Spring term usually coincides with lounging in the sun on Urban Plaza, a plethora of festivals and activities and a humming, vibrant campus. But this year, spring at Portland State will look a little different.
The trees will still be in bloom, but a global coronavirus outbreak has prompted a shift at universities nationwide — and PSU is not exempt.
Folks in our Office of Academic Innovation and Office of Information Technology have been hard at work making sure our students, faculty and staff are ready for an all-remote spring term, and have created this Remote Learning Checklist:
Learn what the plan is for each of your courses. Look for communication via email or D2L from your instructors, and read your courses’ syllabi carefully.
Get Zoom-ready. You’re very likely to have at least one instructor using this video conferencing software for virtual meetings this term. If you’ve never used this before at PSU, we have a few suggestions for getting started on Zoom.
Schedule yourself. Look over the dates in your course syllabi, keep track of tasks in a calendar or planner, and give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete your work. With no in-person class meetings, it’s extra important to pay attention to how you’re spending your time.
Take care. Give yourself regular breaks from your work. Exercise, eat snacks, and gift yourself with treats when you finish tasks.
Stay tuned to PSU communication. The university is regularly sharing updates and resources to support you through this remote term via emails, Virtual Viking newsletter and on our social media channels.
Over three years ago, my parents and I drove down from Seattle to Portland to tour the PSU campus. After visiting a few other campuses including Western Washington University and Evergreen College, I was instantly attracted to Portland’s unique urban setting and was very excited about the number of food carts scattered throughout the city and the campus itself. Moving ahead to September of 2017, I moved into the Ondine Residence Hall as an overwhelmed sophomore who had just graduated high school and had never lived on their own before. I quickly found a love for the campus, new friends, and all of the great food that Portland had to offer.
Flash forward to now, I am a week away from moving back home to Seattle and just completed the last of my finals for the winter term. Yesterday was my last day attending classes on-campus and I spent my walks to class looking around PSU for what felt like the last time. Almost three years have passed since I first moved to Portland, and while some stressful classes and long nights have made it feel lengthier, it simultaneously feels as if I just got here. My experience so far has shown me that being in college can be described as both the best of times and the worst of times (yes, it’s cheesy, I know). I have made amazing memories with friends, built long-lasting relationships, took interesting and useful courses in my major, and pursued a variety of great opportunities. At the same time, I also stressed over homework, experienced hardships with friends and roommates, and dwelled on my future after college.
Despite these varying experiences, I am immensely grateful for my time at PSU and know that I will be leaving as a more well-rounded person ready to conquer anything that is ahead of me.
“You know,” my friend said, “we really don’t need to be worried about the coronavirus. Old people are really the only ones dying, and —” She paused. “Oh, well, I guess people with no immune systems too, or cancer, or something I read that online.”
I knew, rationally, that my friend meant these as words of comfort. As an immunocompromised person, however, it felt like a nail in my coffin. Not only did it feel as if she was telling me I’d be the first to go, but it also felt as if I was supposed to celebrate this fact.
It’s a very scary time right now. Colleges are closing and friends are abruptly returning to their home states. Concerts and plays are getting cancelled. People are buying enough cleaning supplies and toilet paper to fill a bunker. Friends refuse to hug or shake hands. Day-to-day life changes rapidly as more warnings are put in place. Even something simple as grocery shopping feels like an epic journey. It’s all the more stressful when you’re a target demographic for this pandemic.
I’m immunocompromised. Though I deal with various physical limitations (such as chronic pain and a limp), this is what affects my lifestyle the most. I catch every cold, flu, and stomach bug that goes around. Strep throat, ear infections, chills, dizziness — these are familiar to me. I’m allergic to everything I touch, from grass and plants to dust to pet hair. I’m constantly covered in painful, itchy hives. I have a cough more often than I don’t. My nose is always stuffed up or running. I’ve had bad fevers three times this year, and it is only March.
This makes life difficult. What makes it even more difficult is person after person repeating the narrative that only the eldery and the immunocompromised are at serious risk for death by coronavirus. It’s insulting. I hear, “Don’t worry! You might die, but everyone else will be fine! Your life is of less value to me, because I have a strong immune system!”
As much as I try to be thick-skinned, this hurts. Your immunocompromised friends’ lives are of equal value to those who do not deal with this. Please be kind, and practice sensitivity. Silly as it may sound, put yourself in the shoes of those who are scared in the face of this threat. It’s not only a threat to our schooling and jobs, it is a threat to our lives.
In my recital class, I get to hear many speakers talk about different aspects of music that will help in our practice routine and professional careers. One topic that has really stuck with me was about ‘mindful practicing’. This is when you think and plan out what your goals are, instead of going to a practice room and setting a timer for two hours.
What the professor said next surprised me: if you don’t feel like practicing at all, go into a practice room and set a timer for five or ten minutes. In that time, play something very simple. If the timer goes off and you are still unmotivated, you should put away the instrument and try again later. If you push yourself farther than your body wants, it will stop being productive and will actually hurt your progress for the next few days.
There were two big takeaways that I saw in this lesson. I have not only applied them to my music school work but also my academic work. Mindful practicing taught me how to be productive on my non-productive days.
Another key aspect that I took away from this lesson is how to rethink your practice routine. Before this, every music teacher told me that I need to practice for 60 minutes a day but didn’t tell me how to efficiently practice my material. When you put a timer on, you think about what you can do to fill that time instead of what you need to work on. This is why you should go into your practice routine with few set goals, like working on a certain section or one specific piece. Sometimes with your specific goals you won’t hit that standard two hours a day but it’s ok because you benefited more by focusing on goals rather than time.
I think that it is important to acknowledge that there comes a time when we all run out of motivation and energy to push through some assignments, and if you try to push through an assignment, you burn out. So when you have a day where you can’t focus, try to study for ten minutes then when the timer goes off and you aren’t motivated, its best to step away in order to be more productive later on.
Translating mindful practicing to mindful studying is a bit more abstract. Before applying mindful studying, I would get a writing assignment and plan on getting in completely done at one time. But when you spend hours on a paper, your brain can get fried. You should plan on getting certain sections done over a couple of days. Yes, this does mean that you need to stay on top of your work, but it allows you to replenish your thoughts and look over with a productive brain.
Mindful practicing has not only aided my musician skills and practice time, but has also helped me when it comes to my academic life.
An often overlooked skill that I wish I had is the skill of listening. I must admit, I am a terrible listener and I have been for the longest time. My attention span is equivalent to a child’s (not really, but kind of) and I have trouble displaying interest when someone is talking to me.
I recently came across a quote that said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This is something I never thought about and it’s very true. We listen to say something back, we listen to give advice. However, sometimes people don’t want advice, they just want someone to listen and to sympathize.
We should listen with the intent of curiosity, because genuine conversation can only happen if we truly want to learn something new. Something that a lot of us tend to do, especially when a friend is venting about their problems, is turning the conversation and making it about ourselves. We usually do this with good intent, hoping that it shows them we understand what they’re going through because we can relate to the situation. Feedback and responses are always good and shows that you’re listening however, we should keep our own talking to a minimal and especially not shift the focus of the conversation to ourselves.
From now on, I will be more cautious in my everyday conversations, whether I am having a heart to heart conversation with my best friend or a small talk with the cashier at the grocery store; I will listen.
“Theodore, stop! Bad dog. Stop! Oh, my goodness — ahh! Babe, can you just grab the cat? No, the other cat. No, the other cat!”
I was ready to tear my hair out. See, I had just moved in with my fiance, and we were experiencing some growing pains, particularly in the pet department. The house was a zoo. I took a step, yowling cat in my arms, and tripped over the pit bull. He was whining, the cat was hissing at him, and from the living room, another cat was caterwauling for dinner.
“Oh my goodness!” I released the cat I was holding. She hissed and spat, then turned tail for the closet. The dog continued to whine. Finally, somehow, we fed all the pets dinner. The hysteria settled down. I locked eyes with the person I was spending the rest of my life with. A thought crossed my mind: You’re also spending the rest of your life with all these animals!
I live in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s a really lovely place. My roommates, a married couple, are the sweetest ladies in the world. Our location is great! And of course I live with the love of my life! Always a positive. The only problem: in our small square footage, there are five cats and two dogs. Four of those cats are bonded pairs who hate the others. The fifth is lovingly referred to as “the bastard” for his propensity for biting. Two of the cats hate dogs. One of them — mine — had never met a dog before and doesn’t know what to think of them. Most of the pets cannot co-exist in the same room. All this to say: it’s been an adjustment period.
Part of being 20 is, I think, figuring out how to exist in the world with other people. What I hadn’t anticipated was learning to exist with their pets. Dinnertime at my house is never dull. Homework may feature a 55-pound pit bull sitting on your lap. Taking a shower generally includes a blind chihuahua licking your toes. There is much breaking-up of catfights and rescuing the dog when the cats gang up on him.
For all the chaos, though, it’s wonderful. This is what it means to be young. A little mess, a little negotiating, and some craziness are all part of life. Our pets are so, so loved. Many of them have come from abusive homes or were strays. Now they live in a house with four parents who adore them and totally spoil them.
I have never lived with this many animals, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. Of course it’s hard and chaotic, but it’s fun. We pride ourselves on how well taken care of our little monsters are! And if they’re happy, I’m happy.
Meet Graphic Designer and Portland State Student Jeremy Cruz!During Jeremy’s time at PSU, he was able to land an internship position with Under Armour working on a customization platform for their products. Jeremy left a huge impact on the Under Armour team and even the Principal Design Ambassador, John Acevedo remarked, “His ability to create fearlessly and always connect; values we hold dearly, was always reflected in his demeanor and work ethic. We were honored to have Jeremy be part of our internship program and his impact has lasted beyond his time with us. It’s what we aspire to for all the students that come to be a part of our family.” Jeremy kindly sat down with us for an interview to tell us more about his experience at Portland State and the internship he had with Under Armour.
Jeremy graduated from PCC with his associate’s degree in applied science and graphic design, then he transferred to PSU to pursue his bachelor’s degree in graphic design.
We asked Jeremy why he chose graphic design as his major and he explained, “when I was looking for classes, I thought graphic design was going to be based a lot on fine art and illustrator type of things that focus on communication. Back then I was really shy so I thought that this would be something that would challenge me to express myself in a different way, not just by talking, but like on a canvas or a magazine or newspaper.”
While getting his degree at Portland State, Jeremy wanted to find a graphic design internship to build his experience as well. He was actively looking online at different opportunities and came across an internship posting for Under Armour, and also one for a local publishing company called Tin House. He decided he wanted to go after both!
During the interview process, Jeremy was asked about his prior experience, and since he was still a student and didn’t have much real world experience, he described what he had learned in classes so far and the projects he had completed that related. Jeremy skillfully used his knowledge of past projects and things he had learned in class to craft detailed responses to practical questions they asked him about design, which he felt like, “won them over!” After getting offers from both Tin House Publishing company, and Under Armour, Jeremy decided he wanted to take on both internships, while still working his part-time job at Best Buy and continuing to take classes. Talk about a full plate!
Company culture can definitely help determine the quality of experience you have in a job or internship. We wanted to know what that culture felt like at Under Armour during his time there. Jeremy said the whole experience there was incredible, and everyone seemed very laid back and friendly. “It’s not scary at all to go up to the head of a department and talk to them about ideas or projects,” he remarked. He worked most of his projects and tasks by himself, but would have frequent meetings with different departments and video conferences often with his higher-ups in other parts of the United States.
During his time at Under Armour, Jeremy probably worked on over 30 projects, but his most favorite one he said was his final project to wrap up the internship he had. He focused on what the future of customization was going to look like for the consumer and he was able to present to many of the top managers at the company.
Jeremy told us that not only is this experience going to be amazing for his resume and expanding his network, but “it elevated my own design and me as a person, it allowed me to focus on communication in addition to creating a lot of collateral for the marketing team and overall help Under Armour with their customization efforts.” His favorite part of his experience there was all of the wonderful people he was able to work with and seeing his stuff online was “pretty awesome too!”
Jeremy learned so much from Under Armour and one of the most important things he said was, not being afraid to go and talk to people whose work you admire or who’s position you aspire to be in. “Learning from them is super important,” so ask all the questions you have and never be scared to approach someone!
Thanks so much to Jeremy for sharing his highly impactful experience with us. If you’re struggling to find the right internship for you or need anymore advice on this topic, please feel free to reach out to the University Career Center to schedule an appointment or come in during walk-in hours for additional advice!