CollegeEducationSkills

A resident assistant (RA) is a trained peer leader who supervises residents living in a dormitory. RAs have many roles and responsibilities. They build a community through programming, serve as resources, mediate conflicts, and enforce college’s policies. RAs must be role models on campus and hold themselves accountable to all policies.

As the application season quickly approaches, are you considering becoming an RA? RAs get free room and board! That settles it. But wait a second— there’s a lot more to being an RA than just a free single room. Being an RA can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re not in it for the right reasons. Before you sign up, make sure you know what the position involves.

Perks

Making an Impact

The most rewarding aspect of being an RA is knowing that helping someone, even in the slightest way, can have a major impact on his or her life. When I came back to college after summer break, several of my residents from the previous year approached me and gave me big hugs. As an RA, you help residents go through various issues ranging from homesickness, roommate conflicts, and alcohol poisoning to suicidal ideation and power-based interpersonal violence. You give advice about getting involved on campus, talking to professors, and socializing.

Time Management

Being an RA is a 24-hour job. Sometimes residents are surprised that we are also full time students who have other responsibilities, such as on or off campus jobs, internships, or involvement in campus organizations. Being an RA means having mandatory weekly staff meetings and weekday and weekend duties when you have to go on “rounds” through all of the floors and stay in the building from a certain time in the evening until morning. This position helps you plan your time well and prioritize. You become good at multitasking and scheduling.

Crisis Management

As an RA you learn to think on your feet. You don’t have time to plan every move because the situations that arise are time sensitive. You might find someone passed out in the bathroom and have to transport them to the hospital. You might have to evacuate the building at 3AM in your PJs. You might have a resident cry on your shoulder about a recent breakup. You never know what to expect, so you always have to be ready. Being an RA teaches you how to handle any crisis. For a crisis to be handled well, effective communication skills are crucial. You develop them by interacting with your fellow RAs, residential directors (RDs), and residents. Sometimes the communication is urgent and can’t wait until the next day. During crises, RDS, fellow RAs, and police have to be notified immediately.

Relationships

One of the best things about being an RA are the relationships you can form. You spend so much time with you fellow RAs during training, mandatory staff meetings, and also by working and living together in the same building, that they can quickly become some of your best friends. You share this bond with each other because you have similar experiences as RAs. RAs understand that you are sleep deprived because you’ve been dealing with an incident while on duty or had a few lockouts at 4AM the previous night. They’re your biggest support system and you can always rely on them. They can help you by covering duty or being there for you when you break down— RAs call that “RA-ing” each other. Besides the issues of the residents, RAs frequently have their own personal problems, so being there for one another is very important.

You also have unique relationships with your residents. They continue to ask you for advice if they feel comfortable around you. It’s wonderful to see them grow throughout the year. Often times you can become friends with most of your former residents.

Not only are relationships formed with your peers and residents, but also with your RDs.  They are your supervisors and you spend a lot of time working with them. They help you with both your professional development and your personal growth.   

Compensation

Each college offers different compensation packages, but most provide free room and board. You get your own room and don’t have to worry about living with someone else. For most, this compensation helps finance their college education. It depends on the location of the college, but I’m able to live in downtown Boston for free. A lot of people apply to be RAs just because of free housing. This reason is valid, but not good enough. The job is a big commitment and requires a lot of dedication, so you need to be passionate about it; you can’t just do it for the money. Maybe you care about fostering diversity and inclusion in the community or maybe you want to help the freshmen adjust — these are all important factors in making the decision to be an RA.

Pitfalls

Time Requirement

You’re going to be busy. Sometimes your time isn’t always your own as an RA. Academics always come first, but then it’s the RA position (not any other leadership position or job you hold on campus). You have to be able to work around other commitments and get coverage when needed. It’s important to manage your time well and even schedule in time for rest.

Sleeping in Your Office

Unlike any other job, when you’re an RA, you basically sleep in your office. Maybe it’s 3AM or 8AM in the morning and someone knocks on your door — it’s a lockout. You have to do it. Maybe you have a significant other, but your resident needs you urgently, so your privacy is limited.

Stress

Juggling a lot of things at the same time is stressful. You have classes, other commitments like jobs or clubs, and your personal life. Sometimes your residents forget that you’re also human and that you might feel the same things that they are feeling. They come to you to complain about their roommates, professors, homesickness, personal problems, etc. That’s why you can always rely on your RA friends to listen to you.

Returning to Campus Early

Returning early to campus for training requires you to do some major planning with your summer. You can’t work, intern, travel or research for the entire summer and you have to find places that would hire you for a shorter period of time.

Fish Bowl Effect

As an RA you’re held to higher standards even if you’re not officially on the job. Technically, you’re never “off duty.” If you see something wrong, you have to report it. Students know that you’re an RA and they look up to you as a role model. They might follow every step you take. If you make a mistake, they might hold it against you and it can cost you your job, unfortunately.

The RA position has prepared me for future employment because it has not only taught me how to communicate effectively, manage time, educate, and mediate and solve conflicts, but has also helped me develop a leadership style. Like Ralph Nader said, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

Image Courtesy of Demi Vitkute

Skills

It might sound like cheating – it’s not!

To start, let’s clarify that we at Carpe Juvenis are not condoning fraud to achieve your goals – that sort of behavior harms others and can have disastrous consequences from an ethical and legal standpoint. In contrast to that, acting a certain way in order to cultivate good habits, confidence, and success is far from unethical. All you’re doing is presenting a side of yourself that might normally need some coaxing to come out. Faking your way to success is more like a magician’s sleight of hand than smoke and mirrors. And honestly, who would fault you for wanting to improve yourself (albeit with a little misdirection)?

Here’s what we’re really suggesting: Act like the version of yourself that you want to become. Before you realize it, you’ll already have become the “you” that you wanted to be.

Amy Cuddy, researcher and professor at the Harvard School of Business, has studied the effects of social stimuli on hormone levels as it relates to power and emotion. Her 2012 TED talk, in which she discusses her landmark study on the role of body language and hormone levels, ranks as the second most-watched video in the organization’s history at over 28 million views. If you haven’t already seen it, take some time after reading this article to watch it via the link above.

At its core, Cuddy’s research points to this: social stimuli and hormone levels have a dialectical relationship. Thus, body language and feelings of power and confidence are engaged in a positive feedback loop. We all know that having high levels of the stress hormone cortisol will affect one’s outward behavior (feelings can dictate one’s behavior), but Cuddy’s talk tells us that the reverse can also be true (behavior can dictate one’s feelings). Acting powerless can lead to feeling powerless while acting confidently can lead to actually feeling more confident.

In her talk, Cuddy shares the story of one of her students, who, after not participating the entire semester, came to her and said that class participation was too difficult for her. The student was shy, unconfident, and admitted that she felt like she didn’t belong there. Cuddy responded by saying that she did belong there, and she should fake confidence until she actually became confident. Fake it, and see how far it gets you.

This story – of feeling out of place, intimidated, and thoroughly convinced that you are not of the proper caliber to succeed – is my story, your story, our story. We’ve all experienced moments of hesitation and self-doubt. When confronting those difficulties, we owe it to ourselves to use every reasonable tool at our disposal to break down the walls that block our way to success.

To achieve that success, keep two thoughts in mind.

First, accept that you are a conglomeration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Leverage that variability, and do you. It’s trite, but true. Sometimes the most perfunctory thoughts can be the most profound. Let’s deconstruct the do you message real quick. It doesn’t mean you should live fast and die hard, abide by your emotional whims, and act selfishly. Rather, it means that you should be the best you can be in the face of adversity. When challenged, does doing you include selling yourself short and limiting yourself? No way. When challenged, doing you includes presenting the side of yourself that can most readily tackle the issue. Ignore the haters that say you’re one way when you’re actually another.

(As a side note, I would like to add that you should NOT flatly disregard what other people think about you. The whole reason that faking it to success is so important is because other people’s thoughts about you can affect your life in incredibly powerful ways. “Not caring what other people think” is cognitive dissonance at its most paradoxical. You shouldn’t care about others’ unjustified judgments, but should certainly care about their thoughts, opinions, and prejudices as it relates to you. Often we don’t realize that, because we’re privileged, it’s easy to just disregard others because we don’t think it will harm us. Ask anybody from the Black Lives Matter or feminist movements if they think others’ opinions can be weapons – sometimes unconsciously – and if we should care about those opinions.)

Second, destroy the notion of one’s “place.” Your “place” is the most insidious, reprehensible form of prejudice, and accepting your “place” without using every feasible tool at your disposal to achieve your goals is truly a shame. Show me the mandate that says variance in lifestyle isn’t freely allowed. Faking it until success means taking a stand against self-inflicted shortcomings and tacit acceptance of one’s “place.”

So fake it. Pretend you’re confident and push past the things that tell you otherwise. You owe it to yourself.

Image: Unsplash

CultureSkills

There’s something undefinably pleasing about knowing you’re the first, only, or one of the few.

Perhaps it hearkens back to our primordial roots, the ones that spread from Africa to the Americas in pursuit of survival by any means necessary. When our prehistoric cousins finally did discover how to survive by some means, they must have felt something similar to how we feel when we define ourselves through bold action and unusual experience. Breaking from the norm and achieving survivability in an unconventional but effective way – that was truly impressive.

Similarly, when we skip the cliché and seek the unorthodox, we engage in behavior that is more than just hipster nonconformism. Nonconformism for its own sake is usually more pretentious than purposeful. Nonconformism for our sake is different: it grounds us in our personal purpose, teaches skills and skills-building, and leads to innovation and creative diversity. Thus, breaking the mold with intention always succeeds in some way or another.

In contrast, cliché is the typical pattern of things done by people before you. It might be well-tested, but it’s also tried. It might be popular, but it doesn’t necessarily fit or serve you. Moreover, taking the typical path might get you to where you need, but certainly does not provide you (or anyone, for that matter) with trailblazing perspective and fresh experience. In fact, sticking with the cliché actually diminishes your potential returns because you can rely on others for help or use their methods to get through. In other words, you can cop out.

The most likely result of taking the most likely path is learning the most likely lessons – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s much more to be gained by seeking the unorthodox.

If you’re like most, you have a daily or weekly routine. Routines can be useful: they’re efficient and they give us a sense of security by putting order to chaos. Amidst the multitude of options available to us, we usually choose to do the same things consistently because it allows us to plan/strategize our lives more effectively. Exercising in the evening, buying groceries twice a week, going to school Monday through Friday… This is our routine, and it gives us the ability to easily schedule a proper time and place.

However, if you’re like most, your routine also starts to drag after a while. We know for certain that work starts at 9am, ends at 5pm, and there are X more days until the weekend when we can binge-watch old seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix. The thrill has long been gone. Even though we have the opportunity, we choose to adhere to routine because it’s easy and the consequences for doing otherwise can be high. Who hasn’t thought about quitting their job to [insert dream here]? Which of us has actually followed through?

And so, skipping the cliché means reframing routine as ritual. It means grounding oneself in personal purpose. That’s not to say that you should go quit your day job – you shouldn’t, but rather, you should find ways to get excited about living your unique life. Rediscover awe. Turn the things that drain you into the things that sustain you. Commuting is a chore, but it’s also 45 minutes to enjoy music and audiobooks; data entry is mindless, but you’re doing it now so that you don’t have to at your next job. Your daily routine can become a ritual of self-empowerment helping you gain the insight you need to achieve your long-term goals.

Once you’ve left the clichéd road more traveled by, find the one less traveled by. Ditch the yes-men, the doubters, and the stubborn status quo-ers; exit the whole system entirely and trailblaze your own path. THAT is truly sticking it to the Man, dude. If you encounter difficulty along the way, it will force you to troubleshoot, work around, and creatively problem-solve. Confronting the unfamiliar is an opportunity to see life from a different paradigm.

Seeking the unorthodox provides you and those around you with effective, constructive knowledge. Living and sharing atypical experiences is a way of contributing to the collective human understanding. By going down alternate pathways and living to tell the tale, your insight can be compared and contrasted to the norm. Think of it like you’re adding data points to the cumulative data set, thereby making the subsequent conclusions more precise. It’s a way of fact-checking: does traveling to China always result in the same set of experiences? If you stick to the cliché of visiting the domineering, capital of the world, Shanghai, or pop-historical megapolis, Beijing, then it might. But what does your trip to Dunhuang, Tang Dynasty city near the Xinjiang-Gansu border, have to say? More than likely, your trip to ancient China’s remote outpost will offer unique perspective and a fresh take on what it means to travel to the Middle Kingdom.

Simply put, by avoiding the cliché and opting for the unorthodox, you can become more grounded in your personal, compelling purpose while gaining perspective, skills, and insight for yourself and your community. That’s a pretty great deal if you ask me. You can even start slow – set your alarm one minute earlier and brush your teeth with your awkward hand. Feel inspired yet?

Image: Flickr

CultureEducation

Studying abroad was the absolute best decision I made in college. The idea popped into my head during my third year, and I headed for England just four months later. At 21 years old, I packed my bags and sat alone at the airport, excited and scared of what I (sort of) impulsively got myself into. I went to the University of Worcester in England for the Spring 2011 semester, where I stayed in a dorm with other international students. At the time, I thought the best part of it all was the absolute freedom to travel.

Flash-forward to almost five years later, I look back and realize that my experiences shaped exactly who and where I am today. It wasn’t just about the places I visited or the pictures I took; it was about growing up and learning from my mistakes. Here are three life lessons I learned from studying abroad, and reasons why I will always be grateful to have gone.

Ride the wave. You can try to plan and strategize everything you do, but often times, it won’t work out that way. We hear this all the time but it’s hard to conceptualize it until you’re out of college and living in the real world. When I was traveling abroad, there were flights I missed, things I forgot to pack, and money that I lost – and it all felt like the worst thing ever. I went nuts trying to figure my way out around problems, but ultimately I learned to be more flexible, innovative, and adaptive with my solutions. In your personal and professional life, many unexpected things happen and it makes no difference whether you can control them or not. It’s important to be willing to adapt to a new company, boss, or change the relationships you’re in and the career you are set on having. While it’s good to have a blueprint the next ten years, the truth is that good luck happens just as much as bad luck. Just keep moving forward.

You are a little freckle on the face of the earth. We always get told that everyone’s different and we shouldn’t judge anyone. But exposing yourself to different cultures makes you realize that your judgments and assumptions of others are only based on social standards that you grew up with. Whether they were instilled by your parents or friends, it’s all you know. Traveling and interacting with people that are totally different allows you to understand that the ideals you’ve been taught are not the only ones that exist – and you may not agree with them. What you always thought was “right” perhaps isn’t. Once you truly internalize what all of that means, the more you’ll be able to think for yourself. Opening your mind to the reality that people, many people, exist outside your bubble (your friends/town/country), the better you’ll be at accepting others despite your opinions of them. This characteristic is not only crucial to your personal development, but in your professional growth as well. No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll be exposed to people from all sorts of backgrounds. It’s not a matter of knowing everything about them, but a matter of having a respect for their differences.

Everything has a deadline. When you’re young, it’s easy to feel invincible and think everything lasts forever. This is because the transition between grammar school, high school, and college aren’t really that drastic; they all consist of classrooms, textbooks, summer vacations – the list goes on. You go through the motions with your friends and it seems like your 30th birthday is literally never going to happen. When I headed home from the U.K., I realized how quickly life passes by. One week I was at the Cliffs of Moher, the next I was camping out for Will and Kate’s royal wedding, and then suddenly I was just sitting on my couch watching TV in New Jersey. Now, at 26 years old, I can’t even process the fact that my early twenties are gone. Though it’s common to want to fast-forward to a future event (whether it’s graduating or turning 21), it’s important to stop and appreciate the here and now. One day, you might be wishing you were right where you are at this moment.

As someone who is all about making mistakes and experiencing things on my own, I am the first to say that reading about life lessons isn’t even close to learning them. But if there’s anything I hope people will gain by reading this, it’s to look for something to take a chance on while there’s time (and to obviously study abroad if you can). It’s not just about making new memories, it’s about changing yourself for the better, too.

Image: Flickr

CultureEducation

“I honestly believe if people traveled more often, there would be less conflict because there would be more understanding.” I said this in my Youth Spotlight last week, and I meant it with all my heart. Traveling is a powerful educational tool for everyone and, I believe, is especially eye opening for minority youth like myself. Let me tell you why.

With cultural tensions spewed across the news and social media platforms as of late, people seem quick to grab onto fear before attempting to peacefully resolve a misunderstanding. We are all guilty of being fearful sometimes, but let’s remember, fear is only a result of unfamiliarity. For example, you may be terrified of insects until you watch the Discovery Channel and learn the many ways they help protect us from even scarier things like low crop yields and a massive buildup of animal waste (no, thank you!). Suddenly, you’ll think twice before stepping on the little creatures that are more helpful than we think, and this is all thanks to a bit of new knowledge.

The same concept goes for people. In my personal experiences as a young minority woman traveling, I have often found myself in places where no one looks like me. For some of you, whether Black, Asian, Hispanic, a lovely mix and so on, this might sound familiar. It can be awkward at times, but always eye-opening and beneficial for all parties involved. Travel is absolutely transformative for minority youth in three major ways.

First, it allows those unfamiliar with your culture to become more familiar. When I traveled to New Zealand a few years ago, I never saw another black person during the trip, aside from the few traveling with me in the tour group. This doesn’t mean black people don’t exist in New Zealand; I just never crossed paths with any. During my home stay with a Kiwi family (the native minority population in the country), they told me they’d never had any black friends before and I said I’d never had any Kiwi friends before. At first they were timid to ask pressing questions about my culture, but eventually conversation began flowing as I told them about ridiculous stereotypes that exist in America, the daily struggles faced, and about my personal family history. They reciprocated by telling me about theirs. As native New Zealanders, many of their experiences were similar to mine, as a black American. Who would have known? By the end of the conversation, we could all say we were friends. Pretty good ones, at that. Just think about it – if discussions like this would happen more frequently, there would be much more respect than conflict.

Not only does traveling teach others about you, but it can also teach you about your own culture. Every time you go to a new location, you unlock a part of yourself you didn’t know existed. For example, when I went to Paris for the first time in high school, I learned about how many black Americans in the 1920’s hopped the Atlantic and settled in the City of Lights. Many did this because they felt race was not as much of a hindrance to living a happy life in Paris as it was in America. There were more job opportunities, a booming arts industry, and less violent racism. I found it so interesting to learn about how people like me lived in other countries in the past, and are still living there today. Traveling to Paris expanded my mindset and, in a sense, gave me a newfound sense of my own identity within the world and its history.

Last but surely not least, travel has the power to make the variety of race seem minuscule compared to the unity of humanness. What I mean by this is that through exploring new areas, speaking to new people, immersing yourself in a different society, and catching a glimpse into how others live, similarities across cultures are more evident than any differences could ever be. We all struggle to find ourselves. We all get lazy, grumpy, giggly, frustrated, happy, and jealous at times. We all laugh at our own jokes, have secret crushes on people who don’t know who we are, and have blood flowing through our veins. You get the point. But mostly, we all want to just be happy.

So, whether you are thinking about traveling to another country, a new town, or a new school, I want to encourage you to go for it… for yourself, and for all of us.

Image: Jay Mantri

Travel

No matter where you live, we’ve all seen them… those people wielding cameras with maps tucked into their fanny packs, possibly wearing destination paraphernalia. Okay, hopefully not the last part few parts, but you never know. Tourists – the near curse word to travelers and locals alike. For some reason, people love to hate tourists’ naivety and childlike excitement, even though they should be applauded for their adventurous spirits. But still, I admittedly never want to appear like one because it’s sometimes embarrassing, it could mark you as an easy target for theft or crime, and is simply not cool. So from my wandering heart to yours, here are my four top tips I use while traveling to minimize being that tourist.

1. “When in Rome” everywhere. I like to think of this as the biggest display of respect to another culture because it shows your willingness to try and understand something new. For example, if you are in Australia and someone proudly offers you their restaurants kangaroo dish, eat it like it’s your favorite food even if it’s not (yes, this really happened to me and turns out, it was actually delicious). If you are somewhere that has many social customs unfamiliar to you, say in an Asian country, don’t be embarrassed to try bowing when it is appropriate. I have noticed people are more receptive to you as a traveler when they can see you are putting forth effort to cross cultural differences.

2. In unfamiliar situations, wear your poker face. It is bound to happen – you make a wrong turn to find yourself lost, get yelled at in a foreign language, or are caught in a weird situation and just don’t know how to react. No matter how frazzled you are, try to remain calm and collected for your safety.

3. Speak the language. Of course you won’t always be able to do this fluently, but it is possible to learn a few useful greetings and phrases in the country’s language. You might have noticed Americans do not have the best traveling reputation. Time and time again my foreign friends have told me that we tend to speak English before even attempting a simple greeting in the local language and this is offensive. Even if you butcher a few words in another language, people will likely just giggle and appreciate your attempt.

4. Finally, pay attention to how people dress. Unless you are actually hiking in the jungle or going on an Archeological dig, your favorite hiking hat might not be necessary for this trip. But, little jokes aside, I have found clothing to be important in some cases. For example, if you want to go to a religious service, make sure you ask a local or research how you are expected to dress. The last thing you want to do is accidentally disrespect anyone or anything.

Hopefully you can try out some of these tips and see how your next journey unfolds. If you have any other tips you use, I would love to hear them. Happy travels!

Image: Gratisography

Travel

There are endless ways to explore the world: solo, with family, as a volunteer, or with a program. No doubt each method offers its own unique perks and setbacks. Having the opportunity to travel more independently with family and friends and with larger organizations like People to People Student Ambassadors and Global Visions International (GVI), I’ve experienced a bit of what these various types of travel have to offer. If you’re considering signing-up with a traveling program, hopefully this little list of pros and cons of traveling in large groups will help you make your decision!

Pros

  1. Meeting people from all over the world is ten times easier in an organized setting. When you think about it, everyone is likely there for the same purpose – to gain invaluable experience in a foreign location and build relationships – so you already have something in common! Many times programs have semi-organized free time or group activities that promote casual socializing. Afterwards you will hopefully have great friends to visit (and who will let you crash on their couches) in other countries!
  1. Access to special deals, promotions, and events are common perks as organizations usually have deals with popular tourist sites and great relationships with the local community. I’m talking private tours, discounted tickets, and behind-the-scenes information that you would never have known about had you traveled independently. When I went on a three week South Pacific tour with People to People the summer of 2011, all of us students had a chance to meet the mayor of Rotorua, New Zealand, and enjoyed a night dancing our hearts out on a boat overlooking the Sydney Opera House. Could we have done this on our own? Maybe, but definitely not for free like we did!
  1. You’re going to learn so much. Most large travel organizations have a platform, activity, or issue they are addressing through their program – it could be education, sports, poverty, hunger, health, politics, or cross-cultural understanding, just to name a few. The program I volunteered with through GVI was focused on education. Had I never participated, I would know nothing about injustices that exist in the South African primary school system. The entire experience opens eyes to issues you know little about or, like me, never knew existed.

Cons

  1. Early mornings are part of the packaged deal when traveling with a large group. Depending on the type of program you travel with, schedules vary slightly, but more than likely participants are required to follow a schedule that starts early in the morning. It’s not always terrible, but when jet lag combined with simple travel exhaustion are combined, waking up could be a struggle.
  1. Yes, there will be some people you don’t care for in your program. But the good news is, there are many other people to focus on and you will not be with them forever. You never know, after your travels you may even miss that one annoying personality.

There are so many positives than negatives that come from traveling with a larger group or organization. I dare you to give it a shot!

Image: Flickr

EducationSkills

The almost-there feeling of getting an interview for graduate school is both an exciting and daunting one. You feel accomplished for sending out those applications and validated that you are headed in the right direction. So pat yourself on the back for making it to the next step and get ready for your interview the right way.

First and foremost, be yourself. Your background and interests were what brought you to the interview and now it’s just a matter of figuring out if the program is the perfect fit for you. Faculty, staff, and current students that are interviewing you are looking for students who are genuinely interested in their program and have unique skills and interests to offer. Believing that you are capable and ready is the best way to start preparing. Once you have that covered, prepare with these four tips:

1. Research and Relate

You’ve researched the school in-depth and you know what it stands for. You know the school’s mission and the goals of your program of interest. Now it’s time to familiarize yourself with more specific information. Look into the course catalog and read about the classes you would be taking. Jotting down notes about the learning outcomes for each course can help give you a framework of the “language” and style of the program. Are there specializations that you are interested in? If so, ask yourself why they interest you.

If you are seeking graduate school, there has been some sort of spark within you that has motivated you to learn more. Asking yourself to examine that spark can help you verbalize how your personal history blends with your curiosity for the program. Other details to look for include what types of internship or fieldwork opportunities they offer, graduate assistantships or fellowships, and faculty-specific research interests that tie in with yours. It’s helpful to have this sort of knowledge bank so you can connect what you have learned and experienced so far with what you will be learning in the future.

2. Know the Interview Format

It’s always good to know if you will be in an individual or group interview. In many cases, a program representative will let you know via phone or email what the interview dynamic will be like. If not, it’s okay to inquire with an admissions counselor. Individual interviews allow you to be the main focus of the panel. One of the best ways to prepare is by writing a list of possible interview questions and having a friend conduct a mock interview with you. Pay attention to the length of your answers. Are you being concise or talking too long? Are you saying “um,” “you know,” and other filler words? What are your hands, arms, and legs doing while you’re talking? Have a colleague take note of fidgeting, awkward pauses, volume, and eye contact.

With group interviews, the attention is divided and things can get a little tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to make group interviews go a lot more smoothly. For starters, non-verbal communication can keep you engaged throughout the interview even when you’re not the one talking. Nodding your head in response to others shows that you are listening and open to what everyone is saying. If the panel asks a question and does not direct anyone to start answering, wait a few moments to gauge the room and be the first to answer if you are ready. If another person begins to answer first, do not worry. The most important thing is what you say, not when you say it. If you’re looking for a way to begin your answer, try short starter statements like “I’ll start this one off,” or “I agree with that and have a similar experience as well,” or “I’ve considered this a lot while applying and…,” or “There are a few things that come to mind including _____ and ______.” Statements like these will help you ease into your answer and help you sound prepared and reflective.

3. Prepare with Questions That Ask More

It is common for faculty and program directors to ask questions that dig deeper than the expected “So why choose our school?” question. Rather than asking a question at surface level, they may ask a question with a different angle to examine how you respond to more difficult subject matter. For example, rather than asking about your opinions or experience with diversity, they may ask what about diversity makes you uncomfortable and how you see yourself overcoming that. Rather than just asking what makes you a good candidate for the program they may ask what you have done to prepare yourself for the rigor of graduate studies. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself the hard questions before the real thing.

4. Absorb and Emit Positivity

Although you may be nervous during your interview, good energy can get you through it. Condition yourself with positive thoughts before and during the interview. Having good thoughts about yourself and those around you can show through the tone of your voice, facial expressions, and body language. It can also calm you down if you begin to feel anxious. Feel excited about the opportunity at hand to meet professionals at each school. Feel proud of your accomplishments and thankful for the chance to share more about yourself. Remind yourself that the outcome of your interview does not define you as a person and that whatever comes your way is for your benefit. You have come a long way to now be in a turning point towards graduate studies. Be confident and be you, and the rest will fall right into place.

Image: Flickr

HealthSkills

Wisdom works best when shared. Sometimes all we need are a few words of newfound perspective to navigate through life. Here are 10 pieces of advice that have provided encouragement and much needed clarity:

“Always assume you don’t have all the information.”

I see this as a way to not take anything too personally. When people act or react in ways that are unwarranted we are quick to judge. However, it’s nearly impossible to fill in the blanks without knowing more information. This is particularly valid during fights and disagreements. Instead of pushing your view and knowledge of the situation, question what you don’t know and instead, assume that they are seeing something that you are not seeing.

“Never pass up a chance to learn something for free.”

Our capacities to learn are endless. There are free E-courses online spanning anything from finances to interior design. Maybe a friend invites you to a free yoga session or you’re curious about slam poetry – take the first step in learning more about it and experience it for yourself. The best part about this kind of education is that it can be found everywhere, plus there’s no tuition.

“Create and maintain a morning ritual that you love.”

Starting your day with a ritual can energize you and help you be more productive throughout the day. Whether it’s brewing a cup of coffee or making tea, spending a few minutes meditating before heading out the door, or going on a morning run, take that time to activate your senses and set a happy tone for the rest of your day.

“Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.”

One guarantee in life is that it’s unpredictable. Sometimes it seems as though the universe conspires to overlap as many dilemmas and challenges for us to face all at once. When crises happen, it’s helpful to remember these two things: 1) You are not alone. We all have our fair share of catastrophes. 2) Consider it your chance to challenge yourself for the better.

“Never lie in bed at night asking yourself questions you can’t answer.” Charles M. Schulz

What is it about the moment when your head hits the pillow that ignites a flood of worries and second-guessing? Sleep is essential and we all need to allow ourselves to relax when we can. So silence the motor in your mind as you hit the hay, it’s one of the only times that thinking less should be a priority.

“What are you going to do about it?”

Advice in the form of a question, gotta love it. Whenever I hear this it’s a reminder of the fact that although I cannot choose what happens to me, I choose what happens next. We are in control of our own decisions and sometimes what we really need is to ask how we can help ourselves.

“Measure twice, cut once.”

My best friend is an expert in calculated risks. He seems spontaneous and fun-loving but is actually extremely careful and a ferocious planner. Through him I’ve learned the value in being able to safely execute decisions. Approaching important situations with thorough research and credibility will allow for life’s big moments to go a lot more smoothly.

“Never offer advice just to appear concerned.” Jack Gardner

We all need to hear this. Although we always want to say the right things and help people when they’re down, be mindful of what it is you’re saying to them and why. If your advice is mere conversation filler, it’s better left unsaid. People have a tendency to project their own versions of help from their personal histories that often don’t reflect the person in need at all. So be wary of “saving the day,” sometimes the best way to help people is to just listen.

“Being in a relationship doesn’t entitle you to anything. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you create.” Steve Maraboli

Having a relationship is having an on-going learning experience. One of the biggest things to learn is to never mistake having a relationship with possessing a relationship. It is not an opportunity for an individual to control another with their expectations but rather, an invitation to grow with someone and share the same effort towards happiness.

“Go in the direction of where your peace is coming from.” C. Joybell C.

This one is from my all-time favorite poet and kindred spirit. Life’s pushes and pulls lead us to places and decisions that don’t always work out. The only thing we can really try to be consistent with is finding our purpose. Whatever it is that provides you with that feeling of peace and wholeness, follow it and rest assured you’re doing life right.

Image: Picography

CultureHealth

You know that moment during a meal when everyone is pleasantly full after finishing their entree, just before someone reluctantly reminds the table the restaurant is closing soon so it’s time to sign the check? That soul-warming instant when conversation flows effortlessly? This moment has a name. Sobremesa (n.) is a Spanish word meaning, “the time spent around the table after dinner, talking to the people you shared the meal with; time to digest and savor both food and friendship.” This word is the essence of why in an over stimulated, hectic world, it’s so important to make time to gather around a table for meals.

While I admit my love for the sobremesa is partially because I am a certified foodie, it’s even more so because the Sobremesa is a time for true conversation, an art seemingly dwindling in our generation. We are so used to texting and Facebook messaging entire conversations, that it’s easy to forget how beneficial face-to-face conversation is. While you might feel you know someone well, a deeper realm of connection opens upon seeing facial expressions, gestures, and all the multifaceted characteristics of speaking in real life.

There have been numerous studies detailing the benefits of “table time” in families and in any type of relationship. According to Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology and countless other sources, table time strengthens solidarity in relationships (families, friends, sports teams, roommates, and so on), alleviates stress, improves conversation skills, encourages healthier eating, and broadens intellectual horizons by sharing and listening to different perspectives. All this while possibly exploring new cuisines!

At least once a month, my roommates and I plan a “roomie dinner” where we each pitch in to help; someone purchases ingredients, another provides his/her cooking skills, and another roommate sets the table and helps clean. We gather around the table, leaving all school and life-related stresses at our desks for a few hours to simply enjoy each other’s company. Most dinners, we will choose a meal theme – anything from Mexican to Italian cuisine. Here are a couple of our favorite dishes:

In college, it is easy to get used to eating quick meals while watching Hulu between classes or meetings. I challenge you, however, to take a break. Carve out a few hours of your time and experience just how restorative and forever calming a dinner and its Sobremesa are for the soul.

Image: FoodiesFeed

College

It’s been about four years since high school graduation, and I’m still not ready for adulthood. At the same time, I think this is a good moment to reflect about what I learned in the past few years. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people, learn a lot about myself, and learn a lot about the world.

One of the most amazing things I learned about college is how open-minded it can be, if you go to the right school. Luckily, I went to a very liberal school in a very liberal city, so I was exposed to many types of thoughts, as well as people who expressed themselves freely. I hear from old classmates about how clique­like some colleges can be, but I can’t imagine being in that type of place. People come and go. Those from high school don’t always stay, and those in college don’t always stay either. But this is only college. Imagine how much bigger it gets from here.

This might sound kind of sad, but I also learned about a lot of the bad things about myself. I learned how ignorant and intolerant I was, and I’m still learning – and trying to accept – that I’m not as kind or as good as I would like to think. In college, I met all sorts of personalities and I learned to understand the psychology behind these people (at least, as much as I can as a 21 year old). A big part of college is finding out what you don’t like about yourself, and having to make a big decision as to what to do about it. Do you accept it? Do you change it? Do you hide it? Some people embrace what society sees as bad, and some people try to change themselves to be what this world calls good. College forces you to make hard decisions because you’re finally responsible for yourself. Go out tonight or study? Buy groceries or do the laundry? Become good friends with a few people, or friendly associates with a lot of people? Nobody else is responsible for you. That can be a scary but refreshing realization.

A large part of my school is being aware of the social issues happening in the world. Immigration, racial conflict, religious conflict, economic disparities, just to name a few. Not only did college force me to be more aware of the world, it forced me to have an opinion. It also taught me to be tolerant of others. Where do I stand in the world? What am I doing for the world? What do I want to do for the world? What can I do? Does any of that even matter? Why? I don’t know the answers and I’m not sure I will for a long time, but at the very least I was able to develop a perspective of how paradoxically big and small I am, and not only on campus but in the world. It scares me a little, but Freshman year of college scared me too, so I think it is okay to be a little scared.

As a senior in college, I’m almost a responsible adult. At least, I’d like to tell myself that. While I’ve come far since my high school days, there is still much for me to learn. At least I got the chance to learn this much, and for that I am grateful.

Image: Picography

Education

When people hear that I am an anthropology major, they usually look at me with a half-curious, half-sympathetic expression. My focus being on sociocultural anthropology, I look at a wide range of social phenomena in cultures, from social structure to identity issues to religion and even race politics. While my beloved major has surely filled my brain with endless, maybe unworkable Geertz and Boasian theory, it has also taught me plenty about how to understand the crazy, ever-changing world we live in. Hoping these will be helpful to you, too, below are three essential life lessons that I’ve learned from studying anthropology.

The world is much larger than we know.

Throughout the years, I’ve read ethnographies from remote villages, country towns, and inner city neighborhoods. I have been amazed that, while humans are similar to at our core, we all experience life so differently. Can you imagine a world where women’s’ social roles are dominant as opposed to that of men? Where siblings are expected to marry one another? Where magic is used to explain weather occurrences? This all exists! I’ve learned that our world is very diverse, which leaves no room for judgment, only greater curiosity.

Always consider context.

Even if you’ve only taken Anth 101, you’ve probably heard the professor stress this point. Considering context means to reflect on how environment, time, people, culture, and relationships affect the situation at hand. Not only is this point useful for academic research, but I’ve also found that context is a useful tool in dealing with conflict or frustration. If you take a moment to think about what forces have shaped someone’s words or actions, you may realize that that person is not totally to blame.

Think critically about everything.

This has helped me to explore my own personality, in the sense that critical thinking helps differentiate what is socially expected and what is essentially your personality. For example, are you posting a picture of yourself at a party to show that you are a typical college student or to show that you love photography and it’s a great shot? Are you wearing that blouse because everyone else loves it or because you love it? Honestly answering questions like these has kept me centered, and hopefully will do the same for you!

Image: PicJumbo

CultureSkills

This past summer, I had the great pleasure of working on my fourth music video for Dizzy Bats. The project was the second collaboration with LA-based director, Michael Chiu, who also directed and co-produced our music video for “Girls.”

For this particular project, the planning and production was done by Michael and the Director of Photography, Jeanna Kim. The two would have meetings on site at the restaurant we shot at to discuss direction, shot selection, and lighting. From there they picked out a crew to help bring this song and video to life.

On a hot Sunday afternoon in mid-July outside of LA, we all met up at Michael’s Burger around 3 PM, shortly after they had closed for the day. We utilized the entire restaurant and nearly everything at our disposal, which included burger patties and french fries to name a couple. The shoot lasted almost 14 hours and took an unfortunate turn when one of the crew members accidentally left with Michael’s car keys.  It was an absolutely exhausting but exciting day.

Over the last three years and four video shoots, I’ve learned that you really don’t need a lot of money to make a great video, and often times one simple concept can carry a project and make it great. The most important part of any collaboration is finding the right people to team up with; those who are equally driven and devoted to bringing your song to life. So to any bands out there looking to make a video for the first time, shop around for the right director and start brainstorming.

Bringing one of your songs to life through the art of film can be challenging, stressful, and intimidating. From production to shooting to editing to color correction, there is so much that needs to go right in order for a concept to be successfully carried out, and for a video to ultimately look great. In collaborating with so many film people, I continue to be blown away by the artistic drive of these talented individuals, as well as their amazing professionalism. It’s been fascinating to see the commonalities between the two art forms of film and music, while comparing our various stories. Art should never be limited to just one form, and through my work on these music videos, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience the awesome marriage of music and film.

Check out Connor Frost’s Professional Spotlight here.

Image: Connor Frost

EducationSkills

It’s daunting to have to present yourself to the workforce via one sheet of paper. A resume is a job-seeker’s initial introduction, showing proof of interview-worthiness. So although we cannot have our resumes talk on our behalf, vouching for our righteousness and go-getter attitude, there are actual ways to properly prepare them for the hiring world.

Highlight classes that are valuable

For college students, sometimes there isn’t time or even transportation to juggle multiple off-campus internships and side jobs. If you find yourself completely swamped with your academic load alone, highlight classes that are appropriate for the job you are applying for. Under your Education section of your resume, include a line entitled Relevant Coursework. Simply list off courses that you have taken that 1. Are applicable to the job and 2. Consist of material you are well-versed in. Let’s say our student-job-seeker is looking to get involved with a non-profit health clinic. They want to make sure that hiring managers acknowledge the type of material they are familiar with. Here’s a quick example of what that could like:

EDUCATION
University Name                                                                                                                       (Expected) Graduation Date
Degree Type, Major(s) & Minor(s)
GPA/Academic Distinctions (Dean’s List)
Relevant Coursework: Health Behavior Theory, Nutritional and Global Health, Introduction to Grant Writing and Research Proposals, Administrative Health Policy

That’s why it’s so important to choose classes you can confidently talk about! You never know, you may get called in for an interview and be asked to elaborate on what you’ve learned. Depending on how much space you have to fill up a 1-page resume, listing 4-5 courses can help focus your interests.

Don’t underestimate projects

Whether you major in engineering, biology, studio art, psychology, math or environmental sciences, there are opportunities through classes and clubs that require hands-on projects. Individual or group projects can be research-based for a senior thesis or as final exams in certain classes. Any relevant project that you have devoted a substantial amount of time and effort in deserves to be featured on a resume. Things to remember:

  • Quantify as much as possible when it comes to how many people worked on the project and if there were numerical results from your project/study
  • Give your project and yourself (if possible) an understandable title:
    • Health Sector Management Class Project, Team Member
    • Art in Living Spaces: Senior Thesis, Group Leader
  • As with all other experiences listed, have at least 3-4 bullet points to elaborate on what you contributed to the project

Watch your verbs and their tenses

Hiring managers on average spend only six seconds looking over your resume. Yikes! With such a fast overview, you want to make sure your bullet points flow well so everything is easy to read. Start every bullet with a strong verb. Some call these proactive verbs, some say action verbs. Use appropriate verbs and depending on your work history, apply the proper tense. For present jobs, present tense. For past jobs, past tense. Easy enough, right? You’d be surprised how many people forget to update their verbs as time goes on.

Be consistent with your labeling and format

This one gets overlooked way too often. After you have tweaked your resume to your liking, the best way to check for errors is to print it out. Have some friends act as spelling and grammar police, searching for any errors you might have missed. For your own proofread, here’s what to look for once you have a printed document:

  • Do the margins cut off any text?
  • Is your name easily visible?
  • Is your contact info up-to-date?
  • Are the dates you have listed all aligned?
  • Did I list all of the locations of my experiences?
  • Is it one full page?

Remember, resumes change with you. Updating and changing things up can help keep your information fresh and relevant. For you college students out there, take advantage of your campus career center and get the resume critiques you need to feel confident in your job search. It’s never too early to start building your resume the right way!

Image: Flazingo Photos

Education

High school students are beginning to fill out their college applications, and part of that process includes deciding what major to pick. While you can always change your major once you get to school, oftentimes colleges encourage you to choose one so they can get an idea of your interests.

For those thinking about majoring in photography, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Costs add up.

It is impossible to imagine how much things cost. Film, darkroom paper, photo paper, book printing, photo books, mounting, business cards…the list goes on. As the four college years go by, it adds up. Some schools have amazing facilities (Parsons) but others do not. For those that don’t, it would be frustrating for you to have to buy all your own gear and pay for studio and scanning and developing chemistry.

2. Think outside the box.

Photography is no longer the black and white documentary 35mm it once was. From fashion to fine art, photo students are now expected to grasp, come up with, and execute concepts. Why did you take that picture? Why is it next to that other picture? Is it a series, a diptych, a stand alone? Digital, prints, or book form? Why? Be prepared to think critically.

3. Critiques will happen.

“Crits” are days when your work is hung up and people talk about it. Sometimes you can defend your work, sometimes you can’t. People will disagree or dislike your work. They will tell you what they honestly think. You can’t do anything about it. The best thing to do is to learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and to give good crits. That is the most productive thing to do. Explain what is working and what isn’t and why.

Being a photography major has its good and bad points. But as long as you love it, then it will all be worth it!

Image: Mia Domenico

Culture

This year, in the last week of September and the first week of October, the festival of Hindu Navratri occurred. “Navratri” directly translates into English as “nine nights.” That being said, the festival consists of nine nights of dance, food, and music. With electric and high beat drum tunes and perpetual pounding of feet, this energetic celebration is key in experiencing Hindu culture.

However, this festival isn’t something that only Hindus are allowed to partake in. Everyone of different backgrounds, cultures, and religions are welcome to dance barefoot with dandiyaan, sticks that are used during the dance. The dance is not that difficult either, as it is rhythmic and patterned. It’s also a good cardiovascular exercise! The circular motions of your arms and the linear pathways carved by your feet will get your heart beating to the high-paced rhythm. Not to mention, the traditional clothing worn during this dance, such as this:

holiday

One would think dresses like these would impede movement, but they actually make dancing very easy. The skirts for women and the loose pants for men allow the feet to move freely in any desired direction. Not to mention, you will look stunning in dresses like these! You can usually borrow them from a friend who could possibly have some, or order them online. If you need a makeshift dress, ladies, simply take a long skirt, a scarf, and a solid color shirt and tie it in this manner. Men can just dress up formally in Western attire or borrow an outfit from a friend. Like I said before, anyone can participate and they probably have all the materials they require! The dance portion of the festival is usually done at a Hindu temple. Find the closest one to you, and head on over. The people there are always very welcoming.

I hope this article encourages you once again to cross cultural barriers and experience the zest of the globe. Use your youth to really grasp and latch on to what other people think and how we differ as humans. You might find that there are more similarities among us than differences. The cultures of the world can always shock you!