Thursday, May 3, 2012

Final Observations

With one final exam to go my freshman year is winding down. I’m sad to leave this all behind but I’m ready to go home for the summer. I’ve spent some time reflecting on my freshman year and I’m finishing this blog with eight final observations.  

1. Time really does fly. It seems cliché to say but this past year has gone by so fast! It’s crazy to say my freshman year of college is basically over but I have so many great memories that made it unforgettable. As I’m thinking about packing to move out I can’t help but look back on move-in. It seems like everything is so different, but really still the same.

2. Nothing matters if you have your friends. It’s important to have friends who understand you inside and out. This past year I’ve really realized how big of a difference it makes to have those few close friends you can be yourself with, vent to, or just do stupid things with. And I think that was one of my fears coming into college was not finding that group of people. But I’m happy to say I did!

3.  I have actually learned a significant amount in my classes these past two semesters. As I’m studying for all my exams I realized how much knowledge I really have gained.  I’ve taken philosophy and theology classes, subjects that I’ve never studied before. I’ve learned so much more about biology, something that really interests me. And I’ve studied healthcare, an issue so relevant in today’s world. I feel that I’ve become so well rounded in only my first ten classes as a college student and I’m looking forward to the next three years.

4. I wish that our campus was closer to the city. Although I love Hawk Hill and think it is beautiful I sometimes wish we were closer to Philadelphia. Not that it is hard to walk to Overbrook and take the train to Suburban station, I just feel like it is inconvenient. It would be nice for the city to be right there, but I guess that’s asking a little too much.

5. SJU needs to have more food on campus. Pretty self-explanatory but I think I speak for a lot of students when I say I got tired of Campion quickly. Even though we do have DB and Cosi on 54th, I think SJU should provide more quality food options for students.

6. Saint Joe’s student body is not very diverse. This is not a bad thing, just an observation. I feel like this campus is filled with the same type of people. I’m from a town where I have grown up with friends of all races. Some of my best friends from home are Korean, Indian, African American, and Guyanese and it’s definitely a change to come here. I think I used to take diversity for granted but now I am so thankful I grew up in that environment.

7. I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life but now I’m not so sure. Since the end of high school, I knew I wanted to do something involving healthcare. I decided on something that seemed so perfect for me. But now I’m hesitant. I can’t really put my finger on anything that has made me change my mind but I do know for sure I am uncertain about my future. I know I have plenty of time to figure it all out but the uneasiness scares me a little.

8. I miss my family. It has really been hard being away from my family, even though I love being at school and do get to visit home on occasional weekends. I am so close with my sisters that being away has been so different. I miss out on things at home and phone calls with my mom never fail to make my day better. As stupid as it sounds some nights I wish I was home laying on the couch with my sisters watching The Bachelor and laughing at my dog snoring. It’s nice to know that is exactly what I will be doing in less than 48 hours.   

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Frustrations at Service

Sitting down to think about one of our final blogs of the year made me realize how far our class and the learners of CFL have come in the past eight months. It is really crazy to think we only have two more sessions with our learners and we will probably never see them again. When I look back to the experiences I, along with my classmates, have gained, I know the time we put every week was worth it. Although we all have some frustrations about the whole process, I can confidently say the service we have done is something very good. From building new relationships, both with classmates and learners, to bridging gaps between those who are different, we have made a positive impact. With that said it is difficult at times to see the big picture and look past our frustrations.
I think one of the major criticisms I have about service this year is the organization and execution of the Center for Literacy. I cannot be grateful enough for the work Mark and Scott put into this program. They are so dedicated to what they do and to see that is inspiring. However, it is clear there are a few communication issues, both between Saint Joe’s and the CFL and the learners and CFL. Mark and Scott’s job is not easy but I do think there could be improvement. It can be frustrating when your learner doesn’t show up and you have to sit there for three hours and may not even have schoolwork with you to work on. I think there could be better communication between the learners letting Mark know they cannot attend service and then Mark letting students know if they should not come to a session. I hope for next year’s class students do not have to question whether their learner will be at service that night. It is also tough at times because Mark has mentioned to us that he will kick learners out of the program if they continually do not show up and do not put forth effort to the program. Yet, I know there have been times when learners missed several weeks of service. I would never want to make a person leave the program but I think Mark has been inconsistent in dealing with attendance and maybe some improvements could be made. Overall, I think there is potential for more efficiency and consistency at CFL. 
I also have to be very honest in this blog about the time commitment of service. Personally, taking four hours of my Mondays is not the easiest thing for me. However, I do know this is what I signed up for and I just have to balance my time accordingly. I would be lying if I didn’t say service has made my schedule more stressful, but I just have to remind myself that we are doing something good. I know myself and others find the three hours a little too long most nights. When my learner tells me how long her day has already been and how she has not even been home yet from her two jobs I do not blame her for being tired. I know that sitting down and reading out loud and doing math problems for three hours is exhausting. I think that sessions would be a lot more productive if they were not three hours long. Although this may not be a feasible solution, because traveling to CFL more than once a week probably couldn’t happen, I think learners and tutors would get more out of it this way. 
It is hard to look back at this year and think, “wow, I have helped my learner get her GED!” because I know that that is a long-term goal. But I have to say I am happy I got this opportunity. Although I have voiced my frustrations, I know service was an overall positive experience. Some kinks should be worked out concerning communication and efficiency of CFL and maybe even the length of service could be shortened. Overall, the CFL is making the small steps that we need to take to help those who are illiterate. And I am glad I got to be a part of it these past months. It breaks me heart to hear the stories of the learners at CFL, but I know that CFL fosters hope and is doing what it can to achieve its goals. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What do I feel called to do?

To be honest I am very unsure of the question. I know there is a lot in store for me being that I am only 18 years old. But at the same time, I am still trying to figure it all out. One thing I know is that I want my career and life to be focused on helping others. As the youngest in my family of six, I had a lot of people to look up to in my life. My three older sisters and my mother were amazing role models. I think that I am following in the footsteps of my family by wanting to give back to others. My mother is a nurse and has been fulfilling that role of "helping people" for as long as I can remember. She is definitely the main reason why I am interested in a career in the health services. 
Right now, I am majoring in Interdisciplinary Health Services and my goal is to get my Masters in Occupational Therapy. OT is very similar to nursing and my mom got me interested in the field. She thought I had all the attributes of an occupational therapist and really pushed me to find out more about it and see if I could see myself doing that for the rest of my life. She did a pretty good job helping me decide a career path...after all, she is the person that knows me the best and has been working in the medical field her whole life. 
Overall, I think that being a part of a family that is so centered around kindness, compassion, and selflessness is the main reason I feel called to work in health services. My older sisters are all studying to become social workers, physician's assistants, and veterinarians. My family is such a big part of my life that I am not surprised they had so much to do with steering me in the right direction. From doing service and helping others in the community to getting my degree in Occupational Therapy, I know I will live a life where I can have a positive impact on those around me. I am excited for what the future brings because I know that I will continue to be helping others no matter what. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Back to Service

It was nice to see my learner and return to CFL after our long winter break. I was hoping my learner would come back with the same motivation and enthusiasm as before break. And I was happy to see her sitting at the table waiting for me with an essay she had written. I gave her homework and was optimistic that she would actually attempt to write an essay or at least a draft. So, it was a pleasant surprise to read her essay, which she did a very good job on. It also gave us a good way to jump right back into tutoring.
For the rest of the session, we worked some more with her essay and writing skills and moved onto some reading comprehension. I was nervous because we had never actually done the reading comprehension exercises in her GED book, but she did surprisingly well! Even when we encountered a challenging excerpt from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, my learner amazed me and got every question right. As time winded down I could tell she was very tired so I gave her a long break and we just chatted. I immediately sympathized with her when she told me she had been up since 2:30 AM. It made me feel bad to think I was having a long day and my first class didn’t start until 11.
Sometimes going to service helps put things back into perspective and reminds me to be grateful for what I have. Being back at service also makes me remember to be patient. One of my goals for the rest of the year is to always be supportive of my learner, especially if she is getting frustrated and can’t remember how to do certain things. Also, something I was reminded of at service this week is that my learner will be leaving soon to have her baby. She is due at the end of March so sadly, I will have to say goodbye to her early. I am not sure if I will get another learner for the last month or so after she leaves, but either way this reminds me to work harder with her in the short time we have left together. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Semester of Service

As the semester winds down and final exams get closer, it is still hard for me to believe that I have almost survived my first few months as a college freshman. Sometimes it seems like the first semester has gone by so fast. But when I stop and think, I realize how much I have gone through and how much I have grown as a person. Not only have I reflected on my own life and experiences in the past few months, but I have gained a grater perspective of the community around me. Being a part of this service learning course is such an enriching experience. We are not just reading about the social issues; instead, we go out every week and interact with those who have lived most of their adult life illiterate. We are the ones helping these people earn their education.
My leaner, T, has shown tremendous growth since her first day at CFL. She has learned so much already that it makes me very excited for the second half of the year. I can’t wait to see how she impresses me next. I have seen a change in her in both the way she interacts with me as her tutor and the way she approaches problems. In the beginning, T was apprehensive to ask questions. She never really stopped me to tell me that she didn’t understand what I was saying. Now, I have accommodated to this and I make sure to ask if she understands what I am trying to explain as we go along in the material. I have noticed that she is not afraid to ask questions anymore. The last few sessions, she will stop me and ask questions like “does this mean I do this step every time the fraction is an even number?” She has shown me that she is not just taking what I say and putting it on the paper. Instead, she listens and thinks about what I say and how this applies to other problems.
About three weeks ago, I noticed a change in T’s learning. We were working through fraction problems, specifically reducing fractions to lowest terms. This was something that she had struggled with early on, but I saw how much she has improved. So far, each problem had taken a little longer to do because she took many steps to get to this final answer. But, this week she skipped all of the intermediate steps and proudly said the answer. I was amazed that she did not need to take the little steps in between anymore. I told her how great this was and her confidence was immediately boosted. She now enjoys tackling these harder fraction problems because she can arrive at the final answer quicker and more easily. I have enjoyed not only seeing her excel and being a part of her improvement, but also seeing how proud she is when she gets the answer to a hard problem correct.
Besides the improvement in her learning, T has also opened up to me about herself and her family. The first day that we met, she did not really talk that much about her family besides the fact that she had eight kids and was pregnant. After a few sessions, T began to talk to me about her children and her husband. I was glad to hear her talk about them because I could tell that they made her very happy. Our bond has grown tremendously since the beginning because she now tells me how her children are doing. She talks to me about her daughter who is in her first year of college, what she wants to study, and how she is not enjoying where she is currently, so she wants to transfer. T also shares with me how difficult it is to be the single supporter of her family. Her husband cannot work because of the multiple surgeries he has had on his back. I can tell this is very hard for T to deal with because his doctor said he may even need to have another surgery. I’m glad that she is now able to talk about her family and that she feels comfortable with me to tell me these things. I hope our bond continues to grow the rest of the year.
Overall, I am very impressed with T so far. The last session, I began to photocopy all of the worksheets and exercises she completed in her workbooks. I couldn’t help but be happy for her as I made copies of all of the pages she completed to document in her portfolio. When I came back from photocopying her work, I noticed her sitting at the table flipping through the pages of the workbook, admiring what she has already learned but also looking to see what is ahead. I know that she will continue to improve her skills, but what I am most exciting to see is her new-found pride and self-confidence. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Object at Service

For the past few weeks that we have been going to service, one of the objects that I look at the most is the clock. It is a simple black analog clock that is hanging on the back wall. During service, the time always seems to go by so fast. Once my learner and I get started working on the exercises in her books, I am always so surprised by how great she does. I don’t even realize how much time has passed and that we should move from math to writing. Planning the sessions, I always need to be aware of the time so that my leaner can get the most out of the three hours a week that we meet. I want to plan my lessons in the most efficient way possible, but also make sure that we either mix games into the work we are doing or take breaks and just talk.
All of the learners at CFL are here to improve their reading, writing, and math skills. Although I cannot speak for every learner, many of them are probably here because they were pushed along in the school system and dropped out of school. For whatever reason they did not complete their education, it has limited their opportunities in life. They have had to adapt to living in a world where they can’t read or understand everything they see. Years passed and as adults they still did not have the proper education. The hardest part is that they cannot get this time back. Instead, each of them is here today to learn and make up for the time they lost unable to read and write to their full potential.
I have also begun to realize how important time is in my learner’s life. She has a very busy schedule and has to get up at 5 am every morning. She barely gets to go home after her day at work before coming to CFL. So I know that this is very important for her and she shows a lot of dedication. She has to take care of eight children and is the only supporter of her family because her husband is unable to work. He has had three surgeries on his back for a medical condition that has prevented him from having a job. As I have been getting to know my learner better I am realizing that she truly is a selfless person, as a mother and a wife. My learner does not get much time to relax or take a break because she has to take care of her children and her husband. She doesn’t get time for herself. Everything that she does is for someone else. That is what makes her time spent as CFL so important and I hope to make the most of it in the next year. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Midterm Reflection

           At this time last year, the stress of senior year was overwhelming. Balancing the workload of AP classes with completing college apps was an unfeasible task. It seemed scary to think I would be starting college soon and I had no idea where I would be. Deciding which schools to keep on my list seemed impossible. I applied to twelve schools and did not have a favorite. SJU was never at the top of my list but as May 1st came around I found myself more and more attracted to what the school has to offer. For a long time I hoped that SJU was the right choice.
Before I knew it, it was the end of August and I had no idea what to expect. The first few weeks of college I was caught up in the combination of anticipation, stress, and excitement. I didn’t really have the time to stop and think about what I was doing, I just did it. Reflecting of the past three months has given me a new perspective. 
Being in college has forced me to think differently about the future. It all seems so real now. I have finally settled in and gotten into the swing of things at SJU. It recently hit me that I am going to be here for the next four years. It seems so intimidating to know what is in store for me in the next four years, but have no idea what the future actually brings. Even though I am only a freshman in college I cannot help but think about the next step of my life after I graduate from SJU and enter the real world. It seems only natural to be curious about my future now that I have begun this new chapter of my life as an “adult.”
I use the word adult because yes, technically I am 18 and I do not live under the supervision of my parents. But, really I am just trying to figure this whole thing out. It is a lot more difficult than it seems to be independent. Often, people just think of the freedom they are given and don’t recognize the responsibility that comes with it. It has taken time to learn the skills of time management and I know that I still have to work on starting assignments earlier and being more productive. Procrastination was always a weakness of mine in high school, but I’ve noticed on the past three months I have improved. In high school I would rely on my mom to wake me up and here an alarm clock is a necessity. Something as simple as going food shopping becomes a hassle. Overall, I feel like I have gotten more responsible doing things on my own and not relying on others. In college, you don’t really have a choice; if you don’t do something then it doesn’t get done.
The environment at SJU is completely different than my high school. Competitive does not begin to describe my school district in my hometown. It was a ruthless environment where students always compared grades with each other after tests or big assignments. Here, I do not feel that pressure. I still work my absolute hardest, but I do it for myself and my own benefit. I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. It is refreshing to learn in this type of environment and I hope that this continues.
I would not have imagined meeting the people that I have here at Saint Joe’s. I feel lucky to have made close friends with girls on my floor. It is weird to think that we know each other so well and only met three months ago. My perspective has changed by meeting new people and learning where others have come from. It is harder than I thought being away from my family. Some people don’t like to admit it, but I miss my family. I miss the simple things like eating dinner with my sisters and hearing my dogs bark out the window. It is definitely an adjustment to live away from home in a completely new environment surrounded by new people. But, this type of change is good and it is exciting. After reflecting on the past few weeks at Saint Joe’s, I can’t help but anticipate how I will continue to grow within the next few years.