Thursday, June 28, 2018

A perfect introduction to college life

When I received my acceptance letter to Bloomsburg University in the spring of 2014, I was completely ecstatic. This was my top choice of schools, and I couldn’t wait to start my college career.

When I read the rest of the letter and saw that I would have to attend summer session, I cried. All of my friends would be enjoying their summer together while I was in Bloomsburg taking classes.
That’s what I thought, anyway.

Little did I know that attending summer session would be one of the best experiences throughout my four years at Bloomsburg. In my time as a summer freshman, I was able to make friends with the people in my classes, as well as my dorm.

There were only a few hundred of us, so everyone knew everyone. I had the opportunity to learn where the academic buildings were without the awkwardness of having to stop someone and get directions.

I mastered the art of when and how to do my laundry without all of them being taken. I got to know the people on my floor and made friends I’m still close with as I finished my senior year.

If you’re nervous about starting summer session, don’t be. For me, it was the perfect introduction to college life without the added pressure of the 500-plus people who actually knew what they were doing.

Take this opportunity to

Do well in your classes so you go into the fall with a rocking GPA. Oh yea, and have fun!

— Danielle Backowski, senior mass communications major #HuskyLife

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A rich five days in Belfast

Before arriving in the city at Stranmillis University College, where our accommodations were, we spent a fruitful day trekking along the northern coast to see The Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. These locations had stunning views of the North Atlantic Ocean, rolling countryside, and rural Irish culture. As jokingly referenced by the locals, our company seemed to have packed clear skies and sunshine in our suitcases, as beautiful weather followed us to each new site.

Our first exposure to Higher Education in the UK came when we visited Ulster University, which is the second largest university in Northern Ireland, consisting of four different campus locations. We had the opportunity to experience two of these campuses; their urban campus in downtown Belfast and their rural campus in the seaside town of Coleraine. At the Belfast campus we heard inspiring presentations from Admissions, International Studies, and Career Services professionals. Since the Belfast campus is academically focused on art, we had the opportunity to see a remarkable amount of student work around the institution. In addition to allowing students to showcase their creative endeavors, the institution proved itself to be forward thinking in how it widened participation to under-represented student populations in the UK. We continued to learn more about Widening Participation at the second Ulster University campus in Coleraine.

At the Coleraine campus we were hosted by Provost Karise Hutchinson and her spectacular team. Karise sat and shared the authentic story of her journey through Higher Education and Coleraine to reach her position, and the trials that she faced along the way. Her colleagues shared their outlooks in their functional areas and we spent the day not only learning about how they work, but also drawing on our learned experience in the CSA program to share our insights, ideas, and suggestions for improvement. That afternoon we spent learning and playing Gaelic Football with individuals in the athletic department. Their athletic department is working on becoming a more inclusive area for students and less focused on the highly competitive aspects we know in the States.

In the middle of the week we found ourselves at Queen’s University in Belfast, which is the largest university in Northern Ireland. This was the first institution we visited that had a Residence Life department akin to those we have in US. Like us, they have a hierarchy of professional and paraprofessional (e.g., Community Assistants) staff. Unlike the U.S., however, the CAs’ primary responsibilities at Queen’s are focused on building community, with minimal focus on policy enforcement or crisis response. Other functional areas at Queen’s also discussed the importance of student inclusion around campus, especially because they have a high population of international students. This was made evident when we met with Stephen, the Student Union president, when he articulated the plan for making the Student Union building more accessible to all students. Many of the institutions we have visited this far have this same goal to create inclusive and accessible environments for their students to thrive.

Throughout our time in Belfast, we witnessed firsthand the political pulse of the community and the people living within it. Our cab drivers (who number well over a dozen), frequently shared personal stories about their lived experience during the “Troubles,” which was a decades-long period of violence, stemming from Northern Ireland’s status as a province of the United Kingdom, rather than a part of the Republic of Ireland. While we were assured that the bloodshed had long-since subsided, reminders of this period echoed in the memorial plaques affixed to the sides of buildings that were bombed, the exhibitions that filled the gilded City Hall, and the gates (nightly locked) positioned at strategic points along the ironically named “Peace Wall,” that separated politically opposing groups. In spite of these things, we found the city of Belfast to be remarkably welcoming, with a cultural atmosphere that exceeded all of our expectations.

— Erica Smith and Jonathan Gowin#HuskyAbroad #SAPro

Smith and Gowin are pursuing their Master's in Educational Leadership through Bloomsburg University's College Student Affairs (M.Ed.) program. They are among a group of CSA students studying abroad this summer for two weeks in Ireland, visiting several universities to develop an understanding of the structure and practice of college student affairs in Ireland and gain insight into international issues.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Discovering an Irish perspective of higher education

We made it! The Bloomsburg University College Student Affairs students have reached Ireland!

After a few people having delayed, missed flights and an hour delay in Newark due to thunderstorms, we have safely made it to Ireland! The plan for this trip is to visit eight different universities and learn about the higher education system in Ireland. After learning about them, we will be comparing Ireland’s and America’s higher education system.

While taking in the in the Irish culture through visiting some of Ireland’s colleges and universities as well as exploring the different cities, we will better understand higher education in Ireland.

The first university on the trip is University of Limerick. We had a full day meeting with university officials, as well as students. Even though students were done for the semester, the campus still has post-grad students who where taking classes. We met with admissions — both undergrad and postgrad — and got a good grasp on how admissions works in Ireland. All colleges and universities in Ireland use one application process to apply to colleges similar to the Common App, but every higher education institution uses it.

We also got to speak with the Student Union, which is equivalent to our CGA. It was interesting because the students who are in positions in the Student Union take a year off to hold their positions while in the United States, students are in CGA as they're still taking classes.

The day ended with a tour of UL’s beautiful campus that included the Living Bridge, which is an area where students can use it as more than just a bridge — a bridge to do homework, play music, and hand out with friends.

Overall, we had a great time at University of Limerick. It gave us basic understanding of how higher education works in Ireland. Our next stop is Ulster University!

— Pooja Daya, #HuskyAbroad #SAPro

Daya is pursuing her Master's in Educational Leadership through Bloomsburg University's College Student Affairs (M.Ed.) program, as well as serving as a graduate hall director for the Jessica Kozloff Apartments. She is among a group of CSA students studying abroad this summer for two weeks in Ireland, visiting several universities to develop an understanding of the structure and practice of college student affairs in Ireland and gain insight into international issues.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Not too shabby Budapest

Us at dinner, still happy because the check had not yet arrived.

We had an early start to our day, because we had to meet a professor for a historical tour of different residential areas of Budapest. We all had breakfast at the hotel and were rather surprised to see a platter of sandwich meat available at the buffet. After breakfast we got on a really nice minibus with Dr. Marianna Nagy from the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary.

She took us to three different residential areas and connected each to the history of Hungary and Hungary today. It also provided us the opportunity to see daily Hungarian life up close and take note of things like socioeconomic class differences and how class-based segregation is not as pronounced in some Budapest neighborhoods as it is in the U.S.

Dr. Nagy schooling us about Hungary’s history and identity
under communism, while we visit a residential
neighborhood built during the communist era.
Dan and Nick jumped off the bus a couple times, the second time for good. Dan wasn’t feeling well so they went rogue in Budapest and saw a Holocaust museum and walked until Dan felt better.

After seeing the residential areas we went to the Zwack Museum to learn about a Zwack Unicum, a beverage that is key to Hungarian identity. After that the whole group reconvened at the Central Market Hall on the south end of downtown Budapest near the Danube. It’s a beautiful old indoor market place with many restaurants and vendors selling fruits, meats, vegetables and, traditional crafts.

Later we took the bus and trolley back up to the Parliament building for a tour, specially arranged by one of our gracious hosts, Virag Rab. The facade of the parliament was grand and ornate and the interior was equally so. The pictures tell the tale here. The couches were a century old and still comfortable! They felt like trampolines! There were also cigar holders near the windows in the hall outside of the main chamber of Parliament . . . they had to leave their cigars outside the main chamber in a numbered slot for only their cigar.

Central Market Hall near the Danube on the south end of downtown Budapest
Dr. Podeschi let us choose where to eat for dinner, and we chose to have dessert first. While eating our dessert, we avoided a really bad rainstorm. Then Dr. Podeschi left us to our own devices while he went looking for souvenirs for his family. After a tumultuous discussion of where to eat we decided on an American-style restaurant (don’t worry – we’ve been sampling authentic Hungarian fare!).

 The food was amazing and we all loved it. We were having a nice time at dinner, covering various topics (e.g., Sarah informed us that whales sleep vertically and that horrifies her). Then the check came. We should have touched The Box beforehand. It would perhaps have been easier for us to fly an airliner home than split this bill sensibly. We headed back toward the hotel in three groups, one hailing from the East, one rising from sea, and one departing from the Trolley. We all finally found dad (Dr. P) at the appointed bus stop and made it safely back to the hotel.

Thank The Box! Amen.

The view from the Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd in Hungarian) as we walked back to the hotel. Not too shabby Budapest.

Led by Christopher Podeschi, associate professor of sociology, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent 10 days in Hungary this summer studying first-hand the Hungarian culture, history and identity. The study abroad trip was part of Podeschi's spring collaborative online international learning course, Seminar on Identity and Locality, which included videoconferencing during the semester with a class from the University of Pecs. The abroad experience also featured visits to Budapest and a rural Hungarian community that provided social and cultural context explored during class discussion earlier in the spring.  
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskySummer #HuskyAbroad

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sociology trip to Hungary starts with a box, ends with a community

Standing around The Box at this point, waiting for one more traveler

We literally stood around a box as though it were a sacred artifact while we waited to get our tickets and go through security at Philadelphia International Airport. From that point on, The Box became pretty important. Everyone was safely at the airport, and we were all through security and waiting at the gate without any hitches or problems. This worried Dr. Podeschi. Things were going too smoothly. But then they didn’t. Our flight was delayed and we were relieved (right?). We felt like something bad needed to happen, and a small bad is a good bad. Or perhaps we angered The Box. Time will tell.

Waiting out flight delay in Philadelphia
During the delay, airline personnel continuously called for Schmidt, Lazerhead, and Jealousy over the intercom. We’re sure of only two of these names, but that doesn’t matter. The second will always be Lazerhead. Anyway, we assume these three are now dead (or missed their flight or decided to not go to Madrid).

Now the real traveling. Dan's attempt to join the first class passengers was rebuffed. Dan and Sarah attempted to befriend the flight attendance and were rejected. She was all business. And a stranger slept on Katie's shoulder. Jackie slept in an odd, no . . . worrying position. Sam did not (sleep, that is). Once off the plane, we reconvened around and touched The Box to show proper respect (as one does).

 Then, thanks to The Box we got our luggage quickly. Nick must not have really been feeling it when he touched the box because he mistakenly withdrew a lot of Hungarian money on accident (let’s just say that if it were 1989 he could have bought a small house in the Budapest suburbs - literally). Same with Katie and Andrea: they learned a tough lesson about currency exchange. Inexplicably, Megan felt her exchange was fair. Hmmm. Perhaps she had a special connection to The Box.

On to the Hotel Jagello, on the lovely and hilly Buda side of Budapest. One group was on a shuttle to the hotel in silence and fear. The driving was a little more aggressive in Hungary than what we're used to. Members of the other group thought that Dr. Podeschi planted an undercover sociologist as their driver, because the conversation was so cool and interesting.

Going to meet Bertalan for a tour of Budapest
Once we arrived at the hotel we paired up and entered our rooms. Stew ran into an issue when he couldn't figure out how to turn on any of the lights in his room. He managed to relieve himself in the dark without too much trouble (or mess). Then Dr. Podeschi texted everyone about how the key to the door was also the key to the electricity for the whole room. Details Podeschi, details.

After the long flight, the group diverged into three. One portion wanted to rest. Another decided to find food and got lost, but found ice cream and a nice man who taught them how to count Hungarian money.

The rest took a hike through a park to a statue and then got lunch. They also learned a bit about Hungarian restaurant norms (e.g., the wait staff are not in a hurry, they don’t come back to ask you if you want another of something).

The group then all met back up to take a tour around Budapest with Bertalan (call him Bart) the wonderful former University of Pecs student who just finished his master’s degree in International Relations from Corvinius University in Budapest.

Electric trolley ride in Budapest
Bart informed us about much of Hungarian history and current politics in Hungary, all while showing us some of the main sites in downtown Budapest.

And there was a bit of a thrill at the beginning of the tour: an undercover security agent abruptly interrupted us next to the parliament building, telling us to stop because the Prime Minister was coming. Then two black cars rushed by in front of us and stopped at the side of the building. We didn't see him but Bertalan confirmed that it was indeed Viktor Orban's black armored van! We were a bit shocked because there was so little security.

Later on the tour we also observed a dog park and discovered the well behaved, unleashed Hungarian dogs. All of the students were enamored by the dogs, particularly Sarah “Good Boy” Johnson.

Sadly, Dr. Podeschi was too absorbed in Bart's discourse on Hungarian politics to notice the majestic beasts. After leaving the majestic beasts we ventured off to a nice Hungarian restaurant. Then we were super tired and went back to the hotel to sleep.

So far so good. Days since Sarah has pet a dog: 1 day. 

Enjoying the great public transportation in Hungary 

Led by Christopher Podeschi, associate professor of sociology, a group of Bloomsburg University students spent 10 days in Hungary this summer studying first-hand the Hungarian culture, history and identity. The study abroad trip was part of Podeschi's spring collaborative online international learning course, Seminar on Identity and Locality, which included videoconferencing during the semester with a class from the University of Pecs. The abroad experience also featured visits to Budapest and a rural Hungarian community that provided social and cultural context explored during class discussion earlier in the spring.    #CollaborativeLearning #HuskySummer #HuskyAbroad

Friday, May 11, 2018

Suddenly, you’re walking across the stage

Seeing myself in my cap and gown for the first time, I can’t help but think about all of the little pieces of life that led me here. I will be the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university, and there were honestly so many times when I didn’t think I would even make it here.

Freshman year I even considered transferring. The years I’ve spent at Bloomsburg have been fun, terrifying, soul crushing, magical and amazing. Not to say I wouldn’t do some things differently if I could, but as they say, hindsight is 20-20.

I would tell myself not to worry so much. Of course, every freshman worries. They worry about who they’ll eat lunch with, if they’ll get lost looking for their classes. They wonder if they’re supposed to ask to use the bathroom during class (I asked to go to the bathroom in my first college class EVER and everyone laughed so if you have to go, save yourself the shame and just slip out quietly). Things will work out. Let yourself enjoy the newness of college and be open to learning as you go.

I would tell myself to talk to EVERYONE. People you meet in the elevator, people you sit next to in class, people in line as you wait for food. That’s the one, surefire way to make friends. Just start chatting about the weather or the homework from the previous class, and suddenly you’ve got someone to eat lunch with tomorrow, or study at Starbucks with. Take comfort in knowing that 95 percent of the people around you feel the same way you do, and just want people to talk to and understand the struggles of college life.

I would tell myself to say yes more. Go to more football games, go to more drag shows, go to more bingo nights. Go to more parties, go to more dance showcases, get more pink wieners. I can assure you, you’ll regret the times you said no more than the times you said yes. If something seems even remotely interesting, do it. Join a club and only go to one meeting, sign up for an intramural sport only to realize you have no coordination. The only way to find your people is to try literally everything until you do.

I would tell myself to enjoy every, single moment. Not just the big things, but everything. Getting late night with your friends, ordering Chinese food to the dorms, signing the lease for your first apartment, the first time you ever got a $2 bill from $2 Bob, getting breakfast with your roommates telling stories of the previous night. Take in every moment, because one day you'll think you have all the time in the world to do the things you’ve always wanted to in college, and then suddenly you’re walking across the stage wondering where the time even went.

Being a college student has changed me in both the best and the worst ways, and I wouldn’t trade a single second of it. I have grown more in these four years than I have in my entire life, and I am so proud of the person I am today. I am a Stranger Things enthusiast, I am a lover of pretzellinis, I am a local sorority member, I am a public relations professional, and I am now a Bloomsburg University alumna!

— Danielle Backowski, senior mass communications major #HuskyLife

Monday, April 30, 2018

Be careful what you wish for

When I was a freshman, all I wanted was to be a senior. To be on my way to a big girl job, be 21 and have my life figured out. Going to the Student Services Center the other day to pick up my graduation tickets made me realize I’m now at that place … and all I want to do is go back.

Lucky for me, there are still things I can do one last time I loved doing my freshman year.

Going to the Scranton Commons with a big group of friends was something I did often, especially when everyone ran out of flex four weeks before the semester ended. There’s nothing like eating plates and plates of food and grabbing a warm cookie for the road with your friends.

Seeing movies on campus was a treat back in the day, especially since I didn’t have a car and could never get to the movie theater. Bloomsburg always has the best and most current movies, so I never felt like I was missing out on anything. Plus, who can say no to a free movie?

Even though I literally NEVER won anything, midnight bingo was always a fun way to get out of the dorms and meet new people. Plus, a little friendly competition against your roommate and friends doesn’t hurt.

Living with a roommate can be annoying and crowded, but most of the time it’s like being at a sleepover. I loved having someone there to talk to when I was bored or needed advice or to vent. The bond you have with your roommate is something you can’t replicate. Whether it’s freshman or senior year, roommates are something to be treasured.

While I have the ability to do some of these things before I graduate, it certainly won’t be the same. My advice, whatever year you are, is to enjoy where you’re at. I wish I had taken the time to really enjoy and make the most out of every year, rather than looking for the next best thing.

Senior year approaches more quickly than you think, so take your time and have fun.

— Danielle Backowski, senior mass communications major #HuskyLife