More than calories

img_4856 by Steph Holton

Food is the one great unifier. For starters, it quite literally sustains life. But the importance of food goes beyond mere calories.

In a world with such remarkable cultural diversity, it is sometimes difficult to find common ground. Every single culture has customs surrounding food, though, and therein lies an opportunity for shared experience. In the simple act of preparing a meal, one is communicating a willingness to expend energy nourishing a companion, and also a desire to share what is potentially a meaningful aspect of one’s life—a favorite food, a traditional mode of preparation, even the excitement of acquiring a new culinary skill.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and households around the country are already prepping for that magnificent turkey-centered feast—making grocery lists, contacting all the relatives, delegating side dishes. We’ve made Thanksgiving primarily about gorging ourselves. (Don’t get me wrong; I too purposely wear bigger pants to Thanksgiving dinner.) But I also think that on a day so dedicated to food preparation and sharing, we have an opportunity to do something more, like expressing awe for the unique story and the genuine care that goes into every dish on the table.

College students often don’t have the luxury of traveling home for Thanksgiving, so I think this message rings even more true among us who, perhaps for the first time, are spending the day with friends and bringing together a multitude of traditions into a new shared experience. Personally, I’m greatly looking forward to the experience.

Why do we fear change?

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 3.33.32 PM By Jasmin Landa

I ask myself this question every single day.

I have found that sometimes change can bring about new aspects in one’s life that are exposed as agents of growth. For example, my senior year has begun at PSU, and I know big changes are coming. This has forced me to decide: Do I fear these changes, or do I embrace them?

For example, this past year I was able to travel abroad to Japan — an opportunity that I was scared to embark on. I kept trying to convince myself that I couldn’t sustain myself in a foreign country with a foreign language. I scheduled a meeting with my international adviser, and I expressed my concerns about how nervous I was about the new challenge I was about to embark on — one that was going to bring about a new level of capacity, a new level of discomfort and adaptability. As I was explaining my fears, she stopped me, and asked, “Jasmin, life is about change, and I want you to know that you have a community of people that believe in your growth and in your journey. Japan is waiting for you.” A month later, I was on a plane headed to Japan to what has now been the best experience I have ever had.

So when I think of change, I realized that I can fear it or face it. I know that change occurs in all students, and we all reach a fork in the road where we must find the ways to embrace change. I encourage you to find the ways that make change a life changing experience.

 

RA’s Face the Pros and Con(frontation)s

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Confrontation is an art form. Like any artistic ability, some people just have an innate knack for it. Others work at it until they seem like naturals all, and some try it out only to decide it’s just not their thing.

A year ago, I definitely would’ve fallen into the latter category. This year, however, I’m a Resident Assistant (RA), and conflict is an inherent part of my job. Confrontation was definitely one of my biggest fears coming into this job, but so far I’ve gained an appreciation for it and new confidence in my approach. Of course, RAs go through training on conflict resolution, but the most valuable training happens on the job. Being an RA has forced me to live—on the daily—outside of my comfort zone. Not only have I had to act as the confronter, but also as a facilitator for residents confronting others to resolve issues internally.

Even though being an RA has given me more confidence in dealing with conflict, that’s in no way saying I look forward to it in the slightest. The only secret I can let you in on about RAs is that we hate confrontation as much as anyone else; we just have to hide it.

 

Small Body, Big Dreams

nc1-e1509748844344.jpg  By: Naela Cabrera

Being a first-generation college student is hard. Being the oldest sibling is also hard sometimes. When you are both, it gets even harder. Having a role like this can come with a lot of responsibility, but mostly pressure. For first-generation students of color, the pressure to encourage the younger generation to receive a higher education is something many experience due to our community’s circumstances. In my experience, having a 15 year gap between me and my only other sibling makes my job a little more challenging, and the pressure a little higher. Yet, there has never been a day when I don’t feel appreciative of my little brother and the opportunity I have to encourage his future higher education goals.

The start of my college journey was very challenging for him. I was the only other person he counted on to be a friend, playmate and sometimes parent, which made me realize that it was extremely important to stay close and connected to my family. But although visiting my family only involves a 50-minute drive, I found balancing classes, work, and extracurriculars while making time for him was, at times, physically and mentally challenging. I then thought to myself, what would be easier to do? If I can’t continuously go to him, he could come to me! I quickly took advantage of all the fun, kid-friendly things to do on campus and in downtown Portland.

What is the best way to get kids active and ready for a midday nap while you catch up on homework? Take them to Campus Rec. One of our first spots was Campus Rec because working there taught me about their Youth Program. During a fall term, for six straight Saturdays he would spend the day with me getting active, catching up on play time, and taking a cool down walk through the farmers market afterwards. The days started with an early morning youth swim lesson, then sometimes lead to hours of rock climbing and court activities like soccer, basketball, and his favorite – table tennis. Soon enough Campus Rec became his spot! My coworkers would see him come up the stairs and immediately cheer him on, greet him and make him feel appreciated much like they do with a lot of the youth that come by our facility. Another favorite activity has been Spooky Saturday, which just went on this past weekend for kiddos in the Halloween spirit.  

Thanks to resources like the Youth Program, on and off campus activities and my willingness to take time and appreciate my little brother made it possible to bring a part of home and family values with me to my experience at PSU. Not only does this help cool down the pressure of making my first-generation experience valuable for my family, but it also allows my little brother to have exposure to the college setting and what it means. Just last night we continued our campus visiting routine when he attended the Day of the Dead annual cultural celebration with me, a very important family tradition for both of us.

I see, I saw, I am here

WechatIMG12 By Qin Xia

“I love to accept every day’s challenge!” That’s hilarious, because like most people, I don’t like change. I’d love to live in a stable situation with some traveling, but totally not like this.Before I decided to study in the U.S., I barely knew the life here. I am not a research kind of person. I just wanted to go. And when I first came here, I hated it.

My PSU life began Winter term 2107: 20 days of snow covered roads, 30 days without any sunshine, endless rainy days. Strange language, strange faces, even the air. I barely understood the classes. My self confidence crashed. “I want to go back to China,” I whined like a toddler. I was such a nuisance that I even hated myself at times.

Then I saw. I saw a large lady wearing tight jeans walking down the street proudly. I saw a mother with a beard taking care of his/her little girl really well. I saw a girl in a bikini lying on the grass during the first spring sunshine. I saw a man after I refused to give him “a spare dollar” still wish me a nice day. I saw people define their identity by their own thoughts.

I saw lovers show their love without any fear no matter if they are homosexual or heterosexual. I saw a man sitting on a bench crying freely without any embarrassment. Then, I see myself. I am not scared of tight jeans any more. A huge butt might be another kind of sexy.

I will allow myself to cry when I think I need to cry without any concern if it’s a weak thing. I can do whatever I want to do without thinking about what others think of me. I feel safe and free to be who I am here. I still hate change, but for now, I am enjoying it.

What We Represent

img_4856 by Steph Holton

For two days in mid-October a building-high, six-sided display depicting bloody images of aborted fetuses alongside photos of Nazi Germany and lynchings in the American South took up residence behind a protective metal barrier in the PSU Park Blocks.

PSU publications covered this event, detailing the gruesomeness and the collective outrage felt by what seemed to be a large part of the PSU community. While I fully believe that we should be talking about these kinds of scare-tactics, so as not to be scared by them in the future, what I really want to add to the record is how remarkable I found the student body’s response to be. Almost as soon as the display started going up that Monday morning, students began to gather around it, making impromptu signs supporting Planned Parenthood and reproductive justice, and using their own right to free speech to question the ideas being promoted by this pro-life group. In what I would deem a small victory for the student protesters, a seventh panel that had been up the first day depicting a child with Down Syndrome and making a horribly insensitive claim, was nowhere to be found on the second day.

On the Portland State campus, where there seems to be a weekly protest of one kind or another, it’s easy to become disenchanted with the notion of fighting for a cause. I feel that the PSU student body rarely voices a majority opinion on those causes. But on those two days, I was incredibly proud to be a part of a student body willing to raise its collective voice

Who knew junior cluster courses could be this fun?

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 By: Sara Kirkpatrick

This Fall term, I’m wrapping up my Leading Social Change junior cluster, as I continue to give back to my community through the UNST 321 Learning in Action course.

I have always enjoyed volunteering. From an early age, I was taught the importance of helping others. My mother showed me how to use my extroverted energy for the greater good; she would sign us up to volunteer at a variety of non-profit events a few times a year. What I remember most about my early years is that each time I volunteered, I learned something new; whether it was about myself, my community, or about a local cause, I always walked away with more knowledge and compassion than before.

These experiences influenced the person I am today (e.g. leadership, teamwork, collaboration, communication, public speaking, etc.). And these past few terms, I’m not only sharing my time as a volunteer, but also sharing my academic passion.

In my cluster courses, I have volunteered with non-profit organizations who need help in my current area of study: marketing and advertising. It’s been fun, as I put my passion for digital marketing to work. One recent example is a website I designed for the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church community garden.

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This term, I am hoping to work with Homeward Bound Theatre and help them attract young leaders to their organization. It’s exciting to put my passions and education to good use, as well as learn more about my community and do my part to make this world a better place.

Do you still need to decide on a PSU junior cluster? If so, I strongly recommend choosing Leading Social Change.  Find out more: http://sinq-clusters.unst.pdx.edu/cluster/leading-social-change