All I Do Is Work, Work, Work

Spring break is almost upon us!

And, it is desperately needed.

My motivation to complete assignments and be even minimally productive has been on a downward trajectory since, oh, about mid-January. Newport News has had a (small) handful of really warm, downright gorgeous days, and ever since then I have been counting down the days until I can race over to Buckroe Beach (a local public beach on the Chesapeake Bay) and sprawl out on the sand screaming, “Free at last!”

I’m not ready for my sophomore year to end, per se, but I am definitely craving a break from the schoolwork. Even though I have a speech to prepare and a paper to write, spring break is looking to be a great time of relaxation. And, if the sun decides to make an appearance, it will be even better.

I can tell how ready I am for a break by how often my body starts quitting on me. Wow, you might say, that seems like a serious condition. I can assure you, I am doing just fine. However, my sleep schedule is not. I took an (unintentional) four-hour nap yesterday, and I think it’s my body’s way of saying, “Hey, I know you haven’t really been sleeping at night because of all that school stuff. Let’s make up for it by snoozing through lunch … and dinner.” The longer the nap, the more ready I am to throw the towel in – even if just for a few hours.

While it may be easier to hibernate in my room and shirk these last few assignments, it is so worth it (to my grades and to myself) to continue striving towards that tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Powering through these couple classes before break will ultimately benefit me way more than searching the Internet for cat memes into the wee hours of the night (although that is a pretty fun activity).

So remember: work hard, play hard. Finish strong, and relaxing will feel that much more rewarding.

And, take the naps you think you deserve. It’s always okay to nap.

Featuring … The Captain’s Log

The Captains’ Log, “The Voice of CNU Students” is always filled with current events both on and off campus, as well as a deeper insight within the student body themselves. Lifestyle editor, Stephanie Alexander, a veteran journalist with the paper, sat down with me and revealed the ins and outs of the student newspaper.

CC – What makes The Captain’s Log special?
SA – Although people say that journalism is dying out, it’s really not: it’s just changing, it’s all going digital. The Captain’s Log is the only medium on campus (catering to current students) that harnesses the journalism skills we learn while on the job.

CC – The most unique feature?
SA – The most unique feature is definitely the staff. Every single person on that staff is over-the-top dedicated. We all get along. We all do our job, and we (like to think) do it well. It’s amazing what the new editor-in-chief, Sally Grace Holtgrieve, has been able to do this semester with the paper. We wouldn’t be where we are this year if it weren’t for her.

CC – How often do the papers come out?
SA – Papers come out every Wednesday. We do layout every Monday and Tuesday. The paper has to be sent to the printer by 6 p.m.

CC – Every “hangout” area for groups is different, like for TheaterCNU it’s the theater hallway – what’s the spot for the CLOG like?
SA – The newsroom is great. It’s honestly our hangout spot. Our sports editor, Ben, sleeps in there sometimes because he’s up all night working on the layout; he sleeps on a bed of old newspaper. It’s busiest on Mondays when we are all doing layout, but we’ve got a microwave and a fridge so it’s like a mini apartment. I go up there all the time to do homework.

CC – What made you want to work on the paper?
SA – I guess I wanted to be on the paper because I wanted to write. So, I talked to Dr. Lee [Terry Lee, faculty adviser] in spring 2012, and he said The Captain’s Log was hiring editors. So I thought, why not? I applied for arts and entertainment, and Darryl Fetz interviewed me and two weeks later hired me as lifestyle editor. I started that summer, and I love it so much. I do write, but my favorite part of being an editor is layout. I love design and getting creative every week. This week’s layout is actually my favorite that I’ve ever done.

Stephanie’s articles are always intriguing and humorous, with an appealing layout to match the content. Be sure to grab a copy of this weeks paper or check it out online!

Rejection Isn’t the End of the World

Checking your email is sometimes like winning the lottery—what you get each day is just a matter of luck. Once and a while, you might get an email from a professor saying that class is cancelled, and at other times an email might be that sorry reminder that a course assignment was due sooner than you had thought. Whatever it might be, it just depends on the luck of the draw.

A few months ago, I applied for a corps member position at City Year, which connects young people like me to a year of full-time service to keep students in low-income areas in school and on track to high school graduation. Up until now I was pretty optimistic of my chances, seeing all that I have to offer and how much I want to learn.

Then today, like five seconds ago at 8:13 a.m. on Friday the 21st, I opened an email from City Year telling me that they were “unable to offer a position at this time.” While I was a “high-quality” applicant who demonstrated “the spirit of national service,” I would not be moving on to the next rounds of the application process. Cue the internal groaning and eating ice cream while wondering what I could have done to make my application stronger. Because I really wanted that position—civic engagement and social injustice are issues I am so desperately passionate about, and just like that, it was blown away from sight.

There are a two lessons I’d like to bring your attention to from my experiences.

First, rejection is never the end of the world. I’ll even go so far as to say that rejection can be the best kind of medicine. Yes—I am referring to those of us who could use a slice of homemade humble pie once in a while, but I’m also talking about those who might need that extra motivation that pushes us to see what we truly want. If I’d never rejected the idea that I wanted to be a lawyer, then I would have never decided to major in communication and find something that I am really excited to argue about: women’s and gender issues and social injustices brought on by hegemonic discourses like “The American Dream.”

Which brings me to the second point: just because something doesn’t work out the first try doesn’t mean you aren’t meant for it. If you are equally passionate about politics, women’s issues, health care, the environment or any other issue, don’t let one “No” get in the way of what you want. I got rejected from a social media internship at this women’s rights lobbyist group last summer, one that would’ve really bolstered my network and resume. But just because I wasn’t accepted didn’t mean I was going to drop all of the interest I have for women’s rights! I still try and try again, whether it be applying or post-graduate careers or finding volunteer opportunities, to keep my passion for women’s issues going strong. One rejection won’t stop me, and it shouldn’t stop you.

Giving Time to Gain Memories

Today is one of those days that you didn’t have much of a plan for; I didn’t expect much from it and, honestly, woke up already looking forward to going back to sleep tonight. But, I have been pleasantly surprised with how my day has turned out so far. Which makes me extremely happy.

I volunteered at a local Newport News elementary school this morning. I am required to earn volunteer hours because I am part of the President’s Leadership Program, but I honestly think this is something I would be doing regardless of the credit received. When I visit the elementary school, I get to spend a couple of hours in first-grade classrooms assisting children during their reading time. This means I’ll read books to children, get read to, play phonics board games and practice my “teacher handwriting” on flashcards (I can’t wait until I have a classroom of my own!). While it is definitely a struggle to get out of bed Thursday mornings, especially when I know I don’t have class until 4:30, volunteering at my local elementary school always brings me joy. I chose the service track of Hampton Roads Public Schools for my community engagement, almost solely because I plan on teaching after graduation. I figured it would do me some good to get “real-world experience” in the school systems; I wanted to make sure I even liked being a part of the classroom.

And, I do. I love it. The children I work with constantly surprise me with their insight, their determination, and their passion for life. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of volunteering, but the things I have learned and the memories I have made are beyond numerous. It makes my day to walk into a classroom and have a first grader run up to me, yelling, “Miss Laura, can I read my book to you?” The answer is always yes. In fact, sometimes, I would rather stay at their school and learn with them all day than return to CNU for my own classes. (Don’t worry, mom and dad. I fully intend to finish a degree here.)

It amazes me that the children are so willing to share their lives with me. We’ve had touching moments discussing the recent death of a family pet, and we’ve had lighthearted debates over just what flavor of ice cream is best. Of course, the kids are fascinated with my personal life, as well. From asking if I’m a mom and if I have a boyfriend, to trying to understand how I can live at school (they love the idea of having roommates), they keep me smiling.

All this to say, if you get the chance to volunteer, and you love working with children, you should definitely consider helping out in the school system. I can guarantee you there are dozens of compassionate, quirky, super endearing kids waiting to become your best friend.

Survivor: Midterms Edition

It’s getting to that time of year again! No, not Valentine’s Day. No, not ‘almost spring.’ No, not even just February. It’s MIDTERM time! The time of the semester when all your work seems to be due in the same week, sleep is scarce, and you know you still have weeks and weeks to go before a real break comes along.

It’s not horrible. But, it’s not my favorite part of the semester. Honestly, I love finals week. There’s something about knowing that just one test, speech or project stands between you and the door out of that class, forever. Plus, there just seems to be built-in relaxation time during finals week. Not so for midterms. They are often cumulative – meaning lots of information to study, including the stuff from the first few weeks of school that you thought wasn’t important. Also, there is no freeing “light at the end of the tunnel” for midterms; once you finish them, you are thrown right back into classes, and you start gearing up for your finals. And, because it’s like a regular school week, there is little relaxation time, if any.

So, what’s a girl (or guy!) to do when midterms come in like a wrecking ball? (Pop-culture references are fun.)

1. Write down when all your assignments are due. Even if you’re not the type of person to carry a planner everywhere (I’m not), you can still become best friends with the sticky note. It helps relieve stress to know that you won’t be forgetting to do anything, and by writing things down and sticking them to your desk, mirror, etc. you get a daily reminder. Plus, I think one of the best feelings in the world is ripping up a sticky note once I’ve completed all the tasks on it.

2. Give yourself time to finish assignments and studying. It may seem like you’ll be able to thoroughly read through all your notes and worksheets for two tests in just an hour the night before, but chances are – you will not. Who wants to stay up ’til 4 a.m. reading about the Mycenaeans and Minoans? I surely don’t.

3. Remember to eat. This may seem simple, but it’s easy to get so busy that you don’t have time to run to a dining hall. Your body NEEDS fuel to keep thinking straight! Make it a point to swing by Regatta’s or Commons and grab a take-out box; there’s also Chick-fil-A and Discovery Pizza (two of my personal favorites) in the David Student Union.

4. Exercise! Nothing beats down the stress like some physical activity. After sitting and studying for hours on end, it is so refreshing to get your body moving. Whether that means indoors in the Freeman Center or outside on nearby the Noland Trail, take a break from homework and exercise! Personally, I love running in the neighborhoods behind CNU; there’s little-to-no traffic and you can see the James River from some points.

5. Sleep. Please, please, please, if you only take away one piece of advice from this post, let it be this point. It is very difficult to be mentally present and prepared in class when you have been living off four hours of sleep each night for a week (trust me, I know). And, it’s not easy to study and retain information when you’re exhausted. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel decently rested in the mornings, and take advantage of the weekends for catching up on your snooze time! Remember, there is absolutely no shame in sleeping in; it’s truly a wonderful thing.

There is a ton more advice I could give you, but these few ideas will certainly help  you start off on the right foot. Midterms are a pain, but once they’re done, it’s basically downhill from there! And, that is a great feeling.

Seeking the Unknown

Faith. Spirituality. Religion. Whatever you want to call it, the search for meaning/belief (or lack thereof) in a higher power tends to shift once you hit college. For some, this means completely changing their childhood beliefs while others solidify what they have always known. Religion is a difficult topic. From all ends of the spectrum, people have varying opinions, each rightly deserved and rightly expressed. Perhaps due to the extreme emotional roller coaster that everyone rides during college, religion comes into play one time or another.

First off – I recommend taking a religions course at CNU; from Western to Eastern, the Bible to the Lotus Sutra, self-discovery as expressed through religion is only truly possible through the quest of the unknown. Religion can bring comfort and religion can divide. Of the faith-based organizations at CNU, many of them are Christian-based. I feel there’s a need to grow and expand beyond this, covering a greater diversity and allowing more voices. How can we be expected to be well-rounded and opinionated adults if we don’t question the things we are passionate about?

As my current director of TheaterCNU’s production of “The Odd Couple – Female Version,” Matt Singletary, has profoundly remarked, “if you don’t question, you can’t learn.” Many organizations are created every school year, and as CNU continues to grow and expand, I implore you to add to this school and spread some religious diversity. Regardless of whether you practice or not, college gives you a safe place to explore your faith, so why not take advantage of it? Leave your mark. Make an impact … after all, we all connect somehow – ask how.

Being an FDA

One of the deals I made with my parents around my sophomore year was that I was going to be the one responsible for buying all of my textbooks, groceries, clothes and other sorts of daily needs while living at school. This gave me a serious crash-course in budgeting and I soon realized that I was going to need to apply for a job if I was going to make it. Finding an on-campus job was my ideal situation; although I had a car during my junior year, just looking at the gasoline prices was enough to keep me off the roads.

When I started asking around, my suitemate at the time encouraged me to try applying for a front desk assistant (FDA) position. She herself was also an FDA and  loved getting the chance to interact with students on a daily basis. I myself was looking for a job where getting homework done was a possibility, but after I applied and was accepted for the position, I found out that being an FDA could be so much more than a free period to read Nietzsche and write research papers. (Of course, I do take my job very seriously—I can’t think of the number of times I’ve harped on sneaky students for trying to pass me without showing their IDs).

Whenever I’m sitting at the desk, I always try to remember to wear a smile across my face when students walk into the residence halls. I was talking to a resident once, and she was telling me how much she appreciated seeing a friendly face when she walked into her home, rather than a surly stare. Developing cordial relationships with residents can always be rewarding, and I don’t mean just getting to try samples of their fudge, cookies and cupcakes when they bake. I’ve had residents come up and talk to me about their classes, stresses and non-existing love lives. I’ve gave them advice and have received plenty of advice back from them as well.

While I can’t exactly write on my resume that being an FDA has given me mentoring experience, building rapport and getting to know  students is probably one of my favorite parts of the job, sweet treats aside. If you’re ever looking for a job on-campus, try filling out an application for an FDA position. While it certainly helps put some extra cash in your pocket, I always think a job is what you make of it. I’ve had the chance to interact with some great students sitting at the desk, procrastinating on my assignments but always learning more about their own lives too.

Today’s Wisdom: You Can’t Do It Alone

When I was home last Sunday, my dad told me a story about one of my cousins while he was chopping up his pineapples and oranges for the upcoming workweek. This cousin, he was saying, had recently recommended one of her university classmates for employment at the organization she currently works at. Unfortunately, this classmate really showed her ungrateful side by throwing my cousin under the bus during a business trip, trying to obtain her own job! This little story made me think about the overwhelming societal pressure to be infinitely independent and aggressively competitive, both pressures that are certainly prevalent in the college environment.

Characteristically, I am an overwhelmingly independent (read: stubborn) type. “No, I can do it” is probably my favorite phrase and I revel whenever I’ve achieved something without any hand-holding. Through my recent endeavors with searching for employment, however, I’ve come to realize that people truly cannot succeed without seeking assistance from those around them. I mean, as it happens, the only employers who have reached out to me for interviews have been the ones I have networked with previously or have conversed with on LinkedIn. In many ways, looking for my next job has been a humbling experience — no matter how stellar I think my resume is, it is no match for the power of personal connection.

Given that, why the heck do we still insist that everything be a competition, and that only the most headstrong independent people will survive? Look at my cousin’s classmate: while pushing and shoving and being two-faced might get her some high-status position in the short run, burning bridges with people who have helped her certainly won’t do much for her in the long run. As they say, it’s pretty lonely up at the top.

So let’s redirect this back to CNU: I think one of the most understated, but great, things about going to school here is that people aren’t in constant antagonistic competition with each other, at least among the people I’ve encountered. Even a simple gesture like sharing an extra scantron when someone else has forgotten theirs is great to see. It would be too easy for the sake of self-interest to not help out when someone is in need, but it seems like CNU students just get that altruism is better than egoism. Of course, I’m not saying that you drop everything you are doing to help others whenever the situation arises—we all have to have a little bit of egoism to meet our own needs, and also to make sure that others don’t take advantage of us.

But the point of this rant is to reiterate that looking out for number one shouldn’t always be your number one priority. Helping people and sharing your experiences to cultivate growth for yourself and others can be more rewarding than pushing your way to the top. If you’re looking for a university that understands this better than any other school, CNU might be the right home for you!

Stay Busy, My Friends

I am seriously so thankful for the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and all the events they plan for students. Because of their hard work and creative minds, we students never have a dull weekend; whether they’re hosting a comedian in the Crow’s Nest or introducing a quaint, hipster band into the Gaines Theatre or planning a simple movie night, CAB always exceeds my expectations.

Earlier last semester, I attended Pinterest Day, an event put on by CAB, and had one of the best afternoons. Of course this function was not intriguing to everyone, but to a girl like me who could literally craft for hours, it was like manna from heaven. Basically, I walked in and saw mason jars waiting for us, and my mind immediately went into a state of intense euphoria. I don’t remember much else after that, but I know I was inspired to craft tons more after finishing at Pinterest Day. I promptly bought up tons of canvases and started spray painting old frappuccino  bottles to decorate my suite’s common room.

CAB also planned a haunted house for us during the Halloween season. I am not a fan of Halloween and scary things, but my interest was piqued towards this event. It seemed like a more tame version of similar haunted houses at places like Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion. Thus, I went. It was both terrifying and really fun; while I hated walking past fellow students in madhouse costumes, I really enjoyed the thrill of ambling through a makeshift mental hospital. Though I was certainly shaken up after finishing the walkthrough, I was also super proud of CAB for putting  such a creepy event together so well!

Most recently, I’ve appreciated CAB’s selection of movies brought to campus. Just a few weekends ago, my friends and I got to see “Warm Bodies” (at no cost, and with free popcorn!). I’m looking forward to watching “Catching Fire” and many more recent hits. Last year, CAB was completely on point with their movie selections – from “The Avenger”s to “Les Miserables” to “The Hobbit” to “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” there was literally something for everyone.

So, if you’re needing plans for a weekend, look no further than CAB’s schedule of events! From massive, campus-wide happenings to simple, focused get-togethers, CAB’s got our back entertainment-wise.

Change is…good?

I am not a big fan of change – it would be accurate to say it’s one of my least favorite things. Coming to college meant tons of new things to work through (unfortunately, for me). However, as I look back at my almost two years here at CNU, I can easily see now how integral all that upheaval and change was to growing me as a person. For example, freshman year, I came in with a random roommate assignment. We emailed each other somewhat over the summer, but the first time I met her was move-in day (a little nerve-wracking). Imagine getting dropped off by your parents and simultaneously trying to say goodbye to your childhood, all while realizing you’re going to be living with a complete stranger for a whole school year. Fortunately for me, my random roomie turned out to be the perfect fit! Who knew you could have so much in common with someone you had never met? As the school year progressed, we kept finding things we both loved, from TV shows and movies to books and online memes. After just a few months together, we were pretty close friends and regularly planned roomie movie nights and Chinese takeout dinners. I know not every freshman who goes random gets matched with someone he or she is actually compatible with, but there is definitely hope! I am just one success story – my freshman roomie and I are still best friends. So, example one: LK faced change head on by living with a stranger and ended up with a wonderfully rewarding freshman year (by the way, I do tend to refer to myself in third person at times; I think it’s fun).

Another big change I was not looking forward to (just because I didn’t know what to expect) was transitioning from high school classes to college classes. I had heard all the stories, and I imagined myself staying up until four in the morning every night doing homework, writing 10-page papers for every single class I would ever be in, and being called on to answer  questions in front of a ginormous lecture class. Thankfully, these fears turned out to be unfounded. First, because your classes are split between days, there is automatically built-in time to finish homework and various assignments before deadlines. However, it is completely up to you as to how that time is spent. For example, if you nap away your free afternoon and then watch episodes of “The Bachelor” until midnight, chances are high you will be up past four finishing work. Second, not all classes have huge research papers as a final project. Many do have paper assignments, but the length and content varies greatly. Plus, depending on your major, you may not be writing too much anyway! Lastly, CNU has generally small classes – my largest lecture class has hovered around 100 students, which is a far cry from what my mind imagined classes to be like. In most of my classes, my professors know me by name and are completely gracious about asking students questions. Once again, another transition that seemed difficult at first, but quickly became routine.

I could name numerous other changes, big and small, that I have faced in the past months. And, I could also assure you that each and every one has been altogether worth the awkwardness and uncomfortableness. With the CNU community behind me, it has been increasingly easy to face changes and overcome them. And now, I can honestly say I am excited and ready for the changes these next few years will bring my way!