Park Block Encounters

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

One of my favorite things about Portland State is its location, right smack dab in the middle of the Park Blocks. These blocks have the vibe of a traditional college campus, but they also have the energy of downtown Portland. I’ve had a variety of interesting encounters in the Park Blocks. 

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Photo credit: PSU Facebook

Just last term I was reading a book in the grass when a group of students came up to me with a clipboard. “Do you have a moment to rate your experience with the squirrels in this park?” This was such an unexpected question that of course I said yes. Turns out they were doing research on the aggression levels of squirrels in various Portland parks…and the PSU squirrels are overly friendly. (If those students find this post, good luck on your survey!)

I once stumbled upon a group of people doing yoga. They looked so peaceful and serene that I felt calmer just walking past them. On another occasion, I encountered a monk who was handing out books, and we had a pleasant conversation before I continued on my way (a few books heavier).

There are often events and music in the Park Blocks, which is a nice surprise. Because the Park Blocks are a public space, sometimes there are protests and demonstrations for various things. It’s all part of the PSU and Portland experience. I enjoy walking through these blocks on my way to class because I never know what I’m going to find. Who knows, you might even spot Cow Pigeon!

Calming the College Nerves

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

This post is for all the incoming freshmen out there who are nervous for the first day of college. I felt exactly the same as you do. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that it would all be OK…It’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be! This is what I would tell Freshman Claire if I could.

Starting something new is always nerve-wracking, and that’s my first piece of advice: remember that everybody else is nervous, too. No matter how calm and collected your classmate seems, chances are they’re anxious on the inside. It’s OK to admit that you’re nervous. People will probably find it relatable.

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Something that helped me a lot was finding my classrooms before the first day of class. Nobody wants to be running across campus five minutes before class, frantically trying to find their building. I write down my classrooms and go on a quest to locate them all the weekend before term starts…even now, in my fourth year of college.

It’s a good idea to get to class early on the first day. It gives you a buffer in case you can’t find the classroom, plus you get the pick of the seats. But don’t panic if you get there late – professors understand that the first day is hard! 

My biggest piece of advice is to take a deep breath and get through it because it only gets easier after the first day. You can do it!

Surviving Shakespeare

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As an English major, I knew I wouldn’t make it out of college without studying Shakespeare. I managed to make it to my junior year before having to register for the dreaded class. I bought the four required plays and showed up to the first day of class, resigned to my fate. 

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But as we started reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I discovered, to my shock and amazement, that it was a pretty entertaining read. It helped that my professor was enthusiastic about the material and had some fun ways of teaching. For the midterm and final papers, we had the option to write a creative retelling of the plays, and my imagination took off. I had a hard time sticking to the 10-page limit. 

It turns out that Shakespeare is amazingly fun to adapt. I never would have guessed that my Shakespeare class would provide so much inspiration for the Creative Writing part of my English major. But by the end of the term, I had an outline and three chapters written of a novel inspired by Twelfth Night, which I’m still working on six months later. 

What I learned from my Shakespeare class is that keeping an open mind is the best way to enjoy a class. You never know what new interests you’ll discover. Not only did I finish this required class, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

What classes did you unexpectedly enjoy?

Read What Makes You Happy

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As someone studying French and English, books are pretty much my life. I’ve loved reading since I was a little kid. I remember toting around the seventh Harry Potter book when it seemed almost as big as I was. Although I have less time these days, I still read for fun, and Powell’s City of Books is my favorite place in Portland. But for a long time, I felt self-conscious about my reading choices.

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I always thought that English students were supposed to read Literature with a capital “L” in their spare time…the kind of books that are assigned in class. I felt insecure because most of the books I read are young adult (YA) fiction. I read to escape from the real world, and books like The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass are exactly what I need after a long day of analyzing literary fiction.

Our society has a tendency to dismiss things that teenagers like – especially teenage girls. (Take boy bands, for instance.) Because teenage girls are the main connoisseurs of YA fiction, it gets a bad rap. But there are amazing YA books that people are missing out on because of this mindset. And, honestly, so what if a book is “shallow”? If reading mass-market romance gets you through the day, then it’s time well spent.

I’m proud to say that I’m a literature student…and I read YA. Nobody should be ashamed about reading what makes them happy. Can you relate to this? What do you enjoy reading?

The Perks of Summer School

by Claire Golden

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If you’re reading this, you made it through finals week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sleep for about three weeks and then eat a lot of cake – not think about summer classes. But this will be the third summer I’ve taken classes, and though my post-finals brain may protest, I’ll be happy to have something to keep me busy once summer boredom sets in.

What’s so great about more homework during the summer? I’m a former homeschooler, so I don’t think in terms of the “school year.” There’s no time limit for learning! It can be rough going from being a full-time student to having no classes at all, so taking a few credits can help keep your brain occupied. Plus, it means you can take a lighter course load during the year.

What I like best about summer classes is that many of them are online. Being homeschooled means I’m used to this format, and I love it. You can read the lectures at your own pace rather than frantically taking notes in person. Online discussions mean I sound way more eloquent than I do in real life (thank you, backspace key). If you’re going on vacation, you can work ahead in the syllabus so you don’t have to do homework on the beach.

Most importantly, you can go to college in your pajamas. Thank you, online classes, for helping me earn my degree in style.

Hike to Council Crest from Campus

11050714_10153261569423675_1855416915072077955_n-3 By Joshua McCarroll

Hikers enjoying a view of Mount hood from the OHSU tram.

As a student I have found if you work on a single project for too long without breaks, you begin to dig yourself into a sort of mental ditch, attacking the problem with the same strategy and thoughts over and over. You lose perspective.

I found myself in one of these mental holes of frustration at the PSU library recently and needed to climb out. I realized the perfect place to shift my perspective was only three miles away, and I headed to the highest accessible point in Portland.

A cyclist enjoying the view at the top of Council Crest.

This point is in the center of a park called Council Crest, and if you Google how to hike there from PSU you will likely find the 4T route. The route owes its name to the four methods of transit that lead to the top: the train, the trail, the tram, and the trolley. For instance, you can take the Max from PSU to the Oregon Zoo stop, then hike southeast to council crest.

Riding the Max is not my idea of adventure, so I modified the hike to Council Crest to begin directly from the South end of the PSU Park Blocks. I wanted to exit the library and immediately begin my hike. On the map below I highlighted in green the route I took including some convenient pedestrian stairwells and shortcuts.

Walking along SW Terrace Drive brought me to SW Gerald Avenue, the point where the highlighted path in the image above turns from green to brown. At this point, I found official signs leading to the Southwest trails that lead to Council Crest.

The view of SW Portland from SW Cardinal Drive, including the Benson tower, the Fox Tower, and the 1000 Broadway building.

I love architecture as much as I love nature so I was satisfied with the beautiful homes and the great views of the city provided by my trek through this neighborhood in the Southwest Hills.

The Fremont Bridge as seen through the trees about a mile down Cardinal Drive.
Many of the pedestrian shortcuts briefly lead off the streets and between beautiful private gardens.

At the entrance to Marquam Nature Park, another 1.3 miles of trails with many guideposts leads to the Council Crest Summit. The trails are uneven and at times steep but I hiked them easily in regular tennis shoes. The trails were also surprisingly empty. I only crossed one group’s path my entire hike.

 Near the entrance of Marquam nature park.
A view through the fog nearing the top of Council Crest.

At the top it was too cloud to see any mountains, but, on a clear day, it’s possible to see Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount Jefferson.

The Crest is a popular destination for bikers.

On the route back, take the Marquam Trail from the Crest to Fairmont Boulevard. I took a right on Fairmont Boulevard, and a 25-minute walk along SW Marquam Hill Road to OHSU.

A great part of this hike is the free tram ride at the end, offering an incredible aerial view of Portland as it glides through the air down to the South Waterfront.
Find the tram schedule here.

After the  tram, take another free ride on the streetcar back to PSU.