Sunday, February 15, 2015

Going Places with Senior Sem

Last week, Sheila and I went back to our hometown in New York. It wasn't just a normal visit home, though--we actually crashed there after a long 5-hour drive so we could recharge the batteries and then wake up early the next morning and get on a train to New York City, where we did some filming for our senior seminar project.

As I've mentioned before, Sheila and I have partnered up to film a documentary about aging and ageism for our capstone. This is one of many things I love about MJD. The senior seminar allows us to investigate any topic of our choosing--literally anything--and produce our findings in either a book, website, or documentary format. Pretty much the only criteria is that we do something that hasn't been done before (or explore a past topic from a new angle), work with a partner if it's a documentary, and check in with regular homework assignments and presentations. Otherwise, anything goes.

Which is a huge undertaking, of course, and tons on tons of work. There's a lot at stake too--the project isn't just a grade, but something that can be put in our portfolio and on our resumes, and maybe even something that's published for people all around the world to see (as has happened with some in the past). I like the way we do our senior seminar in my major because honestly, I don't think I could deal with writing a 50-page paper all semester. Sheila and I did write 52 pages for our proposal, but we took just a few weeks to do it and used it as a way to organize our ideas and research. While it was an important part of the project, it wasn't the only part, so there wasn't as much riding on it as there is for people who do something like that for their entire capstone. Besides, our capstone takes us places other than the library!

So last Friday we went to NYC and interviewed Ashton Applewhite, a prominent anti-ageism activist and author, and I swear if I hadn't been on a schedule I might still be there because she was so interesting to talk to. She had so many important things to say and her passion really came through on film. I think her voice is going to add a much-needed angle to our film, as she really helped tie together loose ends on a lot of different themes. Sheila is an angel and already made some rough cuts of the interview, which can be found here.

We also visited the offices of DoSomething.org, a non-profit that seeks to get young people actively volunteering in their communities. Whey them for a film on aging and old people, then? One of their campaigns, called Grandparents Gone Wired (GGW), pairs up a teenage mentor with an older mentee who wants to use a new technology, whether it's Skype to keep in touch with faraway family and friends or an iPad so they can download cool apps or anything in between. We spoke with some of the campaign organizers, and they said it's really helped improve daily life for the older people participating as well as created come great multi-generational friendships--something that Ashton, as well as Sheila and I, really advocate for and something that we're hoping to show others with our documentary, so they're inspired to do it too.

We had a great day in the city, and we took the train back home to Poughkeepsie to rest up. Then, the next morning, we left for Woodstock for one last NY-based interview.

I came into contact with Alix Dobkin through a really interesting chain of events, and I'm so glad I found her and she was willing to do an interview with us. An esteemed folk singer, Dobkin was an integral part of the women's liberation movement of the 60s and 70s. An activist for most of her life, I found her by looking through names on a roster at the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) website. They're a group that works to combat "all the -isms," as Alix put it, and they've done a lot to raise consciousness about homophobia and particularly how it affects aging lesbian women. I'm lucky I've been taught to always do a Google search of the person I'm interviewing before I meet them. As I read about Alix's life and listened to her music that morning before heading out, I realized I had scored the interview of the century. It was incredible to hear some of her stories and she even performed a few songs for us! She also gave us each a copy of her memoir. I can't wait to read it!

So New York was a great success, and when Sheila and I returned to Vermont we presented our recent work to our classmates. They loved watching some of the footage and we got great feedback about where to go from here. On Friday we went to the Champlain Senior Center, which I've spent a lot of time at already both this and last semester, to film part of a Valentine's Day celebration. It was great to see so many familiar faces and a ton of new ones as well.

Coming up is another batch of interview subjects, and we have quite the array of people who have shown interest already. Right now we're working on confirming plans with a few women from the Burlington branch of OLOC, a local group similar to DoSomething's GGW campaign, and the Alzheimer's Association. We have a few exciting events coming up, too. Since we're taking a very holistic approach toward looking at every facet of aging and ageism, we have a lot of ground to cover. The more interviews to help with that, the better!

As you can see, we definitely have a lot going on to keep us busy. Our film is tentatively titled The Art of Aging, and if you want to keep up with our progress you can follow us on social media:

Facebook
Twitter

We also have a (VERY rough) website, where we'll be posting more soon, here.

Who knows where the rest of the semester will take us? Stay tuned!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snow Days at Saint Mike's


The view from my front door on this snowy day.

As I often tell my tours, the "snow day" is a rare occurrence at Saint Michael's College. Since we are a fully residential college, classes are never formally cancelled for the school. Most students have a less-than 5-minute walk from their domiciles to their classrooms, so it's pretty understandable.

("Come on, this is VERMONT. We don't stop for a few snowflakes!" says every native Vermonter, as they stand in 3 feet of snow bundled in their L.L. Bean coats wearing lumberjack hats and shoveling out their Subarus. Put on your big girl boots and toughen up, kid. We're in for a long winter--groundhog said so.)

However, just because it's still easy for the students to show up doesn't mean it's always this way for professors, so sometimes classes are cancelled on an individual or class-by-class basis. Every morning in the winter, students all over campus wake up in the morning and rush to their windows. If there's so much as a single flake in the air, they rush to their laptops with excitement equivalent to a small child's as they check their emails.

Now, I've heard plenty of stories. Profs SKIING to class in the morning to stay on top of their syllabus, doing everything they can to bring knowledge to their students (they're dedicated, and they are Vermonters, after all). In fact, many of them also live very close to campus and don't have long walks themselves. But, every now and then, a snowstorm can be too much for even the most well-weathered SMC professor.

So it is with great pleasure that I opened my laptop this morning, still wrapped in my cozy blanket and wearing my fuzzy sleep socks, to find that my prof for my only class today didn't want to risk it. He advised that we use the spare time to work on our projects and wished us a happy day.

Rather than venturing out in the cold, I decided to take him up on that opportunity and work from home on some things that needed to be done as well as more planning for my senior seminar project. I write to you from the warm comforts of my couch, wearing those same fuzzy sleep socks, sipping on some delicious French Vanilla hot chocolate.

Happy Snow Day to all! Stay warm everyone!

Friday, January 30, 2015

"Who is Not Here?"

This post is quite late in the making, but as my friend Merrill said--it's not exactly late when every day is a good day to talk about it, not just the national holiday to commemorate it.

And what's the "it"? Well, if I'm being honest, not just one thing. We learn at Saint Mike's that everything is connected--after all, that's the essence of a liberal arts education--and I can't think of a better example than this year's celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

I began last week with a roommate outing to see Selma, the new film starring David Oyelowo as MLK. It's a heart-wrenching and incredibly beautiful tribute to not only Dr. King but the hundreds of thousands of people who supported the movement that we study in our textbooks today. I highly recommend seeing it, for anyone who hasn't yet.



One thing that really moved me about this film is the soundtrack, and my roommates and I have been listening to the song "Glory" on repeat. John Legend and Common together is a beautiful thing, and even better are the thought-provoking lyrics, which draw parallels between the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and today's modern movement for racial equality. This song is important because it drives us into the present, and over this past MLK celebration week, I've been impressed at seeing what can happen when we interpret our past in a way that can help us reflect on now.



The week started off with the MLK convocation, which is an annual event held in the chapel where different speakers are asked to come give a keynote address to kick off the week. This year, the headliner was Kevin Powell, an incredibly successful activist, writer, and public speaker. I think what I liked most about his speech was the inclusiveness of it. While the main takeaway was of course to continue working toward racial equality, he made note that we're not done with this conversation until people of all races, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability and age are treated with the same amount of acceptance and respect, all around the world. His words inspired and ignited. The night continued with speeches from students, beautiful music, and incredible poetry.

However, I think the most important thing about this event was the theme. The name for this week's discussion was, "Who is Not Here?" and I think that's the best question we, as a student body, should be asking ourselves. This is what I mean by bringing Dr. King's words into the present, into this time and place.



It's no secret that a private, Catholic, liberal arts college in Vermont would draw in a specific crowd. We are a school of predominantly white, middle-class skiers and snowboarders from the New England area. Despite Saint Michaels' best efforts to increase diversity on campus, the majority of our students have the same background and have lived very similar lives. So we must ask, who is not here? And by their absence, what are we missing?

I remember as a first-year student taking my Race, Gender and Ethnicity in the Media class. I was excited for it, and then on the first day looking around the room and thinking, how are we going to have a conversation about race when the student body in this classroom only represents one of them? When the most racially diverse class I had here came my senior year, and that was because a whopping 4 out of 18 students were a race other than white, I had to take a step back and think, how have I isolated myself so much from being able to learn in a diverse community--and what am I not learning because of it?

That's not to say that it's not an inclusive community here. Looking around at my peers, I know that I am surrounded by intelligent, socially engaged people who are quick to strike up a conversation with anyone around them, no matter their race, class, age, etc. They're interested in everyone and everything, they aren't quick to make judgments, they're good listeners, and they care about the world and the people in it. They're like me. They were attracted to Saint Mike's for the friendly community as well as the rigorous academics, the challenges they knew they'd get here. They came here for those things.

And yet...and yet. They came here too, though, because they were able.

They were able to come here because they went through a school system that prepared them for college. A school system with enough resources to truly challenge them and to empower them into believing they would accomplish everything they set their minds to. Most of them had supportive families and friends encouraging them. Many of them had guidance counselors and other helping hands. Many of them had money. They took tests that favored literature they grew up knowing, written by men who looked like them, cultures that were familiar to theirs. They grew up comfortable, and that led them here.

Moise St. Louis, Dean of Students and also our Director of Multicultural Affairs, said something at the beginning of the evening that really stuck with me. He told us that sometimes, we do our best learning when we are uncomfortable. He told us not to bat off our discomfort, but to sit with it. If it feels like something's wrong, then something's wrong.

On an individual level, it's nobody's fault. But collectively, we don't have to accept this separate world we live in the way it is. And to begin that conversation, well, that does start with individuals. So, this is me acknowledging my privilege. It is my privilege to be here at this prestigious institution, because I was able to be here. I chose it because it was the best education I could possibly get, and that is my privilege--one of many. I support the diversity initiative here at Saint Mike's, but I'm arguing (and I think everyone would agree) that we need more. More needs to be done, and it needs to happen now.

That's all very good and idealistic, isn't it? So where are the real, concrete answers here? I'm going to be honest--I don't know. Even after sitting in the chapel and being so impassioned by Kevin Powell's words, by this beautiful collective moment of catharsis we shared...I walked out of there and immediately felt flattened back out. What do I do? What do we do?

The answers aren't easy to come by. That's why I needed this education in the first place. Sometimes I think that the only thing I learned here is that I know nothing. But, ironically, I had a professor who once told me that that was all I ever needed to know. Because if I know that I know nothing, then I'll keep searching.

Hopefully, enough of us will keep searching. If we do, we will find each other, and someday we will all end up here.

PS: On a related note, I want to take a moment to congratulate my long-distance friend Fatima, who has been awarded for her outstanding journalism on her city's response to the Ferguson verdict. You can read her work here, on her school's newspaper website. Keep reporting the truth, Fats, even when it's something other people might not want to hear.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Second Semester, Senior Year.

Well, here we are, folks!

Y'all know how much I love it here at Saint Mike's, so it's a little bittersweet to know that my time is so extremely limited now. I feel like I have to accomplish so many things in a very small number of days in order to have had the true Saint Michael's and Vermont experience. I'm suddenly rushing to write a bucket list with my housemates, hoping I'll have time for everything in this race against the clock.

But at the same time, I realize that feeling does a total injustice to everything I have done here over the past three and a half years. And I've done a LOT.

And, despite the mixed feelings about having to leave so soon, I can't help but feel that the time is right. Even though I have some really interesting classes this semester with some fantastic professors (we'll get to those details in a moment), it's been taking me some extra motivation to care about attending them as much as I did when I was a first-year. I'm still learning so much, but I'm starting to feel a bit beyond the classroom vibe. I'm ready to show up (to whatever I end up doing in a few months) in the morning with the same vigor that I went to an 8am class with three years ago (thinking that's what it means to "sleep in"...silly young Lauren).

That feeling has nothing to do with my schedule and everything to do with senioritis (a post on that is in progress). So, without further ado, here's what I've got going on as well as my predictions for the semester:

1.) The Great (Fire)Wall: Monday & Wednesday, 1:30-3:05 P.M.


I am of course very excited to be taking this course, as I'll be learning about a culture I know nothing about--just like before I went to Morocco. I'm especially curious about the media environment in China, as we're all aware that the internet is heavily monitored (I wonder if you can access my blog in China...?). One thing I am NOT thrilled with: hearing the other students discuss their excitement to go on the trip, as I unfortunately won't be able to make it. The group leaves a couple days after graduation, and between my financial situation after having traveled so much in the spring and summer (read: I'm broke) and my current state of "what the heck are my plans for a few months from now" I wasn't comfortable with taking off for another adventure just yet. Everything is a bit too up in the air for that.

So yeah, I'm a little jealous, but I'm not the only one in my class who isn't going. Despite my travel bug, I do think the class will be worthwhile. This is also my first experience with Professor Rob Williams, or "Dr. W" as he refers to himself, and he's super charismatic and definitely passionate about this subject. He opens every class with a loud and proud "Ni Hao!"

2.) Environmental Hazards: Tuesday & Thursday, 9:45-11:20 A.M.






This is my final class to complete my Environmental Studies minor. I had the option to take any ES course offered this semester, as I already completed the required courses. At first I really wanted to take Buddhism and the Environment, but for scheduling purposes I thought this might work better for me. It turns out that what started out as my second option is quickly becoming a major topic of interest for me. I'm more interested in the social side of natural disasters, including anything from prevention to human impact to legislation. We're covering all of that, plus learning about how natural disasters occur and some of the science-y things behind them (yes, I'm truly a liberal arts kid through and through...).

We're also looking at this from a global perspective, so I'm pretty pumped for our research paper (yes, you heard me right. Pumped. For a research paper.) where we get to choose a country and look at what types of environmental hazards they've had within the past generation or so, and how they've dealt with them. At first I was totally ready to start looking at Morocco, but now with my China class I'm thinking maybe I'll do some searching there, too. Actually, this week in my China class someone mentioned the smog over Beijing due to factory processes, and the types of human health and environmental impacts this has had. Maybe I'll do some more digging around, but it's nice to know I already have a few options in mind.

The major con: as with a lot of topics in ES, this can get incredibly depressing. You can't talk about environmental hazards without talking about degradation and death. But I think that's what makes it so important, too, and why it needs discussion. The other con is that my textbook still hasn't arrived in the mail, but thankfully Professor Stroup is super nice and allowed me to make copies from hers for the time being so I don't fall behind. I'm glad I asked for help!

3.) Senior Sem: Wednesdays, 3:15-6:20 P.M.


This course description is accurate, and yet it tells you NOTHING. What do you need to know about this course?

This course will empower you and routinely crush your dreams at the same time, and it is fantastic.

What do I mean by that? Okay, so maybe it was a little melodramatic, but basically this course is a whole lot of work with a whole lot of reward. It's just like the ISJ I did in Morocco, but on a bigger scale. And honestly, after doing my ISJ, I absolutely can't wait to jump into this project.

So as you know, I'm working with my best friend Sheila on a documentary film about ageism and forming relationships in senior citizen communities. We've been doing research and establishing contacts, and now it's time to get filming. I'm meeting up with her and Professor Hyde later this afternoon to discuss our next steps and how we're going to accomplish the huge task we have in front of us.

It's obviously a ton of outside work, so why the three-hour class? It's a great time to collaborate with other groups, learn about their topics, and bounce ideas off of each other. Each week a different person brings snacks, and it's basically having a homework party with your best friends. I can tell, this class is going to be like hitting a refresh button for me. Whenever I get stressed out, it helps me to walk into class and talk to my professors and classmates. Not only do they validate my concerns, but they also help me work through them when I'm stuck. Looking around the room at our first meeting the other day, I was so content. And once we got talking and pitching our ideas, it was like someone lit a fire. We feed off of each other's passion and drive, and that is by far what I love most about our little Bergeron community.

What a perfect way to end four years, right?



So, in case you haven't noticed, that's three classes, four days a week. That leaves me with one less class than normal and a whole gosh-darn day!

I only needed 8 credits to graduate, as some of my high school AP courses carried over and counted for college credit. So I chose to take 12 (that way I'm still a full-time student with health insurance) and allow myself a day off in the process. Since I'm really committed to this senior seminar documentary, I honestly don't think I'll have as much free time as one might expect. And I'm glad to have a 3-day weekend--Sheila and I are already planning a trip to New York City to interview some people there for our documentary, and this gives me more travel time without missing class.

But for now, I'm happy to use my Fridays as blog days and to get a head start on work for the next week. I'm feeling really good about getting back into the groove after a long and mostly uneventful winter break--not having any projects gets a bit boring!

To all my readers, good luck embarking on this new semester!

Lauren

Sunday, November 30, 2014

There's so much to be thankful for.

I stole my title from a Josh Groban song on his Christmas album--because yes, I am already listening to Christmas music, and no, I am not ashamed of it. Moving on.

I know it might be a bit overkill to make a post during Thanksgiving break about what I am thankful for, but I decided to take a page from Merrill's book and take a moment to look at life. Especially in terms of recent events in the past few months alone, I'm realizing more and more how truly lucky I am for all I have.

First and foremost, I am thankful for family. From my immediate family, to my sweet grandmother, to my cousin who will be married this April and everyone in between. For better or worse, these are the people I'm stuck with (just kidding guys...sort of...). They're the ones who have helped shaped me as a person and supported me to become who I am today. They were here in the beginning and they'll be here my whole life, just as they always have, and I think that's amazing.

I am grateful to have known all four of my grandparents, and one great-grandparent.

I am grateful to have both of my parents, still together, as a strong presence in my life. Their support, despite frequent differences in opinion, is perhaps the sole significant factor in what has most enabled me to explore and live the way I've wanted to. Though I've put up with plenty of "black sheep" jokes over the years, I know they're proud that I'm their...uh...unique younger daughter.

The Kopchik family on Thanksgiving, circa 2011. 

I am thankful for the girls of #TH214...though you definitely already knew that by now. I could (and have) go on about them all day. All I can say is, senior year won't be the end for us. Before I start crying real tears, I'm moving on.

They're my kind of crazy.

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to return to my old high school during school hours for the first time since I walked out of those doors on the last day of classes my senior year, way back in 2011. I visited my old history teacher's class, where I spoke to his African Studies students about my semester abroad in Morocco. This caused me to reflect on a few things:

I am thankful for the teachers in my life, all of whom instilled in me a love of learning and healthy sense of curiosity. From my own father, who taught for over 30 years, to my favorite school teachers throughout my childhood and young adulthood, to my professors and mentors, and all of my informal "teachers" who have proved invaluable along the way--every single one of them showed me the importance of not only knowledge, but wisdom. And all of the other good things (eloquence, for instance...#oops).

I am thankful, time and time again, for Morocco. I am thankful for experience, opportunity, and travel, and I've had a lot of all of those. But I can't think of a better way to express that gratitude than to reflect on the time I had in Morocco, which was the epitome and culmination of all of those things and even more. I am thankful that I was welcomed with open arms into a country I hardly knew anything about before arrival. I'm thankful the the hundreds of strangers I met along the way who helped me with simple good deeds, who smiled when they saw a lost girl who just needed a little kindness, and of course who listened patiently as I tried to explain what I needed in a mixture of grammatically broken languages, bad accents and hand gestures. I'm thankful to my host families, my friends from around the world, and the cats--the CATS!

I'm grateful for Fatima and Lina, who I met in Morocco and who I still talk to on a regular basis. Though there is more distance, our friendship only grows stronger.

I'm grateful that my host family still stays in touch, and that even those who can't speak English still let me know they're thinking of me and communicate by sending me pictures of the kids or silly Facebook stickers. I'm also grateful that they seem to know exactly when I really need them. When I'm having a bad day or feeling particularly nostalgic, I open my inbox and without a doubt, there they are.

And just when I feel like some things are slipping away, or I get sad because I look back on Morocco and wonder if I'll ever experience something like that again, something happens to bring it all back. Like a former teacher inviting me to talk to his class about it. Or the time Peggy Imai asked me to speak on a panel to parents of students who want to study abroad. Or when I give a tour, and the students are particularly interested in discussing it. All of those memories suddenly come rushing back, and though it's a bittersweet experience, every time I am thankful that I get to share my story with others.




Readers, I am thankful for you.

Some other unsung heroes? I am thankful for two guys in #TH217, who vehemently refuse to make the hashtag I created for them a thing. They, as well as a bunch of other kids on campus, have been great friends since freshman year, and college would not have been the same without my extensive SMC family. I am also thankful for Sheila, who I have known since high school and have gotten so much closer with in college. She has been there for so many important moments, and there is nobody else I'd rather do my senior seminar project with this year.

She's a gem! <3


I'm also thankful for the incredible people at the Champlain Senior Center, a community that I only joined very recently but I've already grown quite attached to. While conducting research and doing interviews for a film project and for senior sem, I've gotten to know some incredible ladies who have remarkable stories to tell. My visits to the Center have easily become a highlight of every week and the warm welcome I've received there has gone unmatched to any experience I've had other than Morocco.

Last but not least, I am thankful to Elizabeth ("Iz", as I like to call her), who I have known since the 7th grade and have therefore gone through every awkward phase in life with. As someone I don't get to see very often these days, I've come to realize her importance more and more as time goes on. As my grandma used to say, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." Iz, my heart is as fond as humanly possible right now, so it's about time we had a girl date this coming break.



There are so many other people and things in life that I am thankful for, but I think you guys get it. Like my buddy Josh said, there's so much to be thankful for.

Best wishes,

Lauren

(PS, I'm also thankful for music--currently listening to "Need a Little Sunshine" by Augustana, one of my favorite bands...who I am very grateful to have seen in concert at Higher Ground recently with my housemate Cait. Dream come true!)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Yes, I am procrastinating right now.

Good morning, readers!

After the past few tours I've given, I've been thinking a lot about the way I represent myself to students. I am a self-defined hard worker, and I do believe my professors, classmates, and colleagues would agree.

However, I am not a robot. When I first became a tour guide, I used to be afraid to admit my faults--like how, on a daily basis, I STILL struggle with time management. Normally when I'm speaking to prospective students I paint it as a thing of the past, something I "used to" have a problem with until I took my first year seminar course and learned tricks from my professor to stay on top of my work.

I will give myself the credit of knowing that my time management skills have indeed improved immensely since my freshman year. This comes naturally, as you become more used to the college routine and the knowledge that you're going to be scheduling your week and doing things differently every semester.

But if I'm being honest with myself, the struggle is still real. And I think that's true for most of us--we will always have days, weeks, or semesters when we just cannot get a grasp of what the perfect schedule is for us.
Gosh, where did the time go?

I think this is important to recognize, nothing to shy away from, and nothing to be embarrassed about. Because time management skills and procrastination are such huge issues among our generation, it's necessary to talk about.

So, back in the day when I was a first-year student, I wasn't quite sure how to handle the whole college thing. For the first time in my young adult life, my day wasn't dictated by a bell schedule. I had to keep an eye on the time for myself and get myself to class on time. I had more responsibility and more freedom at the same time--I mean, how weird it was that I didn't have to start the morning with the pledge of allegiance, that I could go put my books away in my room rather than my locker (and maybe take a nap before my next class while I was at it), and that I could freely venture off-campus during the school day if I wanted to? I didn't even have to take gym class anymore! It seemed great.

Then, a few weeks into the semester, I suddenly became incredibly overwhelmed. I realized that I had no idea when I should be eating, sleeping, or doing homework, and two out of three of those things ended up often happening at 3 a.m. (I bet you can guess which ones). I'd show up to class with dark circles under my eyes. I hadn't yet discovered coffee, but the black tea in my to-go mug was a constant. It was around this time that Professor Sloane, my first year seminar instructor, decided to talk to my class (most of whom looked as much of a wreck as I did) about time management.

Since then, I've pulled more than a few all-nighters. I've eaten pizza at 4 a.m. I've spent my weekend engaging in fun activity after fun activity (or laying around watching Netflix) until 10 p.m. on Sunday evening, a prime time to start thinking about homework (and not actually starting until 11). I've admittedly been late to class due to trying to complete or print an assignment last-minute. I've made all the mistakes and poor time-management choices one could possibly make.

Why am I telling you this? To remind you that you are not alone and it happens. We all procrastinate and we all make some of those bad choices. It doesn't make us bad people, it makes us normal people.

So, what do I do when I get stuck in a procrastination rut?

-You're working on a paper. Your research is done and laid out in front of you, you've got Microsoft Word up on your computer, and twenty minutes ago you typed a heading and your first two sentences. Since then, you've been staring at the blinking cursor on your screen in a total daze. What gives?

This is your brain telling you that you need to take a break. You need a few minutes to get yourself back into the groove you were in earlier, or something that will help you transition from the reading and processing information phase into the writing phase. Rather than letting your brain sit idle, as that can easily get you to lose interest, turn your attention to something else that will help you get into a good mindset for the task at hand. For me, that was switching over to write this blog post. I just finished my research for a paper I'm working on, and halfway into my first paragraph began to zone out. So I came over here. Is it a form of procrastination? Yes. But it's a productive form of procrastination (strange such a thing can exist, I know) and as soon as I'm done with this I know I'll be ready to focus on my paper.



-You just don't want to do it. But you have to.

More often than not, this will happen to me when I have to leave my house in order to work on something, such as when I have a project that involves using Adobe programs and I have to walk over to Bergeron or Jeanmarie and get on a computer. The way I handle this is simple, but it's effective. All I do is repeat to myself how much I truly enjoy the work I'm doing. Hopefully, especially by the time you're in college, you're passionate about what you're learning (if you're not, then the source of your problem isn't procrastination, it's that you might not be doing what's best for you, and you might want to re-evaluate what you really want to do). Once I get myself off the couch and over to a computer lab, I get completely lost in my work. I'm so transfixed on my project that I don't realize how much time passes (which explains the whole 4 a.m. thing) and I often leave the lab feeling great about the time I put in (and wishing I had started earlier).



-Your friends want to chill, but you have stuff to do.

Maybe they finished all their work while you were binge-watching Gilmore Girls and eating a tub of Cheese Balls. That was your choice. Take ownership of it, pity yourself for a few minutes, go through the stages of anger while you think about how your friends are having a great time without you, and then move on. Chances are they're doing the same thing this Sunday that they'll be doing next Sunday (or something equally fun), and maybe you can join them then, if you work your schedule out better this week. In fact, make that your goal so that you can enjoy that time.

If you do choose to hang out with them over homework (maybe they had concert tickets or something out of the ordinary was happening), you need to take ownership of that decision, too. You know you're getting home at 11 p.m. and you still need to write a speech for the next day that counts for half your grade? Well, okay, but realize that when you're still awake the next morning, you made this choice. Make some coffee, put on a nice dress and a smile, rock that speech and then go home and take a long nap. It happens to all of us. Just don't make it a habit, and remember above all that you need to take care of yourself.

So kids, that's that. Manage your time well. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself, and remember for next time where you went wrong. Now that I've had a productive hour of procrastination, I'm ready to tackle that paper. Let's get to it!


PS, I'm stealing this cute idea from my lovely housemate Merrill: What I'm listening to right now: "Brothers" album by The Black Keys

Friday, October 3, 2014

MJD On and Off Campus

At Saint Mike's we like to say nice things about each other!
Wow, is it really 5 weeks into the semester already? I can't believe how quickly time is moving. I think it definitely has to do with the fact that this is senior year, but also because my friends and I have all been so busy!

Last time I told you about my housemates and how we all have these really cool and different things going on. Cait has a major role in the Student Association and just started a blog for her Animal Rights class. Merrill is working hard with an off-campus internship. Alex just completed her LSATs and is now focused on different aspects of her business major and her role as our Blogging Coordinator. All four of us are constantly running around to get things done, but the best parts of our days are in the morning when we get ready together and at night when we can gather on the couch (or the bed in whoever's room we choose to crowd in for the evening) and discuss everything that happened since our woman-empowered dance party that took place in the bathroom that morning.

So, what have I been up to? What have I NOT been up to might be a shorter list!

I'm taking five classes this semester, although two of them are half-credit. Three of those courses are MJD (Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts), but only one of them is actually required for my major. That's my Senior Seminar class, a half-credit course that helps me prep for my project next semester. Senior Sem is a little bit different in MJD than for other majors because we work on it all year, whereas most students complete their projects in one semester. This semester, we focus on doing research and planning out our projects. Next semester is all about the execution of the project and producing the book, website, or documentary that will be the final product of eight months of work. My friend Sheila and I are currently working on research for a documentary we want to make regarding ageism (and many things related to this broad subject, but I'll leave you waiting in anticipation for now).

My other two MJD courses are electives, and so far they're definitely taking up most of my work time. However, they're super cool, and I'm glad I chose to take them for a number of reasons--most importantly because they get me off campus and practicing what I've learned in the "real world," much like I did last semester in Morocco.

The first course is called Digital Film and TV ("Digi-film" for short). In this class, Professor Hyde teaches us about film and all of the techniques that go into making them. We're learning how to use Adobe Premiere to edit our own short films. Our first project has encouraged us to find someone off the SMC campus who has some sort of creative passion that helps them "escape" into another world. I had a little trouble finding a subject at first, until one day when I was out on Church Street watching all of the buskers. I came across a young woman playing an accordion and singing, and I was taken aback by the way she threw herself into the music. She'd stomp her feet, close her eyes when she belted out a high note, and throw her whole body into the accordion as it expanded and collapsed. I immediately knew that I wanted to make my documentary about Laci, and since that day I've been having a blast filming her in interviews and street performances. Not only do I now have some experience of what it's like to film in public, but I have a great new friend with an incredible talent!

The second course is my internship class, instructed by Allison Cleary. Though a full-credit course, it only meets once a week because the rest of our time is filled with working on-site at our internship locations. In class we get together and discuss how our work is going. We also learn how to properly represent ourselves on social media outlets like LinkedIn and touch up our resumes. We took a Myers-Briggs personality test with Ingrid Peterson from our Career Services office. I just had a mock interview with Ingrid the other day as an assignment for class as well, and I was really happy to get some feedback on where I can improve my interview skills (I've got to work on my handshake!). Overall, the class itself is a great way to collaborate with my MJD friends about how to carry ourselves in a professional setting and how to resolve issues that may arise during the learning process.

In class yesterday, we went out to the Word Garden and chose two words that describe our experiences so far. I chose "roam" because I've been enjoying walking to my internship site in the lovely weather we've been having. I've found that it's good to walk and let my mind wander before going to sit at a computer and focus hard on it for hours at a time. I also chose "enthusiasm" because while I may not do everything right, I do it with enthusiasm!

Professor Cleary led the class in our Word Garden exercise.

My site location is at the Emily Post Institute. I'm their Web Development and Marketing intern, and so far the experience has been great. I'm learning a ton about web maintenance and I have one huge web project that will take a good deal of the semester to complete. So far, I'm in a nice friendly environment where I can truly learn and grow from my supervisors and coworkers.

In another class exercise, we went around the room saying what we thought each others' strengths were. My classmates and professor had such nice things to say about me!

I'm definitely loving my off-campus experiences so far. It's showing me that I can apply everything I've learned here to a larger setting, and I appreciate the feeling of knowing that I will be just fine after graduation!