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.

Now Is Not The Time For Silence

Version 2 By: Anna Sobczyk

Had you asked me a year ago what my last blog for PSU Chronicles would be about, I would’ve said my upcoming graduation. Instead, the recent protests and riots against police brutality and racism that have rocked our nation have completely occupied my mind and heart. 

When I moved to Portland from Idaho, my eyes were opened to my privilege and the many racial injustices embedded in the criminal justice system. I have spent my years here listening and learning as much as I can. In those same years, I also allowed the fear of saying the wrong thing strangle me into silence. Once I realized my silence enables an oppressive system, I felt even more shame. A broken system can only find true long-term reformation if we fight for change in the system and within ourselves.

I have witnessed many who speak, “Well, in my experience…” in an attempt to use their personal reality to disregard the experiences of communities with identities different from them. In order to change, we need to let go of defensive tendencies that manifest themselves in phrases like “not all cops are bad” or “All Lives Matter.” Defending the reputation of good cops is not the priority, focus, or issue; police brutality is. Black Lives Matter because as a white person, I will never understand what it feels like to fear death by the very hands put in place to protect me. 

Just to feel anger, horror, and outrage at the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others is no longer enough. As the protests and riots unfolded, I thought to myself that “this time feels different.” But why? Perhaps, for the first time, I understood that in order to help make any difference that I can’t simply feel outraged or listen and learn from afar; I must join the discussion. We all must so that when our nation finally undergoes the changes it needs, no individual will allow it to fail again.

Social Distance Summer

By: Ragan Love

With summer just around the corner, I have been wondering how to enjoy the next few months. I don’t want to just sit inside, but I want to keep myself and loved ones safe. I love being around people, and this is a time where that really won’t happen.

When I envisioned summer 2020, I knew that I would be back home in Colorado. I was going to get a summer job and work full time for a few months. I wanted to do some fun adventuring with my friends and maybe travel somewhere with my family. My brother is going to college in the fall so this will be the last time where we are all hanging out together, and I was hoping that we could make it memorable. 

Luckily, I can still enjoy some of my favorite summer activities. I can still go hiking. It will be easy to distance myself. I also like to drive in the mountains and see nature, which I can do by myself right now and hopefully at some point with one friend. My town also has one of the last drive-in movie theaters in the country, so I can go there for a movie and stay safe in my car. 

There are things that I know won’t happen this summer because of the pandemic. In recent years my family has been spending a day at a local adventure park, but we all know it won’t be safe to go. Water World, a local water park, has announced that they will be closed all summer, and we are waiting for the other parks to follow suit. The county fair I go to happens at the beginning of August and marks the last summer adventure for the kids, but I am expecting those events to also announce that they are closing.

It has been awhile since I have seen my family in New Hampshire, and it looked like this might have been a summer where we could go visit. We did get some unexpected news, and we had to postpone a celebration of life until the end of the summer. My high school friends and I were also planning on hanging out in a little reunion this summer, but we know now that it will not happen for us this year.

I will be sad to not have an adventurous summer like I had planned, but it will be one of most memorable summers for all of us. I know that if I do what I need to this summer, even if that means missing out on fun events, life will soon come back to normal.

Through Sickness and Health

by Beth Royston

My partner and I will celebrate our five-year anniversary in early July. Last year, we took a trip to the coast after realizing he’d never been, and visited a lovely aquarium, which was very nostalgic. One of our first dates was at an aquarium — that first date was on our one year anniversary, after he’d flown out from Ohio to California to see me. It was a beautiful trip, and I can’t help but feel tinged with sadness this year. We’d hoped to do something similar, but my health makes it uncertain if we’ll be able to complete another drive to the coast. However, I’m grateful I even get to think about that at all. 

This has been the toughest year of my life with my health scares, but the steadfast presence throughout it all has been my partner. We spent every hour of the day together for a week in a tiny hotel room, and then a hospital room, while I was the sickest I’ve ever been. He saw me at my worst and took such good care of me any way he could while we were both terrified and alone on the other side of the world. One of the most vivid memories I have, among the fear and despair, was feeling overwhelmed with how in love and grateful I felt to him. I had always been sure he was the person I wanted to spend my life with, but this was beyond certainty — an assurance that no matter what happened, he’d be there.

 I’ve been grateful that we’re quarantining together. We both value our individual space, and sometimes, that can be difficult to get when my roommates also need the downstairs area. Tensions and worries are high. While my health struggles have improved, they’re certainly not over, and we frequently have to navigate the ups and downs that this new reality requires. It’s caused us to take a look at our relationship, what we both need and how we communicate. Thankfully, we’re going through it stronger than ever. I wouldn’t choose to be stuck inside with anyone else, and we make it a priority to do things together and talk frequently about how we’re both doing. No matter what we decide to do to celebrate our anniversary this year, I’m glad that we have each other.

Feeling Helpless in a Time of Great Need

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

One of the cornerstones of my job as a Resident Academic Mentor —programming—came to a complete standstill with COVID-19. Throughout the term, I normally put on programs that promote holistic wellness in order to achieve academic success. With its absence, I honestly feel like the rewarding aspect of my job has been ripped away. All of us in Housing have lost the in-person connection to residents and we miss providing them the support of programming. I continue to live on campus, and my residents know I’m still here because I send out weekly emails, but I feel more like a ghost in their inbox than anything else.

It  is hard to know how to support my residents and other students during these times. This has been echoed by my teammates and other student leaders. PSU students are experiencing financial, mental health, academic, and other hardships that are all unique. I’m not qualified to provide specialized help in those areas.  I have to refer students out to online counseling services with SHAC and virtual appointments with the Financial Wellness Center. I hold zero sway with unaccommodating and unsupportive professors. All I can do is listen and offer resources, and it makes me feel useless.

My position as a Resident Academic Mentor gave me a sense of purpose in the past. I built a community at PSU through this role and really found my place on campus. I enjoyed helping people and feel privileged to have heard so many life stories. Now, with the pandemic, I feel like I’m just going through the motions of my work. In the halls I strove to build connection, I have never felt so disconnected. Throughout this term, I’ve struggled to find meaning in my work when I am so utterly powerless to change my residents’ situations.

What it’s like to study engineering remotely

By Wiwin Hartini

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been taking my engineering courses remotely these past six weeks. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to studying engineering remotely. This is my last year studying electrical engineering at Portland State University. I was a transfer student from Clark College in Vancouver, WA, and my time at PSU was enriched by hands-on experiences.

Electrical engineering has branches, and I’m focusing on power engineering, or how engineers generate, transmit, and distribute electricity to households and other entities. It would be hard for power engineering students to do labs at home. I miss the hands-on experiences in the power lab, where students have access to different types of motors and generators, transformers, power supplies, relays, and other types of equipment that must stay in the lab for safety purposes. 

AlthoughI’m missing the hands-on experience, the main path to learning is, fortunately, still available. I can still ask questions of instructors who are also working in the industry, and I can still use free software for simulations and course materials.

In my electronics class, my professor conducts experiments at his home-lab, and students focus on conducting simulations and comparing results with his measurements, which has been very useful in filling the gap. 

Many engineering courses also rely on simulations that can be done remotely. So spending more time on simulations allows me to learn more about the software. 

The circuit built on LTSpice to run a simulation

My typical day studying engineering remotely involves spending hours in front of my laptop, which I think most of us are doing now. On the other hand, I am excited to learn more about what students are capable of doing while working or studying from home. Maybe there is a potential for hybrid engineering courses in the future, where students can take the courses online and attend labs in person. 

I would say that I’ve gained some extra time during this quarantine which I can use to focus on studying, reading, and other activities that I would not be able to do if this term was in-person. My peers and I used to joke about the fact that engineering students rarely get enough sleep. I’d say it’s true for most of my terms in the past, but this term, I have been able to get enough sleep, work part-time, and go to school remotely.

Facetime Friendships

By: Ragan Love

We are two months into quarantine which means it has been two months since I have seen any of my friends. I am an extroverted person, and isolation has taken a toll on me. I am missing the friendships that I just started in Portland, and I am watching my brother try to create memories with his friends before high school ends.

The friends I met at Portland State are now scattered across the country, but we still talk regularly. The friends that I always talked to before and after band class are now the friends I  Facetime with before and after the class Zoom call. Even though I miss the hugs and boba tea runs, it’s fun to see my friends’ houses, pets and family. I have also sent letters to my friends because I can’t surprise them in real life. 

Some friendships have dwindled because we don’t see each other. I felt like I did what I could to start conversations with those friends and say that I was there for them, but they faded away. I am sad to see those friendships go but I can’t spend my love and time on people who don’t want it. I am hoping that this might just be a little break that will make our friendship stronger when we can see each other again.

I am still friends with a few people from my hometown, and it is sad that I can’t see them even though we are only five minutes away from each other. We still talk, and we give each other hope that we will hang out once it’s safer. In the meantime, we are talking about our different college experiences with each other.

My best friend attends Colorado State University, and in October, she bought a plane ticket for spring break to see me and Portland. When March rolled around, the pandemic was in full swing, and we both thought it was best to postpone the trip. I ended up coming home for the quarter, so I will be able to see her soon and she will come to Portland once it’s safe. In the meantime, we are sending each other pictures of our animals and Facetiming. 

Even my brother, who is a senior in high school, has changed his friendships. Because he is a senior he has missed out on a lot of the senior activities; ditch day, prom, and graduation. He and his friends have been doing their regular hangouts in Animal Crossing. They all decided to “ditch” class together on the Senior Ditch Day as if they would have all hung out on the regular ditch day. My brother’s friends and their families have all agreed to help them have a mini prom night. With his group of six friends they are all going to dress up and just spend one nice night together. It’s sad to see him miss out on these experiences, but I am glad that we are able to help make different experiences. His friends have also shifted their regular Dungeon and Dragon meetings online, and it has seemed to work well for them. 

All of our friendships look different now, but this experience will really show who is a true friend and will help strengthen those relationships in our life.

Staying Social During Quarantine

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

Today, May 13, marks 58 days by my count of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. That’s a long time to go without hanging out in person with other people. I’ve seen a movement toward calling it “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” to emphasize that while people need to physically stay apart, they can still connect in other ways. Humans are social creatures and it’s important to stay connected.

One of the ways I’ve been keeping in touch with my friends is through our weekly Dungeons & Dragons sessions. We all hop on Google Hangouts and play D&D for a few hours on Sunday nights. It’s great to catch up with them as well as getting the escape that role-playing games (RPGs) offer. We played a really fun RPG called “Honey Heist” where you’re trying to infiltrate a honey convention, but everyone is a bear. It made everybody laugh and was a good time, so I highly recommend this if you want to try out a RPG.

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Another fun thing you can do with your friends is hold a Netflix watch party, where everyone starts the movie at the same time and chats throughout. You could also play video games online, or hop on the Animal Crossing bandwagon. We held a PowerPoint party where everybody gave an informal presentation of something that interests them, which was an entertaining way to spend an evening. Topics varied from the history of World War I to Frodo and Sam’s relationship in The Lord of the Rings. It was fun to learn about my friends’ interests.

Since I’m currently away from my family, I make sure to stay in touch with them. Usually this involves texting them silly pictures I find on the Internet. We also FaceTime every two weeks or so. Phone calls are wonderful, but seeing their faces does me a lot of good…even if my dog is pretty confused when she sees my face on the computer.

Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to take the initiative to set up a hangout with your friends. It’s important to keep physically distancing, but don’t let friendships fade just because you’re physically apart.

Homebound Hobbies

By: Adair

There’s a high chance that you’ve either given up pursuing your New Year’s resolutions or, at the very least, just simply outright forgot about them. In the same vein, maybe that new hobby or activity that you wanted to try and pick up early on in 2020 was abandoned because of a flood of work and other demanding tasks that have made it exceptionally difficult to squeeze in any time to acquire a new skill, or simply take part in a fun and new hobby. If you’re quarantined at home and have found yourself with an abundance of free time on your hands, there’s no better time than the present than to try and dip your toes into something new, and see if it ends up being a right fit for you!

Personally, in the sudden abundance of free time that I’ve found myself essentially burdened with, I’ve decided to not only continue pushing forward with freelance commissions, but I’ve also decided to give creative writing and world-building the old college try. World-building for fictional settings and narratives has always both fascinated and inspired me, but it’s always been tough finding the right time to indulge in it. Not only that, but I’ve also always felt a little weak in my writing abilities, especially for creative fiction, but actively pursuing it now has helped me to not only overcome my doubts but also apply it to other personal projects of mine. Its helped me to meet new people that I otherwise would’ve never met, and it’s also helped me to discover a fun, creative hobby that previously intimated me. I’ll admit that it’s still difficult to feel any degree of confidence in what I’m doing with it, but it’s a productive way for me to pass the time and it’s also helped me to feel a greater degree of commitment in other creative projects of mine, too. 

So, branching off from this, I highly encourage you to be adventurous and take that first, shaky step into a new hobby or activity, especially one that can be done freely from your home! Not only will it help you to feel actively engaged with something new but you may also find yourself with a highly rewarding hobby, also. If you’ve found yourself going stir crazy with nothing else to do at home, it’s also a great way to transform any negative energy into something positive instead and make something good out of something bad. Let alone, it may also very well be that extra boost that you need to help get you through what is hopefully the final stretch of the governor’s “stay at home” order.