Category Archives: Freshman year

Summer days driftin’ away to, uh-oh those summer nights

Breaks at the college level tend to last longer than they did in high school, because during the winter and summer breaks the school can offer more classes.  Therefore, you have a lot of options of how you can utilize that time.

My freshman year, I was able to work my summer job during the winter and summer break.  The rest of my winter breaks I actually took off and relaxed (sometimes you just need  to relax and recharge after a difficult semester), but I generally tried to find work to do over the summer break (whether or not I could find a seasonal job in our current economy is another story).

My advice for most students is to make good use of your summer.  You can take summer session classes if you want to graduate on time or focus on a class that may be more difficult and take more time to focus on.  Sometimes certain specialty courses are only offered during the summer, so it could be a good opportunity to learn something new.  Another option (if you can afford it) is to take a study abroad course, where you can study, tour, and learn about a different country.  If you check out your foreign language department I’m sure they have study abroad opportunities for you to look into and would point you to grant and scholarship options to make it more affordable.  If you are majoring or minoring in a foreign language it is great practice, but there are also English language options available for those that don’t want to learn a new language but still want to travel.

If you don’t want to (or can’t afford) to take a summer class, then you definitely want to be working.  Your summer jobs not only act as saving opportunities, so you can have more spending money during the school year or more money ready for after graduation expenses such as student loans, but they are also great experience and look good on your resume when applying for jobs later.  When you are applying for jobs, it’s better to have some experience and to prove you’ve worked before.  If you don’t have any work experience by the time you graduate and haven’t spent your breaks taking classes or volunteering etc., your interviewer is going to wonder why.  No matter what job you wind up with, you can find a way to pinpoint certain tasks or qualities about the job that tie in with the job you may be applying for.  An example is how my hostessing job at the Hard Rock Casino buffet helped me get a job as a student usher at the Mitchell Center, since they both require good customer service skills.  The same skills apply to my current marketing position which involves public relations.

Other ways you can occupy your time is by either volunteering or finding an internship.  Volunteering can be another good way to build up skills or to gain contacts and references when applying for jobs later.  It is also a fulfilling activity that not only helps your community but can make you feel like you’ve accomplished something positive.  An internship is also very important, because it can help you gain work experience in the field you are interested in and help you gain a skill set specific to the career you have in mind.  An internship can also help you gain good contacts to get a later job or, as in my case, it can lead to a full time job.

If you are unable to find a job, can’t afford to take classes, can’t join any volunteering activities, or are unable to gain an internship, the least you can do is pick up some hobbies or work on improving your skill set to make yourself more marketable.  Maybe learn how to use a design program such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, or learn how to build applications for smart phones.  The more skills you have or the more programs you know how to use, the more you will be able to market yourself when applying for a job.  Although it is tempting to waste your whole 3 and 1/2 months of summer having fun or slacking off, it is much more worthwhile and beneficial to find a way to utilize it for your future.

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Filed under Freshman year, Sophomore year, Upperclassman

Tell the dj turn it up up up and dance dance dance a little more~

College is for a lot of people an exciting time of life.  It is a transition period between high school and “the real world.”  You get to take on more freedoms and responsibilities, yet still get the luxury of long vacations and breaks.  Instead of having to follow your parent’s schedule, or constantly keep your parents updated on your whereabouts, you now create your own schedule and can do whatever you like.  As my roommates one year put it, “I could totally eat ice cream for breakfast.”

Since you are planning your schedule, you can determine what time you want classes to be, how many hours you want to work, or what organizations you want to be involved with.  You can also choose whether or not you want to go to class and can pretty much spend your time however you wish.  However, I am here to provide some caution and to remind you the reason why you chose to be at college in the first place.  While reasons may include wanting to get away from home or meeting new people, the real reason why you and/or your parents are spending so much money is for you to get that degree so you can gain some knowledge and hopefully land a nice job to pay off your student loans.  One of my biggest pet peeves when I was at SHC was the fact that too many of my peers basically wasted their parents’ money and spent most of their free time partying.  The rule at college is that “The weekend starts on Thursday” so students pretty much go out most nights of the week instead of spending time studying or working on papers.

Now, there is no reason to completely cut out your social life and not have fun.  There have been many nights where in the middle of studying I would take a break and head to IHOP with some friends to eat breakfast at 1am.  I also traveled for weekend trips and went to art walk or stayed up all night playing Guitar Hero in my friend’s room.  However, I always scheduled my time and made sure that I got the important stuff out of the way first.

A close friend of mine provides an example of how focusing on too many other factors other than school can be a problem.  In her freshman year, she was in a sorority and was really involved in all of their different parties, philanthropy events, intramural teams, etc.  She had a lot of fun but messed up her GPA and wound up with below a 2.0.  This wasn’t because she was unintelligent, for she was a pretty good student in high school, but mainly because she didn’t schedule her time well and didn’t spend enough time studying.  Luckily, by the time it got to her junior year and her upper level classes, she left the sorority and focused more on what mattered.  She still had fun, but by studying more often she was able to bring up her GPA and had a pretty good GPA in her degree.

Now, I want to caution that it wasn’t necessarily the fact she was in a sorority that caused the problem.  A lot of people know how to juggle the different required activities in a sorority and fraternity and can keep up their grades, just like a lot of people that don’t get involved in Greek life can be poor managers of their time.  It’s just in her particular case the sorority activities were a little distracting and she had to learn how to juggle having fun with preparing for class.

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Filed under Freshman year, Sophomore year, Upperclassman

Geojitmal

It’s your freshman year and you’re buying textbooks for the first time.  You’ve learned that you can order them online through the school bookstore and pick them up when you move in.  Or you decide to do things last minute and you buy your books from the school bookstore directly.  Either way, when you finally add up the price of all your books at check-out you come to the horrible realization that their price is $700-$800 (or more if you have a lot of math and science classes).  At least, that was my experience.

You don’t have to spend that much.  Generally, the bookstore will post book lists for your classes as soon as your teacher sends in the order for them.  This means that you should be able to look up the book lists for your classes and start shopping for books ahead of time for a much cheaper price.  Go to sites like Amazon, eBay, or Half.com and compare prices between their books and yours.  Sometimes you can buy a slightly older edition that will have pretty much the same information and chapters but may have a slightly different page order or a few chapters re-arranged.  I knew this option was out there, but since I bought my books through financial aid I never tried buying them ahead of time and wound up wasting a lot of money on textbooks.

The bookstore scam doesn’t end at the ridiculous prices of the books either.  Textbooks will generally update to a “new edition” every year or every other year to force students to buy the new books and have trouble selling their now outdated textbooks.  These new editions generally have very little added information if any and may re-order some pages or fix some errors and typos that may have been in the previous edition.

Furthermore, at the end of the semester when you think you can sell back books and get some of your money back, think again.  The first year I sold back books that I had spent around $800 on, I got back less than $200 when I tried to sell back.  The reason?  Many classes are only offered during the fall or spring semester so the bookstore only buys back a limited number of books for the class.  Or professors change their syllabus and require a different book the next semester.  Or a new edition of the textbook has come out so professors are switching over to that one.

Also, very few books get sold back at half price even though bookstores try to claim they do.  The school bookstore has a quota of how many books they will buy back since they are only going to sell so many used (they want to be able to sell new books at full price).  Therefore, at the end of the semester you are usually left with several textbooks you can’t sell back or do anything with or you sell back books at less than a quarter of their original worth.  If you’re an English major then you wind up selling back paperbacks and receiving only $1-$2 for them.  Ways to get around this problem include selling online, selling to an off-campus bookstore, selling directly to other students, or either recycling or donating your books to a great cause or library.

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Filed under Freshman year, Preparing for college, Sophomore year, Upperclassman

You lied to me.

 

So, when I toured Spring Hill’s campus for the first time I was given the opportunity to try the cafeteria food.  In high school I always made and brought a lunch to school since I hated the cafeteria food, so I was pleasantly surprised that the food at SHC was pretty good.  At SHC (and many colleges) all freshman had to purchase an unlimited meal plan which meant you can eat at the cafeteria as much as you want, so I was glad that I would be eating well every day.

However, while my initial experience at the cafeteria was pleasant, I soon realized I had been tricked.  After about the first week of school the food at the cafeteria began to go downhill.  Yet, on visiting days, suddenly the quality of food would increase.  I noticed the same thing happen at South and realized the trick being played at the cafeteria.  Honestly, there were some dishes that I enjoyed eating at both school’s cafes, but the problem with cafeteria food is they always have a limited menu and recycle the same dishes every week or so.  You always have a sandwich bar, salad bar, pizza, and burgers, but it all gets really boring after awhile.

When I was at South I actually had a dorm room that had its own kitchen, so I was able to cook my own meals.  However, college students generally have a limited budget, so I usually bought cheap, easy to make food that wasn’t the healthiest.  In fact, I was saddened to see a list of top 10 college meals…and realized that I ate all of them on a regular basis.  Examples include cereal, mac & cheese, frozen pizza, tacos, spaghetti, and ramen.  Needless to say, whenever I managed to go home to visit, I would always look forward to eating food that didn’t take 10-20 minutes to prepare or was made in a cafeteria.

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I’m so lonely, so lonely…

Going to a new place can be hard.  Sometimes it can be easier if you go to a college closer to home where there are people you know from high school to make the transition easier.  But not all of us go to school close to home.  Admittedly, SHC was actually close to home, but since it was a private school there was only one other person from my high school I knew of there, and I hardly ever saw her since she was already a junior when I started.

Luckily, since I’m a military brat, I had a little experience with moving to a new place and having to make new friends.  But it had been several years since I had moved and had to experience that so it was still hard.  It was especially hard since my first roommate and I didn’t click, although I eventually got to know the people on my hall pretty well by the end of the year.  The first month or so I felt like no one at Spring Hill was like me and I had a hard time adjusting and making real friends.  I had some people to talk to on my hall and in my honor’s classes, but I didn’t seem to find people with similar interests.  That is, until I started getting involved in extracurricular activities.

I found out about The Motley literary magazine since I had been on the lit mag staff in high school.  I joined a group called S.H.O.R.E.S. which is an oceanography and marine science club and the Sierra club due to my interests with ocean life and the environment.  I joined the history club since I had been president of the history club in high school and joined the college democrats as well.  As I started to get involved in these groups, I slowly started to find the people at SHC that had interests similar to mine and began to make friends.  Several of my friends I made at SHC have remained close even after I left and those friendships mean a lot to me.  In fact, I sometimes have more in common with them than some of the people I knew in high school.  When my grandparents told me after graduation that sometimes you make your lifelong friends in college, I didn’t understand what they meant.  While there are several high school friends of mine that are still close, many have drifted away and I’m now closer to some of my college friends.   Therefore, joining clubs and organizations are a good way to make friends and find people who are interested in the same causes you are.

Another great thing about college organizations is they can lead to contacts for job offers later and look great on a resume.  Sometimes the people you become acquaintances with in a club can help you get a job later in life, or the service project you were involved with can get you in contact with someone that can refer you for a job.  Or when you’re applying for a job, your future employer could have been involved in the same organization and it can give you an edge over the competition.  Furthermore, when you are involved with a lot of organizations, it can beef up your resume which can also give you an edge.

Therefore, when you start college or if you’re already at college, it’s always a great way to find a few things to get involved with outside of class.  It can make your college experience feel more fulfilling and worthwhile like it did for me.  Plus, if your club is active, it can give you activities and trips to go on to get away from campus every once in awhile.  For example, in S.H.O.R.E.S. I went on several trips that really relaxed me when I was feeling stressed.  We went to the beach, dolphin watching, and swimming with manatees and I will always cherish the fun I had on those trips.

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Filed under Freshman year, Sophomore year

Honors college/program – to join or not to join?

When I took a tour at Spring Hill College to check out the campus and see what I thought, I was introduced to the head of the honors program.  She talked to me about how the program was set up, what the requirements were, and why I should join.  The classes were supposed to be more challenging and accelerated, and it was supposed to look good on your resume.  It didn’t cost anything extra and was in place for those who wanted to exert themselves.

However, after entering the honor’s program, I realized my AP English credit wouldn’t be accepted since they wanted me to take honors English.  Therefore, the 4’s I received on my two AP English tests wound up going toward extracurricular credit and was a waste of time and money.  Other than with that issue, I enjoyed being in the honor’s program and taking those classes.  I got to know my fellow students in the honors program since we wound up in honors classes together and enjoyed the classes and professors who taught them.  I was glad I had joined the program and felt it was worthwhile.

Then, of course, I left Spring Hill and eventually wound up at South Alabama.  I thought about joining the honors college there and looked into it…then realized that they required different honors classes and had specific seminar classes each semester I would have to go back and take.  Thus, since I wanted to graduate within a decent amount of time and deemed honors not worth the extra effort, I decided not to apply to join and just focused on my English and communication requirements.

I don’t regret not putting forth the extra effort and trying to join the program.  Yes, being in the honors program or honors college can look good on your resume.  But if you already have a full load or don’t want to put the time into it, there are other ways to prove your academic achievement.  Keep your GPA up and join the honor society related to your field of study (although you will have to pay a cost for this option) or join the honors program related to your major. In the end, an employer is more interested in whether you kept your GPA up, whether you were involved in extracurricular activities, and what experience and skills you have.

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Filed under Freshman year, Preparing for college

Literary Criticism continued

New Historicism/Cultural Studies (1980s-present)

New Historicism is an attempt to reevaluate how Historicists approach a work.  Historicists like to focus on the historical background of the time period that the text was written in order to try to come up with a reading of the work.  History is considered objective and a concrete background for the text.

New Historicists, on the other hand, do not believe history is concrete.  History is another form of a text or literature since it is always told from a specific perspective.  Therefore, history and literature are linked and can influence each other and be used to come up with conclusions about each other.  Thus, New Historicists are interested in how literature is used to interpret history or on what particular perspective a writer has on history.

Post-Colonial Criticism (1990s-present)

Post-colonial criticism is most interested in looking at the relationship between colonial powers and the countries they “colonized.”  Post-colonial criticism looks at literary works by countries that were once colonized and how they are still influenced by the colonizing power and also looks at how colonialism was portrayed by the colonial powers.

Post-colonial criticism is interested in the power structure and struggle between both groups and the clash of culture, religion, economics, etc. that occurs between them.  Critics are critical of the prevalence of Western literary canon and history and try to provide an alternative perspective.

Feminist Criticism (1960s-present)

Feminist criticism is focused on how literature reinforces, undermines, and portrays the oppression of women.  It is focused on the patriarchal aspects of our culture and how they must be changed.

Feminists use the binary opposition of he/she for their argument.  They point out that in the binary opposition males are hierarchically placed over females, and they argue that such a hierarchy is a social construction and has no biological basis.
Here are a few common approaches in feminist criticism:
  • Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal ideology is the primary means by which they are kept so.
  • In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman is other: she is marginalized, defined only by her difference from male norms and values
  • While biology determines our sex (male or female), culture determines our gender (masculine or feminine).
Other Important Schools You Should Know About
  • Moral Criticism and Dramatic Construction (~360 BC-present)
  • Formalism, New Criticism, Neo-Aristotelian Criticism (1930s-present)
  • Reader-Response Criticism (1960s-present)
  • Structuralism/Semiotics (1920s-present)
  • Post-Structuralism/Deconstruction (1966-present)
  • Gender/Queer Studies (1970s-present)
Some resources to check out if you want to learn more about literary theory
  • Purdue University’s helpful Online Writing Lab – http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/1/
  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Literary Theory – http://www.iep.utm.edu/literary/
  • Introduction to Literary Theory Video Lecture Series, Dr. Paul Fry, Yale University. (http://www.academicearth.org/courses/literary-theory)
  • The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, edited by Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth, Imre Szeman (2004).
  • Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, by Jonathan Culler (2000).

In case you missed it, here’s the first half of this post.

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Filed under 10 Things I Wish I Had Known as an English Major, Freshman year, Sophomore year, Upperclassman