Postgrad Feelings & Fear of the Unknown

In late elementary school, I began one of my favorite summer traditions — attending summer camp at His Hill Ranch Camp in Comfort, Texas.

Years later, I even wrote my college application essays about my camp experiences at His Hill choosing to respond to the prompt, “What is your favorite place in the world and why?”

I loved everything about His Hill. I loved meeting other kids and staying in a cabin, doing outdoor activities like canoeing and zip lining, and having camp counselors who came from places all over the world.

A classic last day of camp activity

At His Hill, participating in activities that scared us emphasized the need to overcome innate fear and have trust in something greater than ourselves. We catapulted through the air on a wooden contraption called the “Screamer,” went mountain biking and cave exploring, and fell backwards off of a trust fall at “Low Elements.” Each summer, I became more comfortable with being uncomfortable and my faith and confidence grew.

Although my understanding of the world has shifted in ways and become more complex, the lessons that I learned at His Hill undoubtedly remain an integral part of my personal beliefs.

In big moments and big decisions, like booking my plane ticket to the Czech Republic or deciding to go to college far away, I choose to lean back on the trust fall once again, knowing I’ll land in the arms of those who love me.

While I’ve learned to use the mix of excitement and nervousness that come with big decisions, it’s the moments that seem small and are in-between that challenge me. A self-professed lover of organization and routine, I strain to envision my day to day life will look like in a new place, and am sometimes frustrated when I realize that I won’t really know until I’m there.

To combat the chaos of life and the unknown, I sometimes spend too much time trying to control the little things. I wonder what the next stage will look like. I worry about losing touch with those close to me or forgetting moments that are important to me. I am scared of life passing me by and wondering why I didn’t take the chance to do something great. Going to the Czech Republic doesn’t scare me in itself, but all of the unknowns do.

For me, moments of bravery are less about big decisions, but are beneath the surface in the little ones. I am brave when I let myself rest. I am brave when I take a step back and focus on the important things and the people that matter the most. (Luckily, they help put things in better perspective for me!).

Graduating brings so many crazy and new and exciting moments. This week, I start my training as a Duke University Summer Academy TA. I will be TA’ing 3 courses – a 3 week business course, a 1 week STEM camp, and a 3 week leadership course. I’m incredibly excited to live in Durham over the summer and take advantage of new places to explore and new people to meet. But, of course, I’ve found myself overthinking about what my time there will look like.

I’m currently reading a non-fiction work by Rebecca Solnit about activism called, “Hope in the Dark,” a gift from one of my favorite Elon professors. As I move to new places and step into the unknown, I’m comforted by Solnit’s words: “To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” She reminds us that the future (and the dark) are always unpredictable. Yet, we must go anyway and things will be okay!

To post-grad life and gambling for hope! We got this 🙂

Reflections

Lessons in Leadership – My Undergrad Research Experience

 

Lessons in leadership

Today I gave my very last presentation of my undergraduate career at Elon University SURF Day (Student Undergraduate Research Forum). Woo! After giving dozens of presentations in my classes throughout my time at Elon and a handful of presentations about my larger inquiry project, it’s bittersweet knowing that this part of my academic career is at its conclusion.

However, although my time at Elon is coming to an end, undertaking a large 2-year project has taught me many lessons about myself and leadership. My project has sparked my interest in subjects that I hope to continue pursuing for the rest of my career.

Undergraduate inquiry challenges, frustrates, and ultimately grows individuals to become lifelong learners. I know that I am a better teacher, leader, and person thanks to the Leadership Prize.

IMG_0512.jpg

My mentor, Dr. Jennifer Eidum, and I presenting at NCTE in Houston, Texas

An overview of my journey

Sophomore year, the Elon University Teaching Fellows introduced a new requirement for Teaching Fellows: an inquiry project. This requirement mandated that each Teaching Fellow complete a project during the Fall and/or Spring of their junior year. When this project was first introduced, I knew that I wanted my project to have an impact on my community. Therefore, I began searching for a mentor early during the fall of my sophomore year before I went abroad.

That semester, I had just completed Dr. Jennifer Eidum’s TESOL class (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I had always had an interest in working with diverse learners, teaching speakers of other languages, and had considered teaching abroad, but it was this class that truly sparked my interest.

For the TESOL class, I spent approximately 30 hours volunteering at the Greensboro Newcomers Center and tutoring recent immigrants from northern Africa at an after-school program. Through spending time at the Newcomers Center and other experiences in the Alamance Burlington School District, I began to see the need for systematic improvements and increased teacher training to adapt to the growing immigrant and English learning population in North Carolina.

B9B32355-B0DE-46DB-A2F7-19BB8C3FC8DF.jpg

Working with ELLs abroad

Dr. Eidum and I quickly connected before I went abroad and were excited about collaborating on a project, but had a barrier to getting started as I was headed abroad to Oxford, England in the spring of my sophomore year. In Oxford, thanks to TESOL class and experience at the Newcomers center, I was asked by my placement site at a local high school to work specifically with their English language learners in each student’s general education classes.

A Comparative Education class in Oxford allowed me to conduct a small-scale research project through which I sent out an email survey to each teacher that I worked with asking them questions about working with English language learners at the school. This project provided a foundation and further cultivated my interest in figuring out ways to better support English language learners.

 

IMG_2253.jpg

Studying abroad in Oxford, England during the Spring of my sophomore year

 

Applying for the Leadership Prize

When I arrived back at Elon the fall of my junior year, Dr. Eidum and I discussed the various challenges and barriers that I would face as an undergraduate student trying to do research about English language learners. For example, it is very challenging to interview and work directly with students under the age of 18. Additionally, as a student, I do not have the expertise or the funding to tell teachers what to do or to make large scale change by increasing salaries or budgets.

We decided to apply for the Elon University Leadership Prize (a $10,000 grant that funds problem-solving research) as a way to address a large problem: the increasing amount of immigrants and English language learners moving to the state of North Carolina and to the Alamance Burlington area that is unsupported through funding, teacher training, and teacher pay. Our task as researchers was to find a way in which to support our community using our funding and time not as experts, but as organizers and supporters.

 

Three key lessons in leadership

 

  1. Gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge versus gaining knowledge for change

When I first started my research project, I thought that the research was all about reading books, sending out surveys, and conducting interviews. While these are all important parts of the research process, my leadership prize process focused on taking the results of my study and analyzing the implications in order to do something in order to address the problem.

The knowledge that I gained from reading about English language learners and the school system not only informs how I move in my classroom and the decisions I make but has inspired me to work with my community to make a broader impact. I am so excited to share that there is a space booked for next year for what will be the second Elon English Language Teaching Symposium with plans for the event to become either annual or biannual.

7D9F55A1-0D0F-45EA-A0D8-6302100A5947.jpg

2) Ask for help early and often

About halfway through my project when I began planning the symposium and working on project implementation, my anxiety was the worst that it has ever been in college. I was having trouble sleeping and I felt like I was never truly resting. I took a lot of big steps during that semester, which all involved asking for help in some way.

Firstly, I started attending therapy sessions at Elon’s counseling center and learned important outlets and coping strategies for dealing with anxiety. Secondly, I asked my parents to split the cost of a yoga membership, which changed the way I felt about myself and exercise. Thirdly, I started asking for help around campus. I learned to reach out to professors, other students, and even the Dean of Education to solicit advice for my project.

While I had heard before that the research project isn’t linear, this was the semester that I gained an insight into what that meant. Together, with the help of many others, I was able to move forward, both in my project and in my mental health.

IMG_0015.jpg

3) It’s not about you

Midway through my project when I was feeling the pressure, I was worried about what other people would think about me if my project failed. Ultimately, I can now recognize that the project’s whole purpose was to bring together people and to share stories and I shouldn’t have been so focused on myself. If you haven’t seen Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” go watch it right now.

The most rewarding outcome from my research was hearing that one of my Elon peers was invited to share her Symposium presentation at a professional development training at a local middle school. She spoke to over 30 educators and shared her presentation titled, “The Immigrant Experience: Supporting Students in Their Educational Journey.” I am proud of the work I have done over the last 2 years not only because of the data I have collected and the presentations I have given but also because of the stories that have been shared and the conversations that have been had as a result of the work.

DSC04042 (1).JPG

This project was made possible by the generous support of the Leadership Prize, Elon Teaching Fellows, Department of English, and Global Neighborhood, with grants from Elon’s Fund for Excellence, and the Intellectual Climate committee. Thank you! 

IMG_2228.jpg

If you have any questions about my project, please feel free to email me or reach out on the contact section of this blog! Read more about my project and Leadership Prize grant here and more about the Symposium (pre-event) here and (post-event) here.

 

 

 

 

Reflections Research teaching

What teaching in Ecuador taught me

When summer camp began, I was really focused on what I would be able to teach my students in the short amount of time that I had with them. This is not a bad goals to have, but I was definitely too caught up in how I was going to achieve this instead of thinking about the students. As one of my professors, Dr. Carpenter always tells us, when you begin teaching you are too focused on yourself and not focused enough on the students and their experience in your classroom.

As the weeks and classes passed by, I found myself being able to forget myself more and more as I was teaching and instead, focus on the students to make sure that their needs were being met. I realized that I had to really listen to them and get them invested in the lessons so that they would care. This realization was a result of many lessons I received inside and outside of my classroom here in Ecuador. Camp is now sadly over and I know that while I did teach my students, they also taught me. The lessons I’ve learned here in Ecuador have already impacted me as an educator and as a person and I’m so excited to begin my student teaching this fall.

Lesson #1: Going with the flow

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love having a plan. I look forward to the start of each new semester when I can color code my Google calendar and perfectly plan each day so that I can maximize my productivity. Here in Ecuador, things definitely did not abide to my color-coded calendar. If you arrive early here you’re early and if you arrive on time you’re still early. While camp was supposed to start at 8:40 each morning, we never started until between 9 and 9:15, majorly cutting into my first lesson plan every day. At first, I was frustrated by my plans getting messed up and I started to put in a little bit less effort knowing that I would not be able to perfectly execute what I had in mind.

However, I soon realized that this cultural difference shouldn’t affect the effort I give to my students or the effort I give for myself. In many ways, “going with the flow” and throwing the plan out the window can turn out better. This way of living forced me to forget myself and my perfect plans and focus on what was best for the students. When we were asked to come up with a final presentation for the parents in just a few days, I realized that I was now more confident and capable because I had been asked to think on my feet the entire summer. I also realize that being flexible and having back-up plans is important in any school anywhere in the world. Sometimes, the people higher-up than myself will have requests of me that seem last minute or challenging and I know that I am now more equipped to deal with those requests in stride.

Lesson #2: Overcoming communication barriers

Throughout my time in Ecuador, I was challenged by the language barrier. When I first arrived, I could barely order food and make basic conversation. In Riobamba, I had to communicate with Ecuadorian volunteers, have school meetings in Spanish, and eat all meals with the priests while only speaking Spanish. I learned to communicate my needs, be a better listener, and be very patient. I now am at a very functional level! I definitely have not completely overcome this challenge by any stretch of the imagination, but I make small gains every day by committing to daily study, being patient with myself, and celebrating all progress.

Lesson #3: Achieving a balance between caring and in control

This lesson really all boils down to my confidence in the classroom and as a person. Before any new classroom placement or teaching task, I am always the most nervous about classroom management. I want the students to be able to see how much I care about their learning and about them as people, but I also know that I need to be in charge of the classroom in order to facilitate and maximize learning.

The first few days of teaching, I was extremely nervous and I was in my own head a lot. After a few crazy events – a fight in my classroom, students showing up late, and some chaotic moments, I realized that I was handling the situations without even thinking about them because my instincts and the things I’ve learned at Elon were kicking in. My students knew that I cared about them partially because of my classroom management and because of my high expectations of them. I once heard a student grumbling as they walked in that my class was her hardest and I silently cheered inside my head.

My most fulfilling teacher experience was seeing the transformation in my students from passive to active learners. With my older groups of students (11-15), I saw the most change. At the beginning of my time, they were quiet and just expected to listen and give one “correct” answer and then be done. Each day, I pushed them to have more conversation and to discuss the “why” of their answer. On one of the last days of classes, I asked them how they would like to run their final presentation and present to their parents. I was shocked when nearly all of the students raised their hands and began to offer opinions on how to get their parents talking. The ideas that they suggested were activities that we had been working on the entire course of the summer. It was amazing to see my students take charge in the classroom and see the value in the young leaders that they are becoming! The more of an active role I asked my students to take, the less talking and side conversations I had in the classroom.

Lesson #4: People matter the most

Lastly, the most important lesson I’ve been reminded of this summer is that it’s the people, not the places, that matter the most. This is my first time ever coming to South America and I had no idea what to expect. Would the people be different?! Would I be able to communicate?! Would I make friends?!

Now, as I sit here with my 7 year old host-sister who somehow understands that I can only understand if she speaks slowly and manages to communicate with me perfectly, I can tell you that these fears were completely erased as soon as I arrived. Even without perfect Spanish, it is possible to communicate with smiles, with the attempt to speak in a new language, and with putting in effort to make friends and learn each day. My absolute favorite days here in Ecuador have not been big trips, but instead days spent with new Ecuadorian friends that I made at camp or with my director and host siblings eating long lunches or meeting more of their family members.

I would like to thank my host family, the priests at UESTAR, for being so patient with our Spanish level and for opening the community center to us and always making us laugh. I would also like to thank my site director and her kids (my host-siblings), for treating me like family and for always believing in me and giving me the support and encouragement I needed. A special  Additionally, I would like to thank all of my fellow WorldTeach volunteers and the WorldTeach office staff for providing me with friendship and with advice no matter the time of day. I hope that our paths will cross again!

Ecuador Reflections Trips

Summer Internship – Fort Worth Sister Cities

Way way back in November of 2016, I started scouring the internet for internships. Since I was about to go abroad, I decided to start looking super early so I wouldn’t be stressed. However, there were hardly any internships even online yet. I was looking for anything and everything: English related, Sociology related, Education related…

After a few weeks of searching, I finally hit the jackpot. I distinctly remember googling “dfw” “internship” and “international” together. Immediately, I knew that this was the place I needed to be!

Fort Worth Sister Cities International

Although I had heard a little about Sister Cities programs before, I didn’t really know what FWSCI was all about. I live 30 minutes from Fort Worth and am therefore a little bit outside of the area they typically reach.

FWSCI has 8 amazing Sister Cities, all of which I’d now love to visit. Fort Worth Sister Cities International is also the only program in the U.S. that focuses heavily on youth programs and exchanges. Our 8 Sister Cities are:

  • Reggio Emilia, Italy
  • Trier, Germany
  • Nagaoka, Japan
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bandung, Indonesia
  • Toluca, Mexico
  • Mbabane, Swaziland
  • Guiyang, China

The Sister Cities movement began in 1956 with Dwight D. Eisenhower, who hoped to link cities around the world to promote cultural understanding, the economy, and general relationships. This summer I fell in love with both FWSCI as an organization and Fort Worth as a city! Hopefully, I’ll be out exploring our Sister Cities someday soon 🙂

 

Spanish Immersion

My first project in the office was Spanish Immersion Camp. Each summer, Fort Worth Independent School District and FWSCI pair up to put on an amazing summer camp for FWISD elementary school students. 10 university students from our sister city in Toluca, Mexico fly over to Fort Worth for two weeks of full on immersion teaching. Elementary school students from 1st grade through 5th grade can enroll in this two week program. At camp, they are only allowed to speak Spanish! These are students who are enrolled in FWISD’s dual language program during the year and take classes regularly in both Spanish and English. I was absolutely amazed at these small kids’ level of Spanish! They are absolutely incredible and grew so much throughout camp.

My intern office duties involved planning activities for the Toluca college students to participate in after the school day. From the Fort Worth Stock Yards to the Modern Art Museum, they saw it all! I also helped at the elementary school during the two weeks to ensure communication between FWISD and FWSCI was going smoothly.

I had so much fun helping out these campers and meeting our guests from Toluca, Mexico. At the end of camp, the two professors from Toluca gifted me with beautiful handmade shot glasses from their hometown. I will treasure them forever!

ILA

When I interviewed originally for the office internship with FWSCI, my boss recommended that I also interview for a spot as an ILA (International Leadership Academy) facilitator. I am so glad that I did! Getting to actually participate in camp after months of the office “planning” side of things was incredibly rewarding.

ILA camp has been going on for 28 years in Fort Worth. Top students from all 8 of our Sister Cities travel to the United States to participate in this two-week leadership academy, held at TCU, that aims to promote both cultural understanding and leadership skills. It was such a privilege to work with these young adults. This year, we had about 60 students.

Throughout the two weeks, I got to know my 8 group members (as well as my co-facilitator from Toluca!) particularly well. Team Dream High, you will always hold a special place in my heart! Thank you for all of your hard work!

After classes, we ventured out as a large group to many places around DFW including UNT, Group Dynamix, the Water Gardens and the Fort Worth Stockyards. I had so much fun showing people from all over the world my home here in Texas.

It was also an honor to get to work with so many amazing faciltators, who hailed from Toluca, Mexico and Nagaoka, Japan. I miss you guys!

Home Hosting

After camp was over, my family hosted two students from Swaziland who needed a host family for one night before their crazy 24 hour travel day back to Swaziland.

My family had a blast welcoming these girls into our home. We went to church on Sunday morning, had Torchy’s Tacos for lunch, visited the Gaylord Hotel and Grapevine Lake, and had a wonderful family dinner night. America’s Got Talent was a favorite for us all.

Thank you FWSCI!

I would like to thank everyone associated with Fort Worth Sister Cities for making this summer so memorable. It is such a privilege and a blessing to make friends from all over the world.

In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower himself,

 “Accomplishment will always prove to be a journey, not a destination.”

Thank you all for being a part of my journey!

 

Reflections United States

Tips and stories: Transitioning back to reality

I’ve now been back in the good ol’ US of A for about a month – a month filled of happiness, great food, and some confusing transitioning moments.

Happy times back in Tejas

So far, time at my lovely home in Texas has been filled with some great moments. I absolutely love spending time with family and I have missed my parent’s home cooking! Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day in our traditional Sunday night way – with a cookout. Afterwards, we headed over to Steel City Pops for the best popsicles in the world.

This summer, I’m also working at my first ever big-girl internship for Fort Worth Sister Cities! The Sister Cities Program basically functions as the international department for Fort Worth. I even get my own office in the City Hall Annex Building downtown! This month, I have been working hard on planning for FWISD and Sister Cities’ Spanish Immersion Camp. Currently, 10 college-age facilitators from our sister city Toluca, Mexico are visiting Fort Worth and teaching a group of 70 FWISD elementary schoolers Spanish! The students are so extremely intelligent and speak incredible Spanish – I’m jealous!

I also got to take a little getaway trip with my boyfriend, Harrison, for his birthday trip. I found this adorable Airbnb out in the country in Texas on a cattle ranch. We spent the weekend exploring the property, cooking some great food, feeding the animals (INCLUDING AN ALPACA NAMED PERCY), and doing yoga on the backporch. It was such a relaxing getaway!

Transitioning back home

Time abroad was an absolute whirlwind of challenging classwork, meeting new friends, traveling to new places, and figuring out things independently. After the best 5 months of my life filled with adventure and extremely difficult moments alike, finding my “place” back home has had its trials. “Reverse culture shock” is an actual thing. America is quite different than Europe as a whole. People work more, everything is open later, there is little public transportation available… among other things. Even though classwork abroad was challenging, I appreciated it because I was always growing and learning and changing as a result of the challenges I was faced with.

At home, I am not quite as carefree and independent as I was abroad. I don’t have the luxury anymore of hopping on a plane and landing immersed in an entirely different culture for $50. The stress of working full-time is much different than the stress of balancing schoolwork and travel because its not all as enjoyable. 

However, time at home can be just as exciting as life abroad, it’s just up to you to make it that way! Here are some things I’m focusing on to seek out the adventure in my own daily life:

1) Creating new adventures

At home, it is easier to get caught up in the monotony of life than when you are abroad and forced to adventure. I love going into Fort Worth or Dallas for dates with Harrison, going to the lake, trying new restaurants, or searching for cool Airbnbs in the area!

2) Starting a new project

Quite recently, I spontaneously bought a Fujifilm Polaroid-style camera and I am a bit obsessed. There is something about these cameras that capture moments in such a different, nostalgic, and real way. You only get one shot and it better be good! I’m trying to take one photo each day all summer. Memories captured can be special moments, people I meet, or “boring” things turned interesting by the camera capture. Check out how handsome my boyfriend is – this was my first Polaroid shot attempt! If you are interested in following along with my project, you can find me on Instagram at @Polaroidsdaily !

3) Remembering to make time for things I enjoy

Sometimes, after a long day or week of work, I am so tired  that I become complacent. But, I actually feel better when I keep pushing myself and participating in the summer activities I enjoy. For me, these include yoga, reading, lake time, and sand volleyball! Activities that you love often have a cool ability of re-energizing you!

4) Getting involved in the international community here at home

One of the reasons I love my internship at Fort Worth Sister Cities is because it allows me to still connect with the international community right here in DFW! Volunteering is another great way to get involved.

5) Listening to people

Just the other day, I met a fellow co-worker at Lifetime Fitness who recently moved to America by herself from Honduras. Her story, filled with emotion and the sorrow of leaving her family behind in Honduras was extremely powerful. People are so interesting! Through listening to peoples’ stories whether in person or through books, we can interact, learn, grow, and challenge ourselves.

 

 

Whether you’re adjusting to life back home or just seeking renewal and rekindling, remember to make time for the things you love – adventure is out there!

 

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what is is, go at it full speed, embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all, become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good.” – Ronald Dahl

Reflections Study Abroad 2016 United States

Transitioning to Life Abroad

LEAVING & ARRIVING

Moving abroad is a huge rush of mixed emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, joy, worry, and feelings unable to even be pinpointed. While Elon does as much as possible to prepare students, nothing prepares you to fully realize – yes, I’m actually doing this. For me, reality didn’t really set in until I was doing everything at home in Texas for the “last time”. Much too soon, it was time to say goodbye to my friends and family. I’d like to give another huge thank you to my parents for always supporting me and encouraging me to attend Elon and take advantage of this experience at St. Clare’s!

Once I was dropped off at the airport and finally on the plane, most of my anxiety was wiped away. During my flight, I took time to journal, set goals, and focus on the adventure I had embarked upon. After a long day of traveling, I finally arrived at London Heathrow at 6:45am local time (what a crazy airport!) I observed little differences like signs for “toilets” and “lifts” as I maneuvered my way through customs and over to a different terminal where I met my friend Allie.

 

My arrival day was exactly as you’d expect from England: foggy, cold, and rainy, but also quite lovely. A St. Clare’s driver fetched us from Terminal 3 and one hour later, we had arrived!

img_0029

Neighborhood near me

img_0008

All set up!

img_0005

Shared dorm room in Logan House

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Bedroom window view

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Balcony view

As you can see above, Oxford is a quaint town that is already starting to feel like home. I am very proud to say that I am mastering public transportation (although I do miss my little car). One of my favorite parts about St. Clare’s is that it is not exactly a “campus”. Instead, St. Clare’s buildings are mixed into the community. As a result, I find myself having to really explore the area and get more of a bearing. Even walks (or bus rides) to class are exciting!

MEETING NEW PEOPLE

This is probably what I was both most nervous and most excited for. Thankfully, all of the St. Clare’s students are friendly and seem very open to meeting new people and making new friends. I am matched up with a German roommate, Tatjana, whom I adore. This has made connecting to the international community here much easier. Besides Germany, I have met people from Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland, and many others! While there are no British students at my school, the professors at St. Clare’s, the Oxford community, and my school placement offer lots of opportunities to learn more about my new home.

St. Clare’s offers various programming to help us adjust to life here and get to know our peers. Since they offer 3 programs (Liberal Arts, English Language plus subjects, and English Language) they make an effort to intermix the groups as much as possible. This first week, I have enjoyed a walking tour of Oxford, a Welcome Dinner at Oxford University’s Trinity College, a London day trip, and a trip to a London Theatre with my Shakespeare class! These have all been great opportunities to make friends and get to know my cities.

img_0012

Kristy and I exploring Oxford

img_0014

Centre City, Oxford

img_0015

Oxford

Additionally, this Saturday I took advantage of the first day trip opportunity – a free trip to London! London has so much to offer and I have only just touched the surface. Check out my favorite pictures that I took below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

TIME MANAGEMENT

One of the trickiest parts of settling in has been learning how to manage my time. My classes here will be both challenging and rewarding. Several are taught by professors who also teach at Oxford University! I am enrolled in 4 courses: Comparative Education, Shakespeare Survey, Sociology of Crime and Deviance, and Foundations of Educational Psychology. Additionally, I am interning at Cherwell School each Tuesday where I am paired up with English Language Learners. I sit next to these students in class to assist with their English and help facilitate their learning.

During the week, I hope to get into the swing of things and achieve a good balance between classwork, my school placement, social life, errands, and me time! This will be absolutely necessary because on the weekends, I want to travel! Some weekends will be spent further exploring the UK, but I am also currently planning several trips.

LITTLE DIFFERENCES

Even though England is an English speaking country, moving so far away is still a constant adjustment to “little differences”. Step 1 – the time change. I am 5 hours different than North Carolina and 6 different from Texas! This has required some adjustment both for my body clock, and for my communication back home. So far, I am doing quite well and have finally recovered from my jet-lag.

Little language differences are also quite apparent but also fun for me to dissect (why is aluminum pronounced AL-OO-MIN-IUM?!) Even trips to the grocery store are a new adventure. Newsflash: they don’t bag your groceries and checkout aisles are called “tills”. Don’t even get me started on trying to keep track of dollars, pounds, and euros.

Most of all, I am looking forward to studying the little differences between American schools and British schools. Several of my classes will discuss this within a classroom setting. It is so cool to go out and observe things in the “real world”! Some of my final projects will also center on comparing education systems.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

I can’t believe that I have only been in England for one week! Life has already been so full of new friends, new food, new classes, and new adventures.

Cheers,

Courtney

 

england Reflections Uncategorized

5 Things I Learned This Semester

1. Say “yes” more often

This semester was, by far, my toughest academically. Towards the beginning of the year, I found myself getting too caught up with the piles of homework I had constantly waiting at home. That’s right: I was actually too concerned with homework. Several weeks went by, then another, and I realized that I was using homework as an excuse not to get out and do things.

Halfway through the semester, my Teaching Fellows cohort went on a Beach Retreat. I was legitimately stressed about this in general because we were told not to bring homework. What?! No homework?! While that might sound like heaven for some, I was freaking out internally.

Over the course of the weekend, these fears began to dissipate. I spent time sitting on the beach, talking with friends, and reflecting on this semester. As I reflected, I realized that I had been missing out on so many things that I had enjoyed freshman year because I was using a busy schedule as my excuse. I decided right then and there that the last half of my semester would be different – and it was.

Two days later, my friend Amanda texted me and asked if there was any way I could drive her home to Asheville, NC the next week so she could vote in her county. Normally, there is no way that I would say yes to something last minute like that! However, this was the sign I needed to bounce back from my boring first half. I said yes, emailed the professor whose class I’d be missing and asked to submit a paper early, got a cover for work, and started packing. The next night, we headed to Asheville. In 12 hours, we managed to fit in an incredible dinner, dessert, and sunrise on the parkway.

Days like this are the ones that won’t be forgotten. Don’t forget to break the rules and say yes sometimes.

 

2. Take time for the things that bring you joy

To continue alongside my previous thought, say yes in particular to things that bring you joy! Sometimes, this means saying no to others and saying yes to yourself. Yes, I deserve to have a night to myself tonight. Yes, I want to go on a hike today! Yes, I deserve that cookie! Yes, I want to read a book for fun tonight! Yes, I have time to go workout!

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the things that we “have” to do: meetings, class, homework, more meetings, that we forget to take some time for ourselves! Whether this means spending time on hobbies you enjoy, reading a book, or just relaxing, we all need to things that we like!

I notice that when I neglect myself, my relationships and academic life suffer. If I’m doing things that make me happy, then I’m happier!

So, treat yoself, grab that cookie, and take that bubble bath and then get back to your seemingly endless to do list.

 

3. When you’re in the right major you’ll know

Last year, because I brought in AP credits, I actually was not enrolled in a single English course! I thought that I was in the right major…but how would I know without a single college English course under my belt?!

This original uncertainty ended up being a good thing. I got to explore different fields, gain interesting perspectives, and by the time sophomore year came around, I knew that English was the field for me. While I enjoyed some of my core courses, English and Sociology classes just feel right. Exploration is a super important part of the college process! If you don’t have anything to compare your “major” courses too, how will you know you’re in the right place?!

This year, I am happily enrolled in all English, Sociology, and Education courses. I feel so lucky to take amazing classes alongside many people that I now call my best friends. In Teaching Literature, we focused on asking big philosophy questions: what is literature? why should we teach it? how should we teach it? Through TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I spent my days volunteering at an Immigrant and Refugee Outreach Center in Greensboro and learning how to manage a multilingual classroom. Class became less of a chore and something I looked forward too.

Ultimately, I have learned how valuable a liberal arts education is. University is much less about getting a degree and much more about the education process. Living on campus at a University like Elon allows me to have educational experiences both in and out of the classroom each and every day.

 

4. Career choice is a lifelong process

Even if you know that you’re in the right major, it is perfectly okay to not know exactly what your life will look like in 5 years or 20 years. In fact, it is probably impossible for you to know. Instead, I try to focus on each experience I have and reflect on the things I learned and how I could use them in the future.

When I came to Elon, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be a Teaching Fellow. What if I changed my mind and didn’t want to teach anymore?! While I know now that English and education are “right” for me, I am still not sure exactly where I’ll end up.

Last semester, after taking a course called Sociology of Education, I added a Sociology minor to my 4-year plan. I do not know exactly how this fits in yet, but I absolutely love combining my fields of interest. Talking about things like the achievement gap, socioeconomic disparities, and tracking students is what I love. Additionally, after taking TESOL, I have developed an interest in working with speakers of other languages. Next year, I will be starting a research project and studying how ELL students are treated and regarded by my local school district. I am hoping to somehow combine all of my loves and experiences into a career path one day.

I have accepted that the only thing that I can do right now is fully immerse myself into each opportunity that I have. By doing this, I know that I will end up exactly where I am meant to be.

 

5. It goes by fast

I knew going into this (now past) semester that time was going to fly by. And like clockwork, it has now come to an end. It seems unreal that I am already packing up and preparing to go abroad to Oxford, England. Soon, my college undergraduate career will be halfway done.

Even though leaving Elon was bittersweet, I am trying to focus on living in the moment and loving each semester for what it has to offer. Yes, things will be different next time I’m back, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Oxford, I’m ready for you!

 

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Courtney

Reflections Uncategorized