Monday, December 24, 2012

Why I LOVE my major and minors!

Hey everyone!

I hope you're all enjoying your Holiday break! As I am typing to you, my mother is cooking up a storm for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, my sister just came through the door with an armful of packages, and as for me...well, I'm avoiding the last-minute cleaning and wrapping I have to do with a blog post! So, thanks for fueling my procrastination.

As most of you may know, I'm a Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts major at Saint Mike's. I have this belief: the longer the name, the cooler the major! If you're from the same school of thought, then nothing is better than MJD!

When I started the college search, I knew I was mostly interested in schools that offered a Journalism program. The thing about journalism, though, is that it's one of the fastest-growing and most changing fields of study. Modern technology has changed the way the media work. Journalists are no longer just writers; they are photographers, designers, editors, and web creators. What made SMC stand out for me was that our MJD department was taking this into consideration. Before I got to Saint Mike's, the major was known as "Journalism and Mass Communication". Then, the department revised its curriculum in order to allow more focus on much of the emerging technology and new skills that are needed to succeed in today's industry.

One really fascinating aspect of the MJD major is that we are not only learning how to use technology responsibly and effectively, but we are also learning how to analyze the ways in which new media may change the way we receive information and even alter the ways we view the world. There's no doubt that people are spending more time than ever indoors, that we now receive news and information mostly over the internet, and that so much screen time often leads to negative health effects. But, how do computers change the way our brains function? What does the impact of technology have to do with human interaction? With so many opposing views and thousands of outlets to receive news, how do we choose which source to trust? How have social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter changed the ways we interact with each other? These questions, among many others, are ones that all MJD majors will become familiar with and eventually answer in their own terms.

One of the ways we consider these questions is through a week-long "Tech Fast", a time each semester when students are encouraged to completely "unplug." We turn off our cell phones and ipods, write many assignments by hand, and stay away from computers--which, as a school that relies so heavily on email to keep students informed about happenings on campus, is an incredibly difficult task. This is all optional, of course, but most MJD majors take part in it as a way to fully comprehend our reliance on these tools. The tech fast always creates some awesome discussions in class, as all of the students get really pumped to share their experience.

An inspirational message to MJD students on the door of a Bergeron computer lab. 


Of course, the curriculum wouldn't be much if the department didn't have an incredible staff of professors to teach it. Well, MJD majors present and future, you're in luck! The Saint Mike's MJD department employs several amazing journalists from various specific areas of interest. They have traveled the world, worked for an array of companies, taught at other prestigious schools across the country, and they've been published in all media forms. These professors are dedicated, too. I've spent a lot of time in Bergeron (the main academic building for MJD students...hopefully you'll like this tight-knit journalism community, because you'll practically live there!) and there are always professors around, in their offices, having meetings with students, and helping out in the classrooms. They work extremely hard to make themselves available for anything the students may need.

Another quick thing to tell you about the MJD major--this group of students and professors is truly a community. It's evident in the impromptu study sessions, the conversations that might last long after a class has ended, and the fact that you'll probably get to know every single person in the major. I remember a conversation I once had with a transfer student who commented on the competitiveness of her old school. She loved that at Saint Mike's, the students were "all in it together"--learning from each other and willing to help other students succeed. I can definitely relate to that. I love that these students are so talented, they're constantly pushing me to do better without even realizing it. But at the end of the day, we're simply trying to better ourselves, not outdo each other--which allows us to realize that we are truly each other's best resources. The camaraderie of the MJD department at Saint Mike's is likely to go unmatched at most other schools.      

To see some student-run MJD work in action, check out the Defender, our weekly newspaper that covers all kinds of news and events on campus and around the Burlington area.

So, that was a LOT, and I feel like I've simply skimmed the surface. This is obviously a topic I'll constantly come back to on my blog, so I'll make the appropriate tags for you all to explore as I continue posting throughout my college experience. For now, I'll only say a few things about each of my minors:

The Environmental Studies minor (also offered as a major) at Saint Mike's is by far one of the coolest approaches I've seen to this interesting area of study. This has an interdisciplinary focus, looking at nature and the current issues in our environment from several perspectives. Not only do we study sciences like biology and ecology for a basic understanding of the way our earth functions, but we observe human interaction with nature over time by analyzing art, literature, philosophy, and even music. We look at famous environmental disasters and legal cases as well as modern issues that plague our world, including climate change, food insecurity and the global water crisis. The Intro to Environmental Studies class I took this year was extremely engaging, as four professors from different disciplines came together to teach a course that really opened my eyes to the world around me.

Creative Writing has been an absolute pleasure for me so far. I love to write, which is one of the main reasons I went to school for journalism. However, I often find that there's a lot of structure in journalistic writing, and sometimes it's necessary to stick to a certain format and of course remain objective (depending on who or what you're writing for, you can be more flexible with your writing, but traditional journalism might not always allow this). The Creative Writing minor is the perfect outlet for me--sometimes, I just want to write fiction! I've also found that my CW classes have strengthened me as a writer in general, and they often help me see my MJD major in a different way. CW has allowed me to explore different styles and techniques to find a way of writing that is uniquely me.

If you're interested in Creative Writing but you're not sure if you want it to be your minor, have no fear--there is a solution! You can practice and contribute to the CW community by submitting pieces to the Onion River Review, our campus literature and art publication. I'm an auxiliary editor for the review, which basically means that I get to read the submissions and meet up with the rest of the editors once or twice a year to help decide what to publish (it's so popular that unfortunately, there's not enough room for all of the submissions!) It's a really great way to get involved with people who share similar interests--there's also an open reading for poetry and other work about once a month on campus!

So, there you have it--a little look at why I love learning at Saint Mike's. Stay tuned for more major/minor information as well as the normal shenanigans! For my next few posts, I'm hoping to focus on some projects that I've done or contributed to in some way or another.

Again, Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading!

Lauren

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Catching Up

Hello Readers! I am so sorry that it's been what seems like forever since my last post. As you may know, the last few weeks of the semester are always the busiest as everyone is rushing to wrap up their classes. Since so much has happened in such a small amount of time, I will update you on some of the highlights:

Earlier this month I attended a Christmas party held by Founders Society for alumni, faculty members and their children. It was a lot of fun--Alliot was all decked out for the occasion with a giant Christmas tree and an appearance from Santa, which the kids loved. We also had craft stations set up so that they would have little hand-made gifts to bring home with them.

My friend Cara and I had a photo shoot in Santa's chair after he left.



Our craft station made candy-cane reindeer!


The Christmas party was a good break from working on projects and studying for finals, and it also got me into a really festive holiday spirit. Though we did not get much snow, and what little we had is already melted and gone, campus looked like a winter wonderland during the first week or so of December.

Beautiful!
As the snow melted and the next few weeks carried on, things became a bit more challenging. With deadlines and finals approaching, there was not as much time to relax or get away from work on the weekends. Although many a Saturday afternoon was spent in the library, the stress of the semester closing was accompanied with and balanced out by good friends, late-night runs to the Knightstand, and laughing fests that seem to come out of nowhere simply because we're so tired that everything seems hilarious (come on, you know what I'm talking about!).

There were also some stress-free events held on campus. The comedian, John Hodgman, put on a show that had all of the students laughing. There were a ton of activities for people to relax at the end of a long day, like getting Henna tattoos or "Fun Night" in Alliot when we were given crayons and paper tablecloths at dinner and allowed to let our inner five-year-olds free.

As for finals themselves, I think they went really well. My final assignment for Nature and Outdoor Writing was due on Monday. We had a choice to research an environmental person, organization, or issue, so I wrote about the global water crisis. I also had my Christianity final on Monday, and was actually surprised at how much I wrote for each of the questions we had. Though I had studied hard, I didn't think I had much to say. But, I ended up using almost the whole two-and-a-half hours allotted for the test, and I filled up two essay booklets!

On Tuesday, I had my Environmental Studies exam. We had already presented a group project for this class a week earlier, which was an event that I had seen as so important that until Tuesday I felt as if I was already done with the course. I'll admit that this test threw me off a bit--because I had taken that attitude about it, I wasn't in the best mindset to take an exam. However, once I got into a rhythm, I found it pretty easy to write responses to each of the questions. It was an open-note test, but I only referenced my books when I felt that I needed to. Otherwise, I relied on my brainpower and passion for the subject to take over, and once more I found myself staying the whole time to complete the exam.

My website for Advanced Digital Media was also due on Tuesday. This project was a final portfolio website that had to incorporate all of our past work into one big project. I have to admit, this assignment was certainly the most intimidating for me, as I am not the most technologically-minded person and I often become extremely frustrated with design programs. I poured all of my spare time and tons of effort into the project, and it really paid off. It was definitely the most complex assignment I had completed all semester, and apart from a few extra things I wanted to do but ran out of time for, I had gotten the result I wanted.

Here is a sample from the home page of my website, which had a slide show of my photography.

The website was due at 5PM on Tuesday, and after making some minor adjustments, I finished just in time. Once I sent it in, I took a big sigh of relief--I was done! This hectic semester was over!

The euphoric feeling lasted about two seconds. My next thought was...now what?

It's funny once you're officially done with a semester. At first, it doesn't feel real. One minute, you're racing against the clock, trying to get everything done. The next minute, there's nothing else to do.

I came up with ideas quickly though. Since I was catching a ride home with Sheila and she was not done until Friday, I spent my next few days of freedom cleaning out my room, which definitely needed a few days' worth of attention, and getting all of my Christmas shopping done on Church Street with local Vermont products. (Okay, and I slept A LOT.)

After Sheila's final presentation on Friday, we piled all of our stuff in her car and got on the road to head home. It was only a few minutes into the ride when I heard the awful news about the tragic elementary school massacre that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. A friend from that area told me, so we turned on the radio and listened to the news most of the way home. I know that during this holiday season, my thoughts will remain on the victims of this event and their families. It is so terrible and unfortunate that nothing will ever be the same for them.

Hearing this news made me hug my family a bit tighter when I got home. I am so lucky and grateful to have them in my life. To all of my readers, I hope that you and your loved ones have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.

So, that just about wraps up the last few weeks of my blog absence. And quite a few weeks they were! They were difficult, yes, but they were equally productive, interesting, enlightening, and at times even fun. They have caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting about how far I've come since the beginning of the semester and even since I began college. They have taught me lessons about time management, stress, and especially in light of the past few days, love, the true meaning of the holidays and the most important things in life.

I spent my first day home with my family. We put up our tree and Christmas decorations. I also spent some time looking ahead at my plans for the future--so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go read through all of my study abroad materials!

Please excuse my creepy smile--I'm just a bit too enthusiastic for this endeavor.
Stay tuned for more posts--I'm working on a list of everything I want to tell you about my major and minors!

Happy end-of-semester!

Lauren

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Well this is awkward...

Oops, looks like I haven't been here in a while. I swear, it's not you, it's me. Really. Sorry to be keeping everyone waiting!

First of all, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I really enjoyed it, and it came at just the right time too--it was so nice to relax a little bit over break before coming back for the final stretch this semester. I just finished one project last night, which worked out well, but I still have two more to finish as well as a paper that I'm hoping to be done with by the end of next week. Then, I just have to study for exams and before I know it, there will be nothing left! I'm sure it will be relieving, but at the same time, I'm not going to know what to do with myself!

It's a good thing I'll be going home for winter break...there will be no boredom when there are Christmas lights to hang, trees to decorate and cookies to bake! (In case you couldn't tell, I'm a Christmas fanatic. In fact, I'm wearing a shirt right now that's from the boadway musical of Elf that says "Sparkle Jolly Twinkle Jingley." Yeah, I'm one of those...)

So anyway, I just wanted to check in with you all. I'm still kickin' and going strong. Hope you're all doing well!

PS, It's snowing up here in Vermont. LOVE IT!!!! I hope it'll be a white Christmas in New York this year as well.

Wherever you are, stay jolly...and stay warm!

Cheer,
Lauren

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Have I told you how much I love my classes?

Well, I'll tell you again!

By now, you probably know that Nature and Outdoor Writing has been my favorite class this semester. One reason for this is simply that the content of the course matches my interests perfectly. It's an MJD (my journalism major) elective, as well as an elective for Environmental Studies and Creative Writing minors. We read works from all kinds of environmental authors, ranging from Leopold to Suburban Safari's Hannah Holmes. We also get to write our own pieces, including memoir-like accounts of our own experiences as well as creative natural history articles that incorporate research.

Basically, it's the perfect class for me because it's a crossroads of my major and minors. I'm always finding connections between my classes (for example, 3 out of my 4 classes this semsester have discussed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone) but this one takes the cake!

It's also just a really fun course, and Professor Sultze organizes some really cool activities for us. At the beginning of the semester when it was warmer, we had class outside pretty often. This was also the class that had the field trip to Burlington's bike path where I rode a tandem bike for the first time. Yesterday's class was another awesome opportunity--we had a guest speaker from a local bird sanctuary come and show us some of the birds!

Here is an Eastern Screech Owl named Carson, after famous Environmental author Rachel Carson. She was a very "talkative" bird!

This is a Barred Owl, one of the most popular owls in many areas across the United States.

This is a red-tailed hawk, and the picture doesn't do her justice...her wing span was huge, and when she flapped her wings you could actually feel the wind from it on your face!

I just figured I would share that with you. This was definitely a highlight of my week! But, stay tuned for more MOVE news as well as other fun stuff to come!

Lauren

Sunday, November 11, 2012

South Dakota, Here I Come!

Hello everyone, and Happy Veterans' Day!

Some of you may know that I have applied for another domestic extended service trip with MOVE. I had such an amazing time in Texas last year that I really wanted to go on another trip--I also love extended service because I take an entire week to devote to helping others, and focus on nothing else. These trips occur during school breaks, so it makes thema lot easier to schedule in.

Well, a few weeks ago I got the results from my application in my mailbox, and this past week we had our first set of meetings with the other MOVE groups.

Ladies and gentleman, *drumroll please...* I am going to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota from May 18th to the 25th! WHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

You guys, I am SO EXCITED for this trip. My group is going to a Lakota reservation, where we will work with the non-profit group Simply Smiles, which is "dedicated to providing bright futures for impoverished children." While applying for the trip, it was noted that this was an extremely intense and emotional one.

The Cheyenne River Reservation has seen some harsh economic times, which affect the people in tons of ways. Many people don't stay in school, and Simply Smiles tries to keep that from happening as well as work to keep building the community and improve the quality of life. While we are there, we could be working on projects that would help the community in any way possible.

This year will be different because I'll be going with a much smaller group of people and we'll be focusing on working with people directly rather than on environmental issues. It's going to be a totally different experience than I've had on my last trip, and even though I loved Texas, I'm so happy about that because it'll be something completely new. The trips won't even be comparable--that's the awesome thing about extended service trips. You never know exactly what you're getting into!

As much as I just want it to be May, I shouldn't be rushing to get to this trip. It's going to take a lot of preparation, especially mentally and emotionally. I can't wait to have meetings with my group and learn more about what the trip will be like. Our student trip leader, Jenna, a friend of mine who I actually met on my Texas trip last year, sent us some links to the Simply Smiles website and their examples of past work with the reservation:

http://www.simplysmiles.org/whoweare/

http://www.simplysmiles.org/our-projects/crst/

This is just one example of the various opportunities one can have with extended service and MOVE as a whole. Other trips I applied to included an animal sanctuary in Utah, a Habitat for Humanity trip to New Orleans, and one that focuses on helping the migrant worker community in Immokalee, Florida. There are also bus trips that go to homeless shelters or school districts in need in places like Buffalo, NY, Baltimore, Connecticut and New York City.

I really love being involved with MOVE, even though I don't get to do local events as often as I wish I could...but extended service offers the perfect opportunity to make a difference while seeing a new place. I know this trip is going to require a lot of dedication, but I am more excited than ever to take it on and have a brand new experience.

I hope that whatever you do, you remain passionate about it. Here's to MOVE 2013!

Cheers,
Lauren

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Help, I didn't get into all of my classes! What do I do now?"

Class registration is nerve-wracking--all students can agree to that! As much as Knightvision, our online registration program, is efficient, it has its faults. Students often don't get their first-choice classes on the first try...or the second. As a seasoned Knightvision failure, I can tell you that the worst thing to do at this point is panic. It gets you nowhere! Besides, most schedules are not set in stone--sometimes, it can be a really simple fix!


My personal experience with Knightvision has been comical at best. It all started the summer before my freshman year, when I visited Saint Mike's to learn about registration and sign up for classes. I had everything that I wanted to take chosen and ready, and then everyone in the computer lab had to press "submit" at the same time. Mostly everyone waited a few seconds for the program to load and then saw their successful registration pop up on the screen. My computer loaded and then...logged me out of the program.

You can imagine my initial shock! Thankfully, Will Marquess, my temporary advisor for the day, came to the rescue and showed me what to do. He helped me pick out different classes, since some of my first choices were closed. Then, he told me the dates when registration would open back up, and said that I could tweak my schedule as much as I wanted to during that time. I ended up with most of the classes I had wanted the first time around, or ones that would fulfill the same requirement.

Registration for the following semesters did not get any easier. I have been timed out of Knightvision, kicked out of classes that fill up, and computer-crashed. My friends began making jokes about how unlucky I am when it comes to Knightvision, and how I will never get the classes I want on the first try. To be honest, I'm starting to believe it--maybe I will never have an easy registration day! I think that my reaction time is too slow, so when I hit "submit" at 7am, it's not EXACTLY 7am.

Am I making this all sound like a horror story? No fear, people! The good thing about being such a registration day failure is that I've become an expert at getting the classes I want the second, third, or even fourth time around. It just takes some more effort!


Most importantly: BE ON TIME for regisration!
Here is some advice for those of you who have experienced Knightvision Failure:
1.) Know your stuff and be prepared. Make sure you know when your assigned registration day is. You'll get a letter in your mailbox and a follow-up email about it, so it should be easy to remember. All of the rules for undergraduate registration can also be found here, on the school website. Prior to registration day, log on to Knightvision and pick out the classes that you want to take. Put them on your "preferred" list. Also, make sure you meet with your academic advisor. This is extremely important because your advisor has to clear you for registration. Failing to set up a meeting will result in no access to registration because you were not given permission.

2.) Always, always, always have a back-up plan. You've picked your top four classes? Great, but you're not done yet. Choose your second top-four classes. And your third. Figure out each possible way you can work your schedule out so that you can pick and choose properly. For example, my priority class for this semester was Global Communications. It's required for my major, and it's only offered in the spring. However, I knew that it would be silly of me not to have a back-up for this class. It's wildly popular, and tons of other people were making it a priority too. When I didn't get into it, I immediately signed up for Media Law instead--it's another class required to complete my major, and one that I'm interested in taking as soon as possible.

3.) No matter what, try to fill your schedule. You only got into one out of your four preferred classes? Well, you can always try to get into the other three again--but before you log off to take the next steps with getting those classes, register for something else. Look at your academic profile and try to take some unfinished LSC requirements or elective courses for your major. You can always drop these if you add a new class. But you don't want to be scrambling around on the last registration day trying to get any old class just to fill up your schedule. That's only setting you up to either take something that you don't necessarily need or something that you're not interested in.

4.) If you don't get into a class, don't give up on it. There are several ways you can try to register again. We can use my experience as an example here. My initial registration date was Monday (Group 1). I got to register for classes with half of my class year. The second half went yesterday (Tuesday, Group 2). On this day, registration is closed to Group 1, just as Monday had been closed to Group 2. However, today was Open Registration for the entire sophomore class. So, I logged onto Knightvision this morning and tried again. There was one spot left for Global Communications, so I dropped Media Law and tried registering for it. When my registration loaded "unsuccessful", I registered back into Media Law and logged out.

But this step doesn't stop here. I immediately logged into my email and sent the professor a message explaining my situation and why I wanted to take the class so badly. A lot of times, professors will be willing to accomodate one or two extra students. This is how students are able to petition into a class. So, I told him that I'd like to take the class and asked when his office hours are so that I could meet him. This is an important thing to do: if a professor is going to let you into a class that is at its capacity, they want to make sure you're going to put in some effort, too.

5.) Petition. Before you meet with the professor, stop by Founders Hall (where the office of the Registrar is located) or go online and print out a petition form. When you meet with the instructor, he or she will sign it, and then you can bring it to the Registrar and they will process it for you. Then, you're in!

6.) Remember about open registration. Once everyone in the school has had their registration day, there are a few weeks of open registration for all classes. This semester, it's November 12th to December 7th. Things change around a lot during this time, so make it a priority to check at least once a day until you get your desired schedule.

7.) Attend a class. Still didn't get what you wanted? Or maybe you've changed your mind and want to take a different course? Try one more time. At the beginning of the next semester, sit in on the first class even though you're not enrolled. Before or after the class, talk to the professor and let him or her know that you're interested. This is especially important if you did not try to petition into the class. Simply e-mailing the professor will not show much dedication, and most likely will not result in their allowing you into the course. Besides, it's important to make sure this really is the class you want to switch into, and only knowing the title and description of the course won't give you a feel for what it's actually like. Visiting the class will give you the experience you need to make this decision.

So, there you have it! You can always try to turn a registration nightmare into a success story--nothing is set in stone. If you don't get the right classes the first time around, don't panic. Just try again! Make sure you've exhausted all of your options before settling with your schedule.

And if you still don't get the class, remember that if it's required it will always be there again. Spend your time getting the most out of the classes you do have rather than worrying about ones you don't have. I was very excited for Global Comm, but if I don't get into it, I'm just as pumped for Media Law. I've heard good things about the class, and the professor is my advisor! So, this would change my plans a little, but one thing that college has taught me is how to be flexible. No matter what, I love journalism courses, and I know it will be a productive and awesome semester.

Good luck registering, everyone!

Lauren

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Best Concert Venue (Higher Ground)

Now, most of you know that I am a HUGE fan of concerts. Something about seeing your favorite artists performing live, with a group of people who love the music just as much as you do...well, it never gets old! There's so much energy at concerts that you can't get from just listening through your earbuds.

I've been to a lot of concerts--at least one (usually more) every year since the 6th grade. So, I've seen a few venues. You might imagine that my favorite place for a concert would be in some ridiculously massive stadium. The crowd is a part of that energy, so the more the merrier, right?


Going to the Bell Centre for Jason Mraz was surreal...but smaller shows have their benefits!


Truth is, I actually appreciate smaller venues. As awesome as it is to see thousands of people all gathering for the same music and to be a part of something that big, a more intimate setting is nice because you can be a lot closer to the performers--and you have a much better chance of actually meeting them! Every time I've gone to Higher Ground, a popular venue in South Burlington, I've been able to talk to a band member or see the show from the front row! On Sunday, I went to see Eric Hutchinson at Higher Ground with (you guessed it!) my concert buddy Sheila.

For those of you who may not know him, Eric Hutchinson is a pop-rock singer/songwriter with a natural ability to lift your spirits. I had first heard of him a few years ago when I randomly walked into Target, picked up the first 10-dollar CD I saw, and bought it. His album Sounds Like This was full of upbeat music that just put a smile on my face! When Sheila and I first met in high school, we initially bonded over our interest in his music and we went to a concert together. Since then, we have been to quite a few concerts, but we knew we had to go to this one. We're now in college together, we still love Eric, and he was coming here! I think that when she first told me, I actually screamed (I know...typical fangirl).

Sheila and I in tenth grade at an Eric Hutchinson concert...some things never change!


We had been sitting in the front row!
The show was incredible! He performed songs from his older albums as well as his newest one, Moving Up Living Down, which he wrote after moving to New York. It was really cool to hear all of his stories about the songwriting process. He was really funny too!

After the performance, we got to meet him and tell him our story. He loved the fact that we first became friends because of him. He enjoyed the fact that his music is "bringing people together."

The opener for the show was phenomenal as well. I had never heard of Jessie Payo before going to the show, but as soon as she began her first song I knew she would be amazing! She's such a talented singer and musician, and she was hilarious. She had a great stage presence and really got the crowd excited for the show. I enjoyed all of her songs, and she even did a cover of "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People. We talked to her before Eric Hutchinson came on, and she told us that it was her first time in Burlington and she really liked it here.

Jessie Payo was a sweetheart, and really stylish too!

Jessie Payo joined Eric Hutchinson for his song "Back to Where I Was".

So my last Higher Ground experience was tons of fun. I've been there a few other times too, and I have to say, it's my favorite place to see concerts! I love all of the people who perform there--sometimes it's hard to choose! But the other awesome thing is that it's not very expensive, either. I have never bought a Higher Ground ticket for more than $25. I went to my first Higher Ground concert last November for Jon McLaughlin and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. We also went to see Fun. last year, which was awesome because it was the first show on their tour!

Here I am with Sheila (far right), her sister Maggie (far left), and Jon McLaughlin. I remember that he smelled good even though he was sweaty!



Jack Antonoff made our night when he took a picture with us. We're huge Fun. fans!

We've actually been debating whether or not to go see Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers again, because they're coming back to Higher Ground this Thursday. However, it's a school night, and we're actually going home this weekend to see Maggie's play. We didn't want to cram too much into one weekend, but maybe they'll come back again sometime! :)

Here's a video of Jessie Payo singing "Take it On", one of our favorite songs of hers.



I hope you're all having a great week. I'm off to go listen to some good music!

Lauren

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Checking In and Plans

Hello everyone!

So, I don't have much time tonight, but this post is just to check in with you all and plan out my next few posts--it'll be some interesting stuff, so stay tuned throughout the week!

First of all, I would like to send my best wishes to those readers who are or have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Luckily, we haven't had much damage here, and we're not expecting to get the storm full-force. Some precautionary measures were taken, though. Any classes starting after 4 PM were cancelled today, as well as events and activities. It was suggested to all of us to stay indoors due to high winds. We will find out tomorrow morning whether or not classes will resume. I was also relieved to hear that my family in New York is doing well. The last time we spoke, they still had power and nobody was experiencing flooding issues. Let's hope it stays that way! So, I have been extremely fortunate. Dear readers, I hope you're not experiencing any emergency situations!

Other than freakish weather, I've been occupied here with various assignments, events and activities. This past weekend was a lot of fun as our campus celebrated "Halloweekend" with a Halloween dance and related fun activities. I live in Linnehan Hall on North Campus, which is right next to the Vermont Public Television station, and I have to say that one of my favorite things this weekend was seeing all of these children lining up in front of the station in their costumes. They were adorable!

I also have a few upcoming posts. One will include more details about my weekend, which involved another concert at Higher Ground. My ever-present concert buddy Sheila and I re-lived the first performance we ever saw together: Eric Hutchinson. Needless to say, it was a memorable night, and we loved every minute of it! I can't wait to get the pictures from the show and tell you more about my past Higher Ground experiences.

I'm planning on some other posts, too, including one about registration. That's right: it's that time of year again (already)! Time flies when you're having fun! I'm glad to say that I've figured out my ideal class schedule, so I will let you know how it goes!

I also need to tell you about my major and minors. Exciting things are happening in all of my areas of study, and I absolutely can't wait to share!

So, stay tuned throughout the next week or two. I'll be updating regularly.

Stay dry everyone!

Lauren

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Break and a Pumpkin Party

Hello everyone!

Last Friday I told you that the upcoming weekend was a long one, because we had Monday and Tuesday off. Last year during Fall Break, I went home to visit my family. This time, I stayed here and they came to visit me! My parents have obviously been here before, but they brought my aunt and uncle, who had never seen Saint Mike's. It was so much fun showing them around!

Dad, Mom, Aunt Tracey and I hanging out on Main Campus.

My mom left her mark in the Word Garden!


The weather was a bit cold and rainy when they first arrived, but it cleared up pretty quickly and it was beautiful on Saturday! We took advantage of the nice day and went on a drive up to the Champlain Islands in northern Vermont. At one point, we were only about a mile away from the Canadian border! We also took the bridge over to New York.

Hmm, which way to go?

A lovely view of Lake Champlain.

After the ride, we came back into Burlington, where we went to Church Street. I insisted on getting kettle corn...it's one of my favorite snacks to have while I'm downtown. I could live on that stuff!

Mmmm...kettle corn!
We tried to cram as much as we could into the days they were there, so it was pretty hectic but lots of fun! Everyone had a great time, and I was so happy to see my family after seven weeks without them!

This weekend has been jam-packed with fun stuff, too! Yesterday, my friends and I decided to have ourselves a "fall party". Some of us went apple and pumpkin picking that morning. It was a beautiful day, so we took a drive out to Shelburne Orchards. We had a great time picking apples, and they were delicious!

Cara found a good one!
 
Greta likes liberty apples!

Once we picked up pumpkins, we returned to campus and began making apple and pumpkin pie. Other friends contributed cupcakes, cookies, and pretty much any dessert you can think of...there was a LOT of food!

Nobody knew where to start!


Cait and Emma mixed the apple pie filling.

Emma, Alex, and Merrill made delicious cupcakes! (Click on the linked names to see their blogs!)

We also brought our pumpkins outside and carved them to make jack-o-lanterns. It brought me right back to my childhood! I know some people get freaked out by "gutting" the pumpkin because it feels so slimy in your hands, but I have to admit that's one of my favorite things about pumpkin carving! It turns out that most of my friends are the same way. It got very messy very fast!

Getting started!
 
Liz with a "pumpkin beard"! She separated all of the seeds so that we could roast them :)

And here are the finished products! Maya and I carved the one in the middle with hearts for eyes.

Our party was definitely an awesome way to spend the day. The fun will continue later on when Green Up, an environmental club here at SMC, hosts their annual Harvest Fest. There's all kinds of food and tons of fun activities. But for now, it's time to study!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, everyone!

Lauren

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weekends at SMC


As you can tell from many of my posts, weekends at Saint Mike's are one of my favorite things about college. Don't get me wrong, it's still awesome during the week--I absolutely love everything I'm learning in my classes and wouldn't trade it for the world! However, weekends are the best time for relaxing and catching up with people I don't get to see much during the week...including my own roommate! You'd think that since we live together, we get to see each other all the time. But we're both really busy, and we each have really different schedules. We're lucky if we get to eat together! So normally, during the week, we only get to see each other and talk for a few minutes before bed each night. That's why you can bet we're attached to each other on the weekends!



My roommate, Maya, and I at Friday Knight Dry.

This past weekend was a lot of fun, and it started with Friday Knight Dry, an event that promotes sobriety on campus. This is an awesome night held once at the beginning of each year where students can attend a bunch of different activities, like open mic night in Alliot or a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (a personal favorite!). The more activities you go to, the more raffle tickets you get, and then you can enter to win prizes at the end of the night! This year's prizes included an ipod shuffle, a Keurig coffee maker, gift cards, dvds, as well as various other prizes.

My favorite part of Friday Knight Dry is right at the end when all of the students go to Alliot for yummy treats. Before the raffle tickets are drawn, our 3 a capella groups perform their first concert of the year. They are the Sleepless Knights, the Aca Bellas (an all-female choir) and Mike Check (an all-male choir). All three groups are amazingly talented and they do a wonderful job at their performances.

After an awesome night, I spent most of my Saturday afternoon out on Church Street with Maya and our friend, Tanya. We got bagels at Bruegger's and then went browsing through a few cool stores like Second Time Around, a designer consignment shop (read: WAY cheaper than you can get this stuff for normally!) and Old Gold, a really cool store that's perfect for trying on Halloween costumes! I'm no sure what I'm doing for Halloween yet, but I did buy a Snow White costume, so I better figure something out!

When we got back, we had to get ready to go bowling. Our friend Sheila's dad, Jim, was visiting for the weekend, and his birthday was this week. Jim has been an important person in all of our lives since we met him, and we wanted to celebrate with him and do something special. I think he had a really great time!

Here he is getting ready to blow out the birthday candles (I won't tell you how old he is!)

So, next comes the part of the weekend that (I admit it...) I dread a little bit: Sunday (dun dun duuuuhhh). Sunday is homework day, of course, but not without brunch first! Normally, my freinds and I meet in Alliot for brunch, where we always make Belgian waffles. This weekend, however, we decided to have breakfast up North in our dorm building, Linnehan, and make it ourselves since we have a kitchen!

I must say that having a kitchen this year is pretty awesome. It's definitely one of the perks of living up North. About 40 students share this kitchen, though, so we always make sure to clean up when we're done!

It was an awesome brunch! Tanya and Cori, who live on Main Campus in Founders Hall, came to eat with us, so they stopped at Dunkin Donuts (conveniently placed between campuses!) and bought Munchkins on the way. Danny made biscuits, Maya made potatoes, and Shawn made...well, everything else. I contributed by helping to clean up and mostly staying out of the way while everyone cooked...trust me, that's the best contribution I could've made for all of us!

Shawn was very proud of his omelette-making skills.


Maya, Danny, Cori, and Tanya (looking away from the camera...a little shy in the morning!) enjoying our lovely breakfast.
 
 
After that, we all had to part ways to do the homework and laundry that we had been avoiding. But, we had an awesome weekend together, and there was so much to talk about from the week before! This weekend should be fun too, since we have Fall Break. That means no classes on Monday or Tuesday! Most of my friends are going home, but I'm really excited because my parents and my aunt and uncle are coming to visit for the weekend. My aunt and uncle have never been here before. I can't wait to give them a tour of Saint Mike's and some of my favorite places around Burlington! I think they're really going to like it.
 
I hope everyone is having a great week. Til next time!
 
Lauren

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tandem Biking, Mountain Hiking, and Other Shenanigans (Just an Average Week at SMC!)

Happy October and Happy Monday!

Last week I had to finish a project for my Nature and Outdoor Writing class called Encounters. Basically, we've been working on this project throughout the whole month of September, trying to spend as much time as possible outdoors and documenting what we saw. I spent a great deal of my month walking through the woods taking pictures...sounds awesome, right? It gets better though! We also get to spend a lot of our class time outdoors, and we journal about all of our adventures. Our class this past Thursday was a bike ride! We went to Local Motion, a local business that supports biking in Burlington, and rented bikes (a cost that we were luckily able to get funded by the school). I got to ride a tandem (two-seater) bike with my friend Nate. On the way back, I rode with Professor Sultze--we had some laughs trying to coordinate our pedaling. It was so much fun!

"You'd look sweet upon the seat...of a bicycle built for two!"
It was such a relaxing day, and I still can't believe that I got to go on a bike ride for class. It'll definitely be one of my favorite and most memorable classtimes ever!

Anyway, I started off by telling you about my Encounters project and kind of forgot where I was going with that. Woops! On Friday morning, only a few hours before I was to hand in my project, I was sitting outside on a bench with my friend and we saw a squirrel jump into a trash can. Now, the squirrels here at Saint Mike's are pretty crazy, so there was nothing new about that, but the problem was that there apparently wasn't enough trash in the can so the poor squirrel got stuck all the way at the bottom! It was trapped and couldn't get out.


So sad!
No fear, though. Saint Mike's students to the rescue! A few people crowded around as we took the lid off of the trash can and slowly tipped it on its side. The squirrel had been scared and was hissing at us (who knew they could hiss!), but it scampered away as soon as it was freed. I hope none of the other squirrels jumped in after we left! I decided to give the last page of my Encounters Project to this little squirrel. It certainly was an interesting encounter!

So, as you can see, I had an interesting few days. But it gets better! I was doing a lot of homework over the weekend, so I was happy to take a break. Earlier this month, I had signed up to take a hike with the Wilderness Program. The Saint Mike's Wilderness Program is really cool because it offers you a chance to go explore all of the awesome natural wonders of Vermont in a safe environment with people who share the same interests. Plus, it's pretty cheap! You can even borrow and equipment you might need so that you don't have to buy all of your own.

Each trip has student leaders who have been trained as wilderness instructors. Our group had two awesome leaders, plus four other students in all. I liked having a smaller group...we all got to talk and get to know each other while doing something we loved!

This was my first activity with the Wilderness Program. Every time I signed up for something last year, I unfortunately had to cancel. So, especially after a long week, you can imagine how pumped I was to hike Mt. Hunger!

A beautiful view of a waterfall about halfway up Mt. Hunger.

The hike was a 2.2-mile trail to the top, so 4.4 miles in all. Some areas were pretty steep while others were a more gradual ascent. As we got toward the top, it was much rockier, and we had to climb some parts of it. To be honest, it was quite the workout!

It was also pretty rainy, so it was difficult to see. I imagine that the view from the top would have been awesome, but we lucked out enough with the weather. At the summit, we stopped to eat lunch. It wasn't raining yet and there wasn't much wind. It was cool, but it felt nice after all of that hiking. It only started raining on our way back down, and there was enough tree cover that it wasn't bad at all.

The summit of Mt. Hunger on a foggy day.

Still, I was soaked by the time we got back. It was a bit slippery on the way down, especially in muddy areas. Being the clumsy person that I am, I definitely had to take it slow at some points. The group was really understanding though, and we all helped each other out.

I'm pretty sore today, but I can't wait to do another hike. Vermont is beautiful, and there are so many opportunities out there. I'm so excited to have another experience like this!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Stress-Kicker

Hey Kids! (I'm not sure why, but that has been my usual greeting to all of my friends lately.)

Sorry I've been away from my blog for longer than usual...things are CRAZY but they're so exciting! I have several projects that I'm working on for classes, and they're pretty cool but I've been definitely feeling stressed lately.

So, what better time than the present to write a post all about...you've got it, STRESS! (I'll stop using capitals now, I promise.)

First of all, I'd love to direct you to an awesome article on our branch of the Her Campus website that's called Helpful Tips for a Successful Semester. It's written by our very own Lauren Carter, and it is an excellent source for de-stressing and having an overall awesome semester.

Want to know the ultimate stress-kicker? Manage your time. Easier said than done, I know. Trust me, I know. In fact, I have 7 minutes to finish writing this blog post...I gave myself until 5 to finish it, but since I didn't manage my time and decided to let my phone distract me for the first twenty minutes sitting at this computer, I'm now limited to...6 minutes. And counting.

In all seriousness, not managing your time can result in constantly feeling overwhelmed, and that's not fun for anyone! In fact, I was in such a bad mood last week from this feeling that I had to apologize to my friends and roommate for being so cranky! You don't want to get into the habit of staying up until 2 AM to finish your work--in the end, you're just wearing yourself out, and your grades could even suffer. I'm happy to say that I've gotten back on track and I'm my jovial self again. I bet everyone around me is relieved!

I should get going, seeing as I have one minute now to get to Alliot for dinner. Then, at 6, I'm going to an extended service meeting for MOVE. I'm so excited, and I had the best time in Texas last year! I hope I'll be able to go on an awesome adventure again this year!

Stay un-stressed!

Lauren

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Canadian Adventure

Hello everyone! I'm so sorry that I'm a bit behind in my posts, but I can't skip over the INCREDIBLE time I had last weekend!

I am a HUGE Jason Mraz fan, and my best friend Sheila has always loved him too. Her cousin, Mike, is his drummer for his current "Tour is a Four Letter Word" tour. Over the summer, the two of us had checked to see if we could get tickets at a location near us, and when we found out that they'd be playing in Montreal while we were at school, we began planning a trip!

I was so stoked to be going to see one of my favorite artists with one of my favorite people in a brand new place! I have been to Canada before, but only when I was very young. Montreal was going to be the experience of a lifetime!

So last Saturday, Sheila and I hopped on a Greyhound bus. It was only about 45 minutes to the border, where we got off the bus and went through customs. It was a rather quick process, and very painless. We weren't staying overnight, so we had packed light with only our purses and jackets. We had our passports ready; they were checked and then the officer just asked us a few questions, like why we were crossing the border and how long we'd be staying. After that we went into a smaller room where we waited for the other passengers to finish up and we all got back on the bus. Then it was just over an hour to get to Montreal!

Once we got off the bus, it took a few minutes to get ourselves accustomed to a different country. We went to an ATM and withdrew some money. We found later that most establishments in Montreal accept American money anyway, but it was still pretty convenient to have Canadian money on us. After that, we looked up where we had to be on the maps that Sheila had printed out on Google that morning. We decided that taking the metro would be smartest, since it otherwise would have been a 40-minute walk with somewhat confusing directions. We were a bit nervous about using the subway system, since it's so easy to get mixed up, but our Google map gave us exact metro instructions so we were fairly confident. We followed the hallway from the bus terminal to the metro terminal, bought some passes, and found the right track. The metro in Montreal is very clean and even more efficient--we went through 3 stops in under 5 minutes! It was so fast that it almost felt like we weren't moving.

Sheila took this "tourist-y" picture of me before getting on the metro.


Anyway, we got off at our stop and went up to street level. This is where things got a bit complicated. We had to get to the Centre Bell, which was the venue that Jason Mraz was playing at and where we were going to meet Mike before the show. However, there were many different versions of the directions that we had, and several addresses. We had no clue which one could be right. We headed off in the direction of the one that we thought could be it, but about ten minutes later when we came upon the location, we saw that it was definitely the wrong Bell--it was some sort of company store. We had to retrace our steps and start again, but soon enough we finally found it!

It was a HUGE stadium!


After arriving, we claimed our tickets. We still had some time before meeting up with Mike, so we walked down the street to a restaurant. After all of that traveling, we were starving! We ate quickly and got back to Centre Bell.

The second problem was that unfortunately, Sheila's phone wasn't receiving service. Mike was expecting a message from Sheila to know when we were there, and she was so excited to see her cousin but had no way of communicating with him. We told a security guard our problem, and he directed us around the other side of the building to the security office. As we were explaining what we needed to the guard there, someone from sound check was signing in. He told us that he would find Mike for us and let him know we were there, but sound check was running a bit late, so he wouldn't be able to come out right away. We sat at the security office for a little while, and finally we saw Mike coming out to greet us. Sheila was so happy to see him! He was such a nice guy, and I was glad to have the pleasure of meeting him. Then, to our astonishment, he brought us backstage!

Sheila's cousin, Mike, and I on his tour bus.


IT WAS SO COOL!!!! Can you tell that I was amazed? Mike brought us out onto the stage and let us sit at his drumset. We looked out at all of the seats and imagined them being full during the concert. It was so surreal to see the view that the band members get from the stage. I felt so small!

Christina Perri was opening for Jason Mraz, and Mike brought us to meet her drummer, Elmo. He was really cool! He told us that he likes to call his mom after a show--we thought that was so sweet! We also got to meet the other band members, including Jason's horn players, and also Mona, a percussionist. She was really nice, and she ROCKED during the concert!

Speaking of rocking during the concert, I haven't even begun to tell you about the best part. Our seats were so close to the stage--only 6 rows back! We had an amazing view. Christina Perri was phenomenal, and she seemed so amazed at the packed venue. It was easy to tell how grateful she was for this experience. Then, after Jason Mraz & co. came onstage, I don't think Sheila and I sat down once! We were singing and dancing along to all of the songs. It was such an energetic show!

Sheila and I in our matching Mraz tee-shirts.

Mraz and Company playing one of their finale songs. Mike is on the right side of the photo, playing behind Jason.

The whole trip was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had. Sheila and I were proud that we were able to navigate through an unfamiliar city--although I'll admit that I couldn't have done it without her! We had such an amazing time at the concert, and it's definitely something I will never forget. Montreal was such a beautiful city, too, but unfortunately we didn't get to see too much of it since we left that night! We decided that we definitely want to go back for a weekend sometime!

Show Mike some love by "liking" his Facebook! : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-Leroy-Bram/384561074944968

Here is a video from the concert (I found this on Youtube, it wasn't taken by me or Sheila). Enjoy!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Going to the Fair

Last weekend was tons of fun. The Champlain Valley Fair comes to the Expo (just down the road from SMC) every summer, and we get back to school just in time to go!

Normally, the fair is an orientation activity. Freshman students receive a ticket for the same day and they can all go together as a class. Unfortunately, due to Hurricane Irene last year, most of my class didn't get a chance to attend. So, this year, my friends and I made it a must. We went to the petting zoo, rode the ferris wheel, and ate a LOT of greasy-fried fair food, none of which I regretted...forget the calories, fried dough at a fair is necessary!

My favorite girls and me, ready for a night at the fair!


The ferris wheel


A cool view from the ferris wheel!
Animals always love Tanya! This one kept nudging her to keep petting!

If you're ever in Essex Junction around the time of the Champlain Valley Fair, I definitely recommend going. It's an awesome way to spend a Friday night!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back and Better Than Ever!

Ever since move-in day last Saturday, the days have been packed with organizing, learning, social gatherings, and TONS of fun! Let me catch you up on my classes:

Fall 2012 Academic Schedule:

1.) Intro to Environmental Studies: This class meets for one hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, plus a 3-hour lab period every Monday. I have one professor for the lecture class that meets 3 times a week, and then the lab class is split up between three different professors. This is a different setup than other lab classes because environmental studies involves so many separate disciplines. So, one professor teaches the more scientific concepts and works with us outside while the other two focus on the philosophical side of the course, as well as history, law, and everything else that goes into understanding the complexities of human impact on the environment. In all honesty, I was really afraid of how having four professors for one class would work out. It turns out, though, that they all work together really well and the entire class seems to just blend together perfectly. Our class project seems pretty cool too...but more on that later! All in all, this is my first class for my ES minor, and I think it's going to end up being the perfect choice for me.

2.) Advanced Digital Media: This class is a Media Studies elective that is only offered every two years. After taking the required Digital Media: Art, Culture and Theory class, I decided this next level would be a good idea for me. I love Journalism, but I know my weakness in the MJD major is anything having to deal with graphic design or learning different computer programs to create images or web pages. Although computer stuff proves itself a challenge for me, I really liked the first class last semester and I'm already enjoying this one. There's just so much to learn...with constant updates in technology, this field is always changing, and even though it's so quickly paced it's all quite exciting! I have this class for an hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday morning, and I always find that time flies quickly while I'm there. Professor Sultze teaches it, and she keeps her students very engaged with the fascinating content of this course.

3.) Christianity: Past and Present: This class was the one a bit out of my comfort zone. I'll admit that my reason for taking it was to fulfill the LSC (Liberal Studies Core) requirement; I would have never thought of it otherwise. Before my first class I could only think, how am I going to sit through an hour and a half of straight lecture? After all, this is a religious studies course--there would be no lab component, no class outside, no interactive computer program assignments. But, this is why the LSC classes are so awesome...they're never what you expect, and they always show you another side of yourself and teach you what you can do. I found that it's actually a really interesting subject. I always thought that all of the different branches of Christianity, as well as its relation to other religions, was really confusing, and maybe that's also why I was wary about taking the class. But so far, everything is completely understandable, thanks to Professor Byrne. I also enjoyed the homework that I had to read from the Bible, now that I actually get what's going on! As for the lecture, it turns out that I can get through it after all! We often break into groups to discuss different themes, ideas, and questions, and the class is set up so that all of us can have our questions answered.

4.) Nature and Outdoor Writing: I saved this class for last for a reason--it is my absolute favorite! As my second class this semester with Professor Sultze, it has a very relaxed feel but it's also an excellent learning environment. Besides, all of my assignments involve spending time outside! We had our last class out in Gilbrook, on the nature trails behind the 300 Townhouses--just a short walk from the classroom. We all had to find a quiet place to sit by ourselves and write or draw our observations, including every sensory detail. It was a very calming exercise, and I found when I was done that I was much more focused and less stressed than I had been before I entered the woods. I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend today as well, and was actually able to call it homework because I took pictures for a class project. I'm learning so much already, and this class is also reinforcing my passion for creative writing. I've officially made the decision to declare a Creative Writing minor!

So, those are my classes this semester. I'm a little bit behind on updating you all, and if I had the time now I'd describe my weekend trip to the fair and all of the unpacking and reunions that took place even earlier in the week. However, it's getting quite late, so I will fill you in on all of that fun stuff next time.

I hope you've all had as great and fulfilling of a week as I have. If you're just getting back to school now, too, then I wish you the best of luck. Have a wonderful year!

Peace,
Lauren