Being Under the National Spotlight

by Beth Royston

I can depend on them, those text messages, every time Portland is in the news. Of course, they are from friends and family outside the city who care about me and are concerned for my well being. But I think it isn’t often realized by people that live outside of the Portland area that life here is not really like it’s portrayed on the news — and we’ve had a lot of coverage lately. 

Recently, with the federal occupation of Portland, it felt like we were under a giant microscope. I was getting a lot of calls at my student position in the Admissions office from concerned parents and wary students about how really safe it was to be here. To be honest, sometimes things happen in Portland and I have no idea until someone texts me about it, and I think I do a decent job of checking the news! Of course, I can understand why people are frightened. Coming from an entirely suburban area while growing up, moving to a city with inner-city challenges was a culture shock for me. Something I think that is important for incoming students to know is that the Park Blocks, the big green space running through the middle of campus, is actually city property. That’s why there are wonderful things, like the farmer’s market that happens there every Saturday. But that also means that protests can gather there that aren’t PSU-related. It can be a lot to get used to, but I am happy to live somewhere where people are truly passionate about standing up for things they believe in. I still remember the shocked expression on my partner’s face when I brought him to his first loud, marching, flag-waving protest (he’s from a suburban neighborhood in Ohio).

It can be nerve-wracking to receive all of these queries, almost as if it’s forcing me to look inward when someone asks if I’ve been affected by any of the protesting, or the wildfires, or this, or that. Being under the national spotlight is tough. I can only ever give my own opinion, which is that I do feel safe at Portland State and in Portland. 

My Path to College

by Beth Royston

I’m in my senior year at PSU and looking back on my idea of the college experience as a senior in high school was very different than how it turned out. I learned a valuable lesson — as much as you can work towards your hopes and dreams, be flexible to the definition of those hopes and dreams changing. 

Initially, I wanted a traditional freshman college experience — going to university after I graduated high school, living in the dorms, the whole nine yards. But my reality began to shift for a few reasons, namely financial. It wouldn’t be possible for me to attend as an out-of-state student, even though PSU’s out-of-state tuition was less than residential schools in my area. I was crushed, but there did remain a thin beam of hope that I could still make things work. 

I knew that above it all, I wanted to live in Oregon — so I moved. I lived with extended family here for a while, and then found some roommates for a place of my own, working a variety of beloved jobs here and there. During this time period I realized that even though I didn’t want to be set back again, attending PCC would make my life a lot easier financially. I also would qualify for resident tuition at both schools due to my year working. 

I finally landed at PSU as a junior last fall, three years after graduating high school. My partner and I both had experience living in small apartments, and reverting to dorm life was a little hard for us to imagine. We like ample space to cook and enough room to fit two desktop computers — to say the least. So we decided to continue in off-campus route. We absolutely love our neighborhood in southwest Portland, it has many great restaurants and a gorgeous riverfront park across the street. There’s space to garden and it’s generally quiet. 

But I won’t pretend that I don’t think about what my life would be like if things were different. I didn’t live in the dorms, or have my four years at PSU. Did I miss out on something? The thing is, I can’t know that. I do know that I made great memories at PCC, live comfortably and happily, and am at PSU now. Hopefully for graduate school, too! I’m grateful for my choices in the past, because I was thinking of myself in the future. There are definitely pros and cons to any route to college, and I’ve faced unique struggles due to the path I took. At the end of the day, I’m just overjoyed to be here, even though the path to get here looked different than what I imagined. I learned instead of resisting change, to go with the flow, as long as I knew I would get there in the end. 

A Capstone About Cats: Reflections on Our Senior Capstone

By Claire Golden and Erika Nelson

It was complete coincidence that two PSU Chronicles bloggers — Erika and Claire — ended up in the same Senior Capstone, but we wanted to reflect on our experience. This was far and away the most involved class we’d ever taken, but it was also one of the most rewarding…in large part because our work impacted the real world.

Our class was called “Grant Writing for Shelter Pets.” In a Capstone, you work directly with a community partner — in our case, a non-profit cat shelter in Vancouver, Washington called Furry Friends. We worked in groups writing grant proposals for Furry Friends (Claire worked in the group seeking medical funding for seriously ill cats, and Erika was in the group focused on building a new “kitty condo” structure.) This wasn’t just another course–it had real-world ramifications. The fate of hundreds of cats were directly influenced by our commitment to the grantwriting process–for example, these grant proposals could be the difference between Furry Friends getting funding for life-threatening medical conditions, influencing whether cats live or die. 

This course was intense! Capstones always take up a lot of time and energy. We found it’s best to plan for contingencies that could affect your stamina and focus–life happens sometimes (sometimes in ways we can never anticipate), but you can try to be prepared for things likely to happen. Remember that this class is six credits, which is basically a class-and-a-half. So it’s going to take longer than you’re used to…and it’s a 400-level course. To be safe, treat this class as two regular classes and then you’ll know how to budget enough time.

A huge part of the class involved communication, and while we’d done group work in previous classes, it was nothing to this extent. It was tricky doing distance communication; although this was an online class even before most other classes were remote, not being able to meet with the whole group in person proved challenging. We found group emails, group texts, and Google Docs to be invaluable (pro tip: make sure everyone is looking at the same Google Doc to avoid confusion). It’s essential to communicate with your groupmates, your instructor, and the community partner. It’s way better to double-check something than to miss something.

It’s important to keep in mind that since Capstones involve community service, you might be emotionally affected by the project and the community partner’s stories. Be sure to practice self-care and make use of your support network if necessary. We read stories about animal abuse that made us feel sick, but that was just more motivation to work hard.

In the end, we’re both proud of our work and happy that we made the decision to take this Capstone. We both learned so much–not only about the grantwriting process, but about collaboration, research, and harnessing empathy to do good.

What’s Up With Online Tutoring?

IMG_7345 by Claire Golden

I’ve worked as a tutor at PSU’s Learning Center since last fall. Last term, when everything started getting serious with the COVID-19 pandemic, we switched to online tutoring. Socially distancing isn’t really an option for tutoring, because you have to get close to the student to see what they’re working on. So I’m extremely lucky to have the ability to work remotely because it offers less risk for both students and tutors. The Learning Center continues to offer remote tutoring and academic coaching this summer, and we’ll just have to see what this fall looks like.

But you may be wondering the same thing I was: How does online tutoring even work? Turns out it’s quite simple. Every organization does it differently, but the Learning Center uses two apps: Penji and Zoom. (Remember a few months ago when basically nobody knew what Zoom was, and now everybody has it installed?) Penji is used to schedule your appointment with a tutor. You can book 30-minute sessions during the tutor’s availability. Right before your session, you’ll get an email from Penji with the link to the tutor’s Zoom room, so all you have to do is click and join.

The tutoring session is the same as usual: you can get help with practice problems, studying, concepts, and language conversation…anything you would cover during a normal in-person session. You can share your screen or use the whiteboard to write out what you’re working on. The tutor will be live on screen (my bookshelf is usually in the background during my Zoom sessions, and sometimes my cat will walk by). It can be weird at first getting used to the online tutoring format, but it doesn’t feel so weird after a while. In fact, I like it by now.

So if you need any tutoring or academic coaching during the last few weeks of summer term, don’t hesitate to swing by. We’ll be happy to see you.

A “Swan” Summer

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

This is my last term of college, and my classes are different than usual. This term, I’m taking my senior capstone and my last four University Studies credits…which is how I ended up in a Japanese Manga class. 

First of all, it’s a four-week class, which I’ve never done before. And it’s no joke! We have the same amount of content, but it’s squished into four weeks instead of the usual eight or ten for non-summer terms. Every day, we have a discussion assignment due, and every week we have an essay and quiz. It’s vital to write down my assignments and cross them off when I’m done so I don’t get confused.

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While it certainly isn’t stress-free, I’ve really enjoyed the texts we’ve read so far this term. One of the manga we read is Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi. I fell in love with it from the first page. It’s the story of a teenage ballerina and her struggle to get into a prestigious ballet school. Since I did classical ballet as a teenager, I took to the story right away and liked it so much that I ordered the next book in the series immediately after finishing. 

I never would have discovered this book if it weren’t for my manga class. And I wouldn’t have signed up for this class if it weren’t for University Studies. It turns out that this manga class is the perfect way to finish my English major, expanding my knowledge beyond Western literature. It just goes to show that you should keep an open mind, because you never know where you’ll find your new favorite book.

Showing Solidarity From Home

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

Life has been overwhelming lately, to say the least. It seems like I go from a news article about the COVID-19 pandemic to a coverage of protests in Portland. More than anything, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness. I want to help the Black Lives Matter cause. But how can I do that from home?

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graphic from blacklivesmatter.com

For anyone else who feels this way, I’ve rounded up a short list of ways that you can help from home. Although the protests are necessary, it’s also dangerous to congregate in public when coronavirus is still spreading. Luckily, you can still support the cause from the safety of your own home.

If you’re a white person like me, you can educate yourself and other white people. This could mean having difficult conversations with your family members who may not be very aware of what’s going on. You could share helpful articles on your social media. What’s important is doing the work to become informed. 

You can donate to organizations like Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd Memorial Fund. Every little bit helps. Many of us are unemployed college students, which means we aren’t exactly showered with money, but if everyone donated the price of a Starbucks drink, it would add up. 

I’ve been making a concerted effort to support black artists, authors, and creators. A book that helped me learn a lot is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which is a young adult novel about a girl standing up against police brutality. I read it from the library a couple of years ago, but I finally bought a copy because it’s such an important book.

There are many ways to show your support even if you aren’t on the front lines, and I encourage you to do so. Together, we can make a difference.

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.

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 Remote Learning from a Former Homeschooler

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

How are you all doing with the adjustment to remote learning? As we start our fifth week of the most unusual spring term in memory, I know a lot of us are having a difficult time. I find myself more grateful than ever for my homeschool education, which means that I’m used to learning like this. Here are some tips I’ve learned from seven years of homeschooling that I find helpful for remote learning.

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1. Dedicate a space to your studying. 

It’s nice to do homework in your bed once in a while, but I find that having a tidy desk does wonders for my mental state. Sitting down at my desk helps put me in “study mode.”

2. Keep an assignment planner.

I keep this planner on the aforementioned desk. I have four spaces for the four days of the week (Monday-Thursday) I have classes, and I write what’s due in each space, crossing it out when I’m done. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when everything is just floating around in your head. Writing it down on paper is a good way to get it out of your head and onto the page.

3. Minimize distractions.

It’s easy to get distracted by family and pets. I wear a pair of headphones to signal when I can’t be interrupted. Turn on “do not disturb” mode on your computer and silence your phone. That YouTube video can wait until you’re ready to take a break.

4. Enjoy what remote learning has to offer.

It’s easy to see all the difficulties of remote learning, but what about the positives? You can go to school in your pajamas, snack whenever you want, and take naps in the middle of the day. In fact, I wrote this post with a cat curled up beside me (pictured).

It’s okay to embrace this weird time period while it lasts and enjoy the silver lining. Things will be back to normal someday. Until then, we’re in this together.

Separating School and Home Life

By: Ragan Love

Remote Learning has been a learning curve for all of us, but now that half of the quarter is over, we all feel like experts. I am always looking for new ways to make remote learning easier, and I know other people are, too. Here are seven tips that have helped me be successful this Spring quarter. 

  1. Have a specific space to do your work. If you were on campus you would have your favorite study space: a coffee shop, the library, or your desk. When learning at home, it is important to separate your learning and chill spaces. I don’t have a personal desk at home, but my dining room table is working great for me. It gives me lots of space, and it’s located in an open area where I can look outside.
  2. Look at your word choice. I discovered the past few weeks that I call everything homework, and it makes my workload seem overwhelming. I have tried to separate what would be my classwork and my homework. The simple word change has helped me feel less overwhelmed with school work.
  3. Have your set “school day.” This will seem kind of high school but you should have a set school day. If you have a class from 10 a.m.to 11:30 a.m., work on that class during that time. I generally work at school from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. I will only work on loose ends and homework. It makes me feel like there is an end to the day if I have a clock out card for school.
  4. Once you are done,  stay done. It seems simple but we are all guilty of breaking this! Even though I say I am done, I will still respond to emails and check notifications on D2L. I have been trying to change that by putting down my phone and computer and spending some time with my family and animals.
  5. Remember to take a break. This is the most important tip I can give –  to others and myself. Burnout is a real thing for college students, and we are facing it more while at home. I feel like I have to be working on school all day so I write “take a break” in my calendar, forcing myself to have a little fun just for me. Some of my break activities have included napping, watching a show, taking a walk, or playing a game with my brother.
  6. Set daily goals. I am a very organized person but my organizational style has changed a lot during remote learning. I have found a system that works well for me, but I am still trying new things to see what I like. At the beginning of the school week I write a list of what needs to get done for every class. Every morning I look at my weekly list and put what I will specifically work on in my bullet journal.
  7. Set more specific goals. It is helpful to turn my goals into smaller, specific goals. Instead of working until I burn out, I set a goal of working on the online part of the unit or the chapter reading. This takes more planning to make sure you don’t fall behind, but it’s actually helped me get ahead in some of my classes!