Monday, September 30, 2013

10 Lessons I Want to Teach My Students This Year

It's officially the first day of the academic year, though I've already put in a number of hours over the last few weeks at welcome-back mixers, advising students at office hours, answering emails, and figuring out how to navigate the terrible online course system that we all love to hate.  I'll be serving this year as the internship coordinator for an undergraduate program on campus, and I have to admit, it's almost as if the position was designed for my skill set and interests.  There are very, very few graduate assistant positions available for masters level students on campus, as evidenced by the fact that 70 (!) people applied for the job I was extremely fortunate to get.  (As a perfectionist, my first thought wasn't, "wow, out of 70 people, they picked me!" but, rather, "uh oh, out of 70 people, they picked me…I better not screw this up!")

I'd forgotten how much I love working with students, and how nice it is to work at a University without being universally despised.  (In case you're not familiar, faculty tend to realllllly hate the central research administration office, where I ended up working for over three years.  It toughened me up, to say the least.)  

I'd also forgotten how full of hope - and themselves - high-achieving undergraduates tend to be.  After my first few advising sessions, I decided to make a list of what I think are then of the most important lessons I can teach my students this year.  What would you add?


1. "Please" and "thank you" go a long way.  

2. Don't apply for an opportunity just because it's prestigious.  If it doesn't line up with your goals and interests, it's probably not the right position for you.  Go for the internship where you'll learn and grow the most.  The organization name is less important than the skills and experiences you gain - or don't.

3. These are the years to learn how to roll with the punches, persevere in the face of adversity, be flexible with your plans, laugh and learn from your mistakes.

4. Do your research before you ask a question.  Take a few minutes to see if you can get the answer online, or gain enough background to come up with a more informed question.  Make this a habit, and it will serve you well.

5. Seek balance.  Make space to enjoy your undergraduate years, while still taking the time, energy, and resources to invest in clubs, internships, jobs, study abroad, and other experiences that are only available for a brief window of time.  (And they're not available to everyone - see below.)

6. Check your privilege.  Most of us enter college without much consideration of how our identities impact our daily lives, as well as the lives of the people around us.  Our generation (I think we're still part of the same generation, even though I'm yet not sure how to use my new cell phone) is coming of age in a society that is more diverse than ever before.  It's important that we strive to understand, as individuals and communities, how our ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, abilities/disabilities, sexual orientation, and other identities affect our reality.

7. You have never heard of most of the job titles available in the world.  Keep an open mind as you plan your future.

8. For the most part, everything is fixable.  (Credit for this goes to my fabulous former boss and mentor, Wendy.)

9. You are not your resume.  ...Although, speaking of your resume, this is not the place to wax poetic.  Keep it to one page, and make every word count.  

10. Never make assumptions about the age, gender, status, or position of a person to whom you haven't been introduced.  For example, that petite woman who you thought was a freshman?  She's the new Graduate Assistant/Internship Coordinator in your program, and she has a lot of power.  (Ok, she has some power.  But seriously, what freshman wears a blazer to the Welcome BBQ??)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Farewell to Summer

The skies were a perfect blue, the air just warm enough to warrant fresh lemonade with lavender.  Kids played in the fountains, tourists zipped along in Segues, and runners zigzagged across the grass, huddled teenagers blowing smoke in their wake.  Everyone was down at the waterfront to celebrate the last day of summer.  We knew that there would be some nice weather in the coming weeks, but it wouldn't be the same.  And sure enough, Portland ushered in the fall with a series of downpours, which have slowed to a consistent drizzle.  I've switched from flip-flops to boots, and my feet feel so confined.  But I don't use an umbrella.  That's so Californian.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Summer Harvest

I did something magical today: I went to the garden to pick vegetables for dinner.  

It's not really my garden; it's my landlords'.  However, they've very kindly given me permission to share in the harvest, and I do some weeding in exchange.  It's almost like I grew the food myself.  (But not really.)

The homegrown cherry tomatoes and Swiss chard joined a few snips from my basil plant (and lightly-fried garlic chips, yum) in this pasta, which was enjoyed outside on a glorious Portland evening.  Soon, they tell me, the rain will return.

I wanted to share some photos of the cute pepper plants, but those ended up looking a lot more phallic on the screen.  Sorry to disappoint.    

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some Days

Kale and vodka.  

Some days, it's just what the doctor ordered.

(At Besaws, after which we were caught in a crazy downpour.  Worth it.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Portland Farmers Market at PSU

There are farmers markets all around the city throughout the week, but the PSU Saturday Market is the biggest of them all.  I actually moved here in time to catch the opening market in March, which was a crazy, cold, windy, wonderful morning.  If you're planning a trip to Stumptown, the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University should be on your list - if not for the amazing produce, live entertainment, or incredible food vendors, then at least for the people watching.  

 I did not actually buy these eggs.  For one, they were too cute to eat.  And while I do my best to support farmers that keep their chickens happy and healthy, these prices are out of my grad school budget.  I'm trying to convince my landlords to keep chickens on the property instead!  (Goats have also been suggested; how cool would that be??)

I have developed a major affinity for spicy peppers since moving to Portland.  You could actually feel the heat coming off of these bad boys.  Delicious.

I am a sucker for bad puns, and this stand delivers every week.  They also support refugee farmers, so I'm happy to support them.

In Portland, we put kale in everything, including cuisine that wouldn't normally include kale - like Mexican food.

Not pictured: pour over coffee, a breakfast burrito with New Mexico chilies and spiced potatoes, a banana Nutella crepe, and an artichoke tamale with fresh salsa.  These were devoured too quickly for photos.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Catching Up

Hi, friends!  Let's catch up.  Here are some snippets from the last six months:

You already know the part where I quit my job, packed up my life, and moved to a new city in a new state to start graduate school, thereby checking off the first goal on my 30 Before 30 list: make a bold move.  

I've had a lot of awkward interactions with Portlanders.  Initially, I thought it was just Portland keeping weird.  Then, I realized that I was the common denominator.  Have I always been this awkward, and none of you ever told me?  Friends tell friends when they're awkward.  And when they have kale in their teeth.  

Every breakup needs an artist or album to serve as its soundtrack.  In this case, it was the talented James Morrison on Undiscovered, followed by Awakening.  Thanks for the suggestion, Pandora!

My mom sent me a big box in the mail.  I got home, opened it up, and it contained eight identical bags of baked cheese puffs, and nothing else.  Best. Care. Package. Ever.

I discovered that it's not that it rains that much in Portland, but that it essentially drizzles constantly from October until the end of June.  This makes Portland the perfect place to be a graduate student, because curling up with a stack of textbooks feels a lot more natural when it's cold and gray outside.  But then, in the course of a few days, you go from sweaters to shorts, and the weather is glorious, and nobody in their right mind wants to write a paper.  But are graduate students really in their right mind?

At this point, I’ve pretty much stopped caring about how pale my legs are.  It's Portland - nobody really cares what you wear or look like, in my experience.

And speaking of Vampires and other such creatures, I finally watched the Season Finale of Grimm, and discovered that Portland is under attack by Zombies.  I thought those were just hipsters.

I actually saw Grimm being filmed at a restaurant near campus!  We basically just spotted a mess of film equipment and extras, no stars, but it was still fun.

A friend asked me to keep him company at his organization's booth at the annual Portland Pride Festival.  Through our conversations over the last six months, and after an eye-opening afternoon at the Tom McCall Waterfront, I realized how little I actually know about gay culture (or, at least, urban Pacific Northwest gay male culture).  I'm grateful to my friend for inviting me into his life.

While I was walking to class one day, a well-meaning student advisor asked me if I was looking for freshman registration.  Err, no.  

The Portland State University Farmer's Market is one of my favorite activities: good food, beautiful produce, and a lovely way to spend a morning surrounded by Portlanders of all stripes.  It's also, apparently, a great way to get fashion inspiration.  I overheard a female patron tell a young woman passing by, "I really like your aesthetic."  I think this is a uniquely-Portland compliment. 

Summer wasn't all about school.  I got to host family and friends in Portland, and only got us lost a few times; I was also able to fly up to Alaska to spend almost a week hanging out with some of my oldest and dearest friends - the kind of friends who have serious blackmail on you from embarrassing teenage moments.  We took a road trip from Fairbanks to Anchorage, which allowed us the chance to spot a mama and baby moose near Denali National Park!  When I came back to Portland, I was very disconcerted that it actually got dark at night. 

I really started to lose it on hour 30 of working on a paper, wondering why I was paying to write and be graded on my analysis of a Supreme Court legal argument instead of just stabbing a fork in my eye.  Then, I took a deep breath and reminded my privileged self that I was sitting safely on a comfortable couch, with a mug of tea brewed in clean, disease-free water at my side, and plenty of food in my kitchen.  Perspective.  Still, that was by far the hardest class I've ever taken, and even though I only grasped about ten percent of the material flung at us, that ten percent will come in handy.  I think.

I found that singing the Pitch Perfect soundtrack at the top of your lungs is a great stress reducer/study break.  Thank goodness for the thick concrete walls in the garage-turned-apartment I call home.

I spent a lot of time by myself.  I learned that there are limits to my introversion, but also appreciated the space it gave me for a lot of growth and reflection.  And yoga.  And baking multigrain banana muffins at 11pm.

I wrote a two-part article for InterVarsity's Urban Projects blog on the real cost of fast fashion.  I'm not sure if anyone read it besides the kind people who reviewed it before publication, but I enjoyed writing it.  

A guy at the sandwich counter offered me a free pickle - but we all know there's no such thing as a "free pickle."  By the way, this is also the introduction to "the sex talk" with my future children.

I finished two quarters of graduate school, and have five more to go.  I guess I really could have just left it at that.