Saint Martin’s to Harvard: A Summer Series

Five: Residents or Friends? Both.

This week started with going whale watching. First of all, I thought whale watching was this one-hour ordeal where you hopped on a boat, drove out a little bit, saw some whales, and then went back – plot twist, it’s not. I was played. Okay, not really- but sort of. Our whale watching trip was about five hours long, we went down to the Boston Harbor pier, where we got on a relatively large boat, drove for about an hour and a half out into the ocean, spent about thirty minutes “looking” for whales, then drove the hour and a half back. It wasn’t a bad gig. I didn’t really see any whales, and it was really windy- but it was a good time. Oh, did I forget to mention that we took about 100 students with us? Have you ever had to take 100 students on public, underground transportation and then walk them three miles in the heart of a big city? If not, I challenge you to, it’s pretty humbling, stressful, but also fun – getting to witness their excitement, especially for those experiencing the ocean for the first time.

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Whale Watching Gang

 

This week was pretty timid- well the beginning of the week was. On Monday, I had the day off, which was nice. Because of that my friends and I went back into Boston. This time we went shopping, grabbed some lunch, and went to the Prudential Center and the Boston Skywalk. This takes you to one of the highest points in Boston where you can view the entire city. Unfortunately, it all happened so fast that I didn’t grab any pictures, but I’ll be back there with some students in a few weeks, I’ll be sure to post some pictures then.

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I’ll compensate with a sunset photo I took today

On Tuesday, I had a floor activity with all of my residents. Since they’re pretty young teenagers, I wanted to do something that would help them with their development. They get a lot of homework here and they spend a lot of time in class- because of that I wanted to teach them something about themselves. So I gave them the true colors leadership test. It’s pretty basic, but a large majority of them had never heard of it before. For those of you who don’t know what it is, you answer a simple questionnaire and it calculates your true color in relation to leadership, work, relationships, etc. it’s pretty fascinating stuff, and a lot of them were surprised by the color they got. After that, I split them up into their designated color group, in their group they played trivia against the other groups. I did this for a few reasons, first, they’re real competitive teenage boys, you know they like to challenge each other and this was a good healthy way to do it. I also did it because although they were able to identify their true color, this gave them the opportunity to put it into action with others like themselves. After the event we debriefed what it was like to work with others who work the same and students provided feedback on how the students in their groups showcased the skills throughout the trivia. I was skeptical, but it all worked out well! Thanks to Liz for helping me come up with a cohesive plan! I’ve already planned my next session activity- and I’m pretty excited!

Wednesday I connected with my residents. We went to breakfast, lunch, and dinner together at the dining hall. I know I keep saying how talented they are, but after every discussion they just amaze me more and more. They come from so many different backgrounds, demographics, and regions from all over the world. With high aspiring dreams of creating start-up companies to reforming the current political system, these students will find a way to do it. They never cease to amaze me when they tell me what they’ve done for the day, what they learned that day, and how they’re going to apply what they learned to their life plans. I think this is a really gratifying way to identify that student affairs is my future profession. Here’s why: although I may not agree with everything that goes on with the administration, professional staff, and more, at the end of the day my job is to care for the student. Ensuring that they are having a positive experience. I challenge them every day to utilize what they’ve learned and they come back and challenge me to find something new I’ve learned at this internship. They may be young, but they’re amazingly smart. Working with the students truly is the best part of the job, and that’s what’s been most gratifying for me.

Thursday got wild. Real wild. Fourth of July really happens here. Which makes sense in one of the most historical cities. The beginning of the day was chill, everyone just hung out in the sun since we all had the day off. It was pretty relaxing. Finally, at night, we walked over 400 students to the Boston Pops and Fireworks show, from Cambridge, which is about two miles each way. It’s not a bad walk at all, but with 400 students, it’s a little intimidating. Once we got there, the students were allowed to do whatever they pleased, as long as they made it back by curfew. Let me tell ya, I have never seen so many people at a time, in one place, for a fireworks show. You could feel the energy there for the Fourth of July. All the fireworks were to be shot off on the Charles River and we went right to the bridge of the river, so we had a pretty good view. Side note: Queen Latifah was there performing, so that was pretty interesting and cool to be there for. I have NEVER been to such an intense firework show, it’s 26 minutes of straight fireworks, with no breaks. It was wild to see over 500,000 people enjoy this show, but it was amazing to be a part of it, one of the many experiences I’ve had here that I’ll truly cherish.

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Some pals and I on 4th of July

Friday finally came and that meant it was time for my students to move out so that new students could move in on Sunday :(( some of them were big sad. And honestly, so was I. They’re good people, and I know that they’ll all go far, being able to mentor and chat with the future generation has been rewarding and exciting. It’s taught me a lot about myself as well. For those of you who don’t know, my secret life goal is to give a TED Talk, and these students tell me daily about new ideas that I should speak on. They don’t only encourage me, but they help me grow as well. I’m excited to receive new students on Sunday, but until then, I’m going to Rhode Island for some much needed fun with some friends I’ve made here.

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Rhode Island State House
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Saint Martin’s to Harvard: A Summer Series

Four: Work? It’s Just Serious Play

 

On Sunday, all my residents moved in and it was finally time to put all my training to use. Though I can’t divulge too much information about my residents, I can say that I have a floor full of students who are not only active members of the community already, but they are ready to learn, be mentored, and practice their first time being independent (for most of them). Every night, my students have to check in by 11 pm but beyond that, as long as they make it to their classes, sessions, and activities, they have all the independence they want.

This week on the more professional side of things I had a lot of meetings, small breakout sessions, and even recreational activities to get out and see more of the East Coast. I had a one-on-one with my residence director, a sub-staff meeting, and an all-staff meeting. During my one-on-one, my director, Grace, helped me identify some extra goals for the summer, helped me debrief my first few weeks here, and even gave me a rundown of her experiences of student affairs. She’s about to graduate with her master’s in higher education from the University of Wisconsin. Being close in age and having the ability to work with someone who has similar professional goals has been extremely beneficial and I look forward to our future one-on-ones During my sub-staff meeting (seven interns and our director), it was the first opportunity we had to bond together and get to know each other and our own objectives. We used some of the meeting time to create a sub-staff flag – representative of all of us, the flag showcases why we are here, what we left behind, and what is driving us to succeed in the program. Finally, we had an all-staff meeting. During this time, we debriefed the entire week, discussed some new policies, were mentored in ways to connect and tie it to student affairs – we also finally got to take staff photos!

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Our Sub Staff, with RD, Grace

I attended a few breakout sessions. First, I attended a session on how to handle difficult conversations. This was surprisingly beneficial. Coming here, I always had a hard time having difficult conversations because I worried about harming someone with my words instead of clearly getting the point across. Not only did I learn that this is a fear for many, but also that it’s usually not a reality with most. We learned about the five methods of communicating, how to structure conversations, and that at the end of the day, collaboration is one of the major things that can save a group that’s having difficult conversations. I attended another workshop on how to handle rejection, where the speaker spoke from experiences of rejection, how to truly face it, and that rejection truly is okay. It was pretty fascinating, actually, coming here I expected them to speak truly to excellence, I mean, it’s Harvard. However, learning that rejection is truly okay and that everyone will face it throughout their lifetime was actually a really humbling experience. Finally, I attended a session on how to brand yourself – how to make employers/colleges notice you in an effective way. Pretty interesting stuff!
We also had some recreation activities this weekend as well. 8 other interns and I took about 100 students to Newport, Rhode Island. Challenging? Absolutely. It’s weird to be “in charge” of another human being, let alone 100 of them. We woke up early and took a coach bus to RI, which was about a 2-hour ride. Once there, we let our students have a free day and they just had to meet up with us before we left. While there we went to some shopping centers, walked the beautiful streets, saw some mansions, and FINALLY got to go to the beach. It was a good day to hang out with some interns that I haven’t spent much time with and get to know them. It was one of my favorite experiences here, especially since I love the beach, and can finally scratch Rhode Island off my list of places to visit! We also hosted a trivia night for some of the residents and they really bought into it – they really challenge themselves every day, and it’s super cool to see.

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Newport Tower
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Some proctors and I
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Easton Beach in Newport, RI
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We found a rock, we climbed a rock

Finally, I have one more trip today and we’re going whale watching in Boston. Sounds fun! But as I glance out the window it’s raining – so we will find out!
This week, I also had the opportunity to have some floor dinners, chat with residents, and have individual meetings with each of them. They truly are some talented, fascinating people. They all have major goals that they strive for – dream jobs, dream degrees, and dream lives – but I don’t think they’re just going to be dreams. Seeing my students interact and work, I know for most of them these dreams will become reality. They’re doing great at this program so far, and I’m excited to see how far they come within the next week. They move out at the end of next week, and then the next two-week session starts. Some of them are already sad about leaving, but I know they’re going to succeed wherever they go!

Saint Martin’s to Harvard: A Summer Series

Three: Traveling & Training

On Sunday, I left Seattle around midnight to arrive in Boston at 7 am! By the time I got here I was extremely tired. I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane and I wasn’t going to have the time once I got here – but it was all worth it! Once I got to Boston, there was no wasting time. I dropped my bag off at check-in and I went immediately to  human resources to take care of my paperwork, picked up my official Harvard staff ID, and was given a staff shirt and more goodies. The rest of the day was spent moving in, getting situated, and ended with a social with all 37 interns hired from around the globe. Fun fact: I’m the only intern from our region that makes up Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Nevada! To be honest, I had a little bit of impostor syndrome my first day, and it comes and goes (sorry, student affairs lingo I’m learning here)! But do know that if you ever feel that, it’s completely okay and normal! And if you don’t know what that is, let me know, I’d love to talk about it! Meeting all the other interns was fantastic, we all really hit it off and loved the opportunity to finally meet each other.

Day two started all of our training. The days start at 7:30 am and end roughly around 8 pm, with things to do by the next morning. The intensity of what we are doing is wild, but we’re learning so much. Now that I fully understand what I’m doing, I’m able to share. There’s a pre-college program here at Harvard where students in high school can come for six weeks to take an intense, immersive course, while having the opportunity to learn outside the classroom as well. My role is to serve as their RA here, while maintaining close professional relationships with them so that they fully succeed. In addition, I’ll be challenged to grow in the world of student affairs, make new professional connections, and grow in risk management & conduct. This is all while simultaneously going to sessions as interns where we will learn about the process of applying for grad school, about the world of student affairs, and how our lives and experiences can apply to our professional lives.

Working usually within student activities and student government, I didn’t feel that prepared for working in residence life. I’ve never lived on campus, never “moved” to college, and I never had to deal with conduct issues. But this training helped so much and even revealed that my skills would transition into this position more than I thought! Over four days I learned so many aspects not only of this job and its duties of being a general residence assistant, but I also learned so much about the entire field of student affairs and applicable skills. I have so many notes and learned new things to bring back – and it’s only been a week!

On Friday, we finally got to have some free time after training let out. We all decided to go out for dinner and truly learn about each other. I never would have thought I’d spend my summer with people from Rhode Island, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, California, and more! But let me tell you, it’s been amazing. These people have already turned into family. Saturday was our only day to truly explore before our students move in on Sunday and we are fully on the clock. So, let’s talk about Saturday.

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New friends in a new city

 

We really wanted to explore Boston. Since we are in Cambridge, Boston isn’t that accessible – however, on Saturday we took the public transport (the T). I had never used public transport before this, and dang, it was really cool. We walked the Freedom Trail, saw some historical sites, went through parks, and honestly, we got lost. But that’s the best way to learn and explore. We ended up walking 21 miles that day, and I truly cannot feel my legs anymore.

Being surrounded by other students with similar interests who want to get involved in student affairs has been fantastic. They’re challenging me to keep my mindset on growing and recognizing that I still have so much to learn, but that my skills and involvement are beneficial now too. Also, they won’t stop making me laugh  – so that’s pretty cool. To my new pals, this one’s for you!

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At Boston Harbor
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Our touristy Boston picture

Saint Martin’s to Harvard: A Summer Series

Two: A Process and a Half

 

Still in disbelief three weeks after receiving my offer, I had not heard from Harvard or the hiring committee. At this point I imagined I had been played, assuming that this was all impossible and I was going to be the latest victim of Ashton Kutcher on Punk’d, (if this is still hip or even on TV anymore?). However, after avoiding pessimism and continuing to be optimistic, I received all the information I needed and the checklist of what I needed to do before leaving, and honestly, it was quite a bit! There were quite a few things to do in a short period of time.

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Harvard Square – where all the action happens!

First, I had to submit a picture that would be used for my official Harvard ID that I would receive once I arrived on campus. In theory, this sounded really easy, however, it took a little while. Here’s why– the stipulations and requirements for the photo itself were plenty, following these guidelines: “current color photo; white smooth background; front view-center full face in frame; eyes open and visible; crop from just above top of head to collarbone; good lighting – no other people or objects; hats or sunglasses; no clothing that obscures the face or glare on glasses; or shadows – photo size must be 280px by 296px and no larger than 50kb”. I thought I had this whole submitting photo thing in the bag, but was I wrong. There were two things that made this difficult, one, finding a plain colored white wall that was smooth – and two, not capturing a glare on my glasses. For anyone who knows me, you know I have probably the worst glasses prescription you’ve ever seen, and I refuse to take pictures without my glasses on. That meant taking the photo with good lighting that wasn’t reflecting off my glasses was difficult, and finding a wall was even harder. However, after a little help from one of our great staff here, we made a makeshift wall with white butcher paper. After that, I thought I finally had this in the bag – but I didn’t. Over the course of four weeks, I submitted four photos – because three of them were rejected for various reasons. However, after finally learning how to work Photoshop, I painted the background white and removed the glare that had appeared. Check out my final approved image below!

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Finally Approved! Thanks Photoshop!

 

After finally getting my photos submitted, I could worry about the next thing that had to be done: submission of immunization records. The cool thing about this is that I could go to the health center at my university, get the ones I submitted prior to freshman year and just send those in – easy, right? So, after emailing our health center and getting help from their amazing staff, they quickly scanned and emailed me my immunization record, free of charge! Another great resource you should all utilize. Here’s the caveat about the immunization records, they have to be up to code with Harvard University resident requirements and Massachusetts state law regarding inoculations for students.  After reviewing my immunization records (I was up to date in Washington state!), I quickly realized that I didn’t have all the requirements that meet Massachusetts state law, since those are different than here in Washington. Turns out I needed two immunizations: an updated Tdap shot and a shot for the prevention of Meningococcal disease. Easy fix, I’d call my doctor – get the shots, send in my paperwork, and I’d be on my way. But there was a plot twist. After calling my doctor and a few others, they didn’t love the idea of giving me extra immunizations that I didn’t need as a necessity – which, I get it. So, after three failed attempts with doctors, two failed attempts with pharmacies, I finally had luck with a local pharmacy. However, they only had one left of each and someone else had called about them earlier (what are the odds?). So, having just finished a final, I dropped everything, ran over to this pharmacy and got the two immunizations I needed. It’s weird getting shots when you’re not a 6-year-old – specifically because they didn’t even give me a lollipop after.

After getting all of that figured out, I was able to scan my records and get them sent back – finally getting cleared on that front. Next, there were three online 90-minute trainings. On topics such as Title IX, how to create a safe community, working with minors, mandatory reporting, etc. All good information to have. As an individual who one day dreams of working in higher education, specifically student affairs, I was able to recognize that these training were not just pertinent to this internship, but how it is extremely helpful in my overall professional growth. It was great to be able to already start developing those skills and using them in my everyday life. Finally, our last training was when we all finally got to virtually meet each other. We did a Zoom training, where there was roughly 45 of us in a video chat and everybody cycles through being the main individual on the screen. We were able to meet other interns and professional staff, while still having the opportunity to grow our skills and learn more about our time we would be spending at Harvard. It was great to finally put some faces to all the people in our huge group chat. Finally, I had to plan an event for my floor of residents, I chose to focus on the strategic theme: identity development. I’ll be challenging my residents to take a leadership and personality theory quiz, where they will be identified with a color – they will then be broken into groups with other students who have the same or similar traits. After, they will do an activity together. We will then discuss how their specific traits helped their group succeed and how they can continue to hone those skills on an every day basis. I’m pretty excited!

Although there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get the ball rolling to leave for Boston, I would do it all again. The support here on campus from staff, faculty, local businesses, and more has made the entire process less stressful. I’m extremely blessed and humbled to have the opportunity to be traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, this summer and I’m extremely excited to finally meet the amazing team that I’ll be working right alongside. With just two weeks till I leave from Seattle and arrive in Boston, I’m thrilled, nervous, and excited. Make sure to keep following up with my summer series, where my next posting will dive into my first week in Boston and how I’m getting adjusted to the new community. Until then, and always, Go Saints!

 

Saint Martin’s to Harvard: A Summer Series

One: An Unexpected Offer in an Unexpected Field

 

Ever since entering Saint Martin’s University I’ve struggled with what I wanted to do once I had my degree. As a freshman, I started as a psychology major. During the beginning of my sophomore year I switched to an English major, and finally at the end of my sophomore year, I decided on a business administration degree with a concentration in accounting. I always had the same goal with my degree ideas: to help a group of people reach their own life aspirations. As a psychologist, my idea was to become licensed, open my own practice, and help individuals through their life experiences – to aid them in living comfortably in their skin. As an English major, my idea was to get into business and technical writing – helping a business or nonprofit have the writing skills to launch their organization forward. Finally, I went with a business administration degree – I wanted to become a manager and eventually a top executive. By doing this, I would be able to help not only individuals succeed in their everyday lives, I would be able to help a company succeed, and that, to me, was the greatest good that I could choose to do. Throughout this time I was working on campus and had a few leadership positions as well. To name a few, I was an office assistant for the Career Center, a campus activities coordinator for Campus Life, a social squad member for Marketing & Communications, and the treasurer of our student government. During all this time, little did I know, I was doing what I wanted to do as a profession: helping students succeed. As I contemplated back and forth what I wanted to do with my degree, I was seeking a lot of advice from a very close mentor. One day, she told me to follow my heart – that it was evident with the work I was doing on campus I was not only clearly determined, but passionate about the work itself. As we talked more about it and as time went on, I was able to finally decide on some things that I wanted to do with my career: I wanted to help students succeed at the post-secondary level, I wanted to be a mentor, but not in a teaching role, and I wanted to enrich the experience that every college student has, to make sure they not only have a journey in college that is full of promise, but also that if they should notice some sort of shortcoming, they could rely on me – just liked I relied on my mentor.

 

After finally establishing those goals, it was time to find what I could do to gain more practical experience. I had to find a way where I could use the skills I’d learned at Saint Martin’s in a bigger setting. Summer was approaching, and graduation seemed like a distant goal. I finally went to another mentor, and she had many great ideas, but most of the deadlines had already passed – except one. We found that there was still one week left to apply for an internship with the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International (ACUHO-I). Through this program and application, you submitted your application for an internship within student affairs and any college that was hiring could pick up your application.

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Katie Wieliczkiewicz and I, one of my mentors! She directed me towards the ACUHO-I internship. Thank you, Katie, for your constant support!

 

After one full week, I had applied to over 80 different institutions and organizations that were hiring for the summer. One week after the deadline, phone calls to schedule interviews were set to happen. Thinking my experience was not enough and thinking I didn’t have the skills colleges were looking for, I didn’t get my hopes up. One week later, I received 36 phone calls, and scheduled 36 interviews for the upcoming month. I was astonished, I didn’t think I would be what colleges were looking for. Still, I didn’t get my hopes up because this was just an interview – and nothing was official until I received an offer on offer day. As the month went on, I participated in the interviews and had the opportunity to discuss why the skills I’d learned at Saint Martin’s set me above other applicants, and how I would excel in any internship opportunity.

One month later, offers were scheduled to come out. This would be by phone call first, and if I accepted, I would get a formal letter. Offer morning started, and I could hardly sit still in class – waiting all day for my phone to ring with the hope of getting an offer. Once an offer was extended, we had 24 hours to respond. By 2pm that day, I had received nine offers from institutions all around the nation. At 3:30pm, I received a call from an unrecognized phone number with the location on my phone as Massachusetts. I hesitantly answered the phone, and received an offer to join Harvard University this summer in Boston, Massachusetts, my top choice from the beginning! The excitement I had at that moment was indescribable. Not only had I received multiple offers, but I had been offered a position with a prestigious university, in an area of the nation I had interest in, with great benefits.

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Harvard Campus in the Spring!

I never imagined I would truly be happy with the life plan that I had set forth for myself. I also never thought someone would recognize the skills and attributes I have and ask me to utilize those skills in a professional setting. However, all that was proven wrong during my junior year at Saint Martin’s University. This university brought mentors and experiences into my life who not only shaped who I am, but helped me shape what I want to do. On June 15th, 2019, I start working at Harvard University – where I’ll have the opportunity to impact the lives of other students. Make sure to keep up with me during this summer series!

 

 

Tips for a Commuter Student

There are great things about being a commuter student, especially on a campus that has such a welcoming community, surrounded by Benedictine hospitality. There are a few tips I have for current and future commuter students which I think help in ensuring you have the best commuting experience possible!

  1. Go to campus programs and events! Campus events and programs are designed for students all across the community to go to. Whether the event is a craft night, comedy act, or even just a low key movie night, there are campus programs that appeal to everyone throughout the semester, and the best part is that, most of them are free! Campus Life works hard to schedule events at convenient times, even creating events that happen twice in the day, to make sure you’re able to find a time to go. At these events you can connect with other students (commuters or residents), sometimes catch a free snack, and get a small gap of stress relief from studying and homework.
  2. Monthly commuter lunch – The first Wednesday of every month Campus Life hosts commuter lunch in the TUB from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm. This is a free meal for commuters to enjoy and to connect with other commuters and to learn more about the resources offered to commuters on campus. The best part is the raffle! Every student who attends gets entered to win a prize, either a gas gift card, or the commuter of the month parking spot, which is conveniently located in the Harned Hall staff parking lot.
  3. The T.U.B. The Trautman Union Building is the hub for commuter hang out! With free coffee, a kitchenette, study areas, ping pong, pool, foosball, discounted movie tickets, and even lockers, the T.U.B. has everything that commuters need to be successful! Utilize your resources, you won’t regret it!
  4. Spend as much time on campus as possible – Maybe the best tip I have, spend as much time on campus that you can. Study on campus, go to events, hang out with your friends, just have fun! College is a lot of work, so make sure to have fun while you’re at it. Saint Martin’s is your home away from home. If you need to stay on campus with a friend for a night, fill out a guest pass and you’re good to go!
  5. The Commuter Lounge – If you find yourself in Old Main and need to take a minute to study, heat up some lunch, or just need a little downtime, then head up to the fourth floor. In the science wing of the 4th floor, the commuter lounge has a kitchenette, a study area, and a few couches — everything you need to relax between classes!

Saint Martin’s is very dedicated to ensuring commuter students have a well-rounded college experience while simultaneously making sure all commuter students are having all of their needs met. If you ever need to talk about increasing commuter resources, be sure to talk to the Senator of Commuter Students, Melissa Rosscup, who is here to answer any questions involving commuting. Go Saints!