A Listening Ear

by Beth Royston

I knew that I wanted to squeeze in some more volunteer work this term, in order to feel as prepared as possible for my application to my graduate program in the fall. However, I was almost out of the house 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. already, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make time to add another commitment on. I heard from a couple of my psychology professors that crisis counseling was a great way to break into psychology volunteering, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated by thinking of going to a center, taking calls, and essentially getting empathy exhaustion. Then, I’d have to go home at night and probably go to sleep right after, which I knew wouldn’t help me feel cheery. 

With a bit of research, I found I could actually apply for a volunteer position with a text line and take conversations on my laptop. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a month, but to be honest, I wish I had started much sooner. I really appreciate the ability to choose my schedule, and change it week to week. There’s also the ability to debrief with other counselors when hard conversations happen, and you receive constant support from your supervisor. 

It is tough though, especially when you can tell someone doesn’t feel better after talking with you, and there’s not much more you can do for them. My hardest conversations are with younger people that text in, and may have a harder time understanding that we can’t say or do certain things for them when they’re clearly in need. But I’m glad that I’m giving some of my time each week to volunteering and offering my trained and compassionate ears to people that really, really need it. 

I currently put in about four or five hours each week, shifting back and forth between splitting that up into two days and doing it all on Saturday. However, over spring break, I’ll probably be putting in a lot more time. 

It’s great practice for my future as a therapist to learn to leave it behind when I close my laptop and to learn that you can’t fix everything for someone, only be there for them to provide support, resources, and validation of what they’re going through. But that’s still pretty special, in my opinion. It can weigh on me sometimes, and it’s not for everyone, but I think I’ll probably be volunteering for a long time.

Running Out of Spoons

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

About two years ago, I got sick and doctors couldn’t figure out why. Suddenly my world shrunk to the size of my house. Getting through my college classes was a monumental effort when I had absolutely no energy. Some days I couldn’t leave the house because I was too sick to my stomach. Other days I would fall asleep on a bench between classes because I was just so exhausted, while walking up the stairs left me doubled-over waiting for my heart rate to get back to normal. I would make it through the day only to go home and fall asleep at 9 PM. 

It was around that time that I encountered an article by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory” that describes her experience living with chronic illness. Being a “spoonie” means you only have a certain amount of spoons, which represent both mental and physical energy, a day. It was the perfect metaphor for my experience. Getting a diagnosis and feeling better has been a long process and I’m still not at 100%. But I’ve learned some coping mechanisms…including bringing books with me to the hospital for comfort.

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The most important thing I’ve learned is knowing when to take a break. Some days I didn’t have the energy to study as hard as I wanted to…and that’s okay. Pushing yourself to the breaking point doesn’t help anybody. I learned to ask for help when I needed it, whether from my family or friends. I also talked to my professors about my health issues, all of whom were extremely sympathetic. Don’t forget that the Disability Resource Center can provide accommodations, too.

The biggest thing I learned is that my health is more important than grades. It’s hard to study when you’re curled up on the bathroom floor, even when you have a final exam the next day. I work hard in school, and it’s important to me, but sometimes you have to give yourself a break. It’s hard to keep going when it feels like your body is working against you. But I try to take it one day at a time. There’s no shame in taking it slowly if you need to. Remember, you aren’t the only #spoonie here at PSU.

Why I Save My Course Materials

Finals week is fast approaching, and spring break will be here before we know it! Many students are already thinking about reselling their textbooks and can’t wait to toss their notes. However, I’d argue that there are benefits to keeping class materials.

Old assignments can be useful in future classes

Keeping graded essays from previous courses has been helpful to me in the past, because they can help me ascertain what instructors look for in good papers. Of course, all professors are different, with their own pet peeves and preferences. However, if one instructor makes a constructive remark, chances are that advice can be applied to future assignments with future instructors. For example, in an English composition course I took in community college, the instructor gave us a handout with a list of mistakes English instructors are tired of seeing, ranging from grammatical errors to flaws in logic. This has been an incredibly helpful list to have around as I’ve continued my academic journey. Past research papers have also become a resource — if I didn’t use a source in a previous paper, I can use it in a future paper on the same topic, or use that source as a starting point for future research. 

Keeping old materials can help you get your money’s worth 

Let’s face it: college is expensive, and human brains are flawed when it comes to retaining information long-term. The notes you scrawl in Statistics and the study guide you fashion for French have value in both time and money. Saving materials from a past class is a way of preserving what you’ve learned, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve taken the class. 

Let’s say you took time off between Class 101 and Class 102. If you kept your course materials, you’d have easy access to what you learned in 101 to refresh your memory before taking 102. Also, you wouldn’t have to pay to take the course again or spend hours combing through Google trying to cobble together a free crash course. Even when you don’t take a hiatus from your education, you forget a lot over school breaks, and having materials around to review before going back can be helpful! Not to mention, the resale value for books is far less than the original price, so if your text has valuable information or you’ll want to read it again, it might be worth it to just keep it. 

Looking over old work can be enjoyable 

It’s validating to look back at my writing from years ago and see how I’ve improved. Depending on the course, re-reading old handouts and texts can also be fun! For example, I’ve kept books from my literature classes I particularly enjoy. A textbook from my Interpersonal Communications class at my last college sits on my shelf, because it holds information on skills and situations that will help me throughout my life — not just within the quarter I took that class. 

How do you select what class materials to keep?

Quality over quantity: it’s important to pare down your notes, books, and assignments to what’s relevant. Here are some tips when deciding what to keep:

  • Is the information novel, or basic? Is this information you could find from a cursory Google search?
  • Is this course relevant to your major? Did you learn things that would apply to future classes?
  • Is this a difficult topic for you, and would it help you to review the concepts before taking the next course in the sequence?
  • Do you enjoy the subject? Were the readings interesting, and if you enjoyed the texts, would it make financial sense to keep them instead of selling them?
  • If it’s an assignment, is the instructor’s feedback constructive? Did you learn something valuable?
  • Do you have the physical or digital space to store old materials?

At the end of every term, I ask myself these questions while I comb through my class materials to help me narrow down what to save. This method has helped me determine what’s useful to toss or sell, and what’s useful to keep around. 

I have a small archive of class materials from previous courses that I keep in binders, and I thumb through everything periodically. Some people might raise an eyebrow at this collection, but this works for me, and a similar system might help you during your time in college.

Springtime in PDX

By Maya Young

It’s that time of the term again. Finals are right around the corner, assignment deadlines are looming, and the time slot to complete all of these tasks is decreasing with each passing day. Now here we are, nine weeks into winter term with only two more to go. For some of us, myself included, these upcoming weeks bring in an odd combination of stress and excitement as we look forward to the completion of a term but worry about the process getting there. To take some much-needed rest and decompress before spring term, here are some fun examples of what I like to do in Portland as it gets warmer.

1. Try new food

Portland is well-known for its food carts, and with so many to choose from, it is very easy to get out there and try new things. For me, I love some of the local food carts on-campus including Poompui Thai, Portland Gyro, and La Casita. 

2. Go to the Portland Markets

Portland has a large community dedicated to homemade goods, crafted products, and locally sourced ingredients. Two of my favorite markets are the Portland Farmers Market at PSU and the Portland Saturday Market down at the waterfront. For foodies who want to try new cuisines and get freshly grown ingredients, the farmers market is the place for you! The market at the waterfront is an excellent spot to listen to music, try new foods, and explore works from many local artists.

3. Take a hike

Portland has so many scenic hikes that are worth going on, and some are very close to campus! Take a trip to Council Crest, Washington Park, and even hike up to the Pittock Mansion. It’s great to take advantage of the nice Portland weather to explore what the city and surrounding areas have to offer.

Tips for Trouble-Free Transit Travel

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

One of the main reasons I chose PSU is because I could live at home and commute to college. I didn’t want to live away from my family for that long, and the dorms were too expensive, so commuting was the perfect solution. After three and a half years of taking the bus, I’m far from a master of public transportation, but I’m much more comfortable with it than I was when I started. And I have some tips to share with anybody in the same shoes.

The best tool you can have as a commuter is a good bag. My backpack has held up through my entire college career, and I suspect it will keep going for many more years. As cool as messenger bags look, they’re terrible on your back. For me, nothing can take the place of a reliable backpack. Mine has side pockets to store my water bottle.

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TriMet is a great way of getting around Portland. They recently started a low-income fare program. If you’re a broke college student like me, you just might be eligible. You get to ride the bus, Max, and streetcar for half the price, which has been a lifesaver for me. (Don’t forget you can ride the streetcar for free with your PSU student ID!) The TriMet transit tracking app is useful for knowing when your bus will show up, which means you can time your commute so you don’t have to wait outside for so long.

If you’re going to be walking around after dark, it’s important to have a light – you can clip it to your backpack for easy access. You also may want to consider self-defense, whether that’s taking a class or getting some pepper spray. For safety reasons, I always make sure somebody knows where I am and when I plan to be home. I encourage you to make a safety plan, too. 

Another thing I like having in my backpack is my Kindle, which I use to read ebooks while I commute. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done that way. Or you can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or your favorite music. It makes the commute go by much faster. Now I look forward to my bus rides…they’re a fun part of my day.

Go Thorns!

by Beth Royston

It’s February, which means my fingers twitch toward the bookmark in my web browser, wanting to carry out the urge to check it one more time, despite knowing  I’ll get an email anyway. I have to smile at myself — years ago, if I knew I’d be frothing at the mouth to get my hands on good seats for a soccer match, I would have denied it. 

I played sports as a kid, but organized events were another thing entirely. I also hated growing up in my California hometown, so I never felt any real pride for local sports teams. My mom is an avid soccer fan, but I didn’t often watch with her, instead preferring to preserve my own life force. Sometimes she would get so excited I feared she would squeeze all the air out of my lungs (Love you, Mom). 

However, since coming to Portland, I knew I should eventually take part in a Portland rite of passage — seeing a soccer match at Providence Park. Needless to say, I was hooked. I’ve now been to both Timbers and Thorns games, but I prefer the Thorns. It’s a really wholesome atmosphere — you can’t look anywhere in the arena without seeing a giant pride flag being waved vigorously, and the energy of the cheering crowd is infectious. Our team is good, too, and a lot of fun to watch. I feel represented and welcomed in the crowd, where the atmosphere is never murderous even in the face of a loss. I feel represented in the team, too. 

I’d recommend going to a match this spring when the Thorns start playing again. Maybe you’ll too join the ranks of fans who give in for an overpriced beverage and a scarf. It’s worth it for the experience, I promise.

I imagine much of my joy comes from feeling like I’m part of something, feeling pride in my home team and getting to watch these amazing, diverse women excel. I’m sure it would be dangerous for my mom and I to both go to a soccer match, we’d probably be cutting off each other’s circulation out of excitement, but we’ll probably do it anyway. 

Trouble Choosing a Major?

By Maya Young

We’ve all been there. Beginning an academic journey at a university or college and being overwhelmed by the range of major pathways and course offerings. How do I choose? What am I good at? What do I want to do after college? These are but a few of the questions that I wondered myself when I started school at PSU. Although the process can be very intimidating, I have a few tips that will help you make the decision easier.

See an advisor. Talk to other students. Speak with professors.

There are numerous resources available to you on-campus that can help you make the most of your education. These advisors know how you are feeling and know how to help.

Use your first year at school to explore different classes.

This can be easily achieved by choosing your University Studies courses wisely. Are you interested in researching popular culture? Tackling environmental sustainability? Understanding the importance of social change? There is a wide selection of themes to choose from that can guide you in finding a new interest. 

Establish your goals.

Think broadly about why you are enrolled in college in the first place. What do you want out of this experience? How can your education help you out later in life? If you are unsure of what you want to do specifically, consider your values and interests. Do you want to make a difference in the world? Do you want to help others? Do you want to create something, start a new business, launch a new product? Answering these questions may help you find what you’re looking for.

Scared of SHAC?

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Especially for those of us living on campus, the Center for Student Health and Counseling is an extremely convenient and reliable resource. Any student taking at least five credits is eligible for free SHAC office visits because we pay a Student Health Fee. Students can accomplish a lot with those free visits, such as get comprehensive STD screening, have blood drawn, and get referrals or prescriptions. Not to mention, SHAC also has Counseling Services that are covered by the Student Health Fee. 

Personally, I’ve gone to SHAC to be swabbed for strep and to obtain referrals to other physicians. For example, when I sprained my ankle I needed a referral for physical therapy from a doctor for my insurance to cover it. I had no problems getting the referral from a doctor at SHAC. My experience has been nothing but positive and professional, and I hope more PSU students can experience the support that I’ve had from SHAC.

However, when I ask other students if they have been to SHAC, I sense a lot of apprehension from them. I often hear questions about whether their private insurance will cover a visit or if the professionals employed there are actually any good. The staff is knowledgeable about private insurance providers and transparent about any copays or out-of-pocket expenses. As for the health providers, SHAC employs actual doctors, along with physician assistants, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners. You can be guaranteed that you’ll be seen by someone with an advanced medical degree. From what I’ve seen, the providers at SHAC just want PSU students to have a happy and healthy college experience.

Finding a New Hobby

By: Ragan Love

My favorite activity has always been creating and playing music, but when college started my hobby turned into my main academic focus. It led to a creative block that lasted several months.  Playing my favorite instrument felt like a chore.It made me sad that my escape had turned into a daunting task. I decided that I wanted to find a new hobby that I could turn to when my brain was overloaded with music information.

I thought about other activities I enjoyed before college started. I used to spend my free time reading, cooking, and sewing. It’s hard for me to do much cooking or baking because I have a small kitchen space, and I am trying to use the meal plan as much as possible. I have tried reading, but I need a light school reading load if I want to dive into a good book. That left sewing, and I went online to look for ideas. This is when I saw needle-point kits! My grandmother taught me needlepoint , but it had been years since I had tried it. I found a  cute flower three-pack and decided to try it out. The first one I did was a simple, but cute, plant design. I started it in October and slowly finished this project for my friend’s Christmas present.

During winter break, I started a new project, a tiny avocado. Only a few inches tall, the design took a few hours to finish. I really enjoyed this one because I got to work on it while relaxing with my family in Colorado! I actually turned this needlepoint into a magnet for my grandmother’s birthday, and she absolutely loved it. 

I am currently working on two different designs. I plan to keep these for myself.   One is a needlepoint on a wooden canvas and pictures a mountain scene. My friend gave this to me when I was getting a little homesick, and I can’t wait for it to be completed so I can have it on my desk as a memory of home.

My new hobby gives me a mental break from playing the flute. Needle-point projects make wonderful gifts for friends and family, and you can work on them throughout the year. I think that creative burnout is a challenging part of college that is not talked about, but it is important to take a mental break from your professional passion.  Needlepoint helps me get into a better creative space for performing music.

Winter Wonderland

by Beth Royston

I’ve slipped in snow and plummeted headfirst into an icy road with cars coming, but I still can’t quite bring myself to adopt the same dread regarding snow that a lot of my friends have.

Growing up in California, snow was always a special treat requiring a several-hour drive up the closest mountain. It was magical and also one of the few times I was permitted to eat instant ramen, clustered around steaming cups with my cousins, our cheeks red from chill. I was already looking forward to Portland’s actual seasons instead of 365 straight days of heat, but I was gently warned not to have high hopes of snow. I moved here in September 2016, and that winter was one of the biggest snowfalls Portland had experienced in a while. I was nothing short of elated being able to walk out my front door and jump into a snowbank.

Snow also meant stress: being stuck downtown during rush hour after a shift at the restaurant I worked at, realizing it would cost several hundred dollars and take several hours to get an Uber, because the buses had stopped running. I eventually went home with a coworker for the night and the next morning one of her saint-like roommates volunteered to drive me home from North Portland to West Linn, cheerfully chatting with me as we skidded on ice and I feared for my life. It can mean missing work, which seems fun until you remember you’re a self-supporting student and your paycheck is kind of important, but I don’t think I’ll ever truly gripe about it.

When the first few flakes start to drift down, even if they don’t stick, snow holds a timeless kind of magic for me. I secretly hope for another absolute coating, but we’ll have to see.