possible, start working on your PowerPoint as you’re writing your paper or doing your project so you can create it while the info is fresh in your mind. Start sooner rather than later. You’ll be less nervous if you’re more prepared.
  • Plan out what you’re going to say. A few people are good at speaking on the fly, but most people ramble, blank on information, etc. if they don’t prepare. Spare yourself and your audience and plan ahead of time the major points you want to make or even write out a script. You don’t have to follow your plan exactly or read it word-for-word, but thinking through your presentation will make it ten times better and help you feel more prepared.
  • Practice, practice, practice! It’s always easy to figure out who rehearsed a speech and who didn’t. Last semester, I would rehearse in my room, for my family, and even while I drove to school. It felt silly at the time, but it really helped me iron out what I wanted to say and make sure I was meeting the time limit. I also felt more confident going into the presentation.

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    Get out from behind the podium and show them who’s boss! (But maybe don’t use Wikipedia as a source…) Standing at the right place in the room can help you engage attention. (Photo: Beatrice Murch/Wikimedia)

  • Command the room. When you feel nervous about a speech, it’s easy to look nervous and undermine the hard work you’ve put in. I’m not the world’s greatest public speaker, but I’ve noticed it helps to come out from behind the computer and stand beside the PowerPoint screen, facing the class. You can’t hide and you look a lot more confident!
  • Don’t second guess yourself. Once you leave the podium, leave your presentation there too. If your professor gives you feedback, file it away for next time, but don’t obsess over how you did in your head…This will make public speaking more intimidating. Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing yet another task and overcoming your fear, and move forward! (Easier said than done, I know!)

Best of luck with all of your end-of-the-semester assignments! We’ve got this!

 

Read more of my Around the Grove posts here.

Talk it Out

This was posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 31, 2017. You can read my other posts here.

One amazing resource at the Universities at Shady Grove is the Center for Counseling and Consultation, which offers free individual and couple’s counseling of any student taking classes at USG. As the pressure of life and school are building to a peek at this point in the semester, now may be a great time to start taking advantage of this amazing resource.

Personally, I started talking to a counselor three years ago this month at my previous college and have continued doing so ever since. Therapy has had such a huge impact on my life, helping me through a lot of tough times and helping me to improve my perspective on life, myself, and the world around me.

A lot of people have the idea that therapy is only for people who are “crazy” or who are grieving, but I believe everyone can benefit from going to counseling. Personally, I waited to see a counselor until I was in a really difficult place in my life, but I wish I had started even sooner. We can all benefit from getting to know ourselves better and think about ways we can enhance our lives. There are so many harmful ways of thinking about ourselves and communicating with others that we pick up along the way in life that can sabotage our well-being and relationships.

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From To Write Love on Her Arms (twloha.com)

Many students on campus don’t know about USG’s counseling center, which is a shame because it’s an incredible resource. And let me highlight again that it’s free! Therapy is not cheap, so I highly recommend taking advantage of this resource while you can. Here’s some more quick information about the center and its offerings:

  • The Center is located in the Priddy Library (a little random, I know). When you walk in the library doors, go to the left and walk to the far side of the room where the computers are. The door to the center is on this wall. You’ll walk into a super zen waiting room and you can talk with the receptionist about making an appointment.
  • The center offers individual counseling, career and major counseling, couple’s counseling (your partner doesn’t have to be a student at USG to attend), and free hour-long workshops on well-being.
  • The hours are 9am to 9pm on Mondays through Thursdays and 9am to 5pm on Fridays. The center tries to accommodate everyone’s schedule so even if you’re only on campus at night or once a week, you should be able to see someone.
  • To make an appointment, call 301-738-6273 or stop by and talk to the receptionist.
  • You can find a list of counselors with a description of the issues they specialize in dealing with, their approach to helping people, and the days and times they are at the center to see who might be a good match for you.
  • Counseling sessions last 45 minutes and are typically done once weekly but can be done more or less often, according to your needs and schedule.

Counseling is a safe space to share your struggles, past and present experiences, insecurities, frustrations, and hurts without being judged. USG’s counselors are friendly, welcoming, and non-judgmental and are trained to work sensitively and respectfully with people from all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious traditions, and socio-economic levels.

The center staff can work with you to help you find a therapist who you feel comfortable with. Counseling is all about your needs, so if you think you could benefit from talking to someone in a safe space where you won’t be judged, given advice, or pushed towards a certain path (as friends and family can tend to do), then try it out!

For more information about the Center for Counseling and Consultation and its offerings, click here to visit its website.

If you or a loved one needs counseling help right away, visit this page for emergency hotlines and services you can contact or send a text message to Crisis Text Line at 741-741 for free, immediate anonymous help.

Gear up for grad school apps!

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 17, 2017. Read my other posts here.

Since those of us who are undergraduates at the Universities at Shady Grove are within at least a couple years of graduating, a lot of us have the question of what on earth we should do after graduation on our minds. One obvious path is going to grad school. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the great news is that USG has tons of resources to help with the daunting process of applying to grad programs. As I’ve talked to professors and grad school alumni, I’ve come up with a list of some of my own tips for applying:

  • Start early!!! If you are planning to enter grad school in the fall, you should probably start working on searching for, getting in contact with, and applying to grad schools at least a year (if not more) in advance from when you would start the program. So if you’re hoping to enter grad school in the fall of 2017, you should start the process in at least the fall of 2016. The earlier, the better because it’s a lot of work. Be aware that GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. can take a while to get sent. If you are starting late in the game, limit the number of schools you apply to so you don’t get overwhelmed and miss things or consider waiting till next year to apply so you can really bring your A-game.
  • Research your programs well. Comb through every part of a program’s website and read about the coursework, internships, experiences, and faculty to get a better sense of what their focus and objectives are and how well it fits with what you want in a grad program. Unlike with undergrad programs, grad programs offer you the chance to really focus on a specific area that interests you, so find something that excites you!
  • Get a GRE prep book, take practice tests, and sign up for a practice class. These books explain the test format and offer practice questions, refreshers on how to do that math you learned in high school, and more. There are also apps where you can practice answering questions on the go. Best of all is that USG offers a summer GRE prep class for students and alumni, completely free to students, run by our incredible Center for Academic Success staff.
  • Find a mentor to guide you through the process. Whether a professor, a career counselor, or a current grad student, find someone (or multiple people) who can give you insight into the process, suggest programs, give things a second look-over, and offer advice and encouragement. This is crucial!
  • Talk to your professors. Get more engaged in speaking in class and meeting with professors outside of class so they can get to know you and your work in order to write a stellar recommendation. Not to mention, profs can be a great resource to let you know about grad programs they think would fit you, as well as recommendations for how to make your application stronger. They want to see students go to awesome grad programs, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help!
  • Gain internship, work, public speaking, research, and publishing experience in your field.  Grad programs can be extremely competitive, especially funded ones. So completing internships, volunteering, working on research with a professor, presenting papers at conferences and symposiums, and publishing in journals can make you a more impressive candidate. This kind of experience proves that you are serious about working in your field, disciplined, and hard-working.

Best of luck!

Ask a profess(or)ional

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 3, 2017. You can read my other posts here.

For the first three years of my undergraduate experience, I was terrified of talking to professors. Thankfully, I was at a small school, so most of my professors knew who their students were, but I avoided ever going into office hours to talk to a prof unless I had a really urgent question.

Here at the Universities at Shady Grove, I’ve been so impressed with how helpful the staff are and what great professors we have to teach us. But I’ve also learned that it’s not just enough to take notes and pay attention in class – it’s also so important to form relationships with professors outside the classroom. Here’s just a few reasons why:

  • You will need letters of recommendation from them for jobs, internships, and grad school applications. If a professor knows you, he/she is usually a lot more willing to serve as a reference and will write a much more positive letter. I’ve been told by professors that if they don’t know a student much, they will make that clear in their recommendation.
  • They can give you advice and guidance. Professors have a lot of life experience and knowledge of the field you’re studying, so if you’re looking for career advice or tips on how to improve your performance in classes, ask a prof. They’re there to help and are usually more than happy to point students in the right direction.
  • They will be more understanding. Unfortunately, many of us will encounter some rough spots along the road of our college experience: illness, family troubles, relationship issues, or having five papers due in one day. If a professor knows you, she/he is much more likely to cut you some slack should thing arise that prevent you from meeting deadlines or doing as well in class. (Of course, it’s best to communicate with professors about these things so they know you’re struggling.)
  •  It will enrich your college experience. Knowing professors can help you feel more comfortable participating in class and more connected to school. It can also be personally enriching to have longer discussions about class material outside of lectures.

I’ve found it helpful to ask about my professor’s career path to get some guidance about my own future. I’ve also gotten advice from them on revising cover letters and finding places to apply for grad school. If you want to get more in touch with these great resources, here are some steps you can take to start to get to know your professors better:

  • Talk more in class. This can put you on a professor’s radar as someone who is engaged in class and interested in the subject. It also helps them to get to know more about you and your interests, and it can help you get more comfortable interacting with the professor.
  • Stay after class. If a professor mentions something in the lecture that you find intriguing, consider asking them a couple questions after class about that to break the ice.
  • Go into office hours. Come up with a few questions – whether it be about class material, career choices, grad school, your course selections for the coming semester, or whatever – to ask your professor and see where the conversation goes.

Professors can be great mentors. Of course, you won’t like every one you have, but if you enjoy a certain professor’s class or find them very approachable, it’s definitely worth it to forge a relationship with him or her.

Stress: It’s Just Not Worth it

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on February 17, 2017. You can read my other post here.

I don’t know about you all, but the whirlwind of work has already set in for me this semester. I have a lot on my plate in the coming months, which is both invigorating and overwhelming. It can be tough to find just the right workload that pushes you to achieve without leaving you burnt out. If you’re starting to feel burnt out and overwhelmed by the coming semester, maybe it’s time for you to take a step back and evaluate what’s on your plate.

In life, it can be easy to let your choices be dictated by what other people expect of you. It’s great to get advice from others and be mindful of other people’s expectations, but I think it’s also important to learn to put your foot down and stand up for  your own needs at times.

It’s awful to feel like you’re drowning in never-ending commitments. Sometimes we become so convinced that we have to do everything or we can’t let people down that we stay in extremely stressful, even toxic, circumstances. But we end up hurting ourselves and even letting others down even more because we can’t give all the tasks we’re juggling our full attention.

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De-stress picture #1! (Taken in Prince Edward Island, Canada, one of the least stressful places I know of!)

Of course, sometimes we really have to shoulder a ton of different things in our lives; it’s beyond our control. If that’s the case, it’s still important to draw a line and not let work and other commitments take over your life. Make time to relax and remember to take care of yourself by doing things as simple as eating regularly, getting sleep, and staying hydrated.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the semester already, consider doing some of these things:

  1. Cut something out of your life. Drop a class, ask to reduce your hours at work, cut back on the number of organizations you’re in…You don’t have to do everything! It’s more important for you to be healthy and for you to do things well, giving them your full attention.
  2. Build a support network. Find one or two supportive friends or family members who you know you can go to when you’re overwhelmed. Maybe even delegate one of them to be your “No” person who will remind you not to take on more than you can handle!
  3. Find a professor or other staff member to mentor you and help you navigate all that’s on your plate. We have wonderful, caring staff here at USG, and they are here to support students and are often more than happy to give advice, offer encouragement, and answer questions.
  4. Consider talking with a counselor at USG’s Center for Counseling and Consultation or attending one of their free workshops teaching skills to handle stress and live a healthy life.

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    De-stress Activity: Imagine yourself on a beach! (Photo by Rebecca Gale)

  5. Take time to de-stress. Plan little breaks in your day. Take a walk outside and look around at the scenery, noticing things you haven’t before. Sing along to the radio in your car. Find a hobby as simple as coloring or learning how to make smoothies to give you breaks so you don’t feel like you’re drowning in work.
  6. Enjoy good conversations with friends, even on a busy day. One of the first things that tends to go when I get busy is socializing, but taking time for a laugh or honest chat with a friend can really go a long way.
  7. Get rid of things in your life that bring you down instead of lifting you up. Avoid unnecessary extra stress…Does the news send you into a rage whenever you see it? Does social media overwhelm you or make you feel like you’re not good enough? Avoid things on your phone, TV, and computer that add to your daily frustration.

I know it can be tough sometimes to say no to things and it’s easy to feel like a “wimp” for trying to take care of yourself, but I honestly believe it’s for everyone’s benefit if we all manage our lives to be a healthy balance so we can be our best selves and be able to step up to the plate in the tasks we are faced with. Stress can really take its toll on relationships and mental and physical health, so be wise about controlling the amount of stressors in your life and learning how to cope well with stress when it does arise.

How to be a Better Human: Food for Thought About Friendship

This is a longer version of a post I wrote for “Around the Grove,” the student blog of the Unviersities at Shady Grove. I’m also considering writing a series of posts called “How to be a Better Human” with my unsolicited advice about being a kinder, more compassionate member of human society who gives back, and this will be a precursor to that.

If you’ve logged onto your Facebook recently, you might have noticed that Facebook is celebrating their “birthday” with a holiday they created called “Friend Day.” Now, personally, I don’t have a great track record with having good friendships in the last few years, so I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on friendship in my first blog post this spring semester. A lot of people say, after all, that the friendships you make in college are part of what makes your experience so meaningful. The flip side of this, of course, is that bad friendships or a lack of strong friendships can make a college experience really difficult.

The beginning of the semester tends to be a time when people have friendship on their minds: getting to see friends from last semester again, trying to make new friends if you just transferred, meeting new people in your classes, etc. I figured I would offer a few unsolicited pieces of advice that I’ve learned from experience of the years on the subject, particularly as they relate to starting back at school:

  1. Be open to making new friends (even if you’re a senior.) I’ve heard seniors tell friends they don’t want to bother with meeting new people because they’re about to leave anyways. You never know when great opportunities will come your way, and you might be surprised how many friends will drop out of your life once you move on to a new place. So be careful about writing people off or closing yourself off to the potential of forging new friendships. If you’re not a senior, it can be easy to get comfortable with your friend group and neglect making new friends. There are lots of interesting people in the world who are worth getting to know and who might expand your horizons and enrich your life.
  2. Be open to being friends with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with. Some of the most unexpected people have ended up being my best, most loyal friends over the years, so don’t write people off as not your type too quickly. Also, be aware that some people take a longer time to warm up to people and open up to others and show their true personality (like yours truly!) We all have a tendency to be attracted to the loudest person in the room, but consider trying to get to know the quiet people on the periphery; I’ve come to learn they can make great friends and have a lot to offer (though maybe I’m a little biased!)
  3. Welcome new students. All of us undergrads at USG have experienced being a transfer student. Maybe it went well for you or maybe it was really lonely and stressful. Either way, have some empathy for those who are just arriving and welcome them: introduce yourself, include them in conversation, and just be open to getting to know them. It’s sadly not unheard of for some people to look down on newbies, but we’ve all been the new person…Do you really want to be the jerk who forms a clique and excludes others?
  4. Cut off toxic friendships. This doesn’t directly relate to school life, but I think new years and fresh beginnings can be a great reminder to clean out toxic habits, thoughts, and people from our lives. A lot of us at USG have moved from other schools or places, and I’m sure many have experienced the frustration of friendships we cherished fizzling out. It’s helpful to remember that some relationships are just meant for a certain part of our lives; people come and go. If someone isn’t invested in you and prioritizing your friendship at the same level that you are and you find yourself more hurt than uplifted by that relationship maybe it’s time to let go.
  5. Even though you’re busy, remember to let people know you’re invested in them. Nothing kills a relationship like an unresponsive friend. So even though you have a lot on your plate, remember to take a moment here and there to do these things for friends and loved ones:
    1. Ask them how they’re doing
    2. Tell them why you appreciate them
    3. Leave them a note or send an encouraging text
    4. Let them know you are thinking of them
    5. Respond to their emails, texts, etc. in a timely manner (or let them know you will get back when you have the time)
  6. Respect others’ points of view and be a good listener. Obviously, our political and social climate right now is very tense and full of harsh words. As a community of scholars, I think it’s crucial for us to continue to respect the opinions of others, listen to their point of view, and try to be understanding rather than just dismissing or insulting whatever we don’t agree with. A lot of people feel powerless right now, but, as corny as it sounds, I think the communities we create in the little worlds we each inhabit can have ripple effects into the world around us. And we can make a huge impact on the people around us – for better or for worse – in our daily interactions.

Well, with that, I think I’ve said more than my fair share, but I hope that you all will enter this semester open to new relationships and that you’ll be able to find some kindred spirits to brighten your life among the swamp of papers, projects, and textbook readings!

Best of luck with this new semester!

You’ve got a friend in me

This was posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on February 3, 2017. You can read my other posts here.

If you’ve logged onto your Facebook recently, you might have noticed that Facebook is celebrating their “birthday” with a holiday they created called “Friend Day.” I thought it might be interesting to reflect a bit on friendship in my first blog post this spring semester. A lot of people say, after all, that friendships are the best, most lasting part of the college experience. The flip side of this, of course, is that bad friendships or a lack of strong friendships can make a college experience really difficult.

The beginning of the semester tends to be a time when people have relationships on their minds: getting to see old friends again, trying to make new ones, meeting new people in your classes, etc. I figured I would offer a few unsolicited pieces of advice that I’ve learned over the years that might be helpful as you start your semester:

  1. Be open to making new friends (even if you’re a senior.) I’ve heard seniors tell friends they don’t want to bother with meeting new people because they’re about to leave anyways. Even if you’re not a senior, it can be easy to get comfortable with your friend group and close yourself off to new friendships. However, there are lots of interesting people in the world who are worth getting to know and who might expand your horizons and enrich your life…You never know what’s around the bend!
  2. Be open to being friends with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with. Some of the most unexpected people have ended up being my best, most loyal friends over the years, so don’t write people off as not your type too quickly. Also, be aware that some people take a longer time to warm up to people and show their true personality. We all have a tendency to be attracted to the loudest person in the room, but consider trying to get to know the quiet people on the periphery; I’ve come to learn they can make great friends and have a lot to offer.

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    Friends of a feather flock together 😉

  3. Welcome new students. All of us undergrads at USG have experienced being a transfer student. Have some sympathy for those who are just arriving and welcome them: introduce yourself, include them in conversation, and just be open to getting to know them.
  4. Cut off toxic friendships. I’m sure many have experienced the frustration of friendships we cherished fizzling out. It’s helpful to remember that some relationships might just meant for a certain part of your life; people come and go. If someone isn’t invested in you and prioritizing your friendship at the same level that you are and you find yourself more hurt than uplifted by that relationship, maybe it’s time to let go.

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    USG believes in promoting a culture of care (photo courtesy of USG)

  5. Even though you’re busy, remember to let people know you’re invested in them. Nothing kills a relationship like an unresponsive friend. So even though you have a lot on your plate, remember to take a moment here and there to ask friends and loved ones how they are or remind them that you appreciate them.
  6. Respect others’ points of view and be a good listener, inside and outside of friendships. Obviously, our political and social climate right now is very tense and full of harsh words. As a community of scholars, I think it’s crucial for us to continue to respect the opinions of others, listen to their point of view, and try to be understanding rather than just dismissing or insulting whatever we don’t agree with.

A lot of people feel powerless to make change right now, but, as corny as it sounds, I think the communities we create in the little worlds we each inhabit can have ripple effects into the world around us. And we can make a huge impact on the people around us – for better or for worse – in our daily interactions and relationships.

Best of luck with this new semester, Shady Grovers!

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Life Lessons from Ice Skating

Tonight, I went ice skating for the first time in over a decade. Recently, I’ve been trying to find some “cool” sport to learn to make exercising appealing and to feel like I’m accomplishing something in life outside of doing schoolwork. Like many women, figure skating has always fascinated me. It’s like the gymnastics of the winter Olympics.

When I found out the local ice rink offered classes, I was immediately ready to fork over $200 bucks and register, hoping I could get a taste of that kind of grace and freedom skaters seem to experience out on the rink. Thankfully, my ever-practical mother put the brakes on that train and recommended I actually go skate before I empty my bank account, go to one class, and find out I hate it.

As much as I hate to admit it, she was right. (Thanks, Mom.) Learning to skate must be like learning to walk, which makes me feel bad for baby me. It’s extremely unnatural, awkward, baffling, frustrating, and a bit terrifying. And you fall a lot. But as I wobbled my way around the oval again and again, slowly loosening my death grip on the wall and allowing myself to glide a few feet on the ice (until I fell and slammed onto my butt twice), I couldn’t help but think of how much the process paralleled real life.

So, without further ado, here are a few quick unsolicited life lessons I took from my experience today:

  • You might fall on your tush a few times, but you can get back up and try again. Don’t let it stop you. Laugh it off. You might feel your body tense next time you pass that spot where you wiped out, but grit your teeth and skate a little faster.
  • Sometimes you need somebody (or something) to lean on. When I first got out on the ice (and every subsequent time, actually), I felt so stupid clinging to the side of the rink while seven year-olds glided by doing triple lutzes. But that was all I could do at the time. Sometimes you have to lean on other people – family, friends, a therapist, a doctor, a psychiatrist, a mentor – to help you through a time when you can’t walk on your own. It’s just part of life. We can’t always be strong or know what we’re doing.
  • Sometimes real life isn’t like the movies. I can’t think of a silver lining to sugar coat this one, but I think it is an important lesson you have to realize at some point in life. I went in expecting a “Disney’s Ice Princess” moment where I stepped onto the ice and immediately start gliding and spinning. Not so, my friend. I find myself expecting a lot of things to be like TV – where you get to tell off the friend who wronged you or the guy who you’re meant to be with realizes his girlfriend is a witch and you’ve always understood and supported him and he dumps her and runs to you just before you get on the plane…But life isn’t like that. (Or at least mine isn’t; maybe the joke’s on me.) But all the same…
  • Even awkward, difficult things have silver linings. Even though I never quite got the hang of it and I can tell that I’m going to wake up tomorrow feeling like a Zamboni drove over me, I had a good time. I got out of the house, I spent time with a friend, I actually exercised, and I realized that I can give up my dreams of being an Olympic figure skater. Sometimes it’s kind of relieving to be able to cross something off your list that you feel like you should accomplish. “Nope. That’s never happening. Now I can move on to salsa dancing.”
  • It’s good to be reminded not to take yourself too seriously. The other benefit of today’s experience was that it was humbling. It’s nice to laugh at yourself a bit and realize you can’t conquer everything. It’s good to be aware of your limitations in a non-self-berating way. I could laugh at my inferior abilities without falling into the trap of self-hate. I could keep my ego in check but not fall into the depths of despair because it was kind of funny to be bad at something for once; I had nothing to lose. And with that, as I marveled at the seven year-old girls skating their way to Olympic qualification, I realized that there are things that I’ve been blessed to be naturally gifted at that I’ve been taking for granted.
  • Go with the flow. About my fifteen billionth time around the rink, I realized that the best thing to do is just glide. Feel where the ice is taking you and lean into it. As someone who has been freaking out over where to go in life after I graduate, trying to plan my life out but realizing its impossible, it’s good to remember that a lot of life is gliding from one opportunity to the next. Sure, you have to put a lot of work in, I’m not saying your should just skate through everything, but you have to let go of the need to plan everything and just be open to the idea of seeing where things go.

I could draw a million more parallels, probably. (Here’s another one: They never bring out the damn Zamboni when you need them to. And as a result you fall on your butt.) But I think I’ve over-written my welcome.

I hope, nonetheless, readers, that life in the coming weeks is for you “incredibly skateable,” as one of my mother’s ice skating-loving students once said. (Translation: REALLY AMAZING.)