Wednesday, February 27, 2019

So not ready for this

These goodbyes are not going to be easy. I figured they wouldn’t, but it doesn’t help … and I haven’t even gotten to them yet. Dang ... Liz, I’m going to miss you.

You are the funniest, most caring and beautiful person I know. Your contagious good energy gave me a new aspect on life. I’ve learned how to not care and just let things go. Thank you. There aren’t enough people like you in this world, Liz.

My 1,000-picture photo album of you is one of my most prized possessions and making your Tri Sigma scrapbook will be one of the greatest, yet hardest tasks of my life. Capturing your best moments at Bloomsburg University these past three years has been awesome, mainly because I got to share them with you and knowing you’ll have these memories forever.

I’ve put a lot of pressure on this scrapbook, which circles from Bids Night to the Phillies game and around all of those random candids, because I want you to remember not only how much BU has loved you but how much I have too. I may have taken the Big role a little too serious, but you were my first little sister. I’m sorry … but worth it, right?

I remember Po and I instantly clicking with you, and knew you were a combination of each of us. Little did I know you would go on to have such an impact on my life.

Without joining Tri Sigma, I wouldn't have met you and gained this type of relationship. Without joining Tri Sigma, I would’ve never met all these amazing sisters who each have helped me grow into the person I am.

Thank you, Bloomsburg University. Thank you for giving me Tri Sigma and my Little … Liz.

It’s different saying goodbye to all my friends, because we’re all leaving this spring and have to figure out our next step together. Liz, you’re different.

You’re different because I’m leaving you behind. I have to watch you enjoy your last year over social media instead of living it alongside you. I have to hear about your life over the phone, instead of walking three feet down Lightstreet.

Planning to talk to you over the phone is just an early reminder how far apart we will be. I’ll miss being able to claim you as my little person, but I’m excited for you. Trust me, I am.

It’s one more year for you, so do everything you love most about this place. I have two months left, so I know how fast it goes. Being tired or stressed out doesn’t last, but the memories with your best friends do.

— Annie Pitts, senior communication studies major #AGreatPlaceToBeYou #HuskyLife

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

One last drive back

I’ve pictured my final days of college my whole life, and it’s finally here. I still can’t believe it.

It hit me on the drive back to Bloomsburg from my home in West Chester. I used to hate the thought of driving two hours in a car, but in the course of my four years it was something I grew to love. It's two hours alone of reflection for me to think and listen to my favorite country songs on the loudest volume.

However, this last drive back to Bloomsburg was not one I was looking forward to.

It was the last “back to school” car ride, and I was fully aware of that. I felt as if I was doing more thinking then belting out to my music. I knew what this drive meant. It meant my last drive to this town. It meant that everything I was about to be doing the minute I entered the town was my last. I admit, it’s a bit strange to now be saying, “My last ..." It seems like yesterday I was just saying, “My first ...”

My first semester, my first class, my first college friend, etc. Thankful for all “my firsts,” because I fell in love with this school in a way I never expected to, just wishing for the summer to end so I would be able to come back.

Without all these firsts, I would have never been the person who I am today. That first week of that first semester started a new beginning of a new me. Even after four years, you're never quite sure what a semester will bring you. It’s funny how each semester has a different feeling to it. The seasons are completely different and the mood of each changes.

The obvious difference of the days being shorter in the winter, a positive vibe emerges when the sign of snow is melting and warmth is coming. Having the constant reminder this being the “season finale,” seniors want to get in as much fun as possible.

Roughly two weeks into my last — ah, there it is — "my last ... semester" I can see my senioritis kicking in. I just want to be able to savor every moment I have before I no longer can. 

How can I focus on school when trying to get a job? How can I focus when I have limited time with these people ... my Bloom people?

You never realize how much you change over four years. It’s not a drastic type of change but it’s a type of growth that hits you on your senior year. A growth that allows you to look back on your three years and think “she was so young, so naïve.”

It’s a growth that allows you to see the people who are there for you and those who are not. It’s a growth that allows you to see the skills you have when taking on the real world, and the growth you have to look back and thank this place for giving me the memories I'll have forever.

— Annie Pitts, senior communication studies major #AGreatPlaceToBeYou #HuskyLife

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Chernobyl Tour

When we awakened after our first night in Kiev, it was dark. The tour begins at 8 o’clock, breakfast is served at 7, so naturally, we awakened at 6. After chowing down on some wonderful hotel-given food (and coffee… so much coffee), we boarded the bus headed toward the most damaging nuclear accident in history: Chernobyl.

Our extremely helpful tour guides, Tania and Anastasia, presented to us a brief safety talk, as well as some history of the site.

One of our first stops was to the abandoned kindergarten in the exclusion zone: Kopachi Kindergarten. The inside of the building is eerie. It was so clearly lived in, only to be totally abandoned. Dolls are left out of place, some half-buried in the dirt in the front garden; some pensively looking through the dirt-covered window. Posters teaching the Cyrillic alphabet falling off the wall; open books teaching basic grammar like a Soviet Jack and Jane.

After a wonderful lunch consisting of potato soup and roasted chicken, we delved further into the exclusion zone. It is important to note that the radiation endured through the tour was only marginally above the background radiation experienced just through everyday life. There are, however, hotspots scattered throughout that our guides pointed out and led us through unscathed. The highest amount of radiation we encountered was in Pripyat, the abandoned town close by, which will be discussed a little later. The tour led us 200 meters away from the reactor, well within what 30 years ago would be deadly to stand in for as long as we did, but the cleaning crews following the meltdown has reduced the radiation in the area back to safe levels.

Below is a picture of me standing that 200 meters away, the reactor itself is covered by an absolutely massive complex that is the largest moveable structure in the world. The reason for its mobility was for the safety of the crew who constructed it; the length of time it took to build would have dosed the workers with lethal doses of radiation relatively quickly, which doesn’t look good in reports. The Soviet Union or any following governmental institutions have avoided releasing any studies on the full casualties of the accident, but estimates place the victims at well over 10,000 people that later died of cancer and other complications due to high radiation intake.

After our visit to the reactor, we made our way to the abandoned city of Pripyat.

The Soviet leaders neglected to tell the inhabitants of this worker’s town for three days following the accident, and additionally led them to believe that the city would be inhabitable in the not too distant future. Alas, thirty years on and human life is still no fully sustainable in Pripyat, its abandoned buildings slowly falling apart from decades of neglect; an eerie reminder of the lives its inhabitants left behind.

The most famous attraction within Pripyat is the abandoned amusement park in the center of the city. Ironically, the park was never officially open, it was set to be unveiled five days after the accident. It’s rusted ferris wheel and carousel now lie rusted and totally unused, containing the most radioactive areas of the exclusion zone and the tour. The background radiation within the exclusion zone was approximately 0.3 µSv/hr. A piece of debris on the bottom of one of the carriages of the wheel measured in at over 500 µSv/hr.

As a physics major, I found the tour of Chernobyl quite enlightening. It shows that even the best of intentions and discoveries can be warped by power-hungry megalomaniacs. This accident has placed a stigma upon nuclear fission power plants as being unpredictable, but as long as the safety measures are all in place (the Soviet scientists had turned them off at the time of the accident), it is by far the cleanest form of energy we currently have. Unfortunately, the horrible result of this plant’s meltdown has permanently tainted the view of this form of power.

— Andrew Clickard, a freshman mathematics and physics dual major, is studying abroad this winter for four weeks in Eastern and Central Europe, taking trips to the Schindler's Factory, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Auschwitz Concentration Camp. #HuskyAbroad #ProfessionalU

Auschwitz Tour

I’m not exactly sure what I should say about Auschwitz. To read about the Holocaust is one thing; visiting a memorial is another. But standing in the place in which over a million people suffered and died… It’s difficult to put that feeling into words.

I suppose it is a sort of melancholy sonder. The realization that every single one of those 1.1 million was a life just as complex as my own, only to be snuffed out as if they were nothing. I don’t know. That is the best description I can think of right now.

I could not bring myself to take photos of the camp, it just felt wrong. And frankly, photos would not do it justice anyway. Being witness to a room filled with 40,000 pairs of shoes is incomparable to viewing an image of the same room. Seeing a literal ton of human hair, shaved off upon entry to the camp to be used in textiles, cannot be conveyed meaningfully in a photograph.

I think that this tour is the one that affected me the most of all. And that seems to be the consensus within the larger group as well. It was a very quiet bus-ride back home to Dom Profesorski, everyone felt the heaviness of the atmosphere at Auschwitz; the pain that racism from an authority figure can dole out; the result of bystanderdom and fear under oppression.

— Andrew Clickard, a freshman mathematics and physics dual major, is studying abroad this winter for four weeks in Eastern and Central Europe, taking trips to the Schindler's Factory, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Auschwitz Concentration Camp. #HuskyAbroad #ProfessionalU

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wouldn’t trade this experience for the world

It's been a hectic last couple of weeks in DC and at Coalition for Juvenile Justice. Last week was our 2018 National Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Conference in Baltimore. I've been to a few different conferences in my college career, but I was never behind the scenes for them.

It's a ridiculous amount of planning and coordination. Making name tags, registering attendees, putting together packets, confirming with speakers is just the short list of things we did in preparation.

The conference lasted three days, and we had over 300 attendees from 45 different states and territories throughout the week. I had the unique honor of getting to run around the plenary session with a microphone during the "Question and Answer" time. This was probably my favorite part, because it was a very visible position.

The conference was exhausting but worth every second. I got to wine and dine with industry professionals, sit in a few breakout sessions and learn about juvenile justice successes across the country. I got to meet keynote speaker Cara Drinan, who wrote an incredible book about youth incarceration.

Now, for outside of work activities, the list goes on. I took a bus and train home for Thanksgiving to celebrate with my family, went to a Washington Post live chat about criminal justice reform, went axe throwing with my boss and coworkers (an amazing stress relief, I definitely recommend), went to a sports bar, walked around Georgetown twice, got brunch (more than once), ate incredible macaroons, went to happy hour, watched a beautiful sunset in NoMa, celebrated Dia de los Muertos at the National Portrait Gallery, met up with friends from Bloomsburg, went to global festival at TWC, and ate an embarrassing amount of gyros and teriyaki chicken from food trucks near my office.

All in all, this experience has changed my life. I found direction, and I found my passion working with youth justice reform and helping provide equitable outcomes for at-risk youth.

I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world and would extend my stay here indefinitely if I could. I have met so many wonderful people from all around the country and world, and I hope I will get to see them again in the near future. It's been an incredible few months down in our nation’s capital, but it’s time to come home and finish up my four years at Bloomsburg then graduate in May.

Thank you so much to The Washington Center, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, and Bloomsburg University for bringing me to this point. Go Huskies!!

— Deanna Campion, a senior dual political science and communication studies major #ProfessionalU

Laughs, pasta and really sweet crepes

Thanksgiving went by smoother than I anticipated. I knew it would be tough to spend the first major holiday away from my family, but it helped that I was in a country that didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, as well as being surrounded by amazing people.

Although most of the students on my flat are not from the United States, they all shared in our tradition the next day, and we all went out for a nice deal in town for Friendsgiving. It was a night full of laughs, pasta and really sweet crepes. It’s hard to believe time has gone by so quickly, but I know that’s because I’m enjoying myself so much.

I’ve realized some new things about myself, but those were mostly trying out new things, etc. In the last few weeks, I’ve realized why being abroad on your own can bring such a fundamental change within people; it’s because you’re forced to be by yourself at times when you would usually have people.

To hear out the thoughts you had been putting off for months. You’re forced to do things on your own you never had to do by yourself. At one point during the summer I did not think I would be able to come to England, because I was battling health issues. I overcame those and was able to come, but I found myself feeling sick one late evening and was forced to go to the hospital by myself. I ended up going on a 40 pound ($50) taxi adventure, because I first went to a private hospital that I could not be seen at only to end up at a hospital I might’ve had to pay out of pocket for. All at 1 a.m. But I didn’t have a choice or someone to hold my hand, I had to do it. I was forced to experience that, and I hope I’ll grow from realizing how grateful I am to have people by my side during difficult times. That’s the beautiful thing about being abroad, life pushes you a little harder and you’re forced to grow.

— Elayne Che, a junior psychology major, is studying abroad this fall at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. #HuskyAbroad #ProfessionalU

Education in England

The most intriguing and important part of studying abroad is, of course, the ‘studying’ part. Coming to a whole new country also means being introduced to a whole new education system. I have undoubtedly been challenged, confused, but also infused with excitement to retain all of this new information in a different format.

My main course of studies at the University of Essex, in Colchester, England, are Performance and Communications, so under this umbrella I took one theatre class, Models of Practice, a literature and drama class, Origins and Transformations of Literature and Drama, and a media class, Approaches to Film and Media. As a mental health advocate, I also wanted to venture into the mental health views in England, and I also purely wanted to learn more about it, so I took a psychology class, Emotion.

The structures England has for education, at least the part of England the University of Essex is in, is based on a very independent learning style. There is significantly less coursework, and no strategic attendance policy. The general term for the class as a whole is a “module.”

The module is set up into two different halves: one is a lecture, of which, every other lecture a different professor will be presenting their area of expertise, and the other half is called a “class,” which is very similar to our general teaching/learning style: one professor, and 30 or less students in a more laid-back, personalized session. A student generally has one lecture and one class every week, but as aforementioned, attendance is not as eminent as it is in most of the Uni’s here in the States.

Some professors can, however, count attendance as a percentage of the module, most likely if it's a class like Theatre, where participation is imperatively necessary. Further on, when attending the class, the student has to “tap in,” which means to wave their student ID card on a black sensor in the room to track their attendance.

Lastly, just to share some fun facts about the finals week here in England: We have almost no quizzes/tests throughout the semester, just one approximately 10 page research essay, and a two-hour exam during their finals week. Again, professors can add a test or coursework here and there, but it's only one to two times within the semester, for revision purposes … and that’s another positively intriguing thing: they don’t say “study” here, they say “revise” like “I have so much revision to do for exams” etc!

In totality, I have found this way of education to be so lovely and refreshing, but also very stressful. I felt as if I had so much more time on my hands, with how their scheduling was and the less coursework/attention to attendance, but I also felt very behind in my studying mostly because this independent way of education is very self-management heavy. I relentlessly learned how to stop procrastinating more (but not completely, of course, I’m still the average college student), and how to put more pride and enjoyment into what I am learning.

England has honestly been so encouraging to not merely remember material, but to actually retain it and believe in, or even challenge, what is being taught.

— Emel Rasim, a junior theatre arts major, is studying abroad this fall at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. #HuskyAbroad #ProfessionalU