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

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to girl power, who does it better than the Girl Scouts? We’re huge fans of this empowering organization, especially because the Girl Scouts encourages learning, adventure, fun, friends, and dreaming big. We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Stefanie Ellis, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington‘s Public Relations Director.

Stefanie is energetic, enthusiastic, and a lot of fun to talk to. Her career came about at a completely unexpected moment, but it turns out life throws curveballs at you and teaches you new things about yourself. Originally attending pastry school in London, Stefanie knew this wasn’t the career for her as soon as she saw a job listing as a writing specialist for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Stefanie is very inspiring and optimistic, and we couldn’t be more excited to share her story with you.

Fun fact: the above photo is of Stephanie (right) with the country’s oldest living Girl Scout, Emma Otis.

Name: Stefanie Ellis
Education: B.A. in English with Secondary Certification from University of Missouri-Saint Louis
Follow: girlscoutsww.org / 52lovestories.com@stlfoodgirl
Location: Seattle, Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Stefanie Ellis: I define it as living in the present moment and being very clear about who you are and what you want. Taking time to enjoy the challenges as well as the successes, and not letting either hold too much weight. It’s all about the journey.

It’s about trying, falling – maybe even tripping and ending up on your face – and then getting  back up. It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pressure or stereotypes and doing the things that matter to you. I also firmly believe that seizing your youth never stops just because you age. I’m still seizing my youth this very moment, and I don’t plan to stop!

CJ: What sparked your passion for public relations?

SE: I never set out be in public relations. In fact, I was pretty darned shy most of my life, and tended toward careers where I could play it safe behind-the-scenes. I’ve been a food writer for 15 years, and when I turned 30, decided to go to pastry school in London. I thought that’s where my life was headed, but I was diagnosed pre-diabetic three days before I left so I couldn’t eat any of the pastries.

I came home to Saint Louis and questioned what I was going to do with my life. I saw a job listing for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington as a writing specialist. Instantly pastry-making flew out the window and I knew that this was my job. I moved to Seattle and was a writing specialist for a few years, but then one day we had a big event for 7,000 girls, and I was doing all the marketing for the event.

The CEO came up to me and told me that we had been invited on the news to talk about it, and said they chose me to go. I laughed and politely declined. She asked why I was declining, and I told her I was shy. She told me I wasn’t. I politely thanked her again and told her that I know who I am. She said, “I challenge you to look again. I think that the woman who you really are isn’t necessarily the woman who you think you are.”

I agreed to go on TV thinking that if I embarrassed myself she would never ask me to go again. Turns out, I was pretty good. I would never have discovered that had someone not invited me to challenge my own perceptions. That basically was the changing point for my whole life. Shortly thereafter, the public relations person moved and I was invited to give the position a shot. That was nearly four years ago and I have had to stretch myself in ways I never thought I would.

I had to get over a lot of perceptions I had about myself and my abilities. I have been able to change my thinking, which is exactly the point of Girl Scouts. It allows you to stretch beyond who you thought you were and step into who you really are, while building a comfort level along the way. You get to choose how you’re going to share your gifts with the world. I owe so much of who I am now to Girl Scouts.

Stefanie 1

CJ: As you mentioned, you went to pastry school (Le Cordon Bleu) in London. What was that experience like ?

SE: When I was in high school and college I waitressed, so I thought I knew what the food profession was like. I have so much more respect who are on their feet 18 hours a day, pouring their heart and soul into something for someone else. I learned about the art of creation. For me that happens to be food. I look at art very differently in the museum now.

It was an amazing experience because there were people from all around the world in one place. Everyone had to learn how to work together. I never cut my fingers more in my entire life. Those knives are so dangerous, and I never mastered the art of looking graceful while wielding a finger-cutting weapon!

CJ: What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

SE: I believe everyone has a voice and sometimes young people don’t think they are allowed to use it, which is unfortunate to me. Organizations like Girl Scouts help young people see that they have a voice and gives them so many opportunities to practice using it. I didn’t find my voice until my thirties, but I spend my days watching everyone from age six to 18 develop skills, talents, find their strengths, and become empowered. They are the ones who will be leading us into the future, and we have a responsibility to nurture and support them in their journey.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of public relations?

SE: Talk to everybody everywhere you go. Even if it’s at the grocery store or in the aisle of a hardware store. Ask questions and make observations. Practice active communication. Communicating is something we’re born knowing how to do but not necessarily a skill that we develop, especially now with texting and social media. I truly believe these things can be a detriment to our ability to form and nurture relationships. I straddle both worlds, but prefer to live on the side where people actually sit across from each other and look one another in the eyes. I see so many people eating dinner together, but texting. We can’t lose conversation! We can’t lose real and meaningful relationship building. This isn’t just about PR – it’s about connection. I also believe these natural practices will dramatically influence how effective you’ll be in your career.

Stefanie 4

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

SE: An unexpectedly amazing part of my job that I don’t think I’d experience if I did not work where I work happened when I accidentally ran into Dave Matthews at the gym. My co-worker and I had been trying to figure out how we could incorporate him into our campaigns for years. When I ran into him I was unprepared, and knew I only had 15 seconds to ask him something!

I walked up to him and said, “Hey Dave, can I ask you a question?” And he said, “Yeah, sure!” And I said, “Would you ever consider dressing up as a Girl Scout Cookie?” He said, “I can honestly say that’s never been a dream of mine, but I love making people’s dreams come true, so I’ll think about it. Can I ask why you asked me that?” I was so caught off guard that I forgot to tell him where I worked! When I told him, he just smiled and said it made a lot more sense now. I love that I have a job where I can ask people silly things. I love that I can bring people cookies, and use my creative mind to dream up things that make people smile.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

SE: There’s no typical day in my job, which is what I love most about it. I might go on TV to talk about cookies; work on organizational campaigns and initiatives; build partnerships and collaborative opportunities with folks in the community who share our mission; pitch media stories about amazing things girls are doing; interview Girl Scout alumnae for our Awesome Woman series; write scripts, and coach girl speakers at our luncheons or give talks about Girl Scouts. Sometimes I dress up in a cookie costume just because it’s a Tuesday.

CJ: Leadership skills training is an important focus in the Girl Scouts – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

SE: Join groups that focus on topics you’re interested in, and volunteer to have a lead or supervisory role. Talk to everyone. Watch the people who are heading things up, and see what they do. Make note of what you like and don’t like about their style. Same goes for when you’re in the work force. Watch people around you. See who inspires you the most, and take notes! Better yet, ask to interview them or go for coffee, and ask them for pointers and guidance for how you might get to a similar place in your own career.

The best things I learned about leadership came from my bosses. They were my best mentors. I loved how they were clearly in control, but never made big decisions without group input. They were fair and open. They wanted to see me succeed, so they asked me how they could help me reach my goals. It was amazing. All I had to do was watch and absorb. Then I learned how to be the kind of leader I admired, while sticking to my own personal style. That’s maybe the most important part: Don’t ever give up who you are! Just pepper who you are with awesome bits and pieces from those around you.

Stefanie 5

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

SE: For me it’s not to take anything personally. That’s one of the most difficult but simple things for most of us. I’m working on it one day at a time. In this line of work, you ask people a lot of things. I don’t believe that any dream is too big, so I ask everything. You ask and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes you get attached to an idea and it’s a bummer when it doesn’t work out. Who knows why someone doesn’t agree to do something? It could be for a number of reasons. As long as you try and as long as you ask, you’re golden. If someone says no or doesn’t respond, move on to the next idea.

It never hurts to follow up, though. I always tell younger people to politely bug people they want to talk to. There’s a right and a wrong way. As long as you are kind and gracious and can respect personal boundaries, most people won’t mind. I never mind it. When I’m busy and forget, I appreciate when people remind me.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

SE: I cook and bake. I cook dinner every night no matter how stressed out I am. I eat chocolate. I lay on my couch and call someone I love. I always plan a reward for myself. At the end of cookie sales, for example, I’ll treat myself to a trip somewhere. Or I’ll look forward to my favorite tea when I get home.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

SE: Oprah Winfrey. She is a powerhouse, and she worked very hard and for a long time to get there. She never gave up, and look where that got her. She’s the poster child for tenacity, and I’d want to high five her, then ask her for advice!

CJ: What is your favorite book?

SE: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

SE: Stop worrying! Just go with the flow a lot more. I was and still am ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I worked really hard. But I don’t think I allowed myself enough grace and room to relax and breathe. I was maybe too focused on all the things I needed to do, which really took me away from focusing on the present moment, which is all we have. There’s nothing wrong with having goals or planning for the future, but a lot of times it can take you away from where you are right now. Mellow out a little bit, darling!

Stefanie Ellis Qs

Images by Stefanie Ellis

CultureTech

Social media minions, if you haven’t done so yet, take a second to update your Snapchat.

Snapchat has become a legendary app. It encompasses everything involving sharing bits and pieces of your day with your friends and followers. Organizations have partnered with Snapchat to promote their events through a live feed, and this platform has essentially moved the spotlight from teenagers sending each other random photos, to involving companies creating corporate business deals. It has, in a sense, become revolutionary – it has forced companies and event planners to take a step back and promote their brand through a new medium.

Personally, Snapchat has taken part in my life since its early days. This is the application where I just may send my best friend selfies looking like a sleep-deprived- coffee-binging-alien as I study, holding a large coffee beside my colossal marketing textbook, or smiling through my cucumber green-facial mask-smothered face. It’s where I will send you snaps of scrumptious meals, fabulous weather, and must-go-to-events.

This is also the application where I have to plug my iPhone into my speakers in order to send you a selfie video of me singing to a song that I do not come close to qualifying as a worthy cover artist.

As may know, Snapchat has just released the latest version of the app on February 18, 2015.The new update has left users in a pool of joy – including me. Users can now let their smartphone play music from iTunes, Spotify, and Sound Cloud while recording videos. Before this update users had to use Mindie, an application that allowed music to play simultaneously. Snapchat shutdown Mindie just before the release of this new update. Extra efforts are no longer necessary for vivid video snaps.

I think their latest update, 9.2.0, puts into function a feature that should have been installed as a part of the app from the beginning. However, apparently this feature wasn’t on everyone’s mind. Instagram, Vine, and iPhone’s default camera also neglected to include music playing while recording. I applaud Snapchat for steering themselves ahead of the game. As for “bug fixes and improvements to make Snapchat faster” thanks Snapchat, those are always welcome, too.

I’m excited about this new update – it not only satisfies the demands of current users but it also makes social media life easier. In addition to their latest feature, I can’t neglect to mention the highly talked about “discover” feature. This was last month’s update which – I’m sure you’ve heard by now, is a screen of twelve media icons that serve as news platforms in that particular sector be it fashion, food, travel, sports, politics, etc. These editions or stories are available to the user for 24 hours and they come in multiple mediums like video, text, and photo to fully engage the viewer. Perhaps this is a great way to create a sort of liaison between a disengaged younger audience and paying more attention to the news.

Do you think that Snapchat hit or miss, here? Sometimes I wonder whether or not companies should stick to what they know. It’s interesting to recognize interest in expansion and the implementation of ideas, but I don’t know if I can see Snapchat as a news provider. Personally, I prefer sticking to more traditional resources. What are your thoughts?

Image: Pexels

EducationSkills

Hi, my name is Raven and I don’t delete old emails. This is embarrassing to admit, but I still have emails from freshman year of college. I’m a junior now, which means that I still have almost every email I have received since 2012. I am not going to tell you the exact number but I will say that if I could somehow transform my emails into currency, I’d have a lot of money.

I don’t know why I struggle with deleting emails after I read them. I do, however, know that I am not the only person who needs to do some spring cleaning on their inbox. I could continue to let the emails accumulate and see how much I’ll have senior year before I graduate. But I know that’s not a good idea, especially since checking my email will be become more tedious than it has to be.

This is one of the reasons why going back to delete old emails is so important. If you’re like me and get at least twenty emails per day, you don’t want to be overwhelmed by all of the unread messages you have. When just looking at all of the emails I have begins to overwhelm me, I tend to not look at all of them, which isn’t good because it’s easier to overlook something important that way. I get a few emails in and then I decide to go do something else because my brain feels like it’s going to explode from staring at the screen for so long.

I know that this is not a good thing to do, which is why I suggest setting aside some time and dedicate it to doing some inbox cleaning. Even though you might not want to, take the time to look through any unread email, delete the ones you don’t read and organize the ones you do need into folders. I know this sounds like a pain, but once you do this checking your email will cease being so scary.

Old habits can become hard to break if you don’t stop the cycle. You don’t want to enter into the workforce or even continue through your college career without organizing your inbox and making sure it isn’t too cluttered. Having an inbox with over four thousand emails both read and unread will become the norm if you don’t try to break the habit of letting your emails accumulate.

The importance of cleaning out your inbox goes beyond eliminating the stress that comes with checking your email; it is also a good way to stay on top of the things you need to do. I know that I am not the only one with a messy inbox, so I hope that those of you who are reading this will think about the importance of deleting old unnecessary emails. Once you’re through with the entire process, it will feel like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Maybe that’s not even close to what you’ll feel but having a neat and orderly inbox will make a life a lot easier.

And when you’re in college, easy is always a good thing.

So what are you waiting for? Go clean out that inbox!

Image: PicJumbo

CultureHealthSkills

The first thing I do when I get online is go straight to Facebook. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m doing it. Next thing I know, I’m scrolling through my news feed clicking on links, reading statuses, and commenting on pictures. That entire process seems to take up a good chunk of my time. Why? Because the Internet is a black hole. It sucks away our life and we’re not even aware of it, until we shut down our laptops or tablets and look up to find that time passed us by while we read the latest celebrity gossip or watched the latest episode of our favorite TV show.

While the Internet can be an extremely wonderful place, the outside world has so much to offer. Don’t spend your entire break from school online because if you do, you will have missed out on your chance to get some fresh air or spend time with your family and friends.

I know what I’m about to say might be hard for some of you to do. This is why, before I put in my request, I just want to remind everyone that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest will still be here tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. Spending a few days away from social media and the Internet, in general, won’t make it to disappear into the cyberverse forever. That said (after you finish reading this article of of course), I want everyone to close out of their Internet browsers and shut down every electronic device. Those are two simple steps but it might prove to be really hard for some, especially if you’re the kind of person who loves to stay connected at all times.

I am that kind of person too. I like being able to read what’s going on in other countries and, guiltily, what’s going on in the lives of celebrities I like. But, at the end of the day, I make sure to remember my own life. I am young. I still have a lot to explore and a lot to experience. I can’t do any exploring or memory making if I am always sitting in front of a computer screen.

And neither can you.

Get out there! The world is your playground. If you can’t travel to far off places just yet, take a walk around your neighborhood. Check out that store you haven’t gone in yet or maybe try the new coffee shop that just opened. Call up a few of your friends and go see a movie. Do something that doesn’t involve the Internet or social media. Unplugging is seriously one of the best ways you can seize your life because, whether you remember it or not, there was a time when we didn’t have laptops and smartphones and tablets. When we were kids, we still were able to find ways to entertain ourselves that didn’t involve the latest app or Twitter.

Pick up a book from the library, rock out to your favorite song,  and maybe help around the house or clean your room. Do something that doesn’t involve plugging in to the Internet. Do anything that will allow you to seize your youth because you don’t want to look up one day and realize that you didn’t seize every moment of your life. This moment in our lives have the potential to be the greatest. All you have to do is get out there and do more with your time than just stare at a screen. I know unplugging isn’t exactly an easy thing to do, but once you do it I promise you won’t regret it.

Image: Nomadic Lass

Culture

It’s the time of year where we say our thanks to the things we’ve taken for granted, and being without a phone for the second time this semester has caused me to realize all the things I’m truly thankful for when it comes to my phone. Being without a phone has made me acknowledge not only the many things I take for granted regarding my phone, but also the things that having a phone has caused me to take for granted. Here are some things I’ve become thankful for that may just influence you to put your phone down for a couple of hours this holiday season.

1. Reminders

I’m always busy, and with being busy comes needing a way to stay organized and on top of things. My phone has all of my alarms, appointments, birthdays, and random notes in it in order to keep my daily life together. Being without it has definitely made me thankful for my little partner in crime!

2. Email

After missing out on the email for my 8:30am class being cancelled and getting up and lugging myself to class, I have definitely taken having access to email on my phone for granted. Being able to have my email on my phone allows me to check it straight when I get up; along with any cancellations that go with it!

3. Social Media

Not being able to Instagram on the daily may or may not be causing me to have withdrawals. Social media helps me keep in touch with my friends at school, as well as my friends and family at home. Being without easy access to all my social media sites has made it a lot more difficult for me to stay up-to-date on everyone’s lives.

4. Nature

Though being without a phone has given me my share of hardships, it has also helped me to realize how beautiful my campus truly is. Instead of scrolling through my feeds while walking to class, instead I look around and notice the beautiful flowers, trees, and architecture that I so easily took for granted.

5. Friends

My relationships with those who are my true friends, as well as my family, clearly deepened without a phone involved. It brought back emailing and direct messaging on Twitter, which although may be annoying, shows me who my true friends are when having to make an effort. It has also pushed me to spend more time talking to my friends and family face-to-face rather than texting them 24/7. Not having a phone has allowed me to be more social and have better relationships in general.

Though having a phone is a great thing that many of us take for granted, it’s also important to acknowledge the little things that we overlook when we’re absorbed in our screens.

Image: Jonathan Velasquez

Culture

These days, Thanksgiving is known for its big meal and is otherwise swallowed up by the rest of the holiday season. However, when we think of it like that, we miss a lot of joy that comes from the holiday itself. It is a day that brings family and friends together and makes them take stock of the goodness in their lives. Everyone has their own role to play in this. Even if Thanksgiving is not your favorite holiday, it has values you can celebrate all year long.

1. The holiday motivates us to keep in touch.

With social media, it’s easy to see what your loved ones are up to throughout the year, but it’s hard to make plans to see each other. People really make the effort to be together on holidays but you don’t need a holiday as an excuse to get together. When you miss someone you love, make a plan to see them. I know work and school can be hectic. However, in the last year, I’ve made the effort to spend more time with my extended family and I’m grateful for it. We know each other in a new way now and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

2. Thanksgiving allows you to forge a bond through food.

We all know everyone has to eat. Thanksgiving is a food holiday, but also one steeped in tradition. People work together in their kitchens to keep old traditions alive or create some new concoction. I love to eat and to cook. Throughout my childhood, I was a last minute helper. I had to contribute in my own small way. Now that I am adult, I do most of the cooking myself. On Thanksgiving, preparing food is not just cooking, it is carrying on tradition. Everyone contributes to the meal. We are brought up on recipes that we learn to make ourselves. It’s a group bonding activity that does not have to be one day of the year. I frequently help my family cook. It takes away some of the work after a long day. Take some time throughout the year to share recipes with others or to cook together. It is a fun way to pass the time with people you care about.

3. Thanksgiving is one of the biggest volunteering days of the year.

Remembering what we have now reminds us to help others less fortunate. A lot of charities put out food for families and the ill on this holiday but people need to eat all year round. Why wait to volunteer one day of the year? There are many worthy causes looking for help during the year. Try one.

4. Think about what you are thankful for.

We are in the ‘now generation.’ We tweet, Instagram, and Facebook to talk about what we are doing in the moment. Most of the time, it’s important to keep moving forward and be present. That said, it does not hurt to realize all that you have going for you. It also never hurts to remember all the people in your life who make your life better. Let them know what they do for you. Again, this doesn’t have to happen one day of the year. When you appreciate someone in your life, tell him or her.

Holidays are a time to celebrate events that happen year after year. However, we don’t have to only bring out these values one day of the year. We can get closer to our loved ones, work together, give back, and appreciate all that life has to offer. All you have to do is remember to try. I told you some ways that I celebrate. Think of how you want to contribute this year.

What Thanksgiving lessons do you implement throughout the year? Share in the comments below or tweet to us!

Image: Lee

CultureSkills

“Hey, how are you?”
“Alright! You?”
“Doing well, thanks.”
“Good to hear.”

And cue the curtain call. That’s it, that’s how we talk to each other. While the pressures of getting to class or work on time makes this sort of interaction necessary, let’s pause to think of what this does to our overall engagement with one another. Allow me to preface by saying I am an avid small talker and do see the value of passing conversation. It lightens the mood and provides much needed person-to-person acknowledgement. To surpass the surface, however, we need to recognize the times where we can switch the banter with deep dialogue.

Fig. 1 Everyone loves an iceberg metaphor

deep 1

The usual conversation involves skimming through topics I like to call “skimterests,” ideas that only scratch the surface of getting to know someone. The current climate, who wore what and when, or perhaps some car trouble you had on the way to a meeting, are all so very skimteresting. We sometimes avoid heavier topics in an effort to save the other person from discomfort. It has become a common courtesy to not engage in sensitive issues but as emerging adults, let’s realize that we should not always mask our discussions. What we lose by doing this are genuine moments with those around us. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Don’t just break the ice, melt it (and get to the bottom of the iceberg).

Fig. 2

deep 2

Finding common ground is a valuable place to start when having a conversation, but it should not be the sole subject. It is easy to talk about similarities because you feel secure and understood, but complexity begins when you shift your focus on what makes the other person unique. That is when you delve into the various life events and perspectives that have shaped them into the person they are.

 Fig. 3

deep 3

Digging deeper requires you to invest two things into the other person:

  1. Time spent asking open-ended questions
  2. Verbal and non-verbal marks of interest

Ask questions that don’t end with just a yes or no. Go for the “Why’s” and “How’s” when asking why a certain life path was chosen or how they feel about their relationships. Showing interest is key to conversation continuity and can be done with simple words of affirmation, attentive eye contact, and nods of recognition. People can gauge one another when speaking, intermittently checking if what they’re saying is actually being heard. Listen, process, and have specific follow-ups. The goal now is to widen your knowledge of the other person without feeling pressured to respond with a similar story in efforts to relate. Everyone has something intriguing about them and each conversation is a scavenger hunt to figure it out!

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Describe three things you could add to your life that would make you happier. What about three things you could do without?
  • How would you describe your personality? How is that different than how your family, partner, or friends would describe you?
  • If you had to make up a life motto right now, what would it be and why?

Don’t worry about the back-and-forth. There is no required word count or rule that says two people must talk equally to have an effective conversation. You don’t need to always say something to fill in the gaps. Appreciate silence as a significant facet of conversation. It allows people to ponder their responses, especially those who need more time to process thoughts before speaking comfortably.

Paraphrasing is powerful. Respond with what you have gathered from the other person. This not only shows that you listened but that you care about having an accurate idea of their point. Having positive remarks after someone shares something personal will also help create a safe space for dialogue. Validation is the pillow of conversation, it make things comfortable.

Water it with time. Really getting to know someone is an ongoing process. The best relationships form from a progression of conversations, keeping in touch with others, and remembering what they have to say. If you have time in your day, think about how you can make the “How are you?” turn into something a lot more meaningful.

Images: Sunshine and Marian Bagamaspad

EducationSkills

Last week I talked a little bit about building your brand and how to do it. Even if you’re still trying to figure out how to market yourself, the best time to make a LinkedIn profile is now. Think of it as your lemonade stand where you can set up all of the ingredients you need to be the best lemonade stand you can be. Okay, maybe, that isn’t the best analogy in the world, but the point is that in order to get people to buy what you are selling, you have to let employers know that you are on the market.

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or in college. There is an internship out there waiting for you and you’re only a LinkedIn profile away from finding it. Don’t waste anymore time; if you don’t already have an account, sign up! It doesn’t hurt to have another social media outlet. Don’t panic if you’re not sure where to start. I’m here to help!

While I was building my profile, I did a lot of research on how to make my profile look as professional as possible. You don’t have to read countless articles on how to make a good LinkedIn profile – here are the 10 things that you should include:

1. Professional photo: LinkedIn may be like Facebook in the sense that it connects you with other people, but that doesn’t mean the profile picture you use for Facebook (the one where you’re making silly faces with your friends) should be the same one you put on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is like the more conservative cousin of Facebook. Whereas Facebook is for personal usage (though this doesn’t mean you should post anything and everything), LinkedIn is the Internet’s door to the professional world; a place where recruiters from different companies look at the profiles of students just like you.

Keeping that in mind, don’t let their first impression of you be a picture of you sticking a finger up your nose. Instead, use a headshot that has a plain background. If you’re like me and can’t afford to have a professional photo taken at the moment, take the picture yourself with your phone or camera in front of a white wall. Or, use an old picture and use Paint (or any equivalent program) to cut yourself out of the original photo and paste it on a white background. The second choice is really time consuming, but is ultimately can be a good option for the time being.

2. Summary: This is the section where you talk about yourself. You don’t have to share your entire life story, but it may be good to talk about your college major or write a paragraph about what your future goals are. You can also mention your purpose for making a LinkedIn profile, i.e.  to find an internship in [insert field]. Remember to keep the summary brief since recruiters won’t spend an hour on your profile. You want them to get past the summary and onto the good stuff, such as your work experience and courses that you have taken.

3. Collegiate/high school experience: The four years you spend in high school and in college tell a story. Whether you participated in after-school programs or in clubs, it doesn’t matter. Document it all! If you held any leadership positions, that is especially great.  These are the kinds of things you should put on your LinkedIn profile to let everyone know that high school and college isn’t just about the academics for you. Don’t forget to list all of the relevant courses you have taken so far. This means any business, language, major, etc. classes you have under your belt. Displaying a sample of your work (i.e project, paper, etc.) in this section might also be a great idea. Or, if you don’t want to do that, make an online portfolio and link it to your profile. That way you can have a separate space for all of your work.

4. Skills: We are all good at something, whether it’s having great written communications skills or being good at building websites. There is an employer out there looking for someone with your expertise, so make sure you list the things that you have excelled in. If you can get endorsements (people who can attest that you possess said skills), then that’s even better! The more endorsements, the better. Try not to have more than ten skills on your profile though. Only list the ones that are important and the ones that you think will make you stand out from the crowd.

5. Awards: Are you the student who gets good grades or is a star athlete? Good for you! List all of your accomplishments in the awards section. Let people know that you have rewards as proof for outstanding work.

6. Headline: A headline on LinkedIn is like the headline of a newspaper article. It’s the attention grabber; it’s your chance to send out flares to recruiters so that they can find you more easily. You can constantly change your headline to fit your liking, but if you’re not sure what to put there, start off with ‘Student at [insert school].’ or ‘Intern at [insert company]’. If you don’t have an internship and would like one, try using ‘Aspiring [insert profession] seeking an internship in [insert job/field].’ You could use a combination of the three, just play around with it and look at other profiles to help and inspire you.

7. Contact info: You don’t have to provide your phone number (and I advise against putting your phone number online) but what you can do is put your email address on LinkedIn. This way, recruiters or anyone who is interested can contact you through email. LinkedIn may be a professional site, but you always want to be careful with who you give your information to.

8. Groups/companies/universities: The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can join groups that fit your career interests. LinkedIn groups, once you become a member of them, give you access to thousands of people that otherwise wouldn’t show up in the ‘People You May Know’ section. Getting involved in discussions will get you noticed, and you may even learn valuable lessons from professionals that you aren’t connected with. Also, ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ the companies that you would want to intern for or possibly work for in the future. If you want to go college or graduate school, ‘Follow’ your dream universities to stay on top of what’s going on.

9. Connections: Make sure to only add people you know. If you do get those few random invitations, make sure to check out their profiles first before you add them. It’s good to have a lot of connections, but it’s not good if you don’t know your connections. That said, connect with professors, teachers, old friends, family members, people you’ve worked with, etc. Sometimes it’s not about what you know but WHO you know. Keep that in mind as you navigate the networking realm.

10. Alumni tool: LinkedIn has become more accessible to college and high school students alike in recent years, especially with the addition of the alumni tool. Here you can see what people who graduated from your university (or your dream university) went on to do with their degrees. You can also look at their profiles for tips on how to structure your own. If you have any specific questions, you can message them. I love the alumni tool and it’s certainly something you should check out if you’re new to LinkedIn. Go to ‘Connections’ and click on ‘Find Alumni’ to access that tool, and for more information on a particular university, go to ‘Interests’ and click ‘Education.’ Both of these can be found at that top of the page.

I hope that this list was helpful to those of you new LinkedIn users who don’t know where to start. I don’t want to tell you how your profile should look because not one profile should look the same. I do, however, want to give you a sturdy foundation to build your profile upon. Just remember that you don’t have to get it ‘right’ the first time. You can always edit your profile to your liking. With that said, make sure to keep it updated. If you get a new job, update your experiences on your LinkedIn profile. Or if you’re unemployed but you have an internship or are involved in a club, let it be known that you are staying busy even if it’s not a job. Also, if you haven’t participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, internships, or jobs, don’t let that discourage you from not making a LinkedIn profile. Maybe that blank profile can be what motivates you to get more involved. Who knows?! Just don’t wait to create your profile because you won’t know how successful your lemonade stand will be until you build it.

Image: Esther Vargas, Flickr

CollegeEducationHigh SchoolInspiration

The transition from college to high school is a weird time. Not only are you getting ready to embark on a new journey in your life, but you might be going on a journey that is different from your friend – some of whom may decide to go to a different university, take a year off to travel, or maybe they don’t see themselves continuing with their education. Whatever their choice ends up being, it will usually end up being different from the one you make.

That is a hard realization to come to, and for many of you, you are already trying to navigate your collegiate experience without the people you have spent four years (or more, if you knew them before high school) of your life with. Luckily, we live in a society where technology has advanced and we don’t have to rely on writing letters to communicate with someone. So, if you’re missing your friends, you can always video chat with them or send them a text.

As it gets to be later in the semester, this line of communication may be hard to keep up, especially once you start getting involved with activities and get bombarded with various assignments. You might even make new friends that share the same interests or are taking the same courses you’re taking.

It’s never easy to talk about ‘letting someone go,’ especially if you’ve known them for a long time. This is not to say that it is impossible to stay friends with the people you went to high school with when you’re in college. Many people are able to keep the friendship intact, which is always a great thing. But if you and your friend(s) grow distant over time, that’s okay too.

We grow up a little each day, and sometimes when that happens, we become different people. The jokes we used to make with our friends might not seem as funny as they used to. Our definitions of fun changes and we just grow away from the people we used to be close to. When I was in ninth grade, I thought the people I befriended would be my friends forever. While we still message each other on Facebook from time to time, we don’t have the bond that we use to have. That is partly because none of us are the same people we were when we were in high school. This might apply to many of you because you just started your first semester of college. I think it’s important to talk about this now because no one told me that I wouldn’t have the same friends after I graduated from high school and went to college. No one told me that the people I sat with at lunch for four years would become strangers.

This might not happen to you but if it does, don’t worry about it. When I say ‘let someone go,’ I don’t mean that you should close them out of your life forever. It’s just that if a friendship has run its course, let it run its course. Some people are in your life for seasons, and others, especially the ones you meet in college, may become your lifetime friends. It’s up to you to decide who those people will be.

On the other hand, you might have had friends who partied a lot and participated in things they shouldn’t have participated in while they were in high school. If you were the kid who hung out with that crowd, it’s up to you to make the decision on whether you still want to keep those kind of people in your life. People can tell a lot about the kind of person you are based on the people you associate with. You might see or understand the importance of choosing your friends carefully right now but, trust me, as time goes on you’ll begin to understand why people don’t always keep in contact with their friends from high school or why people change in the first place.

It’s up to you to decide whether someone will benefit your life in any way, or if the person you used to get into trouble with when you were in high school will keep you from reaching your full potential and having the best collegiate journey you could possibly have. I’m not saying that you can’t be friends with the girl you used to party with a lot or the guy who used to do crazy pranks. It’s just that if they’re still the same way and aren’t going in the same direction you’re going, you don’t have to cut them off completely, you just have to distance yourself from them so you have room to grow and to become the person that you want to be.

College will change you and your life. Whether for good or for bad, that is entirely your decision. Just make sure you have the right people in your life because part of what changes you is the people you associate yourself with. You’re not going to be the same person you were in high school, so don’t be afraid if your friends aren’t the same either.

Image: morguefile

Skills

We’ve all got to face the facts. We live in a world where we cannot escape the constant buzzing and humming of phones, televisions, and computers. We may think that we control this technology, but how much influence do all of these devices have on our lives? Let’s take a quick test to find out. Answer the following the questions in the most honest manner, choosing the one you would most likely relate to:

tech table

Now, if most of your answers are A, you’re a little too dependent on technology. If most of your answers were B, you’re not dependent on technological gadgets to get your work done, and you’re self-reliant and you’re willing to talk to other people directly, without a medium of an electronic thingamajig.

In all honestly, I answered mostly B, and I’m happy about that because I abhor being dependent upon anything. But what if I were to answer mostly A? Would I need some sort of “digital detox?” Perhaps I would. Surely enough, technology is very important. I should point out here that without technology, man obviously would not have come thus far in civilization. Not to mention, technology has been around since humans have been around—tools such as wheels, spears, and maybe even fire are examples of innovations man has come up with to make human life easier and bearable. We do not recognize technology and all the forms it comes in immediately, but it does loom in every corner, trying to simplify and automate our lives every moment of the way.

I often catch myself admiring my elders who got their schoolwork done without the help of the Internet. I mean, how did they do it, after all? Our generation is so dependent upon the Internet for almost every single purpose in life: education, entertainment, networking, etc. The possibilities are endless with the Internet. Also, with living in a technologically developed country such as America, Internet access is replete. We go into malls, coffee shops, schools, and offices and receive the instant gratification of Internet connectivity. I’ve almost come to think “How can we survive without the Internet?” The web is just such an integral part of our lives now. I feel like people our age have almost become far too dependent on it, and maybe it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate our life decisions.

We do not need electronic gadgets to solve every single one of our problems. Maybe it’s time to start using other people for advice, books for knowledge, and the outdoors for relaxing. We need to get away from these digital screens that we are glued to and realize that there’s so much more to our lives, and we cannot waste our precious time in front of a synthetic screen with dancing figures.

Before you get me wrong, I am definitely and undoubtedly an avid user of technological products. I use my laptop to get most of my schoolwork and financing done, my phone to look up directions and text my friends, and my television to watch Pretty Little Liars and Discovery Channel. Technology such as this plays a pivotal role in my life. I am certainly not trying to bash technological inventions or those who routinely use them.

However, I have the simultaneous feeling that I waste each minute I spend in front of a computer or television. I feel I could better use my time…I could go outside and take a walk, read a book on my swing, or be volunteering in a local shelter. I have this perpetual fear that I am not going to get all my work done or my dreams accomplished each time I sit down in front of a screen. I want to travel around the world, meet new people, and try new cuisines.

What’s the point of having friends, an education, or even a backyard if you cannot use it, since you’re too busy staring at a pixellated surface? What are we if we do not utilize our knowledge and spend time with the people around us? What if we aren’t grasping all the opportunities which are present to us because we’re capsized by some electronic device?

The only advice and plea of freedom I can proffer is to step away from these gadgets, and maybe be artistic, passionate, athletic, or focused on other areas of life. Technology will not solve our problems, only we can. Perhaps it’s time to start doing that. Let’s not be a lame generation that always stares at our phone screens…let’s be exciting. Let’s innovate. Let’s capture every ounce of our youth and turn it into something special. After you’re done reading this on your computer or phone screen, what are you going to do?

Image: Symo0, Flickr 

EducationSkills

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

As someone who has both led and been led, I have found this quote to be true in every situation.

The thing is, many leaders believe their job is to “tell” their team what to do, and to create and stick to their vision.

While it is important as a leader to have a strong vision and communicate it clearly, it is also important to keep open ears and an open mind, allowing team members to creatively and collaboratively contribute their own thoughts to the group vision. Inflexibly telling everyone what to do is a waste of the unique mind power each team member possesses.

Instead, I’ve compiled, from my experiences, six ways to ensure open communication and creative collaboration, and they’re pretty easy:

1. Make your team a communication “safe space.”

Be sure to actively listen, encouraging input and questions. This means showing appreciation for ideas, even when they aren’t great. This will keep team members unafraid to contribute potentially stellar ideas and ask important questions. Never talk at, always talk with. Remember, your leadership position should never have you on a pedestal.

I was training as a host at a restaurant. During a weekend night when we were absolutely slammed, the manager welcomed all of my questions. Because of that, the next night when we were even busier, I was able to handle the finicky crowd gracefully on my own, much more so than if I’d been afraid to ask her questions in the moment the night before. As a result, she was able to pick up the slack for a brand new server, keeping the customers much happier. Be patient and welcome all communication from your group, even if you’re stressed. It will pay off.

2. Provide continuous feedback (positively).

Show your team members you hear them and see what they’re accomplishing. Sometimes, people can be blind to our own strengths. Pointing them out can give members the confidence to take those strengths and run (a win for you). Be sure to also share things you expect them to improve, letting them know you believe they can do it and providing suggestions as to how they can.

I worked at a PR agency under a great CEO. When I got strong media placement results, he would take the time to stop by my desk and let me know he saw I’d been getting good results that week, and to keep it up. It kept me intrinsically motivated to keep improving my results.

3. Ask for your own feedback.

Good leaders must not be afraid to hear criticism. Anonymous surveys are good for receiving candid answers about this. Ask questions that will lead to honest and productive answers.

Honestly taking feedback into consideration creates a level of trust and mutual respect between you and your team. It also allows you to improve yourself as a leader and a person.

The best professor I’ve ever had checked in several times throughout the semester with anonymous surveys, and also asked for feedback on the fly if he felt something was off. He used it to improve his teaching methods, resulting in higher student test scores and retained knowledge.

4. Hold everyone accountable (yourself included).

When people are assigned tasks, tell them their deadlines and when you will check in with them. Then, do it by asking about their current progress and next steps. I’ve liked doing this via email and during team meetings. Just be sure everyone knows they’ll be asked about it during meetings so they don’t feel put on the spot, and can address concerns with you beforehand.

Update everyone on your own activity, too, so that they also know you’re all in it together. Set examples by meeting your own deadlines.

As the director of my university’s Children’s Miracle Network dance marathon, I often met one on one with team members to discuss individual progress and determine where we could tweak or add things. I created Google docs with each member’s proposed timeline, which we edited together as the year progressed. I also set aside about five minutes to begin our meetings by providing updates on my own activity. It kept us on track in exceeding our main goals.

5. Remember your team members are humans.

This sounds obvious, but it’s important; people will make mistakes. They’ll encounter personal roadblocks that drain them. Be sure to show interest in these things. If someone’s performance has dropped, don’t assume anything. Ask if they’re ok and listen to their concerns. Be sure also to recognize what motivates or discourages your teammates individually, as different people respond to different things in different ways.

In high school, my basketball coaches saw I’d been playing poorly for several games in a row. Instead of getting harder on me, they pulled me into their office after practice to ask me what was going on. They came to find out a personal stressor had been weighing me down; they showed their constant support and understanding. I was back to normal within a few games. They recognized that, while other teammates responded better to tougher love, I responded well to more gentle feedback.

6. No micro-managing!

Offer your help and provide advice, but trust your team to complete their tasks. They may mess up, but it’s better than keeping them from improving and learning. They also may do things their own way, which could turn out to be better than yours!

As the director of our dance marathon, we ran into some roadblocks with corporate sponsorship. We needed about $6,000 in less than two weeks, which my faculty director could have easily secured on her own. Instead, she put the trust in me to do it. I ended up applying for and securing all of the funding and grants we needed, and gained tremendous confidence in the process. She likely had a plan B on hold, but she let me grow and learn through the process.

In the end, your and your teammates’ personal and professional growth should be just as important as the project results. Don’t forget that you’re all teammates, regardless of titles, and that happy people do the best work!

What tips do you have for quality leadership? Any stories about good or bad leaders you’ve encountered?

Image: D I, Flickr

CultureEducationSkills

Haven. Sanctuary. Kingdom. It doesn’t matter what you call your room but, at the end of the day, it’s yours. You can paint the walls any color you want to, put up posters that represent things you like, blast your favorite music, and be as messy as you want to be. That is, if you’re not the kind of person who needs for things to be in a particular order.

The point is, our rooms belong to us and, for the most part, that means we don’t have to share our personal space (I feel sorry for those of you who have to share your room with siblings. I’m an only child). It’s a different story when you get to college, however. Not only will someone else be living a few feet away from you, but that someone will more than likely be a complete stranger.

That pretty much was what freaked me out when I got assigned my roommate. And it didn’t help that I had just watched The Roommate (Note: Do not under any circumstances watch this movie before starting school). After seeing that movie, I kept thinking about what kind of person my roommate would be. Among other things, I was afraid that she wouldn’t like me and that we’d have nothing in common. To be completely honest, I was just extremely nervous about the whole thing.

And I’m sure quite a few of you are too.

Sharing a room with a stranger is not easy but it’s not as hard as you think it is. Sure, you might not have anything in common with your roommate. Sure, you might find being in the same room with them to be extremely awkward the first couple of days. But all of that will pass. You just have to keep in mind that, just like you, your roommate is experiencing college for the first time, too. They probably have the same fears that you have about college and that, in an of itself, can be a good thing.

So why not work to find some common ground? You don’t have to be best friends with that person right away, but the truth about having a roommate is…there’s no avoiding them. It’s impossible to live with someone for eight or nine months and not talk to them. In fact, if you want to have a great relationship with your roommate, the best way to do that is to talk. It can be small talk at first. Ask about where they are from, what they plan on majoring in, what classes they’re taking etc. Chances are they came from a different country (my roommate freshman year was from China) or a city/state you’ve never traveled to. They might even have the same intended major as you or have a similar schedule. It doesn’t matter what questions you decide to ask but it is important that you get to know them. Trust me, it’ll make sharing a room with them a little easier.

Remember what I said about having your own room? Well, your dorm room is technically your personal space but it’s also the personal space of another person. While you can hang up posters and decorate your side of the room the way you want to, keep in mind that you shouldn’t blast music whenever you want to or turn on the TV when you’re roommate is trying to study. That’s not to say that you can’t do any of those things, but another truth about having a roommate is…you’re going to want to set some ground rules. It’s always good to sit down and talk about each other’s likes and dislikes, figure out who’s going to take out the garbage on what days, and if one (or the both of you) are in a relationship, ask if it’s okay to have your boyfriend or girlfriend stay over.

These are the kinds of things you might want to clear with each other if not the day you move in, then in the next few days to the first few weeks of school. If you don’t set some ground rules, then there’s no telling what you both like and dislike. So it’s better to hash that out sooner rather than later. I’ve seen quite a few people, my freshman year, change rooms because of issues with their roommates doing things they didn’t like i.e throwing dirty laundry on the floor. Yeah, if you’re not into that, you have to let your roommate know from the get-go otherwise they’re just going to continue to do it.

This brings me to my next truth about sharing a room with a stranger: if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Talk to your RAs and ask them about how you can go about getting a different roommate. I’m not sure how it works on other campuses but at mine, I know that before ultimately deciding to go through with the change, you have a meeting with your roommate, the RA and a few other people to see if the problem is something that can be resolved. Whatever that process may be, just know that if you have a roommate who doesn’t have good hygiene or is outright rude, you don’t have to put up with it. Having a roommate can and should be a wonderful experience, so don’t settle for a horrible one.

Again, I have only known a few people who have had bad experiences with their roommates so the chances of you getting placed with one are very slim. Just start school with an open mind, talk to your roommate and remember that, while your room is your room, it’s your roommate’s room, too. You can both work together to make your room your haven, your sanctuary, your kingdom.

So, when you find out who your roommate is going to be, why not shoot them an email? It doesn’t have to be a long, overly excited one if you don’t want it to be. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple, “Hi, my name is…”

Don’t be a stranger!

Image: Dormify.com

CultureTravel

I am sitting in a crowded waiting area in the Houston airport when the sheer immensity of what I am doing truly hits. I try to do something – anything – to distract myself. I chew my nails. I stare at the smog and the airplanes out of a window covered in tiny handprints along the lower half. Finally, I take the tiny antique compass my boyfriend presented to me as a parting gift out of my backpack and flip it over and over in my hand as I mentally review my plans.

I’m going to Guatemala. Alone.

My brain immediately abandons its momentary calm to take up its current emotion of choice: wild, unbridled terror and self-doubt.

But why? What do you really expect to gain? What if you get hurt or lost or—

The flight attendant calls my row. I get up.

University is almost synonymous with travel. Almost everyone lucky enough to have funds to spare during college leaves town at some point. Whether through a school exchange, a volunteer opportunity, or even just a newfound proclivity toward North America’s vast abundance of music festivals, college students are constantly in transit. A desire for new experiences coupled with low standards for accommodations and food open student travel up to many opportunities that the average traveller might find rather unattainable. But the one type of travel that a college student might be wary of approaching is solo travel. Just the thought of solo travel is daunting to all but a few herculean souls, and I will be the first to admit that I still think of it that way, even after over two months spent in rural parts of Guatemala.

My first few days in the country are thoroughly overwhelming. Though I have some knowledge of Spanish from previous travels in Latin America, I had never realized how much I relied upon the collective knowledge of my fellow travellers. No one is here to fill in the blanks for me, or to tell me that the butchered sentence I’m constructing is incomprehensible. My destination is very specific – a shelter for stray dogs (an epidemic in Guatemala) in a small town about an hour outside of Antigua – but the directions I have are frustratingly vague. They involve steps such as looking for a specific pedestrian overpass and hiking up dirt roads while keeping an eye out for a set of green metal gates.

When I arrived at Animal AWARE, I was shown to a “casita” (literally, “small house”) where I would live for most of the next two months. The casita consisted of a tiny, narrow, drafty room with two beds, and a bathroom where I took the coldest showers of my life, often standing outside of the water and washing one limb at a time. There were 300 dogs and 80 cats at the shelter at that point, so every open space was taken up with animal enclosures. This meant that the casita itself was bordered by two dog enclosures. The dogs would wake us at quarter to six every morning without fail. Sometimes, during the night, strays from town would sneak onto the property, eliciting an eerie crescendo of howls as they ran past each enclosure. I often felt sorry for the cats trying to lead their quiet lives amid the chaos.

As the weeks went on, I began to get used to my surroundings. Slowly, I came to appreciate the true beauty of solo travel: you’re almost never really alone. Everywhere I looked, people were surprisingly happy to help. The owners of the shelter, Xenii and Martin, often came by the casita to offer me leftover food, bottles of waters, and a constant supply of books. My success in acquiring a cheap cellphone that I could use to call North America was the result of effort on the part of several staff members at AWARE. One particularly impressive 17 year-old girl (also travelling alone) showed me how the convoluted Guatemalan bus system worked. And of course, my family provided immense support along the way, responding to my sporadic communication with tips, advice, and encouragement. Eventually, I came to realize that there are no secrets to travelling alone, just guidelines. Certainly be safe – I was constantly aware that I was travelling in a very dangerous country. But also, importantly, be open – for every person who would do you harm, there are many who are willing to take you into their homes, feed you, give you a bed, and try to help you make the most of your time away from home.

Returning was surreal. I had gotten used to cold showers, abysmal plumbing, and the constant noise of 300 hungry dogs. My little brother seemed to have grown at least a foot in my absence. My bed seemed a hundred times more comfortable than usual, and I was able to finally, finally, have some of Vancouver’s excellent sushi. I was able to look at the rest of my university career with some much-needed clarity, and I finally decided on my major. But most important to me was the confidence my travels inspired – most challenges, when compared to travelling alone, don’t seem quite as impossible.

EducationSkills

Summer will be here before you know it, and soon enough you will be getting ready to start the internship you have worked so hard to secure. Being an intern is awesome when you have opportunities to learn from your bosses, take the lead on projects, and accept important responsibilities. Before the first day of your internship, you might feel worried or anxious about being great and impressing people. You want to show your bosses that you are capable and determined, and that you will help the company succeed. You also want to learn as much as you can and grow both personally and professionally. Everyone has their own unique internship experiences and approach jobs differently. However, through our internships and the advice we’ve heard from others,  there are traits that employers look for in their interns that make them stand out apart from the others.  We like to call these awesome interns rockstars. Be yourself and do the job the way you think is best, but remember that there’s always room to grow and improve. Strive to practice these traits to not only be a rockstar intern, but to also be a better person.

1. Reliable.

Your bosses and co-workers should be able to trust you with projects they assign you. They should know that you will be early or on time, and that you will always follow through with what you say. When you are reliable, you will earn more respect and start getting more responsibilities. A rockstar intern is someone people can count on.

2. Eager to Learn.

Never stop learning. Be excited to learn a new skill or topic, and show your eagerness through energy, focus, and dedication.

3. Collaboration.

It is important to work well with others in an office environment. Work together to share ideas and drive results.

4. Hardworking.

Demonstrate how committed you are to learning and to your career. Roll up your sleeves, do every job asked of you with great care, and always volunteer to help even if something isn’t in your job description.

5. Productive.

Be efficient with your tasks. Think of ways you can be even more productive with your time, and make the most of every minute. Take ownership of your work, your day, and yourself.

6. Dedicated.

Show that you are dedicated to the company and your work by showing up early and being the last to leave. Or show that you are dedicated by bringing new ideas to your boss. When you show that you are thinking about your internship or job outside of work, it demonstrates dedication and forward thinking.

7. Take Initiative.

Be the first one to volunteer to help with something. Bring fresh ideas to your bosses before they have to ask for them. If you see something that can be better, fix it without waiting to be told to do so. Take the lead, take charge.

8. Adaptable.

Don’t be stuck in your ways when it comes to your internship or jobs. Be adaptable to situations that may unexpectedly arise, and handle it with grace. There’s no need to freak out over minor changes. Be flexible.

9. Positive Attitude.

Even when you are having a rough, sluggish, tired day, maintain a positive attitude. Rockstars look on the bright side, and their positive attitudes are infectious.

10. Honest.

Be honest about your workload, what you are accomplishing, and your thoughts. When you are secretive, people can tell. Don’t give anyone a reason to not trust you.

11. Good Communicator.

If you need help with something, ask. Don’t worry about employers questioning why they hired you if you ask for help. That won’t happen. In fact, most people want you to ask for help because they would rather the task be completed correctly rather than you not asking for help and the job being poorly done. Communicate your wins for the week, what you want to do better, and interesting industry-related news you hear or read about. Also, talk about fun things you are doing outside of the office. People won’t know who you are or what’s going on with you if you do not speak up.

12. Fun.

Regardless of whether your internship is twice a week or every day, you spend a lot of time at the office, and people want to be around other fun people. Be friendly, ask people questions about their lives, and have a good time! You don’t have to be the most outgoing person, just don’t hide away all day, do you work, and then leave when work is over. Show people your fun side, work will be awesome, and you will be a rockstar.

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

There aren’t a lot of twenty-one-year-olds who can say that they’ve found their life’s passion. But luckily Carpe had the opportunity to sit down over a plate of pancakes with with somebody who knows exactly what gets them up in the morning. Meet Alex Kummert, currently a Communication student at Saint Mary’s College of California, and comedian at heart and on stage. As a young and upcoming performer, Alex had a lot to share with us about mixing pursuit with practicality and never giving up on a good thing. From his first 2011 TedX talk to an ongoing Podcast he shares with his Grandma, Alex inspires us to get up off the couch and pursue our passion!

Name: Alex Kummert
Age: 21
Education: Communication student at Saint Mary’s College of California
Follow: Twitter | Website | YouTube

How would you define seizing your youth?

Seizing your youth is the understanding that while our life is a tangible thing, our youth is even more so. Seizing your youth is pursuing your passions in life with no regard for what you are expected to be doing at your age. It’s seizing the opportunity of time and passion, and furthering progress towards achieving goals while still getting to understand the world around you.

When did you begin with comedy?

The first time I did standup was when I was 14, I was at church camp, and I did it on a dare for the talent show. I wasn’t that funny but I was funny enough that I wanted to keep doing it. I only started taking it seriously around 16 or 17, and from 16 on I’ve been doing it very consistently. At this point – six years later – I’m performing almost once a week, so it has been pretty heavily engrained into my daily life.

How do you come up with material?

Material can come from anywhere. I’ve never been one to sit down and decide to write jokes for an hour. It’s something that just kind of comes to me and I think “Oh that could work, that could be a joke,” and then I sit down and I write the whole thing long form. It’s about being in a mind set than necessarily having to block out time to do it. I’m a much more free-range sort of thinker when it comes to jokes. I pull material from my life and daily occurrences, and sometimes from conversations I have with my friends.

Did you ever have stage fright and how did you over come it?

I had stage fright when I was younger but not in comedy – I did a lot of theater when I was a kid. That’s where the performance bug came from. I had stage fright then, and its kind of been “cured” now. I’m a little nervous when I go up onstage and before shows I’m kind of a wreck and I have a lot of butterflies because I just want to do it. But stage fright isn’t something I’ve had an issue with in my comedy experiences because of that past theater experience.  In terms of how to get over stage fright, I would say allow yourself to have fun. Don’t allow that experience to become stressful because the people that are in the audience are usually there to have fun.

What advice would you give to yourself right before your first day of college?

Leave the things that you thought were important home behind. Allow yourself to get involved in your new community and immediately ease in the new lifestyle rather than letting the things at home eat away at you or affect what you do. Explore and make more mistakes. Allow yourself to make mistakes. That something I didn’t let myself do early on but valued so highly when I went to college. There were so many things at home that I was worried about and they really didn’t matter.

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You have a podcast with your Grandma called “Lazy Susan” – where did that come from and can you tell me about it?

It all started from a love of Chinese food, which came from my grandmother. My grandma was born in Shanghai, spent a lot of her life there, and still very heavily identifies with that culture. The podcast idea was something I had been kicking around for a while but I didn’t know what I wanted it to be, and then it just sort of opened up [to do this with] my grandmother. To me, my grandmother is the funniest person I know and it’s going to be very hard for someone to top her in my mind. I knew that people on the Internet would think she would be funny too, so that’s where it was inspired.

You also run a radio show at St. Mary’s. How has your informal work with the podcast helped you in a more professional setting?

In college radio you need to be able to improvise and think on the fly very quickly. With Lazy Susan it was about generating a conversation for 45 minutes to an hour every week, so I never felt super uncomfortable with that [impromptu work]. It’s actually allowed me to not have to be as professional because I know how to handle the things that a radio show will throw at you.

Has humor/comedy helped you in your daily life?

Definitely. 100%. Comedy gave me more of an identity. I don’t really know what I’m going to do what my life after I graduate, but I know something that I’m good at and something that I like to do. That reassurance has given me a lot more self-confidence in everything else I approach in life.

What about following a passion?

I would say that following that passion has allowed me to stay more grounded in what I want to do and it has allowed me to develop my own understanding of who I am. And even with the uncertainties in life I have something that is a foundation for when I go out into the unknown.

What advice would you give to someone who has not figured out what his or her passion is yet?

Don’t do things for the sake of finding the passion. It will find you the more that you experience life and are open to opportunities. It will become apparent what you want to do. That’s what happened to me, I just seized an opportunity. I didn’t automatically know “this is what my passion is,” it just developed that way.

What about someone who has discovered his or her passion?

To the person who has found their passion, I would say don’t lose it. Don’t associate your passion with money. That’s something that I struggle with also – you want your passion to be seen as a profession – and that’s great if that works out, pursue that, but don’t let the fact that it doesn’t become that disvalue what you do. It should be something that’s always going to be part of your life even if it’s not how you make money. That’s still what you should live for.

Where do you see yourself taking comedy in the future?

I also addressed this question in my TedX talk. Through the learning experiences I’ve had through pursuing comedy, the lessons I’ve learned will always affect me even if I’m not doing it anymore. Now I’ve had a couple of years where I’ve realized that ill always be doing this until I physically can’t. It might no be professionally, but it’s always going to be a part of my life.  The lessons I’ve learned are more about how I learn, and who I am as a person and how I understand the world.

Could you touch on your work with social media?

I got into social media not for comedy reasons, but the more I got involved and the more I started meeting people online the more I realized it’s a very powerful tool. It’s developed into something that is a very professional tool to me. And it’s opened up an incredible amount of doors to me that I probably wouldn’t have had access to before. That’s how I got on Good Morning America last year; it really was generated from a social media interaction. It allowed me to broaden my horizons personally and personally. I’ve seen nothing but positives in my social media interactions, and I highly recommend it for anyone.

What advice would you give to 15-year-old Alex?

Don’t take things so seriously. I was very over dramatic when I was younger and everything was important to me and I didn’t allow myself to have too much fun. I was wound up. I would tell 14, 15 year old me to relax and that the things that mattered then won’t necessarily matter now.