New Term, New Goals

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Going through pictures from this last term showed me that I have fallen out of touch with some friends. I consoled myself by thinking this hadn’t happened purposely, but more out of necessity with our busy schedules. I spent Fall term trying to find a new balance between my personal and academic life. My classes were harder than in previous years, and I was also keeping more active than ever.

I recognize now that I didn’t prioritize my social life as much as I had in the past. I tended to hang out with friends who were the most convenient travel-wise. This realization made me feel like a terrible person, especially since the friends I’d lost touch with are mainly those who had graduated. As someone who’s graduating this year, this is exactly the trap I want to avoid and I fear falling into it.

 My goal this term is to reconnect with those friends and focus on strengthening my outreach skills—even if it’s just a quick message to touch base. I’m definitely one to be easily wrapped up in school and my own busy life, but I realize more than ever the effort required to maintain important friendships even if they present new challenges for keeping in touch.

A Degree of Suffering

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

When I was a freshman, my pride in double majoring in math and quantitative economics held rank over my actual happiness. I didn’t go into college with the intention of double majoring, but quantitative economics and math overlapped so well I just thought, “Well, why not?” I was absolutely miserable, but I figured temporary misery was a solid trade for the salary I’d be making with my majors down the road. 

Halfway through my junior year, I had an epiphany: I hated economics with a burning passion. Math piqued my curiosity; economics did not. Math challenged me in a way I found rewarding, and economics was just boring. The more I thought about the future, the more I realized that I would hate my entire life if I pursued a career in economics.

Even with this realization, I still felt trapped by my freshman-year decision. I had poured over two years worth of time, energy, and tuition into two majors, and it would be wasteful to quit. My mind was going in circles, which prompted a phone call home to my parents. I had become so paralyzed by my pride that I had not considered a solution that my dad pointed out—minoring in Econ.

Sure, I wouldn’t be able to say I was double majoring anymore, but my suffering would be over. Plus, my previous coursework would not go to waste. Sometimes in moments of high stress, we need to seek out other perspectives because it’s too easy to get wrapped up in our own heads and lose sight of the bigger picture. I made the switch immediately, and it was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made in college.

Some Advice? See Your Advisor

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

My primary goal at PSU has been to graduate in four years. Using PSU tools like the DARS report and Course Projection Guide, I meticulously created and followed a degree map for the better part of my first three years of school. I believed it to be so thorough that I never bothered to speak with my advisor in order to sort out anything I could have missed.

Last spring, I finally decided to visit with my math advisor because I needed to ask about the Honors thesis. The math department has different requirements surrounding the thesis project, and the little nuances had me confused. I entered the meeting thinking it would be around a five-minute clarifying chat, but it turned into a full half-hour of me reworking my entire senior year class schedule. Low and behold, in the three years I avoided my advisor, I had never learned about some fine print on the degree requirements involving an Honors student in math. Where I thought I only needed one more math sequence to be done, I actually needed to take two 400-level math sequences. 

Leaving my advising appointment, I felt the strangest mix of stress, frustration, and gratitude. I was upset that I didn’t have my whole college career mapped out correctly all along and stressed about my senior year, which would no longer be chill with an additional math sequence tacked on. Overwhelmingly, though, I was relieved and grateful that I saw my advisor before it was too late. Speaking from my experience, save yourself the future grief and meet with your advisor(s). Too many horror stories exist about seniors just missing their graduation requirements; I narrowly avoided being one of them. This week I applied for graduation in Spring 2020, and I am extremely lucky that I could.

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.