Letters to Avoid Losing Touch

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Last month my best friend left for Senegal, Africa with the Peace Corps. All this past summer I dreaded the moment we would have to say goodbye. I knew communication with her would be next to none once she left. We promised to write letters, but the mail takes around two months to deliver—if it doesn’t get lost first.

This situation reminded me of a different friend who wrote “read when” letters to me when she left for her mission years ago. “Read when” letters (also called “open when” letters) are prewritten notes that help you remain  present in someone’s life even when they are far away. I kept every “read when” letter that my friend wrote for me, and they remain one of the most precious gifts I’ll ever receive. I decided to write the same letters as a gift for my Senegal-bound friend.

Sitting down to write the letters for my friend was honestly depressing. Every word I wrote was a constant reminder that she was leaving soon. The hardest letters were her birthday cards; those really drove home the fact that we wouldn’t share any adventures or experiences for two years. As emotionally draining as it was, I only wish I had written her more. I feel so much more at peace knowing that she’ll have birthday cards to open on her birthday, and that they can’t get lost in the mail. Even though I can’t support her in person, she can immediately turn to my words over and over again when she’s lonely or in need of a boost.

I know this won’t be the last set of “read when” letters I write. As my time at PSU nears its end, I recognize that graduation causes people to scatter. This first—but far from last—goodbye made me realize my lifelong friends and how determined I am to stay in touch with them past our PSU experience.

 

My Senioritis Self-Diagnosis

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

Each year at PSU has challenged me in different ways. Time management is something I’m continually navigating as a student, and each year of school brings its own twists. Freshman year, I remember being so scared of falling behind in school and getting a bad grade that I kept to an extremely rigid schedule. I was still figuring out that I didn’t need to over-study; an A is still an A—regardless of whether you got a 94 percent or 100 percent in the class. However, back then classes were significantly easier. 

Come my sophomore and junior years, I constantly thought to myself, “Why was I ever stressed as a freshman?” I had so much unrealized free time, classes were easy, and I had no idea what being busy actually felt like. As a sophomore and junior, I was constantly challenged to find the balance between school, work, and my personal life. I still had the self-discipline from my first year of college, but I learned to be more flexible with my schedule to allow life to happen. I started to enjoy the sense of purpose I found in being busy and working toward a math degree.

Now, my senior year has rolled around. Instead of getting better at time management , I have gotten worse. I have diagnosed myself with senioritis—and I’ve got it bad.

senioritisdef

A key component to successful time management is motivation, and I seem to have misplaced mine. The problem is, I know that I’ve kept my days very full and productive with my work and involvement on campus. By the time evening rolls around, the last thing I want to do is study math when my brain already feels fried just from the last 12 hours of waking life. My inability to manufacture more time has caused me to become accustomed to living with a constant spike in my cortisol levels. 

Looking ahead, I know there’s a lesson to learn from all of this because eventually, I will have to find the motivation to push through this final year. I didn’t enter my senior year with perfect time management skills, and I certainly won’t leave PSU having perfected them. Once I start working after graduation, I know I will go through a whole new adjustment period of balancing my time. For now, though, this term is teaching me that there’s constantly room for growth.

 

Internship Blues

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

My journey of internship applications began fall term. I never kept track of how many I applied for, but it was an absurd amount. I ended up interviewing for 10 positions, and it was absolutely exhausting. 

Time after time, I was not selected and my confidence really took a hit. The worst case was when I got a call from an employer explaining it had come down to the wire between me and another candidate, and I just barely got edged out by this other person. My entire interpretation of the conversation was, “You were great, but there was just someone better.” Essentially, they called to make sure I could be the back-up plan if the chosen intern backed out down the road. The feeling that there would always be someone better persisted to eat  away at me despite the validation I’d received of being a strong candidate.

From then on, my motivation plummeted even though I kept interviewing. My heart never felt in it because I’d stopped believing in my own potential. Eventually—probably because a person can only be turned down so many times—I was offered positions from two different internships. Finally, it felt like the long slog of applications and interviews had paid off. However, I went from feeling extremely hopeful and excited to completely out of luck; I was forced to decline both due to start date issues and inadequate pay.

Now, it’s spring term and I’m still internship-less. I never believed the stories of how hard it is to land an internship, but I understand now having gone through the process myself. It required so much time, energy, optimism, and commitment. But in the famous words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and so my search for an internship continues.

PSU Accreditation Scare, Not So Scary

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

The PSU Vanguard recently published an article about PSU’s accreditation status. As of January 2019, PSU has two years to improve how it defines and assesses student learning outcomes. Less than half of PSU’s programs have sufficient plans to assess student learning, and accreditation requires that number to increase above 50% by 2021. If PSU fails to comply with these standards, the university risks probation and after that loss of accreditation. Losing accreditation is a big deal, as it means the loss of federal funding. 

Upon first reading this article and talking about it amongst my peers, we were all under the impression that PSU was already on probation when it is not. In this mix of misunderstanding, I’d started researching what a diploma from an unaccredited university meant for job and graduate school opportunities. All of my upperclassmen friends were thanking their lucky stars that they’d be graduating within a year regardless. In reality, we had no idea what the accreditation process and continuing verification looked like for a university. One thing that the PSU Vanguard article didn’t mention was that accreditation status is evaluated and reaffirmed in a seven-year cycle. PSU was last evaluated in 2015, and the next evaluation is in 2022. Additionally, the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, which governs the accreditation of regional universities, does not have a defined time period for probation. So while PSU has two years to fix the current student learning assessment problem, it could actually amount to several more years.

All in all, I know this article caused a level of fear amongst my peers. I know that I had never even considered what it would mean for a university to lose accreditation and what that would mean for myself and the entire student body. However, looking at the accreditation process as a whole puts everything in perspective. PSU has a lot of time to fix the current issue, and remains accredited at least until 2022—and hopefully for many years to come. 

Job Hunting By The Numbers

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

As graduation approaches, I find myself in the same boat as many of my fellow soon-to-be-alumni: I still don’t have a job or other obligation lined up for after graduation on June 17th. In the hopes of securing a job soon, I thought that I’d share part of my job-hunting experience. . . by the numbers.

  • Days since I submitted my first job application: 60
  • The number of applications that a Career Services Adviser told me was average to submit before landing an interview: 25-30
  • The number of applications that my coworker told me was average to submit before landing a job: 50-60
  • Applications that I’ve submitted so far: 15
  • Applications that I haven’t heard back about at all: 10
  • Positions that I’ve interviewed for: 2
  • Job offers that I’ve received: 0

Hopefully sharing my experience will help give my peers a better idea of what to expect when job hunting in Portland! Applying for jobs while still being a full-time college student is stressful to say the least and entirely unattainable for a lot of us. As many enter into our final days at PSU, I just wanted to say congratulations to all that are graduating and good luck on whatever your next endeavor may be, even if you don’t quite know what it is yet.

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.

An “Honor”able Legacy

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

Every time that I see the Simon Benson House in the park blocks I’m reminded that graduation draws closer with each passing day. Today the sign on the building reads “53 days until you are alumni,” and that number will only continue to dwindle until the day comes that we don our caps and gowns. Amidst all of the other chaos of senior year, I’m currently in the throes of writing my senior thesis as I’m a member of the University Honors College. Instead of doing a senior capstone in the university studies program, I’ve gotten to pick a research topic of my choice and craft an entire thesis about it, a task that is as daunting as it will hopefully be rewarding.

Writing a thesis can be a lonely process, especially when the honors college has felt so separate from the rest of the university in many ways. When my peers who aren’t in the honors college ask about my capstone and I say that I’m actually writing a thesis instead, the conversation oftentimes comes to a screeching halt. I’ve noticed an air of misconception surrounding the honors college, one that unfortunately leads many of my peers to think that those who participate in honors are in some way elitist or exclusionary.

In my last term at PSU, I’d actively like to push back against that stereotype through both my thesis about queerness and veganism as well as in my everyday interactions with my peers. At its core, the honors college is about a hunger for knowledge, learning to conduct research, and preparing students for life after PSU. These are things that should be accessible to all of us as PSU students, and that’s what I want people to think of when they hear about the honors college, rather than a reputation that’s elitist or exclusionary. In the 53 days that I have left to leave my mark on PSU before I’m an alumni, this is the legacy that I’m hoping to establish as an honors student.