New to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

By: Ragan Love

One thing that you should know about me is that I do not like action movies. Because of this I had only seen two of the Spider Man movies, which was only because of my brother. My roommates decided that we needed to have a MCU marathon to bring me up to date.

I took us about four months to fit all of the movies into our busy schedules and we decided to watch the movies in chronological order — we started with Captain America and just finished Avengers: End Game. 

A lot of these movies were hard for me to get through because I don’t like fight scenes. I feel like they go on and on, but I love the storyline of all of the movies and how they are all connected so I still found them worth watching. 

Because I am completely new to this series, I don’t have a bias when it comes to who my favorite characters are.I have been able to create my own opinion when it comes to the MCU universe.

If you’d like my fresh, hot take, here are my top MCU movies, ranked: 

(Not included: Captain Marvel (2019), The Incredible Hulk (2008))

  1. Spiderman Far From Home: What I love about this movie is how it showed the aftermath of End Game and how Peter was affected by the events of that movie.
  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: I never thought that this was going to be on the top of my list but I love how well the stories of the music and the plot of the movie fit together so well!
  1. Black Panther: This is one of my favorites because of the back story of the villain in the movie. I feel like he is one of the only ones who had a reason he turned bad and wanted to take over.
  1. Doctor Strange: This was one of my roommates least favorite so I was expecting to feel the same but I was surprised. I like that his superhero name includes his Doctor title and the visuals with all of the magic was very cool. 
  1. Thor Ragnarok: A favorite movie in my house and I think the dialogue was very funny. One of my favorite avengers is the Hulk and I think he was a wonderful addition to this film. 
  1. Captain America: The First Avenger: This was a pretty good movie overall. I actually ended up falling asleep at the end so I wasn’t aware that Captain America was frozen.
  1. Avengers End Game: The only reason why this isn’t higher is because of the amount of fighting there was, I ended up doing homework every time a fight scene broke out.
  1. Iron Man 3: This is my favorite Iron Man movie because it shows the evolution of all of the suits he ever made.
  1. Spiderman Homecoming: I love Tom Holland as Peter Parker because he really captures the “I am a teenager who is dealing with that as well as being a superhero” angst.
  1. Antman: My favorite element in this movie is the relationship that Scott Lang has with his daughter and his ex-wife. I am a big fan of Paul Rudd and think he played this character perfectly!
  1. Iron Man
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Iron Man 2
  4. Avengers: Infinity War
  5. Thor
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  7. Antman and the Wasp
  8. Captain America Civil War
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy
  10. Thor: The Dark War

So you want to be an Ambassador

By: Ragan Love

Portland State University has many different programs that help prospective students decide if PSU is right for them and one of these programs is the Students Ambassadors. This group of students is often the first connection that future students have to the university. They are hired to represent the student and campus experience. Ambassadors come from all walks of life and represent every college on campus.

I am not an ambassador but my friend, Sophia Hogan, has been involved with this program for the past year and is preparing to continue her involvement the next term. 

The different activities that she has done this past year include giving tours, currently virtual, to prospective students. As they would do in real life, she shows all of the different buildings on campus and shares the history behind them all. 

She has also been a part of different student panels. These panels are moderated by PSU counselors who describe the admission process and what the school is like. The counselors then ask the ambassadors about their experiences at their specific school. 

This spring, she participated in Admitted Students Day where they help admitted students decide if PSU is right for them. This is when students can talk to ambassadors in their same pathway to get an idea of what the culture is like. The ambassadors also have questions for themselves to answer if the prospective students are nervous to ask.

PSU is currently in a transition toward being back on campus where the ambassadors are holding “live from PSU” tours, where Sophia and other ambassadors will livestream a tour of campus. 

Giving these tours has actually helped Sophia still feel connected to her acting side which she hasn’t been able to do since she was in high school. These tours allow her to memorize lines and “give a show” of the campus which gives her a little break from her academics. 

Sophia has had a fun experience while at PSU and she has been wanting to share her experience with others. She also comes from an immigrant household so she is able to help prospective students who come from the same background feel welcomed.

If you are a prospective student and would like to get to know more about campus, college life, and academics, you can schedule a one-on-one meeting with a student ambassador who will tell you everything you need to know about PSU!

If you are currently a PSU student and are interested in becoming an ambassador, applications open every Winter term. Information about this process can be found here!

https://www.pdx.edu/visit/student-ambassadors

Exciting Spring

By: Ragan Love

The past 12 months have felt like a chaotic decade and with the vaccine coming out at the same time as the warm weather, it feels like we are finally out of the dark winter. With this new light there are so many new things I have been excited about.

I have only lived in Oregon for about a year and have not explored as much as I wish I could have. So for spring break my roommates and I took a day to see the coast. Luckily this kind of trip does allow us to social distance and stay safe from the general public. We drove to Pacific City and spent the day walking on the beach and the sand dunes. It was so beautiful and I am so glad that I got to spend a day with my roommates looking at some pretty sites. 

Since moving out to Oregon, I have not been able to see my dad or brother in almost a year. It has been hard because we are really close but we knew that it was safer to wait to be together again. With this spring and my family getting the vaccine I have been able to make the choice to make a trip to see my family at the end of this summer. 

This spring term, I am taking my first music education class. For the past year, I have been developing my music skills in theory and aural practice. I have enjoyed these classes and have learned so much but it’s not what I have wanted to do. I have been wanting the opportunity to start observing classes and learning the techniques I need in the classroom and that’s what I have been able to start this term!

Urban Honors as a Music Major

By: Ragan Love

As someone who always likes to push myself academically, I applied for the Urban Honors program. It was a way for me to challenge myself in something that didn’t involve music. Luckily, I have a friend who is a year ahead of me who answered my many questions. How the program worked, how they liked the courses, what they were learning? They were also able to tell me the differences between University Studies and the Urban Honors program.

If you are not familiar with University Studies or the Honors program, this is PSU’s general education pathway for all majors. Many traditional universities require a certain amount of math, science, and social studies credits even if they do not relate to your future career. With University Studies, you still get the basic general education, but in a more discussion friendly way. There are many different topics that you get to pick including power and imagination, the city of Portland, sustainability, and more. These discussions allow students to learn in the real world rather than a textbook.

Since I am not a University Studies student, I don’t have any personal thoughts on those classes but here is a resource to learn more about it!

https://www.pdx.edu/university-studies/

The Urban Honors program has the same idea but is a little more tailored. At the end of your four years, you will write a thesis in your focus area and the three years prior to that give you the skills to prepare that thesis. You learn how to write different academic papers, how to analyze and research for a thesis, and you also have real life experience before you graduate.

This is what drew me to the honors program, the fact that I could have the opportunity to work in my discipline before diving into the real world. One of the ambassadors that I met from the program was an English major who was able to get an internship at a publishing company. I was very excited to see what I could do in these future classes and for the baccalaureate thesis. 

University Honors has improved my writing skills so much. I have been able to write papers that are looked at as academic articles rather than regular assignments. As a freshman, the honors community was a fantastic way to meet new people. The ‘honors dorm’ is a smaller community so you are able to really get to know all of the students you live with. I have also been able to create an independent research study that would fill in as my junior credits. I have set up a project with my music advisor where I will spend my time analyzing different pieces from female composers. 

One thing that I have struggled with is scheduling my music classes with honors classes because there is always a conflict. My first year, there was only one out of the ten honors classes I could take and it was with a professor that I knew I wouldn’t be that successful with. Their teaching style does not go with my learning style and it was hard for me to understand some of the comments he gave me because his thoughts were so complex. This second year, I have run into even more conflicts as every class I needed to take was at the same time as my required music classes. I asked an advisor if the classes would differ the next term and they told me that it was unlikely. 

Luckily, with remote learning my band class was shifted to small ensembles, having Zoom meetings once a week so I was able to get around that. There was also a conflict with my required noon concert course, but again with COVID I was able to take that course asynchronously. I saw that for winter term I would have the same conflicts so I registered for the two other 200 level honors courses I needed. At this time I was not sure if we would be remote for this upcoming term so I didn’t want to take the chance of overlapping happening with on-campus classes. Adjusting to remote classes during COVID has been a challenge, but in the end it allowed me to balance the demands of being a music major with my honors classes.

A Portland Snow Day

By: Ragan Love

If there is one thing I miss from my home state, it would be the snow. Winter is my favorite season and I love bundling up and baking. I knew this was something that I wouldn’t experience in Portland and I was ready for a city that mainly rains.

My roommate who is from Portland would repeatedly say how it never snows in Portland. The last time it snowed the entire city shut down for days which is really weird for me to think about. I grew up going to school with terrible road conditions with lots of snow and below freezing temperatures. I had more days of going to school when it should have been a snow day than actual snow days.

Over the last week,  I saw that snow was in the forecast for Portland and I was expecting a light flurry, but that Thursday when the snow started, I was surprised by how much was falling and how much started sticking to the ground. By the time the ground was covered, the snow turned into freezing rain and covered the city in a layer of ice. 

I will admit, I did think it was silly how Portland reacted to snow but I do understand why. With how much it rains, the cold temperatures turn that into ice that covers everything. And since the city doesn’t salt the roads, they continue to be sheets of ice. When I stepped outside, the snow was so frozen it didn’t collapse from my weight.

I was supposed to work the entire weekend but the restaurant I worked at decided to close. I did go in for a couple hours Friday night, but that was to just help close so everyone could leave before the sun went down. My roommate also worked that day and he usually takes the bus which stopped running when his shift ended so we had to trek over to rescue him. 

One our way back from picking him up, we saw many power lines snapping and breaking because of the weather, which made us a little anxious that we would lose power. Fortunately we had a few flares of the power going out but we didn’t completely lose it like many families in the city. 

These past two days are the most consecutive snow days I have had in a row, and honestly it’s weird for me to think of getting a day off due to weather. But I am glad that we are taking time off to ensure that all students and teachers can be in class and that my job closed so that we did not have to drive on the roads.

The Roommate Experience

By: Ragan Love

I have now done both types of living in college– dorm living and being off campus in my own apartment. I have enjoyed both and the memories I have made along the way, but I wish someone had been real with me about the positives and negatives that come with living with new people. 

My freshman year I stayed in Epler hall with one roommate. The layout of the room had room for two double beds, a kitchenette, and a bathroom, similar to the rooms in Broadway. Because I didn’t know anyone at PSU, I asked for a roommate to be picked randomly. I remember filling out the questionnaire saying how I like to be lively and around people, go to bed late/ wake up early, and like things tidy. I was paired with a sweet girl named Sophia and I am so glad I got her as a roommate. We got along well and we had a good routine together. 

She is still someone I talk to now, but when you fill out a roommate questionnaire, they can’t check all of your boxes. Sophia had family that lived in Portland so she would go home every weekend for dinner and I would have the place to myself. This would be great for some people, but I am someone who needs interaction for their mental health. So when I had multiple days alone, I would struggle to just get out of bed. When I saw this happening I looked into getting an emotional support animal (or ESA), but unfortunately, Sophia was allergic so I wouldn’t be able to have an ESA.

I now live in a three bedroom apartment with three other people. One of my roommates, Jackson, is a music education major too and Stacey has been in ensembles before so she was okay with us practicing when we needed to. My roommates were also supportive of me getting an ESA, so my cat moved up with me. At Christmas break, Stacey brought her cat up to Portland and the cats are getting along so well! My roommates have also been supportive of me and my family. I wasn’t able to go see my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas and their families invited me over for the holiday festivities. I have created a strong bond with my roommates and it has been a wonderful experience living with them. 

There are some struggles that come with moving in with friends. Living with someone can put a strain on your friendship and you have to be honest with yourself if your friend is a good fit for a roommate or if it is best to keep your friendship out of the household. It is hard to confront your friend on different things you would like to see in your house so you have to make sure that you can have those conversations with them. If they hadn’t given you money for the internet bill you need to be able to ask them to pay it without hurting their feelings. 

I have been fortunate to have had amazing roommates and even with the occasional issue, I am happy with the relationship I built and my experience with my roommates.

A Family Story

By: Ragan Love

I am the oldest in my family. I have a brother who is two years younger than me and my four cousins are all around six to eleven years old. It has been hard for us to really have a connection because we are scattered across the country from New Hampshire, to Colorado, to Oregon. But our Grandmother has created an activity that helps us all connect and also helps my younger cousin with their writing skills. 

It all started because my youngest cousin was having a hard time writing so he never wanted to. My grandma started to write him a letter so he could write back but after a while my grandma came up with a new way to get him to write. She gave an introduction to a story and sent it to him and asked for him to write the next part of the story. He did and sent it back to my grandma and she was excited to see how much he was into it. He was descriptive and had so many creative things to say. My grandmother decided to send this story to the next youngest cousin who was just as excited.

She went through my four cousins and then asked my brother and I if we wanted to contribute, and we jumped for the opportunity! I am so excited to be a part of this little family activity. I know how much it will help my cousins with their own writing skills and it will give me time to relax and be creative.

This is a wonderful opportunity for my younger cousins to be creative and to practice their writing skills and it’s an opportunity for me to relax and write. I have been swamped with school and work and this little activity is therapeutic for me.

Once I am done I will send my part of the story to my grandmother. We might get another round with this story or we might start a new one, but I am excited to see how our little project turns out. This is a wonderful project to do with the younger kids in your family and will help them with their basic writing skills and allow you to relax and write a story.

Trading a White Christmas for a Rainy One

By: Ragan Love

My favorite holiday is Christmas; I love baking, the snow, and the wonderful memories with my family. But this year my family and I decided that me staying here in Portland would be the safest choice for all of us. My family is very close and it’s been hard not being together during normal days, especially with the year we have had. 

In Colorado, I always had a white Christmas, it is something that I think is essential for Christmas to feel real. But, since I was staying in Portland, I had to prepare myself to wake up that morning and see wet pavement instead of a blanket of snow. And because I am considered a Christmas baby, I am also used to having snow on my birthday. It was weird for me to spend this entire week of Christmas, my birthday, and New Years without snow falling down. There are many traditions that looked different this year because I wasn’t with my family. 

Usually for Christmas my family goes out to find a new ornament for our tree and when we all find one, we have our decoration night. We drink eggnog, play Christmas music, and enjoy the tree and all of the decorations around the house. This year my family set up the tree without me and I had to send them my 2020 ornament. Luckily I had a mini tree so I still had the Christmas vibes in my home. My roommates also agreed to get matching stockings which helped make it feel like the Christmas season.

My family and I usually bake a bunch of sweets every year including different kinds of cookies, peanut butter balls, pie, and a cake for my birthday. But this year, we did the baking separately. I made pumpkin muffins and peanut butter balls and my dad made Christmas sugar cookies. On Christmas day we have a big Christmas dinner with potatoes, steak, and a bunch of vegetables. I enjoy Christmas dinner more than Thanksgiving because of how small we have usually kept it, usually just the three of us. 

This year, my dad made a nice dinner for him and my brother and I had the opportunity to have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner with my roommate. We had pork one day and street tacos the next. I spent the remainder of the day talking with my family on Facetime. We had breakfast together and opened the gifts we got for each other. My family got me some supplies to make pie at home. My dad and I cooked it together on the phone as if we were next to each other baking. It wasn’t like any other Christmas but we were able to make it special when we are 1,000 miles apart.

Fall Quarter Slump

By: Ragan Love

With two quarters down in quarantine and I was not prepared with how different this fall was going to be. I have always been motivated to do well in school, even my “senioritis” was being late to class everyday because I wanted coffee. I still did my work on time and worked hard. During spring quarter I still felt pretty motivated despite the circumstances. I got all of my work done on time, practiced flute multiple times a week, and I didn’t skip out on class.

But, this fall quarter it went down the drain. I skipped out on classes and started to fall behind on work, even writing this blog has been hard to do because of motivation. I didn’t have the energy to do all of these things I love to do. Luckily, I have come across a few things that have helped me through this quarter. 

  1. Communicate with your professors! They know how hard this time is for everybody and letting them know about your situation will help your professors know how to help you. I had a problem that I either would go to my piano Zoom class and not practice or I would skip the lecture and work on the skills and assignments. When I talked to my professor, he allowed me to turn in supplemental videos to show the skills he was giving in the classes I missed. This was the most helpful thing a professor did for me, he allowed me to learn when I was struggling to go to class.
  2. Plan when assignments are due: I have never been the person to do assignments 10 minutes before they were due but that has been my reality this term. The only thing that has helped me is to go through my assignments and write when they are due instead of the day I would like to finish them. Before, I would keep pushing off my homework to the point it was late but, this forced me to make sure that the assignment gets done
  3. Know your resources! Many people are dealing with this quarantine depression and it’s important to know that you are not alone. There are people to talk to and PSU has resources for students!

https://www.pdx.edu/health-counseling/wellness

Learning New Technology

By: Ragan Love

One word my friends use to describe me is “Grandma.” I don’t know Gen Z terms, I bake cookies, and I am not good with technology. I know how to work the Microsoft programs and can get by, but when the Pandemic started I had a huge learning curve to conquer. 

One thing that I and other music majors started using is Soundtrap. This is a recording platform that allows multiple people to record on the same piece. Because of this platform, PSU’s large ensembles are able to perform with our peers in the safety of our home. 

This term I am in a woodwind quintet and we have been working on three pieces of music. When I first went to complete a recording, I hit start and played with the metronome and our clarinetist and when I finished and listened back, I was out of time. I didn’t know why, I was playing it just like my quintet members but this is when I learned about latency. When we record anything, there is a slight delay, and it is different on every device. I recorded using my Macbook microphone which has a slower latency. Luckily my roommate has a studio microphone and let me record off of that, helping me to solve the latency problem.I will have to eventually get my own microphone because I will be doing recordings for the rest of my schooling, but I am grateful my roommate is helping me with this.

I also decided that it was time to start going paperless and I bought an iPad. As a music major I have a lot of sheet music that I end up printing out and now I can save some of those to the iPad. I can write and it’s been very useful for reading music. It is also really nice for homework in general. I use Microsoft Onenote and they actually have pages that have music staff, not just lined paper! I can also do a split screen between my Macbook and iPad so its like I have two monitors. I have used this feature while writing my papers because I can have my draft on one screen and my notes on the other.