Feeling Lonely in College

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

I remember when I first came to PSU four years ago, I didn’t know anybody. I would see people walking in big groups or people studying with their friends and it made me feel like an outcast. I wanted to transfer to a bigger university because I felt lonely all the time. Things started to get better when I joined student organizations on campus and made a bunch of new friends, I finally started to feel like I belonged somewhere. I finally didn’t feel alone.

Since then, I have made plenty of friends that I’m convinced are going to be my lifelong friends. I’ve made the best memories at PSU and I consider college to be the best chapter of my life. However, since this is my senior year, everyone’s gotten busy. All of my friends are focused on their own thing and we have naturally drifted apart. Unfortunately, the feelings of loneliness that I felt during my freshman year have returned.

I spend most of my time alone on campus now. I can’t meet up with my friends because they’re busy or our schedules conflict. I’ve noticed that making friends in class is hard because everyone is just there to learn, not to socialize. It kind of sucks to be feeling this way, but I’ve found that what helps the most for me is to socialize as much as possible, even if it’s just small talk with the person that I’m sitting next to in class. Also, I have continued to be involved in several student groups, and I’ve met a lot of new people through that.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels alone in college. My biggest advice to anyone else feeling this way is to try to be more outgoing and participate in as many campus activities as you can. Become a member of a club or join an organization that interests you. Feelings of loneliness in college are normal, but with the right attitude, both you and I can overcome it.          

I Can’t Wait to Leave School, But I Don’t Want to Leave

_DSC6107 by Jennifer Vo-Nguyen

This spring, I will graduate from Portland State with a bachelor’s degree in communications. I have long awaited this day since the moment I started college, and it’s been very comforting to know that after spending basically my entire life in the classroom, I am almost done. No more assignments, no more homework, no more projects, no more school. But for some reason, as graduation day gets closer and closer, I have this subtle feeling of not wanting it to come.

I’ve been a full-time student my entire life. Waking up and going to school is all that I’ve done for the last nearly 20 years. So how am I going to adjust to waking up one day and not having to go to school anymore? Sure, I will have to find a job, and that’s what most of my time will consist of, but the transition from full time student to full time employee is a big one, and it will take me a long time to adjust to it.

So after complaining for so long about how much I hate school and how much I want it to end already, I actually don’t want it to end. I am scared and nervous to be going out into the real world where it’s everyone for themselves. However, I guess it’s a good thing that I feel this way. If I wasn’t scared, then I’m not taking a chance.

Until the day graduation comes, I am cherishing every moment I have left of my time here at PSU. This is the last time I will ever get to feel like I’m not an adult. I want to leave, but I don’t. Graduation can wait just a little bit longer.

Beacon Of Color

35734876_10209214198830669_4585640907247714304_n (2) by Kassandra Johnson

Standing in the hot sun, cheering as each float passed in a flurry of color, it seemed like everyone in Portland was on that street. In that moment I realized something: I’m thankful to live here.

It was Sunday, June 17, and I was at the Pride Parade in downtown Portland. As I looked around all I could see were happy faces. People were clapping along and high-fiving strangers as they passed by. I felt lifted up by the people around me and knew this is why I chose PSU.

There are always ways to get involved in the City of Roses, whether it’s supporting a parade or marching in a protest. Portland and PSU’s urban campus give you the tools to have your voice heard. While living on an urban campus can come with its own trials and tribulations, there is always support to be found in the city.  Becoming a PSU student lets Portland become not only your city but also your community — a community that’s supportive and very accepting of all who call it home.

The Great Unknown

IMG_7864 by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating in 11 days. The emotion that arises when I think about this fact can only be expressed as a cross between a celebratory squeal of freedom and a blood-curdling Hitchcock scream. The question I’ve been asked at an increasing frequency in recent months, weeks and days provokes a similar cocktail of excitement and terror: “What’s next?”

Really, the person who has asked me this question the most is myself. And despite the ominous tick-tocking of the clock of my undergraduate education, the answer remains: I don’t know. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And regardless of my search for answers and the anxiety that arises when I come up short, I think I’m becoming more okay with not knowing.

From a young age, there’s so much pressure to know what we want to be when we grow up. We grow up playing house and prescribing careers to our Barbie dolls, from pastry chef to firefighter to fairy princess. Our high school years are geared toward preparing for college, and most of us start applying our junior year. I don’t know about you, but at age 16 I could hardly plan my breakfast, let alone pinpoint the career path I was supposed to follow for the remaining (hopefully) several decades of my existence. Which is probably why my college years have been full of indecision, confusion, change, dropping out and transferring.

But with every stressful semester and unpleasant job, I’ve gotten a little closer to figuring out what I want. And even if we never figure out what we want to be when we grow up, I think that’s okay. I’m pretty sure no matter how old I get, I’ll be stumbling blindly through life with more questions than answers. And anyone who honestly thinks they have all the answers is someone I neither want to be nor be around. Life is inherently mysterious and ridiculous, and we might as well accept that.

The one thing I know I’m doing after graduation is taking a well-earned road trip down the Pacific coast. Not only does this give me an opportunity to get a little less pale, it also gives me an opportunity to run away from my anxieties and put off the job search until July. Cheers to that—and cheers to the great unknown.

The Last Word

IMG_7864  by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating next month. Just typing those words feels hard to believe. My college career did not follow a linear path; I attended four different colleges in three different time zones, with a year off in the middle during which I worked at a bagel shop and partied too much. I’ve learned so much in the past five years—and I didn’t learn all of it in textbooks or classrooms. As I prepare to leave PSU and enter the so-called real world, I will impart a few quick lessons I wish I could’ve told my freshman self:

  1. Sit in the front of the class. Simple but effective. By sitting near the front of the room, you’re up close and personal with the material. It’s harder to get away with smartphone distractions, side conversations, watching pigeons through classroom windows or daydreaming. The times I’ve habitually sat in the front have left me pleasantly surprised by my test grades.
  2. Get involved in the student community. This is something you’ve heard a million times and, like me, have maybe been reluctant to listen to. When I first transferred to PSU, I read the Vanguard every week and wanted to contribute. I included this goal in to-do lists, planner pages and new year’s resolutions. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally wrote my first story— and I could not believe how exciting and rewarding it was to see it in newsprint. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.
  3. Use a planner. With Vanguard and student blog responsibilities, internships, a 6-credit capstone and homework, I could not have stayed afloat without my planner. Weekly and daily to-do lists and color-coding helped me manage my time confidently and efficiently. Once deadlines and due dates are on paper, they’re no longer building up in my head and stressing me out. Don’t think of yourself as a slave to your planner, though—just do things piece by piece, do the best you can and know that you will handle it all.

To those of you who are still powering through your education, you’ve got this! And congrats to my fellow soon-to-be graduates—we’re almost done, and it feels good. Feel free to comment your own tips for ruling your schooling!

Not qualified? Get an internship.

IMG_7864 by Molly MacGilbert

Here we are, students at Portland State, in the city of bridges and roses and sportswear companies. We’re all in a pretty good position for internships—being in college gives us an excuse to get some work experience in a field we’re not actually that qualified for (yet). When I was a junior at PSU, I interned with local nonprofit Literary Arts for seven months. My senior year started with a six-month marketing internship with TriMet and is now ending with a spring term internship with Overcup Press. These three internships have given me invaluable work (and life) experiences.

On paper—unless it’s resume paper—internships tend to seem undesirable. Interns may seem like doormats or Coffee Donkeys. This is a common misconception; in my own experience as an intern, I have not yet picked up anyone’s coffee or had anyone wipe their feet on me. Internships do require challenging (and often unpaid) work, but under the right circumstances, you’ll be too engrossed in your work to notice you’re doing it for free.

For more career and internship-related information, attend one of PSU’s career fairs, like the All Majors Career + Internship Fair on May 1 in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom!

An “Honor”able Legacy

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

Every time that I see the Simon Benson House in the park blocks I’m reminded that graduation draws closer with each passing day. Today the sign on the building reads “53 days until you are alumni,” and that number will only continue to dwindle until the day comes that we don our caps and gowns. Amidst all of the other chaos of senior year, I’m currently in the throes of writing my senior thesis as I’m a member of the University Honors College. Instead of doing a senior capstone in the university studies program, I’ve gotten to pick a research topic of my choice and craft an entire thesis about it, a task that is as daunting as it will hopefully be rewarding.

Writing a thesis can be a lonely process, especially when the honors college has felt so separate from the rest of the university in many ways. When my peers who aren’t in the honors college ask about my capstone and I say that I’m actually writing a thesis instead, the conversation oftentimes comes to a screeching halt. I’ve noticed an air of misconception surrounding the honors college, one that unfortunately leads many of my peers to think that those who participate in honors are in some way elitist or exclusionary.

In my last term at PSU, I’d actively like to push back against that stereotype through both my thesis about queerness and veganism as well as in my everyday interactions with my peers. At its core, the honors college is about a hunger for knowledge, learning to conduct research, and preparing students for life after PSU. These are things that should be accessible to all of us as PSU students, and that’s what I want people to think of when they hear about the honors college, rather than a reputation that’s elitist or exclusionary. In the 53 days that I have left to leave my mark on PSU before I’m an alumni, this is the legacy that I’m hoping to establish as an honors student.