Lessons Learned During my Junior Year That Didn’t Occur in a Classroom.

This school year brought a lot of big changes into my life- some good and some bad. But life is about growth and that is what I have done. I have made new friends while losing others- and that is okay. I made many realizations along the way, one of which is that all learning doesn’t have to be in a classroom.

___________________God works in mysterious ways. ____________________

Yes, I know this is a very cliché statement, but it fits perfectly into my not-so-perfect life. The perfect instance of this being true has its own post, about me going to Nicaragua. I was supposed to go to Ecuador last summer, but it didn’t work out and I am grateful for that. The company I was supposed to go through was being vague in their answers to my questions, and long story short I decided the night before that I wasn’t going anymore. (I, who had no flying experience, was expected to fly into Ecuador’s busiest airport, in a Spanish-speaking country, and they couldn’t send me a picture of who I was supposed to be meeting up with- WEIRD!!) Then I saw the movie Snatched and that fictional film solidified my gut feelings.

So, this didn’t work out but I still desired to serve others in another country. This Ecuador downfall built the path for a better trip and better friends- plus it was service through the medical field, where I will be working in a few short years. You can read all about this in my other post, linked here. There was a reason God didn’t let Ecuador work out and why I backed out that night. I took it as a major sign when my phone came up missing the afternoon before I was supposed to leave. And then again when I found out my flight got delayed and I wouldn’t have landed in Ecuador until MIDNIGHT (scary). I may never know the reason Ecuador wasn’t the place for me, but after traveling to Nicaragua, I know why I was meant to spend my money going to that country instead.

God works in his own ways, in his own time, and as humans we must learn to trust in Him. I learned that, and if you pay attention, you might too.

____________________Busting your tail is important… ______________________

If you have goals that you want to achieve, working hard is the only way to get there. Sometimes it means saying no to a midnight ice cream run or the 8:30 workout session at the SAC all your roomies are going to, but it will pay off. Keep chasin’ those dreams!

________________________…But so it having fun. _________________________

Playing off the previous statement, having fun is also important. Finding the perfect balance is difficult, but definitely achievable. For too long I was solely focused on getting all good grades and doing all my jobs correctly, that I wasn’t enjoying myself. And that is important too. You’re only getting this experience for (roughly) 4 years, you can’t let every fun instance slip through your fingertips. Sometimes it’s a picking and choosing game, but well worth it. Your brain needs a break sometimes.

_________________________Life is not a race.______________________________

This one hit me harder than most. For a while I had been contemplating taking a gap year between undergrad and graduate school. Part of me felt that year would be important to preserving my sanity and mental health, while another part of me wanted to go straight to grad school because “God forbid I get my master’s degree at 24 rather than 23.” However, the idea of a gap year became more apparent when I found out I was only eligible to apply to two Physician’s Assistant programs in Michigan for this year’s cycle. Then I was realizing this gap year might happen whether I want it to or not. Roughly half way through the spring semester I met with a professor about class and ended up having a real conversation with him. He became a human, not a professor to which I am a face and not a name. He went on about his life and his past and just as I was about to give him some story about some fake meeting I had to run to, he concluded with, “life is not a race. We all run it at a different pace. Me, I was the slow one, one of the last at the finish line- but I ended up okay.” For that, I applaud you Dr. Sharma. This spoke loudly to me and I was suddenly accepting of whatever outcome I have concerning PA school (and life in general). I have been trying to keep that in mind, especially now as I am juggling an internship, studying for the GRE, applying to graduate schools, working 3-5 days a week, and completing an online class. It’s a busy life but I wouldn’t change it.

__________________________I’m a trashy lady.__________________________

…which is why recycling is important. (It’s helping to save our planet!) I bet the header caught your eye over anything, but don’t worry mom; it’s only in context. Let me start out by saying that yes, Paige, I did roll my eyes behind your back when you first told us you were going to “make” us recycle this year. But let me also tell you how much it opened those eyes of mine to how much trash 5 girls can make in a week. So thank you for being environmentally informed and passing on the importance to me! The picture under this is the amount of recyclable material we generated in a week’s time. ONE WEEK! And this was a less-than-average week. Not only did it make me glad that we recycled, it made me become more aware of the materials I use, and despise non-reusable plastic water bottles even more. Lesson learned: always recycle if it is recyclable. Our trash is killing animals, and that is not okay! 18738679_10212360072372600_6640947753339430412_o

___________If someone doesn’t need you, you don’t need them.___________

People you thought were your “friends” unfollow you from Instagram, unfriend you on Facebook, stop snapchatting you. You’ll notice if or when it happens. But WHO CARES. At first you’re upset, but then you unfollow them too. If they don’t care about your life, in my opinion that says how much you should care about theirs. Lesson learned the hard way on my part, but it only showed me how much more to appreciate the friends I have made in college.

________________Toxic people have no place in your life.________________

This builds off of the previous one, and yes this sounds as cliché as my first lesson. If someone is constantly dragging you down and dampening your mood, why keep them around? You have one life to make memories through an enjoyable life, don’t waste it pissed off at someone who is always getting under your skin. You have the right to cut people out of your life if you don’t want them there anymore. For me, that included deleting almost 200 people on Facebook. End toxic friendships, stop responding to the person that is only trying to get a rise out of you; it cleared my head and I hope it does for someone else as well.

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Medical/ Dental Global Brigades -Nicaragua

Last summer I was supposed to go to Ecuador through a company I found on the internet, but at the last minute I backed out because my gut was telling me it was actually as sketchy as the first part of this sentence sounds. Though I felt I made the right decision by changing my mind, my heart still longed to go to another country to serve others. Coming back to campus in August still a bit bummed about the recent downfall, I soon found Global Brigades. Global Brigades is the world’s largest movement toward global health and holistic development. Their mission is “to empower volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work toward an equal world.” They are the largest student-run social movement in the world, and it was in the week that I spent on mine that I felt a true purpose. I selected the medical/dental brigade that was going to Nicaragua during our spring break, and I was ready to leave the day I signed up.

The way our brigade was set up was three days in a Nicaraguan health clinic working with doctors and dentists, two days of public health brigade (building a sanitary station for a local family), and one day of water brigade. This is called a “hybrid” brigade because we got a mix of a few different programs.

While at the Nicaraguan health clinic, we had several stations. There was triage, physician consult, gynecology, dental, pharmacy, and charla (which means “chat” in Spanish) for the children. In each, we worked alongside doctors who allowed us to shadow them and would teach us little things along the way.

Triage is where the community members would come after getting checked in. We would gather their family and personal health histories, collect vitals, and ask them why they were coming in. This station had some difficulty because all the community members spoke Spanish and besides the most basic skills any of us had, we didn’t know much of what they were saying. Lucky for us, we had a script to read our questions off of, and the hardest part was when they would rattle off their symptoms. Then we would have to quickly call a translator over, unless we could tell by their gestures or visible diseases, what was wrong. Those translators were truly amazing and such a help. I could not imagine them not being there and us having to figure out what each person was saying!

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In physician consult, where each of the community members went after triage, they would meet one on one with a doctor, just as would happen in America. The doctor would look deeper into the issues and assess them. If tests had to be done, the doctor would do them. Gynecology was a station where women could willingly go if she felt necessary. Most of them that came through were getting a pap smear to check for any abnormalities. This was one station I participated in and it was very interesting to me because obstetrics and gynecology is one area of study I am interested in. The doctor in this station let us help by holding either a leg up or the light, and would let us see any abnormality she spotted, such as a cyst (which was a great learning experience).

The dental and pharmacy stations are self-17191812_10211633379645736_2743744917929839516_oexplanatory. The dental station is where individuals would get an oral examination, as well as any small ‘operations’ if necessary. Many got fillings in cavities or a tooth pulled. The last station they would go to is the pharmacy, to get any prescriptions filled that any of the doctors prescribed to them. We ran this station, along with one pharmacist. Us running to get the medicines was almost like a scavenger hunt, just matching the letters on the bottle to the letters on the sheet- again, because everything was in Spanish!

Charla was the station where we taught the children the importance of personal hygiene. We taught them how to brush their teeth and why it is important to do so. We also played tag with baby powder on our hands to show to them how germs are spread, and as a good example as to why we should always wash our hands when possible.

Each of the three days in the clinic we worked for about 7 hours, so 21 total in those three days, all unpaid, volunteer work. And I loved every minute of it. Each person I encountered there was so grateful for all that we were doing, and they were willing to wait in the hot Nicaraguan sun for hours until we could see them. I have never felt more refreshed than I did after the week of service in Nicaragua. Those people gave me a new sense of what living a happy life means. They were happy with the little bit that they had and it really pushed me to start being the same way.17155696_1420926004584382_8387574418595908694_n(That’s me, left front row!)17264929_10211644765930386_1089153657293004521_n

After the service days at the medical clinic, we spent the next two days taking part in the Public Health brigade. We were spilt into four groups and built a “sanitary station” for four separate families. The sanitary station included a shower, a toilet, and a wash trough that could hold water. We also connected the toilet to a septic tank that we built, something that none of the families had previously had. The entire project was built out of cinder blocks and concrete. I learned a lot in this part of the brigade, especially how hard of work it is to mix concrete by hand. It is very heavy! By the time the project was complete, this family was so grateful for our hard work. They were so happy to have a fully functioning bathroom that they could now use. Here, we worked about 7 hours a day as well, adding 14 more hours of service.

The last day of service we did was with the Water brigade, and it was definitely the most tiring! That day they gave us pick axes and shovels, where we walked 200 meters up a mountain side and then continued the work on a trench that was being dug by previous groups. This is part of an ongoing project, and the idea is that a trench will zig zag down the side of the mountain, eventually bringing water to the bottom that the communities below can use. It will be an amazing thing to see when it is completely finished. We worked 6 hours on the trench ourselves, with about 40 people from our group, and only made about 200 meters of progress, so it will be a long time coming, well-anticipated outcome. But I couldn’t think of people more deserving of it from all those that I have met.

In one week I played a large part in helping 819 members in communities of Estelí, Nicaragua get much needed healthcare, helped build a bathroom for a very grateful family, and contributed to the digging of a trench that will eventually give drinkable water to people who currently lack it. I learned17264173_10211644709888985_1057806542991651383_n so much in the roughly 40 hours of volunteer work we did, and my heart is so full. I truly will never forget this experience, and I am already ready to go back! On top of this, it only further fueled my desire to end up working in a rural area, something I find desirable, since I came from a town considered “under-served”.

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Student Government Association

Student Government Association (SGA) is a student-led government for the student body, essentially. It dedicates itself to stimulating improvement throughout the community of Central Michigan University by promoting and providing advocacy for all individuals of its constituency, in hopes of developing both a healthy and a diverse leaning environment for the students, while cultivating a positive image for the university. Through SGA, legislation is brought up and passed that will affect the student body and the campus around them. Each general member must commit themselves to one of several smaller committees within SGA. Examples are sustainability, diversity, spirits and traditions, RSO growth and development, and gender and sexuality. I personally chose to be a part of the diversity committee.

In the diversity committee, we put on a couple events this year. One was the week before Halloween weekend, called “Culture Not a Costume”. We stood in places around campus with poster boards saying the name of the campaign, with pictures of individuals in their traditional dress, next to the materialized costume version of the clothing. The event was meant to promote more thoughtful costume decisions among students, so as not to offend others by making fun of their culture.

A second event through the diversity committee that I helped put on was Middle Eastern Culture Week. This was a week-long event during spring semester, where every night was a different event. The four nights consisted of a dance a night, where belly dancing lessons were given; a henna and food night, where traditional Middle Eastern foods were offered and participants could get a henna design on their arm; a question and answer panel where people could ask questions they always wondered about Middle Eastern Cultures; and a story and poetry night, where some individuals spoke about what it’s like to grow up in America as a descendant of Middle Eastern cultures. This week was an interesting one and I really learned a lot.

I joined SGA because I was the representative for Medical/ Dental Global Brigades. Any RSO that would possibly need money from campus for their RSO must have a representative at SGA. Global Brigades is explained in another blog post. I actually got thrown into the position a little bit, but ended up really liking it. I feel like it opened my eyes to a lot of things and taught me a lot about diversity of students, which is something I have always wanted to expose myself to more.14884627_10210233609932368_8134538752293894769_o

Grad Ball LEAD Team

This year as a LEAD team involvement I was on the Grad Ball LEAD Team. This team is structured to plan and put on the Grad Ball event that is at the end of spring semester every year to honor the graduating Seniors in LAS (and the Juniors who are graduating early). The event is typically at a banquet hall or in the banquet room of a hotel. This year we planned to have it at Comfort Inn hotel in their banquet room on April 28th. At our meetings, we would vote on subjects such as where we wanted Grad Ball held, the date and time we wanted to set, the food choices we would offer (since it was a plated dinner because the hotel catered dinner), and how to decorate the room. We also decided what gift we would give to each of the graduates; we picked a framed picture of their cohort.

This LEAD Team was nice because I could actually see the finished result of a year’s worth of planning. Previous years I was on other LEAD Teams and I didn’t feel the same level of productiveness as I did this year. Our group also got along very well both in meetings and outside of them. I feel this camaraderie was something some of my previous teams lacked, and it made decision making a lot easier and more effective because we knew that even if one of us disagreed with decisions there wouldn’t be any hard feelings. I enjoyed this team so much that I applied to be the team chair for next year, and I got the position. I am very excited to be involved more directly in putting on the grad ball next year!

Undergraduate Curriculum Committee

Part of our protocol is to be involved on a university committee either Junior or Senior year. Based on my schedule and when committee meeting times were, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) is what fit best for me. The UCC is a curricular body for the courses and programs of the undergraduate students. The overall committee reviews, makes recommendations on items related to, and coordinates the courses of the undergraduate curriculum. The committee publishes its minutes containing their proposals and can initiate proposals that concern the undergraduate curriculum. The UCC can: consider curricular items for approval; create new programs; delete majors, minors, or concentrations; and create or delete a degree.

Serving on this committee really opened my eyes to how much work it is to get something passed on campus. There were some curricular items we looked at that were sometimes up to three years old. I also got to know details of some courses before the general public, which was interesting. One of the changes to the leadership minor, I knew about weeks ahead of the rest of my Leader Advancement Scholar cohort. This committee taught me time management. Being that the meetings were at 3:30-5pm on Wednesdays, if I had course work that had to be done before or after that time, I had to make sure to get it done because that was an hour and a half of my day that I couldn’t work on it.

Being one of only two students who served on this committee, it was nice that the adults running the meetings took our perspective into consideration. I thought I would end up sitting in a meeting with not a lot to say or do, but they actually enjoyed when either myself or the other student would give our opinion, because we are effectively the ones these decisions will affect. I honestly hope it fits into my schedule next year because even though I only had to do one year of this, I want to do another.

A Letter for Better ’16-’17

17505036_1449464141762425_767250439832552104_o17883901_1468245159884323_8792307184020204343_nThe motto of this organization, “Paper. Pen. Personal,” fits exactly what it is. I have been a part of this student organization since the first few weeks of my freshman year, and now here I am nearing the end of my junior year. Not only have I been a member, but I have been on the executive board for it since freshman year as well. My freshman year I was the historian, so I took pictures at meetings and compiled a scrapbook at the end of the year. Last year I ran as social chair of the organization, with the job of planning social events we did as an organization, worked with the fundraising chair to plan fundraisers, and came up with an interactive game to do at bi-weekly meetings. This year I decided to take on a larger role of secretary. Through this I worked more with the president of our organization to make sure notes I took during each meeting were accurate, I took attendance at each meeting, and personally felt I was doing more for the organization than I was by planning a game or taking pictures.

This organization’s main goal is to spread happiness around the nation through hand-written letters. Originally the registered student organization (RSO) just wrote letters to addresses found on whitepages.com, but last year with a new president, we revamped the RSO and expanded what we do.  We began trying to find a new place or group of people to write to each time, to make the feeling a little more personal. Some examples of where we have written to are long term care facilities, a veteran’s hospital in Florida, and to children in hospitals with chronic illnesses. A major implementation this year was writing to more able-bodies residents in long term care facilities, in hopes of forming a pen-pal relationship. I know from experience of working at one, that residents get lonely sometimes, and I know a few that would love to receive a letter like that.  It makes what we do feel a little more heartfelt when we know for sure that someone will actually read the letters.

This RSO has taught me a lot. First of all, is to be patient. When I wrote my first letters I couldn’t wait to hear back…then I never did. The more I waited, eventually responses came in and then it made it much more rewarding. It taught me time management. Though the meetings are bi-weekly, as an e-board, we meet during the off weeks. That means every Wednesday evening from 8-9pm I’m in a meeting, and sometimes it goes longer than planned. I have to manage my time to make sure I still get school work done. I’m also involved in two other RSO’s on campus this year, so that really pushed me to my limits but I made it through!

This organization had helped me become better at communication- both in person and written. It taught me that I’m not the only one with a busy schedule to work around, and that there are in fact people with busier schedules than myself. I wouldn’t change a single minute of this organization either, for the friendships I have made through it. I am sad to not be holding an e-board position through this again in the coming year, but the first three years of my college career that I did were life changing!

$10 and a smile.

I want to start this out by saying I’m not looking for a pat on the back, nor am I looking for negative comments; I am just trying to make a point. With that, let me begin.

Today was Easter Sunday, a day I look forward to every year because on top of celebrating the rising of my savior, it means time with family, good food, and even better conversation. It also means cash from my parents and grandparents. The point of my story is not that I am able to receive money from family, but that there are people out there who’d thrive off of the $10 I just got from my grandma in a pink Easter egg. This is an idea I put to use this afternoon as I drove back from my family Easter party.

There is a middle-aged woman seen frequently in the parking lot of the community park, burning old magazines to keep warm before going to sleep in the backseat of her car in which she drives place to place. I saw her there as I drove by the park on my way to see all of my family for Easter and something inside of me told me to stop. But I didn’t. Throughout the afternoon I couldn’t help but think of that woman and how I wonder how she ended up having to live this way. Long story short, I opened my egg from my grandparents and knew that $10 could be used for much more by someone else who is in greater need of it.

On my way home from my grandparents’ I told myself that if that woman was still parked in the parking lot, I was going to stop in and hand it to her. [DISCLAIMER: I know approaching a stranger might be dangerous. I am not an unintelligent person, but something told me that a woman who was sitting by herself all day blocking the wind with her car wouldn’t shrew me away just for stopping by.] As I approached her, of course I was nervous. I didn’t even think about what to say but knew this was what I wanted to do.

So,  I walk toward her and she says hello and asks if everything is okay. I respond with a hello and a smile and the words just poured out of my mouth: “Hi, I hope you don’t find this offensive, but I saw you here earlier today and wanted to help out”, and I handed her some folded up money from my back pocket. There were many expressions that went across her persona in the split second before she responded. Her initial concern was that she looked like a ‘begging woman’. I reassured her that she most certainly did not but that I saw her there earlier and that Easter is a good time to help others (but in reality it is always a good time).

The next part is what gets me. Not only did it take me at least three times to get her to believe I really wanted her to keep my $10, but when she looked up the final time there were tears in her eyes. She said “God bless you honey, and Happy Easter. If the world were filled with more people who did these things it would be a much better place.” I told her to enjoy it and to have a good night. She said she could never thank me enough and begged me to take $5 back when she realized it was two $5 bills folded together. All along she had been this emotional over only $5- not $10.

Now to point out a few more things:

No, I do not know this woman and who knows if I will ever see her again.

No, I don’t know what she’ll go spend the money on. I realize that.

And most importantly, please put this into context. No, I am not saying to find any person and give them your money. Don’t go emptying your pockets out to anyone you see sitting outside. Instead, do things like this when the timing feels right. When you have money you don’t necessarily need at the time and know other people could use more. Realize there are bigger things out there and that your struggles today might not even compare to the struggle many face daily. Put others before yourself and you just might be amazed.

 

 

[I realize this post has no photo evidence, but I would hope anyone would realize why a picture of this moment should not be taken for the integrity of this woman.]