Making Do

By Erika Nelson

Recently, I wrote about my experiences under lockdown in student housing. Although being alone in quarantine was weighing on my mental health, I said that crashing with family or friends in Southern Oregon was not an ideal option for me. Since that post, I tried really hard to make the best of my situation —  I went through every coping skill I could think of: working out, journaling, playing computer games, texting friends and family, virtual therapy, throwing myself into homework — but I cracked. Living alone became too much to bear—so when the opportunity to fly down to Medford arose about a week ago, I took advantage of it, and set out for the Rogue Valley by way of a very, very lonely PDX.

I thought a lot about whether I would divulge that I fled Portland — I’d made such a big deal about staying put and weathering the lockdown on my own. Surely I can just pretend to still be in the dorms? Who would know the difference? Do I want people to think I’m weak? Besides being embarrassing to admit I broke down, I had traveled when not absolutely necessary, and still feel rather of ashamed about that. But I ultimately decided to be vulnerable in these vulnerable times, and share my experience.

The truth is, it’s ok to be overwhelmed, and it’s ok to make do with the resources you have. Like making do with frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones to avoid a trip to the grocery store, we are all making do in other ways with the resources available to us — mentally, physically, socially. It’s ok to break. It’s ok to be strong one week and a sobbing mess the next — because these are uncertain, scary times. 

I’m making do with what I have, and I am filled with so much gratitude that I have support available to me. I was lucky to get that flight to Medford. I’m lucky to have a family to take me in. I’m lucky that I went through the gauntlet of air travel without bringing disease into my home (well, as far as I know. I really hope that my next post isn’t written from a family member’s hospital bedside.) 

Many students are still alone on campus, and don’t have any other option but to stay. I feel guilty leaving them behind. Part of me feels like I should be there in solidarity. Another part feels justified that I did what I had to do to take care of myself. Maybe those opposing feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. 

To those who are struggling under the weight of lockdown, whether in isolation or not, here are some resources that might help:

PSU Student Resources: https://www.pdx.edu/unst/student-resources

Multnomah County Crisis Hotline: 503-988-4888.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Tips for Trouble-Free Transit Travel

Untitled design-3 By Claire Golden

One of the main reasons I chose PSU is because I could live at home and commute to college. I didn’t want to live away from my family for that long, and the dorms were too expensive, so commuting was the perfect solution. After three and a half years of taking the bus, I’m far from a master of public transportation, but I’m much more comfortable with it than I was when I started. And I have some tips to share with anybody in the same shoes.

The best tool you can have as a commuter is a good bag. My backpack has held up through my entire college career, and I suspect it will keep going for many more years. As cool as messenger bags look, they’re terrible on your back. For me, nothing can take the place of a reliable backpack. Mine has side pockets to store my water bottle.

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TriMet is a great way of getting around Portland. They recently started a low-income fare program. If you’re a broke college student like me, you just might be eligible. You get to ride the bus, Max, and streetcar for half the price, which has been a lifesaver for me. (Don’t forget you can ride the streetcar for free with your PSU student ID!) The TriMet transit tracking app is useful for knowing when your bus will show up, which means you can time your commute so you don’t have to wait outside for so long.

If you’re going to be walking around after dark, it’s important to have a light – you can clip it to your backpack for easy access. You also may want to consider self-defense, whether that’s taking a class or getting some pepper spray. For safety reasons, I always make sure somebody knows where I am and when I plan to be home. I encourage you to make a safety plan, too. 

Another thing I like having in my backpack is my Kindle, which I use to read ebooks while I commute. It’s amazing how much reading you can get done that way. Or you can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or your favorite music. It makes the commute go by much faster. Now I look forward to my bus rides…they’re a fun part of my day.

What I’ve Learned From 10 Years of French Classes

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Learning a new language is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I started taking French in sixth grade, which makes this my 11th year of studying it. But I’ve learned way more than just how to conjugate verbs. Studying it has made me more empathetic to people from different cultures and who don’t speak English as their first language.

When you start a new language, the first thing you realize is just how much there is to learn. Although this can be intimidating, it’s pretty cool to think about all the stuff you’re about to discover. Still, it’s made me much more humble by helping me realize how little I know in the grand scheme of things. America doesn’t value multilingualism the same way other countries do, which is a shame because speaking another language increases a person’s worldview so much. 

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When I was a teenager, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Canoe Island French Camp, a French immersion summer camp in the San Juan Islands. Several years later, I spent a summer working there as a program assistant, and those were the best summers of my life. We kayaked, swam, sang campfire songs in French, fell asleep while watching meteor showers, and feasted on French food. I even learned to like le fromage bleu. It was une opportunité merveilleuse to put my French to use in real life.

Learning a second language actually helped me appreciate my first language more. When I’m struggling to express a thought in French, it’s a relief to later be speaking English and easily say what I’m thinking without a struggle. It’s given me a much greater appreciation and respect for people learning English as a second language. Learning a language isn’t easy, and it’s important to be patient and kind.

The French language has also taught me to appreciate that English doesn’t have a subjunctive tense. If you don’t know what le subjonctif is…consider yourself lucky. French has a lot of verb tenses.

Taking a Vacation From Vacation

Untitled design-3  by Claire Golden

When spring term started, the question of the week was, “What did you do for spring break?” All my classmates were busy exchanging spring break stories to find out where everyone had traveled. “What did you do, Claire?” my friend asked. 

“Well,” I said, “I slept for 15 hours straight and read a lot of books.”

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I used to think I would travel the world when I was grown up. But the older I get, the more I appreciate a quiet afternoon. I still dream of visiting Europe to test out my French major in the real world, and I fantasize about the Caribbean islands just as much as the next person. There’s so much to learn and see in the world, and traveling is absolutely awesome.

The thing is, vacations are tiring! Packing, traveling, and sightseeing take a lot of energy, and I find myself drained mentally and physically at the end of a trip. By the time I get back, classes are starting and I’m more tired than I was before. 

So I’ve learned to appreciate my time at home just as much as my time on vacation. I love the feeling of waking up without an alarm clock and having a completely lazy day. “Staycations” are the perfect opportunity to relax with family and friends and take a break from the chaos of everyday life. Or to binge-watch Bob Ross while curled up with your puppy.

Young and Restless

blog1 (1) By: Xylia Lydgate

As I continue to push through my senior year, there are three things that can’t seem to escape my mind. First, graduating: walking down the stage and receiving my diploma. Second, my future career: where I’ll be applying post graduation and how I’ll get there. And third, traveling the world: having the ability to enjoy the cultures and cuisines and new sights of other countries before settling into a stable career.

My utmost desire is to travel. It is an energy that’s been burning inside of me since I took my first Spanish class in high school. Not only did I learn a new language, but it exposed me to a different way of life and a different way of thinking about the world.

Now that I have 44 weeks left of school, I feel that I’m in a now-or-never situation. I have one summer remaining before graduating; that means one step closer to transitioning into a career. I know most jobs don’t provide you with much paid time off or vacation days, especially for recent college grads. And I don’t want to be that adult who looks back and says, “Traveling is the one thing I wish I did.”

The clock it ticking, and I am proud to say that I have officially started planning for my first international trip projected for summer 2017. I plan to travel throughout Southeast Asia for two months, exploring Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

If you’re reading this right now, I encourage you to get outside of your comfort zone and see what else the world has to offer. In fact, PSU has a ton of resources to support you with international travel. In a rush like me? Campus Rec’s Outdoor Program is leading a week long, backpacking trip through Colombia this June!

Colombia Lost City Trekkinghttps://www.pdx.edu/recreation/international-trip

PSU Education Abroad Program: http://www.pdx.edu/ed-abroad/

Don’t allow yourself to become complacent to your day-to-day routine…travel!

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Opt out of Black Friday

blog1 (1) By: Xylia Lydgate

Get trampled or feel alive? I know what I’ll be doing on Black Friday this year, and it won’t be shopping. Read more to find out why.

On the day after Thanksgiving last year, REI closed all 143 of its retail locations, headquarters and distribution centers on the infamous American holiday, “Black Friday.” Instead of extending its hours and offering big discounts, the outdoor retailer encouraged its employees and customers to spend their day off enjoying the outdoors. REI sparked one of the most successful outdoor movements that year with over 1.4 million people choosing to opt outside.

In response to this, the Campus Rec Outdoor Program is launching its own outdoor photo contest from Monday, Nov. 14 through Friday, Nov. 25 (Black Friday). The purpose is to support the Opt Outside movement and encourage people to share their favorite outdoor moments on social media using the #optoutside and tagging @psu_odp.

Plus, there’s no better place to Opt Outside than in Oregon. With hundreds of hidden gems, waterfalls and mountainous views, I wouldn’t want to spend my Black Friday any other way. If you haven’t taken a moment to go outside and breathe, are you really living?

Join the movement with us by sharing where you like to enjoy the outdoors. Here are a few places to get you started: Boardman Tree FarmRamona Falls Spencer Butte.

What Europe is Teaching Me about Oregon

By Olivia Clarke
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It’s Fall Break for universities in France, and we American students have dispersed to every corner of Europe. I’m spending the week in Frankfurt, and friends of mine are traveling in England, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, and Spain. We’re all trying to soak up as much of Europe as possible during the vacation. Our weekends have been filling up, too – we’re taking trips to places like Bordeaux, Toulouse, and northern Spain whenever we get the chance. We’re in Europe, after all, and we don’t know when we’ll make it back here; therefore, it’s important to take advantage of our time on the continent by traveling as much as possible.

I’ve been enjoying these European adventures, but all of this suitcase-packing and hostel-booking has also brought a question to mind: why do we only have this attitude when we’re abroad? At home in Portland, I tend to trudge through each week with my eyes to the ground, focusing on schoolwork and spending my free time on the internet. I rarely leave the city to go on hikes or explore other parts of Oregon, let alone travel out of state. In Europe, on the other hand, I’m becoming a regular jet-setter. But it’s not as if my home country is a boring one; being away from the U.S. is making me appreciate how vast and interesting the country really is. Even in the Northwest, where travel would be easy and relatively inexpensive, there are plenty of places I haven’t explored. I could easily take a day trip to the mountains or the coast with a few friends, and after I return from Europe, I think I’ll make more time for these small adventures. My time abroad is teaching me that travel is very possible and very rewarding; by embracing Europe, I’m also learning the value of what my own region has to offer.

Communication Frustration

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By Olivia Clarke

At a little over a month into my study abroad program in France, I’ve learned a number of things. For instance: French pastries are, in fact, delicious; discussing sensitive political issues is a favorite local pastime; and picking up after one’s dog is definitely not a priority here. But by far the most jarring discovery I’ve made is that learning a new language is really, really hard. Really.

I came to France after studying the language for four years. When I arrived at the University of Pau, I tested into one of the highest levels in the language program. However, this does not mean I’m anywhere near fluent. Between prepositions, conjugations, listening comprehension, and just plain vocabulary, the ever-present language barrier can make my interactions with French people exhausting. And then, of course, there are the inevitable embarrassing mistakes, like the time when I used the wrong auxiliary verb and accidentally informed my host mother that I was dead. It seems like every time I open my mouth, I get corrected, and every day I learn that I’ve been misusing a word or expression this whole time. Sometimes the frustration of being wrong so often just makes me want to hide in my room.

It all comes down to two basic truths: language is really complicated, and expressing oneself is really important. When we’re stripped of our ability to communicate ideas, it can be pretty traumatic; yet a new language can’t be learned overnight. So the budding bilingual finds herself in an uncomfortable no man’s land between blissful ignorance and fluency, where communication is a constant struggle. That’s tough, but I have to keep two things in mind: I chose this experience for myself, and you can bet I wouldn’t learn any of this from a textbook.

A bloody good summer

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By: Sharon Jackson

More power to those who are on the fearless fast track towards graduation by taking accelerated courses over the summer! But for me, I am in much need of some relaxed summer time off and re-energizing before another rewarding school year at PSU. Not all of us who are taking off these few months when the sun shines its best over the world, will be motionless. I, for instance, will be obtaining a summer “education” through my experience traveling to unseen [for me] parts of the world.

The last two weeks of August, my boyfriend and I are spending our time bouncing back and forth between the coasts of England. On my first trip across the pond, we will be visiting my boyfriend’s grandfather near London for his 90th birthday [merely conversing with him will be an English history lesson in itself]. In the seaside village of Churston Ferrers, we will explore the Churston Court Inn, a proper English pub that Sir Walter Raleigh would frequent, and we will visit the village of Haworth in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the nineteenth-century literary family, the Brontës, resided. Nevertheless, England has a special significance for me, as it is where my father and mother met and married. I am beyond thrilled to finally be able to know something of their England.

So tell me, what sort of “educational” experience are you going to have this summer?

WWOOFing in France

WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is just one option beyond studying abroad to get out and explore the world. I spent my entire junior year last year preparing for study abroad my senior year. My heart was absolutely set on it, and I was ready to follow through with everything. I’d attended orientation in Eugene, sent in my host family preferences, signed up for classes, and had even already checked out the tango dance scene. The only part that didn’t follow through? My finances.

Upon realizing a tad too late that there was no way I could afford the ridiculous fifteen grand to study in Lyon, I looked elsewhere for a way to 1) travel 2) ameliorate my French 3) have some fun. A few classmates and coworkers had done WWOOFing before, and they were the ones to put the bug in my ear. In exchange for approximately 5-6 hours of work per day, 5 days a week, a farm will host you, house you, and feed you. So essentially, you can go stay and work for a host family for the price of a plane ticket and whatever else you’d want to spend your money on for fun.

I chose to come to Velaux, France, just outside of Marseille on the Mediteranean, to work on a horse farm. My hosts have been incredibly gracious and welcoming, and I’ve learned a lot while being here. I still have two weeks left, but time seems to be flying. I’ve learned how to ride horses, how to care for them, the pain of getting stepped on by one and what the electrical fence feels like, and that horses get super cranky if you don’t feed them on time.

It’s been a great experience so far. I plan to do this again, but in Germany or Sweden next time. I’ve had the same advantages of studying abroad in that I’ve gotten much better at my comprehension of French, I’ve met a bunch of new people, and I’ve even been able to take my days off to explore Marseille, Montpellier, and Nice. And not to mention the food and wine… So if you’re strapped for cash but have a desire to go abroad, let me recommend you to WWOOF! If you’re interested in following my adventures as I’m currently working as a WWOOFer, here’s my personal blog: katiegoestofrance.wordpress.com. And if you want to check out what WWOOF is and how to get involved, go here.