Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My life in a nutshell: Hard at Play

I am currently a full time graduate student in the Student Affairs program at Bloomsburg University, a half-time (20 hours per week) graduate assistant in Bloomsburg’s Student Activities office and a part-time staff member (20 hours per week + overnight/weekend “duty”) at Penn State Hazelton’s Office of Residence Life.

A typical day begins around 8 a.m. and ends when I return home between 10 and 11 p.m. My weekends often consist of late-night student activities and weekend day trips and/or weekend duty responsibilities. Just so you have the whole picture, I also commute to and from Hazleton, about 30 minutes each way, usually 5-6 days per week to accommodate my various commitments.

When I explain my life and schedule, the response I usually receive is “When do you sleep?!” The way I choose to see it, I have been blesseed with a very high energy level and a love of my work, so I don’t mind my 8am-11pm days, I actually thrive on them.

This thriving is the point of my post. When people respond to my schedule negatively, I always come back with a smile. Each time I explain my schedule to others, I use it as an opportunity to remind myself how very blessed I am to be in these positions! One of my learning points is that I have a difficult time staying on-task if my schedule is not laid out and stacked.

Instead of letting myself waste “down” time, I am making the conscious decision to take full advantage of my high energy level, my freedom as a single young professional and the unique opportunities provided to me through the College Student Affairs program and career path. I am choosing to stack my days (and my resume!) with awesome experiences.

 Each day, I grow more thankful for the knowledge I am gaining, not only in College Student Affairs, but in schedule management, relationship building, leadership (on several levels), prioritizing and much more.

For the record, I DO sleep; 8 hours, every night (unless I get distracted by Pinterest, of course). As a footnote to my life-in-a-nutshell, I’d like to say that self-care is EXTREMELY important and a schedule like mine is definitely not for everyone! I take advantage of the few hours per week that I have to do things for myself (visit with family and friends, hike, run, travel, etc.).

I am a firm believer in the idea that, when someone is truly passionate about what they do, they never work a day in their life. This is why, when people question my decision to take on so many responsibilities at once, I am able to respond by saying I’m not overworked, I’m simply Hard at Play.

— Alyssa Meyers is obtaining a graduate degree in Counseling and College Student Affairs (CSA) at Bloomsburg University, where she holds a graduate assistantship in the Student Activities Office. There, she assists in overseeing Bloomsburg's Program Board, Concert Committee and other groups and committees related to campus-wide event and activity planning.

Alyssa also holds a part-time position at Penn State University's Hazleton campus, where she is the Assistant Coordinator in the Office of Residence Life. In this position, she oversees a 10-person student Resident Assistant staff, works with the full-time residence life staff and participates in on-call or "Duty" responsibilities.

Prior to starting her career in student affairs, worked as a caseworked at Columbia County Children and Youth Services. She gained experience in crisis management, community health, and strength-based intervention strategies. Last summer, Alyssa moved to the Los Angeles area and worked with the Student Life and Engagement staff at Marymount California University. The focal point of her summer was designing an LGBT Safe Zone training manual and additional programming for the upcoming academic year.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Where am I living next year?

It’s time to start considering your living arrangements for next year. I know it seems like you just got here, how are you possibly expected to choose a place to live in this new town you’re just getting used to? I have a few pointers to hopefully help make this decision a little easier.

First, it’s important to explore all your options here in Bloomsburg. Nothing is worse than rushing into something and later regretting the location you have already signed for. I am assuming most of you have never signed a lease before and it can be scary, but I promise it feels a lot better to sign when you’re 100 percent happy with your new space. The first decision you have to make is deciding whether you want to live on or off campus.

Living On Campus

On-campus living can be broken down into two areas: the dorms and on- campus apartments. Most of you are already living in the dorms and have a grasp for what dorm-living is all about.

In most cases you are able to select your dorm and can choose your roommate(s). This option remains a possibility for every year up until graduation as long as you remain on campus. Keep in mind that once you move off campus, you cannot move back. This also holds true for upper campus apartments.

On upper campus there are three apartment buildings you can sign up for to live in, which are first come, first serve.
  • Montgomery Place Apartments (MPA) are the closest to campus and have 2 bedrooms per apartment, hold 4 students and have 1 bathroom to share. 
  • Mount Olympus Apartments (MOA) are further up the hill and are townhouse styled apartments. They hold 6 students, with each student having their own bedroom and 2 bathrooms to share. 
  • Jessica Kozloff Apartments (JKA) are the furthest uphill, right near the Blue Lot. This apartment complex holds 4 students, with each student having their own bedroom and they also have 2 bathrooms to share. 
Keep in mind that these apartments all have a shuttle that runs regularly between lower and upper campus. Because these apartments are on-campus, there are CA’s and it is still considered ‘dry’, meaning no alcohol is allowed no matter your age. I think these apartments are especially great for those who may be nervous to make the transition from the dorms to downtown right away. Of course they are also great for those who want to experience a different kind of on-campus living!
  • Kile Apartments, located right behind Schuykill dorm on Penn Street are also considered on-campus, but they are slightly different. 
These apartments have 2 CA’s as well as a landlord. It is a little more expensive than upper campus apartments however they are significantly closer to town. These apartments range from 2-6 students, with the larger apartments having two bathrooms and the smaller ones having one bathroom. In this complex everyone gets their own room. You can always contact Res-Life for more information as well as pricing on any of these locations.

Living Off Campus

When I was a sophomore I chose a different route and moved off campus. Off-campus living offers a variety of options as far as where you live, how many roommates you can have and what is all included. These options are generally always more expensive than on-campus living and requires a little more responsibility since your living is no longer affiliated with BU.

I moved into an apartment my sophomore year, which was slightly more expensive than the average off-campus apartment, however it came completely furnished and all utilities were included except electric. You can also elect to sign for an apartment that is cheaper however you may pay that money you save in rent by renting furniture or paying all of your utilities.

My junior year I signed for a furnished house where my utilities were not included and it was definitely a shock compared to barely paying any my sophomore year and no utilities in the dorms as a freshman.

With that in mind it is very important to shop around and stay informed of your decisions. There are a wide variety of landlords who rent to BU students so check them all out, as they all offer different benefits.

Consider your budget and talk with your families and future roommates about what is best for you.

Deciding on a place to live for next year can be seem overwhelming and sudden but it is important to start thinking about this sooner than later. I can’t tell you exactly when certain places with fill up, but I do know the best places obviously go first. I have always signed my leases by the end of October to make sure I could secure the apartment I wanted, but if you need more time to figure things out you can always contact Res-Life or desired landlords to see what their availability looks like.

Good luck on your housing hunt and enjoy the rest of your semester!

— Sierra Kern, Class of 2015 #HuskyLife

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Welcome to grad school ... a new life, a very exciting life

I took the summer after my college graduation off — no classes! — and started my master’s degree in August 2013. My first semester, I had a graduate assistantship position through the academic achievement office.

A graduate assistantship (GA) means you work on campus and get remunerated with a stipend and part of your tuition is paid for. In my role, I helped start a brand new program called the Sophomore Success Program at BU. This is a mentoring program designed to help undeclared sophomore status students raise their GPAs and declare a major.

I have been the GA for this program ever since and really enjoy working with this population of students. Through my experience as a GA for this program, I have strengthened many skills, such as:

  • counseling techniques
  • providing resources
  • mentoring
  • tutoring
  • leadership
  • building relationships
  • assessment

This semester I also am also serving as the Graduate Resident Director at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove. For this position I oversee a first year residence hall with around 250 students. I work closely with another head resident and eight resident assistants.

Working in residence life is new to me, but I find it to be very exciting.

As for my life outside of academics, I enjoy working out and playing basketball, volleyball, and ping pong. I was an intramural volleyball referee for around six semesters at BU throughout my schooling and also played for fun.

— Kami Skoloda, a Lancaster native, is a second year student in the Counseling and College Student Affairs (CSA) program. She received her bachelor’s degree in Interpersonal Communications from Bloomsburg University (BU) in 2013. Her senior year she interned in the ACT 101 office at working with academic probation students. As an intern, Kami worked alongside several CSA graduate students suggested she consider a career in college student affairs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

3 ways student life helps you survive the semester

It’s week four moving into week five of classes, I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel the pressure. Classes are starting to move out of the review stage and into the new material stage, I started slacking on reading the chapter before every class, and started pushing off some homework for tomorrow…well, maybe I’ll do it Thursday.

In the beginning of the semester I would read ahead and maybe even get some assignments done early but not anymore. Every semester, I tell myself that I am going to read the chapter before every class and review my notes right after class…that lasted about two weeks. Now you are starting to realize that you have a test in three different classes which is coming up in a few days! You might have, like me, already had a test. How did the time go by so fast? This is starting to get stressful.

Now that you are shifting your focus on new or harder material in class, you are getting nervous about passing the first test, or even the course because your class has only two tests the entire semester. What are we going to do?! When I first walked into my Intro to Corporate Finance class, I thought I would have a leg up in this class since I took Personal Finance two semesters ago, I was wrong.

In this class I have to read the chapter before class in order to have a shot in answering bonus questions on it in the beginning of every class. So I opened the book with highlighter in hand and an open mind. As soon as I read the first paragraph, I dropped my highlighter and closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This was the most information packed, boring as can be, monotone writing style I have seen in a long time. I knew I was in for a challenge but I am determined. The first test was during the third week of classes and we have five tests during the semester. I wasn’t worried about having to drop the class because we have a free tutoring program on campus.

Network through tutoring

Tutors can be very helpful whether you are just trying to pass the class or you just want a little extra help to go from a B to an A. Tutors are students just like you but truly love and understand what they are going to be helping you with. Being a tutor is completely voluntary, no one is forcing them to help other students, so you can be sure that they will help you to the best of their abilities. If you don’t want to work one on one with someone, you can always get together with people that are in your class and make a study group.

You should always get to know people in your classes, you never know when you will see them again in another class. Working with other people in class is a mini preparation for the real world. You are always going to have to work with people, around people, or surrounded by people so you might as well get used to it now. You aren’t going to be comfortable with the material in every class that you take, so be prepared to seek extra help.

Utilizing the Writing Center

So maybe your math class doesn’t stress you out and your music class, well, you could pass that course with your eyes closed but your writing class is what’s really stressing you out. Well, you’re in luck, on campus we have what’s called the Writing Center. The coolest part of the Writing Center in my opinion, is that, it doesn’t matter what your major is or what you are writing about. If you have to type something up and hand it in class as a graded assignment, they can help you with it. Another cool thing, is that students just like you are the ones that work there, they completely understand what you are going through and are there to help with the process.

Now, they won’t write your paper for you so go in asking specific questions and bring all of the material you need to write the paper, so they can give you as much advise as possible. You’re probably wondering, “What is this going to cost me?” it’s free! Well, you already pay for it in your tuition, so why not utilize it as much as possible?

Most of my friends aren’t nearly as bombarded with work as much as I am, so they had a lot of free time. My roommate decided to join the Society of Human Resource Management which pertains to her major.

This will also boost her resume and increase her knowledge about her field of study. She looks forward to every meeting because she meets new people that can give her some insight or see different paths that she can take with her major that she never knew about.

Joining student organizations

If you know what direction you want to go into in life, I highly suggest that you join a club or organization that pertains to that. Other people in that club or organization are probably going to be in some or most of your classes, so therefore you have some people to sit with during that awkward first week of classes or people to form a group with for a group project. If you aren’t sure of a path to take, get to know students and your professors in your general education courses, go to as many general meetings for clubs as possible, and keep an open mind.

No matter how stressed out you are, there are people going through exactly what you are going through. In the beginning of this blog, I’m sure I had a few people or even you nodding their heads in agreement because they completely understood what I was going though. If you weren’t one of those people, you may go through this at some point in the future. If and/or when it does happen, take a deep breath and remember that you have people on this campus that are supporting you and want you to succeed, even if you don’t know who they are yet.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A month into college, how are those sea legs?

Going from high school to college is one of the biggest life changes I have encountered. You go from having almost eight hours straight of classes Monday through Friday, from early in the morning until about 3 p.m., to classes scattered throughout the day with plenty of free time in between.

After four years, you have finally mastered the routine of going to bed at just the right time where you won’t be too miserable in the morning and getting up when you have just the right amount of time to eat, get dressed and do some last minute homework you’ve been putting off for the past week.
College throws you for a loop the first day of class and the semester following.

Like I said before, in high school you had a constant routine but in college, well, that’s a whole different story. My freshmen courses were from anywhere between an 8 a.m. class on Monday, a 1 p.m. class on Tuesday and a 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. class on Thursday, where does a routine come in?

You will also find that you have so much spare time on your hands! In high school, you were in class for eight hours straight, what do you do with yourself? This is where you start to make some friends and get to know your roommate. A few weeks before I left for college, I got into contact with my future roommate who I have never met before.

We discussed who was bringing what, what were her likes and dislikes, and how we would decorate our room. It seemed like everything was going to work out and we were going to be great friends! The day we moved in, we hugged and laughed like we have been friends for years.

After we got our room decorated the way we both liked, we started to compare schedules, they were the same except for one class! In my head, this was the ideal situation, I had someone to get lost walking to classes with and a convenient and fun study partner.

During the first couple of days before classes start is where you really start to get to know the people in your hallway. People will pile into rooms or gather on the floor of the hallways and talk until about 3 a.m. Who wants to get sleep when you have so many new faces to talk to and no parents to tell you it’s time to go to bed?

This is where you learn about other peoples’ life styles, where they come from and if you might become friends with this person. Early on I found out that becoming friends with your CA or older students in your hall is very important.

Every CA has to create a “program” for the students on campus to help people get to know each other or to inform students of what else you can do on campus. My CA had a program where we all had to go see a magician in the Kehr Union Ballroom, and it was the coolest thing I have ever seen. Before attending that program, I had no idea what was in the Kehr Union and that events like that even happened at Bloomsburg.

The person that was running the event lived in our hallway and made sure that we had front row seats! That was the beginning of my involvement in Program Board. It was a great start of college before classes and homework and it relieved some stress of not living at home.

I don’t know about you but for me, high school made me terrified for college courses. They would tell me that the books were extremely heavy, the professors didn’t care if you passed or failed their classes, and that you would have piles of homework and 20 page papers to do every week. I found this to be mostly a myth.

Yes, sometimes the books that you have to buy can get rather large but most of the time, the professor doesn’t care if you bring the book or not, sometimes, you never even use the book. Most likely, the classes that you were placed in are general education classes and if you already know what you want to major in, this can be super frustrating. Even if you haven’t declared a major, you don’t have a choice in the classes you want to take for your first semester and maybe chemistry, for example, isn’t your strong suit. I was put into a Chemistry 101 class my first semester and did horribly.

Don’t get me wrong! I did great in chemistry when I was in high school but of course we had to sew together little moles to look like the element we chose from the periodic table and do a report on it…big difference. In Chem 101 we had to balance equations and study all of the elements on the periodic table. That class was a struggle for me.

On the other hand, I had a Principles of Cultural Anthropology class that was amazing! The course content was very interesting but what really got me, was the anthropology professor. He had traveled all over the world visiting different cultures and studying them. He treated us as equals and obviously loved his job. Even though you were in a classroom of about 200 students, he made you feel like you were the only one in the room that he was telling his adventures to.

Now don’t panic! The school didn’t lie to you when they said they have a small ratio of faculty to students, because they do. Your general education courses will be much larger because the demand for the class is very large.

For example, almost every single major on campus needs to take a psychology class and therefore more people need to take that class which will equal a larger classroom size. Once you get into the classes that a geared toward your major, the class size will dwindle. I am currently taking a class that has eight people in it.

Even if you have a very large class, make it a habit to visit your professors during their office hours even if you don’t have any questions. Professors do care that you do well in their class and they truly want you to succeed during your years at Bloomsburg and beyond. You never know when you may need a reference letter or 0.10 of a point to make it to Dean’s list. If they see that you are trying your best and are putting your time and effort in, they are more than likely to help you either study for the final, or give you an extra credit assignment.

All in all, freshmen year will be terrifying for some and a breeze for others. Just know that you have people around you going through the same experience or have already been through it. Take the time to make friends and get to know your campus and professors.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you might think it’s stupid, chances are, there are many other people with the exact same question but are too afraid to ask. Enjoy the time that you have here and make the most of it because it will go by faster than you can imagine.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting on board

Before I came to Bloomsburg University, I mentally prepared myself for being constantly busy with studying and reading the thickest books I have ever seen in my life. High school made me honestly a little scared of all the work that would have to be put into college.

On top of being bombarded with school work, I was very shy and lacked a lot of self-confidence. Moving to somewhere new and bring surrounded by brand new people made me extremely nervous.

After my first couple of weeks of meeting everyone who lived on my floor and adjusting into the college life, I became much more relaxed and confident. I met an upperclassmen named Rob who happened to be a chair member of Program Board. He was the Special Events chair, which meant that he brought all of the mentalists, hypnotists, comedians, and magicians.

After days of Rob bugging me to go to one of their general meetings, I finally went. The students were very welcoming and seemed to really know their stuff. Now, I was still in the mindset of college being super busy and not having any free time, so I waited an entire semester before I actually started going to Program Board events.

The first event that I attended was "Midnight Came Early." When I first walked onto the quad I was handed a t-shirt and greeted with a warm smile and "Welcome! Thank you for coming to help us out today!" The night started out with four different inflatables from an obstacle course to a laser tag maze!

The entire quad was filled with students from the moment the event started until the event was over. Once it started to get dark, we had about 20 tables on the front half of the quad with candles and bingo chips on each table. Students could buy up to six bingo cards for 25 cents a card and win up to $350 in cash!

After Bingo was over, hundreds of students were lined up to get free pizza! I found out later that Program Board buys more than 100 pizzas from four different local pizza places downtown Bloomsburg once a month and every student with a BU student ID gets as much free pizza as they want.

The next day I talked to Rob and asked him why we do these sort of events for students. He responded with, "We do these events so students can have an alternative to underage drinking, and so students can feel welcome here at Bloomsburg University." The very next meeting, I signed up for every committee within Program Board and have been in love with it ever since.

As a marketing major, getting to know different people and networking is a huge part of being successful for the future. You never know who you are going to meet, that person might end up helping you gain a future job. Program Board has opened so many doors and created an infinite amount of opportunities for me.

For example, I met a student who encouraged me to come to a conference where people from different businesses come and talk about what they have to offer and about their company. After the conference I left with a part-time job offer as a sales trainee at Fastenal where I worked over the summer.

I have also made a lot of connections with people that are involved in marketing at conference where we go to watch entertainers try to convince us to bring them to our college. Those entertainers work with people that market them to students all over, and to experience something like that opened a new path of marketing for me.

Program Board is a very diverse organization, which in turn attracts a variety of students. We offer a little bit of something for everyone. You get to work with a lot of people who love their jobs and love working with other people. Program Board helps you learn how to work in a team in a relaxed and fun environment. Program Board plans and coordinates a lot of programs for students that require leadership and prioritization skills which you can learn and apply to school or to a future or current job.

At the end of each year, Program Board puts together a banquet to recognize the general members for their hard work. Many students have come forward during the banquets to talk about how Program Board really helped them come out of their shell. I remember one year, someone came up to me and said, "Before Program Board, I would sit in my room over the weekend while my roommates went out to party. Now, all of my weekends are full of fun and exciting events! My roommates are jealous of all of the fun I am having and want to start coming to the events with me."

Program Board has eight different committees: films, dance, travel, bingo and games, special events, hospitality, public relations, and sound stage. If you are interested in all things music, you can join the sound stage committee. If you organized every single dance in high school and that is your passion, dance committee is for you. If you are interested in marketing and love to travel places, you can join travel and public relations committee. If you just want to make friends and have a lot of free time on your hands, you can always sign-up for every single committee that we have.

— Chelsea Underhill, senior marketing major #HuskyLife

Friday, August 15, 2014

Best approach to buying textbooks?

Can you believe you’re a mere week away from classes starting? I’m sure it feels like you were making your college decision just yesterday. By the way, congrats on picking the best school!

You have gone through a stressful, yet exciting past couple of months. You’ve made decisions such as choosing your college, finding a roommate and attending summer orientation. You’re now a week away from college and besides moving in (that’s the fun stuff) you have one final stress: textbooks.

Welcome to a new world of buying your own textbooks!

... but don’t worry, they’re much nicer than those flimsy, torn up books in high school that date back to the early 90’s. As you anticipated, your textbooks come at an inevitable cost, sometimes higher than expected. You’re not alone. It seems like we all spend a little too much than we would like on books each semester but I promise it hurts your wallet a little less when they’re well worth it.

If you’re unsure of how you want to go about book buying for the semester, you can always attend the first week of classes to get a feel for which books you will definitely need. Professors are very honest and open about whether the book is an absolute necessity or not. My best advice would be to take it from there and decide based on your study habits.

You won’t be forced to have your book in hand on the first day or even in the first week, during which time students are still dropping and picking up classes. You will usually break them out by the second, sometimes third week of class. I personally bought every book the first semester in fear of what was to come and there were some I never opened, and I did just fine!

Most professors put a considerable amount of their exam material on their PowerPoint slides so make sure to attend all your classes, but that’s another story. If you would like to purchase all your books regardless, go for it, do whatever works best for you. You will all have a good grip on this after the first semester, guaranteed.

So after you decide what books you need, where do you get them?

I have bought my books from a variety of sources whether it was Amazon, Chegg or the University Store. Each has their ups and downs. Amazon and Chegg are great ways to get your textbooks and you can buy or rent from both. They are convenient and can be rush ordered, however you cannot forget to return rentals at the end of the semester. Chegg is even nice enough to call and leave an automated reminder on your cell phone. Depending on the book, you may have a little more difficulty finding it on this site as they are not related to Bloomsburg University, however I have gotten lucky so far!

The University Store is guaranteed to have all your textbook needs!

However, depending on how many books they have in stock and the number of students purchasing them, you can find yourself on a waiting list if you wait too long to purchase the book. I have been put on various waiting lists, and they are very efficient and the bookstore will email you as soon as your book is ready. In the meantime, meet a new classmate and ask to borrow theirs — making new friends is always great!

Also keep in mind that depending on your major and classes, some books will only be available to you at the University Store, such as a lab manual written by your professor. Like I said, don’t fear, you’ll get the hang of this pretty quickly.

The final aspect of buying textbooks — do you buy new, used or just rent it? 

This fully depends on what you’re trying to spend and what’s available. Buying new is almost always an option, but I promise those used books with a scratch or two have the same content inside. You can save up to half of the price by buying used and you can still sell it back at the end of the semester.

Rentals are a different story. These are even cheaper, however they must be returned at the end of the semester. I rent books if I’m running short on money at the textbook buying time, and it’s extremely helpful.

But how does returning those new and used books you bought work? 

When you buy a book from the University Store, you have the option of selling them to the bookstore or you can sell to a kiosk in town, such as Belltower. They are set up in various places that buy books back at competitive costs. It’s hard to say which is more profitable (for you) in the end, because it varies between books.

Unfortunately, sometimes a newer edition of your textbook comes out leaving yours worthless to these buyers. Always try multiple places to make sure you’re getting the best price possible. If you find you can’t get money at either store, you can always go on the Bloomsburg Class of 2018 Facebook page and see if any of your classmates need it. New editions usually don’t vary that much from the one before, and most professors won’t mind if you use it. I have also done this before, and it helps both you and your classmates out immensely.

Can you believe all these difficult decisions are almost over and you are soon finally going to be a college student? Enjoy this time in your life it goes too fast. I am embarking on my senior year and remember being in all of your shoes. Make smart decisions while you’re here, have fun and make the best of this life changing experience.

— Sierra Kern, Class of 2015 #HuskyLife