August 30, 2009 - 6:30 PM
During the past three years at the University of Oregon, I have spent a great deal of time outside of a normal academic setting. I love my university classes and am always so excited when I look through the new course catalog to pick classes for the next term. There are hundreds of classes I would like to take: classes about societal structures, language, writing, history, philosophy... I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of a community with so much to offer, with a constant influx of options for study.
Boredom in the classroom has no part in my university experience. I have gone abroad, volunteered, participated in clubs, worked, and pursued internships for other reasons entirely. I want to talk about three of my reasons for all the extra activity that's been so central to my college experience.
First: Why climb Mount Everest? Because it's there. I participate in all these extracurricular activities because they are available. Maybe this seems like a bad reason to do anything, but if you think about it, anything less than a varied schedule is a waste of amazing opportunities. If you have lecturers coming to your campus and you don't go, then what's the point of having them there? If you are lucky enough to attend a highly respected research campus and don't participate in any kind of extracurricular research and publication, then isn't that a chance missed? The same is true for every sport, club, organization, employment opportunity, craft class, or social action event that takes place at the University. It's also true of this amazing city we live in: Eugene is a city of activists, intellectuals, natural beauty, and experience-centered learning. So "why not?" is again a good answer for the question "why?" We have so much available to us. The vast majority of the student body takes advantage of what's there. I've kept myself extremely busy, and I'm glad. Obviously a university is more than just its course offerings. And my college experience has been more than just the classroom.
Second: For the experience. Innumerable studies tell us that one of the most practical ways to be competitive in the workplace is to have a variety of applicable experiences on a resume. And one of the best ways to get this experience is to volunteer. I will graduate from college with at least four new job references to add to my resume. All have been jobs through University employment. I work two jobs through the American English Institute: as a tutor and as an activities coordinator. I work for the Honors College as a tour guide, and I work at the UO Annual Giving Program as a blogger. Each of these jobs brings its own skill set and future references.
But beyond the employment, I have utilized the extracurricular options on campus and in Eugene to acquire new skills. I work as a Spanish/English translator at Volunteers in Medicine. It is an unpaid position, but I know that every time I volunteer there I am not only making a difference in the health and welfare of the clients I serve, but I am also learning more about health care, translating, social realities, interpersonal relations, and how to conduct myself in a service position. I learn things I have never encountered in the classes I've taken in sociology or Spanish. That is the difference between class and volunteering: suddenly there is no theoretical truth, there is just the person in front of you, with their unique needs and history. The more we, as students, can access that other person's reality, the better understanding we have of the world and the better prepared we are to be productive members of it.
My third reason is just as simple, but the most important to me. Just as it would be a waste of opportunity not to take advantage of the extracurricular opportunities because they are available, so it would be a waste not to use what I have learned. Does that make sense? Through all my studies and all my learning as a human being, I have gained experience and knowledge that can make a difference. What a waste if I don't use them.
Academic study has always been extremely important to me. I have always been a good student. But an A on a Spanish test never meant as much to me as my first fluid conversation while studying in Guatemala. Understanding a sociology text has never mattered like working in a Chilean student organization to build homes in a Chilean community. A course on writing could not have given me the discipline and the understanding of the craft of writing that this blogging position has offered. No amount of research for my thesis could ever amount to the understanding I gained in participating in the Inside-Out Prison classes and training program. No immigration text can speak to me like the migrants I encountered while working with the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths.
I am a student so that I can become an effective member of the world. That means gaining skills. It means learning to never take an opportunity for granted. It means learning that I have something to offer in return for everything that I have learned. Through my study, my volunteering, my experiences, and my skills, I have grown into a person who is ready to make change in this world. So when a new chance to do so arises, how could I possibly justify saying "no" unless I had already filled that time in some other exciting and meaningful way?
I'll leave you with two quotes:
"Life is calling, how far will you go?"
-Peace Corps promotion
And, my favorite Latin phrase:
Seize the day!
August 28, 2009 - 5:00 PM
Hello, friends and loyal readers! I have some pretty awesome news for anyone who's been following my blogs. The Annual Giving Program (the group I work for, who are in charge of fundraising for the University of Oregon) has multiple fundraising projects aside from publishing the blogs of Yours Truly. They also have a donations call center, a website, and a monthly mailing list of alumni and donors. In all of this, they try to highlight the special aspects of the University of Oregon and what gifts to the University mean to the college and the community. They focus on services available to students, quality of scholarship, faculty publications, and the general impact the UO has on our local and global community. They tend to pick a particular person's "Duck Story" to illustrate how the UO excels in a certain area.
So here's the news: I was selected for the Annual Giving Program's September publicity campaign. They think that my time as a student is a good example of the student body's commitment to service, outreach, and international concern. In September, a postcard with my picture on it will be sent to thousands of UO alumni and donors. An article written about me will be posted on the Annual Giving Program page. And, eventually, there will be a short web video with an interview available so that people can hear me tell the story of my time studying at the UO.
I'm writing about this for several reasons. First, I want to thank the Annual Giving Program for honoring me this way. Second, I want to celebrate this with all of you who read my blog. Third, I am writing to let you know that I will be blogging more about topics that a wider audience might be interested in for the next month or so. As faithful Katie D. readers, you might be interested in the big stories of my life this week (they would have been "redecorating the living room" and "driving another group of international students to the airport"), but instead I'm going to focus on some of my stories that the Annual Giving Program highlighted in the article and the interview: stories about volunteering, internships, travel, and how I have taken my four years of college education beyond the classroom and into the larger world.
Honestly, the timing is great for this. My summer is winding down in many ways, and these next three weeks will mostly be focused on gearing up for a final year. These blogs will give me a chance to think through the most important thing I have to worry about right now: what is the best of my college experience, and what will I do with my final year?
As a senior, I'm looking at a whole year of "lasts." This will (most likely) be my last autumn in Eugene. The last chance to be with all my college friends together. The last chance to be with the faculty I've come to know so well, the last chance to take advantage of all the services and organizations I've just barely had a chance to explore. The last spring break. The problem with senior year will certainly not be boredom: it will be choosing between hundreds of worthy and exciting ways to spend my time.
I'm hoping that writing these blogs will remind me of the best bits of my first three years at the University of Oregon, and help me figure out what to do with this year of "lasts." That way, I can start my senior year with the knowledge that I'll be ready: that this year will be the very best of these amazing four years.
August 23, 2009 - 7:00 PM
I love going to see live music. Obviously I should be prioritizing this more in my life: music is something that makes me unreservedly happy. Being at a concert with friends, hearing a band that I love, dancing and singing all add up to near-perfect happiness. I've been incredibly lucky to have seen some of the shows I've been to already, and I'll hopefully spend a good amount of time at various concerts during the coming year. So many great bands come through Eugene, and it's such a good way to spend a few hours. I'd love to see some new groups and styles, plus following my old favorites (this spring will be my third Decemberists show at McDonald Theater in Eugene!)
This week I saw three great bands. I've finally started to exercise my freedom as a twenty-one-year-old and go out to the bars in Eugene. I saw two bands on Wednesday night at Max's, and one at Turtles on Friday.
Before this week I had hardly ever seen these small venue shows of local music. I'd seen my dad play in restaurants, and had seen some live music in various Eugene parks, but I'd never gone out to see a local band. It had always just been a bonus before. Now it's a mission.
Wednesday night was great. The second band that played, Green for Go, was a pair of fabulous and hilarious musicians. Max's has a great outdoor patio that was comfortable and intimate, the perfect place for a small band and a small audience. The duo played extremely well together, with clever lyrics and great delivery for both their music and their jokes. I was laughing all night.
On Friday night I went to Turtles to finally see my friend Daniel play in his band, Sussuri. They're an awesome group with a great sound. Turtles is an great restaurant/bar, and the stage is literally just a part of the restaurant floor. I'd been listening to bits of Sussuri recordings for months and was so excited to finally see them play together live. Their five piece band plays light folk/rock. Their lyrics are beautiful and the music just sounds amazing together. They were great to watch, too, with really fun interaction on stage. And Daniel (who plays drums) was obviously so happy to be performing.
I went with my friend and former roommate, Megan. It was her last night in Eugene and we sat and talked and watched the band for more than two hours. She's the last of my old roommates to move out, and I'm going to miss her and the old house gang. She and the roommates originally introduced me to Daniel and we'd spent many long hours hanging out together. So it was a fitting end to our time living together that Megan and I were there to see Daniel play in the Susurri gig, and be part of the collective demand for an encore.
I'll be seeing Susurri again. In fact, if you're in town on Halloween, Susurri will be playing at the Saturday Market around 3:00 pm. They're worth seeing, I promise. I'll be there, and in lots of other places offering local music, especially student performers and start-up bands. Susurri will also be recording a bunch of their music in the coming months, and I can't wait to see what they come up with.
Concerts, bands, music... It was a fabulous week to be a music lover in Eugene.
August 21, 2009 - 5:45 PM
I just finished a week-long intensive silkscreening class at the UO Craft Center. Silkscreening, if you don't know, is a kind of printing process. The process is relatively versatile and can be used for cards and posters. But the main attraction of silkscreening (for me) is that you can print your own t-shirts. Basically any picture or emblem can be transferred onto basically any clothing item.
The class was three hours a day for five days. Each day was a marathon: learning new techniques, coming up with designs, learning to use the screens and inks, and printing out projects. We were a small group: just five people packing as much creativity as possible into that week.
I'm a pretty creative type, although I have little or no skill in the drawing/painting/traditional visual arts department. But I love crafts and abstract arts like that. I've previously taken two classes at the Craft Center and been impressed each time. During my sophomore year I took a glass beads class that I truly enjoyed. Working with hot glass is a bit like working with silly putty: you stretch it and smear it and try really hard not to make a mess because that stuff is HOT. Then you have something beautiful after it's had a chance to cool (here the silly putty analogy has ended).
The other class I took was freshman year. You know that joke about sending your kid to college to learn underwater basket weaving? Well, I have yet to take my projects underwater, but I did learn to weave baskets. As silly as it sounds, it was actually one of my favorite college moments when I finished that basket. I'm very, very proud of it. That being said, I will not be switching to a fiber arts major, nor do I plan to take on too many wickerworks projects in the coming year.
Honestly, the Craft Center was a big draw for me at the UO. It's an amazing place. You can learn to make wooden drums or blow glass or do ceramics, photography, sewing, felting, metalworking... Anyway, I've taken advantage of the classes offered there when I've had the time. And I'm always glad I did.
Today was the last day of the class, and I was a woman on a mission. The first three days of class I was printing on paper, using various techniques to design and print pictures. Yesterday I moved on to shirts. I designed and printed three t-shirts, and had an amazing time doing them. I had promised to make t-shirts for two of my roommates for their graduation gifts. Finally, just a couple of months late, I delivered. Please check out the picture. The back of the shirts read "Floppy Sleeves and the Tea Kettlers" If you haven't heard of us already, I'll fill you in: that's the name of our fake band. All we've got are three members with pseudonyms and a single set of lyrics. It was the joke of the house this year, and now it's been memorialized on shirts. As I've said, I'm really very proud of how the shirts turned out: they were a multi-step process since I was printing in two color sets and on both front and back.
Today, though, was the main event. I made five t-shirts. They are (nerd alert!) Battlestar Galactica t-shirts for me and four friends. Now, while I am quite fond of the design, the real point of pride here was the execution of the shirts. I was working on black shirts with white ink. For whatever reason, white ink is notoriously hard to work with and dries really quickly, so I had to work fast. This translated to me printing furiously, dashing around to place the finished shirts for drying, and having a fantastic time. There's something magical about racing to actualize something you created. I love seeing a project move from the first idea to the finished product.
I have tons of plans for future shirts. I promised my dad some band t-shirts and will be working with him on the design soon. Since I made shirts for the old roommates, I've got to make some for the new household, once we've built up sufficient inside jokes for fodder. Then there are all the gift-giving occasions you can imagine, with infinite potential for shirts, sweatpants, and bandannas. I've already started collecting some older shirts to turn into "new and improved" fashion statements. Watching the other students in my class as they created their shirts was quite the inspiration: there is so much potential that arises in a class like this.
Who knows how I'll use this later? For now I've got a couple of amazing shirts for me, plus some belated gifts. Time do some more designing, plus I've got to head to Goodwill or someplace to get some cheap shirts to improve. Projects galore!
August 16, 2009 - 7:00 PM
A quick note on college friendships: people are in and out of town all the time in college. You get to be great friends with someone, and then they leave for the summer. You make some great senior friends and then they graduate. You live in a perfect house and then they all move out at the end of the year. You study abroad, they study abroad.
All that being said, I have friends now that are some of the best in my life. I have friends from abroad, friends from classes, friends of friends, etc. And as they come and go the people I spend my time with fluctuates, and when most of my friends are out of town, as has happened this summer, I have made new friends who will continue to be of great importance for this final year of college.
But there has been a core group of amazing friends that began forming the first week of freshman year, and solidified during winter term of freshman year. We are a group of eight, who have gone through college together as a pretty cohesive group, basically self-sustaining over the years. We have lived together, some of us took our first alcoholic drinks together, we have vacationed together, and generally made college an understandable thing because we have been through it together. These seven friends are absolutely central to my college experience.
Like I said, though, people in college tend to be relatively mobile. Seven of the eight of us studied abroad. Two are still abroad now. None of us went to the same countries, and all of us have come back, or will come back, greatly changed by this experience. The group has changed some, as well. During our freshman and sophomore years we were generally inseparable. Now we've had to learn to function without everyone present.
I was the first to study abroad. I left for Chile in March of my sophomore year, 2008. I loved my time there, and do not regret my choice of timing at all. However, the group has not been all together since then. That's a year and a half with the most essential unit of my college experience always missing a piece! Most notably, my friend Nathan studied in Japan all of last year, which meant that I hadn't seen him in a full eighteen months.
In September we will all be getting together for a reunion of our group. We'll be meeting up in Portland a week before school starts back up, and we plan to spend a couple of days in a cabin near Mt. Hood, catching up on a year and a half of stories. I can hardly wait.
In the meantime I'm catching up with these people as much as I can. We Skype, we talk on the phone, we have a facebook message exchange that's reached well over 1,000 individual posts. But when we get the chance to be together in person, it feels like no time has passed at all.
Nathan came to visit on Thursday. Seeing him after all this time was just like being back in the dorms, except for the year and a half of stories we had to catch up on. He is one of the funniest people I know, and had such amazing stories of his year in Japan. But we didn't just hang out and talk: on Friday we headed out to a nearby lake to go boating with our friend Grant and his family.
It has been years since I've been tubing behind a motorboat. I've graduated to kneeboarding and waterskiing mostly. I'd forgotten that hanging on to a tube behind a speeding boat was such a brutal workout. I'd also forgotten that you take a serious beating out there. Two days later and I still ache all over! But it was so fun to be out there, two people being pulled behind the boat. There were epic wipe outs, including collisions, swimsuit loss, and a notable episode where I skipped across the water for what they say was an impressive amount of time but what I remember as being hours and hours.
It was an amazing time, catching up and creating new memories.
Yesterday Nathan came with me on an AEI trip to Crater Lake with a group of Japanese students. One was a friend of his from Waseda, the Japanese university where he studied! It was so fun watching him interact with the group, chatting away in Japanese and being surrounded by people who didn't even come up to his shoulder. He asked me to vouch for his language skills, and I will say that I couldn't hear any difference between his unintelligible Japanese and what the students were speaking. I'd call that a good sign.
I've had an amazing summer. It's been full of all kinds of adventure and I've made some wonderful new friends. But this weekend with Nathan and Grant made me remember what a special thing it is to have a group like that, friends who know all my stories and secrets and who have been experiencing the same things together for three years. I can't wait until we're all together again! I can't wait for the inside jokes and the time spent just hanging out, or adventuring to the mountains or coast, or seeing events on campus. We'll all be busy this year, writing theses and getting ready to graduate and go off on all our different directions in life. But we've got this year to be back together.
And I can hardly wait.