Two weeks ago, I attended the International Writing Centers Association’s 2015 Conference in Pittsburgh. I work as a tutor in the Writing Center, so this was a great opportunity for myself and my fellow tutors to learn how to improve ourselves. Not only was it informative, but it was also a lot of fun!
The conference lasted for about three days, and each day we went to about 3 or 4 sessions. I heard from schools ten times the size of Juniata, so it was really interesting to hear their perspectives and ideas and see how we can apply them on a smaller scale here at JC. For example, one session was about how to make your Writing Center space warmer and more inviting, and this really opened up our eyes to how sparse and clinical our space in the basement of the library is. Another helpful session was about how to tutor STEM papers, and this was especially beneficial to me since I do not take science classes and therefore am not exposed to this writing style a lot. This alone made going to the Conference more than worth it.
It wasn’t all just work, though. After the day of sessions was over, the fun began. An important aspect of Juniata’s Writing Center is that everyone is friends; this is key because when someone needs a shift covered or we need extra people to work, someone can always be relied on to help. When we weren’t attending sessions, we were grabbing pizza and ice cream and sprawling out in each other’s hotel rooms playing get-to-know-you games. This was a great time to bond.
One of the most important things that I took away from this Conference is how unique Juniata’s Writing Center is. While bigger colleges have paid, full time staff, we only have a supervisor who in turn gives us a lot of responsibility. We set our own schedules, find people to cover our shifts if we can’t make it, and even hire new tutors. In the end, we are pretty much solely accountable for the smooth functioning of the Writing Center. This forces us to have a great relationship with each other, and I hope this translates into a great, friendly atmosphere for tutees! (Shameless plug: we are now open an extra hour: 6-10!)
When you’re applying to college, everyone will tell you about the size of classes, the statistics on graduating in four years, and employment after graduation, but that isn’t all there is to it. It’s also about the opportunities. Of course, when I applied to Juniata, they tried their best to convey to me the abundance of opportunities available, but I don’t think I really understood at the time. Well, I understand now.
Over Fall Break, I was given the chance to go to the North American Wildlife Society Conference. As a Wildlife Conservation POE, this was a huge opportunity. In attendance would be professionals, graduate students, and other undergraduate chapters of The Wildlife Society. To top it all off, the conference was to be held in Winnipeg, the capital of the Province of Manitoba. After some convincing from the other members, and some discussion with my parents, I was definitely going to go.
In total, there were nine of us going, including our chapter advisor, Dr. Chuck Yohn. We spent three days in the beautiful Canadian City of Winnipeg, two of which were filled with talks ranging from “The Importance of Evolutionary Adaptive Capacity when Preparing for the Impacts of Climate Change” to “Indigenous People’s Involvement in Wildlife Management.” By the end of those days, my brain was sore. It was so much information to even attempt to absorb, but it was beyond worth it. I was able to hear from some of the most innovative and creative thinkers in the field today, not to mention we got to spend a whole other day exploring the area. If you’re wondering, Canada is a lovely country, and I highly suggest a visit.
When the year began, I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere but home for Fall Break, but plans can change, and sometimes they should. To tell you the truth, the thing that really convinced me to go was one of those messages in the Dove chocolate wrappers. It said, “Go anywhere but home,” and so I listened. That was one smart chocolate.
Truly, the rule with any situation is that it’s what you make of it. All of the opportunities here would make no difference in my life if I didn’t choose to take advantage of them, so when you’re here, or wherever else you may be, take advantage. Do something that might scare you. Introduce yourself to people even if they may seem intimidating. Go to Winnipeg last minute. When you’re there, eat at a Tim Horton’s and experience poutine. Most importantly, always remember to listen to your Dove chocolate wrappers. You never know where you might end up because of one.
For the first time in my college career, my classes are highly based on exams. Out of the four academic classes I am taking this semester, half of them are based off of two major exams and the other half are based off of four. Don’t get me wrong, there are other little assignments that contribute to my grade with participation; however, my performance in these courses is highly dependent on my academic achievement through cumulative exams.
Preparing for exams in advance takes a lot of self-discipline. I knew that all four of my first major exams were within the same week, so I tried to space out studying equally. This was challenging. I found it hard to focus on one thing while worrying about another. I also found it hard to go from one topic to another, especially because a lot of what I am studying is similar, yet different.
A few weeks before exam week, I made a study guide of my own for each course. I knew I would be receiving one from each professor, but I didn’t want to waste any time waiting, considering I may not get to them all. The guides I made were helpful in helping me review and outline things that I thought were important.
A week before the exam, my professors gave out their study guides. I filled these guides out in flashcard form (the things that I didn’t already review in my own guide). This saved me a lot of time. There were many concepts I had already studied, and this allowed for a lot more internalizing time versus review time.
I won’t lie, the week of the exams was rough. I truly think that no amount of preparation can diminish the initial anxiety of being handed a test before you know what’s on it. But I pushed through it; I had two exams on Monday and two exams on Thursday.
Once the exams were over, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt good about them. I felt excited for the results. And most of all, I felt proud. Sometimes, preparation is key to good results. But often times, that’s not the only thing. It has a lot to do with self-discipline and determination. I am extremely happy with the results of my midterm week and I look forward to seeing what else I can accomplish this semester!
On October 13th, my two worlds collided. My alma mater, Altoona Area High School, and Juniata College joined forces to commemorate the life of Erin Dodson. Erin graduated as a two-time all-state volleyball player in 2004 from Altoona Area High School and then began her freshman year at Juniata College, where she was to continue her volleyball career. Sadly, Erin was diagnosed with brain cancer at the start of her freshman year and lost her battle seven years later at the age of 25.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to personally meet Erin, but I played volleyball with her younger sister during my time at Altoona, so I was able to learn a lot about her. In an effort to honor Erin’s courage and perseverance, the girls’ volleyball team at Altoona organized a benefit volleyball game. Although I have attended several volleyball games at Altoona in the past six years, I have never been to a game quite like this one.
As soon as I walked into the fieldhouse, I was overwhelmed by a line of thirty baskets that team parents and community members had donated for the event. The entire lobby was just full of people. So many people were in attendance that they had to open up the other half of the gym, which is usually closed off by a movable wall. While Erin’s mom, Michelle, was expressing her gratitude between games, the wall started moving, and it soon revealed the entire Altoona Area High School pep band. When does a pep band ever play for a volleyball game?! Never.
At the end of Michelle’s talk, she asked the audience to hug the person sitting next to them because Erin loved giving everyone big hugs. The whole night was completely overwhelming and truly amazing. Erin’s family and friends from both Altoona and Juniata joined together to celebrate her life. I couldn’t be more honored to have walked the same halls and to have played on the same court as Erin Dodson.
I have been a runner since my freshman year of high school. Cross country was a sport that was foreign and honestly terrifying to me. I could not grasp the concept of willingly going out and putting yourself through that kind of physical torment for extended periods of time. But my outlook soon changed. The first month and a half of cross country was a blur of pain, from the burn of asthma in my lungs to the dull ache of overworked muscle. But I kept with it, and to this day I could not tell you why I kept going. Perhaps it was the encouragement my mom gave (as well as her sly comment about how I would feel if I gave up) or not wanting to let down my coach (a family friend) or my teammates (who were beginning to become good friends). Though I have veered off from time to time, running, the simultaneously magnificent and terrible sport that it is, has led me down a surprising path that I could never have imagined as I stepped off the cross country bus for the first time five years ago. And in many ways I have the same thoughts about college.
There was never a point in my life where I did not want to go to college. I assumed that college was the natural next step on the path of life. As time passed of course I came to realized that college was not the path that everyone took… or one that everyone wanted to take. And as I make my way through my third semester of college, I am getting a very clear picture as to one of the reasons why one might not want to move onto higher education.
College is hard.
I do not say that to scare or intimidate, just to state a fact. College classes are difficult, and rightly so–they are preparing you for jobs in the proverbial real world or for even more education at a higher level. It takes work and dedication to achieve the grades you want or need and sometimes that means sacrificing other aspects of your life. My freshman year there was a talk about the Social, Sleep, and School triangle. If you dedicate too much time to sleep and your social life then your academics suffer and too much study time and social interactions decrease how much sleep you can get etc. I am still trying to find that balance, and to be honest I am not sure anyone has been successful.
The fundamental goal for an individual in cross country or track is to get a lower PR (which is your personal best time). The only way to do that is to practice; to get out on the track after school and run 200 meter repeats or go on a 7 mile run. There is no half-way when it comes to competitive training, you either put forth the effort or get left in the dust. Only once in my running career did I put forth that effort. My sophomore year of high school I ran like I never imagined I could. I was winning races because I worked for it. I had a passion for the sport that made all of the grueling workouts and sometimes tedious long runs seem like nothing.
Steve Prefontaine (also known as Pre) was the United States foremost running athlete in the late sixties and early seventies. At one point, he was quoted saying, “Some people create with words or with music or with brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” Should we not all be creative in what we do? I know at times it is difficult because we get run down with work, school, family, social lives, the newest season of The Walking Dead, but there should at least be some glimmer of that passion in everything we do.
College is hard but not impossible. While it is not always possible for us to approach everything with such a passion as Pre’s, we should at least try. In whatever we do, we should let just a little bit of that passion show through. Your quantifiable success in college is given by a three digit number which is the equivalent of your PR. The only way to get a better PR is to train; to study like you have never studied so that the material is not just familiar to you but permanently ingrained in your mind. So have a passion for whatever you are doing, academically or otherwise, because in the end, whatever you are working toward will be worth all of the mental or physical toil.