Category Archives: college

Why I stopped buying textbooks (and gave higher education the middle finger)

books

I remember the first time I bought textbooks as I got ready for my first semester of college. After saving a couple hundred dollars from my summer job, I proudly searched the depths of Amazon and purchased “collegiate” textbooks, that ensured my novice mind that I was on the path to bigger and better things.

However, it was sometime between my first and second semester of my freshman year, that I had an inkling that I was being duped.

The mindset went something like this. But probably with more curse words, snarky eye rolls and less than clear language:

  • “Wow. I can’t wait to learn something and better myself. These books will be of great assistance.”
  • “Okay. Well you can sit down and memorize something you’re not going to remember, or you can do something more productive like sit on Facebook.”
  • “This is dumb. This book is dumb. It will be out of context in a few years. My professor doesn’t even reference it and I’m out $500. Not buying a single book next semester.”
  • Next semester: “Hey okay, let’s buy these books.”

It’s a vicious cycle where I overestimate my capabilities, and believe that I’m actually going to do hours of assigned reading everyday, when in actuality, my attention span is too short and I’m too darn lazy.

I used to think that I was really unintelligent, especially when I saw some people around me immersed in their textbooks, and reciting verbatim the content they read. I wallowed as I attempted to read page after page, but my mind was always on something else.

For my sophomore year, I decided to say “screw you” to my professors and to Amazon, and decided to keep that $500 in my wallet.

In each of my classes, my professors told us to go out and purchase the required text. I just smirked and went on with my life.

When they said, “follow the syllabus and do the assigned reading,” for me it meant, “go do something you actually want to do and screw this.”

And I did. I did a lot of things. I worked on a political campaign, met and gave a speech before Michelle Obama, wrote a ton of news articles (and then got promoted to editor), started up an electronic magazine and led an LGBTQIA group on campus.

I was busier than all of my friends and often didn’t have time to eat or sleep. And yet — I didn’t do a single bit of homework I deemed unnecessary and I definitely didn’t read the assigned text. (Instead, I used the money for textbooks and received subscriptions to some newspapers and read those all day.)

I still hold a 3.5 and above GPA. Because well, we can’t get too crazy now, can we?

Now it’s not to say that I think higher education is bad.  It’s just that for the price that I’m paying — I wish there was a way to serve the needs of different personalized learning experiences. By the time you get into college, it’s pretty hard to stray from your learning habits.

And I know many people disagree with my analysis of college (I’m assuming my friends who are education majors are cringing at this moment.) That is completely fine. What works for me, doesn’t work for everyone else. I understand the importance of being a well-rounded person and having the ability to sit down and read, and analyze information, and all of that other stuff.

But.

It’s not for everyone.

And I’ve learned that it’s not for me.

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On Self-Loathing

shadow

Self-loathing is the unshakable tormenting imaginary friend that every 20-something young adult tries hard to break a relationship with.

It’s that invisible whisper in your ear that reminds you why you’re not good enough and doesn’t let you sleep at night. It’s that transparent body that blocks you from moving forward and tells you that you might as well just go back to where you came from. It sometimes takes the form of a parent, a friend, or even a stranger who chuckles at your naivety and mocks you with a middle finger.

For myself, my self-loathing became more prominent my fall semester of my sophomore year. In everything I did — no matter if it was successful — there was an auspicious awareness that it was not good enough and would amount to nothing. No matter what I did this semester: present a speech before First Lady Michelle Obama, get promoted to News Editor, meet amazing writers, and among other things that I was lucky to take part in — I still came back to my dorm riddled with anxiety and stress over my apparent inability to produce anything worthy of being called, “good.”

Even self-loathing made me stop blogging after I posted the most successful blog post I ever had.

And like so many self infatuated young adults, I assumed it was just me that had this problem. It wasn’t until I was at a party when a friend of mine drunkenly confessed her feelings of inept when it came to herself, her work and her future. In my opinion, she was an extremely amazing artist (her undergrad major) and that it was silly to spend time hating herself when she was perhaps one of the few people I admired my age.

In contrast, I think of my friends who are confident in themselves but are ignorant to their lack of ability. Like most young adults, I have many friends who want to be authors, photographs, artists, actors; but are acutely unaware that the work they currently produce is lackluster.

Why do talented people feel like their contributions are below average, and why do untalented people feel like their contributions are “God’s gift to mankind?”

In a quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: Miss Maudie speaks about Atticus’ hidden shooting talent and says, “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

While perpetual and severe self-loathing is never a good thing as it is detrimental to someone’s own psyche — an understanding of humility and one’s own lack of ability is a thing that a person can learn from. The person who believes they have a lot to learn will eventually outshine the person who believes they are superior and gifted.

In turn however — humility is a balancing act. Recently, I had an internship interview at a prominent newspaper in Iowa. I was 100% positive they weren’t even going to contact me for an interview. When I did get contacted for an interview, I was in immediate panic mode and was sure that I was going to do a terrible job and would be an unqualified candidate. My best friend’s father gave me the simple advice of acting like the paper would be lucky to have me, instead of the other way around. Through this simple façade of courage and vigor — I know that the interview went 10x better than it would have if I went in with a determination that I was unfit for the position.

But things like acting confident during an interview is obvious. It’s the balancing act of humility and courage that young adults need to sort through when applying for jobs/colleges, swimming through the dating scene or even living their everyday lives.

Most young adults in this generation lack assertiveness and confidence which is saddening. We lack the ability to feel strongly about something or voice our opinion for fear of offending someone. And then when we do stand up for ourselves or do something daring — we chastise ourselves for it immediately afterwards and follow up with, “but that’s just my own opinion” or “but I could definitely be wrong.”

At the same time, American society is individualistic and is focused on the sole person. Parents smother their children with overbearing compliments and comfort, and those children turn into young adults who fail to see themselves past the veil of, “Oh Johnny, you were the best pumpkin in the play out of all of them.”

So after rambling about the same thing over and over again — I leave you with this one belief that I’ve acquired.

I would rather do great things and self-loathe myself, rather than be mediocre and live in naive state of mind. I would rather be talented and not talk about it than be average and act boastful. I would rather believe other people are better than me, than proclaim myself as the best.

At the same time — there are certain things confident people have a better chance to get such as happiness, friends and certain things that require charisma such as a job interview or even a job offer.

So after today, I am going to try and learn how to live with my self-loathing imaginary friend, and take everything he says with a grain of salt.

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Student Journalism: The Best and the Worst

We’ve all been there. No matter what age or occupation, we’ve had those days that we never want to end, and those miserable days that seem endless.

In the world of journalism, we can distinctly remember those adrenaline moments when we uncover a hot story or get the chance to hear an exciting tip from a source. We can also distinctly remember the rough interviews, the angry people and those horrendous moments where it seems a story is going absolute nowhere.

As a student still learning the ropes, there are definitely distinctive high and low moments in student journalism.

The Best:

You Can Mess Up and People Are Understanding

We all make mistakes. Luckily for students, people are much more forgiving since they understand that you are still in the learning process. Once when I was investigating a story, I did not interview a person who was blatantly important and needed his voice to be heard. When he later emailed me and shared his thoughts, I immediately apologized and did my best to correct the situation.

“Are you a student?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m a freshman.”

“Aaaah, that’s alright then. We all make mistakes.”

It is the card that you can pull that makes those big mistakes just a tad bit lighter.

On the otherhand…

The Worst:

Not being trusted with responsibilities because of student/ year status.

Luckily for me, as I come from a small school, my year in school doesn’t matter that much, but at bigger universities all of the practical experience goes to upperclassmen. I don’t agree that it’s a bad thing since upperclassmen certainly deserve the respect and the work, but underclassmen lose the chance to gain some necessary experience.

When interviewing people for a story, they are also less serious when it comes to a student newspaper. There have been times when I haven’t been invited to a press conference while other neighboring newspapers have been invited. It wasn’t because the quality of work wasn’t up to par– it was because we were viewed as less important since we were merely seen as “caterers to students.”

The Best:

Receiving the opportunity to dabble in a mix of mediums

For my sophomore year, I am covering three different beats for our student newspaper, while also serving the role of news director for our radio station. I don’t have any experience with budget cuts even though that is one of my beats, and I definitely don’t have any broadcasting experience.

That doesn’t matter though. Since I’m a student, I have the opportunity to use the university’s different equipment and educate myself on a variety of things. When out in the real world, there’s no way that you can work for a newspaper and for a radio station. Sure, you can have video on a newspaper site, and these days, websites are integrating a variety of mediums, but generally, it is still one major emphasis while something else takes the background.

The Worst:

Gaining an understanding of “the real world.”

I definitely believe my experience in the newspaper and my upcoming experience with the radio station will benefit my career later on. However, there is still a distinct different between an extracurricular and a professional job.

Unfortunately, the things that we learn in classrooms are often outdated by the time we graduate. While we assume that our classroom time and education is so unique, that same theme or lesson is being taught in just about every other journalism class.

And that complacency and laziness that you were allowed to have as a student in an activity will bring you the pink slip in your professional career.

The Best:

Making a name for yourself on campus

I’m sure it’s happened to any student who has worked for some sort of media outlet that’s popular on campus. Sometimes when you walk around or introduce yourself to someone, they’ll recognize you and say, “Hey aren’t you the person who was on —- or hey, aren’t you the person that always writing for —–?”

It’s heart warming and nice when your peers and professors notice your work and compliment you for it. Especially at a large institution, it’s even more flattering to be recognized.

And it doesn’t hurt that in the future, your peer may be a future connection or employer.

The Worst:

That bubble where you think, “I’m the awesomest person everrrr.”

You know what I’m talking about. I’m sure in class or at your paper or station, there’s that one person who thinks they’re the next Diane Sawyer. And sometimes, you can’t blame them for thinking that. We pamper and groom students so much and compliment them for every little thing that they can get egotistical.

But when they’re shoved out into the real world and employers are rejecting their application left and right, they’re dumbfounded. They were great at school and everyone thought their work was fantastic, why can’t they land an entry-level job?

 

Through thick and thin however, student journalism is a necessity for our up and coming age of young media socialites. It gives us the opportunity to spread our wings, get shot down and then fly back up again, ready to take on whatever may be out there.

And so I ask, what are your best and your worst in journalism?

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To Travel Hopefully is a Better Thing Than to Arrive

car, traveling, driving, dreaming

One of my favorite quotes is from Robert Louis Stevenson– “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.”

It’s a quote that pertains to an emotion I’ve been feeling lately…

Unsatisfied.

I don’t know if it’s that college undergraduate urge where you’re ready to go out and experience life, but I feel like there’s the possibility of the world within my hand. Quickly however, reality crashes down and leaves me with broken fingers.

Student debt, high unemployment, no experience; there is an endless list of overbearing worries that make me scared of wanting more.

There was a time that I drifted towards public relations because the job market was moderate and I figured, “it was close enough” to journalism.

There was another time when there was a news writing job that I decided not to apply for because I figured I already had enough on my plate and that I didn’t need to work any harder.

I wanted to quickly quench that crawling unsatisfied feeling  by giving into “the reality” of the situation and lowering my standards.

However, I quickly realized that even if some things I want to achieve seem impossibly, why not try?

It seems hopelessly optimistic, and I’m not saying that I want to be the next Diane Sawyer or anything, but I’m afraid that our generation may start lowering their standards or goals because of the stark reality that lies before them.

And so you can study something in school that you figure will have a good job market and will turn a profit, and you can also not bother to apply for your dream job because you’re okay with where you’re at and change is terrifying.

But with just one life to live and only so many days to truly live it, what’s the point of settling for reality? Why not keep chasing that dream? In the end you may be better or you may be worse, but what was our country built on?

Dreamers.

And so I ask, is there any quote or saying that you live by or feel strongly about?

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The Lost Generation

light bulbs, lost, different, bright, dark

After an economic meltdown, record unemployment and skyrocketing college tuition; it is no wonder that our up and coming group of young people have been dubbed, “The Lost Generation.”

Previously used for those who were coming of age during World War I, it has now found it’s place in modern society.

We are in a climate where dreamers are forced to remain asleep. For every goal and ambition we may have, the probability of unemployment looms above us.

College tuition is well above the rate of inflation, and recent graduates are living with their parents to save money.

When a Bachelor’s Degree used to ensure a decent wage job, it now ensures that we will remain in debt for an extended amount of time.

For me, it’s absolutely terrifying to envision what my life will be like after graduation. Will the economy improve? According to polls, yes but it still will not be the same as before 2008. Will I find a job? In an industry like journalism, the pickings are slim and the competition is fierce. Will I be able to support myself and live in my own place? Well, maybe I’ll get lucky. Will I be okay?

Hell yes.

Our generation has guts. While people may assume that we are slackers and will not live up to the reputation of previous generation, I believe that we are an age group of fighters. We’ve been through traumatic historical events such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the War in Iraq/Afghanistan.

And while our guts may be made up by iPod’s, Facebook and Starbucks, I believe that we are revolutionizing ourselves to adapt to new situations. For myself, I am aware of the tough times that lay before me and I’ve worked harder than ever before and I’m working harder than my parents had to. When one internship used to suffice, I’m now searching for three or four.

I see the reality that lays before me, and it looks pretty bleak. But through this mess, our generation will shine through. We’ll never be the same as we were before, but do we really want to go back? We’re hopefully smarter, stronger and aware of the impending dangers that occur with irresponsibility and lazy oversight.

So sure. High school students, college students and recent graduates are stuck with the name “The Lost Generation” due to the high rates of unemployment and massive debt that we’ve accumulated due to rising tuition. And sure, previous graduates may have had an easier time finding a job after graduation. But while the future is absolutely terrifying for us, we’ll break through and make them change us from the lost to the found and thriving.

It may be an unrealistic optimistic idea that has no real practical solution, but the only thing that we can do is fight. Especially in the field of journalism, people are clashing keyboards, jousting written words with one another and trying to be quicker and more efficient than the competition. Who you know is key, but putting up a good fight and revolutionizing ourselves for a world that is morphing “news” while also retaining traditional ethical attitudes will remain our priority.

I’m scared but excited. It’s tough to plan for what may come, but hopefully with hard work and dedication, I’ll succeed. And so my question is for you: what do you think of the lost generation and what are you planning to try and be “successful” in the future?

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