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May, 2011

Presencia Latina at Harvard!

jesse-85College is a place where self-expression is a daily accomplishment. Not only are you learning about the vast array of cultures that this world has to offer, you have the chance to teach others about yours. Every year, the students at Harvard organize an event where the student body is able to come together and celebrate the Latino culture through a showcase of Latin arts. This event is called Presencia Latina. From Aztec Dance to Spoken Word poetry performances, Presencia Latina is a place where the Latino culture is brought to the forefront and shared with the entire college campus.

One aspect of Presencia Latina that I especially appreciate is the fact that you don’t have to be Latino to participate in the performances. All of the group performances were made up of people from very diverse cultures and backgrounds whose appreciation of the Latino culture brought them together to perform. Presencia Latina is one of my favorite events of the year for all of these reasons!

Oh yeah, and guess what? I was asked to host the show this year! I was a little nervous but so ready. Check out  the video below to see the steps I took to prepare for the show and also a few clips of some of the performances of the 9th annual Presencia Latina!

Nobody’s Perfect: Set Your Own Personal Limits

lysa-85As president of my college’s Peer Health organization, we decided to center our final campaign of the year around the myth of effortless perfection and how while college students might seem like they have it all together all the time…WE REALLY DON’T. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EFFORTLESS PERFECTION!

While this may seem obvious, it’s often not as crystal clear as it appears to be. I even catch myself sometimes, believing that I must be the ONLY PERSON on campus who can’t manage an A in my super difficult class or can’t seem to finish a paper or reading on time. Even though I know it’s not true, it’s easy while in college to believe that you must be the only person experiencing what you are feeling and that everyone else must be having a perfect time like they should be. After all, college should be fun, right? All those all-nighters are expected, right? Don’t we all have it together all the time? The truth is WE DON’T, AND WE’RE NOT PERFECT…BUT THAT’S OKAY! This might be the most important lesson I have learned during my two years in college.

A friend of mine wrote an op-ed in our school’s newspaper which discussed this very topic. Surprisingly, most people feel the same way but just do not speak up about it. Our campaign allowed students to anonymously submit ways in which they are not perfect on slips of paper to our club. We then collected all responses and created a picture campaign of students around campus. We anonymously matched up the photos ( covering each person’s face with a picture of our school mascot, the purple cow) with the ways in which Williams College students are imperfect and put all posters on display around campus.

Some valuable things I realized from speaking with multiple students during this campaign include the following:

We all know the image of the ideal college student. Some students closely resemble this image of the well-rounded student, a double major, taking as many classes as possible, while playing a varsity sport, and maintaining a leadership role on campus and planning to study abroad. But this is CLEARLY NOT ALL OF US! We are all pretty much sleep deprived at some point or other during our college career and we can’t all juggle more classes than the ones we have to take. It’s nearly impossible to find time to merely exercise and maintain all coursework required for each class, yet alone play a varsity sport each semester.

MOST IMPORTANTLY… FOR THOSE OF YOU INCOMING FRESHMEN YOUR COLLEGE TOUR WILL PROBABLY ELUDE TO THE ABOVE STUDENT IMAGE, WHILE NOT ALLOWING YOU TO GET A GLIMPSE OF THE TRUE MAJORITY OF THE COLLEGE STUDENT BODY…
A tour won’t tell you about nights spent crying, or the stress that classes pile on. They won’t let you in on how some students go as far as taking caffeine pills and harming their body just to stay awake a few more hours of the day to get their work done. Nobody wants to admit their drowning in their school work. But, honestly, that is where I found myself this year.

I was sleep deprived, stressed beyond what I could manage, and overall, compromising my health for a shot at a higher grade in a class. But as college students we must truly ask ourselves: when is enough, just enough? When is your health more important than your education? What is your own personal limit? I did not know my limit until this year, when I clearly passed it and could no longer handle college. I encourage you all to find your own limit before you get to this point. Figure out how much sleep, meal time, and even down time that you need to stay focused, healthy, and do well in college. But, do not compromise your own health or sanity for school. I found myself doing that very thing and it honestly did not get me far. Staying up late every night, just made me moody, depressed, and unable to focus in classes. I was upset that my grades weren’t improving from all the extra time I was putting into my classes, but rather getting worse! Probably, because I was sleep deprived and would catch myself falling asleep in class and during tests! Staying up all night should never be an option. I myself am going to come up with a new plan for next year, because I was only harming myself and my health by doing so. The symptoms of effortless perfection are pervasive on a college campus.

As hard working college students, we often try to convince ourselves that we can balance our sleep, study and socializing time, but the truth is, usually we can’t. Sleep is the weakest link, and all-nighters often become an accepted part of your college life. When you work towards perfection everyday… failure is not an option. That was my own worst fear: Failing a class or not being able to handle college and disappointing my family as a result. But, Fear of failure keeps us from trying new things, whether that means courses, activities or friendships. And it makes us stick with things that we think we should do, even if they make us unhappy. It’s as though we’re so worried about our future at times, that we can’t enjoy the present. For those of you who already in college and have felt many of the same feelings I have described in this post, know that you’re not alone and next time somebody says: “Hey, how are you?” don’t just say okay, good, or fine, if you truly don’t feel that way. Be honest to not only others, but most importantly, yourself. Sometimes things aren’t Fine. Everyone thinks they’re the only person who can’t handle it, but you’re not alone. My friend Eliza once told me: “Everyone struggles with stress to varying degrees. The way to be happy is through effortful imperfection – throw your energy into what you love, even if it means failing sometimes.” Nobody is perfect and the truth is that sometimes Failure can be much healthier than trying to be perfect all the time.

The Struggle of Sophomore Year

lysa-85My second year in college truly hit me about a month ago, when I realized that I had taken on way too many extracurricular activities, more science laboratory classes than I could handle, and that maybe a science major on a pre-med course track was not working out.

Many students start college out thinking that they will go through college and go on to become a doctor or a lawyer. Most pre-med students also assume that since they “love” science they will of course become a biology or chemistry major. I entered Williams College my freshman year, and thought I had it all figured out. I would complete all of the pre-med courses and major in biology. Afterall, I loved biology in high school. Then, I started college and biology no longer seemed to interest me. I found myself dreading each class and the four hour lab sessions I had to get through each week. But I kept on track for med school and I kept taking chemistry and biology together each semester up until I finished classes last week. However, one thing did change for me. I realized that while I may want to be a doctor in the future, I definitely do not want to major in science!

I used to think it was unacceptable to apply to medical school without a science major, but it’s not! Medical schools are looking for all different kinds of people with different backgrounds and majors! I have officially declared a major in psychology and couldn’t be happier. Child Development and Psychology studies are truly where my passion lies and now I can put all my energy into something I love, while still working towards medical school. I am also currently pursuing a double major in Women,Gender, & Sexuality Studies, which I never expected to interest me before coming to Williams! Therefore, I urge all of you as you decide on what classes you want to take next semester, to try out a class that you’ve always thought sounded cool, or maybe you know nothing about! Sometimes those classes are the ones that surprise you and truly make you realize what path you want to take.

Another important lesson I learned as a sophomore is that you simply can’t do it all. Sometimes we think we can take on the world on our shoulders and never stumble while trying to make it all work. I realized this past year that I just had way too much on my plate. I was on my college’s hip hop dance team, president of the Student Health Club and a member of student government.

I realized a semester too late that I really just needed to put all of my concentration into my studies and take a break from trying to juggle multiple extracurricular activities. It got to a point where I was dancing 10 hours a week, having to work my job 10 hours a week to make ends meet financially, and spending 10 hours a week in lab. Plus, I was still planning events through student government on the weekends! I finally realized that I didn’t have time to please other people through my dance performances or event planning if I didn’t even have time to make myself happy. I was slowly running myself into the ground and dragging my academic performance along with me. My grades slowly dropped and I didn’t know what to do. But I knew that I didn’t come to Williams to dance. I came to college to make a better life for myself and my family. If I could put only half the time I spent dancing into my school work or job, I would be able to help my family more financially and improve my grades.

Sometimes, even though you love to do something and it’s truly hard to give it up, you have to move on and place importance on what truly matters. I can dance for the rest of my life. I realized that I didn’t need a dance team to prove my abilities. But, you only get a chance at college ONCE. College is truly not easy. I have had many days where I’ve wondered, why me? What am I doing here? I have sat and cried in my room many times and tried desperately to find myself through all of the stress that college has placed on my life. But, I know that it will all be worth it in the end. I know what it’s like to feel alone in college. I’ve definitely felt that way often. But it’s important to realize that you are where you are for a reason. Someone chose you over 4 to 8 other students, because they had confidence in your ability to succeed.

Although, some days I may have felt alone, like I had the weight of my family back home depending on me to make something out of myself, that is truly what I also want for myself, and that makes even the worst days manageable! Stay strong and positive. At times sophomore year can be more trying than freshman year, because few people are there to hold your hand and there are much higher expectations set for you during your second year of college. But, just sit back and take a deep breath! You are almost half way through your college career!

Oh The Difference It Makes

irvin-85“Don’t do what you like, do what you love.”

Those were the words of a wise senior whose name I do not remember since I heard him speak during the first hours I was here at Dartmouth. During that time of confusion, uncertainty and excitement, I did not allow the words to sink in and for my mind to discern the meaning of that phrase. The fact that I did not truly grasp the meaning of this phrase might explain why my plans of being an engineer made a back-door exit, following close by went my back up option of being a math major. Back in fall term, which to be honest seems like centuries ago, I was bursting with excitement of finally taking classes that I liked such as higher level calculus. I did not let a bad final exam grade deter me from what I thought I wanted to be since that is what I liked to do, doing math for fun. Maybe physics will be better, I thought as a way of justifying my decision to continue on the engineering track despite my bad experience with math. Physics was a mess. After hours of silent contemplation and asking myself why I was frustrated with subjects that I liked, the words of that senior came to mind. He was so right. I was doing what I liked, not what I loved. When I spoke about math, I did not say “I love math!” Rather, what I would say would be “I like math, it’s fun.”

When I was asked about how my classes were going during winter term, I would say that I hated, hated deeply my physics class but I loved my completely-overwhelming-engaging-hard writing class with a passion. Boom. Right there. It clicked. The reason behind my frustration with math and physics was because I liked those classes, I did not love them. Yet, with my writing class, it was different. Despite being time consuming and being the hardest class I have ever taken, I was not frustrated with the workload. Rather, I enjoyed it. I could honestly say that loving my writing class made all the work seem bearable and enjoyable. My hate for physics did not help at all with my frustration towards it.

The reason why I bring this up on this blog is because some of you might be choosing classes for your first semester/term of college. Think about these classes very, very carefully. Although it is true that you want to explore, make sure that you pick classes that you are truly interested in. It will make an enormous difference when it comes to studying for that class. Had a horrible experience with chemistry in high school? If so, maybe a higher level chemistry class during your first term of college might not be the best idea. Do you dislike writing papers? If so, maybe a study of Plato and Socrates might not be the road you want to take. Be careful of the choices you make because they will determine how your semester/term will go. I would like to add that there is nothing wrong with dropping a class or dropping a major all together. I did. And now I am as happy as I could be since I get to take classes that I love.

I wish there was an equation that would tell you what your passion is. Any chemistry majors out there? Maybe you guys can help!

P.S.

Those who are on summer break already, enjoy. I still have 15 days of classes, but hey, these are classes that I love so I kind of don’t want the term to end haha.

Play Term

ashley-85This year, I took a class during what my school calls May term. This is one class that is 3 hours every day for 3.5 weeks. That sounds like way too much right? At first I was a little worried too. 15 hours of class a week, with the same professor! As I just started my final week, I am here to say it wasn’t that bad. You might think that having only one class means there is a lot more work, but with me it was not that way (that doesn’t mean, unfortunately, that there was less either.) Only having one class did give the professors more time to be creative with the material and the class. The class I am taking is Social Work in Action and for the class we have taken field trips all around the community and even one to Chicago to learn about all of the Human Services agencies in the community. It has really opened my eyes to what is out there! After semesters and a May term, I can say that this class is the class that I have gotten the most out of. It was well worth the extra month of school.

If you are already in college, then I would suggest to look and see if your school offers something like this. If they do then I would definitely suggest taking it. I know that means giving up a little bit of your summer, but it is definitely worth it.

If you are in high school and looking at colleges, then look out for programs like these and talk to the schools and their students about their programs. It is definitely a unique opportunity and something that I think is definitely worth looking into. You never know what you could learn, it might be something that could change your life!

If you do consider doing something like this, or even a summer school option, then pick something you are interested in. It will make giving up that time a lot easier and you will have a lot more fun with it than you think.

Wait…it’s summertime?

shaun-85I cannot believe I am a quarter of the way through my undergraduate career already! I feel like as I get older every year moves just a little bit faster. I have had so many wonderful experiences during my first year at Washington and Lee and have made incredible memories. I’m sad that many of my friends will be gone for the next three months while I remain in Lexington, Virginia. That’s right, I’m staying here in Lex Vegas for the summer to work as an intern for the W&L Admissions Office! I’ll be giving tours to prospective students and doing administrative work, making some great connections and a steady income that will definitely help me out next year.

For nostalgia’s sake, and to give you soon-to-be college students a taste of what to look forward to next year, I’d like to list my Top Ten Freshman Memories:

10. Decorating my beautiful (and quite large) SINGLE dorm room. I loved having my own space after four years of having a roommate in boarding school!

9. Going to Flagstaff, Arizona for a week with my geology class to get a first-hand look at the volcanic structure. I may not be one for hiking, but I have to admit climbing a cinder cone is a once in a lifetime experience.

8. Learning how rock a sundress and pearls. At W&L, girls wear dresses more than they wear jeans! I’ve grown to love the Southern style.

7. Watching Beauty and the Briefcase and several episodes of “Dora the Explorer” one evening on bunk beds with friends and many pizzas. Being a Spanish major, it was more fun than you’d think…

6. Climbing House Mountain, a “mountain” (probably more like a very big hill, but still) about 20 minutes from Lexington with a couple of my friends. I never thought we’d make it to the top!

5. Participating in all of the fun mixers that my sorority and other fraternities hosted. They had really cool themes—my favorites were Back to the Future, Slumber Party, and Harry Potter.

4. Reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard with a wonderful fifth grade class at the local elementary school. A fellow volunteer and I created cute projects to go along with each week’s reading and really got to know the kids.

3. Realizing I actually find economics really interesting. Never thought that was going to happen, but with a couple of wonderful professors’ help I decided that I loved the discipline enough to make it one of my majors.

2. Getting up at 4am to watch the Royal Wedding live with several other wedding-obsessed girls, eating donuts and bagels in the basement of a fraternity house. It was so worth it.

1. Rushing a sorority! I am absolutely in love with all of my Pi Beta Phi sisters, all of the philanthropy events we plan, all the fun activities we have, and how close we have all become. I feel like I have an amazing group of friends on campus that are, well, sisters to me! I can’t wait to see them all again in the fall.

Have a great summer, everyone, and have fun getting ready to start the new school year soon!

Fun in the sun???

lot-85If you haven’t heard it a million times since now I am going to say it again: Congrats on getting those acceptance letters! I can understand the gratifying feeling when the good news comes and the realization that all the years of hard work has culminated into something tangible. You should be proud and remember to enjoy the last days of senior year. However I would implore you to start thinking of life once the graduation ceremony has come and gone. The summer is a prime time to make sure that the transition to college life will be seamless with as little turbulence as possible. Thus I have outlined two key pieces of advice:

GET A JOB: It’s that simple because there is no way around it. As you know college is expensive and you might think mom and dad will be there to bail you out, but there are no lessons learned from always falling back on the same people. An objective during the college experience should be independence on some level. No I’m not saying that parents won’t be in the equation but I am saying that self-reliance is something to be strived for. If you’re like me paying for books, extracurricular activities and miscellaneous items can amount to a hefty bill. Thus I would encourage all of you to start saving NOW. I understand prom is around the corner and you probably want to buy that outrageously expensive dress- which will only be worn once- but in the long run it’s not worth it. I have learned a lesson this year on how to prioritize and sacrifice. There are two categories when it comes to spending money: wants and needs. You need textbooks and a laptop, you don’t need to buy those extra pair of shoes or that 45′ inch plasma t.v for the dorm.

Internships & Community Service: These are important to building towards a new resume. One thing students don’t realize is that once high school is over, many of the accomplishments such as: National Honor Society, Key Club, and Student Government are no longer admissible on resumes in the future. During your freshman year you can rely on those high school achievements to secure jobs and other opportunities on campus but that is only because of youth/ inexperience. This summer I am clearing all my high school achievements and starting over with what was done in my freshman year. It would be wise to start looking for opportunities for possible career experience. For example if you are a political science major, start looking for internships in your local elected representatives office. Whether it be a state senator or even a U.S. Senator it doesn’t matter the experience will give much needed insight and boost your resume. The same can be said for all majors and areas of interest. The relevant career experiences that I speak of are not the type that are found easily, you might have to contact an office or ask for parental advice, but the work in the long run is worth it.

By the end of Freshman Year….

jenny-85You come to realize after you start packing your stuff…that you have a load of stuff that you deemed necessary but ended up sitting in the corner of your dorm room collecting dust. Oh yeah. Those trinkets from back home, for example, a bottle of colored sand with a note from my friend in it. Not the easiest thing to pack and bring back. It screams “FRAGILE!”

So, word of advice. Pack photos. They’re easier to transport instead of strings of paper cranes and glass bottles of paper stars. For those of you traveling far away? Constantly remind yourself that you’re going to have to pack ALL that stuff away, lug those boxes back from storage the next year, AND THEN unpack everything. I’m a pack rat. Not proud of it, but I had so much stuff to pack away, my back hurt. Not to mention my parents probably bought me enough toothpaste to last all four years…Be smart about the amount of stuff you have. If you’re anything like me, it’ll just accumulate over the years. Let’s not give ourselves back pains, yes?

For all you incoming freshmen, relax. Meeting new people is going to happen throughout life. No need to be nervous. As for names and faces? Having trouble remembering them? Well, half the time, they don’t remember yours either. Don’t feel too bad. I said hi and exchanged phone numbers with one girl, the next day, she forgot who I was. My school’s not even that big.

As for academics, if you struggle, that’s okay. If you struggle, you’re trying, growing, and learning. Struggle shows that you have the determination to keep going even though it’s hard. Don’t feel as if you’re inadequate or not smart because everyone else around you seems so smart. It may sound cliché, but really, everyone has their own strengths. You’ll find your way eventually.

Tadpoles in the Sea

seanna-85I got my first camera when I was around twelve, but I’d been fascinated with photography and “capturing life” long before unwrapping that Kodak Easy Share.  My mom threatened to stop making Walgreens’ trips to develop the photos if I didn’t stop snapping shots of trees, dirt, spiders, and the left side of her nose.  I loved taking the ordinary and flip-flopping it every which way until it couldn’t be recognized.   Change interested me.  Variation caught my eye.  Transformations were absolutely captivating.

Sophomore year flashed by.  There was actually very little that remained similar to my first year, besides the best friend.  Classes and professors were different (obviously), the friend circle widened and fluctuated, the clubs & organizations that I was involved in narrowed and solidified.  This was my Round 2, and because I’d managed to firmly plant my feet during Round 1, I was able to look beyond myself and take more notice of the Pomona community.  I started critically thinking about campus climate & diversity, problems that impede residential life, and adjustments that might help facilitate improvements for future years.  But back to the idea of transformations.  Butterflies seem too cliché, so let’s assume that I’m in the process of becoming a frog.  Last year, I was a larvae.  I managed to overcome the dangers of bigger fish, sickness, and weather catastrophes (also known as bad grades, homesickness, and earthquakes), and I made it to tadpole stage. 

As a tadpole, I helped mentor larvae throughout the year, serving as a resource during confusion or hard times.  I learned more about our environment (lake or Pomona…wherever you’d like to go with this analogy) in order to answer questions and help avoid disasters.  I monitored my behaviors, while still being myself, to help set a positive and thriving example.  As junior year approaches, I’m moving into the awkward pre-frog, huge-tadpole phase.  I’m one of the Head Sponsors for the Pomona College Sponsor Program (first-year academic & mentor support program), and I’ll have an entire group of larvae & tadpoles in my building.   Together, we’ll set a tone and establish a smaller residential community that will aim towards having an exciting, safe, and productive year.  Looking back, this year has helped me realize how much college is truly about new experiences & change.  Every year, a group of frogs leave & a horde of larvae arrive.  Each class has its own personality just as each academic year is drastically unique, and yet, the four years will accrue into “MY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE”.  Whether you end up a butterfly, frog, newt, or crustacean, this metamorphosis is life-altering.  Pay attention to the details and appreciate the people and opportunities that happen your way. 

I can drive myself to Walgreens now, and I’ve moved on to a Nikon Digital Camera, but nature still astounds me and I still prefer a little switching up every now and then.  And just to keep the tradition, I send Mama images of snails and lizards through picture messages. 

Change is the essence of life.  Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”—Unknown