Summer Woes

by Beth Royston

While I am eagerly awaiting finals to be finished, I’m not exactly looking forward to summertime either. I’m a student that chooses to take a break over the summer and not take any classes, and work to save up as much as I can for expenses throughout the year. I usually approach summer with mixed feelings. I enjoy the break from classes, but I also miss them! However, I think this year will be different, and not in a good way.

I really despised the summers during high school — it’s an easy recipe for my depression to fester, sitting at home with not much of a structure and things to do. Now, my life is a lot busier, with a side business to run, a garden to take care of, novel chapters to write. However, there’s a looming possibility I won’t be able to go anywhere or see friends often — something else that echoes high school — and I’m worried about my mental health. While I’m happy to have a break from classes, as all-online learning has not agreed with me, I’m worried about the lack of deadlines. 

I appreciate that PSU has been asking for student input on what fall term will look like. I’m really hoping that classes are ideally split between online and in-person, which is the type of schedule I prefer anyway. If things are due to be all online again, I think I’m going to have to avoid taking the full course load I usually do, as I’m not confident my grades will be able to stick with another entirely online term. Thankfully, I have some leeway in my graduation plan where I can take less classes now and more later. 

A lot of friends and family I’ve been talking to have also been struggling with their mental health during this time, and worrying about their future when they are forced to perform as usual during these incredibly stressful circumstances. I’m also a planner, so I like looking forward to the future. However, when times are uncertain, it’s not easy to plan for things five months from now, because it’s impossible to tell if they’ll be open. I appreciate the opportunity to still be able to take classes and work on my degree during this time, but I feel my resolve and determination slowly slipping through my fingers.

Now Is Not The Time For Silence

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Had you asked me a year ago what my last blog for PSU Chronicles would be about, I would’ve said my upcoming graduation. Instead, the recent protests and riots against police brutality and racism that have rocked our nation have completely occupied my mind and heart. 

When I moved to Portland from Idaho, my eyes were opened to my privilege and the many racial injustices embedded in the criminal justice system. I have spent my years here listening and learning as much as I can. In those same years, I also allowed the fear of saying the wrong thing strangle me into silence. Once I realized my silence enables an oppressive system, I felt even more shame. A broken system can only find true long-term reformation if we fight for change in the system and within ourselves.

I have witnessed many who speak, “Well, in my experience…” in an attempt to use their personal reality to disregard the experiences of communities with identities different from them. In order to change, we need to let go of defensive tendencies that manifest themselves in phrases like “not all cops are bad” or “All Lives Matter.” Defending the reputation of good cops is not the priority, focus, or issue; police brutality is. Black Lives Matter because as a white person, I will never understand what it feels like to fear death by the very hands put in place to protect me. 

Just to feel anger, horror, and outrage at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others is no longer enough. As the protests and riots unfolded, I thought to myself that “this time feels different.” But why? Perhaps, for the first time, I understood that in order to help make any difference that I can’t simply feel outraged or listen and learn from afar; I must join the discussion. We all must so that when our nation finally undergoes the changes it needs, no individual will allow it to fail again.

Through Sickness and Health

by Beth Royston

My partner and I will celebrate our five-year anniversary in early July. Last year, we took a trip to the coast after realizing he’d never been, and visited a lovely aquarium, which was very nostalgic. One of our first dates was at an aquarium — that first date was on our one year anniversary, after he’d flown out from Ohio to California to see me. It was a beautiful trip, and I can’t help but feel tinged with sadness this year. We’d hoped to do something similar, but my health makes it uncertain if we’ll be able to complete another drive to the coast. However, I’m grateful I even get to think about that at all. 

This has been the toughest year of my life with my health scares, but the steadfast presence throughout it all has been my partner. We spent every hour of the day together for a week in a tiny hotel room, and then a hospital room, while I was the sickest I’ve ever been. He saw me at my worst and took such good care of me any way he could while we were both terrified and alone on the other side of the world. One of the most vivid memories I have, among the fear and despair, was feeling overwhelmed with how in love and grateful I felt to him. I had always been sure he was the person I wanted to spend my life with, but this was beyond certainty — an assurance that no matter what happened, he’d be there.

 I’ve been grateful that we’re quarantining together. We both value our individual space, and sometimes, that can be difficult to get when my roommates also need the downstairs area. Tensions and worries are high. While my health struggles have improved, they’re certainly not over, and we frequently have to navigate the ups and downs that this new reality requires. It’s caused us to take a look at our relationship, what we both need and how we communicate. Thankfully, we’re going through it stronger than ever. I wouldn’t choose to be stuck inside with anyone else, and we make it a priority to do things together and talk frequently about how we’re both doing. No matter what we decide to do to celebrate our anniversary this year, I’m glad that we have each other.

Feeling Helpless in a Time of Great Need

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

One of the cornerstones of my job as a Resident Academic Mentor —programming—came to a complete standstill with COVID-19. Throughout the term, I normally put on programs that promote holistic wellness in order to achieve academic success. With its absence, I honestly feel like the rewarding aspect of my job has been ripped away. All of us in Housing have lost the in-person connection to residents and we miss providing them the support of programming. I continue to live on campus, and my residents know I’m still here because I send out weekly emails, but I feel more like a ghost in their inbox than anything else.

It  is hard to know how to support my residents and other students during these times. This has been echoed by my teammates and other student leaders. PSU students are experiencing financial, mental health, academic, and other hardships that are all unique. I’m not qualified to provide specialized help in those areas.  I have to refer students out to online counseling services with SHAC and virtual appointments with the Financial Wellness Center. I hold zero sway with unaccommodating and unsupportive professors. All I can do is listen and offer resources, and it makes me feel useless.

My position as a Resident Academic Mentor gave me a sense of purpose in the past. I built a community at PSU through this role and really found my place on campus. I enjoyed helping people and feel privileged to have heard so many life stories. Now, with the pandemic, I feel like I’m just going through the motions of my work. In the halls I strove to build connection, I have never felt so disconnected. Throughout this term, I’ve struggled to find meaning in my work when I am so utterly powerless to change my residents’ situations.

What it’s like to study engineering remotely

By Wiwin Hartini

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been taking my engineering courses remotely these past six weeks. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to studying engineering remotely. This is my last year studying electrical engineering at Portland State University. I was a transfer student from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, and my time at PSU was enriched by hands-on experiences.

Electrical engineering has branches, and I’m focusing on power engineering, or how engineers generate, transmit, and distribute electricity to households and other entities. It would be hard for power engineering students to do labs at home. I miss the hands-on experiences in the power lab, where students have access to different types of motors and generators, transformers, power supplies, relays, and other types of equipment that must stay in the lab for safety purposes. 

AlthoughI’m missing the hands-on experience, the main path to learning is, fortunately, still available. I can still ask questions of instructors who are also working in the industry, and I can still use free software for simulations and course materials.

In my electronics class, my professor conducts experiments at his home-lab, and students focus on conducting simulations and comparing results with his measurements, which has been very useful in filling the gap. 

Many engineering courses also rely on simulations that can be done remotely. So spending more time on simulations allows me to learn more about the software. 

The circuit built on LTSpice to run a simulation

My typical day studying engineering remotely involves spending hours in front of my laptop, which I think most of us are doing now. On the other hand, I am excited to learn more about what students are capable of doing while working or studying from home. Maybe there is a potential for hybrid engineering courses in the future, where students can take the courses online and attend labs in person. 

I would say that I’ve gained some extra time during this quarantine which I can use to focus on studying, reading, and other activities that I would not be able to do if this term was in-person. My peers and I used to joke about the fact that engineering students rarely get enough sleep. I’d say it’s true for most of my terms in the past, but this term, I have been able to get enough sleep, work part-time, and go to school remotely.

Staying Social During Quarantine

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

Today, May 13, marks 58 days by my count of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. That’s a long time to go without hanging out in person with other people. I’ve seen a movement toward calling it “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” to emphasize that while people need to physically stay apart, they can still connect in other ways. Humans are social creatures and it’s important to stay connected.

One of the ways I’ve been keeping in touch with my friends is through our weekly Dungeons & Dragons sessions. We all hop on Google Hangouts and play D&D for a few hours on Sunday nights. It’s great to catch up with them as well as getting the escape that role-playing games (RPGs) offer. We played a really fun RPG called “Honey Heist” where you’re trying to infiltrate a honey convention, but everyone is a bear. It made everybody laugh and was a good time, so I highly recommend this if you want to try out a RPG.

IMG_7106

Another fun thing you can do with your friends is hold a Netflix watch party, where everyone starts the movie at the same time and chats throughout. You could also play video games online, or hop on the Animal Crossing bandwagon. We held a PowerPoint party where everybody gave an informal presentation of something that interests them, which was an entertaining way to spend an evening. Topics varied from the history of World War I to Frodo and Sam’s relationship in The Lord of the Rings. It was fun to learn about my friends’ interests.

Since I’m currently away from my family, I make sure to stay in touch with them. Usually this involves texting them silly pictures I find on the Internet. We also FaceTime every two weeks or so. Phone calls are wonderful, but seeing their faces does me a lot of good…even if my dog is pretty confused when she sees my face on the computer.

Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to take the initiative to set up a hangout with your friends. It’s important to keep physically distancing, but don’t let friendships fade just because you’re physically apart.

Homebound Hobbies

By: Adair

There’s a high chance that you’ve either given up pursuing your New Year’s resolutions or, at the very least, just simply outright forgot about them. In the same vein, maybe that new hobby or activity that you wanted to try and pick up early on in 2020 was abandoned because of a flood of work and other demanding tasks that have made it exceptionally difficult to squeeze in any time to acquire a new skill, or simply take part in a fun and new hobby. If you’re quarantined at home and have found yourself with an abundance of free time on your hands, there’s no better time than the present than to try and dip your toes into something new, and see if it ends up being a right fit for you!

Personally, in the sudden abundance of free time that I’ve found myself essentially burdened with, I’ve decided to not only continue pushing forward with freelance commissions, but I’ve also decided to give creative writing and world-building the old college try. World-building for fictional settings and narratives has always both fascinated and inspired me, but it’s always been tough finding the right time to indulge in it. Not only that, but I’ve also always felt a little weak in my writing abilities, especially for creative fiction, but actively pursuing it now has helped me to not only overcome my doubts but also apply it to other personal projects of mine. Its helped me to meet new people that I otherwise would’ve never met, and it’s also helped me to discover a fun, creative hobby that previously intimated me. I’ll admit that it’s still difficult to feel any degree of confidence in what I’m doing with it, but it’s a productive way for me to pass the time and it’s also helped me to feel a greater degree of commitment in other creative projects of mine, too. 

So, branching off from this, I highly encourage you to be adventurous and take that first, shaky step into a new hobby or activity, especially one that can be done freely from your home! Not only will it help you to feel actively engaged with something new but you may also find yourself with a highly rewarding hobby, also. If you’ve found yourself going stir crazy with nothing else to do at home, it’s also a great way to transform any negative energy into something positive instead and make something good out of something bad. Let alone, it may also very well be that extra boost that you need to help get you through what is hopefully the final stretch of the governor’s “stay at home” order. 

Out of Oven, Out of Mind

by Beth Royston

A lot of us have a lot more time on our hands recently, and I’ve been getting back to my baking wishlist. I’ve always loved baking and have watched The Great British Baking Show on Netflix more times than I can count, but took a bit of an unenthusiastic break while I was in a series of apartments (with the exception of a frantic stint of weekly sourdough) so small the fridge couldn’t fully open without hitting the oven. Thankfully, my partner and I moved to a bigger living space with an actual kitchen, and I had no excuses anymore, right? Apparently not. I’d forgotten that baking can take a lot of time, and I didn’t exactly want to be in the kitchen for an extra couple hours after coming home from a six-hour day at PSU and having to make dinner and do homework. It became an occasional, wistful thing. 

However, the opportunities have come up a lot more and I worked with my partner to make a list of all the things I wanted to make. Nothing too crazy, like the recipe for the galaxy mirror glaze cake I saw once (I would feel a little guilty for presenting my stuck-at-home roommates with a huge cake) but small, enjoyable things, like scones and tarts and light pies. It’s been a small part of my week that I can savor in the following days, and adds a sense of formal normalcy to meals. There’s a slice of apple tart to have afterwards, just like there was before all of this happened. I remembered how much I love baking, especially when I get to be creative with pie crust decorations or figuring out how to make something there’s no recipe for. I once developed a recipe for savory, cheese-and-herb creme puffs, and I remember it fondly. It’s a nice distraction, too. I also realized that I’ve never had a key lime pie, so that’s on the list. Hopefully my household forgives me for continually churning out desserts.

Tips for fasting in the US While Going to College

By Wiwin Hartini

Adjust your schedule 

person writing on a book

I made a mistake on my first time fasting here by keeping my regular schedule on top of fasting. This didn’t turn out well because I didn’t get enough sleep, and I would be very sleepy during  school. So I have  adjusted my sleeping schedule to accommodate for the early breakfast at 4 a.m. Sometimes I would stay up from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. and do my classwork. Then, I’d take a nap. Making sure that you have enough sleep is critical to perform in school while fasting.

 Prep your food in the evening

selective focus photography of green and orange vegetables on black container

I  prep my breakfast in the evening, so when I get up in the morning, I don’t have to cook. This helps if you choose to go back to sleep, which I sometimes do. I get up at 4 a.m. and go back to bed an hour or two later. – I like this schedule because it allows me to engage with those who are not fasting and have a regular schedule.

Avoid flipping your day to your night

man sitting on surface

Doing work after breaking your fast until you have breakfast again is definitely doable. But from my personal experience, this can be unhealthy mentally because most activities are happening during the day. Still, if one is sleeping during the day and up at night, it can be challenging to keep in touch with people and feel energized during the day. But if this works best for you, that’s perfect.

Eat simple, nutritious food 

bowl of bread and vegetables

I learned from the past fasting experiences that I cannot eat a lot. Making sure that I’m eating the food that my body needs is  essential. I tend to focus on hydration more than food, so I  have juice, milk, tea, or water in the morning with my food. I ask myself if I have protein, carb, and vitamins in my meal. Eating enough healthy food is better than eating a lot of unhealthy snacks. 

Schedule your naps

I don’t usually take naps in the afternoon. I take an early one around 10 a.m. so I can wake up at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. if I don’t go to bed right away after breakfast. This is helpful if you have your classes during the day.

Call your family and friends 

black and silver laptop computer on brown wooden table

I do this either during the early breakfast or during iftar (breaking the fasting). It’s helpful to keep the Ramadan spirit around you when fasting in the U.S. 

Those are a few tips that I hope will  be useful.  Happy fasting! 

Making Do

By Erika Nelson

Recently, I wrote about my experiences under lockdown in student housing. Although being alone in quarantine was weighing on my mental health, I said that crashing with family or friends in Southern Oregon was not an ideal option for me. Since that post, I tried really hard to make the best of my situation —  I went through every coping skill I could think of: working out, journaling, playing computer games, texting friends and family, virtual therapy, throwing myself into homework — but I cracked. Living alone became too much to bear—so when the opportunity to fly down to Medford arose about a week ago, I took advantage of it, and set out for the Rogue Valley by way of a very, very lonely PDX.

I thought a lot about whether I would divulge that I fled Portland — I’d made such a big deal about staying put and weathering the lockdown on my own. Surely I can just pretend to still be in the dorms? Who would know the difference? Do I want people to think I’m weak? Besides being embarrassing to admit I broke down, I had traveled when not absolutely necessary, and still feel rather of ashamed about that. But I ultimately decided to be vulnerable in these vulnerable times, and share my experience.

The truth is, it’s ok to be overwhelmed, and it’s ok to make do with the resources you have. Like making do with frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones to avoid a trip to the grocery store, we are all making do in other ways with the resources available to us — mentally, physically, socially. It’s ok to break. It’s ok to be strong one week and a sobbing mess the next — because these are uncertain, scary times. 

I’m making do with what I have, and I am filled with so much gratitude that I have support available to me. I was lucky to get that flight to Medford. I’m lucky to have a family to take me in. I’m lucky that I went through the gauntlet of air travel without bringing disease into my home (well, as far as I know. I really hope that my next post isn’t written from a family member’s hospital bedside.) 

Many students are still alone on campus, and don’t have any other option but to stay. I feel guilty leaving them behind. Part of me feels like I should be there in solidarity. Another part feels justified that I did what I had to do to take care of myself. Maybe those opposing feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. 

To those who are struggling under the weight of lockdown, whether in isolation or not, here are some resources that might help:

PSU Student Resources: https://www.pdx.edu/unst/student-resources

Multnomah County Crisis Hotline: 503-988-4888.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233