Not-So-Great Expectations: Adjusting Plans During the Pandemic

By Erika Nelson

I’m a list-maker: Homework assignments, goals, chores, funny things I overheard in the Park Blocks…you name it, I have a list for it! Four times a year, I create a “bucket list,” itemizing everything I want to do that season: swimming and barbeques in the summer. Haunted houses and pumpkin-picking in the fall. Holiday parties in the winter. Travel for spring break. 

At least, that’s what my bucket lists consisted of in simpler times. I now look back on my Spring 2020 bucket list—compiled just before the lockdown—and laugh: buy new warm-weather clothes? Pfft—fitting rooms were havens for germs even before the pandemic! Go to the gym every other day? Ridiculous—even if the rec center was open, I’d still want to stay home and social distance myself. Get involved in campus activities? Ha! I was so young and naïve six months ago. 

As fate would have it, Spring of 2020 was not a good time to make plans. Events were cancelled all over the world, and people abandoned their new years resolutions even faster than usual. Hopes that everything would quickly go back to normal were shattered when the days in quarantine turned to weeks and months. Needless to say, I didn’t bother creating a Summer 2020 bucket list. 

I’m trying to be optimistic for this autumn, though. I’m making two lists: one for if things stay as they are now, and places are open with social distancing measures, and another in case another shutdown happens. On the first list, I have things like socially-distant pumpkin picking and attending a limited-capacity haunted house. On the second list, I include seasonal things I can do on my own in my apartment, like decorating the outside of my door with paper skeletons and baking pumpkin cookies. 

2020 is the year of uncertainty. We don’t know what the world is going to be like in a week, a month, a year, or even tomorrow. It will be a long time before the novel coronavirus is fully understood. We might have to wear masks long-term, and we all need to make radical adjustments to how we socialize and celebrate (I’ve heard rumors that “Zoom-or-Treating” might be a thing, and the term “Halloween mask” has an entirely different meaning this year). But life goes on, and being flexible with your expectations is better than having no expectations. Even if you have to tweak your plans to comply with 2020’s new world, we all need things to look forward to. 

Trouble Choosing a Major?

By Maya Young

We’ve all been there. Beginning an academic journey at a university or college and being overwhelmed by the range of major pathways and course offerings. How do I choose? What am I good at? What do I want to do after college? These are but a few of the questions that I wondered myself when I started school at PSU. Although the process can be very intimidating, I have a few tips that will help you make the decision easier.

See an advisor. Talk to other students. Speak with professors.

There are numerous resources available to you on-campus that can help you make the most of your education. These advisors know how you are feeling and know how to help.

Use your first year at school to explore different classes.

This can be easily achieved by choosing your University Studies courses wisely. Are you interested in researching popular culture? Tackling environmental sustainability? Understanding the importance of social change? There is a wide selection of themes to choose from that can guide you in finding a new interest. 

Establish your goals.

Think broadly about why you are enrolled in college in the first place. What do you want out of this experience? How can your education help you out later in life? If you are unsure of what you want to do specifically, consider your values and interests. Do you want to make a difference in the world? Do you want to help others? Do you want to create something, start a new business, launch a new product? Answering these questions may help you find what you’re looking for.

Not qualified? Get an internship.

IMG_7864 by Molly MacGilbert

Here we are, students at Portland State, in the city of bridges and roses and sportswear companies. We’re all in a pretty good position for internships—being in college gives us an excuse to get some work experience in a field we’re not actually that qualified for (yet). When I was a junior at PSU, I interned with local nonprofit Literary Arts for seven months. My senior year started with a six-month marketing internship with TriMet and is now ending with a spring term internship with Overcup Press. These three internships have given me invaluable work (and life) experiences.

On paper—unless it’s resume paper—internships tend to seem undesirable. Interns may seem like doormats or Coffee Donkeys. This is a common misconception; in my own experience as an intern, I have not yet picked up anyone’s coffee or had anyone wipe their feet on me. Internships do require challenging (and often unpaid) work, but under the right circumstances, you’ll be too engrossed in your work to notice you’re doing it for free.

For more career and internship-related information, attend one of PSU’s career fairs, like the All Majors Career + Internship Fair on May 1 in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom!

Don’t Press Snooze on Summer

By Emma Eberhart

Last summer, I voluntarily chose to give up the ability to press snooze on my alarm, so I could instead spend my mornings in a classroom, and to be honest I would do it again.

The summer quarter at Portland State generally offers both the usual 10-week course and the occasional accelerated four-week course that condenses the curriculum to a shorter amount of time but meets more than the common two times a week. Courses are worth the same amount of credit hours regardless of whether they last 10 weeks or four, so you can pick a class that works best with your schedule, which is really great. The class I took was an accelerated course—a length I would choose again since it left a majority of my summer with no looming school deadlines.

Another positive aspect of taking summer courses, I found, is that the professors are teaching fewer classes, which means that they have fewer students to focus on. This is not to say that during the other quarters, professors care less, but they have given me more constructive help and have been more engaged during summer term.

The only downside is there are fewer courses offered because fewer students sign up.

If you can find a class that is offered in the summer that works with your schedule and is necessary for you to graduate, I would advise you to take it. Any and all opportunities that get you closer to graduating are worth it.

STUMPED in Stumptown…

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By: Sharon Nellist

Can you imagine going into your senior year and doubt the major that you have so painstakingly been working toward the last few years? Well, I certainly can. HELP!

My most recent thoughts: I am certain of the type of job I am looking for…. But will my current major get me there? Will my major hurt my chances of getting this job? Is it worth switching majors at this point? How much longer will it take? Ahh! I have to study more for that last final exam…

My mind is full.

Thankfully! I have the summer to figure this out.

And I know that I am not the only one…

Nearly 80% of new students heading for college are undeclared. About 50% of college students that have declared a major change their major, even two or three times!

Also, Portland State has great resources to help through this “traumatic” time…

What can I do with a degree in….?
Career Workshops, Classes & Events
Exploring PSU Majors Fair

What did or would you do in this situation?

Wish me luck!

The Graduation Blues

Brooke HornBy Brooke Horn

I have a countdown app installed on my cell phone. It has three events on it: Portfolio Due, Thesis Defense, and Commencement, each with their own countdown timer. It tells me that I have six days left to finish my portfolio, thirty-six days left to panic about my thesis, and fifty-nine days until I will (with any luck) walk across the stage at the Moda Center, beaming, having earned a Master’s degree in Writing and Book Publishing.

That day feels both terrifyingly close and impossibly far away. There is so much to do before then, so much that could go wrong. And yet, even though it feels like my two-year degree program started yesterday, I feel confident. My education and experiences have equipped me with both a unique range of skills and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to go forth into the mysterious beyond of post-graduation adulthood.

Never mind that I still waited until the last possible minute to file my taxes this year, or that I opt for pizza and Netflix instead of cooking a real meal more than I’d like to admit.

Over the past two years, I’ve juggled a full graduate course load, 2-3 jobs and internships each term, a serious relationship, and a leadership position on campus. Both of my parents were hospitalized due to medical conditions within the last few months too. To be frank, I’ve been a walking bundle of stress.

Keep-Calm-and-GraduateIf I could pass along one piece of advice to my fellow students, it would be this: learn how to manage your stress. Because you will, inevitably, face a point in your life when everything seems to come crashing down. Knowing how to relax, how to let go and take care of yourself – these are things that I never learned until I really needed them, and looking back, I wish I had learned them sooner. Now I know better: I recognize my limitations, and I listen to my body when it tells me to slow down, go for a walk, or pour a bubble bath.

But thankfully, both of my parents are recovering, my portfolio is coming along nicely, and my friends have been both patient and supportive. I bounced back. I’ve made lasting relationships – both professional and otherwise – and worked with some truly talented authors, students, and educators in my program. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I look forward to the future waiting on the other side of that stage.

Here’s looking at you PSU

By: Sharon Jackson

A year ago today I made my way to the streetcar on a very Portland rainy morning. It was packed and muggy – full of people’s breath and their steaming hot coffees. There was a tightening knot in the bottom of my stomach, that my breakfast lay precariously on. We pulled to the Market Street stop, and I stepped down cautiously in my worn brown oxford shoes and brand new dark jeans. I gently placed my hand on my head to check if my recently curled hair was still in place. I was ready, and excessively nervous, as I proceeded up the Park Blocks for the very first time. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship – at Portland State University.

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Tomorrow, I will be venturing out on the same route. Streetcar to Park Blocks and to begin with old-fashioned Cramer Hall. I am still nervous, but this time I am comforted with familiarity and wisdom. I will hold on dearly to the most important things I learned last year that made me a successful Viking:

Know PSU – and the various resources available that are usually FREE such as Buddy Up and the PSU Library.

Stay organized – keep your head above water, use Google Calendar or the inexpensive PSU Handbook to stay on top of your work.

Get involved – be a part of a group; Student Organizations and REC Clubs are easy to join and keep your mind from temporary insanity.

Be bold – and open minded; expose yourself to new Events, Performances, Lectures, etc. and be outspoken in your classes – it is the only way to be well-rounded.

Take care of yourself – you only do your best when you are at your best; we are lucky to have Portland Farmer’s Market at our doorstep and a state-of-the-art Campus Rec free with tuition.

What are some other ways that make You a successful Viking?

Permanent change from temporary work

By: Sharon Jackson

Anxiously awaiting to embark on my grand excursion to England in a few weeks, I have taken up a few temp jobs this summer. What I absolutely love about temp work is that you could call it a “paid internship.” Temp jobs are a fantastic opportunity to work, gain valuable skills, and begin potentially beneficial relationships at various businesses, non-profits, etc. in the Portland metro area – and believe me, they pay decently too. Nonetheless, there are the occasional experiences that can change your perspective of the world.

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I recently spent a week at Neighborhood House, a non-profit that helps families facing hunger and homelessness by providing food, shelter, distributing grants toward rent or energy bills, and school programs for underprivileged children. It is nothing less than despairing to be enduring times like these. I know as I once lived out of my car for eight months with little work and hardly enough money for food. The people seeking assistance at the Neighborhood House should be frustrated, and rightly so. However, most people had their electricity shut off and others were there for food, but everyone held onto their hope and had a sense of humanity. These people were giving up their chairs for one another, listening for others numbers to be called for their appointments, and when they were given food or enough money to turn their electricity back on, they were extremely grateful and thanked us profusely.

What I love about temp jobs such as this one is the joy I feel for helping people in need, and the joy I feel seeing hope alive in humanity. The money is a delightful bonus, as any college student can comprehend, but it is the experiences that weigh-in the most.

You Don’t Know What You Got . . .

Student Insurance . . . plus SHAC is available, too.

Student Insurance . . . plus SHAC is available, too.

By: Theo Burke

As I graduate, besides memories and friends, I am leaving behind the awesome Portland State student health insurance. I’ve written about this before, now I’m experiencing the difference.

Since I don’t know what job is coming down the pike or what kind of health insurance it might carry, I’ve applied for individual insurance through Cover Oregon, the state exchange that sells private health plans (with federal subsidies to help pay the premiums) under the Affordable Care Act, or “ObamaCare.” The state exchange will alternatively sign you up automatically for the state’s Medicaid program (the Oregon Health Plan) if you qualify.

In the real world, I will have to think more about the deductible. A deductible is an amount you pay each year (usually $250 – $1000 or higher) before any benefits are paid by your health insurer.

At PSU, the deductible was $0.00.

My present doctors might not be covered by a new insurance company. At PSU, the Aetna provider network was vast.

I will have to worry more about whether alternative care is covered. At PSU, naturopathic doctors are treated the same as primary care doctors, and chiropractors are covered up to twelve visits per year.

Weirdly enough, when I heard from Cover Oregon recently, they put me in the Oregon Health Plan, even though I reported enough income to disqualify me from that program. Now I will have to figure out the Medicaid ”world,” which works much differently than the private insurers’ system, or else contest my placement in that program with Cover Oregon.

Students, the PSU plan won’t throw you such curve balls. You have an awesome, generous health plan, and you should take advantage of it before you graduate. As I’ve said before, you don’t know what you’ve got, until you lose it.

Call Campus Security? Maybe not.

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Another “phalanx response”, on Sunday, March 2, in Smith.

Over Christmas, as I returned to my car at 2 a.m., I was approached by four muscular campus security officers, in three patrol cars. It was a little scary.

Someone had called in a complaint about a man “trying to break into the library, wearing a hoody.”  I had returned some books to the Millar Library dropbox, and then carried the library’s delivered New York Times closer to the revolving doors as a courtesy, pausing to read some headlines first. I’m geeky like that.

After a check with dispatch that I was a bona fide student, the four officers let me on my way. I’ve since noticed this “phalanx of four” routine is common with Campus Public Safety Office (CPSO) responses:

  • HPIM2423Last week, I saw a solo CPSO officer patrolling the Broadway. Around the corner, I spotted three more campus security responding to an incident.
  • Later in the week, a young man was panhandling all of us in line for coffee in Smith. Someone apparently reported him, as later I spied one officer stationed by the coffee joint, two more interviewing him by the Information Desk, and a fourth officer by the front door on Broadway.

Clearly, CPSO is prepared for any escape in any direction! Their “I-formation” is as impressive as any our football Vikings might run.

I refrained from calling CPSO on the panhandler, as I also did last week when I saw an unstable young man kicking all of the gravel out of the tree beds in front of the Broadway. I imagined an overreaction from CPSO similar to my experience.

Is all this manpower necessary to keep us safe? A greater risk is created, I suggest, if some students avoid calling security in the first place, concerned about overkill. Money would also be saved if CPSO responded with two-man teams.

What do you think?  In April, the university will have a security discussion that will include the question of arming these officers with guns. Tell the university what you think here, or add a comment to this blogpost. You can bone up on the recent task force report on campus safety here.