Tomorrow is the day. My nerves are overshadowed by excitement to start my spring semester abroad. The process of organizing everything which led me to this point has not been possible without some amazing people. Thanking my parents only seems natural, as well as the lovely folks in the study abroad office, but there is one particular friend who I owe so much to because she helped me paint a new reality of what’s to come and gave me the answers of how to be best prepared when navigating through the Italian culture.
This friend was introduced to me at one of my numerous study abroad meetings and she was there because she actually attended the same program in Florence just this past year. She, like myself, was a sophomore during the spring semester who attended the Florentine University. However, I was utterly shocked at her bravery when she had admitted she was one of the first of our students to ever travel to Florence. I had been so stressed earlier that week because of the woes of applying for a visa seemed larger than life, but when I heard she willingly traveled where no student had gone before my claim to stress quickly dissipated.
After our initial introduction we had decided to swap numbers and she was gracious enough to agree to lunch one day, dedicating the time for me to shower her with a plethora of questions. I had made a list with everything that made me worried or confused, like the process of buying textbooks in Italy, and what would the apartments be like. She quickly answered everything, giving me advice on the easiest avenue to achieve little things, such as how to pleasantly interact with locals.
There were so many good tips that she gave me. I could tell she wanted me to be aware of so I did not have to endure the hardships that she initially experienced. I was so grateful to her because I realized that as much as I try to prepare myself there will be an awkward phase when learning the ropes in Italy. I can read as many books and blog posts as I want to try to avoid the most simple of missteps, but the reality is talking to people like her is what will help me be successful. She’s one of the only resources that have been in my exact position and has experienced the vast contrast of both universities. I am indebted to her and I feel secure knowing that she’s only a text away if I feel lost in the city she grew to love.
With the stress of tackling new classes it can be easy to forget that there are friends surrounding us every day, willing to help in times of trouble. Luckily there are many components within the university that inherently allow friendships to form. For instance, classes here are small, which allows students to get to know each other quicker and hopefully find their ideal study buddy. Some of my best friends happened to be the people who I decided to sit next to on the first day of class. They’re the people I turn to for help if I’m scared about a test, but also my sources of happiness if I need to de-stress.
Besides finding study buddies in class, another way to meet new people is through events provided by the Campus Activities Board. This organization on campus is student-led and strives to promote events each week that are fun and safe for nightlife. Just this past semester they had a movie night or a guest performer come each week. My personal favorite was when they had a comedic hypnotist visit and perform one Friday night. It was so much fun to meet up with a group of my friends and laugh for the whole hour’s performance. While we were there we even bonded with the group next to us and ended up expanding our friend group.
Another outlet where I’ve met most of my friends is through the clubs and volunteer activities I’ve pursued on campus. There’s tons of different clubs that allow outsiders to join in certain activities. I went to a Mardis Gras celebration with the French Club and found myself being inspired to join. Now I get to meet up with my friends every other week to discuss aspects of French culture and work to create new exciting events to promote our club. Additionally, I volunteer at the Virginia Living Museum and I needed a ride because I didn’t have a car on campus. Luckily, the university reached out to connect me with a student who also volunteered at the museum with the same time slot. We instantly became friends and in addition to working together with our volunteer services we meet at least once a week to grab coffee and catch up.
There are so many opportunities here and while it may overwhelm us when things change, the community and the friendships we invest in will never fail to provide us with strength to continue. I am excited to take on my second semester this year and I know I will be challenged, however I feel most excited for the new friendships that await me within this new year.
Having an on campus job and simultaneously managing your academics is actually very achievable at Christopher Newport. I first started working at the media center in the library second semester freshman year. I applied through a resource online called Handshake, which is run by the Center for Career Planning (CCP) and makes it easy to apply to on-campus jobs. Each week they advertise new positions available to students that range from jobs to internships.
Once I found the job I visited the CCP and they helped me build a professional resume. I submitted the application right away and was exhilarated when I got an email back asking when I would be available for an interview. I informed the CCP of my good news and they helped break my nerves by doing practice interviews and provided feedback as to how I could present myself effectively. By the time I went into the job interview, I was feeling confident and prepared.
My boss is extremely understanding and always allows his students to put academics first. If I have an academic event to attend, and it conflicts with my hours, I am expected to seek another to cover my shift, but if no one is available he is willing to cover the time for me. I have full freedom of making my schedule at the beginning of each semester based on my classes and preferences.
I have to go through some training on equipment pretty frequently and know how to shelve items, but other than that the job really isn’t too demanding. If I don’t have a patron to help I am allowed to do homework at the desk I manage or even listen to music. Not all jobs can allow this on campus, but based on your needs and desires the university will have opportunities that allow you to be successful.
We are expected to fulfill certain liberal learning credits, which means we must explore courses outside of our declared or intended major to help make us a well-rounded individual. In particular, each student is required to take a few courses in a foreign language. At first I viewed this requirement as an unnecessary obstacle to graduating, but I have come to find great value in studying Italian.
As a disclaimer, I’ve always struggled with learning foreign language, especially when it came to memorizing the different vocabulary. I decided once I got here that I wanted to study Italian because I knew a little from my experience with music and was looking to potentially study abroad later in my academic career.
When I first met my Italian professor, I expressed my concern. She was extremely supportive and gave several ideas to assist with learning Italian. She first started showing me several free websites that had unique tactics to help with memorization. Then she also encouraged me to join the Italian club, which held events and had speaking times related to the culture. She also personally held speaking sessions which included a half hour of conversation in Italian. Finally, she also helped me contact the Italian tutor here on campus, whom I could meet with each week to review pronunciation and grammar.
I truly enjoy my foreign language class and I am grateful to have been apart of the experience despite my initial hesitation. I understand the value and beauty of Italian, and have learned innovative tactics to study new material. I am glad to have met my wonderful Italian professor, and I have a deep respect for learning new cultures.
At Christopher Newport, it’s highly recommended you get an internship whether you’re a member of the President’s Leadership Program or not. There are so many opportunities for students to get involved. The way I was able to complete my internship requirement as a rising sophomore was through being an orientation leader over the summer.
FreshmAn year was a spectacular experience for me, and I remembered my crew leader during orientation really started my year off on the right foot. When I got the email that the university was opening up crew leader positions I knew that was the internship for me. I desperately wanted to share all of my wonderful experiences with the individuals who would be going down the same path. The internship was over the summer, which lasted for the whole month of June, and I loved every second of the experience.
Being a rising sophomore and conducting freshman orientation really allowed for me to connect with the students and give them fresh outlooks on how to navigate the university. I told them my successes and obstacles I found challenging, so they could hopefully do better than I did as a first-year student. I had a lot of fun providing them with insights that only a student here could know and in general I strove to keep the conversation open and honest.
I made so many friends through this internship, rising freshmen and fellow crew leaders alike. I learned how to remain calm in stressful situations and help my other crew members stay on their feet. I grew confidence to lead a team and truly discovered how much I loved this university when I was asked to represent it through this internship.
I have always had a little bit of test anxiety, especially if I know things are heavily graded. In high school, it wasn’t so bad because I knew I’d have plenty of opportunities to gain points back if I really had a low test score. In college, it’s a little different because you have fewer assessments and they tend to count more toward your overall grade. Needless to say, having all this in the back of my mind during the first exam here really terrified me.
I’m not going to lie, my first grade back was a little discouraging, but I was determined to persevere. First, I went to my professor’s office hours and found that they were incredibly supportive and walked me through the material that I had missed. They asked me how I studied and gave me a few pointers that might help me for the next time. They also suggested I might get a tutor.
I set up an appointment with a tutor at the Center for Academic Success a few days after speaking with my professor. At first I was nervous to go because I was worried they’d think less of me for scoring so low, but I was pleasantly surprised that they were very supportive. They told me that even people who make the dean’s list come to tutoring because ultimately it’s important to ask for help if you don’t understand the material at first.
When the next exam came around I sat down in our 24 hour study rooms at the library a few days in advance and implemented all that my tutor and professor had taught me. I noticed my anxiety was diminished after speaking with them and I felt confident during the exam. I’m proud to say I ended the year with a solid grade and overall have a easier time preparing for exams because I’ve realized our Christopher Newport community is striving for us to be successful.
Spring semester course registration is just around the corner, but while my peers consider their class options with their core advisers here on campus, I’m busy contemplating what I should study in Italy. I had always dreamed of studying abroad when I came to CNU, but I was completely lost on to how to bring this idea into reality. I was advised to start considering my options early on, so the first thing I did during the ending weeks of my freshman year was set up an appointment with the study abroad office. I was met by the most helpful staff who answered any question I had and guided me to the destination that would best fit my goals and major.
Once I determined my destination I was able to narrow down my choice to my absolute favorite based on location and available classes. The next step that worried me the most was figuring out how I could afford it. After talking to the financial planner of the study abroad office, we found that it was actually not too expensive! She also made sure I had access to financial paperwork, that honestly confused me to no end, and explained every component that I needed to fill out, as well as the significance of each item. Lastly, she recommended a few scholarships to review, which helped start my process to applying.
Next I had to update my passport and fill out a bunch of paperwork, but my study abroad adviser helped me every step of the way. She was extremely helpful with the process and made sure I had everything I needed to achieve my goal. I am proud to say I received my acceptance letter to Florence University of the Arts, where I will be studying political science and communication. I am beyond excited to depart this January, but I owe it all to the wonderful study abroad staff that made everything possible.
Service is a huge component to the Captain experience and being a part of a service group previously, I knew I wanted to continue my work at university. At first, I felt like an outsider glancing in on the Newport News community. It felt too overwhelming to begin to look for where I could assist. Luckily, I knew about our Center for Community Engagement, which is an office that helps students get involved. I told them my interests and my passion to work with animals and they recommended I try volunteering at the Virginia Living Museum, which is right near campus.
When I applied online I was able to speak about my experiences with animals and the museum immediately placed me in animal care. I went through training which taught me how to interact with guests and animals around the museum. As animal care assistant, my specialty would be working with animals, cleaning their facilities and helping with meal prep. I am proud to say that I now know the diet of a wolf by heart, and can hold a kestrel with ease.
I missed my horses so much when I left from home, but I found comfort in the animals I work with every Sunday. My favorite animal is a crow that likes to speak to me. He taught me his impressive three-word vocabulary and actually responds to me if I reciprocate a call. I also befriended a screech owl who is small enough to fit in the palm of my hand and likes to perch on my finger to have a look around the room.
I am so grateful for the unique experiences I have been granted through volunteering. It seems strange that I can be donating my time to a cause and yet be receiving such amazing memories and relationships in return. The volunteer staff is spectacular at the Virginia Living Museum and I am so lucky to be a part of their team.