September Update

This semester has gotten off to a rocky start. Professors, caring little about adjusting to the new school year, dove headfirst into course content with 100’s of pages of reading the second week of school. What a huge wake-up call that Junior Year was Here. Beyond the heavy workload I had destined myself for, I was really happy to be getting back to a normal routine. Back to spending hours at the library, and eating horrible cafeteria food, and being within walking distance of almost all of my friends.

 

I really wanted this semester to go off without a hitch. Without nights of stress or crying. But, life happens, and you just have to roll with it.

This past week was the worst week of my life. It felt unfair to have such a bad week at the very beginning of the semester, and it’s made me behind in my classes already. But, today is Monday, and I’m just going to pretend that last week didn’t happen at all.

 

Ignoring the bad things, here are the good things about today:

  • Apple cider is back at our campus coffee shop (hello, fall)
  • It’s not raining (yet)
  • Wearing a pink skirt makes me happy

 

Even though these things are so simple (and a little materialistic), sometimes they are the only things you can count on.

My car may be totaled, but at least I can still get my daily coffee. The enjoyment of simple things is necessary to outweigh the complex terrible ones.

 

No matter what else is going on, you have to be adaptable. This is something I’ve struggled with a lot of my life. I don’t like change (that much), and if something changes not according to my plan, I get very angry. When an entire week goes not according to plan, I get VERY upset. Even when everything else seems like it’s changing, I know these things will stay true: my friends will be there for me, and if they are busy, I’ll always have a chocolate croissant to comfort me.

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Moving Back: Junior Edition

Here we go again.

 

In 6 short days, classes start to begin my junior year at college. It is incredibly hard to believe that I have survived two full years of college so far. What’s even more surprising is that there are only two left. I wouldn’t say college has flown by, but I have enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.

 

By their junior year, many college kids have apartments off-campus. At my college, lots of students still live in dorms through their senior year. As it happened, I moved back into a dorm yesterday. I will now explain the very detailed experience I had moving back in for my junior year of college (in an excruciatingly dramatic style). 

 

Now, I’m going to be really honest with how I perceived move-in to go. Moving into a new place is always very stressful for me. It never has to be, but I always want to get it done as soon as possible, and that’s not always feasible. Last year, I up and left home the night before I was planning on moving in and moved in with the help of my sorority sister under the cover of night. This year, I once again tread the path alone of move-in, except with an additional obstacle: a third flight of stairs.

 

I’ve never lived on the third floor. Freshman year, it was the basement. Sophomore year, second floor. Now, it’s only fitting that I live on the third floor. But goodness, I did not realize how much of a difference that extra 15 feet (upwards) makes.

 

However, before I even begun to think about how I was going to remove the strategically placed objects in my car to pack my entire life into my Toyota Camry, I had to check out the room first. I’m living with my freshman roommate again, but I have sworn off hall bathrooms for the rest of my life. I refuse to use a hall bath now, and as such, we have a suite style bathroom. This dorm building was just renovated, so I’m expecting it to be super spacious, neat, and pretty.

 

Now, the room is clean. The bathroom is very clean. But spacious is not a word to describe this room. Upon first glance, I freaked out. My quickest conclusions were: How is all of my stuff going to fit here? Why aren’t there more shelves? This bed is too high. Why is there no bathtub?

 

This realization that we had chosen an awful room (by my standards) to live in caused me to stress out even more. I had had such great plans for this room. This was going to be THE room, the one that depicts the converging personalities of two women through its interior design and apropos wall art. But, I set my standards too high, as usual, and so I freaked out.

 

(Seriously though, this room is not bad. My first (and second and third) instincts were that of repulsion, disgust, and disappointment in this living situation. But it’s not a horrible room. There are smaller rooms on campus. I could be homeless. It’s all a matter of perspective.)

 

Once I finally trudged every last box and pillow from my car up those three flights of stairs, I started thinking about the actual arrangement of the room. The minor details of where the beds and desks will go doesn’t seem important in the grand scheme of things, but in a college as stressful as this one, I wanted to create a space that I could just come back to at 2 in the morning and easily go to bed without disturbing my already sleeping roommate. So, the furniture positions are important.

 

It’s currently three in the morning, and I haven’t finished arranging everything yet. My roommate doesn’t move in for a few days, so I will figure it all out then. But, after having moved in to college 3 times, I’ve learned 3 important things about myself.

 

  1. You can’t expect too much.

I always want dorm rooms to be this quasi magical dwelling, but I have to take it at face value for what it is: a dorm room. I can’t expect an amazingly comfortable living place, because this school focuses on its academics more than its amenities.

 

  1. It’s only for a year.

You shouldn’t stress out about this because you’ll only be living here for an academic year, which, in reality, is only like 7 months total. None of this is permanent, like a real house, so you don’t have to withstand this torture forever (that is the torture of sharing a bathroom with 26 other girls).

 

  1. I will never be an interior designer.

I love disgustingly preppy rooms as much as the next girl. I wished I had the skills to make everything match, be monogrammed, and force others to understand you are the queen of dorm prep. No matter how much I want it to, my bedding will never match. The pictures I put on a wall will never be straight. I will always have mismatched pillowcases and crooked pictures. But, the crooked pictures display aspects of my personality, not only with their images but in that with crookedness comes the opportunity to fix the mistake. I don’t make it crooked on purpose, it just happens. But, I can fix it. Just like in life, when we make accidental mistakes because WE AREN’T PERFECT, we can fix them. The mismatched pillows, well, I just like too many colors.

 

In all honesty, I prefer my furniture to boast a purposeful function rather than follow the form that creates the ultimate envy. It’s just me. In previous years I tried in vain to make everything match. I would spend hours picking out a pillowcase- and in the end it wasn’t what I wanted. So, for all you movers (and shakers) out there that have this idea of The Perfect Dorm Room in your head, just throw it out the window. Dorm rooms will never be perfect, but they are an integral part of college. It’s sad that it took three years of stressed out moving in to realize this, but hey. Everyone has lightbulb moments at different stages.

 

If you’re still with me after this very detailed blog post about my moving experience, I applaud you and reward you a Reese’s Cup. Except I can’t really do that, because it’s over the Internet. If you have any insights you would like to share regarding college move-in, send them my way.

 

Okay, since you actually read this, here are some pictures of my mismatched pillows and crooked pictures that show my diverse interests and ambitions:

 

 

The bed that will never match.

The bed that will never match.

The desk that I count as clean.

The desk that I count as clean.

If you are moving in to college for the first time today or next week, don’t worry. You’re about to have the best time of your life. If your nerves still aren’t eased, read this

Women in Tech

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of the July edition of Elle, which featured an article on ten top women in the tech field (read it here). This article goes hand in hand with the whole discussion on how more women are needed in STEM fields (for facts on gender inequality in STEM, click here!). The Elle article was very interesting read, and I highly suggest it if you have the time.

 

But, it got me thinking.

 

Most of the women in their top ten list used crowdsourcing to get their idea out. (Crowdsourcing is using contributions from an online community to obtain services, ideas, or content.) The companies these women work for have all begun in the past 15 years; most of them from a start-up aspect.

These companies aren’t the typical ‘buying and selling of a product’ businesses you would usually think of. I don’t know about you, but normally when I hear the words “start-up,” I think of either developing a new app/mobile solution or a self-designed boutique that sells a specific type of goods.

 

However, these start-ups, ranging from a website used to crowdfund healthcare for individuals in developing countries to a widget that helps the Internet run faster, all share one thing in common: they directly benefit Internet users.

 

My real question out of all of this, is: Did the use of the Internet help their companies succeed more because of its anonymity? If someone is pitching an idea to you face to face, you see the person. You notice the gender, the look, the size, the personality of that person head on. First impressions are so very important, and there’s been a lot of talk about women not receiving the amount of respect they deserve in science fields because of the way they look. So, if a woman has the opportunity to boost her company online, is she more likely to be more successful because all the investor can see is pure text, words, about the company? It makes me curious to discern how receptive recipients are to names in situations like that- are people more likely to notice the gender of the founder, given just the name and not a picture?

 

I’m definitely, in no way, saying that these women did not get where they are today without hard work. It takes an incredible amount of skill, talent, and dedication to start something from nothing, and have it be so recognized in a magazine such as Elle. But, if women really do thrive more when gender is taken out of the equation, then we have clearly been underestimating what women are capable of as a world for centuries.

 

It’s only with the prominence of the Internet that this can persist. Companies can be born virtually, websites don’t have to contain true information about the founders of such companies until they grow big enough to warrant it. It’s amazing to me that I can book a room in a bed and breakfast in a little village in Belgium (thanks to AirBnB) with the click of a button. We have the power to transform the world digitally, and Elle recognized these women because they are working to do just that.

 

I do not have a high range of technological skills. I don’t know how to code, although I wish I did. I think everyone should learn how to, seeing as the Internet is not just a “fair weather fad.” It’s not going away any time soon. It is astounding to me what we can accomplish through the use of the Internet, and if gender really is disguised by websites and such, then I’m all the more intrigued.

 

Bottom line: women are amazing and more tech-savvy than you think.

 

P.S. If you have any thoughts about gender and tech, send them my way @ sparklesandsolutions@gmail.com.

Thoughts on Friendships and Growing Up

You know how in high school we would get this magical thing called Spring Break? Some families would go on vacations; others would be stuck at home because mom or dad had a full time job they couldn’t take time off from. And the kids who got to go on vacations would come back tan with tall stories about their wonderful times. It always seemed to me like those kids got the upper hand of Spring Break. They got to go on a break while the rest of us stayed home, with nothing more to do than visit Sonic late at night and go shopping at the mall just like any normal week.

 

But, the real Spring Breakers were at a disadvantage too. They would come back to school, completely out of the loop on what went on in the suburbs during the weeklong break. Oh, Jim and Pam are dating again? Sally the hopeless freshman got drunk? Those Spring Breakers didn’t know that any of this had happened in their time of absence. They saw friendships shift, allegiances switch, and suddenly they aren’t so sure how to navigate the testy waters of the high school social circuit. But, with a certain amount of time, they learn to float with the tide, and everything goes back to normal. But there are those few days that are spent halfway in the dark, wanting to scream, “What else don’t I know anymore?”

 

My parents never took me anywhere on vacation for Spring Break. Sure, there was that one Spring Break where we toured (2) colleges, or when I spent the whole break figure skating somewhere else. But, I never was totally in the “high school social circuit” when I was in high school. I have, however, noticed that this trend persists, not necessarily pertaining to spring break or high school, but throughout your whole life.

 

This summer was the first one I spent completely away from my home. I didn’t stay in close contact with my high school friends or my church friends. Nothing has changed drastically, but I do keep getting thrown for a loop when someone mentions something that I have no prior knowledge of.

 

It’s hard to enter back in to friend groups that you’ve been out of for a while. I had to, after spending a year of online schooling, when I came back to public high school. Those first few days back contained the most shy me I’ve ever been. But, as we grow up, and as our old best friends turn less and less “best”, we have to get used to this fading out of friend groups. If you aren’t constantly with someone, and you don’t purposefully maintain contact on a regular basis, your friendship will inevitably change. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just life.

 

Whenever I make a new friend, I always assume that friend will be mine for life. And to a certain extent, it’s true. But it will fade. The “friendship light” won’t go out completely, but it may change. As I get older, I’m starting to realize that this just happens. In the past, I took it very personally and thought I had done something to make someone not want to be my friend anymore. Now, I know it’s all a part of growing up.

 

Friends change, rumors change, lives change. That’s just the way it is.

Thoughts on a Summer Internship

Hello World.

 

I have to come to terms with the fact that I never will blog as frequently as I promise myself I will. Once again, it’s been a solid two months since I last wrote. My summer internship is over, my summer classes are over, yet there are only two short weeks before I move back to campus (again).

 

This summer flew by. I have enjoyed my time immensely as I made new friends and worked (sometimes seemingly endlessly) for hours on end. But, as with the close of every job/season, it’s time to reflect on the good, the bad, the necessary that happened. Here are just a few things I learned this summer:

 

  1. Maximizing your resources is absolutely necessary to being successful.

I knew I would have the internship at AidData in early May. I knew then that it only required 30 hours of work a week, which would have left ample time to relax each day…or I could use that extra time to pursue a different field. I chose to take two classes. Once my internship started, I learned about the awesome opportunities this company had to offer: I quickly got on board with what I liked to call, a side project. Then, I learned about a research proposal competition, which I also decided to do. Did I take on way too much? Of course. Did I sit in my friends’ room several nights and wonder how I was going to get everything done? Heck yes. But now, with everything finished, I feel so accomplished and proud of what I did this summer. I wouldn’t have been happy if I had let those opportunities fly by me. So, if you’re pursuing an internship for the upcoming semester or school year, think about what else you can do. Don’t be stuck in one job, bored out of your mind with the repetition and monotony. Maximize your resources, and start something else.

 

Oh yeah, I would also like to mention: Maximizing your resources can lead to more networking opportunities. People higher up on the company totem pole will see you being proactive and taking interest in something you’re passionate about, and will want to write you a recommendation letter in the future.

 

  1. I cannot sit still for 8 hours a day.

I never thought I would have problems with a desk job in the future. I imagined myself researching, writing, crunching numbers for my dream job. Now, after having to sit down for six to eight hours a day, I know I can’t do that.

 

  1. Being surrounded by people you like is key to surviving anything.

I would not have survived my internship without my best friend by my side all summer. I learned the art of subtle communication- utilizing google chat to converse with someone sitting right beside you. Of course workplace gossip kept us entertained amongst the boring hours of coding, and we looked especially productive having our email open, rather than being on Facebook or with eyes glued to our phones. Communicators of the future, learn the necessity of g-chat. I can see the tagline now, “Google chat: inciting workplace rumors since 2015.”

 

  1. Cooking for five is more fun than cooking for one.

This summer was the first one where I was completely on my own, without a meal plan. Eating out every night is just too god dang expensive, so I had to learn how to cook.

Except, I didn’t. Luckily for me, four of my close friends all lived in the same dorm as me this summer, so we all ate together most of the time. In reality, only one of our friends knows how to cook really well. (Bless you, Andie, for your delicious food.) But, we all ate together many nights, which made the evenings so enjoyable. Sometimes I even felt like a real adult there. There were times that I knew I could have been studying, or researching, or reading a book I wanted, but I chose to strengthen the bonds of friendship with these people. They truly made my summer so memorable.

If you have a painfully boring internship, make sure you make friends that you can spend time with. I cannot stress this enough. My friends MADE this summer for me. Sure, the academic stuff was productive and made me feel successful, but my friends and the fun I had with them made this summer one of the most entertaining and memorable summers I’ve ever had.

 

  1. Everything has an expiration date.

Your internship will end one day. That exceedingly difficult class you’re taking will end. One day, everything will be over. So don’t worry if your internship is the worst possible thing you’ve ever done, or that you’re stuck at an awful job because it pays well but the work sucks. The terribleness will come to pass, and you can move on from it then. There were times this summer that I didn’t think I could geocode anymore. While I enjoyed my job, I would not want to do it for another summer. And that’s okay! That’s the point of internships. We do them, and we learn what we want to/don’t want to do for the future. Just take the horribleness one step at a time.

(In the event that my boss ends up reading this…I’m sorry, but you’ve said it yourself: geocoding can be boring work.)

 

So…that’s a very brief list of what I’ve learned this summer. I honestly do wish I had had more time to write, as I have a lot of thoughts/ideas for upcoming blog posts. But, I will inevitably get too busy, so this is what you get for now.

 

Did you have an amazing summer internship? What did you learn from it?

Missing the Mark

Have you ever applied to something and not gotten it? “Dear sir or madam, but we regret to inform you that…” emails can be the worst. They tell you one thing and one thing only: You’ve missed the mark. You didn’t make the cut. You haven’t succeeded yet.

Sometimes in life, we don’t get what we want. I’ve had my fair share of failed applications, botched interviews, and missed opportunities. It doesn’t mean we’re not good enough; it just means we’re not right for the part.

I spent a lot of my freshman and sophomore year applying to things that I didn’t get. Before I got to college, I didn’t really understand the merit of not getting something you applied to. I started to experience failure with the college admissions process. However, I was lucky. I got into the majority of the schools I applied to. The one I really wanted to get into? Not so much. The scholarships I applied to? Nada.

I entered college, expecting the same attention as high school. I was a good student, so I obviously would get the extra opportunities, right? Boy, was I wrong.

But I wasn’t the only one in that boat. College was a bigger sea, so the applicant pool was a lot larger, even for extra-curricular and volunteer activities. I applied to several programs that were only looking for a few students, and got turned down by all of them.

The next year, I realized that I had to start applying to internships, if I wanted to jumpstart my career. I luckily found my way into an on-campus job that turned into my internship for the summer, but I still applied to about 7 internships that I didn’t get into. To be fair, some were above my skill level, but the “recommended qualifications” never stopped me.

I’ve lived my life with the mantra that if I work hard enough and want it bad enough, anything is possible. Any road is possible. Any life that I want to live.

I still believe that to this day, but I know that with hard work and good expectations still comes failure. I have failed a lot more times than I have succeeded, but I haven’t given up yet. (I don’t plan on giving up any time soon.)

If you’re among the crowd of students without a job, an internship, or a worthy opportunity this summer, don’t worry. I was in your place every summer before this one. It doesn’t mean that you suck, or are a lousy applicant, or are “unfit to be a working adult.” It just means that you have more time to improve yourself.

So! Don’t spend the summer laying around, doing nothing. Pick up a book (or several) on a topic that interests you. There are tons of online courses available on nearly any subject in the world. Learn something new. There are even courses in programming languages that you can put on your resume (hint hint I wish I had time to do this. If you have the time, do it for me.)

Sadly, this does not mean binge-watching the new Orange Is the New Black season will become a skill you can put on your resume. It does, however, mean that you can focus on something you’re passionate about, which will impress college admissions counselors and job recruiters alike.

I always have too much on my plate, but that’s because I don’t stop trying to shove things on it. Sometimes, nothing on your plate is a worthier experience than having too much on it. So don’t worry if you didn’t land the perfect internship this summer. You can still make the most of it.

(Un)productive Sundays

I’ve spent so much time not blogging this year that it feels weird to write again. I’m getting used to it, so if my blog posts are rough, I apologize. I want to get back in the swing of writing like this, but it may take me some time.

Tons of people think of Sundays as a day of rest, enjoyment, the day to spend time with your family or friends. I know that at home, lots of people are spending their Sunday at the Bacon Festival (yes it’s a thing, and yes I’m sad I’m not there).

Other people (my family and I included) always used Sundays to catch up on work that we were too tired to do during the week. This summer, I’m living back at college and am completely away from my family for this first summer. I never realized how different summer is at college than during the school year. During the school year, I spend the entire day at the library, studying and preparing for the next week. I’m only taking one class this summer, and it doesn’t require that much preparation. I’ve spent today reading and watching Netflix intermittently (I’m currently obsessed with the Carrie Diaries– because what 20 year old doesn’t wish she were a fabulous 17 year old again?). I know days like this- days without to-do lists miles long- don’t come very often. And I am sincerely taking advantage of it.

I could be more productive today, or I could not. The choice is all mine.

How are you spending your Sunday? Productively?

Here’s a pretty picture to make your Sunday better. I use this widget called Momentum on my Google Chrome browser (download it here), and it gives me a different scenic picture of a location from around the world each day. I woke up to a picture similar to this, from Hallstatt Village, Austria. Doesn’t it make you just want to hop on a plane and go there? One day I will.

Village-Hallstatt-(Austria)

P.S. I haven’t figured out how to space out my text in my blog so it doesn’t look like a very long paragraph. If you have any ideas on how to do that, I’m all ears.