January 30, 2010 - 5:00 PM
For the past month, I have worked meticulously on creating the best possible applications to send off for the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellows Program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development internship. Although the one with HUD was not due until Monday, I set a goal that I wanted to have both applications (and one scholarship application for the School of Architecture and Allied Arts) done and submitted by 5:00pm on Friday. Well, success is mine!
I had it all in even earlier than that. It felt so good to finally hit that submit button after working so hard on these applications all month. I have been through so many essay and resume drafts. I have learned how to fit my entire life story into a CARC (context, action, results, challenge) statement. I have re-checked my applications 5,000 times to make sure they're flawless before I hit the submit button. Now, I get to wait until I hopefully get to be nervous again about a phone interview.
It's definitely not over. I still have other internships (and scholarships) to apply for. However, I wanted to get everything in by 5:00pm on Friday so that I could finally have a weekend again. It's almost like a beautiful little vacation for me. A few days where I don't have to think about anything school or work related. Relaxation time.
I started my freedom by meeting up with some old coworkers for dinner. I have worked with some amazing people over the years and I am always inspired by all that they are doing. Afterwards, I spent the rest of the night hanging out with other friends. It felt great to once again be a part of the world instead of cooped up in my abode in the hills trying to pick the perfect action verbs.
So, in true relaxed fashion, this blog is going to be short and sweet. I need to zone out while I can.
January 25, 2010 - 1:23 AM
I think that Microsoft Word has officially, permanently burned itself into my retina forever. I close my eyes and it is what I see. I look out to a distant landscape and it is surrounded by one-inch margins. I can only assume that when I finally get to bed tonight, Microsoft Word will be what I dream.
With a combination of scholarships, internships, schoolwork, and my blog job, I don't think I've ever written so much in a three-week period in my entire life. Practically all of today has been spent typing away about varying topics. I must say, practice does indeed make perfect because I happen to think I'm getting pretty good at this whole writing thing. Although, unfortunately, this blog had to come last on my priority list this evening, so I apologize if it becomes rambled and incoherent. I've been on Microsoft Word for a long time now.
Today, I started by rewriting my main essay for the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellows Program that I am applying for. Word limits are hard. After hours of editing, I am still 59 words over the limit. However, the essay is not bad! It is on the significance of the homelessness issue, the problems with the current policies surrounding it, and my policy approach to dealing with it.
Next, I moved on to work on my application for a position with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For this one, there are five questions that have to be answered in the form of a KSA, or Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities. I had to read up on the best way to structure my responses for these questions, as it is a little different for government positions than it is for a scholarship application or other organization. I was able to get one out of the five done. It was on explaining if I had ever written a term paper in school. I managed to write 462 words about how I wrote a research paper.
My third Sunday task was to write a paper for my art history class that analyzed a piece of art from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on campus. I chose to write about Mark Rothko's Landscape (View of Portland). It is a very nice piece and I highly recommend going into the museum to check it out, along with the many other fabulous things in that museum. I love that we have that museum on campus. I go in there sometimes when I just need to escape and relax for a while. Looking at the art puts my mind at peace. Anyway, this paper was a little harder to write than I expected it to be. I realized that I don't have a lot of experience in this type of analytical writing. I'm interested to find out how well I did on it. I like that I'm learning this skill though. I've been doing so much coursework on policy that it's nice to have these art classes for my minor where I get to use a different part of my brain.
Anyway, that brings us up to date, my blog, which I'm writing about writing in. But you already know that because you read it. Goodnight, Microsoft Word, we are done here.
January 23, 2010 - 8:01 PM
Last year, around this time, I was incredibly homesick for Greece. I had been back in the United States after my study abroad experience for about five months. I tried to connect to the sense of travel in any way that I could. One option that was presented to me was the first ever Northwest Study Abroad Returnee Conference. I loved it so much that I actually wrote a blog about it last year. I loved it so much that I decided to go back again this year as a volunteer. For those of you who are not familiar with the Northwest Study Abroad Returnee Conference, it is a recently established event that brings recent returnees together in Portland to share about their experiences, learn about ways to fund further travels, and increase their knowledge about the international job market.
This year, as a volunteer, I was asked to speak about my experience of returning home after studying abroad in Greece. The opening speaker would be sharing her experience, but they also wanted to have a current student's perspective. So, I along with three other returnees, shared the very unique feeling of coming home after living abroad. As speakers, we represented all different geographic regions, which was pretty cool. I represented Europe, while the others had been in Africa, South America, and Australia.
Being asked to talk about this experience was almost surreal. I look at where I am right now and then where I was one year ago today and they are such different mental states. I guess I never realized how much the re-entry culture shock had affected me until I resurfaced on the other side. I always look back and think about how I just recycled all of the information on re-entering that the UO Study Abroad Office had sent me and think of how silly that may have been. Anyway, I thought that in this blog post, I would share a little of what I said at the conference.
I studied abroad in Kefalonia, Greece, spring term 2008. After my study abroad program ended, I knew that I couldn't go home, not yet, so I found a job as a receptionist at a hotel on the island and lived there for another three months. I got back in mid-September 2008 and have been trying to find out how to get myself back there ever since. When I returned from my trip, it wasn't long before school started again. I had to quickly move into my new house in Eugene with a new roommate and get straight into the stress of the term. That first term back, and the one after it, were very hard. It took me almost a couple of months before I realized that I had kind of cut myself off from the world. I wasn't really hanging out with my friends. I would go out to get coffee or something, but usually solo. It dawned on me that the reason I wasn't interacting with my friends was because once I did, one people knew I was back, it meant that it was really over.
I immediately dove into the opposite strategy and started joining groups on campus, working, and hanging out with friends so much that I had no minutes left in my day. This didn't make me any happier. I thought about my friends, my family I had left in Greece. I was angry and sad that I truly had another family, but they were so far away from me and I couldn't know when I would be with them again. My experience had completely changed me at my core. I felt like such a stronger person. Yet when I got back into the routine of life back home, I felt like I had lost that person I had gained. Everyone assumed me to be the girl I was before I had left and treated me so. No one I talked to could really understand what I was going through, not even other study abroad returnees. The only solace I found in fellow returnees was that they at least understood that they could not possibly understand.
I loved that in Greece, every day was an adventure. I never knew if I'd be zipping along the coastline on the back of a scooter, swimming out into the endless Ionian Sea, or trying my first tentacle of octopus made special by my Greek friend's mother. When I returned home, the monotony of my scheduled days drove me crazy and left me feeling unfilled. I thought about Greece every moment of every day. I worried that my friends I had made there would forget me. Then, on Christmas Day, my cell phone text message inbox filled with international messages, each from a different part of my Greek family. "Kala Christougenna, agapi mou! Mou leipeis!" (Merry Christmas, my love! I miss you!) they would say. Toward the end of winter, I had begun working through a lot of my feelings and began a search to find out how to travel again, to get that feeling back.
I ended up landing a summer job in New York. Although it was not international, it was a place I had never been that was filled with culture. It was perfect. My job also employed several international students who I got to interact with daily. I began to truly know that Greece was only the beginning, that my love for travel would never leave me and that I would always find a way to get back into it. I spent this last winter break in Israel. I hope to get an internship in D.C. this summer and save up enough money to go to Ireland, oh, and, hopefully, as always, back to my home in Kefalonia.
I realized for study abroad returnees, it's nice to know you're not alone. I think that the Northwest Study Abroad Returnee Conference is an excellent opportunity for students and I'm glad that it exists. I think it was a definite step in my quest for not losing my traveling wonder.
January 17, 2010 - 11:58 PM
The whole process of leaving home to go away to college is a very strange one. It is full of so many stages, a good three-quarters of which are uncomfortable or awkward. I love talking with and watching my younger friends at the UO. Even if they are only a year behind me, it is truly incredibly to see how similar their current experiences are to what mine were when I was at that stage as a student. Now that I am a senior, I take time to reflect back on the journey I have so far completed. Each year of college has been unique and has had its moments of fun, angst, and growth. I am happy for each year, but, as with high school, it is not something I would go back and live again. I say this because this year I have gotten the opportunity to feel what it feels like to be in your fourth year.
By your fourth year, things start to make sense. You finally have a sense of direction. You have found your favorite spots in Eugene to hang out and your favorite people to hang out with. Your insecurities have vanished and you can better deal with stress as it arrives. The fourth year of college is truly an era of immense beauty. This year has sparked my intellectual curiosity, my creative mind, and my social fun. Everything just seems right, somehow, even when it doesn't.
A main change throughout college that a student is bound to reflect on each year is his or her relationship to home. Freshman year, everyone races home every chance they get. Most spend the entire summer back home. Sophomore year, the feeling of needing to be home still exists, but also begins to fade into a feeling of wanting to be independent and free to do whatever in your new environment. Junior year is the most awkward. It is during a student's junior year that he or she begins the questioning of, "What is home? Where is mine? Do I actually belong anywhere or am I now bound to a constant state of limbo?" I remember going home for breaks during my junior year and feeling so out of place. My room back home seemed like a museum and my high school friends were nonexistent. However, I'd return to Eugene and feel like a guest. I was a temporary resident here, in a year or two, I would be moving on. So, where did I belong? Where was home? I couldn't feel the sense of home anywhere. Well, juniors, if you're reading this, do not despair. This too shall pass.
Since I was gone all of winter break in Israel and New York this year, I didn't get the chance to go home. I didn't get to philosophize with my dad. I didn't get to experience to incredible love and care that only my mother can give. I didn't get to laugh at jokes with my brother that only our minds can get. I didn't get to walk Scooby, my faithful hound, along the beach. So, since we had a three-day weekend this week, I left Eugene Friday after class. I put on my California playlist on my iPod and as the lyrics happily belted, "What do you say we leave for California? If we drive all night, we can make it by the morning," I hit I-5 South with a smile on my face. Why the smile? Because I was going home and I was excited. Because I was going home and it felt like it. I now know that the world is my home, but that there will always be one place reserved for times when I need to recharge and truly feel welcomed.
I have spent the weekend doing a lot of homework, but have also gotten to grab some coffee with my brother, watch some movies with my mom, chat about varying topics with my dad, and finally take that walk on the beach with Scooby. It felt good to escape Eugene for a bit and now I'll be returning tomorrow recharged.
January 16, 2010 - 10:30 PM
Next term, it begins. As a student in the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, I am required to write a thesis in order to graduate. I will be enrolling in the thesis prospectus class next term, marking the official take off of my research. However, being the nerdy honors kid that I am, I couldn't help, but start even a little earlier.
You see, it has come to my attention recently, through events such as the building of the John Jaqua Center (see January 9 post for my brief thoughts on this) and the restructuring of my major's requirements in order to make it easier to graduate, that higher education is facing a crisis. The educational system, through the pressure of budget strains and an increased population of the "entitlement generation," is becoming increasingly lax. It is shying away from challenging the minds of the nation's youth and instead succumbing to the lazy student who still demands they receive an A in the class. Perhaps in an effort to gain the tuition universities need in order to run, nationwide they are accepting more and more students and nonchalantly just passing them through the system. The students take advantage of the easy path to a bachelor's degree, lowering the overall value of getting one. Usually one to shy away from conflict, I have found myself becoming increasingly impassioned over this topic, arguing to friends and family the reality of what this means for the future - an ill-prepared workforce, a world reputation of being a place of poorly educated people, etc. I have a challenge for both universities and students - don't let this happen! Students, realize the gift that your education is and take it seriously, take advantage of internships and opportunities to learn more, do the reading, and actually earn your A. Universities, stop the downward spiral of expectations, once again hold students accountable for their knowledge, hold every student to the same standard, and give students the grades they earn.
What is the point for all of this ramble? I refuse to let my thesis just be another thesis. I will not be completing my thesis just so I can fulfill the requirement and add a line to my resume. I will take advantage of every moment of intellectual inspiration this thesis has to offer. I will soak in the research process. I will create a work that I can truly be proud of. I want to write a thesis good enough to have a shot at being published.
So, on top of everything winter term is already throwing at me, I took it upon myself to start my thesis process now, leaving me even more prepared for next term's prospectus class. The task at hand? Find a departmental advisor. Who did I want? Laura Leete, assistant professor and undergraduate program director for the Planning, Public Policy, and Management Department.
This last Tuesday, I went into her office hours and began to explain the two ideas I have begun to formulate for my thesis topic. We ended up talking about it for around forty-five minutes and I was able to get some great ideas from her about how to start researching. I had Professor Leete for PPPM 330 last winter and thought she was amazing. At the end of our meeting, she had agreed to by my departmental advisor for my thesis. I could not be more excited to work with her. Let my nerdy thesis obsession begin!