Anyone that knew me while I was attending high school in California would be shocked if they saw me voluntarily leaving my house during the summertime. In my defense, when it’s super hot almost all year long, one can get rather tired of that weather. I’ve never liked the heat, but living in Portland has definitely changed my perspective. I am always grateful that Portland actually has seasons, and I find myself looking forward to every one, because there’s things I can only do during that season coming up. This summer, I will actually leave my house and voluntarily be under the sun! If you’re looking for fun summertime activities, I’m here to finish off my list of seasonal jaunts with one tailored to celebrate summer.
Attend a festival!
Portland has some awesome festivals and events over the summer. Portland Pride, the Soapbox Derby, tons of concerts, floats on the river, and more. There’s something for everyone, and there’s great ideas here on Travel Portland. I’ve done a bunch of these, and it’s always a blast! My favorite event ever has to be the all-you-can-eat ice cream festival in the city a few years ago. Pure heaven.
Summer is a great time to go camping, and there’s plenty of places to go. Even if full-on camping isn’t for you, there are still swimming holes and gorgeous short hikes close to the city. You can swim in natural rivers, kayak, and visit waterfall trails when nature is in full flourishing mode. I highly recommend seeing if any hikes that end with a swim might appeal to you!
You’re really missing out if you’ve never gone berry-picking. There are a ton of places fairly close to Portland to drive out to, and afterwards you can make a jam, a pie, or just cram bucketfuls of berries into your mouth. You’ll probably find other U-Pick farms while you’re driving about, and I’ve come home with homemade lavender products from a lavender farm and more fun goodies that make me excited to go exploring every year.
Attend a Thorns game!
I’ve written before about how much I absolutely love going to Thorns games at Providence Park. And great news — the Thorns are coming back after the pandemic! In June, ticket sales will open for summer games, and it looks like all attendees are required to be vaccinated. Personally, I’m over the moon, and can’t wait to go!
There are plenty of fun things to do this summer. It feels like there’s a different energy in the air — people are ready to get out and enjoy the sun, especially after all this time locked up. While it’s critically important to still follow state regulations and be safe — acknowledging the pandemic left lasting scars for some of us — I’m so excited to get out. I’m graduating and will soon be enjoying the purchase of my first car. This is my last post for PSU Chronicles, so thank you all for reading and following along with my posts while I’ve been at PSU! Best of luck out there, and enjoy your summer!
In June of 2020, Randal Wyatt started Taking Ownership PDX, a grassroots nonprofit that helps Black property owners keep their homes by repairing and renovating them. He’s about to graduate from Portland State University with a degree in Social Science, a double minor in Black Studies and Sociology and a 3.92 GPA.
His PSU story: “I was born and raised in Portland, attended community college, then had twins at age 19 and dropped out. I started a band called Speaker Minds. We rap about social issues, and I built a name for myself doing benefit concerts and fund raisers. I went back to community college and got my associate’s degree, became a residential treatment counselor, and then a mentor for Black and Latino boys on probation. Then I moved to Portland Youth Builders as a student advocate with the stipulation that I go back to school and get my degree. I started at PSU half-time in 2017, worked full-time, raised my sons and my music career was taking off. So yeah, it’s been a long road.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the way society works, why things are the way they are, why are systems the way they are, why can’t we have nicer things in America. Last year around this time people started asking me how they can be better allies to Black and marginalized communities. We have to develop more of a village mindset, develop equitable practices that help uplift communities that have historically and currently been excluded. That turned into Taking Ownership PDX, because my studies at PSU taught me that one of the most effective ways to use resources is to keep wealth in communities that are preyed upon for their land.
“I didn’t want to just talk. I decided if we’re really going to change the social climate, I’m going to go out and do it.”
— Randal Wyatt
“I didn’t want to just talk. I decided if we’re really going to change the social climate, I’m going to go out and do it. I was naive about it initially, I thought we’ll just get a bunch of volunteers and start swinging hammers at homes and fixing them up. There’s a lot more to it than that. By the end of the first week, I had $10K. I had one home to work on, so I took the money and started fixing it up, redid the carpet, windows, gutters, all that. Then I got two to three more homes to work on.
“In one year we’ve helped 35 black families fix up their homes with jobs ranging from fixing leaks to roof and window replacements, landscaping, cleanup. We serve primarily the elderly. We’ve raised about $400,000.
“At PSU, not only have I gained knowledge of myself, but it’s inspired me to create an organization that helps the community. It gave me the know-how and what areas to target. It’s worth it. It’s been stressful, but the knowledge that I’ve gained has been invaluable.”
This is my last post for PSU Chronicles, and I’m going to miss being a blogger here. But since I’m not a student anymore, I couldn’t stay around forever. My life has changed so much since I started at PSU. I’ve been diagnosed with and treated for OCD, had my gallbladder removed, made some friends, lost other friends, came out as bi, got engaged to the love of my life (whom I met while working at PSU’s Learning Center), got a degree, and got a book published. But I’ve also cried in many PSU bathrooms, failed homework assignments, had an existential crisis (or three) and wondered what on earth I was doing.
A lot of the things I learned in college weren’t academic, and I think they’re the most valuable lessons I took away from my time at PSU. So I thought I would share the top 23 things I have learned in my 23 years on this good ole planet. (I forgot how old I was and had to ask my fiancé to confirm.)
1. Say “I love you” to people more often.
2. Every bad moment will pass.
3. Learn to be okay with good enough.
4. If you wait for something to be perfect, you will be waiting forever, so go after your dreams.
5. Don’t procrastinate things on your bucket list, because life is unpredictable.
6. Take care of your body — go to the doctor when you need to!
7. Do the things you want with your hair, it grows back! (I am rocking a DIY pixie cut at the moment.)
8. Approach things with a sense of humor and learn to laugh at yourself, kindly.
9. Reach out to people you think are cool, because you might just make a new friend.
10. Learn new things just to experience being a beginner again! (I am working on my third language, German, as well as how to read tarot cards.)
11. Do things that you’re bad at if you like doing them: draw, sing, dance, write.
12. Be generous with your compliments, because you never know what they will mean to someone.
13. It’s okay to ask questions, big or small. And it’s okay if you sound silly while asking them.
14. Just because your parents or family do things one way doesn’t mean you have to do things that way. This applies to little things like loading the dishwasher and to big things like religion.
15. Waste time with the people you love, because that’s not actually wasted time.
16. If you can, live somewhere you love, because every day will feel like a vacation. (Shoutout to Portland, from a former Midwesterner.)
17. It’s okay to be childish…collect stuffed animals, read Middle Grade or Young Adult books, color a picture.
18. Don’t be normal just for the sake of being normal, but also don’t be weird just to “stand out.” Find your happy medium.
19. If you get excited about the little things, then life will become much more exciting: a great glass of ice water, a spinny door, a really shiny pigeon.
20. Write down your feelings to help make sense of them.
21. Send letters to people you love — it’s fun to have a pen pal and it will make both of your days to get mail.
22. Reading books helps me escape, but also makes me a more empathetic person as I learn about new things.
23. Probably the most important thing of all that I’ve learned: It’s okay not to know the answer.
Bonus tip: Hugging a fluffy animal makes everything better.
I love receiving packages in the mail. Even if I know what it is, it’s still exciting, though never quite the same as a mystery piece of mail. In the pandemic especially, sometimes I’ll turn to a little retail therapy, but that doesn’t quite scratch the itch of a package arriving where I’m not entirely sure of the contents. I’ve tried a few subscription boxes lately that fit perfectly in the middle — I know when they’re coming, but not exactly what’s inside. Here are a few that I’ve tried personally, or friends have tried, as well as some that are on my future-subscription list.
Atlas Coffee Club
I tried a subscription to Atlas Coffee Club, a coffee subscription service, as a gift to my partner. There are many coffee subscription services out there and most consist of options for you to choose your roast, grind style, and delivery frequency. My partner enjoyed trying different coffees from all around the world, and was impressed at how quickly the beans arrived after they were ground. Each Atlas shipment also included a postcard about the coffee’s origins. Overall it was a super cool way to try some things my partner might not have come across normally!
I love to read, but find myself busier and busier. Sometimes finding time to read is difficult enough, and if I don’t have anything new, it seems like I don’t have time to peruse my local bookstore and find something I’d like. A subscription service I want to try is Book of the Month! You can choose from up to five selections for them to send to you each month, and you can always skip a month if you’re not ready. Their books are specially curated and it seems like a great way to stick to reading more!
I love tea. I’ve dabbled in making my own personalized blends and vastly enjoy trying fun flavors. While my tasting experience is a bit limited by the fact that I can only ingest decaf (thanks, caffeine intolerance) I was thrilled to hear about Sipsby, a tea subscription service. Sipsby is similar to a coffee subscription service, but sends you many different types of tea in a personalized box each month. You can specify what kinds you’d like and if you’d like decaf!
You might have heard of this one. While I personally haven’t tried it, my roommates are true crime fanatics and love Hunt a Killer. It’s a murder mystery subscription box that comes with all the clues you need to crack a case, spread out over several episodes. It’s a blast with several people playing, and comes with a lot of really well thought out material to make every box a fun and thrilling experience.
If you live in downtown Portland, you probably know the struggle: Housing is so expensive around here that a lot of us are crammed into a tiny living space. Lots of college students live in a dorm room, which is not exactly known for its spaciousness. In my own case, my fiancé and I share one small attic room, with my office wedged into one corner. But I’m quite content in this space, because I have everything that I need. Here are my tips for making a small living space yours.
1. Decorate: The first thing I did in my “office” was decorate the walls. You can hang things up with tape or sticky wall hooks so as not to anger your landlord by putting holes in the walls. I’m not picky about what goes up on the wall. It doesn’t have to be an “art print” to go on my Wall of Art. Right now I have a picture of my chicken, my enamel pin collection on a pin banner, a pigeon ornament, an embroidered cat, a John Green quote poster, and the parking pass from the place where my fiancé proposed to me. These things have nothing in common with each other except that they all make me smile.
2. Double down on storage: Storage is key in a small space, and I take great delight in my miniature drawers from Target, which hold my school supplies, makeup, and knicknacks. I am also probably the target customer for IKEA’s Raskog cart, which is a three-shelved storage cart on wheels. I have two of them, one for yarn and one for stuffed alpacas, and they are a lifesaver when it comes to storage.
3. Try journaling for frustration: Journaling is a great way to create something beautiful on paper. You can go for a basic journal or go all out with art journaling — there’s lots of inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram. Journaling is also an excellent way to cope with frustration and process your emotions…and you can do so in a pretty way.
4. Go online: When get fed up with not having enough space to express myself, I turn to online platforms. Then, when I can’t control something in my physical space, I can make my online space a haven. My blog and Instagram are my creative outlets and ways to connect with people. I find happiness in curating them exactly the way I want.
5. Let go of the unimportant: Above all, the most important thing I’ve learned about living in a small space is not to hold onto things that don’t make me happy. There’s no reason to keep something you don’t want to keep (except, perhaps, those tax papers…) that will only clutter up your space. My favorite book on organizing is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, in which she advises only keeping things that “spark joy.” This is the rule that I live by when it comes to my living quarters. Because of this, everything that I have makes me happy when I look at it, and it’s enough to make a small living space feel exactly the right size.
It’s time for me to share another season’s worth of favorite activities again! A lot of these activities are open all year long, but the bright colors and fragrant blooms that come with springtime makes them particularly special.
Visit the Rose Garden!
Located in Washington Park, which is also home to the Oregon Zoo, the International Test Rose Garden is a stunningly beautiful trip. It’s host to more than 10,000 rose bushes and is truly a perfect visit for anyone that’s a fan of spring. There are some absolutely gorgeous varieties of roses that I never knew existed, and every time I feel like I see something new! Plus, you can make it a day trip with Washington Park’s other activities.
Cherry Blossoms at the Waterfront Park!
Perfectly instagram-able, not everyone knows that a large majority of the trees in the downtown Waterfront Park are actually cherry blossom trees. They bloom every spring, and pictures don’t truly do it justice. You can stroll along the park while observing the blossoms, appreciating this official sign that spring is here! For anyone that’s ever wanted to travel to Japan to see sakura season, this is a wonderful experience.
Check out the Portland Japanese Garden/Lan Su Chinese Garden!
Located in Washington Park and downtown Portland respectively, these two attractions are open all year long, but are particularly beautiful in the spring (I can also vouch for the beauty of the Japanese Garden in autumn!). Seeing lush gardens so full of life always makes me happy after winter, and you can see them at the height of their beauty.
See the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival!
Tulips galore! Located in Woodburn, this extravaganza of tulips is a perfect way to celebrate spring. The best time to see the tulips is the first few weeks of April, but the festival is usually open until early May. They have an immense variety of tulips and other flowers to see and purchase, and also hot air balloon rentals! I hope you’ll keep these Portland spring attractions on your mind this year!
Portland State University has many different programs that help prospective students decide if PSU is right for them and one of these programs is the Students Ambassadors. This group of students is often the first connection that future students have to the university. They are hired to represent the student and campus experience. Ambassadors come from all walks of life and represent every college on campus.
I am not an ambassador but my friend, Sophia Hogan, has been involved with this program for the past year and is preparing to continue her involvement the next term.
The different activities that she has done this past year include giving tours, currently virtual, to prospective students. As they would do in real life, she shows all of the different buildings on campus and shares the history behind them all.
She has also been a part of different student panels. These panels are moderated by PSU counselors who describe the admission process and what the school is like. The counselors then ask the ambassadors about their experiences at their specific school.
This spring, she participated in Admitted Students Day where they help admitted students decide if PSU is right for them. This is when students can talk to ambassadors in their same pathway to get an idea of what the culture is like. The ambassadors also have questions for themselves to answer if the prospective students are nervous to ask.
PSU is currently in a transition toward being back on campus where the ambassadors are holding “live from PSU” tours, where Sophia and other ambassadors will livestream a tour of campus.
Giving these tours has actually helped Sophia still feel connected to her acting side which she hasn’t been able to do since she was in high school. These tours allow her to memorize lines and “give a show” of the campus which gives her a little break from her academics.
Sophia has had a fun experience while at PSU and she has been wanting to share her experience with others. She also comes from an immigrant household so she is able to help prospective students who come from the same background feel welcomed.
If you are a prospective student and would like to get to know more about campus, college life, and academics, you can schedule a one-on-one meeting with a student ambassador who will tell you everything you need to know about PSU!
If you are currently a PSU student and are interested in becoming an ambassador, applications open every Winter term. Information about this process can be found here!
Video games are not only a huge hobby of mine, they’re also a form of stress relief. They can serve as both an art form and a way to decompress. I play a lot of games normally, but over the past year that we’ve been in the pandemic, I find myself turning to more calming management-style games. They’re distracting and perfect when I need to relax. I thought I’d recommend some of my indie favorites in case you’re also looking for your next fix. I tried to include several, but realistically, I could go on forever. These are either games I’ve played myself and have given a happy stamp of approval, or that have received raving reviews from friends. I could also recommend several other games that wouldn’t quite fit the management tag, but that’s a list for another day.
Personally, I feel like Stardew Valley is super well-known, but I still haven’t played it! I’m hoping to remedy that soon. However, almost all of my friends have played, and no one has anything negative to say about it. In Stardew Valley, you take over a farm and make it the best it can be, while getting to know the townsfolk and exploring a gorgeous world. Stardew Valley has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 290,206 reviews. It’s available on multiple consoles, but if you play on PC, you can find a lot of mods that people have lovingly made to enhance your experience.
Slime Rancher features you taking the role of Beatrix LeBeau, a rancher living on a foreign planet who spends her days wrangling various types of slimes and exploring the Far, Far Range. Slime Rancher is super charming, with many different environments to explore and cute characters to meet. You can combine slime types and grow their favorite foods, while keeping an eye on the changing market prices. In my opinion, Slime Rancher does an excellent job of balancing exploration with management that actually feels necessary and real! You’re required to pay attention to your ranch and venture out in order to advance the game. It also has a timed mode and a relaxed mode so you can customize your experience. Slime Rancher has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with over 54,461 reviews and took me about 20 hours to play through.
Potion Craft isn’t released yet, but you can play the demo. It looks like a unique, promising concept. You play as an alchemist in a small town, taking the townspeople’s various requests for potions while trying to figure out how to make most of them through wild experimentation. What charmed me the most was the art style of the game — it looks like a medieval text. I found the demo extremely fun to play and spent time exploring what happened when I added various ingredients together. I’m really looking forward to spending hours in this game, managing my little alchemy shop when Potion Craft releases.
I’ve saved the best for last. Spiritfarer was my personal game of the year in 2020. You play as Stella, the newest Spiritfarer replacing Charon, and sail around a beautiful world in your massive vessel with your cat Daffodil. Your goal is to find lost spirits in the world and help them pass on, while discovering more about yourself. You complete charming tasks, like cooking, gardening, building workshops and spirit houses, and chasing adorable nebula rollie-pollies that sink onto your boat like falling stars. (Extremely important note — you can hug Daffodil at any time!) Spiritfarer is ultimately a game about loss, death, and grief, and it definitely made me sob every time I helped a spirit pass on. With the disclaimer that it’s a sad game, it definitely struck a chord with me as a sentimental, beautiful work of art about how those you love will never be far. The soundtrack is incredible, the quests are charming, and I literally cannot say enough about it. The developers are releasing new spirits this year, which has motivated me to start a new playthrough and experience it all over again. Spiritfarer has an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam with 7,340 reviews, and I have almost 40 hours in the game — but disclaimer, I did spend extra time getting all of the achievements.
I hope that this list gave you some inspiration for calming management games to try!
It’s no secret to anybody who knows me, even in passing, that I don’t like change. Whether it’s something big like moving, or something small like not having Thai food for dinner as planned, change feels disruptive and sudden to me. This is exacerbated by severe anxiety, which is notoriously triggered by disruptions to routine.
However, change is unavoidable, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a change for the better. If I hadn’t come to Portland State University, I never would have seen Little Cow Pigeon. (Yes, I will take any opportunity to use a picture of Little Cow Pigeon.) If I hadn’t started working at my new job, I never would have met my fiancé. Starting therapy was terrifying, but it changed my life for the better. Life doesn’t stay the same forever, whether or not you want it to, so I’ve had to learn coping mechanisms. One of the most useful techniques is what I call the Rule of Three.
I developed this rule during college, when I had to change classes every term. It was difficult getting used to a new classroom, subject and teacher every ten weeks when it felt like I had just gotten used to the last term. However, I always ended up settling in and feeling more comfortable…it just took me a couple of weeks. So I learned to give it three weeks before deciding the class was a lost cause.
Sometimes the change is smaller — a restaurant I was planning on going to for lunch is unexpectedly closed. This used to ruin my day. But there’s always an alternative, and sometimes that ends up being just as good as the original plan. I learned to pause and take three minutes to process my disappointment and consider the new options. That’s usually all it takes to I feel a lot better about things.
Same thing if someone asks me out of the blue if I want to go on an outing with them — say, a hike in the park or a trip to a food cart. My initial reaction is always to say “no.” I started wondering why that was, because I’m not a negative person. In fact, I’m generally rather optimistic. I figured out it was my anxiety getting in the way, because anxiety does not like spontaneity. Now I ask the person to give me a few minutes to think about it. More often than not, after I have three minutes to consider the question, I end up wanting to go out after all.
What if the change is massive? I moved twice during my childhood — I’m originally from Michigan — before moving to Ohio and then to Oregon. Those were huge changes. In this case, the rule of three had to be three months. That was how long it took me to adjust to my new home, city, neighborhood and friends.
The Rule of Three has worked well for me when it comes to adjusting to change. Perhaps it will be useful for you, as well, if you also struggle with new things. I’m always trying to remember that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s bad. It might be scary at first, but more often than not, it’s a change for the better. And that gives me the courage to power through.
PSU’s CAT program teaches all facets of IT infrastructure in a professional environment
The CAT (Computer Action Team) is a hands-on, IT training program for student volunteers. PSU’s University Communications spoke to the CAT’s Department Manager, Brittaney Califf, and Communications Student, Brian Koehler to find out more about the opportunities CAT provides for students. Interview edited for clarity and length.
Q: What does the CAT do and what does being part of the team entail?
Brian Koehler: The CAT (Computer Action Team) provides IT support throughout the Maseeh College of Engineering (MCECS). With a primary focus on instructional needs, we support many large-scale computer labs (both college-wide and departmental), remotely accessible computer/session servers, various remotely accessible services as well as the server and physical network infrastructure that binds it all together. Where possible, the CAT is also able to leverage its infrastructure to support research and special projects in the college.
The second purpose of the team is to provide an invaluable resource to all students of Portland State University, regardless if they are students of MCECS or not. We provide IT training and skills via our brain dump program to students as well as Help Desk Work experience in an IT environment.
Brittaney Califf: We do everything here! We have our own admin side, our own user services, all the way to the end to our own surplussing of equipment and recycling, so we run the gamut.
Can you tell us more about the Braindump program?
BK: The Braindump program is the major part of being in the CAT. Every student who joins the CAT is expected to participate in this program. It is a weekly 3-4 hour class that is taught by one of our full-time employees or a student leader that has to do with IT. In return for this free class, we ask that students volunteer 3-4 hours per week working on our front desk helping MCECS students and faculty with their IT issues. Students then can put what they learned in the Braindump class in action while on the front desk.
BC: The program is only offered once a year, in the fall. The next brain dump batch will be starting Oct. 8 for this year and we only take one set per year because it’s really like an 18-month program — one batch ends up teaching the next batch. They get a broad range of skills to be at the front desk. Probably within 3 months, they’re on the front desk and by 6 or 8 months in, they’re alone on the front desk, helping people. The best way to learn around here is just to help other people.
What kind of skills are developed in working for the CAT?
BK: Students in the CAT can learn almost every facet of IT infrastructure in a professional environment. Some of these systems include Windows, Linux, printers, website development, and networking. We also have teams that specialize in technical and wiki writing to record and document all of the Computer Action Team’s training and systems, as well as student leadership roles and a communication team.
BC: If you don’t know what you want to do, this is a great place to find out what you enjoy: You can do the purchasing, administrative, and business end or you can join a networking team. You can do hardware, software, development, web administration and we have a video team. We have a huge variety of opportunities where people can mess around and find what they love. People really find their niche here.
What kind of jobs can experience with the CAT lead to?
BK: Many students have found jobs via connections they made at the CAT with Nike, Intel, and other local companies. Our weekly Braindump classes will teach students everything about IT in a professional setting as well as give them hard skills they can use in their day-to-day technology use. They will walk away with one year of IT help desk experience if they complete the Braindump program. They also have the chance to work closely with our full-time employees and get even more directed training in any systems of their choice.
How many people are currently involved in the CAT?
BK: The CAT is run by Janaka Jayawardena, who set up the idea of the Braindump program and student volunteer program almost 30 years ago, and is assisted by Brittaney. The team consists of 8 FTE (that includes a director and department administrator), 7-10 student workers, and an army of volunteer trainees. Technical support for each platform (Windows, Linux/UNIX, etc.) has a full-time lead who, in turn, is surrounded by a team that may include full-time employees, student workers, and student volunteers.
BC: There are fewer student workers right now due to current constraints, but the volunteer crowd consists of about 43 people right now.
How has the CAT been operating differently during the pandemic?
BK: The Computer Action Team was one of the driving forces to getting many MCECS systems pandemic-ready; the students and full-time employees worked daily to get all of the labs set up virtually and get the professors and employees of MCECS running. To do this, we had our students in the technical writing team update and improve our website to have the latest information and user guides to getting set up for remote labs.
BC: The Braindump program has also been all online for the first time ever — this is our first remote batch of students. Skills are being transposed into online help, whereas students would usually walk over to a lab and help somebody. Phone calls are usually a big thing for us and those are not happening; they’re being transposed into voicemails and students are then returning the calls. It’s a little weird but no less active. People are not needing less help, they’re just needing different help.
What should students interested in joining the CAT know?
BK: Again, we only enroll students once a year in October; it is the only chance they get to join the Braindump program and become a part of the CAT. They can learn more at our website and they can follow our social media accounts to get a heads up on next year’s orientation.
BC: We take people from all across campus. You don’t have to be studying Engineering, we’ve had folks from Geology, English, Physics — all over the place. We’ve taken folks who don’t know how to turn a computer on! You really do learn from the ground up, if you need to, and it starts wherever you are.