Go Homemade For Heartfelt Gifts

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Years ago, my mom started a tradition where everyone our family has to make a homemade Christmas gift for someone. At Thanksgiving, we draw names to see who has who. I didn’t think much of the tradition when I was younger; it was just something extra I had to do. I eventually saw the value in exchanging something homemade, but moving away from home and starting college made me really appreciate it.

Like any student, I always feel short on time. Making gifts can be so time consuming—yet I’ve found I’m always more excited to gift something I made than something I just went out and bought. Plus, knowing how difficult it can be for me to find the time to sit down and make a gift makes me appreciate receiving one all that much more. Money is replaceable, but time isn’t.

When it comes to homemade gifts, there’s no competition. It’s simply the fact that someone is willing to spend their time on making a gift that makes the receiver feel special. On top of that, homemade gifts don’t have to look or be perfect because regardless, you’re giving something away that’s absolutely unique.

RA’s Face the Pros and Con(frontation)s

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Confrontation is an art form. Like any artistic ability, some people just have an innate knack for it. Others work at it until they seem like naturals all, and some try it out only to decide it’s just not their thing.

A year ago, I definitely would’ve fallen into the latter category. This year, however, I’m a Resident Assistant (RA), and conflict is an inherent part of my job. Confrontation was definitely one of my biggest fears coming into this job, but so far I’ve gained an appreciation for it and new confidence in my approach. Of course, RAs go through training on conflict resolution, but the most valuable training happens on the job. Being an RA has forced me to live—on the daily—outside of my comfort zone. Not only have I had to act as the confronter, but also as a facilitator for residents confronting others to resolve issues internally.

Even though being an RA has given me more confidence in dealing with conflict, that’s in no way saying I look forward to it in the slightest. The only secret I can let you in on about RAs is that we hate confrontation as much as anyone else; we just have to hide it.

 

Work to Know the Value of Education

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

I live among the rolling hills of the Palouse in northern Idaho. Come August, those hills look like golden seas filled with wheat, barley, and legumes. The past four years, I’ve worked at a scale house during harvest. My experience there has been one of the most impactful on my life and character.

Once harvest begins, I’m in the scale house at least 13 hours a day nearly all week. I take samples from every truck that comes in and run moisture, protein, and falling numbers tests on different commodities. With these samples, I keep track of each farmer’s opening and closing of lots and send their composite samples out for grade. On the busiest days, I rarely have the chance to sit down or sometimes even eat. After all, I’m servicing over 100 trucks every day, and they have to come across the scale twice—once full, and once empty.

Many people don’t realize how stressful and exhausting this time of year is for the farmers and harvest workers alike. My job requires my mental acuity to always be sharp because of the amount of paperwork I handle, but it isn’t nearly the most physically demanding job. The employees dumping trucks full of crops into the pits are in 90-to-100-degree heat, surrounded by dust. They also shovel out bins. When I start to feel like complaining about my job, I only have to remember I have air conditioning.

College students are no strangers to summer jobs, and one of the greatest takeaways I’ve gained from mine is a value for education. Harvest can be grueling, and while I love it—I love it as a summer job. The overtime pays great, but it isn’t something I want to do for the rest of my life. So, even though I can’t say I’m looking forward to another term of homework and tests, I only need to remind myself of the future career I’m working toward.

Awestruck by the Eclipse

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

The most important and surprisingly difficult challenge I took on this summer was convincing my parents to go see the solar eclipse. To me, it was an obvious once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus, the path of totality would pass just four hours south of us in Idaho. Eventually my badgering won out, and we found ourselves camped out in Cascade, Idaho, waiting with thousands of other people for the big event.

There are no words to describe how amazing the total solar eclipse was. Watching the moon slip into place, I realized why even 99% totality is only as awesome as 90% or 70%. If any part of the sun is visible, you still need to wear solar glasses because it’s too bright to look at. One hundred percent totality, however, was the single most awe-inspiring and beautiful thing I’ve seen. No picture or description can do it justice. In those first moments, I was so taken aback and humbled by what I saw that a chill swept over me. A flock of birds flew into a nearby tree to roost. Venus twinkled off to the side, and the barest hint of a couple stars poked through the ecliptic darkness. In 1 minute and 55 seconds, the sun made its reappearance. My first thoughts when the sun’s rays began cascading out from behind the moon were, “I have to see it again!” And since I couldn’t reach out and shove the moon back into place, I decided I’ll just have to be an eclipse chaser. The next one in the U.S. will be on April 8, 2024.

If I missed this eclipse, I wouldn’t have understood what the big deal about it was. As I searched for pictures of the eclipse online, I realized none of them captured what I saw. Even the best cameras distorted the light or made everything too dark. All in all, a total solar eclipse is not something you can relive through a lens; it must be experienced.

Mountains, Forests, or Shores: Just Explore

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Recently, a friend from high school invited me on short notice to camp at Glacier National Park in Montana. Despite the anxiety I felt just thinking about how much I had to get ready in only a couple days, I said yes. That decision turned into a highlight of my summer.

Since it was short notice, it was too late to reserve a campsite, so we left Idaho early in the morning to try and snag a first-come site for our stay. Amazingly, and on the Fourth of July no less, we managed to claim a spot. From there, we did several day hikes around the park to Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail, and Logan Pass. The views were unbeatable, but my favorite part was when we saw arguably the most elusive creature other than Bigfoot—a wolverine.

My trip to Glacier National Park made me crave more adventures. As a freshman, I was still figuring out how much time I needed to devote to my classes and was always worrying about falling behind. There were several places I wanted to visit during my first year at PSU that I never did, like Crater Lake, Mount Hood, and Tamolitch Blue Pool. Now I know I could easily spare a couple weekends to explore Oregon. After all, there’s no time like when you’re young with good knees to go adventuring. If I could see a wolverine on my first trip to Glacier National Park, who knows what (or who…(Bigfoot)) I’ll see next.

Do The Math: Get A Tutor

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Not too long ago, I thought I was good at math. For some reason, it just always clicked with me and because of this, I chose to minor in math. Then I started Calculus III—and nothing was clicking. During the lectures, I stared blankly at whatever new theorem the instructor was scribbling on the board, thinking, “I’ll get it later.” When I clearly wasn’t getting it, my inner narration changed to a constant, “What the hell is going on?”

After the first homework assignment, I realized if I wanted a great grade in the course, I’d need to put effort into it. At first, I was hesitant to try out the free tutoring services offered by PSU. I was embarrassed for needing help—especially in a subject I’ve provided tutoring for in the past

My determination to do well trumped the shame I felt at seeking help. I visited both the Learning Center located on the second floor of the PSU Library, and the Tutoring Table in the third floor atrium of Neuberger Hall. The Learning Center provides free drop-in tutoring for several different subjects. The tutoring table in Neuberger Hall is all about math.

After I’d put the time in to see a couple different tutors, math began to make sense again. I could sit through the lectures, and despite continuing to leave confused most of the time, I’d think, ‘It’s ok—you won’t fail this class!

Ultimately, Calculus III has taught me more about overcoming my fear of getting help than about infinite series. Below are the links to the resources I turned to and vouch for 100%. After all, it’s because of these tutors I was able to ace my first Calc III exam.

NH Math Tutor Schedule

Learning Center’s tutoring schedule

Don’t Forget What You Love

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Recently, I have found myself falling away from some of the hobbies I love in order to study and do homework. Even though college is definitely a time to figure yourself out and find your identity, I started to miss parts of myself I’d accidentally left behind.

For years I sang, played guitar, and enjoyed performing the songs I’ve written at open mic nights. In fact, Portland’s flourishing music scene is a key reason I chose PSU—and yet I still have not been to an open mic. For the entirety of winter term, I only picked up my guitar once and never wrote a new song.

I also haven’t been running as much. I loved having a goal to train for that culminated in a competitive race where I really tested my limits. Moving to Portland from Idaho, I was excited to participate in the races it had to offer. As in the case with my singing and songwriting, fall and winter term passed by and my runs grew few and far between.

Despite entering spring quarter of my freshman year with two academically successful terms behind me, I felt rather unaccomplished and disappointed. On a whim, I signed up for the Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon with only a month to train. After my first long training run, I immediately felt like part of my old self was back—and in a good way. I have also queued up possible open mics to go to and ended my creative drought by writing a song.

Looking back, I see that I took the “fresh start” of college too literally and ended up sidelining the things I love to do. It’s very easy to get swept away in the idealized college life of self-discovery. Despite the transformations I’ve undergone, the biggest learning curve was realizing that not everything about me has to change.