Almost Good Enough

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

I recently applied to be a student commencement speaker. On paper, I’m pretty qualified for the job. I did three years of speech and debate, I recently presented a paper at a conference and I even spoke at my high school graduation, all with a fair amount of success.

When I had the opportunity to audition for this role, however, I bombed. My knees shook the whole time, and near the end of my speech—which I knew so well I could probably say it backwards—I completely blanked and spent several seconds in awkward silence. A week later I got one of those “thank you, but we decided to go another way” emails.

Failing really sucks, especially when you get so close to something, and then fall short. I was disappointed when I got the email, and for a moment I felt like I shouldn’t have tried in the first place; if I hadn’t tried, I couldn’t have been disappointed about being almost good enough. I also tried to justify my failure; maybe I’d bombed because it’s infinitely more terrifying to give a speech to 15 very distinguishable faces than to a faceless crown of several thousand, or maybe if I’d just run through my speech one more time…

Then I realized that I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you as a PSUChronicles student blogger for the last three years, and it’s been right for me. I think a lot of times when we fail, it’s not that we weren’t a good fit for a position, it’s that we maybe weren’t the right fit. And if we don’t try things we might fail at, we’ll never find that right fit.

I’m still a little sore at myself for messing up my audition, but that’s life. The only thing we can do when things like this happen is to forgive ourselves and keep trying. As for me, I’m going to keep trying in the way that I know best—through writing—and as graduation swiftly approaches, I want to say congrats to my fellow graduates, and to all of you, thanks for reading.

The Last Word

IMG_7864  by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating next month. Just typing those words feels hard to believe. My college career did not follow a linear path; I attended four different colleges in three different time zones, with a year off in the middle during which I worked at a bagel shop and partied too much. I’ve learned so much in the past five years—and I didn’t learn all of it in textbooks or classrooms. As I prepare to leave PSU and enter the so-called real world, I will impart a few quick lessons I wish I could’ve told my freshman self:

  1. Sit in the front of the class. Simple but effective. By sitting near the front of the room, you’re up close and personal with the material. It’s harder to get away with smartphone distractions, side conversations, watching pigeons through classroom windows or daydreaming. The times I’ve habitually sat in the front have left me pleasantly surprised by my test grades.
  2. Get involved in the student community. This is something you’ve heard a million times and, like me, have maybe been reluctant to listen to. When I first transferred to PSU, I read the Vanguard every week and wanted to contribute. I included this goal in to-do lists, planner pages and new year’s resolutions. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally wrote my first story— and I could not believe how exciting and rewarding it was to see it in newsprint. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.
  3. Use a planner. With Vanguard and student blog responsibilities, internships, a 6-credit capstone and homework, I could not have stayed afloat without my planner. Weekly and daily to-do lists and color-coding helped me manage my time confidently and efficiently. Once deadlines and due dates are on paper, they’re no longer building up in my head and stressing me out. Don’t think of yourself as a slave to your planner, though—just do things piece by piece, do the best you can and know that you will handle it all.

To those of you who are still powering through your education, you’ve got this! And congrats to my fellow soon-to-be graduates—we’re almost done, and it feels good. Feel free to comment your own tips for ruling your schooling!

An Ode to the Deviants

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

I posted a picture of my graduation from community college on Instagram almost exactly two years ago to the day. The caption for my photo read, “official graduate of @inverhills with my associate of arts in gender and women’s studies. @portlandstate I’m coming for you next!” It wasn’t particularly unusual that I transferred to PSU from a community college, but what makes my situation a bit different than most is the fact that I earned my associate’s degree before I’d even earned my high school diploma. This means that when I graduate from PSU next month, I’ll only be 20 years old.

My educational path has not been traditional and I’m rather proud of that. Most of my immediate family has also taken a nontraditional path to higher education. My mom went back to school to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees when she was a single parent in her 30’s. My brother switched his major twice and was a super, super, super senior by the time he graduated. They inspired me to pursue higher education and assured me that it was OK to take a path less traveled.

In part thanks to them, I’ll be the youngest person in my family to graduate from college with my bachelor’s degree. So to my mom, to my brother, to myself, and to anyone else who deviates from the four years that it’s “supposed” to take to graduate: this is an ode to you. There are plenty of ways to go about getting your degree, and as long as you do it in the way that makes the most sense for you, it shouldn’t matter if it takes you much less or much more time than the usual allotment of four years.

Practice Instability

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 3.26.49 PM By Danielle Emeka

Talking about creating balance in one’s life is a common topic. Work, classes, family, friends, sleep. How do you delegate enough time to each without creating tension? You don’t.

As I juggle the many things that take up my time these days — my time with FIR the student run ad agency at PSU where I create ad campaigns for clients my job that pays the bills, my full class schedule and  a little sleep! — instability has become a close companion. It hangs out with me as I stay up late finishing homework and grab coffee before an 8:00 am meeting the next morning. I’ve come to know it well, and I want to embrace it even more. This is the key time for me to be busy and have a lot on my plate. even though I’m stretched a little thin, I know I’m working towards my desired career. I know that what I have to do every day brings me one day closer to that, and I couldn’t be happier.

I believe college isn’t the place to strive for the ideal structured experience. In fact I think it’s the best time to practice instability. Once you graduate, the real world hits and you’re in a  job, the work structure, with its expectations for results, takes over. I think it’s better to explore one’s field and work while you still have a support system in school, rather than experiencing that for the first time in the work world. Internship programs at PSU like FIR allow me to attain real work experience in advertising that will make me feel more confident when I take my first agency job.

So if you’re just going through the motions of work and classes collecting credits, maybe it’s time to search for a little bit of instability for a change. Practice embracing a little bit of the unpredictable. You never know where it’ll take you.  

Doing it in four years, yes!

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

The fear of not graduating in four years is real. Going into my junior year, I frantically started assembling a “degree map” to chart out what classes I needed to take every term. I’d been following what courses I needed on my DARS report, but had never taken the time to sit down and map everything out. The biggest benefit of doing this was that it brought up questions I could address early and also made me conscious of term-specific classes.

Portland State has a lot of tools to help students plan accordingly. On Banweb, there’s the DARS report for detailing your major/minor requirements and the Schedule Planner, which has removed the hassle of avoiding class times overlapping when registering for class. Recently, PSU unveiled a cool new tool that helps a lot with planning out classes. Their Course Projection Guide extends three years out and lists what classes are projected for future terms. I started comparing my personal degree map against the Projection Guide and realized there were a couple of major schedule shifts I’d have to make. 

The greatest thing a degree map has done for me is alleviate the stress of not being sure if I’d graduate on time as a double major—I can! An added bonus is that when I go to speak with my advisors, I already have a plan laid out for them to work with and make suggestions. College is an expensive investment, and I think it’s great that Portland State has provided students with several different tools to plan their future accordingly.

We met on Tinder

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

Some people have really cute how-we-met stories: “We’ve known each other since childhood. It was fate,” (my grandparents); “I hired him to break a horse for me,” (my parents); “We met on a boat and it was like flying and Celine Dion was singing in the background,” (OK, yes, that last one is Titanic, but you catch my drift).

A lot of people get caught up in both having a story better than “We met on Tinder” and avoiding the perceived shame of being on Tinder in the first place, to the extent that they will either concoct an alternate story to share with family, or even avoid getting serious with a match because they think they’ll meet ‘the one’ in a grander fashion.

But I’m here to say: Own your story!

Despite the size of the student body, it’s not super easy to meet people on the PSU campus. It’s just as amazing to say that two people happened to meet out of crazy chance through an app than it is to give credit to Celine Dion. And if you’re not on Tinder to meet ‘the one,’ own that, too. Even though I’ve been off Tinder for a year and a half (and in terms of technology that might as well be a decade), I think I can still say the golden rule of Tinder is to be honest—on your profile and with yourself—about what you’re looking for. You’re obviously not alone. And if you do happen to meet ‘the one,’ don’t be afraid to say ‘we met on Tinder.’

I need a job!

Qin 2 By Qin Xia

It’s job hunting season, yes, the most difficult season of the year, especially when you choose education as a career and you are an international student.

Schools always hire new teachers in June and July for the next school year. So from May to June, it’s teacher job hunting time. And as an international student, following graduation, there will be one-year for optional practice training (OPT). That means, I can take a temporary job in the U.S. to gain more work experience before going back home to China.

Yes, all graduates will have the same stress of finding a job and maybe choosing between two offers. If you choose the right one, congratulations, you will set a great foundation for your teaching career, but what about the wrong one?

Before the real “deadline,” PSU helped by holding a series of job fairs. The biggest one was the Oregon Professional Educator Fair held in early April. After going to these job fairs, I am still stressed about finding a job, but I feel clearer about how to do it. The later you find a job, the more stress you will have, but that’s ok, because all of us feel the same way.

Don’t give up, because you know you are ready! The most important thing for all of us is not to second guess ourselves and remember to enjoy the joy of graduation!

We need a job, and we can do this!