Big Decisions

I’m two months away from graduating from college.  (With two degrees.  I’m proud of myself, but also kind of wondering why the crap I did that to myself.  But it’s too late now, so.)  If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know I’ve been looking for jobs and trying to plan for the real world, for my next steps.  And y’all — it’s kind of hard.

I know I am not the first person to grow up and leave home.  And honestly, I do feel very well-prepared (as prepared as I can be at this point, anyway).  I know I don’t know everything there is to being an adult, but I feel like I can handle what will come my way next.

The thing is, I don’t know what that is.

My degrees will be in Marketing and Spanish, so (obviously) I’d like to find a job where I can use one or both of those.  I’ve been applying to jobs and internships since last summer, and still have gotten nowhere.  I have a Plan A, and a Plan B, and a half-baked Plan C.  I have long-term goals I know I can achieve, and I know it’ll take some doing to get there.  I’d just really like to know which one I will be starting on in two months, you know?

I’m at the point in life where I’m starting to have to make big decisions.  I’ve made biggish decision before, like deciding where to go to college, what to major in, and whether or not to move off campus.  I’ve decided not to go grad school, even though I considered it.  I’ve decided what I want to pursue long-term.  Those are all big decisions.

But now, I’m starting to make decisions I can’t turn back from.  The boyfriend and I are starting to plan for engagement and marriage.  We’re planning which city to move to, and how much we want to save up for a down payment on a house, and which big expenses we’ll need to make in the next three to five years.  I’m making decisions that will completely rule out other options, which I’ve never really done before.

I’m not really nervous, per se.  I know a lot of people my age who are terrified of graduating, because they have no idea about the future.  But I do have an idea, and I am not afraid I won’t be able to make a living or anything like that.  I know I’ll be able to move out of my parents’ house, and I know I’ll be able to find some kind of employment, even if it’s not necessarily my first choice.  The thing with me is I know I’m about to be independent, and I’m really making my own decisions.  And I know that some of the decisions I make may not be what others want for me.

That shouldn’t be a big deal.  After all, it’s my life, right?  But like any child, I do want to please my parents, and I want them to be on board with all my decisions.  I know they are with my job plans.  But the boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together after graduation, mostly to save money.  And neither of our parents are thrilled with that idea.

I’m the oldest kid in my family.  It’s up to me to kind of draw lines.  The thing is, I’m not sure where to draw this one, and I don’t know if my parents are, either.  On one hand, we both know that it is my life, and I am going to make the decisions that I feel are best.  But on the other, I do want them on board.  Even if it’s reluctantly.  But the decision is pretty much already made — the boyfriend turned down the housing he was offered through his internship so that we could move in together, and neither of us can really afford our own apartment by ourselves.  So now we just have to hope our parents will go along with it.

It’s been weird this semester to see our lives start to fall into place.  We both knew that this would be happening, but it’s an odd feeling to actually be searching for apartments and making real plans.  It’s nice and exciting, as I knew it would be.  I wasn’t counting on feeling a little nervous, too.  But I’d be a robot if I wasn’t.  As nerve-wracking as it is, I can’t wait for these 1.75 months to fly by so I can dive into whatever happens next.

Writing in a Foreign Language

 

I’ve always loved writing.  At my parents’ house, there are still boxes under my bed, full of notebooks I filled with half-written stories and ideas.  I have tons of files on my old computers and on my flash drive with more stories and essays.  I’ve changed my mind several times on what I like to write most, but I’ve never fallen out of love with writing.  I’ve done it my whole life, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.

Since I’ve had so much practice with writing, especially for school, I like to think I’m fairly good at it.  Since I learned to write a five-paragraph essay, structured, written thought has come fairly easily for me.  When I first began writing serious papers, it took me awhile to get to the point I wanted to make.  I would have to go through several rounds of edits to shorten and clarify my thoughts.  But as I did it more and more often, it got easier.  Now, if an assignment requires an essay, I can crank out a pretty good paper within a few hours to a day.  While I might make a few changes afterward, I typically say all I need to say with relative ease.  (Of course, every piece of writing could use some editing.  But when I also have to block out time for other things, a few hours to a day for a fairly high-quality essay is pretty good.)

But that’s all for essays I write in English.  With Spanish, I’m finding it’s a different story.  Throughout my Spanish classes, I’ve had to write a ton of papers.  They started out short and simple, as ways to practice vocabulary, sentence structure, and specific grammar rules.  As I got farther along, they began to get more complex.  They became less about practicing the language and more about engaging with the culture.  I learned more vocabulary, and essays in Spanish started to get almost as easy as essays in English.

Almost is the key word here, though.  I got fooled into thinking I knew Spanish well enough to use the same one-day process I use for English papers.  So last weekend, that’s how I wrote two papers for my capstone — one Saturday, one Sunday, and done.  Then a few days later, I got them back from my faculty adviser, and while overall the papers were okay, my grammar was all over the place.  I figured out very quickly that I need to take a few steps back in my writing process for Spanish papers.  Ideally, here’s how it should go:

  1. I need to make a list of grammar mistakes I make often, using already-graded papers as a reference.
  2. Start the paper at least a week before the due date.  (This means I need to be diligent about finishing the books I’m supposed to be writing about on time, too.)
  3. Take one or two days to write it, and then let it sit for a day or two.
  4. Read back through the paper, fixing any glaring mistakes, and polishing it if need be.  Make sure I’ve put everything in the paper that is required.
  5. Go over it again, this time with my list of common mistakes, and fix those.
  6. Finally, either run through a grammar checker or have someone else look over it.  Or maybe even both.

It’s a much longer process than my one-and-done style.  But it will help me write better quality papers.  And I think that the more Spanish I read, the better my writing skills will get.  That’s a big part of how I learned to write well in English, after all.  It makes sense that it would work that way in Spanish.

Spring Goals Update: March 2017

It’s the beginning of March, so it’s time for a goals update!

Life Goals

  1. Be intentional about communicating with others, especially roommates.  As far as roommates go, this is going fine.  We don’t talk much, but we get the important things done.  Family and boyfriends are a different matter — my boyfriend and I are quickly realizing that life happens all at once.  He got an internship, so we are planning to move cities and get an apartment together.  Neither of our parents like that very much, especially my mom.  It’s been difficult to figure out how to maintain respect while still defending my own decisions.  I’m guessing there will be some conversations this week, since it’s spring break and I’m home.  As for the boyfriend, I’m usually okay at telling him how I feel, except when I start to get overwhelmed and have to deal with PMS hormones at the same time and end up getting really mad over little things that others do and it’s all because I do feel ready to be an adult, but at the same time I don’t…this is all hypothetically speaking, of course.  I haven’t yelled at anyone, at least, and when I get upset he knows exactly what to do.  I don’t know how he stays so calm when I am so not, but he does.  And he even makes me dinner.  I’m really glad I am writing this update now, though, because it’s reminding me to take a deep breath and communicate rather than holding stuff in.
  2. Get physically stronger.  With all the studying I’m having to do this semester, it’s a struggle just to get enough body movement in so that I don’t feel like a blob.  I think this goal is going to have to be scrapped in favor of just move your body sometimes!
  3. Find ways to support causes I believe in.  This has also fallen by the wayside in favor of reading for my capstone and studying for exams.  I will keep it on here, however, because I know that this can be done anytime, and it’s good to be reminded so that I can be on the lookout for opportunities.  I suppose working as a COB Ambassador could be considered a way to do this somewhat, since I believe the COB here does an incredible job of supporting its students.
  4. Read more non-white authors.  Capstone project — check.  Once I graduate, I’ve got a lot of books on TBR that I put on there especially for this, so I’ll be trying to find them then.
  5. Food: continue cooking at least once a week; stick to ~$15 a month on coffee.  Cooking has slacked off a bit lately, but that’s also because spring break is about to be here and I’m trying to avoid buying groceries until I get back.  As for coffee, I’ve still stuck to my goal!  Go me!

Education/Career Goals

  1. COB Ambassadors: Try to help project manage an event.  I keep having opportunities to project manage, and I keep not speaking up to claim them.  We only have four meetings left, and I’m afraid I may have missed all my chances. So here’s my goal for the next two months: if another opportunity comes up, I WILL SPEAK UP.  I don’t care what, where, or when the event is, I will put my name in to project manage an event.  I will not keep quiet for fear of people thinking, her? She can’t project manage an event.  And if I don’t get another chance to, I will learn from these horrible missed opportunities and say yes to the next one that comes my way, even if it scares me.
  2. Apply to ~5 jobs a month.  I have completely redone my resume, and have been applying to internships and jobs like crazy.  I’m guessing if I hear back about any of them, it won’t be until the end of March or beginning of April.  It’s a little frustrating, because my boyfriend and I can’t really plan very well until I know how much I’m going to be making.  But I know this is how job searches go, and I’m trying to be patient.

So, I’m doing okay on some, and not so great on others.  I wish I could be doing a bit better, but no one can be perfect all the time.  I’m hoping I’ll have more positive things to say in April.

4H and Public Speaking

Imagine yourself standing in front of a room full of people.  You’re supposed to give a presentation.  You have your notecards, and your PowerPoint, and a bottle of water just in case.  You’ve practiced what you’re going to say in your head dozens of times.  You’re prepared.  And yet, as you stand up there all alone, in front of thousands of expectant, blinking eyes, your throat goes dry and your breathing catches and your knees get wobbly.  You glance at your carefully written notes, and take a breath, and force yourself to begin.

Sound familiar?  We’ve all had to give speeches at one time or another.  And it’s a lot of people’s biggest fear.  No one likes standing in front of others, feeling exposed.  If we mess up, everyone knows. It’s nerve-wracking.  I get why people don’t like it.

I’m the anomaly.  I actually love public speaking.  As reserved as I am, you wouldn’t think it to be true, but it is.  To me, public speaking can be easier than a regular conversation.  When I do a speech, I get to write my thoughts down on paper and organize them first, and then I get to say them out loud to an audience who wants (or has to) listen to me.  It’s like a blog post, but out loud and live.  I do get nervous, but I’ve done it enough that I’m fairly comfortable in front of a crowd, and I know that I can get through it without embarrassing myself.

It wasn’t always this way.  I first started doing speeches in 4H, and it was flipping terrifying.  In 4H, January is public speaking month.  Because 4H starts in 4th grade and continues through high school, there are different prompts for each grade level.  They gradually get harder as you get older.  Every January, members of local clubs prepare and give speeches at the monthly meeting, and those who do a good enough job in their grade category can go on to county, regional, state, and national speech competitions.

That’s where I started.  I think my family got involved in 4H when I was in 6th grade, and my mom encouraged me to do a speech.  (She may have required it as a school assignment, but I don’t remember.)  She helped me write, practice, and memorize it.  She told me when I was fidgeting, and pointed out my habit of speakingreallyfast when I get nervous (which I still have to watch out for).  I gave my speech, and I did well, so I continued.  I don’t remember how many speeches I gave, or how far I got.   I do remember also entering the local Optimist Club speech competitions when I got older.

I also vividly remember getting to state with the Optimist Club when I was a senior, where a $2000 scholarship was at stake.  I was about to graduate, and I wanted to win.  I wanted that scholarship.  There was one other student competing for the scholarship — a junior.  We drew names to see who would go first, and I got the first spot.  While I like going to first because I like to get speeches over with, this can be disadvantageous because judges sometimes subconsciously “reserve” points until later in the competition.  But I did my best — I gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever given.  The other girl was good, but I didn’t feel that her speech was as strong as mine.  (I was probably biased, but…)  However, when awards were announced, I lost the competition and the scholarship by one point.  I’m pretty sure I will always be bitter about that.

Sometimes, I miss competing.  I get to give speeches and presentations in classes, but the other students don’t really care about what I have to say.  They just want to get their own presentation over with.  I miss having more than a grade at stake.  I know I can get an A on a presentation, but I miss the adrenaline of trying to be the best.  In competitions, everyone watches you because everyone cares.  We all size each other up, and think about last minute adjustments we can make to give ourselves that edge.  In competitions, I knew I was good, but I really didn’t know if I would win.  It was a challenge.  It required me to push myself.

I did a few other things in 4H, most notably the sewing camps.  Even though I didn’t always enjoy the meetings, I am glad my parents pushed me to join and participate.  I got a lot out of 4H, and I didn’t realize until it was over just how much it shaped who I am.  But the speech competitions will always be the thing I remember most fondly about 4H.

Why Do Students Cheat?

When I was getting ready to start college in 2012 and 2013, warnings against cheating were everywhere.  College search sites, scholarship databases, and universities themselves were yelling about how not okay cheating is.  “There are consequences to cheating!” they said.  “Cheating will get you nowhere in life!”  I was warned that there would be cheating all around me, and given tips on how to avoid the peer pressure, and on how to study so I wouldn’t need to cheat in the first place.

But until I actually saw it, I had no idea how much cheating goes on in universities.  I was like, yeah, I’m sure people cheat.  But not any of the people I know.  Most people are too smart to think that’s a good idea.  I would never hang out with anyone who cheats.

But you know what?  I do.  I could name at least a dozen people off the top of my head that I know for a fact have blatantly cheated on exams.  And I’m not just talking about using the textbooks for a take-at-home, online test.  I’m talking about people having test banks and emailing them to each other and actually pulling them up on their phones during class and looking at them while they take the test.  This is the kind of cheating that gets people expelled, and it happens literally every day.

Honestly, it boggles my mind.  But I can understand why people do it.  Here are my theories:

  1. University students are so focused on “success” that their priorities change.  College educations make us more marketable, and raise our societal value so that we can get jobs.  Jobs are important.  But the way we become valuable is by having a true education.  So really, the underlying, basic point of college is to learn.  Makes sense, right?  But learning doesn’t necessarily mean good grades, and grades are the thing that most students focus on.  We get so obsessed with getting good grades that we forget that we are supposed to be learning in the process.  (I know multiple people that freak out if they get anything less than an A, even on assignments that are worth 1% or less of their final grade.)  College becomes something to get through, rather than something to shape us.
  2. Many students are simply not prepared for college work.  One of my friends pointed this out to me when we discussed this issue: both she and I went through college prep programs in high school.  We both had been writing papers, including long research papers, since middle school.  We were both encouraged to challenge ourselves, and so we learned good study habits as well as the subjects we studied.  We were both well-prepared for college, and we were both still challenged enough by our college classes that we had to take a step back and re-learn how to study, or adjust our habits in order to adapt.  So if it was hard for us, how much harder must it be for students who were in a bad school district, or who had teachers who didn’t challenge them, or whose classes in high school were easy enough that they didn’t have to study?
  3. Students, just maybe, really are lazy.  In one of my senior capstone classes this year (I’m in three total — gross, right?), I was baffled to hear people complaining that the work was too hard just two weeks into the semester.  At that point, we hadn’t even started our project, and were turning in practice assignments meant to prepare us for the real one.  The assignments weren’t complicated or long, and the professor (unlike others in that major) was good at explaining how to do each one.  People were just pissed that they had to turn in one a week.  It was like they didn’t take into account that the course was a senior capstone course, designed to give as much real-world experience as possible without actually throwing us into it.  Honestly, I still can’t understand this one.  I want things to be easy as much as the next person, but that’s not how the world works.

Before I started college, I thought everyone who cheats must be dumb.  But I know plenty of incredibly bright people who cheat on a regular basis.  Some of them, I think, are bored by college, or are frustrated by professors, or just don’t think they have time to learn between classes and jobs and family.  I can’t speak for everyone.  But I can speak for me.  I’ll be honest — I’ve been offered test banks, and I’ve been very tempted to say yes.  But in the end I couldn’t do it (not because I’m better than anyone else, because Lord knows I have my share of flaws).  I don’t have a 4.0 GPA, and I’ve been in some classes I was elated to get a C in.  But because I didn’t take those test banks, when I walk across that stage in May, I’ll be able to say truthfully that I earned every single grade I’ve gotten, all on my own.  That’ll feel a lot better than looking at a list of As.

 

Spanish: More Than a Language

Since I first mentioned my Spanish capstone project on this blog, it’s changed a bit.  Not drastically — my overall focus is still immigration, and I’m still reading a lot of books.  But even though I’m still fine-tuning my thesis statement, I’ve already learned something valuable.

For background: I’m white.  I grew up in a two-parent home.  Both my parents are college-educated, and they have always earned sufficient income to give me and my two siblings everything we need, plus extracurriculars such as 4H, music lessons, and summer camps.  Spanish language and culture has been an interest of mine since I was 8, and my parents had the means to allow me to learn.  Now, I’m about to graduate college with a Spanish degree, with a highly commendable command of the language.  I’m proud of this.  And I’m grateful.

More background: for my capstone, I’m mostly focusing on the work of Esmeralda Santiago.  Santiago, if you don’t know, is a Puerto Rican woman who moved with her family to the US when she was 13.  She did not speak much English when she arrived.  It was not her choice to move here, so unlike me, learning English wasn’t something she did for fun, or because it was interesting, or because she had dreams of being able to speak other languages.  Santiago learned English because she couldn’t have survived here without it.

It hit me, as I was reading Santiago’s two memoirs, that for me, Spanish is a luxury.

I have worked hard at learning Spanish.  I’ve worked hard for confidence and accuracy.  Languages come fairly naturally to me, but it hasn’t all been easy or fun.  I’ve continued my study of Spanish just as much to gain an advantage in the job market as I have because I enjoyed it.  But that is the difference between Santiago, and every other Spanish-speaking immigrant, and I — I had a choice.  I chose to study Spanish because I could, not because I had to.  And I was not thrown into the Spanish-speaking world before I was ready.

One of my old roommates was also a Spanish major.  She now works at a refugee resettlement organization, and teaches Spanish to kids after school.  She uses Spanish all day, every day.  Spanish, for her, is a talent and a passion, but also a way to do what she really wants to do, which is care for people.  While Spanish may have started as an interest for her, now it is entwined with her purpose.

Honestly, that is my goal too.  I want to be able to use Spanish in my daily life.  One, because I enjoy it, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning it, but also because it enables me to expand the circle of people to whom I can be useful.  Being able to speak Spanish opens me up to other parts of the world, and by extension those I’m connected with.

A few posts ago, I put up a graph of the results from a personality test I took.  I scored very high on the “dutiful” aspect, which makes sense.  When I realized that Spanish began as a luxury for me, I felt kind of spoiled.  But then I thought about Bill Gates — his asset, now, is that he is very wealthy, and he puts his money to good use through philanthropy.  While being able to speak a second language is a little different than being worth millions, I can try to turn my own luxury into something that is useful to the world as a whole.

On Holidays

This past Tuesday was Valentine’s Day.  That night, my boyfriend and I sat in my apartment doing homework — we had already celebrated by cooking breakfast for dinner the Friday night before, when we had more time.  A few hours into Tuesday evening, my boyfriend’s mom texted him asking if he had gotten me chocolates or flowers for Valentine’s Day.  He felt a bit awkward telling her he hadn’t gotten me anything, even though that’s what we agreed.

That brought up a discussion about holidays.  He said he had thought about getting me some flowers, because he knows I like them.  But, he said, I hadn’t seemed like I wanted anything this year.  And he’s right — I didn’t.

We’ve been dating for a little over three years.  The very first Valentine’s we spent as a couple was about a month into our relationship.  He did get me flowers and chocolates then, and I loved it — it was the first time I had ever had a boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, and it was so fun to feel special and loved.  I dried a few petals from that bouquet, and they’re now in a frame on my bedroom wall.  But the reason those flowers were so special were not because they were for V-Day, necessarily; it was because it was a first for both of us.  It was a milestone.

Those are the things I’d rather celebrate, I told him that night.  V-Day is nice and all, but I’d rather celebrate an interview, or a job offer, or a milestone in our relationship than I would a holiday that people celebrate just because it happens every year.  Holidays can be nice, of course.  But to me, they feel a little obligatory.  Plus, practically speaking, it’s cheaper to celebrate things in the off-season — have you ever noticed how much flower prices go up during holidays?  It’s insane.  I would rather my boyfriend save the money, and if he wants to give me flowers, give them on a random Tuesday just because he’s thinking of me.  He wholeheartedly agreed.

There’s a lot to be said for holidays, of course — they remind us to slow down and appreciate the things we have, and there is often lots of historical significance behind them.  But we’ll save the fight for a table at Olive Garden for the (hopefully-soon) moments that we get job offers.

I will get my flower fix this spring, though — we decided that in a few weeks, when home improvement stores start stocking spring flowers, we’ll go get me some perennials to replace my begonias that died last year.  That’ll last a lot longer than a Valentine’s bouquet.

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my first flowers

How I Own My Shared Apartment

I honestly don’t know if you can tell from my blog, but I am not the biggest fan of being around people.  As you can see from these (actually quite accurate) results from a Facebook personality test, I’m not the friendliest person you will ever meet in real life.  I’m not warm, I’m not gregarious, and I’m only friendly when I make a conscious effort.

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That said, it makes sense that having roommates is not my favorite thing.  I will admit that I have been blessed in the roommate department — I’ve had a total of 5 throughout the years, and none of them have been crazy partiers, or always had tons of people over, or were so absolutely loud that it woke me up at night.  I know roommates can be SO MUCH worse than that, and I’m really thankful to actually be friends with 2 of mine.  However, I’m the type of person that even if I have the greatest roommates ever, I still cannot wait until I make enough money to have an apartment that’s all my own.  I just really like having an entire apartment to myself.

Because of that, moving into an apartment was an adjustment.  When my freshman roommate and I moved into an on-campus apartment our sophomore year, I was excited.  It was the first time I had my own room, and it was great to have a kitchen.  But unlike my roommate, I wasn’t that excited about decorating or anything like that.  For one, decorating is expensive.  But mostly, I knew the apartment would be temporary, and I didn’t see the point in investing in it.  I put up a few photos in my bedroom, and that was all the decorating I did.

That first apartment was also the first time I had to take care of spaces other than my room.  At home, I shared a room with my sister growing up.  Our parents made us clean it every now and then, and we were required to clean our shared hall bathroom every week.  But those were always chores I hated, and didn’t want to do.  Moving into an apartment changed that.  Suddenly, the rooms were mine, and it reflected on me when they weren’t nice and clean.  It was me and my roommate who had to deal with messes, so we were more careful not to make them in the first place.

I moved out of the on-campus apartment halfway through junior year, because I finally realized how much more expensive it was compared to off-campus ones.  I moved in with two girls, one of whom I knew fairly well.  Moving in there was a bit of a different dynamic.  While my previous roommate and I had decided together to move out of the dorms, and had planned together which furniture each of us would get, when I moved again it was into an already-established apartment.  Of course, I did feel welcome, but I mostly stuck to my room because it was the only space that was all mine.  My roommates were much more gregarious than I (not hard to be, given the graph above), and had friends over to hang in the living room frequently.  That was fine, of course; it was their apartment as well, and their friends were nice.  But being the way I am, I didn’t hang out in the living room because there might be people I didn’t know coming in at any time.

Another thing about me: I am a bit of neat freak.  Since I’ve had a room of my own, I love it most when everything is clean and organized.  I work and relax best with a clean desk and clean floors, and love to see my laundry basket empty.  I also hate a messy kitchen.  I’m not above leaving dishes in the sink, but I am above not wiping down the counter after preparing food on it.  Also, cleaning is one of the things that makes me happy — honestly.  Dusting is the only cleaning chore I don’t like, and that’s because I don’t like having to move all the stuff that sits on surfaces.  But when I vacuum, or mop, or wipe counters, it makes me feel like I’m being productive and like I can accomplish anything.  (Also, cleaning is seriously a great workout.)

I used to get annoyed when my roommates didn’t clean.  It felt like they didn’t care about their spaces, and almost like they didn’t care how I felt when I came into the apartment to see a huge mess in the kitchen or hair all over the bathroom sink.  But I’ve gotten over that.  For one, I’ve realized that not everyone notices grossness.  Take my boyfriend, for example — it’s not that he doesn’t care than his bathroom is kind of yucky, it’s that he legitimately does not notice until I point it out.  (I’ve accepted that when we move in together, I’ll be the one cleaning.)  And for two, I’ve realized that cleaning makes me feel more at home.  I definitely feel simultaneously relaxed and energized in a clean apartment.  But more than that, cleaning an apartment allows me to claim it as my own.  I take responsibility for it, and in doing so claim it as my space that I’m proud to be in — and have others in.

I admit I am counting down the days to graduation, not only because I’m excited, but also because I’m ready to move into my own apartment.  But for now, I’m content to live where I do, and I’m thankful that I’ve figured out a way to make places my own wherever I am.

 

What I’m Reading: Spanish Capstone Project

I have about 12 weeks until I graduate.  Which means I have about 12 weeks to finish 3 big projects and pass 2 other classes before I can walk across the stage in my cap and gown.  It seems like a ton of time and also like not much at all, especially when I think about the fact that for my Spanish capstone, I’m planning on reading 7 books (at least) and have so far finished 1.  But honestly, I’m not too stressed.  I’m making progress, and I’m on the right track, and I’m excited to begin really diving into this project.

The overall theme for my capstone is the immigration of Spanish-speakers into the US.  I don’t have a definite thesis yet, because I’ve only read one of my sources.  Also, this what-I’m-reading post will be a little different from the others because I haven’t read most of these books yet.  But I figured it would be a fun idea to briefly introduce my books here, and then once I’ve finished my project, I’ll do a reprise post on what I thought about them and how useful they were to me for my project.


Books I’m Definitely Reading

Cuando era puertorriqueñaThis book is the one I’ve finished, and it’s a memoir about growing up in Puerto Rico and then having to move to New York.  Santiago is the child of parents who fight more often than not, and who must provide for eight children.  Family stress and the stress of growing up are magnified by having to move to New York just when she feels she’s beginning to get a hold on life in Puerto Rico.  But interspersed in these struggles are the stories of a mother who would do anything for her children, and a girl who got herself out of Brooklyn all on her own.

Resultado de imagen para casi una mujerThis is the sequel to Cuando era puertorriquena, and it details Santiago’s life from her teenage years to adulthood.  During her struggle to figure out who she is — Puerto Rican? American? both? — Santiago helps translate her mother through the welfare offices and takes on prestigious roles at her performing arts high school.

Resultado de imagen para la otra cara de americaRamos, an executive at Univision, has written essays and collected interviews from immigrants to the US.  Told in an editorial, persuasive style, Ramos sheds light on the reality of those “living in the shadows” and reveals just how vital they are to US society.

Resultado de imagen para vivir en dos idiomas

 

Alma Flor Ada is a renowned Cuban-American author and professor who writes children’s books, poetry, and novels.  Vivir en dos idiomas is her memoir, detailing her life, which has been spent mostly not in Cuba.

 

AResultado de imagen para la casa en mango streetlmost everyone has heard of The House on Mango Street.  It is one of the most famous coming-of-age novels there is.  I’ve skimmed the book a few times, and honestly, have not loved it.  But I feel I might appreciate it more within the context of this project.  It’s not quite a memoir, like the others, but Cisneros did draw heavily on her growing-up years to craft this novel, so it’s still a good candidate for my project.

Resultado de imagen para a cup of water under my bed

 

Another memoir about growing up Latina in America, this book adds a new dimension in that Hernandez is also bisexual.  It details her growing up years and her struggle not only to find the balance between two cultures, but also to maintain family ties while not hiding all of who she is.

 

WResultado de imagen para the distance between us reyna grandehen she was little, and living in Mexico, Grande’s father left for the US without her, her siblings, or her mother.  Her memoir tells the story of virtually losing one parent, and then regaining him, and a new home, when her father finally sends for her.

 

 

Once I have read these books and have a better idea of what they are about, I’ll link back to this post and review them again.  I’ll be honest; judging by the one I have read and the others I’ve flipped through, I have high expectations for all of them.


Books I Probably Won’t Use for My Capstone but Want to Read Anyway

Resultado de imagen para atravesando fronterasThis is Ramos’ own memoir about moving from Mexico to the US.  I know I like his writing style, and admire him as a person.  But there are several reasons I probably won’t use it.  For one, I already have seven books to read, and for two, this book is quite a bit longer than most of my others.  Finally, I realized that all the rest of my books are by women (besides the other one by Ramos, but in that he interviews men and women), and given the difference in countries of origin I already have, I’d rather keep my mostly-female-author pattern going.

Resultado de imagen para morir en el intentoWhen I initially picked this, I thought it was going to be more like academic nonfiction.  Instead, it’s the story of 19 immigrants who died on their way to the US in 2003.  I’m sure it’s a tragic story, and definitely one that should be spread.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with the other books I’ve chosen.  But that’s not going to stop me from reading it when I finish my project.

Resultado de imagen para sonar en cubano

 

This is another coming-of-age novel, and honestly, I don’t know much about it.  I didn’t look into it as much as the others, because I changed my focus from novels to memoirs.  But I like coming-of-age stories, so this will be going on the TBR as well.

What I’ve Learned From Working in IT

As a freshman, I received a university scholarship that requires me to volunteer 75 hours each semester to the university.  A lot of students get similar scholarships, and thus it seems like half the university is staffed by students.  At the beginning of every year, we all have to go pick up our volunteer assignments and report for duty.  Most of us monitor computer labs or do basic clerical work.  Many “jobs” involve sitting at a desk and doing homework.  But not mine.  I got stuck in an IT office.

When I started working for Bill (name changed), I was declared as a basic business student.  To this day, I have no idea how they decided to put me in Bill’s office.  Bill is the head of all technology in his building, which happens to house one entire college of our university.  This means he buys, installs, maintains, and tracks every single piece of hardware and software for every single teacher and classroom in the entire college.  He’s the one teachers call when they can’t get their email to work, and he’s the one who implements new systems with heads of technology for other colleges.  He does a ton, and when I started, all of it was over my head.

When I started as a brand-new freshman, I was the first girl and the first business major that had been assigned to his office in years.  All his other student workers were guys majoring in computer science, computer engineering, business information technology, or mechanical or electrical engineering.  They all had an interest in how things work and a propensity for fixing.  And then there was me.

I had no idea what I was doing.  As student workers, we were responsible for documenting complaints and problems and then going out to fix them.  We also had to update and deliver “mobile labs” — huge carts full of 40 laptops each that professors could request for classes.  They weigh more than I do, I’m pretty sure.  I managed to push them around when I needed to, though, and I was good at documenting.  Often I would document calls that other students went out on — they could do the work, but didn’t want to document it, so I made myself useful that way.  But I spent the majority of freshman year following Bill around as he went to fix stuff that we students couldn’t handle.  I met a lot of professors that way, which was really helpful when I started having them for classes.

Gradually, I learned.  I kind of figured out how networks function.  I learned several ways to wipe a hard drive.  I figured out how to explain things I didn’t fully grasp to professors (who often didn’t fully grasp them, either).  I learned to be polite and sympathize when I couldn’t fix something, because I knew how frustrating it was when technology didn’t work.  I learned to work with people I didn’t particularly like.  Mostly, I learned to listen, because I learned that people don’t always communicate the way I want them to.

Disagreeing respectfully with a superior was a big thing to learn.  Bill is very conservative, and though he says he dislikes discussing politics, what he really dislikes is when people disagree.  He has a habit of taking a break and coming into the student side of the office to discuss current events or politics.  Usually, I just nod my head and listen, because (as I discussed some in my last post) I don’t like discussing controversial issues, especially with someone whose views are so different from mine.  But occasionally I do speak up.  Take this morning, for instance.  Bill was reading something about a Title VI document, and got hung up on the words “English is not the official or native language” (or something along those lines).  He started making comments about how English is the official language here in the U.S., and it irks him when concessions have to be made for non-English speakers.  He said he doesn’t think it’s fair for taxpayers to have to pay for everything to be written in more than one language.

Being a Spanish major, I couldn’t let that one go by.  I mentioned that we have a lot of taxpayers in this country whose first language isn’t English.  This was one of those times I wish I knew exact stats, but I don’t.  I tried to talk about how many Spanish-speaking citizens we have here (stressing the legal part, because I know how Bill feels about undocumented immigrants).  Bill did listen to me.  I didn’t expect him to agree or change his mind.  But by speaking up I at least attempted to stand up for my beliefs and worldview.  And though I know Bill doesn’t agree, I think demonstrating a different viewpoint does gain me some respect in his eyes.  He likes people who can think for themselves.  (And it reminds him not to put his foot in his mouth.)

Now, in my last semester here, Bill has gotten a lot more student workers and had to expand his office.  Having more of us means that there are fewer calls to go out on.  Not to mention the fact that the university really amped up its overall help desk, which reduced our workload a ton.  This was nice, because now professors and students can call the help desk for mundane tasks like resetting email passwords, and we can focus on bigger issues like smart boards that don’t work.  The problem for me, though, is that I was good at the mundane tasks.  I have enough computer knowledge that I can figure out which settings to change and which problems I can rule out.  But while I can fix relatively simple problems (and gain good rapport with professors in the process), I can’t fix the big ones.  When a projector malfunctions in the middle of a class and I’m the only one in the office, I leave professors feeling frustrated rather than thankful.  It doesn’t reflect well on me or the university.

But I’m going to leave this job on my resume, because it shows a lot of things.  For one, this job has taught me to work effectively with a team.  It’s heightened my communication skills.  And it’s allowed me to better understand what the crap people are talking about when they tell me to map to a certain drive or boot a machine to the BIOS menu.  It shows that while I may not have a natural affinity for technology, I can learn.  I’ve been very frustrated these past four years, because it takes up a lot of time and is difficult.  But ultimately, I’m thankful I got stuck here, because it has helped shaped me into who I am today.  It’ll be a sweet goodbye when I leave.  But there will be a tiny bit of bitter in there, too.

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