Community of Action

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

In my last blog post, I talked about failing my student commencement speaker audition, and since then I’ve realized that the things I’d hoped to be able to say to my graduating class are still words that I want to share, and ones that are just as true here as they would be on that stage. So to all of my PSU classmates, I’d like to say:

“Four years ago, when I stood in front of my high school graduating class of 121 students, I talked about the future. I talked about taking the lessons we’d learned from our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and going out into the real world to—eventually—do great things.

“Today, with this… marginally larger audience, I want to talk about the amazing lessons I’ve learned from you, my fellow students, and the great things you’re already doing.

“In our time together at PSU, we’ve seen newsworthy accomplishments—like our engineering students launching a balloon more than 20 miles in the air in order to bring the 2017 solar eclipse to the desktops of viewers worldwide, and students of different skin colors, religions, and nationalities rallying together swiftly and peacefully to stand for our rights to safe communities, women’s healthcare and affordable schooling.

“And then there are the more subtle, everyday accomplishments. It’s not uncommon to see complete strangers sharing their opposing viewpoints in the middle of the Park Blocks, or to inquire about someone’s pronouns, and then use them correctly. And even though at PSU we recognize that conversation, understanding, and respect are basic tenets of good citizenship, and that we still have a lot of room to grow in these areas, they’re not common practice on every campus. PSU is special because we don’t look past each other’s differences. We embrace them. We recognize that our different backgrounds and beliefs and aspirations are assets in our collective pursuits for a better world.

“Four years ago, I left my little Montana valley town for the stumps and bridges of Portland, and I’ve learned here that more than anything, it’s the small, everyday practices—recycling, asking others’ opinions, embracing difference—that make us all activists. I am so proud to be a part of this community of action, and I want to thank you for teaching me to appreciate the amazing things we’re doing right now.”

Small Steps

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

I helped a friend move over the weekend. After getting the last of the boxes into her new place, a group of us decided to go on a hike. I knew we were headed towards the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland but didn’t know exactly where we were headed. One of my friends asked, “Are you afraid of heights?” Feeling confident I answered “no” and we set off.

We arrived at the Bridge of The Gods about 50 miles east of Portland. Not surprisingly I had some hesitations and some questions. “Are we really walking across that? Can we, since there is no sidewalk?” “Is it really that high?” “Why is it so high?!?”

Despite my objections we paid our dollar pedestrian crossing fee and headed towards the bridge. There was a lot to take in. The grate on the floor of the bridge rattled with all the movement from the cars. The wind was so loud and blew my hair in all directions. The railing was cold and dirty from car exhaust.

Looking through the grate the water rushed under me. Even though we were almost 150 feet above the water, it felt so close. I got to that level of scared where I started laughing, as if I were laughing at my own fear. Since I was already halfway across, there was no turning back.

Then I caught the view  — the sheer vastness of the river, the trees, the clear sky and shining sun. Just for a moment I dismissed all hesitation I had previously. We all paused to appreciate the view. All the distractions of before — traffic, wind and noise — no longer mattered. We lived in the moment, if just for a moment.

This small experience taught me a lot about taking risks. All the emotions I felt walking across the bridge are no different than any big life decision, with its fear of the unknown and exhilaration upon embracing the experience.

As I enter my last 3 terms at Portland State University and look ahead to the rest of the year, there are some big life decisions I have to make. As I work towards my goals it’s exciting to imagine them coming to fruition. Yet I’m terrified. That’s because attaining these goals brings great change, like being away from my friends and family in Portland and being truly on my own. But amidst all of this uncertainty, there is hope. I know that despite all my hesitation, my next life chapter will be just like the moment on the bridge, where nothing else matters except what’s on the horizon.

City Escape

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Ever since I moved to Portland, I miss having a car. Even with a good public transportation system, I feel trapped at times since it’s confined to the city. I was bit by the adventure bug a couple weeks ago and really wanted to see the beautiful nature Oregon has to offer. I roped in a friend who had also been itching to explore and we decided we wanted to visit Three Pools.

Of course, the obstacle we ran into was transportation; neither of us have cars. As it turns out, this became an easy fix as well. There are three options outside of straight-up renting a car: ZipCar, Car2Go, and ReachNow. 

All three can be reserved for a day trip, but ReachNow stands apart from the others because it has a mileage cap of 400 miles per day. ZipCar and Car2go have a cap of 150 miles, which can be rather limiting depending on where you want to go. Plus, the day reservation was only one dollar more with ReachNow. 

Three pools is almost 90 miles outside of Portland, so ReachNow was the easy choice.

My friend and I were excited for a little road trip, and boy was it worth it. When we walked down the path to Three Pools, it actually felt like we’d stepped onto a different planet. The water was pristine, varying between stunning turquoises and deep emeralds. It was also an invigorating 45 degrees cold. This was the perfect place to put some space between ourselves and the city and relax. This trip gave me the little boost I needed for the last couple weeks of the term. It also served as a reminder that even without a car, there are ways to escape the city. 

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Learning to grow slowly

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 3.22.40 PM by Philip Hartman

As a transfer student to PSU from Portland Community College, I knew there might be some overlap of courses to meet degree requirements but I wasn’t expecting they’d be outside my major. As it turns out I had to take a few upper division cluster courses in Portland State’s University Studies Program. This program is required for all PSU undergrads and moves students to study topics outside their major as a means to expand their perspectives in their chosen field of study.

 

As a sociology major I decided to pick the Global Perspectives cluster which gave me insights into an array of cultures and, economic systems. Of all the cluster class classes I took, the one that stood out was Caribbean Spirituality offered by the Black Studies Program. In this class I learned about the history of the Caribbean and the the rich influences that language and food have on their culture. After taking all of the classes in the Global Perspectives cluster I was hooked on Black studies classes, especially those exploring the Caribbean. I also began to meet more people here in Portland from the Caribbean and hear their powerful stories.

 

To be honest when I first heard that i’d have to take Upper Division Cluster classes I wasn’t happy about it. But now I realize just how important gaining these other perspectives is to my learning. Taking the courses offered in my upper division cluster and learning about additional perspectives from another culture helped enrich and broaden my studies in Sociology, giving me valuable insights into a world outside of my own.

 

Way to go

Qin 2By Qin Xia

I will graduate this June! I was excited to say so in January. Now, every time when I say, “I will graduate in a couple days,” I tear up. I hated the journey, but now I miss it even while I am still in it.

I remember the first term that began my study life at Portland State University. I was exhausted, and worried a lot about giving up. I use to worry if I had enough money to finish my degree. I remember every night I spent in the library, the tons of coffee I drank, and the papers I wrote.

If you ask me to write down one word that sums up the journey, it would be stress. The stress of getting use to life styles different from my own country, the stress of the academic learning in another language, the stress of the financial side, even the stress of now finding a job. Stresses are always by my side since I chose to study at PSU.

I hated it, but I also love it.

Because of the stress, I kept challenging myself all the time. My English keeps improving, and I absorbed many skills to deal with the different culture. I appreciate the help I received from all my teachers and my friends. With the powerful help and encouragement, I successfully finished my Chinese degree in May, and I will also complete my teaching degree at PSU next Month. For now, I wish time could slow down a bit. I know I will miss the feeling of being a student.

All of this helped me to become a nicer and stronger me.

Graduation is not the end; it is another way to continue.

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!