The Pixelated Page

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on physical books. My eyes wander off the page or I find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. For whatever reason, I don’t have this problem with ebooks. 

Nothing will replace the smell of a new book, but ebooks have perks of their own. You can search by keyword, easily highlight, and bookmark without dog-earing the page. It’s easy to enlarge the text. Plus, ebooks don’t take up valuable dorm room space or terrify you by falling off the shelf in the middle of the night (the dangers of being an English major).

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Not all professors allow digital texts in class, but many of them are amenable if you talk to them about it. As long as you’re not slacking off on Reddit during class, electronic devices are an excellent tool. The great news is that most public domain texts (that is, books that were published before 1920) are available for free online on gutenberg.org. Most libraries allow you to check out ebooks. You can also email PDFs to your ereader rather than printing them out.

So while nothing will replace my love for paper books, I’ve come to appreciate my Kindle. These days you can buy an ereader for as low as $30, like I did, which is less expensive than some textbooks! It’s easy to bring with me and have hundreds of books wherever I go… And I’ve gotten a lot less papercuts.

The Perks of Summer School

by Claire Golden

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If you’re reading this, you made it through finals week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sleep for about three weeks and then eat a lot of cake – not think about summer classes. But this will be the third summer I’ve taken classes, and though my post-finals brain may protest, I’ll be happy to have something to keep me busy once summer boredom sets in.

What’s so great about more homework during the summer? I’m a former homeschooler, so I don’t think in terms of the “school year.” There’s no time limit for learning! It can be rough going from being a full-time student to having no classes at all, so taking a few credits can help keep your brain occupied. Plus, it means you can take a lighter course load during the year.

What I like best about summer classes is that many of them are online. Being homeschooled means I’m used to this format, and I love it. You can read the lectures at your own pace rather than frantically taking notes in person. Online discussions mean I sound way more eloquent than I do in real life (thank you, backspace key). If you’re going on vacation, you can work ahead in the syllabus so you don’t have to do homework on the beach.

Most importantly, you can go to college in your pajamas. Thank you, online classes, for helping me earn my degree in style.

15 Hours Behind

Noowong_Headshot By Anchitta Noowong

I moved from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States roughly six years ago. I left my friends and family behind to get a higher education, and to follow my dream of pursuing film as a career. 15 Hours Behind is an experimental film based on my personal experience of homesickness.

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.

Getting Used to MyPSU and the New PSU App

me-1 By Kimberly Nakayama

Sometimes, I feel that my experience in college is just me using my laptop in a variety of different settings. However I always wish that doing “important” PSU stuff online, like paying bills or updating my major, would be much simpler so that I could spend more time focusing on other things. So, when someone told me about the myPSU update, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that PSU had actually been working to fix this exact problem.

As a senior, I usually just go between the web pages that I am already familiar with like D2L and Banweb. I’ve found that in between classes, work, and everything else I’m supposed to be doing, it hasn’t really been a priority for me to improve my usage of university technology. I think that, like most students at PSU, I am definitely not using PSU technology for “fun.” So I was a little skeptical at how “different” another PSU web page would actually be and how much it could actually improve my experience as a student.

After using MyPSU, however, I saw that this negative perception was out-of-date. It took a little adjusting, to be sure, but I quickly found that it was much more efficient in accessing all kinds of information about PSU. One problem that I’ve faced as a PSU student is that there are so many departments and events and staff that it can be hard to hear about specific news. MyPSU, however, has compiled a live news source that shows social media announcements from a number of different departments which makes this process so much simpler. They also offer an interactive list of active resources on campus, so if you are looking for support or to get involved on campus it is so much simpler to connect with these organizations.

In general, I think that MyPSU is a much simpler way to access information that all students need. I’ve found that I now spend much less time scrambling around online for specific web pages. The organized homepage has labelled certain sections that contain a ton of information about specific topics like registration, financial aid, and classes. This means that I can see the entirety of PSU web pages regarding a particular topic, rather than to wonder if I had managed to find every bit of information out there myself.

The best part, a MyPSU app is also available, which allows you to access different web pages from a smartphone rather than always having to use a computer. So definitely be sure to check out the new MyPSU update! I hope that it can help other students so that they can spend more time on the things that really matter.

Let’s be friends

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By: Sara Kirkpatrick 

Have you ever met someone and thought, “I would just love to be friends with this person?” However, before you could articulate “hello,” the fear of awkwardness and rejection stopped you.

Even extroverts, such as myself, from time to time find it uncomfortable when having to initiate conversations with fellow classmates, and fall victim to the above line of thinking.  This is particularly true when approaching classmates that I would like to get to know better.

For instance, last winter term, I met a fellow PSU student through SBA’s Fearless Friday workshops. She was knowledgeable, funny, outgoing and double majoring in my same fields. I immediately wanted to befriend her, but my fear of being awkward preventing me from introducing myself, and I said nothing.

sara-and-susieFortunately, in the next term, I found myself sitting next to this same SBA student in a PSU workshop.  This time, I decided to take the advice of a recent blog post I had read, 11 ways to turn strangers into friends, and pushed myself to use one of the blog’s suggestions: Imagine that the other person is already your friend.

In doing so, I stepped out of my comfort zone and was not only rewarded by a friendship with this classmate, we eventually became freelance partners, offering our collaborative talents and creativity to clients. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t taken the risk to put myself out there to meet someone new.

I encourage each and every one of my PSU colleagues to take a chance today and talk to a classmate who you’d like to become friends with. You never know where that friendship might take you.  Who knows; you could be sitting next to your future business partner!