Advisers as Friends

When I tell people I’m studying leadership they tend to scoff and somewhat underestimate the complicated facets that go into the concept. Truthfully, I’m somewhat biased because I love being a part of the President’s Leadership Program (PLP) and attending classes for my leadership minor. I’ve met so many wonderful people through the experience and have defined certain aspects of my identity along the way. However, my favorite part of the entire program happens to be my PLP coordinator.

She was the first person I met on campus last year who challenged me to think of myself with more complexity as a freshman. Even though I had just begun my journey, she told me to start thinking of ways I can impact the community around me. At first, I had no idea where to start, but she helped to organize goals for me that would be completed each year.

Service is a major part of the goals my coordinator and I set out to accomplish. I loved animals and knew I wanted to help an organization involved with that service track. She helped me find a place in the community to start volunteering with and even connected me with another student so we could drive there together. Each semester when we meet she still asks about my job there and keeps up to date with how many hours I’ve earned.

Studying abroad is also a major goal I knew I had coming to college and when I joined PLP I quickly learned this was an important element for the program too. I had earned some scholarship money from the program in order to study here in Italy. When I told my coordinator about my plans to journey abroad she was so proud of me for pushing past my comfort zone. She made the scholarship process run smoothly and helped connect me to contacts I needed. In our last meeting she even suggested her favorite gelato store in Florence!

I love talking with my coordinator because I recognize her genuine goal to see me succeed and her passion toward her work. I’m so grateful and honored to have such an amazing person in my life and feel comforted to have such a friendly face at Christopher Newport. Overall, the program has helped me grow so much as a person and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Free Fitness Week

Physical and mental health are incredibly important to maintain, especially when I’m learning to become more independent and responsible for my daily schedule. Personally, I find time spent at the gym to be rejuvenating and rely heavily on physical activity to ensure a good night’s rest. Regardless of how hectic my schedule can become I always find time to visit the gym, or explore the Noland Trail for some fun.

Luckily the hours at the Freeman Center are incredibly broad and I have no issues squeezing in some activity between work or classes. During the week I tend to visit the gym at night after I finish my tasks for the day. Sometimes if I feel nervous about a test I’ll wake up early before my classes and go do some relaxing yoga, or go for a quick jog to help clear my head. On the weekends I like to hike along the Noland Trail or visit Huntington Beach for a long walk and a great place to continue studying.

My favorite event at the gym is the free fitness week, which usually occurs once or twice a semester. The university offers free classes, ranging from yoga, zumba and kickboxing during the weeks leading up to midterms or finals. I love attending these classes with my friends after long days of preparation to get a chance to socialize and simultaneously knock out my workout for the day.

No matter the tactic, exploring avenues that aid with supporting a healthy lifestyle should be sought after. I’ve realized over time that it is only when we are mentally and physically stable that we can have the energy to tackle the day. I’m so grateful to have a campus that encourages events as a community to release stress and find great friends to journey together.

Course Registration (From Italy)

Living in Italy everything seems to move at a slower pace than back at home. There’s great time spent appreciating gourmet food, studying the latest fashions and, unfortunately, fiddling with the WiFi server so your laptop can finally connect. Having temperamental WiFi really added to the stress surrounding registration for classes, not to mention keeping track of the major time zone difference from CNU. Just when I thought I’d be doomed for my registration day, I received an email from the registrar’s office that diminished all fears.

When students study abroad they undergo the registration process exactly how they would if they were at CNU. For instance, I still had to contact my core adviser and gain her approval for the list of courses I preferenced. Once she verified that my desired classes for this upcoming fall kept me on the path to graduation, she granted me access to sign up for courses when it was the appropriate time. Everyone has a specific time slot they are allowed to select their future classes. If my internet connection became faulty during my allotted period there would’ve been a chance that I could’ve missed my window of opportunity.

Relief instantly spread when the registrar offered to complete the online course registration for me. All I had to do was respond to their email with my favorite classes with some back-ups and provide my login materials for them to access my account. Students have multiple periods where they can add or drop their classes, in case the class they hoped for suddenly became free or they changed their mind about a subject. I would be able to tweak my schedule later in the future, but in the meantime the registrar will take care of the initial registration during my designated time slot.

I’m so excited for this upcoming fall semester and feel stress free thanks to the registrar’s assistance. I can continue enjoying my stay here in Italy and for the time being adopt the relaxed appreciation for the present which seems to resonate with every Italian.

Our Farmers Market

My favorite day of the week, without a doubt, is Thursday. Not only does it bring me one step closer to the weekend, but Thursdays during spring and fall at Christopher Newport are for the farmers market! Around midday I can always expect to see a trail of vendors begin to make their way through our campus and prepare for the fun that is bound to commence.

Firstly, the music has to be my favorite part of the entire experience. Each week a series of our students are able to showcase their talents and serenade everyone while they browse around the market. Usually I’ll attend with a group of my friends and we’ll just sit and listen to live music while we socialize. It’s really awesome if you need some relaxing time, but also a fun way to study outside with some great tunes.

Along with the fresh air, aromas from the delicious food vendors make for a wonderful afternoon. Whether it’s freshly baked cupcakes, homemade chips or a decadent grilled cheese, there’s always good food to satisfy a mid-afternoon craving. In the warmer months, I always keep an eye out for the Pelican’s SnoBalls station; my favorite flavors of ice are cherry and blue rasberry. I also spend my time looking for beautiful handcrafted gifts while I’m at the market. Just last year I bought a gorgeous hand-painted canvas for one of my friend’s birthdays.

Visiting each week never gets dull because I find something new to love about the whole experience. Regardless of my busy schedule I always make time to visit the market because I enjoy the way it brings the community together. Thursdays will forever remind me of laughter, good food and good friends.

Alternative Breaks

Spring break is my favorite period because it provides me time to regroup and prepare for the homestretch of the concluding academic year. During this time in the past I would find myself feeling compelled to sit back, relax and really just become one with my couch. It wasn’t until my friend approached me about a seemingly crazy adventure that would entail making new friendships, helping strangers, and branching out into the community that I started to see break in a new light.

There is a certain program on campus called Raising Educational Awareness through Compassion and Humanity (REACH), which specializes with helping students connect to volunteer missions that extend over a period of their break. Rather than having the traditional return home and glorious Netflix binge, it allows students an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime and create an impact for the better.

This year my friend traveled to Charleston, South Carolina and spent a week volunteering at the Lowcountry Orphan Relief. She was able to meet so many amazing kids who were ecstatic to visit with CNU students everyday. Our students completed so many tasks that helped the center and allowed everyone time to bond with the children throughout their visit. Afterwards my friend admitted that while the goodbyes were challenging, she cherishes every second she spent with the community.

It can be easy to allow the lure of a relaxed break equate to something of little substance, but I know if wisely spent it can provide a much needed moment of rest. Personally, I find rejuvenation in sharing laughter with new friends and finding moments to assist others along the way. Regardless of how one decides to spend their time on break, I hope it leaves everyone feeling a little happiness in their heart and courage in their feet to finish the year out strong.

Volleyball Dreams

My favorite activities incorporate ways to remain active while having fun. On campus I stay fit by visiting the gym a couple times a week and going for hikes on the Noland Trail during the weekend, but lately I’ve missed the camaraderie felt when belonging to a team. Nostalgia has led me to consider playing volleyball in an intramural setting with some of my closest friends.

The only major obstacle to this is that I’ve never actually played volleyball in a serious setting before. In high school, I used to play volleyball in gym class and during the summers it would be our beach time tradition. My hesitation was therefore understandable when my close friend asked me to join her intramural team for next year.

Looking more closely at the intramural teams on campus I realized that the competition level is subjective. Some teams are composed of highly experienced individuals who are looking to craft their skills, whereas other teams are more concerned about the amount of fun the experience is granting them. At the end of the day, everyone is competing to win the intramural champion T-shirt, but the real value comes from the memories and laughter you make throughout the process.

Joining a Florentine Symphony

During my stay here in Florence, Italy I’ve had some amazing opportunities, but by far the coolest experience happened when I stepped into a seemingly ordinary shop on a mundane Tuesday. I heard about a violin maker who rented out instruments and instantly became interested because I wanted to continue preparing for the university’s auditions that would occur in the fall semester. After testing some violins and choosing the instrument I loved most I was approached by the shop owner with something spectacular: the chance to join a Florentine symphony.

The first time I had a real symphony performance occurred last year when the university choir and band joined together for a joyous holiday concert. When I arrived on the following Monday for my first rehearsal with the Florentine symphony I was somewhat confident on what to expect, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was the youngest musician there and the construct of the symphony included brass, woodwinds and a full choir. The sound we created was gigantic! That Sunday we performed in a gothic church that dated back centuries, with acoustics that echoed our symphonies for hours.

Despite some initial differences, I was genuinely surprised at how well I could keep up during rehearsals. I am the only one who speaks english in the Florentine symphony. However, all musical terms are inherently in italian. The countless hours I’ve spent at CNU analyzing our orchestra’s music and discussing musical terms for our desired sound prepared me so well for this experience. Additionally, I kept in mind the components that my professor had instilled with each practice, such as balance and dynamics, when approaching my new environment.

I would’ve never thought that coming here I could end up meeting so many wonderful people and be able to share my love of music with them. I am so honored for this unique opportunity and more importantly feel grateful to the university orchestra which led me to be successful in this endeavor. I can’t wait to return in the fall to perform with my orchestra again and maybe by then they can notice a Florentine flare in my music too.

The Roommate Search

Living in close quarters with several individuals might be a new experience to some, but over time it truly starts to be something you’ll cherish. On campus, the roommate and housing search may seem daunting at first, but after your first experience it’s super easy. The housing lottery is the name of the room and roommate sign up. Though, I can guarantee that unlike any other lottery – everyone wins and finds themselves in wonderful living space.  

Speaking from experience, my first roommates I met freshman year are not the same people I plan to live with this upcoming fall and that’s perfectly OK. As a first-year student the school matched me with roommates who had the same living style preferences and a similar profile. I liked rooming with these individuals a lot and we became good friends. Though, over time we found ourselves wishing to room with others in our different friend groups. Going forward I wanted to also try to incorporate new individuals into my living space, so I used our online housing link to find people who were also looking for people to live with. I was able to select the new friends I had in mind and requested the new individuals I thought we’d be compatible with.

Besides roommates, the housing search is also really important to consider. Once again, first-year students do not have to worry about the housing lottery because the university places each student in a residence hall. It is helpful to not have to worry about the process when everything seems so new. For the other students our names are metaphorically placed in a hat and randomly selected for which time slot we will receive in order to sign up for a specific room. Everyone gets a time to select their desired housing based on their year and include the friends they wish to live with. The reason it’s called a lottery is because your time slot is selected at random, but every year I have been able to get the room I wanted with the people I wished to live with.

I grew up having my own living space, so I was nervous before my first year to begin sharing things I had grown accustomed to solely ruling. Eventually I started to realize the privilege I had when living at home, but also the amazing opportunity I’ve gotten through living with some amazing individuals.

More Than Just Bones and Stones

Last week I took a final exam for a class that flew me to Rome, let me explore medieval castles, study the latest fashions,and eat authentic Italian food. The most amazing part is that this course provided me with the necessary credit needed to graduate, all while letting me explore in areas I had not even considered. I learned the beauty within studying cultural anthropology and created memories that will last a lifetime.

It was a week-long intensive class, which meant that at the end I would receive three credits for my anthropology requirement. I saw the colosseum, the Roman forum, explored monster park, tasted Umbria’s finest cuisine and studied a variety of cultural aspects woven into Italy’s being. This was such an astounding opportunity because I could physically see the Medieval, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods all in the buildings around me. Italy has such a deep and rich history, I am so fortunate to be able to study these topics in person as opposed to seeing things from a textbook.


When you think of students you think of their academic and social commitments, typically the last thing on your mind is a research opportunity because how could they possibly have another time commitment? Luckily, the process for applying for a research program is super simple and can fit around any hectic schedule.

Many professors here strive to find students who are interested in collaborating with them to research together, but most of the time they rely on the student to speak up. Individuals might not know, but a dream for a professor is having a student so interested in the topic at hand that they are willing further dive into the concept.

It’s super important for everyone to go to office hours, not only to help discuss learning material, but also to begin to build a relationship with professors, so be sure to start that habit early on. If they see you have a genuine interest and drive for their class they may approach you about future opportunity. However, if you feel extremely curious about a research opportunity, don’t hold back because any professor will certainly be excited to recruit someone on whatever project they are working on because ultimately they wish to see us succeed.

If talking to a professor directly about this seems intimidating, or if you wish to look at multiple avenues for research opportunities the university has the office for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (OURCA). This is a resource that connects students, whatever their major, to people who know exactly where research can be available for their interests. This service while spanning to the creative arts this service is also open to any and all majors on campus.

It is important to start diving into the research that involves potential career paths because it not only looks wonderful on a resume, but it helps decipher what you might want to aspire to become. Through this process you can build a reputation for yourself in the field and really expose yourself in a safe environment that allows for mistakes. Ultimately, I encourage everyone to try something new and delve deeper into the topics that truly make them passionate.