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After endless papers, countless pages written and read, I finished freshman year. Exhausted, sleep deprived, eager and most importantly proud of what I have achieved during my first year of college, I turned in my last paper, went through the odyssey of moving out and began my journey home. The stress of finals made home appear like a an oasis in the middle of the desert. After being away for six months and after being under the most intense academic pressure I had ever experienced, home was a necessary stop for I needed to “recharge” my batteries, and as many of my professors suggested, reflect on the successes and downfalls of the year that had just ended. I thank them for their advice for I was considering taking summer courses but after some thought, I realized that that would not have been the best idea since I was mentally exhausted from six months of intense academic expectations.

College tires you out, as high school has done to those who are seniors now. You can only write so many papers and read so many books until you stop enjoying what you are doing and begin to see it as a burden and a hassle. I experienced this at one point during spring term where, when it was sunny and really nice outside, I found myself in the library doing readings for my comparative politics class. Had it been earlier in the term (and less sunny outside) I would not have been complaining about the work that I had to do. After talking to some of my friends about this issue, we came to the conclusion that at the end of the day, we are still kids (although we are older than 18) and that there is a need for us to have fun and put aside the academic pressure that piles on us. Also, we arrived at the conclusion that we need to match our determination to succeed with an approach that assures that we are healthy psychologically. If our minds are tired or stressed, we will not perform our best and thus, a bit of fun from time to time is necessary.

I know that some of us fall under the category of those hard workers that are always looking for something to do. There is nothing wrong with that since it is that work ethic that has gotten you to the position in which you are right now. But remember that you are not a machine (a fact that I tend to forget a lot of times) and that you need rest and time to relax. It is a proven fact that you learn more and are able to assimilate more material when you are not under stress and thus, there is a need for study breaks.

And so, my message in this short blog is that those who are seniors (and now high school graduates), enjoy your summer after what I am sure has been a stressful year. For those who are rising seniors, enjoy your summer as well because you are going to need to be well rested for what will be a really intense year, full of applications and essays. Have a great summer guys!

Oh, the Places YOU Will Go!

abigail-85A year ago around this time, my high school principal read us a passage from Dr. Seuss’s famous book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” At that moment, my friends and I had no idea what the point of it was, I mean after all, we weren’t children anymore; why read to us from a children book?  A year later, I have finally made sense of that infamous passage:

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own.
And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

I finished my first year at Dartmouth College in a way I hadn’t foreseen: energized. Finals went well; I didn’t pull any all-nighters and didn’t stress at all. Now, I have a summer to reflect on everything that happened between September and now, a summer in Brazil! I will spend 10 weeks in Salvador, Bahia furthering my understanding of the Portuguese language and learning more about Afro-Brazilian Culture. Dartmouth is a partner school of ACBEU (Associação Cultural Brasil-Estados Unidos) and I will be taking classes alongside students learning English. No amount of exclamation marks can emphasize my excitement of visiting a foreign country but I will say this: THIS SUMMER WILL BE ONE TO REMEMBER!

During the first week of September I will come back to the U.S and spend a few weeks at home until it’s time to come back to Hanover. It’s hard for me to believe that in another year I’ll be reflecting on an amazing summer and preparing for another memorable term. This is only the beginning and I’m sure you all will also have some wonderful news to share in the upcoming months.

Desejo a todos o melhor e boa sorte!

Two Steps Forward

darius-85“I can’t wait to be out of this house!”

Sound familiar?? Of course it does! I’m quite sure the majority of youth have had this thought on more than one occasion. I was so ready to move out that my idea of life “on my own” was jaded by the romanticized portrayal of “the good life”. Of course, once I moved out life was going to be so much easier! I’d be able to do what I want when I want to do it. . . Reality soon snatched me back to Earth.

I never imagined that after living my dream for a semester, my life would be reduced to public libraries and absolute boredom. After I was forced to leave New York, I spent the majority of my time searching for work and trying to get back in school. So far, I’ve had no luck finding a job. Life away from mom isn’t as great as the movies make it seem. Nobody ever taught me how to be an adult, and I personally feel that it should come with a how-to manual! I’ve been eighteen for only seven months, and already I’ve had to deal with hospital bills, homelessness and identity theft. Now I’m so far in debt that I’m at a loss for what to do next!

Instead of fun fun fun, I’m left with emotional breakdowns and a recurring feeling of hopelessness. My summer will be spent teaching an acting class, working (prayerfully) and preparing to go back to school. It hurts me to say this, but…mom was right. About everything. A word of advice, listen to your parents/guardians, they know what they’re talking about usually. College is fun, but there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with growing up. It isn’t all fun and games. It’s like they say, “Life is like a box of chocolates”. Every time you make a choice you’re taking a risk. Either you’re going to like it or you won’t, but the risk is always worth taking. Yeah, I’m struggling right now, but I know that it’ll all pay off. Expect to struggle. Expect not to get it right the first time…Nobody does. You may have chosen the wrong school or the wrong major, you may get involved with the wrong crowd, but everything is a learning experience. This time, when I get to New York, I’ll do it right. Life is a gamble. Every day there’s the chance that you may lose it all… but there’s also a chance for exponential success!

No matter what happens, who gets in your way or how long it takes, don’t ever give up. Because that’s when you lose.

~Darius A. Journigan

Putting a Face on Success

abigail-85Winter terms at Dartmouth (8-9 weeks) are said to be the worst time to be on campus and by week 6, I was drained and wanted nothing more than to leave. Many of my friends went to Miami or Cancun for two weeks, but I knew I had to see my family and surround myself with their positive, cheerful energy.

While I was home, my high school counselor and English teacher invited me to speak to their students about campus life, schoolwork, traveling, extracurricular activities, old and new friendships, my future plans, and everything in between. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but because I am forever grateful to both of them, I obliged. They told me that I would talk to a group of sophomores in the morning but oddly enough, that was not the case.

Instead of staying for an hour, I ended up staying the whole day at Sparks High. After the first group of students, one group after another came in and asked me to talk to them, and so it went on until the dismissal bell rang. Questions came at me from left and right, questions that I had never asked myself. One student asked me if I always knew that I would attend college, another student asked me what would I have done had I not enrolled at Dartmouth, and another student asked me if I believed that she or any of her classmates could one day be in my position.

It took me a few minutes to answer these questions and I figured that the students’ probably realized that I was not prepared with notes (like I should have). But afterwards, my teacher told me that many of the students said that they loved talking to me and wondered if I could stay a bit longer to discuss their individual college plans. She told me that while I may have been nervous, the students didn’t catch any of it because “success needs a face.”

Some first-generation college students leave their homes with dreams to “make it big” and regularly going back to their hometown may not fit in the lifestyle they have imagined for myself. It is a pity that those people will never realize that they could “make it big” by making a big impact on budding first-generation college students. There is an incredible amount of talent and potential in schools that are constantly labeled as “failing” and, if you have had the opportunity to attend college, it is crucial that you go back to them and show them that a college degree is possible.

Remember your roots, remember your responsibility.

Spring Break 2011

ashley-85On televisions shows and movies, college kids all seem to go to Cancun or some other tourist beach for spring break. As I counted the days (and then hours) until my second spring break, going to the beach never crossed my mind.

Last year, I went home and told myself I was going to relax and do my homework and just enjoy the time off, little did I know then that I wouldn’t even have time to sit and relax. Being away at college means that when I come home everyone (and their mother normally) wants to see me. There is so much to do and so many people to see that I kept telling myself I needed more hours in the day!

This year, I was much more wise about my spring break plans. Living in the same space as an 8 month old, there is never time to relax. While I still did not touch an ounce of homework, I did volunteer at Head Start and it was an awesome experience! Being home was my favorite part, as it always is. And with the exception to Saint Louis experiencing a whole years worth of weather in 10 short days, snow and ice in the same week as a wonderful sunny 85 degrees always makes things interesting, Spring break was a nice break from the everyday stress of school. And maybe one year I will do the whole beach thing for spring break, but for now, there is no place like home.

Destination: Home

sophia-85Spring break, you managed to swoop in and save me at the best possible time. When I was at the peak of my stressing out, you allowed me to have the break I needed.

Well, right now, I’m not really on my break yet. I’m sitting in a train for seventeen hours until I finally get to be home. This year it seems like I’m really working for my spring break.

There is nothing more rewarding than being able to go home and just simply relax.

It’s insane to think that I picked a school like Chico State with one of the reasons being that it was eight hours away from home. At the time, that didn’t seem nearly far enough, but I figured I was willing to compromise.

People always have trouble at home, you always want to get away. It’s just funny how now that I got away, I cannot wait to get back.

This does not mean that I don’t like Chico State. I love it and I love how it made me realize the amazing things I had and still have at home.

I realized that every break I have for college, I don’t think about going anywhere else but home first.

This train ride is only a small price to pay for the joy I’ll gain from spending time with my family and sleeping in my old room.

My hands are trembling with excitement to be able to see the enormous city of Los Angeles, which was once just a place, but is now more of a characteristic I have.

When you move away, people relate you to where you are from and there is no greater feeling than being proud about where you are from.

With all this talk about how I miss my home, I leave you with the advice to look into schools that are a little farther from your comfort zone.

The independence and maturity that is built is worth the long drives home and back. The problems that once drove you crazy at home, become a nostalgic story.

Anywho, I hope everyone has or even had a good break! Cherish what you have and I’ll write to you later.

Restful and Productive

leah-85Winter break! It felt so good to be home. I really missed my family. I didn’t know how much I missed them but apparently it was a lot since every second I wanted to spend time with them.

For winter break I did what I always wanted to do: sleep! After working hard for so long, it’s good to take a break as long as it is restful and productive.

During break, I also had the wonderful opportunity to shadow a Swarthmore graduate at her job. I shadowed a doctor in an emergency room and it was amazing. I had access to things many people do not usually see. One thing I should say about networking is that it is important to be observant, to be enthusiastic, and to jump in whenever possible. People want to help you succeed in life, but you need to show them that you are responsible and can contribute in a positive way. My host was very kind to me and gave me such encouraging words. She told me to do it my way. And my way means giving it my all and making sure that I have no regrets.

I’ll post something up soon! Good luck with school and applications seniors!

Better College Student

leah-85Sorry for not posting sooner. This was meant to be posted in December:

I have been in my own world lately. Papers, projects and finals were stressful that I made sure never to touch my computer because I knew Facebook would take over my life. Let’s just say I need to work on my self control.

So first semester at Swarthmore was a success. I don’t know how I made it exactly but I did. The course load was unbelievable. Every week I found myself reading two books, completing two problem sets, and writing papers. It was hard and everyday was a challenge. But, I took that challenge head on. I spent hours studying, rewriting, visiting office hours, and in the end things had a way of working out. Some days I didn’t think I would make it. I didn’t have faith in my abilities or myself. I started to doubt myself, until I realized I am not alone. Friends are great resources. Their attitude, advice, and gestures motivated me to do better and work harder. They encouraged me and taught me that working hard is not enough, you need confidence. You need to know when to ask for help, when to take a break, when to yell, and when to complain (because everyone needs to vent).

What could have possibly made my experience better? Well first off, time. I wished I had more time with everything. I wished lectures weren’t crammed in 50 minutes and I wished they days were longer so I would have more time to study. Second, a well thought out plan. Honestly, in college there are people who want to be a chemist for instance at the age of four. And, they dedicated their entire time prepping. That means taking summer classes, doing internships, or going to a high school that specialized in that field. So when it comes down it, they are exceeding expectations and things are natural and easy for them. They have preparing to do what they want to do forever. I wished I knew then or even now about my future. But, I still remain clueless. Lastly, I think what’s important is that your high school values your independent thinking and asks you to learn things on your own. It’s important to have analytical skills and think theoretically at all times.

As for me, I am happy to be going home. I can finally get eight or more hours a sleep. I am still not used to handling college. I need to work on studying, socializing, and sleeping. But, I know that I’ll get into the motion and this break I will prepare myself to be a better college student.

One Semester Down, Seven More to Go

sophia-85It’s almost time for school to start up again and I have to admit, I’m excited. Being back in Whittier during the break made me realize I love being home, but I feel productive when I’m back at school.

It’s tough, but you get a sense of accomplishment when attending various meetings or simply turning in a paper.

So, now that I’m going back, I’m looking forward to the new classes, professors, and time I’m going to spend with friends.

During the break, I met with Matt Rubinoff, who is the executive director of Center for Student Opportunity. We had lunch and he asked me a question that seemed simple, but it took me a surprisingly long time to actually come up with my answer.

He asked me, “What do you plan to do differently for your second semester?”

Easy question, right? Not so much.

After going back home, I thought about how exactly I want to change my time at Chico State and what I can do to make that happen.

I realized that there were various things I can do, but the main change I stuck on is planning to organize myself more. There are so many different activities going on and I plan on prioritizing the things I need to do.

The reason I chose to go to college was to get an education so I can accomplish my goal of becoming a sports journalist; however, I’ve realized it is extremely easy to get caught up in college life.

I’ve seen a majority of my friends stressed about their grades for first semester because their social life took a toll on their academics, and that is a scary idea.

But if you plan your time out, it’s simple to have a fun time in school and outside of school. Just remember what you’re in school for and take fun pit stops along the way.

Thanks for reading!