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.