Student Affairs: #CSAM16 And How I Found Myself On This Path.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the world of Student Affairs and Higher Education, October is Careers in Student Affairs Month.  NASPA does a Photo A Day Challenge on social media and has a prompt each day that encourages people in our field to share their experiences.  Today’s prompt is My Story.  I think this is by far the most fun prompt of the month because it is so cool to hear why each individual ended up pursuing a career in Student Affairs and how they got there.  I thought it would be cool to share mine.

My story starts at the beginning with the college application process.  As a #FirstGen student I really didn’t know what I was doing and my parents didn’t have the experience or the knowledge to help me out either.  They did the best that they could.  Having helped my older brother three years earlier, they did have some basic knowledge, but we still were going into my college admission process pretty blind.  We were definitely winging it.

At this time I didn’t even really know what it meant to be #FirstGen.  Now, I am wildly proud to identify as #FirstGen.

As a senior in high school I was so ready to graduate.  I was ready to leave my small town and go as far away as possible.  But I still didn’t know where I wanted to go to school.  I have never been a good decision maker, and this choice seemed like the biggest decision ever.  Where would I go to school?  What would I study?  I had no idea.  I felt lost.

Looking back, I laugh.  I laugh at how incredibly stressed out about this decision I was.  Looking back, I find it hilarious that I even looked at other institutions.  I went to my dream school and I know without a doubt that I made the right choice.  Looking back, I laugh because I think deep down, I knew all along that I was going to Northern Michigan University.  Deep down, there was no question of why or where.  I just knew that that was home.  Looking back, I see this scared and confused 18 year old Joel who couldn’t make a decision even though the answer was right in front of me.  I just didn’t want to admit it to anyone and I didn’t know how.  I was scared to admit it because that meant that it was really happening.  And, while I was so excited, I was also REALLY nervous.

After what seemed like the longest summer of my life, the time finally came!  I was moving away to college.  I moved in at 8am Thursday morning.  The first day of move-in weekend.  If that doesn’t tell you how excited I was to be there, I don’t know what will.

My freshman year was amazing.  Right away I found a close group of friends with those that lived around me in my residence hall.  We were all active in our House and Hall governments and I quickly became involved in other areas of campus life.  I loved trying new things and exploring the different involvement opportunities on campus.  Toward the end of my freshman year, I applied to be a Resident Adviser, after having a great relationship with mine, and wanting to be able to reach students the way that she had reached me.

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I received an offer from Alexandra Marshall, the Resident Director of Meyland Hall.  I accepted, and spent Sophomore and Junior year living the wild and crazy and rewarding life working for Housing and Residence Life.

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During these two years, I grew more than I can even express.  I learned so much from that position and my interactions with my students and staff on campus.  I dealt with a lot of crazy situations.  I had a lot of fun throwing really cool events and getting to know those living in my community.  I formed friendships and relationships with some of my closest friends and mentors during those two years.  But what I loved most wasn’t what I got out of the job, but the immense growth and changes that I saw in my students.  I fell in love with student development and watching impacts that learning and living had on others.

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Wanting more experience in this work, and craving access to more students, I applied to work for the New Student Orientation Staff at the end of my sophomore year.  I was offered a position as Staff Assistant and spent that summer learning more about my campus, and the city of Marquette, than I thought was possible.  I fell even deeper in love with both the city and the campus communities, and my passion for watching students develop and grow was sparked into a flame.

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After having the best summer of my life, I went back to school for Junior year and was excited to work with my students again.  But I was also excited for the incoming students that I spent all summer getting to know to come back too.  I hoped and prayed that I would have some of these students living in my community so I could work with them as their Resident Adviser too.

Junior year was a blur.  I had a lot of ups and downs that year.  I had even stronger connections with my students and I dealt with more serious issues.  I was balancing a harder class load, and trying to maintain friendships with my friends outside of Housing and Residence Life.  It was a really tough year, but ultimately I think it was the year that instilled in me the strength that I needed to move on.

I decided to leave the RA position at the end of the year, but was excited to end the year on a positive note when I was awarded the Paraprofessional of the Year Award.

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This fueled me with the excitement needed to spend a second summer on New Student Orientation Staff.  This summer I was the only senior returning to staff and I held a leadership role because of this.  My staff looked up to me, my Director who was just starting at the university looked to me for guidance and extra support.  I had the time of my life my second summer on staff and I built a family with my staff.  I had a bond with these people unlike that of any group of people ever before.  This summer was different though.  While I really felt like I had a great connection with my staff, I felt disconnected from students this summer.  I felt like being a senior, I could no longer relate to them the way that I had as a junior.  In one year’s time, something had changed, and I felt this distance separating me from the connections that I wanted to build with my students.  I did what I could to push through this feeling, and I did end up having some really great relationships with students.  I still got a sense of fulfillment when I saw a student overcome something or take a step out of their comfort zone.  The growth that I saw in these students continued to be what I loved most about these jobs.

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My senior year I lived off campus with three other guys.  This was the first time living outside of the residence halls.  I grew a lot from my experience living off campus.  While I loved the freedom and the kitchen, I also missed the convenience of the residence halls, and that intimate setting with my students.  I still had connections and interactions with students through my job at the Center for Student Enrichment working as a Superior Edge Volunteer Center Coordinator, but it was in a different capacity from my previous experiences.  During this year, I found a love for volunteer work, and community service.  I organized a service exchange with some students from Saginaw Valley State University, and met some of my closest friends today through this service work.

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Seeing the passion of other students and communities and seeing a need outside of Marquette gave me a new perspective and got me thinking even more about a future in Student Affairs.

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Somewhere along the way-I think maybe, my sophomore year-I met up with the wonderful individuals that were part of Marquette Ending Hunger.  This was a student organization that worked to raise awareness of poverty, food insecurity, and hunger in our area.  I loved being part of this group and it was the single most rewarding experience of my college career that was not tied to a job that I held working for the university.  I loved serving others, raising awareness and educating others.  I loved working in the community and hosting fun events like Empty Bowls and NMU Fights Famine in which I fasted for 24 hours in order to feel the struggle that many people around the world feel every day.

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I graduated from Northern Michigan University with my Bachelors of Science in Communication Studies on April 30, 2016.  I loved every second of my time at NMU and I will forever cherish these memories.  It was because of my experiences with Student Affairs that I decided that I wanted to continue my education and pursue a career in this field.

This brings me to today.  I am a first year #SAGrad at the University of South Dakota.  When searching for grad schools I wanted to go somewhere out of state, somewhere that I didn’t know much about, and I wanted to work in an entry level full time position or in a graduate assistantship.  I found that all in one package with USD, and I was able to do so through the Oshkosh Placement Exchange, and the support of my friends that went with me.

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I now work for the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life.  I live in a chapter house as a 22 year old with no Greek experience.  I am pursuing a Masters degree in Adult and Higher Education.  I am so far out of my comfort zone, but I am learning and growing everyday.

My love for student growth and development is as strong as ever.  I love getting to know the men  of Lambda Chi Alpha as well as the other students that are part of the SFL community.  I am realizing that there are so many options out there and so much to do in the field of Student Affairs.  It’s wild, crazy, fun, exhausting, stressful, rewarding, and fulfilling all at the same time.

I am excited to see what my future holds and where the wild world of Student Affairs will lead me.  But I am so in love with where I am.  I am realizing that I may not be here forever, and I may not even pursue Student Affairs forever, but right now, it’s where I am supposed to be.

There ya have it pals, my story up to date.  And as Natasha Bedingfield once said: “The rest is still unwritten”.

-Joel

Taking Breaks.

Hey pals!

I am going to stray from the norm of writing about Student Affairs.  After all, this blog is about my life and my adventures, and Student Affairs is only one sector of my life.  It does not define who I am.

Anyway, as you know from my post about wellbeing I am trying to focus on my personal wellness this semester.  So, I thought I would give a brief check in and update on how I am doing.

I have been taking my daily wellness tracker and according to it, I have been thriving everyday this month except for one.  I would say that this is relatively accurate, based on the questions that it asks me each day.  I have noticed that by starting my morning with this simple reflective practice, I feel grounded and  in tune with myself so I can focus on the day ahead and what it will bring me in terms of wellness.

This last week was quite busy and my stress levels were heightened.  I have my first presentation as a #SAGrad tomorrow, and I have a paper due this week as well.  The pressure and uncertainty of this week really started to settle in and I got very frustrated and overwhelmed.

This morning, I woke up at 4 am with a migraine.  This was a sign that I needed to focus on my wellness and get some rest.  So, I took some ibuprofen, crawled back in bed and skipped my first hour at the office.  Since then, my day has been surprisingly productive.  I have drank multiple bottles of water, I cranked out my homework, and I booked a flight to St. Louis for the NASPA regional conference in November!  Things are looking up and I’m feeling great tonight.

I spent the majority of my day by myself, at the library, in silence.  I needed that “I” time to restore my energy.  Normally I am not one to enjoy silence or alone time.  But today, I’ve needed it.

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I think that it is vital for us to be honest and to listen to our bodies.  I think of the song lyric “The body talks and meditation helps” from the great Nahko and Medicine for the People.  This message is so true.  We must take care of ourselves.  Be in tune with what our body is saying.  Take care of it and it will not let us down.

Practicing self-care and focusing on my wellbeing has been enlightening in the last month and I am excited to continue along this journey of health and wellness.  I look forward to updating everyone on my wellness as I go, but today, I felt that it was necessary to share my feelings.

Rest up pals,

-Joel

Fostering Multicultural Leaders.

This weekend I was invited to be a facilitator for a Multicultural Leadership Retreat hosted by the Center for Diversity and Community at the University of South Dakota, and I am so happy that I was given this incredible opportunity to work alongside colleagues and professionals in the field of Higher Education, as well as to learn from interactions with students.

In my experience, offsite retreats provide environments conducive to growth and learning in a way that is unlike any other learning environment.  This weekend was no exception.  Being a retreat dedicated to fostering multicultural leaders, the retreat center was designated as a brave space for all participants.  A brave space allows for all who enter to feel comfortable, able, and willing to have conversation, create dialogue, and take steps out of comfort zones and into stretch zones.  We wanted questions asked, statements made, and experiences and growth to occur without judgement or bias.  Creating a brave space allowed for such things to happen.

I believe removing ourselves from our home communities (in this case, the University of South Dakota) and the comforts and distractions of those places, allows for the creation of brave spaces to happen organically.  I’m not saying that we need to leave our communities to create brave spaces-we should create brave spaces everywhere we are-but it somehow feels easier to create brave spaces when in settings that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, yet sought out, such as at a retreat like this.

Removing ourselves from the comforts and distractions of home also allows for genuinely deep, meaningful, emotional connections to be made and for experiential learning to occur.  These types of retreats act as catalysts for student development and allow for learning to occur in a different way than that which occurs in the classroom or on campus.  This was fascinating to watch and rewarding to be a part of.

During this retreat I learned about intent versus impact.  I learned about the difference between safe and brave spaces.  I listened to stories and experiences told by my peers.  We discussed topics such as race, ethnicity, social class, gender expression, sexual identity, privilege, oppression and so much more.  I engaged in conversations that were not easy to engage in.  We delved into topics that are often avoided and ignored.  I allowed myself to be vulnerable and to be real, raw, and genuine.  I watched as others allowed themselves to do the same.  I learned the importance of having these tough yet courageous conversations with my peers, students, and others.  Most importantly, I grew from this experience, and I know that each and every person in attendance grew as well.

Social Justice and Higher Education go hand in hand, and that is why it is so critical for there to be multicultural leaders on college campuses (and everywhere).  I am excited to keep learning how to be a multicultural leader on campus and in the world, and to continue on a path toward social justice.  I hope to work alongside the students that I met this weekend and to grow as a professional with the other facilitators (colleagues) as the year continues.

I gained a lot from this experience, but the one thing that sticks with me is a quote from Disney’s Zootopia (yes, we viewed this film as a group and analyzed it from a multicultural perspective!).  It is important for us to be having these conversations and to be attending retreats like this so that we may lead the world to change.  So as the wise and courageous Judy Hopps said at the end of the movie…

“Look inside yourself, and recognize that change starts with you.  It starts with me.  It starts with all of us”

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Wellbeing.

Wellness has always been an important aspect of my life, but I never truly made it a priority or thought about how much work I had to put into my personal wellness until recently.  I have always been very active and fit.  As a runner, my physical wellbeing was always the thing that came to mind when thinking about wellness.  I have the stamina and endurance to run long distances and the heart to get out of bed every morning and start my day with a run.  I always feel better after a run than when I start.

For a long time, my definition of wellness was simply running and maintaining an active lifestyle.

In high school I had abs, strong legs, and a passion for running.  I thought that this was all I needed-that and carbs.  When it came to eating healthy, I would say that as a runner, I needed to eat healthy in order to provide my body the energy needed to run the distances that I do.  So that is (sort of) what I did.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m a clean eater and that I don’t enjoy splurging on sweets.  Ice cream is my weakness and I definitely eat my fair share of processed foods, but recently my main diet consists of fruits and veggies.  And a lot of carbohydrate rich foods like pasta and bread.  This was essentially my wellness lifestyle.

Fast-forward to today.  I am a first year #SAGrad and my definition of wellness has completely changed.  I still maintain my physical wellbeing and I still love to run and eat healthy.  I still eat ice cream and carbs.  But now, today, my concept of wellbeing expands so much deeper than my physical wellness and how fit I am.  I evaluate every part of my wellbeing in my daily life (as of recently).

My staff was gifted the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath as a welcome to our job from our supervisor.  As a staff we are reading this in book club style and discussing our wellbeing in staff meetings weekly.  I love it!

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This book walks us through career, social, financial, physical, and community wellbeing (the five elements of wellbeing according to Tom Rath).  I love evaluating my daily wellness in each of these categories and taking the time each day to consciously focus on each element.

Here is a quick breakdown of the five elements of my own personal wellbeing:

As grad students it is so common to think about our career wellbeing because for many of us we have two short years to think about where we want to be after graduation.  I think about this daily.  I am finally taking classes that I enjoy and I am finally excited to learn and to do the assigned reading.  I know that Student Affairs is where I am meant to be and I am using this year as a way to continue growing in career wellness.

Social wellbeing is also a huge aspect of our wellbeing as grad students.  How do we have fun socially?  Who do we want to spend our time with?  Are these connections and relationships meaningful?  This is the big one for me right now.  I moved to a new state, university, and community where I knew no one.  Being a Woo, I love the challenge of meeting new people, but something is different about making friends in grad school in comparison to undergrad.  I am now a university staff member.  I am an advisor of a fraternity and a few student groups.  I have two years to make connections with people rather than four.  This is proving to be difficult but I have also noticed that it is good for me.  I have found that I love being alone and that I need to take time for myself.  I have put effort into meaningful relationships with the few friends that I’ve made so far, and I no longer spend time with people I don’t want to spend time with.  I am learning to say no.  I am excited to see how my social wellbeing evolves throughout the year.

Financial wellbeing.  Need I say more?  As a college student-especially as a graduate student-I fully understand that I am not financially well.  I am constantly worrying about money.  I have never been one to worry about money.  In fact, I hate that money dictates so much of my life already this year.  But I know that I must be frugal and thrifty as a grad student so I can prepare myself for my future after.  I have bills to pay and loans that accrue interest every second, and I always think about this.  It’s a work in progress, but one of my goals for this year is to get better at budgeting.  Wish me luck!

I mentioned physical wellbeing at the beginning of my post, but to recap, I am a lover of the outdoors.  I am a runner and an avid hiker.  These things keep me active and fit.  I have started practicing yoga and stretching more, and I have been focusing on the foods that I eat.  I have cut back on my coffee intake and increased my smoothie consumption as well as switching from my beloved Clif Bars to a healthier alternative, Lara Bars.  I hope to continue working on my physical wellbeing this year, and I am sure you will all hear about it in future posts.

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Lastly community wellbeing has been the hardest adjustment for me since starting grad school.  Moving to a new state, city, and community is tough.  I never thought it would be so hard.  I have felt more alone since coming here than ever before.  I don’t have my close friends and family right next to me anymore.  I don’t walk through campus and know every single person that I pass.  No joke, this was actually my life for the past four years.  I have been jumping at opportunities to meet people and to feel like a part of this community and I know that as the year progresses, it will get easier.  I have attended community and campus events and my job has definitely helped me in finding a strong network among my peers and staff members.  I am excited to see where this adventure leads me this year.

And something that I have learned already in my few short weeks of being here is the importance of self care.  Take time to do something you love every day.  Take time for yourself.  Run, hike, yoga, meditate, read, craft/build, write.  Whatever it may be…take care of yourself and allow yourself to be immersed in what you love in order to rejuvenate each day.IMG_6326

As you can see, my thoughts on wellness have changed in the last few weeks and I am excited to continue working on being a holistically well human being.  I want to thrive in my wellness and I know that grad school is the perfect time to start working on this.  How am I supposed to encourage wellness among the students I work with if I myself am not well?

Take care friends,

-Joel

Tools For Success As A #SAGrad.

I am just two weeks into my first year as a #SAGrad and I already have a list of things that I believe all #SAGrads should know coming into this experience.  I am sure that as the year progresses I will have things to add to this list, but right now here are a few things that I think every #SAGrad should become familiar with.


Microsoft Excel.

I have only recently been a computer user.  By recently, I mean since being a college student.  Yes, I know, I am a millennial and my generation grew up with computers…but that does not mean that I am tech savvy or great with computers.  I know how to type a paper, Google “Computers for Dummies”, Tweet, and send an email.  That is about it.

Since starting my position as a Fraternity Graduate Assistant, I have used Excel more than ever before (which isn’t hard because I can count that on one hand).  We use this program to track our Sorority and Fraternity members for Recruitment events, mandatory trainings, and departmental programs.  Excel helps us to assess attendance and keep all of our data all in one place.

I’ve been provided a quick crash course in Excel by my coworkers and supervisor and have been learning how to use it as I go along.  However, I still look at it and all I see is a never ending grid.

I still don’t know how to sort and label things or how any of the shortcuts and functions work.  I am not sure if other offices around campus or at other institutions use Microsoft Excel, but I know that it is something that I will be using a lot in the next two years.  I hope to become more familiar with it, but I wish I would have known how to use this program before diving into this position.  I feel like I am not contributing as much as my coworkers and I am letting my team down.  So do yourself a favor, and learn the basics before you start grad school so that you can shine at the office.

Calendar & Email Merge.

I know you’re all reading this and thinking “Joel, we all know how to use those things.  That’s easy”.  Having a calendar and actually using it are two different things.  Knowing how to use a calendar in an organized manner is an entirely separate issue.  Writing everything down and scheduling time to eat, sleep, and exercise are things that are often forgotten.  Seriously, organizing every minute of your day is so important as a graduate student.  If you are balancing a full class load, work, social life, and time for self care, you must schedule all of those things out.  If it’s not scheduled it will not get done.  I know.  It has happened to me for the last two weeks.  Because of that, I am now making this change in my own scheduling and organizational strategies.  I have now budgeted time for exercise and time for myself.

As for the Email portion of this bullet, I think that it’s pretty straight forward.  Know how to craft a professional email and how to create a signature that looks good.  You will send and receive thousands of emails as a #SAGrad.  You don’t want to be the one that sends the email to your professor at 2am saying “Yo Prof!  What’s good?”.  Leave that in your undergrad.  Know how to write out a proper subject line, who to address your email to and what their name is (and spell it correctly), and how to sign off at the end of an email.

Be straight and to the point in the body of your email.  Ask your question or share your comment in a way that your reader will understand it.  Leave out unnecessary information or questions.  And always be professional.  Never use emoji’s or chat lingo.  That will get you nowhere.

OK, I think you get it.  If you are going into Student Affairs, I am sure you already know all of this.  So onto the point that I actually want to make about calendars and email.

My supervisor this year has shown me how to create calendar invites and to link your calendar with your email.  I love it!

Have a meeting with your supervisor?  Set the time and date.  Is it a reoccurring event?  Set the parameters of the event and send the invite to your supervisor.  They receive the invite via email, accept it, and your calendar is now filled.  You’re good to go for the rest of the semester.

Whether you use Outlook, Google Calendar, your IPhone calendar or another app.  Find a calendar/mail merger and use it!

FullSizeRender (1)To Do Lists.

Ok, you have your calendar.  You have your email.  You know how to use Microsoft Excel.  You’re on your way to becoming an organized super genius.  But is everything getting done?  Check off the things you’ve done.  Whether you write everything in your calendar and cross it off as you go, you use an app like Wunderlist or Trello, or you have Post It notes scattered across your desk, you need to know what you need to do and the tasks you’ve accomplished already.  My staff uses Trello.  I am still getting the hang of it, but I do like it.  Fellow #SAGrad and blogger Amanda Koslow uses Wunderlist and she RAVES about it.  Both are great tools.  I use both Trello and Wunderlist on my phone.  Whatever your style, find something that works for you, and stick to it.  Build a list, cross items off, and be efficient and productive.

Social Media.

Yes, I know I sound cliché right now.  But I am being serious.  The students that we work with are all connected to technology.  They know it better than we do.  They will be teaching us the ropes and we will be learning from them.  But we must be willing to do so.  We also need to meet them where they are.  We are not going to be the effective #SAPros that we could be if we don’t have some sort of social media presence.  Universities are quickly learning that they must use social media to connect with their students.  The same goes for us as professionals.  Does this mean we have to like, friend, follow, snap, and poke all of our students all the time?  No.  Not at all.  Please don’t, actually.  But by knowing how to use these platforms, and the tools and applications that each offers is important to working with our students and reaching them and their needs.

In addition to our students, networking with other professionals, keeping up with organizations that we are involved with, and staying up to date with current events is so easy and convenient with social media, and we all know how vital this is to our field!

PowerPoint, Prezi (or another presentation platform).

We as #SAPros will definitely have to give a presentation at some time in our career.  Whether it is for class, our job, or another reason entirely.  It is better to familiarize ourselves with these platforms before it’s presentation time.  Why not start now?

I am giving a presentation next week on Time Management and Goal Setting for my university’s Leadership Seminar Series.  I have been putting together notes and working on my PowerPoint presentation so that it is attractive and fun.  I want my students to be interactive with my presentation.  I want them to be engaged.

I got my bachelors degree in Communication Studies, so I may or may not go a little above and beyond when it comes to presentations and engaging with an audience…but that doesn’t mean that everyone in my position does.  You don’t have to have a flashy presentation or be the world’s best public speaker, but you should know some basic functions of presentation platforms.  So start playing around with them now.


I know this list is pretty basic, and I am sure many of you are way more prepared than I am.  These are just a few of the things that I’ve found helpful in my first two weeks of struggle.  If you have any tips or tricks for any of these tools, or have a different tool you think #SAGrads should know how to use, please reach out to me and comment below.

-Joel

From Undergrad To #SAGrad.

IMG_6277.JPGI have officially completed my first week of graduate school and there are some things that I’ve already learned.  The first is that grad school is slightly different than undergrad.  Here’s why:

I only have two days of class each week.

Seriously.  I only go to class for three hours a day, two nights a week.  That’s like no class time at all.  It’s great!

On the flip side of that…I have TONS of reading assignments.  The free time that I normally would have with two days of class is now spent reading and doing online discussions.  I am still doing work for school even though I only have six hours of class each week.

I actually have to do the reading.

In my undergrad, I could get away with not buying my text books, not reading the ones I did buy, and skating through just fine.  It’s not like that in grad level classes.  If I don’t do the reading I fall behind.  I miss out.  I fail.  While I am not necessarily proud to say that I didn’t do much of the assigned readings  in my undergrad, I do have to acknowledge the fact that now I wish that I would have put that time and energy into it.  It would have been good practice for this year.  Instead of doing the work assigned to me, I took the lazy way out.  I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying.  I didn’t care.

Now, as a grad student, I find myself not only learning the culture of campus and the community, learning the material in class, but also teaching myself how to be a student again.  I got away with underachieving for too long and now I don’t even know how to read, take notes, or be an attentive student.

People are passionate, intelligent, and driven.

I love going to class because I get to interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds and with vast experiences.  Everyone is so intelligent and has something to contribute to the class and to everyone else’s learning.  In grad level classes people want to be there.  Everyone is engaged in class discussions.  It’s great!

I am intimidated going to class.

I’ve never felt this before.  How is it that I-the one who didn’t even know student affairs was a thing and never planned on going to grad school until 8 months ago-can be in the same class with the Vice President of Human Relations here at the University?  One of my classes is even taught by the Vice President and Dean of Students.  While it is great having university administrators in class with me because I have a lot to learn from them, it also greatly intimidates me.  I am not really easily intimidated by people and it’s weird for me to feel this way.  But I guess we’re not growing if we’re comfortable, right?

I enjoy being just another face in the crowd.

During my time at Northern Michigan University I was very well known on campus.  I was actively involved on campus in many ways.  It was normal for me to know every single person I passed in the academic mall on my way to class.  Here at the University of South Dakota, I don’t know many people.  Those that I do know are other graduate students.  While I loved the attention at NMU and I loved my experiences and my involvement, I am finding a newfound love for solitude.  It is comfortable walking to class by myself, headphones in, smiling at people as I pass them rather than striking up conversation.

Making friends is harder, but much more meaningful.

Since the time I turned six years old and finally started talking, I haven’t stopped.  I have always made friends quickly and easily.  I have always loved the challenge of making new friends and introducing myself to others.  In undergrad making friends was an instantaneous thing for me.  Now as a grad student it feels different making friends.  It feels less natural, more forced, and much deeper.

Everyone always says that the friends that you make in college are those that you’ll have forever.  I believe that.  But I also believe that in the few short weeks that I have been in Vermillion, and the one week of class that I’ve had I have made such deep and meaningful connections with the people that I’ve met.  I interact with other grad students.  We are all older, and more mature.  We know that we will only be here for one-two years.  We are here to learn and grow.  I think that because of all of these factors the relationships that we build during grad school are so much stronger and deeper than those from undergrad.

If you’re reading and are one of my many friends from undergrad, don’t think that I am saying that I don’t like you anymore or want to be your friend, quite the opposite, really!  I could be totally wrong here.  I could just be extremely lucky in finding an amazing group of people to surround myself with in the last few weeks.  Maybe this doesn’t always happen to grad students.  I’m not sure.  I’m still new.  I am just merely making an observation.


I still have the entire first year of my #SAGrad career, but I have already learned quite a bit from my experiences here in Vermillion.  I can’t wait to see where this year leads me and what I get out of my time here.

If anyone has any comments or similar stories about their grad school experiences, feel free to reach out to me.

-Joel

 

Settle Down It’ll All Be Clear.

I have been in Vermillion for just over two weeks now.  During this time I have been able to fully move into my place, explore Vermillion and USD, and meet a few people.  I have started my position as a Fraternity Graduate Assistant and have completed training.  I can’t wait for students to arrive back on campus and for classes to start.

I have been so nervous with all of the beginnings and the new challenges that I am about to face this year so I just wanted to take the time to share a few things that I have done to make myself familiar with my new home.

Get a library card

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I love libraries.  I love books.  I love reading.  I am excited to be in a new city because that means that I have one more library to check books out from.  I really love that libraries use eBooks these days because no matter how far away from them I live I can still check out books.  One of the first things I did upon my arrival in Vermillion was make a visit to the library to browse around, check out a book, and get a library card-because lets just talk about how magical library cards are!

Current read is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Go for a run or a hike

Other than Higher Education, running and hiking are two other things that I am truly passionate about.  So when it comes to moving to a new city, what greater way to get to know a place than by running through it or finding a hiking path?

Find a coffee shop to frequent

I love coffee and company, so a small coffee shop is vital to my living situations.  Good thing Vermillion has one that suits my every need.  Café Brule is a cute little specialty coffee shop, full service restaurant, bakery, and even has a long list of wine and beer to choose from.  If you don’t enjoy something from Café Brule, you are doing something horribly wrong with your life.  I have already spent too much time and money here, and I know that it will soon become a staple in my weekly routine.  Another plus to Café Brule is that they accept money from my meal plan!

Attend a community event

Getting involved in the city in which you live is one way to feel truly connected to it.  I love small college towns because quite often the city and campus communities are close-knit and allow for many opportunities to get involved in both.  Here in Vermillion, the young professionals network, Vermillion Next, works hard to provide fun and cheap entertainment for our community members.

The first event that I attended in town is a bi-weekly summer event called Thursdays On The Platz.  There is live music, free entertainment, food catered by local businesses, and beer and wine sampling.  It is a great way to meet people in town and is a fun atmosphere to be a part of.

Check out the local Farmers Market

I am a huge supporter of shopping local.  I love knowing that my food or gifts are coming from just up the street and I love building relationships with the people who are making the items I use regularly.  Most towns have some sort of farmers market, and Vermillion is no different.  I stopped by on Saturday and picked up a few amazing items!

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My first purchase was this local honey.  Moving to a new place, living in an old, dirty house, and adjusting to a new schedule does not make for the greatest equation in terms of allergies.  Some of this honey should do the trick in slowing down my allergies.

I couldn’t resist this little succulent in a coffee mug either.  I mean, how cute is it?  And, let’s just be honest…Did anyone think I was going to pass up cold brew?  Nope.  The Bean is a new start up company in Vermillion.  Right now they don’t have a location, but are selling at local events such as the Farmers Market and Thursdays On The Platz.  They sell cold brew coffee and home brewed iced tea.  I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this amazing new business and I can’t wait to get my next batch of homemade goodness.

Relax.

Yes, amid exploring, work and getting myself comfortable in this strange new place, I have found the time to relax and breathe and do something for myself.  I think that while it is so important to get acquainted with your new home and to get involved and meet people, you also have to make sure that you are ok with all of this new stress.  Taking time for myself, making phone calls to friends/family back home, reading, and watching the Olympics have been ways for me to rewind and relax during all of this excitement.  I just have to remind myself that I may still feel lost and confused at times, but it will all be clear soon enough.  I just have to be patient and absorb everything as I go.

Wish me luck as I dive into Sorority and Fraternity Recruitment in the coming weeks!

-Joel