Life After Graduation: A View from the Trenches

Disclaimer: Anything written in this blog represents the opinions of the author, and no one else. Each blog is written lightly, and is not intended to offend any of the mentioned businesses, locations, students, or staff.

Yesterday,
I went to a business Seminar titled “Life after Graduation: A View from
the Trenches”. The seminar was organized and promoted by The Department of
Management (http://www.uml.edu/msb/management/Management.html) and The Young
Professionals of Greater Lowell (http://www.ypgl.org/). The first speaker was Taylor Gys, who is now an
Accountant at Anstiss & Co. She received his BA in Accounting from
Assumption College and is currently working on earning her MBA at Southern New
Hampshire University. Craig J. Mackenzie, who is Senior Vice President of
Operations at Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank, also shared his experiences. He
received his BA in Math and a BS in Economics at Syracuse University and an MBA
from UMass Lowell. The last speaker was
Heather Makrez, who is the Director of Alumni Relations at UMass Lowell. She
received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UMass Lowell.
The
seminar included presentations by three members of the Young Professionals of
Greater Lowell. At the seminar, they shared their experiences upon
transitioning from a university setting to the professional world. The speakers
shared the lessons that they learned, and are currently learning, throughout
their progressions in their careers. Afterward, they answered all of our
questions. They intentionally did not spend much time presenting information
about themselves before they asked us what we wanted to learn from them. They
allowed the majority of class time to be dedicated to answering our questions.
This provided more of a seminar atmosphere, which was extremely beneficial for
learning.

The major topics covered during the seminar including tasks to seek employment. This involved information about resumes, professional networking, interviewing, and social networking. Presenters also shared information about their first professional job experiences, and their struggles and successes in continuing their education. What I found most interesting was the topic of managing their careers, which involved social skills, mentors, taking initiative, and career advancement. The professionals advised us to be honest, confident, and professional. This includes showing up on time, dressing appropriately for the occasion, and displaying our best interpersonal and communication skills.

It was incredibly
admirable learning about their transitions into their careers as people in the
business world. It was specifically interesting listening to their experiences
because they are young (within ten years of attaining their bachelor’s degrees)
to be so successful in the business world.
It was particularly rewarding that the panelists answered all of our
questions. They showed a large amount of enthusiasm toward our attendance and
questions. I am very glad that I went to the seminar, because now I have gained
knowledge about the reality of becoming a member of the working community that
I otherwise would not have gained.

10 Things College Really Teaches Students

Disclaimer: Anything written in this blog represents the opinions of the author, and no one else. Each blog is written lightly, and is not intended to offend any of the mentioned businesses, locations, students, or staff.

As I sit at work, hoping that my glare on its own will complete the list of assignments in front of me, I find myself contemplating the knowledge I have gained throughout my first year in college. I wonder if the information I have learned is more useful to use to study for finals or in helping me actually succeed (whatever “success” means, I’m not even sure I know yet…) in life. Here is what I have learned… Also, I apologize for the continuously long blogs that I publish. I am working on shortening them, one step at a time. Take it or leave it! :-)

1) 1) You can’t eat whatever you want.

Yes, it is true; you are what you eat. You may have been able to burn off the fat from the excess snacks that you ate in high school during track or cheer practice but for most of us, we no longer have the privilege to play on a sports team five days a week once we enter college. Academics become our main focus. This means that the snack intake increases, and the exercise decreases. So, pay attention to what you eat. Pick up some celery (which upon eating it actually makes you burn more calories than you gain) instead of the Doritos that are calling your name.

2) 2) Showing up does matter.
In high school, showing up to class was a requirement. In college, it is more of an option. You don’t have the whip of your parents behind you pushing you to school or the phone calls home from the automated voice system if you skip a class. Therefore, showing up to class does make a difference. It will, 9 times out of 10, change that B+ to an A-. It sounds silly to say that simply showing up can earn you credit but nowadays when anyone with a bank account is welcomed with open arms to college, it does make a difference.

3) 3) No one cares what you did in high school.
We get it. You are the A-student, president of every club, and teacher’s pet who was supposed to go to some Ivy League college, but for some reason ended up with the rest of us. You may have perfected the use of note cards, or discovered the format of every test in order to ace it in high school, but in college, you are just like the rest of us. As freshmen, we are all bottom-feeders and you have to start from square one again, just like the rest of us. And please, don’t put that you were in the Leadership Council in high school on your resume. Your employers will be just as irritated as the rest of us.

4) 4) Communication is key.
No matter what major you decide to take, the most important skills will always be communication skills. Above all else, speaking, reading, listening, and interpersonal skills rise above all else in the professional world. This can be reflected in things as simple as how you write Emails to things as nerve-raking as presentations. Take this to your advantage. Even if you aren’t sure if you used the right equation, present your project to the best of your ability by speaking clearly and enthusiastically. Even if you have to miss an hour or two of work because of extending circumstances, communicate it clearly and in advance to your boss and he/she will definitely let it slide. All of this will make you feel, and look, much more like a real adult and not just some 18-year-old.

5) 5) If they don’t recognize you in public, they aren’t worth your time.
We have all had those flings that are far more romantic in our mind than in public. College is a time to cut that out. Freshman year provides some wiggle room for mistakes. It is a time to discover who is truly worth your time. By your senior year though, there is no reason to continue seeing someone who doesn’t treat you as well as you know you deserve to be treated. A little trick that helps: if you feel even a little bit of that funny feeling in the back of your throat (like when you just lied to your parents) when you think about them, or if you are too embarrassed (after more than two weeks) to look them in the eye, then it probably isn’t the best fit.

6) 6) There is a ridiculous amount of time in the day.
Although as humans we prefer to procrastinate 99% of the time, there is plenty of time during the day to complete what needs to get done. What you want to get done, and what you need to get done are two different things. As long as you have a realistic to-do list, then there is no question that it is possible to complete it. Stop doubting your abilities and making excuses. It’s an embarrassing quality. Realize your potential, and exceed it. We can do it!

7) 7) Doing work doesn’t always involve homework.
For many college students, passing college includes dealing with the obstacles in-between college such as work and other extra-curricular activities. Even if you don’t need the money (even though, in reality, what college student couldn’t do with a little extra cash?), pick up a shift or two at a local coffee shop, or become a member of a club that interests you. You may find that the extra responsibility motivates you in other parts of your life. If not, that’s great, too. Everyone is different. That’s important to recognize within itself.

8) 8) Change adds up.
Attention college students: Piggy banks are back in style! It is no longer worth saving the extra time by letting the cashier “save the change.” Keep every penny, nickel, dime, and quarter and before you know it, you will have clean laundry every week and will no longer need to lend money from your roommate who you plan to “pay back on Friday.”

9) 9) You are no longer under the microscope.
Phew. College does not mimic the small hallways and gossip pool that high school creates. Social stigmas will never fail to exist, but allow yourself some freedom. In college, it’s no longer as important who you sit with at lunch, but what classes you plan to take next semester. Who you spent the weekend with doesn’t compare to the opportunity to represent your college or club at the Winter Carnival or Spring-fest. Professional success is far more attractive than how messy you got at a party last night.

1 10) College is by no means the real world.
Although we are told that college is a “taste of the real world” it is important to recognize that dorm-life etiquette, and dining hall manners are strictly part of the college lifestyle and not the adult (“real”) world. Living off campus may be more rewarding by the time you are nearing graduation, than staying in the small world of campus life for the entirety of the four years or more it takes you to graduate.

To My Fellow Bostonians

Disclaimer: Anything
written in this blog represents the opinions of the author, and no one else.
Each blog is written lightly, and is not intended to offend any of the
mentioned businesses, locations, students, or staff.

I don’t believe that I have ever felt so heartbroken by another event in my life than I have in reaction to that which occurred this afternoon at 2:40 pm in Boston, MA. In my 18 years of life, I have never felt so scared for my family and friends. I have never felt so much empathy for my fellow Bostonians. I have never experienced such an intense yet confused mental, physical, and emotional reaction to the actions of a fellow human being. I have never been so concerned over the violence that so often seems to be consuming our country and our world.

I want everyone in the UMass Lowell community, and further, to know that my heart is with all of you and your loved ones. Today is a day to pray for those in Boston. It is a day to be thankful for our lives and for our stable mental frames. We are reminded that, although we very rarely need to be concerned about our physical safety in regards to natural survival, our lives are not protected. Our government, militia, local forces, and family can only do so much. Today is a reminder that we, as humans, are not invincible.

As we pray for all of those affected by the explosions, we must also pray for those who planned such a violent scene. We must pray that whatever evil inspired the events of today can be recovered. No one should ever feel the need to impose such a threat against his/her own society, just as much as no one should ever have to fear attending what is intended to be a peaceful, annual, city event.

We also must thank the heroes who provided assistance to all of the defenseless citizens who were hurt in today’s events. It is one thing to train for the violence that seems to be inevitable in our world, and it is another to rise to the occasion when evil is presented in front of our eyes. Thank you to all of the police officers, fire fighters, EMS faculty, Boston marathon staff, citizens and whoever else gave a helping hand after the explosions in Boston.

The help does not stop after today, or after all of those who were injured recover. We all must continue to do our best to live in peace, and without violence. It is much easier said than done, but please; spread love and not hate. Please, let’s have faith in our neighbors, friends, and fellow Bostonians.

Sending my love to all of you.

Get Ready Before You Eat

Disclaimer: Anything written in this blog represents the opinions of the author, and no one else. Each blog is written lightly, and is not intended to offend any of the mentioned businesses, locations, students, or staff.

There isn’t a more social place on all of the UMass Lowell campuses than Fox Hall Dining Commons. One could rebut and say that the dining hall on South campus, the apartments on Merrimac Street, or one of the sport’s houses provide a better setting for social gathering, but I stand by my statement. I know it because I see it. I know it because I live it. If I am not strong enough of a primary resource, then the facts may convince you more…

1. 1) It is the center place for the 2,000 (about) students who live on East and North Campus

2. 2) It is open on weekends, whereas South campus is not (why?! It’s as confusing to me as it is to you.)

3. 3) It is located above Sal’s Pizza, Taco Bell and the POD Marketplace (supremely convenient)

4. 4) The name “Fox Hall Dining Commons” is a name for fame within itself

Ultimately everyone who lives on East campus, those located in Eames Hall on North Campus, and South campus students (on weekends) must visit Fox Hall Dining Commons if they want to eat without spending an excess of money.

My favorite time to go to there is the morning. If you arrive before 8:00 am, you will find all of the ROTC, honors students, and whoever else is brave enough to wake up early enough before class to make it to the dining hall. It is a generally peaceful time. Although I often feel like I’m trying too hard when I see the students arriving in their pajamas who rush away from me as I retrieve my yogurt because my outfit screams that I am way too ready for the day. What can I say? It’s necessary to arrive before 9:30 am if you plan on getting an omelet without having to wait 20 (or more) minutes (Although I will admit, the wait is worth it!).

Lunch is pretty scattered and boring and consists of individuals (often boys) running in between classes to eat a meal that most people skip due to the common 14-meals-a-week plan which only allows you to eat two meals in a day. Besides these scavengers, around this time the dining hall consists of mostly students who wake up later than the early birds who have just missed breakfast.

Dinner is the most social-able time of all. Right around 6:00 pm the dining hall becomes close to impossible to navigate due to its full capacity. There are the students coming straight from class or who are grabbing a bite right before class, those who are famished due to their work-out at the gym (but who, at the same time, still have the time to re-apply make-up before their arrival), those who have waited since 4:00 pm to eat but are just arriving now, and the rest who really don’t care what’s going on with the rest of the hungry students and who have better things to be doing/thinking about.

Visiting the dining hall can actually be considered intimidating to most. It is uncomfortable enough having to visit a large number of your peers, most of which you don’t know, every time you wish to eat a meal. On top of that, dinner, and sometimes breakfast, in Fox Hall Dining Commons involves waiting in lines for food you don’t want to admit you are excited to eat, and the huge decision of where you are going to sit and with whom. For a freshman (or anyone, really) this whole process can be considered stressful and tiring.

I could go on in detail about the social interactions, and lack of interactions, that occur in the dining hall between the hours of 7:00 am and 8:00 pm, but there isn’t anything I could say that those of you reading, and/or who go to Fox Hall Dining Commons, wouldn’t already assume or know. A little advice though (that I tell myself everyday), there is no need to try so hard; we are all human :) .

Don’t Use the Bathroom

Disclaimer: Anything written in this blog represents the opinions of the author, and no one else. Each blog is written lightly, and is not intended to offend any of the mentioned businesses, locations, students, or staff.

There is no more judgmental situation than that in which you are forced to go to the bathroom next to someone you know, but don’t really know. Actually, it is never comfortable going to the bathroom next to someone. If it is, you either came out of the same womb or that person is someone incredibly unique and you’d best plan to marry that bathroom soul mate. It isn’t comfortable sharing a bathroom with someone you don’t know for any reason, in the first place. The relationship we have with the bathroom is a bittersweet one to begin with. It involves a release of unnecessary junk that we have consumed over the past couple of days, which is both rewarding and sometimes uncomfortable. It also involves the intimate activity of showering, which is both rewarding and a nuisance. Although no one likes to talk about it, the bathroom is a trip that we need, either to wash or to use the toilet, and is a guilty pleasure.

As a girl, I love going to the bathroom. Not for the messy toilet part, but to shower because after showering I know I will have at least an hour to take the time to get ready and get “pretty”. I love my pretty time. The time in the morning when I can sing to my favorite song (which sets my mood for the rest of the day, of course) and when I can take an excessive amount of time choosing out an outfit that I will only be wearing for 5 hours tops before I change for either work or to go to the gym.

Unfortunately, a girl’s joy for the bathroom only minimizes upon arriving to college. I am not kidding when I say that a few whimpers did slip out of me while I experienced my first shower in Fox Hall. I come from a household where the shower will not be touched by any member of the house unless the bathroom has been cleaned within the last five days. Given, I come from a family of five kids, and a grandma on the side, so the shower is the most frequently accessed utility in the house next to the fridge, which means an obsessive amount of bleach and Windex every week is seriously needed. That being said, after my first shower in Fox Hall, I seriously considered dropping out of college. Not only for the sake of my current lifestyle and health, but also for the sake of my future family/children (that I may never have due to the lack of hygiene in my near future as a new college student – and other college problems #freshman15 #toomuchhomework #whatiscalculus #failing #alcoholism #collegeprobz).

It isn’t only the vulnerable feeling of showering next to two other people in a bathroom where three other people may be using the toilets and 4 more the sinks that makes the bathroom trips at college so horrible. There are other extremities that come with the semi-public bathroom experience when dorming at college. While in the shower, your feet are greeted by the soap and dirt from your showering neighbors (about 6 inches away separated by one inch thick, easily-disturbed wall) that spews into your shower through the foot high lack of wall up to your mid-calf. There are the hairs that are definitely not yours that not only follow you around during your bathroom adventures, but have a tendency to join you back to your room. Also, when brushing your teeth, you are forced to smell whatever is leaving (or already left) the body of your peers (aka their lunch from a few hours before) as well as the variety of perfumes and gels that they use to try to cover their natural stench. I will mention, too, that brushing teeth (at least well) commonly triggers gag reflexes and with the added forces of the bathroom in a girl’s dorm, it is only a natural reaction to puke when brushing your teeth.

My personal hygiene may or may not now be, unwillingly, worse than it was when I arrived here at UMass Lowell and I may never recover from the traumatizing nights when I was too afraid of the bathroom so I held my pee for over 4 hours. I will send all of my future therapy bills and divorce fees to 100 Pawtucket Street Lowell, MA 01854. Thank you, Fox Hall.

A Little Advice

Disclaimer: Anything written in this blog represents the opinions of the author, and no one else. Each blog is written lightly, and is not intended to offend any of the mentioned businesses, locations, students, or staff.

It is easy to wake up every day and continue doing what you have done in the past. It is far too easy to procrastinate, and to be content with being content. Today’s world accepts the millions of us who get by with being mediocre and by smiling at people as they pass by in the hall, even when we don’t genuinely care about how their day is going. A small reminder (if you didn’t already know): being “nice” isn’t good enough. Just “passing” isn’t good enough. Arriving on time isn’t good enough. Getting a job isn’t good enough. Trying your best, though, and giving your all into what you do, will make you and those around you much happier.

Each and every one of us has something more to give to our community. There is never “enough”. The world always needs more. WE always need more. YOU always need more. The term “more” usually sits on the back burner in my vocabulary because I believe it is a weak adjective that describes our culture in a material sense. In this sense, though, the word “more” means more than it usually does, as well. The word “more” represents the extra ten minutes on the treadmill when you thought you were about to die fifteen minutes previous; the coffee you added to your order to give to your coworker just for the heck of it; the extra hour you spend studying just because you want to be certain you are prepared; and the time you spend comforting a peer through a difficult time even when you don’t have any more time to give.

Lately, I have found myself being more selfish than usual. I like to consider myself a giving and generous person, but I believe that college has created a new selfish me that wasn’t revealed as much in previous years of my life. In the morning, often I do make only enough coffee for myself, and leave my roommate to fend for herself just because it means I have more time for myself to get to class a little earlier. In the afternoon, I have caught myself rushing to catch the open door without taking the time to hold it for the person behind me. At night, I do wish that fewer students would come into the café where I work, so that I will be able to spend less of my time serving them, and more time working on my homework.

I am writing this, not only to remind those who read this not to be lazy and selfish, and all of the other negative adjectives that critics use to describe our generation and world, but to also remind myself that positivity is what makes the world go round.

So, go ahead. Make extra to-do lists to accomplish the numerous assignments that you have procrastinated on throughout this semester. Meet with the tutor you have been avoiding, who is only there to help you succeed. Call your parents in the evening to ask how they are doing, even when you would much prefer to sit back and watch your favorite television show. Help a friend find a ride to work, even when you know that it’s their fault that they’re late in the first place. Tell yourself “No, I will not settle just being pretty” “No, I will not be content living off of what my parents have supplied for me when I am capable of helping myself, too” and “No, I will not merely sit on my butt for the entirety of my entire eight-dollar-and-twenty-five-cent-an-hour shift”. Motivate yourself by reminding yourself that you will earn your place in your workplace. You will earn the grade you are capable of earning in school. You will earn your place in the world.

And, don’t forget; love yourself just as much as you love those around you. The people around you can see how much you value yourself, and them, simply by how you present yourself through your image, as well as your attitude. Completing tasks on time will help you succeed at this. Extracurricular activities, such as going to the gym, or going to an event around campus with your free time, will assist you in feeling more involved, and complete. You can’t give back to your community, when your own mind, body and soul are in need of attention. It is your job, and your job only, to push yourself onto the next level. And yes, even when you are doing that, it is also your job to help those around you. In doing so, you will only receive more positivity, generosity, and love back from those who receive your warm heart and solid effort. You get what you give.