Sick of Being Sick

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Each term, I dread the day I’m going to catch whatever cold has been going around. College campus and the city are such germy environments that it feels inevitable. Classrooms, dorms, the gym, and public transit all compete to be the place you pick up a bug. I came to expect that I’d get sick around once per term and fall behind in classes. However, as time went on I didn’t want that to be my normal. 

I started looking into ways to boost my immune system naturally. Barely any research on herbal supplements exists and what does is all anecdotal. I’d dabbled with herbal supplements in the past with no success, so I wondered how people used them successfully.

After digging through the depths of the internet and talking to friends and extended friends I think I’ve finally cracked the code on how to prevent catching a cold. I used to take immune support supplements like elderberry syrup, oregano oil, and garlic just once when I started feeling sick. I learned I actually needed to take the herbal remedies every few hours for them to be effective—kind of like how you would an antibiotic. 

At the earliest onset of symptoms, I start taking elderberry syrup and oregano oil capsules 4-5 times a day. I eat cloves of garlic at night because I don’t want to walk around all day smelling like it. Unsavory as it is to most people, garlic is by far the cheapest and most effective method I’ve found. I believe in it so much that my friends will tell you I’m paid by the garlic commission. 

From one student to another, I know we all hate to get sick. No one has time for that. By no means am I a medical professional, and as a skeptic myself, I don’t like to base conclusions off of anecdotal evidence. But so far, I’ve only been sick once in 2019 (I write as I furiously knock on wood), and I felt compelled to share my method.

Letters to Avoid Losing Touch

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Last month my best friend left for Senegal, Africa with the Peace Corps. All this past summer I dreaded the moment we would have to say goodbye. I knew communication with her would be next to none once she left. We promised to write letters, but the mail takes around two months to deliver—if it doesn’t get lost first.

This situation reminded me of a different friend who wrote “read when” letters to me when she left for her mission years ago. “Read when” letters (also called “open when” letters) are prewritten notes that help you remain  present in someone’s life even when they are far away. I kept every “read when” letter that my friend wrote for me, and they remain one of the most precious gifts I’ll ever receive. I decided to write the same letters as a gift for my Senegal-bound friend.

Sitting down to write the letters for my friend was honestly depressing. Every word I wrote was a constant reminder that she was leaving soon. The hardest letters were her birthday cards; those really drove home the fact that we wouldn’t share any adventures or experiences for two years. As emotionally draining as it was, I only wish I had written her more. I feel so much more at peace knowing that she’ll have birthday cards to open on her birthday, and that they can’t get lost in the mail. Even though I can’t support her in person, she can immediately turn to my words over and over again when she’s lonely or in need of a boost.

I know this won’t be the last set of “read when” letters I write. As my time at PSU nears its end, I recognize that graduation causes people to scatter. This first—but far from last—goodbye made me realize my lifelong friends and how determined I am to stay in touch with them past our PSU experience.

 

My Senioritis Self-Diagnosis

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Each year at PSU has challenged me in different ways. Time management is something I’m continually navigating as a student, and each year of school brings its own twists. Freshman year, I remember being so scared of falling behind in school and getting a bad grade that I kept to an extremely rigid schedule. I was still figuring out that I didn’t need to over-study; an A is still an A—regardless of whether you got a 94 percent or 100 percent in the class. However, back then classes were significantly easier. 

Come my sophomore and junior years, I constantly thought to myself, “Why was I ever stressed as a freshman?” I had so much unrealized free time, classes were easy, and I had no idea what being busy actually felt like. As a sophomore and junior, I was constantly challenged to find the balance between school, work, and my personal life. I still had the self-discipline from my first year of college, but I learned to be more flexible with my schedule to allow life to happen. I started to enjoy the sense of purpose I found in being busy and working toward a math degree.

Now, my senior year has rolled around. Instead of getting better at time management , I have gotten worse. I have diagnosed myself with senioritis—and I’ve got it bad.

senioritisdef

A key component to successful time management is motivation, and I seem to have misplaced mine. The problem is, I know that I’ve kept my days very full and productive with my work and involvement on campus. By the time evening rolls around, the last thing I want to do is study math when my brain already feels fried just from the last 12 hours of waking life. My inability to manufacture more time has caused me to become accustomed to living with a constant spike in my cortisol levels. 

Looking ahead, I know there’s a lesson to learn from all of this because eventually, I will have to find the motivation to push through this final year. I didn’t enter my senior year with perfect time management skills, and I certainly won’t leave PSU having perfected them. Once I start working after graduation, I know I will go through a whole new adjustment period of balancing my time. For now, though, this term is teaching me that there’s constantly room for growth.

 

A Healing Hiatus

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Exercise is my catharsis, and it takes something major to throw me off my routine. A year ago, that unexpected “something major” happened. I developed sesamoiditis, the inflammation around two tiny bones in the ball of the foot, and it caused severe pain when I ran. I stupidly kept running on it because I refused to accept the fact that pain resulting from overuse counted as an actual injury. I thought since nothing was physically broken or fractured, it would just gradually disappear. When I reached the point where I could no longer walk to and from class without pain, I knew I had to quit running.

I thought maybe I’d give it up for a couple weeks—a month at tops. Little did I know, it would be 10 months before I could run again. For someone who has run for years, it was like having a piece of me ripped away. In addition, I couldn’t play Ultimate Frisbee, and I drifted away from the team I’d been a part of since I was a freshmen.

On the bright side, not being able to run forced me to try things outside of my comfort zone since I wanted to stay active. I picked up weight lifting, which is something I used to vehemently hate but now love how much stronger it has made me feel. This term I dabbled in rock climbing, and I learned a lot from attending the Rec Center bouldering classes. I even joined the dodgeball club—a dangerous decision for someone with as little hand-eye coordination as myself, but it’s ended up being really fun.

I used to consider running my utmost prioritized form of exercise, but my injury and months of subsequent recovery forced me to commit myself to new things that are now just as important to me. Strangely enough, this injury gave me the time to discover I enjoy other activities and the confidence to pursue them.

Internship Blues

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

My journey of internship applications began fall term. I never kept track of how many I applied for, but it was an absurd amount. I ended up interviewing for 10 positions, and it was absolutely exhausting. 

Time after time, I was not selected and my confidence really took a hit. The worst case was when I got a call from an employer explaining it had come down to the wire between me and another candidate, and I just barely got edged out by this other person. My entire interpretation of the conversation was, “You were great, but there was just someone better.” Essentially, they called to make sure I could be the back-up plan if the chosen intern backed out down the road. The feeling that there would always be someone better persisted to eat  away at me despite the validation I’d received of being a strong candidate.

From then on, my motivation plummeted even though I kept interviewing. My heart never felt in it because I’d stopped believing in my own potential. Eventually—probably because a person can only be turned down so many times—I was offered positions from two different internships. Finally, it felt like the long slog of applications and interviews had paid off. However, I went from feeling extremely hopeful and excited to completely out of luck; I was forced to decline both due to start date issues and inadequate pay.

Now, it’s spring term and I’m still internship-less. I never believed the stories of how hard it is to land an internship, but I understand now having gone through the process myself. It required so much time, energy, optimism, and commitment. But in the famous words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and so my search for an internship continues.

PSU Accreditation Scare, Not So Scary

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

The PSU Vanguard recently published an article about PSU’s accreditation status. As of January 2019, PSU has two years to improve how it defines and assesses student learning outcomes. Less than half of PSU’s programs have sufficient plans to assess student learning, and accreditation requires that number to increase above 50% by 2021. If PSU fails to comply with these standards, the university risks probation and after that loss of accreditation. Losing accreditation is a big deal, as it means the loss of federal funding. 

Upon first reading this article and talking about it amongst my peers, we were all under the impression that PSU was already on probation when it is not. In this mix of misunderstanding, I’d started researching what a diploma from an unaccredited university meant for job and graduate school opportunities. All of my upperclassmen friends were thanking their lucky stars that they’d be graduating within a year regardless. In reality, we had no idea what the accreditation process and continuing verification looked like for a university. One thing that the PSU Vanguard article didn’t mention was that accreditation status is evaluated and reaffirmed in a seven-year cycle. PSU was last evaluated in 2015, and the next evaluation is in 2022. Additionally, the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, which governs the accreditation of regional universities, does not have a defined time period for probation. So while PSU has two years to fix the current student learning assessment problem, it could actually amount to several more years.

All in all, I know this article caused a level of fear amongst my peers. I know that I had never even considered what it would mean for a university to lose accreditation and what that would mean for myself and the entire student body. However, looking at the accreditation process as a whole puts everything in perspective. PSU has a lot of time to fix the current issue, and remains accredited at least until 2022—and hopefully for many years to come. 

So Long Social Media?

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

I don’t keep up-to-date on Apple’s software, but I kept hearing about its new Screen Time feature. It lets you know how much time you spend on apps and social media and will set limits if you want it to. I personally did not turn it on or give it a try, but I increasingly found my friends talking about it and social media’s effect on a person’s outlook on life.

With books like The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost by Donna Freitas and similar studies and articles in circulation online, it’s no secret that social media is linked to feeling dissatisfied and unhappy with one’s own life. Even weirder, they say receiving “likes” triggers a dopamine high equivalent to hugging. Reading things like this make me want to delete everything but my contacts from my phone—but it’s always a fleeting feeling because I’ll end up distracting myself on Instagram.

Only one of my friends goes sans social media. She has accounts, but long ago deleted the apps from her phone and nearly never chooses to check social media elsewhere. For me, social media is a platform that allows me to stay connected with distant friends and family. I look at my friend though, and she has no trouble keeping in contact with the people that matter to her. Another friend of mine recently deleted all social media from her phone and is going on a two week purge. The goal is that after two weeks, she won’t have any desire to re-download those apps. I’m genuinely curious to see what changes she sees in herself, if any. 

Meanwhile, I actually turned on Screen Time to satisfy my curiosity on my own app usage. In the past seven hours, I’ve spent 40 minutes on my phone and 28 of those were on social networks. Not even 24 hours have passed, and I’m disgustingly well on my way to wasting hours of time on my phone.