November 28, 2009 - 9:13 PM
If you have every journeyed I-5, north or south, the first day of an academic break I promise you, not much has changed. If possible the traffic may be even slightly worse. Students who travel away to college often wonder about how they might get home for winter or spring break. Or as the case may be this week, Thanksgiving.
I have been lucky at the UO to be far enough away from home, I feel like I've ‘gone away' and reestablished myself - something students often seek once leaving high school. However I have also been close enough to home that when desired, I could travel back for a three day weekend. It makes traveling at breaks like winter break, spring break, and Thanksgiving relatively easier.
Eugene offers an airport shuttle to the larger international airport in Portland, but taxis also service the smaller Eugene airport for any flights coming or going straight out of the city. Most often students can find a friend traveling in the same direction to carpool with or catch a ride to the bus or train station. The options for travel are quite numerous.
Myself, I am one of the many students who live along the I-5 corridor. Sometimes I feel like so does every other student who attends school along the west coast. However the perk to that congested traffic means I'm far more likely to find a ride home, and save my parents from travelling all the way to Eugene.
Every time I travel to or from home, I always end up thinking about the journey at one particular spot - when I cross the Columbia River. Usually there is a sign welcoming travelers into the next state marking the transition from Oregon to Washington or vice versa. At that point I think of any number of things - sense of place in two states, how long the drive has been, how quickly the drive has passed, if I'm eager to return to Oregon or Washington again. A variety of topics but always something about the journey I have been on. This year, I thought about being thankful.
I was so grateful for the break in my busy schedule. I had so little time to relax; there were an infinite number of tasks that needed catching up on. But I forced myself, to stop, slow down, and enjoy my few days at home. A few years ago I had every evening to spend time with my parents and grandparents, and now, the time seems harder to come by.
College is so much fun and quite the experience. On the breaks I encourage you - enjoy the time with your friends and families. Enjoy the time to relax. Even if it is just for a moment along I-5 as you sit in traffic, take time to let the moment release its power on you. It is inspiring to realize how far I have come and gone in my college experience and I guess the drive home makes me realize just how great a distance that is. When I return to Eugene I will have just one week of classes and one week of finals before the longer winter break. I feel as though my trip home has empowered me to keep pushing through the finish line. And when I return home again for the holiday season, I know the time to relax amongst friends and families will be even more satisfying.
Okay week 10, here we go! Just 12 more days until the end of fall term.
- on a side note: you know you're in college when: you start counting down the days until the end of term instead of days until presents.
November 27, 2009 - 1:12 PM
A name for a building like "University Health, Counseling, and Testing Center" seems to succinctly sum up the purpose of the building. Generally though, most shorten the title and just call it ‘the Health Center' despite lack of depth to the building's functions that a name like ‘the Health Center' fails to capture.
The first thing I notice about the building is a relatively recent addition of what appears to be tangled yarn all over the exterior and interior of the building. Upon closer inspection one would learn that the display is actually a work of art which displays messages of healing and wholeness in 26 different languages. I'm not sure I've found a message I could read yet though, but it actually inspires me to keep trying.
In my time at the UO I have actually used the Health Center relatively few times. I'll be grateful, it means I haven't had any medical problems to speak of while I've been at school, but I also have seldom made use of the counseling or testing center. That was true, until Wednesday.
Wednesday afternoon, in the hours before Thanksgiving when most students and professors have already journeyed home to their families, I was sitting outside the testing center waiting to take my GRE: Graduate Record Examination. Consider it the SAT of graduate school.
To be honest I walked into the test relatively blind. There has been so much going on this term I didn't exactly have time to study much for the exam. Taking it just before Thanksgiving seemed like a great idea at the time I signed up for it. I assumed I would have the rest of the holiday weekend to catch up with everything else. WRONG. I forgot to include in my line of thinking, everything professors would want to be done just before I went home for the holiday.
In short I'll be taking the GRE again. My scores weren't terrible but, I want better. Some of the graduate programs I'm applying to are pretty competitive. I remember sitting in the exam hearing the constant ticking of the clock and realizing the impact a test like this could have on my life. Usually I wave off tests realizing, it's just one test in the greater scheme of everything else. But, in this case, what graduate school I go to or not, could end up impacting ‘everything else.' That was a lot of pressure to feel. Though I have balanced my college education and gotten good marks along the way, I am hoping that will also make me a well-rounded applicant. Something I expect admissions committees may look for.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And enjoy the leftovers as much as I will.
November 19, 2009 - 12:03 PM
When the University of Oregon was founded in 1876 it comprised of 155 students and five faculty members. Tomas Condon, an Oregon geologist, missionary turned scientist, was one of the original faculty members. Condon Hall is named in his honor.
The department of geography is still housed in Condon Hall. It is especially important I tell you about geography today, since this is geography awareness week. There have been some exciting activities on campus to celebrate the occasion that have been wonderful to attend. For instance last night I went to a presentation by Jim Meacham who works in the UO InfoGraphics lab talk about archaeology and landscape in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. Fun fact for the day: Geography Awareness Week was started by UO's own Susan Hardwick when she taught at Chico State.
I recently discovered this nugget of information when I was inducted into Gamma Theta Upsilon, the International Geographic Honor Society. Susan is the faculty advisor for our University of Oregon chapter, Theta Kappa. To be honest I am a member of a couple of other honor societies on campus, and have attended other induction ceremonies before, but none of them were quite like this one.
Tuesday night I attended the induction ceremony for GTU in Condon Hall. That morning I assumed it would be a kind of stuffy affair where they have you stand up, recite some oath with your hand raised, get called to the front of the room to pick up your award, and then go home after listening to how high of an honor you have achieved and how this new honor society could enhance your life and the lives of others. All honor societies are special, and I'm proud to be involved with the programs I am, but honestly, I've never enjoyed the induction process, or felt that special after it was completed.
When I woke up Tuesday morning I realized I had no idea what I was going to wear to the ceremony. Was it formal, informal, business casual...I couldn't recall anywhere in the invitations or reminders where it might have mentioned. After some searching I dug out the original announcement and noticed it said ‘pizza' somewhere, and I correctly assumed since pizza was involved jeans and a nice shirt would be sufficient. When I walked into Condon Hall I was still skeptical, but found comfort in coalition with a fellow student from my climatology course. I would estimate nearly 20 students were in attendance, both graduates and undergraduates, and it didn't take long for us to join in lively conversation across our departmental comrades.
Enter Susan Hardwick.
I hadn't met Susan before, but it would be sufficient to claim, ‘I liked her from the start.' Susan swept through the room like wildfire- truly one of those professors that engages people, inspires people, and connects with people. She made a point of congratulating all of us, personally, making rounds to shake our hands. We were served our pizza and while the new inductees sat and ate, Susan entertained us. She talked about how exciting this opportunity was and how proud of ourselves we should be. While I can imagine myself halfway bored with this speech in another situation, Susan had me drawn in hook, line, and sinker. I was excited to learn more about the program and what it meant. She highlighted for us this wasn't the kind of thing you join and then need to know secret handshakes or wear matching outfits and have pancake socials. (Although hey, the pancake social doesn't sound half bad). We talked a little bit about this being geography awareness week and her own induction into Gamma Theta Upsilon years ago. She even brought her framed certificate to share with us. She shared with us the story of how she started Geography Awareness week when she was teaching in Chico, California. In short, as the conversation went on, I became increasingly proud of being a geographer and especially a geographer at the University of Oregon. I felt special. Refreshingly, I felt like this honor truly meant something. And Susan made sure it was a ceremony I wouldn't forget.
When we finished our pizza Susan excused herself to change into ‘appropriate induction attire.' ...She returned wearing her academic regalia fit for spring commencement complete with a globe on her head. This might make GTU lose credibility for some of you, but to me, it is part of what made the night special. I suppose you'd have to understand the atmosphere of the geography department at the UO to understand what was really going on. To give you some idea let me add that the evening was full of laughter and other staff dropping by to congratulate us and stop for a chat. We had fun, but it didn't make the occasion any less significant. So here is Susan in a ridiculous outfit, dimming the lights and passing out candles for us to hold as we recite our oath. She was even kind enough to hand around index cards decorated with world stickers to frame the candle so the wax wouldn't drip on our hands. Like all other honor societies we stood and recited our oath, vowed to do our best for the field of geography, and committed ourselves to this organization. We were smiling, we were getting to know each other better, and we were excited about the evening and our new academic achievements. GTU, Susan Hardwick, the geography department at the University of Oregon have positively influenced my life.
I should mention here that Gamma Theta Upsilon is not the only way to be involved in Honors groups on campus. I have mentioned the Robert D. Clark Honors College before. While I won't discuss all of them today, perhaps you may have an interest in looking into a few other academic honor programs at the UO. Whatever your age, I wish you high academic achievement and intellectual inquiry. And of course, go out and celebrate geography awareness week!
November 15, 2009 - 7:18 AM
Today I rode the bus. Today I rode the bus for free.
One of the perks of being a student at the University of Oregon is ‘free' bus transportation on the city bus line, LTD. Free is a loose definition, students actually pay for the service as a part of the incidental fee...but it feels like free!
Since I now live off campus, the ability to ride the bus to school at a low-to-no cost is a life saver. I have never had a car at college, and since I have been in Eugene, never desperately felt the need to have one. My bike, the bus, or my feet take me most anywhere I want to go, whenever I need to go.
As fantastic as I think the bus system is, I will admit, I'm not looking forward to the ride to school in the morning. But before I complain let me start by saying I think it is astounding that so many students are willing and want to use the bus service. I just wish there were more bus lines where I live. Public transit in my area of northeast Eugene seems excruciatingly popular.
Presently I live approximately one mile from campus. A lovely bike ride across the river, or occasionally a healthy walk to school, but in the cold and rain during flu season, the bus becomes a necessity. And they are rather crowded. Since I live in a peak area of student housing, the express shuttle that runs from Kinsrow Avenue (roughly near Autzen stadium, if you're more familiar with landmarks) to campus already comes at approximately the hour and half hour. Depending on the time of day, there may be up to three buses around the hour or half hour trying to ensure all students get to campus safely and on time. We students pack it in like a New York City subway.
My favorite bus drivers are the ones who remember we have midterms or finals coming up and wish us luck when they drop us off at school. I have a distinct fondness for my trips in the morning with the driver who thanks us all for riding the "Sardine Express." Bus riding is an experience in Eugene, but hey, you're sure to meet people! I mean there is no ignoring a person you're pushed up against for the duration of the morning ride, so you might as well make small talk.
My ride today wasn't as crowded, but I wanted to take the time to say how much I appreciated the transit systems in Eugene. And even though I know it will be crowded as I join the majority of Kinsrow Avenue's population for my morning ride tomorrow, I'll try to remember how lucky I am. So many cities don't have transit like this available.
November 14, 2009 - 4:43 PM
This year I am working as an International Peer Assistant, or IPA, on campus through the office of International Affairs. My tasks, loosely described, are to work with study abroad programs and provide student support for interested parties. It is an absolutely amazing job. The IPA team is made up of six students, all past study abroad participants, who have designed and are preparing to host a large, campus-wide fair this Wednesday. In the spirit of getting ready for the fair, it is time I opened up to you about a very significant part of my academic past.
The theme for this year's fair will be: "Amazing Awaits: where will you find it?" It is a statement I think says a lot about study abroad programs and global internships - the experience is different for everyone, but the resounding impact an is the type of enrichment I hope all students find before they leave their respective colleges. I found that experience the summer and fall (in this hemisphere) of my junior year.
When I arrived at the UO I had essentially made the decision I was going to study abroad. It was something I never thought I would do, and then I happened to look into it more, thought about the benefits, analyzed the potential value, and a few months later, my bags were packed and I was boarding my first international flight. Looking back on it now I feel like I just stumbled onto the study abroad website one day and the next thing I knew, I was going. Since I don't speak a second language I limited my search to English speaking programs, and found an ‘out-of-this-world' opportunity waiting for me in Australia.
Like the residence halls, my study abroad experience is a conversation I could return to again and again and never run out of things to say. I hope I will do justice to what it meant to enrich my education in this way, and yet, I know there will never be a way to capture everything. Let me say now that I strongly believe the opportunity to study abroad is perhaps one of the most valuable assets to a college education. This roughly six month journey was an educational experience unlike anything else I have ever done. And by the time I returned to the United States, I realized the most valuable lessons were never even recorded on an academic transcript.
While in Australia I attended La Trobe University. More specifically I attended the Bendigo campus taking courses in Outdoor Education and Nature Tourism, which fit in nicely with my Environmental Studies degree. I actually completed one of five area requirements towards my major while studying abroad. My classroom structure was unlike anything I have heard of in the US. Roughly two or three days a week I might've been in a classroom, and the rest of the week or weekend my peers and I would be out on camps in the bush experiencing the environment as much as we were talking about it. We did things like bushwalking, white water rafting/kayaking, week-long treks through national parks, cross country skiing and more. To be honest I'm not sure there is an adjective that does enough to say how amazing it was. In my studies I was specializing in local environments, assessing human impacts, and researching other things like the history of ‘environmentalism.' I remember mornings being called awake in camp, lured out from under my tent fly, to do some 6am bird watching. Other nights lying under tree hollows waiting for the sun to set to watch the nocturnal animals emerge. These are things I just don't get to do at Oregon. And to go out into the field like this and apply everything I had learned in a classroom, was a powerful opportunity.
The diversity of study abroad programs available to UO students is incredible - over 165 programs in more than 90 countries. We also offer internships abroad on which students can earn academic credit. There is so much variation in costs, dates, deadlines, accommodations and more it is hard to make generalizations. I'd encourage students to look more into study abroad programs at any university they may wish to attend. And one day, I hope to share some more specifics of my own experience.
Sunset from a camp in Gariwerd National Park
Members of the International Student Association
Camp/class life in Gariwerd National Park