Winter is Coming, Maybe—Surviving Virginia Weather

There’s nothing quite like waking up to sunny skies and warm breezes in the middle of—October? Even if you’ve lived in Virginia since you were crawling around in diapers, the famous oscillating weather around CNU takes a little getting used to. Thankfully for this little place called Einstein’s, CNU has you covered when it comes to all sorts of weather (If you happen to visit our campus during the fall, be sure to try the delicious caramel apple cider). But just in case, I’ve compiled a couple quick tips from my own experiences about surviving Hampton Roads weather.

1. Hop Off of My Bed, Check the Weather Forecast

  • Your phone has never been a better friend to you when it comes to the weather. Save yourself from freezing in Forbes or sweating down your back as you cross the Great Lawn, and always check the weather forecast before you begin your day.

2. When in Doubt Wear Rain Boots

  • There’s an old CNU adage (not officially, at least) that when it rains, it pours. During my freshmen year, it once rained so profusely that the water came up to the middle of my shins! Thankfully for my trusty pair of rain boots, my socks and toes stayed dry. Ask any CNU Captain, and they’ll tell you the necessity of having rain boots.

3. Coughs, Sinuses and Watery Eyes, oh my!

  • Changes in the weather are no fun for your health, especially if it keeps flip-flopping between total humidity and frigidity. To keep sicknesses at bay, stay hydrated, pop some Vitamin-C and always get a good night’s sleep.

Break Magic

With fall break just around the corner, I figured I’d write about some of the best parts of college – being away from college. Breaks are a crucial part of everyone’s college experience and actually serve as specific moments that help you remember what happened first semester junior year (Oh yeah! That fall break I had the flu and re-watched “Lord of the Rings” for four days straight!).  There are three keys to a successful break:

  1. How much money you have/are your parents involved or helping you out
  2. Who is willing to spend an extended period of time with you outside of the forced academic environment
  3. Do you actually have the ability to have fun (This is truly not a joke – if your professor assigned a 20-page paper due the day you get back from break, that sucker is going to be on your mind the whole dang time!)

If you are able to say yes and have a great companion, then you are in for a real treat. Because college breaks are not like the breaks you have in high school … obviously. Basically the mentality of break goes something like this – “OMG WAIT. WAIT. I don’t have to be in the library for another 13 hours?! I can see the sunlight?! I have time to shower! I can’t wait to see what my roommate looks like – it’s like meeting someone all over again! Where’s my drink with the pink umbrella? *proceeds to sleep for 16 hours*

My personal favorite break was Spring Break 2012. Epic location: Disney World. For some people, Disney World gets old at the age of 10 or they never like it to begin with – to that I say, “You don’t understand! THE MAGIC IS INSIDE YOU.” My older brother and I still feel like we are eight years old when going into the Muppet Theater (Fozzie Bear dressed as Henry VIII, ftw), and on this vacation it wasn’t any different, it was just far better because my best friend and roommate, Micaela, came with us. Thus, the three keys to a successful break were filled: Finances (thanks, mom and dad, for loving Disney!), Individual spending time with you (we’ve lived together at CNU for four years now – that girl can seriously put up with anything), and Ability to Have Fun (DISNEY WORLD, PEOPLE).

Breaks are extremely different once the real world hits … or so I hear. I have yet to enter it and still refuse to believe it actually exists; therefore, making the most of your vacations is crucial. Unless you are sick. But that’s when you are nursed back to health with Disney films (almost as good as the place). What’s great about CNU is that the professors understand and love these breaks just as much as the students, so you normally will not have a 20-page paper due when you get back. If you do, I apologize in advance and advise you to just knock that thing out ahead of time! So remember to kick back and relax!

Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Beyond

Each year at CNU the Center for American Studies (CAS) holds conferences on specific topics. The first year I was aware of these conferences, the topic was Abraham Lincoln. The convenient timing of this conference could not be understated. During my sophomore year my leadership class and one of my government classes were focused on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, and it just so happened that the Lincoln conference would bring in pre-eminent scholars on Lincoln and the Civil War to talk about things ranging from Lincoln and the Supreme Court to how he decided who he wanted in his cabinet.

The value of being able to listen to people who have written books on the subject you are writing your next paper on is incredible. With a handful of events and panels surrounding similar topics to those you learn about in class, the conferences never fail to deliver.

Last year the focus was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Knowing about this ahead of time was useful for me because I could strategically decide my more open-ended paper topics around linking it to FDR. After the conference I had a bunch of extra material I could incorporate into my papers that were unique and original as well.

Good grades were the result.

I don’t think I am the first person to realize that using outside resources can really help a paper grade, and it turns out that the American Studies conferences are not the only opportunities. Each department advertises events on a regular basis. Many of these events are academic in nature and can teach you a lot about issues and aspects of various areas of study.

This week I’ll be attending the Thomas Jefferson conference. There is always something more to learn about the founding fathers, and I am interested in learning more about Jefferson than that Declaration of his and the political party he led.

I count myself as lucky to have so many opportunities at CNU. Random events throughout the year such as the CAS conferences afford me and others with chances to learn more about politics, science, history and the world around us.

Like Breathing

Hailing from Ohio, I have visited under 10 colleges and universities in Virginia. This weekend, however, I had the opportunity to visit my good friend, Morgan, at Longwood University. First, the drive on I-95 further cemented my belief that Virginia drivers are quite distinctly insane. From bizarre driving infractions, such as the propensity for hovering over lane lines instead of remaining in the middle of lane lines, to the conspicuous avoidance of blinker usage, a phenomenon drivers of the commonwealth believe to be a worthless, time-consuming device for overly cautious squares, Virginia’s drivers should pause to reflect (if their precious time allowed for contemplation) that their lives, and lives of fellow drivers sharing their highways, are truly valuable.  To put my thought directly: I just don’t understand how you guys are alive. Ah yes, to return to the point of my story … Following my hyperventilating and mildly expletive-laced purge, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the natural, “non-vehicular” scenery.

Parts of Ohio are known as pastoral “farm country” (although I hail from city life, between Akron and Cleveland); as I was driving up to Farmville and enjoying the natural scenery, I grew quite nostalgic.  I find the admonition “you never miss it until it’s gone” to be applicable to more than just this scenic drive but also to college life itself. Once you are completely immersed in an entirely new world, those moments of your old world become blindingly clear and bittersweet. I never thought twice about passing Brandywine or Boston Mills NEO ski resorts, or speeding through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to get to a rehearsal. Yet now that those beauties are not an option for me except in memory, I wish I would have paid more attention when I took their awesome sights for granted. I believe that our society is so completely engrossed with what the future holds, that we truly fail to live in the moment as we fail to see each moment. Life is far too meaningful and fleeting to take even the smallest thing for granted. Enough digressing with the clichés, and on to Longwood.

Morgan guided me through a tour of the campus; she pointed out the staples in all college campuses – the library, the student union, the dorms and, most importantly, the Chik-fil-A. I found Longwood to be quaint and charming yet still extremely foreign to me. It was not because I did not know how to navigate around the campus or because I was a stranger to everyone, it was because I have truly established a place and an identity at CNU – the nature of which, did not become clear to me until I visited a friend who attends another university. Though I clearly enjoyed listening to the bands play at Longwood’s Oktoberfest and meeting all types of students at LU, with every site I toured and with every person I met, I reflected back to CNU instinctively.

I am now in my final year, already preparing for life after Christopher Newport, but I find it so surprising that I did not realize how comfortable and involved I am at CNU until this past weekend. It’s a pleasant surprise, though; if anything, it again serves as a reminder that I need to be living in the moment because, in a few short months, I will be looking back and missing my life here. College sneaks up on you and in a blink of an eye is gone. So enjoy your life, right now, in this moment, become excited for what the next chapter is going to bring, and know that you’ll find your place and your identity without ever being conscious of it … it’s just like breathing. And, PLEASE drive carefully, stay within the lane lines and employ the underused, neglected blinker.

Traveling Around the World

Don’t hate me, but I believe myself to be extremely lucky that I had parents who didn’t consider enculturation as a family trip to sunny Florida to visit Disney Land, or World, or whatever the heck it is.

My first bout of traveling occurred when I was about eight years old—Spain, I think it was. Then France the next year (or maybe I got that backwards) where I spent my New Year’s Eve with food poisoning in the hotel room. My mother was not pleased, cooped up and watching the festivities from the television. Seriously not pleased.

Food sickness aside, traveling and experiencing new walks of life continues to be really important to me. One friend recently asked if I was going to go somewhere wild for spring break, and I told him I’m saving my money for Africa. Yeah, I know I’m not missing much. On another note, my goal to travel to every continent is almost complete: I’ve gotten Europe (Spain and France), Asia (Japan, China, the Philippines) and Australia thus far. Hopefully I’ll check Africa (Tanzania) off my list soon, and then head down toward South America. Antarctica will never happen, so I’ll have to settle for a measly six.

Now, I’m the last person to give you any information about CNU’s study abroad program, mainly because my parents aren’t forking over any more money and I do not have the motivation to travel and study simultaneously. So I decided to talk to one of my dearest friends, senior Brittany Freelin, about her experiences studying abroad.

In 2012, Brittany traveled to Spain as part of a two-week seminar with Dr. Danielle Velardi and Ingrid Kalfus Edery of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures. Although she did not primarily take classes in Spain because of the nature of the seminar program, Brittany said, “we met twice for class while in Spain, and had two classes on campus before we left.” The application process might seem pretty daunting to many students, but Brittany assured me that the process was fairly easy, thanks to the resources available. When I asked her about any advice she’d have to students thinking about going abroad, she exclaimed, “Do it! Studying abroad is so worthwhile and a great experience to explore the world, meet people from different cultures, and learn about yourself.” Now, with all this traveling experience, she’s thinking about going to Italy next!

(You Don’t Have To) Brace Yourselves, Winter Is Coming

Having been born and raised in New England, I’ve got an idea as to what winter looks like. Generally speaking, February in Bangor, Maine looks like a different planet in comparison to the same time of the year here in Newport News. While we don’t always get massive snow storms that drop feet of snow at one time like other parts of the country, the temperatures are cold enough that the snow usually doesn’t go anywhere once it has fallen. This results in the roads becoming quasi-snow-canyons formed as the plows continue to pile up the excess on each side of the streets.

Newport News, on the other hand, rarely sees a dusting of snow. While my fellow Mainers are breaking out their snowblowers in order to get their trucks out of their garages, here in Newport News someone grabs a broom. This reality has it’s pros and cons.

On the one hand, trudging across a snow-covered campus with frost being whipped up in your face by the wind does not sound pleasant. On the other hand, CNU looks beautiful with a fresh layer of snow. There have only been a couple of occasions that I have seen when snow has fallen and stuck around long enough to get a glimpse before it melts, but it is magnificent. I’ve seen students put up a snowman that was gone within the day, but for a short while the magic of winters past caught up to me. The countless mornings praying for a snow day, the endless snow forts and hot chocolate waiting by a fireplace, these are the nostalgic memories that warm me on those cold days and the best catalyst is the falling snow.

If there is one casualty I am most concerned about with regard to climate change, it isn’t the polar bear. I would most miss the snow days at CNU most of all.

But I digress. Long story short, it is unlikely you’ll have to be ready for a real snow storm during the winters at CNU, but if you’re really lucky, weather permitting, you’ll get something really special.

Self-Confidence

When I began to write this entry, I wondered what would be the best approach to this sensitive topic. It is one that many of us deal with on a regular basis. This issue usually springs from past experiences, words, comparisons, social media, etc. Many of us try to hide the fact that we battle with self-confidence to the point that it strikes when least expected. But self-confidence doesn’t have to be an issue, it can be transformed into a virtue.

I used to battle with self-confidence on a regular basis. I would dress how I was told to, and act according to everyone else’s judgments and expectations. I was being true to others’ definition of who I should be, but I was not being true to myself. I later realized that I am the only one who can live my life. I am the only one who is qualified to be me. That’s when self-confidence went from being an issue to a virtue; it went from working against me, to working for me.

The battle against self-confidence can be won, it just takes some time and effort. You can start with complimenting yourself. Tell yourself that you are a beautiful person, and that you are intelligent. This summer I went to a concert where various artists performed. One of the performers told the audience to stand and repeat this melody: “I look good (music plays). I look good (repeat).”  I tried it and it worked tremendously; it gave me a much-needed boost. Those words became words of encouragement, and my self-confidence began to grow. I believed I looked good, and that in turn made me feel incredible. Always remember that you are the only one who is qualified to be you. Be who you want to be and be what makes you happy.

The Top Three Experiences at the Starting Line of College

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In the first weeks, college is an eon. But slowly, you begin to lose count of the days, and you find yourself alone at night thinking fall could not be closer around the corner. And you wonder, how long will this last? If you start off every day with the mentality that something good will come, it usually will. Wake up. Get dressed. Enjoy the sunlight.

 

1.  Knowing the faces, not the names.

At college, everyone is introducing themselves to everyone else. Hi, how are you, what part of NoVA are you from? My cousin goes there, oh, I love that song, too! The chatter will prattle on and on – and it’s a good thing! It’s definitely a good thing. We all want to make friends, and as quickly as possible. But the remaining problem is, what was their name again? You’ll see about a dozen people you know, maybe even greet them, but no one remembers anyone’s name.

There’s just too many of us. And the struggle is so real, face recognition becomes a blur in about the first six days.

But don’t worry! Smile, and be happy, because you’re at the friendliest school there is, and chances are, no one remembers your name either! So get friendly and don’t be afraid to ask that humiliating question, even if they bunk on your hall.

2.    Go to the Great Lawn in the middle of the night.

Each day of college feels like three in the “real world,” and sometimes, you need a break. If you find that adrenaline-pumped head reeling and the left leg shaking and the words jumbling — grab a friend, go to the Lawn. Nothing compares to the serenity of 2 a.m., and certainly no experience will, as you and your hall mate bond over ridiculous stunts you both pull. Twirl the worry of a four-page paper out of your eyes, and allow the stress of your mom’s daily calls to stream out of your consciousness through your fingertips. The cool night air knows what’s doing, and it will take care of you. Embrace it. Run toward it. Run past it. Run around the obsessively symmetrical grass and feel the exuberance the evening has to offer.

3.    The laundry struggle.

It’ll happen. Probably your first time, and most definitely not your last. Once you finally decipher the encrypted code of the impossible machinery, another problem will arise. Maybe it’s that you don’t have enough quarters, or figuring out Dining Dollars do not count towards laundry purposes, or maybe you realize – too late – that dad bought powder and it only accepts liquidized soap. The Machine Man will always get you down. And any time you think it’s over, another difficulty bubbles to the surface. And if you truly have the gift of misfortune, an estranged figure will come knocking on your door asking which resident didn’t take their laundry out and you realize you never set a timer. It’s now two hours past the washing cycle. The walk of laundry-room-shame is not pretty, my friends, and there’s really nothing that can be done to change this. But if you endure, you are able to watch heartily from the sidelines, laughing, as the next wave of mishaps bestow upon themselves another victim.

Being a Sick Captain

Getting sick stinks. It always does, probably always will. I find it highly unlikely that I will wake up some day and wish that I had a fever. People sometimes make up that they are sick in order to get out of things, but nobody really wants to be sick.

This is especially true at CNU where there is so much to do, both fun and responsible, that a legitimate sick day is far from desirable. Yet despite the lack of a loving mother to whip you up chicken noodle soup, fluff your pillow and sing you “Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty”* it is still entirely possible to feel taken care of at CNU.

I’ve only been sick a couple of times while at CNU. They weren’t fun times, but they were times I remember because of the friends that took care of me as well as the understanding faculty. But rather than start by describing how nicely everyone treats me when I am an invalid, I’ll tell you about how nice the people at CNU’s clinic are.

Twice I have swung by the clinic in order to be checked out for one thing or another. Both of the nurse practitioners I met were extremely informative as well as friendly. I generally dislike going to any kind of clinic or doctor’s office because I feel like I need to rub my hands with sanitizer every 10 seconds. Yet the clinic at CNU is very comfortable and modern-looking. The people behind the desk are friendly and useful in helping you figure out how your insurance can work with what you need and how you can pay. My experiences there have left me pleasantly surprised at how competent a university’s clinic staff can be.

OK, now on to how awesome everyone else is …

When I’ve been sick at CNU I’ve had friends stop by with extra snacks; they remind me to take my antibiotics, or vitamins, or what-have-you, they ask me if I need anything and more than once I’ve gotten free pizza. I’m certain I’m not the only one at CNU who has found himself surrounded by friends who are willing to look out for them when they aren’t feeling 100 percent and that sort of friendly concern can get you feeling a bit better without any sort of medication.

The professors as well are very understanding. If you are not feeling well and you let them know ahead of class time then they will usually wish you get well soon and will often send some general information on what the class is about and what to prepare for the next class.

There is a fountain at CNU (which at the moment is in the process of being relocated) but it has a statue of three geese flying together. The significance of these three geese is that migrating geese who travel together will not leave a bird behind. If a goose is unwell or injured, two geese will stay with the incapacitated goose until it is well enough to fly, and then they all continue the journey together.

I’ve always felt that the statue and the message behind it best apply to me when I am not well and the people around me help me out while I get better.

 

 

*”Big Bang Theory”

Group Projects, Bane of my Existence

I’m coming off a particularly dreadful week of ineffective group planning. Love them or completely hate them (my case), group projects are a part of any college career, and any career in general for that matter. But for my lovely seniors, and possibly juniors, we all know there is nothing worse than working with a pack of unmotivated freshmen. Sophomores can’t be counted here, as they’re just realizing that, yes, they were actually that annoying.

Perhaps I should qualify that there are some freshmen who are awesome at group projects. In the same way, there are some older students who suck at group projects. But whether you blame it on personal character or the nerves of being a new college student, I wanted to lay out some ground rules for our newest campus members on how to be friggin’ amazing at group work. Trust me a million times over: your upperclassmen counterparts will absolutely adore you for it. Bonus: it will also do wonders for your individual group evaluation.

  1. Trust that you are smarter than you think. Do you believe you got into CNU based on dashing good looks? You are part of our community because you are ambitious, talented and off-the-walls intelligent. When encountering your first group project, especially with mean ‘ol upperclassmen, show us what we know you know! Shout out suggestions, question ideas that don’t sound good to you, dazzle us with new information. Questioning yourself, however, triggers a slippery slope that will follow you the rest of your time here.
  2. Please, for the love of whatever you believe in, check your email. Every hour if you have to. There is nothing more frustrating than a stall in group progress because someone forgot to log in to CNU Connect. We live in a digital age and old folks harp on us for being glued to our phones, so you might as well be productive while you’re checking Instagram.
  3. I’m putting this in all caps because it is that important: LEARN HOW TO DO RESEARCH. No one is expecting you to know how to research journal articles or use the library database the first time, but this is only a onetime excuse. Do you see those librarians begging us to ask them questions? They are an awesome resource for you, and it also doesn’t hurt asking fellow students too.
  4. Let me lay this out bluntly: I have two jobs, extracurricular activities, coursework and a lacking social life that I need to tend to. Not to downplay all the things freshmen have, but when you have a 25-page case study due for a nonwriting intensive class, please come back and talk to me then. Nothing is worse to an upperclassmen then being forced into a leadership position because a bunch of doe-eyed freshmen don’t know what to do. Like I said in  No. 1, you have great ideas locked away in your precious, precious brains. Help a senior out by sharing those ideas!
  5. Finally, take initiative. All of the things I’ve just written about can be encapsulated into this last tip. So, as one of my professors says, go be brilliant!