Light Up the Lake

Ohio State is steeped with tradition. The Long Walk. Light up the Lake. Rubbing Thompson’s head for midterm luck. When I was a University Ambassador, I proudly shared them with the prospective students and their families. Some traditions go back decades; others, like singing Carmen OHIO in Thompson before games, have started while I’ve been a student. Some traditions, however, are dangerous, and so it’s up to us to decide how we want our years as a Buckeye to be defined.

The Mirror Lake Jump tradition started years ago with the Ghost Band. Before the game with That State up North, members of the marching band would travel from dorm to dorm, playing our songs, picking up students along the way until the impromptu parade ended at Mirror Lake, the reason that Ohio State was established where it was. One night, someone jumped in, and the tradition began. Even when the Ghost Band left, the jump remained.

As a first-year, I remember contemplating jumping. Everyone was doing it; it seemed part of what made us Buckeyes. It was how we showed support for our team without being on the field. On the cons side, I couldn’t swim and it was freezing and dirty and everyone would be crazy and I might get trampled.

But even with all of those detractors, I still thought about it. I thought about it because tradition is such a large part of being at Ohio State and because traditions themselves are powerful. When I light my candle at Light Up the Lake, or rub Thompson’s head as I go past, I’m a part of something that’s lived on through the years, that connects me to generations of students just like me. Students who worried about their exams. Students who spent hours talking in the common room and ate Buckeye Donuts. Students talked about our hopes and dreams and plans.

I didn’t end up jumping that year. The next year, I thought about it once again, but then my best friend was assigned to work the event as part of his job during campus security. What his night would be like loomed in my mind, and the minds of my friends. It would be full of trips escorting students to the emergency room because of shock and hypothermia, full of rowdy and drunk students attacking him as he tried to keep them from jumping the fence, full of danger and uncertainty. We stayed in Morrill Tower until 3am waiting for him to come home. He came back, his face full of mace, but he was okay.

Traditions go on because they connect us. They are alive. But, when they endanger our friends’ lives, it may be time to let them go. This year, a third-year, Austin Singletary, died during the jump. He was active in the community, giving back through Buckeye Civic Engagement Connection. He was a nutrition major. He was my age.

I love our traditions. As my little brother decides to join the Buckeye family, I am so proud that my school has a rich spirited history to pass on to him. But, some things, like us, eventually have to leave the school. We can make another tradition. We do it every year.

On tours, I would stop by Mirror Lake. I would tell the families of our history here and of my favorite tradition, Light up the Lake. How we light candles and sing our alma mater. How there’s a light for every undergrad at the school and how it feels to sing the final OH-IO with your friend and see every light light up. They remind me that I am a Buckeye, just like the student who stood here last year and the year before. This is the power of tradition. And this is the kind of tradition that I want to pass on.

Final Honors Peer Mentor Internship Reflection

1300 words. Each reflection I’ve written this year has fallen around this word count, about two pages full of thoughts and musings on the past few weeks’ favorite memories, teaching moments and areas of improvement. As I write my final Peer Mentor reflection, I’m struggling to think of how to sum up the entire semester’s experience in a couple of pages, into 1300 words. But I’ve so enjoyed this opportunity. From overcoming my own obstacles, to learning how to interact better with the students, I’ve gained so much. I’ve learned what I’m keeping from this year, what I want to change and where I still need to improve.

One area that I’ve improved on and would like to continue growing in is the peer mentor events. Last year, I arranged two peer mentor events and one PM meet-up, where a total of four students attended. This year, I had five PM event and three PM meet-ups, with a total of twenty-five students! Many factors contributed to this, such as the new PM calendar, which allows students from other classes to know about your events, but I do feel like my programming skills improved this year. I focused on more social events this year, with both planned events allowing for conversation and group atmosphere. They were also both events that I thought students would want to go to, even without a survey grade incentive. These worked very well, allowing for more students and more engaged students. My favorite of these planned events was the Buckeye Village Fall Festival, which combined crafting and service for the children who lived there.

I did offer some non-calendar PM events throughout the semester. A few students couldn’t make anything on the calendar, so we met up for coffee/food and talked about life. I held a couple academic-related events, exploring the Fall Undergraduate Research Forum and attending the “Spilling the Beans on Research Panel,” which were centered around a topic that the majority of the class had expressed interest in. In order to incentivize the students to checking out Research Week, I offered these programs as an alternative PM event—if you go, come and chat with me at the event and I’ll count it as a PM event. The last impromptu event was semi-planned: an end-of-survey lunch at the Short North with the other peer mentors. It was incredibly fun to get to talk to the other students and peer mentors in such a fun and relaxed setting!

Next year, I will definitely continue on in the vein that I started this year. I think that including academic-related events as a possible PM event may help convince students to check out something that interests them, but I want to keep the planning focus on the social events that work so well. I definitely will repeat BV Fall Festival as an event next year, as well as peer mentor collaborations!

There are other areas that I’d like to continuing improving on as well. One is being prepared for the unanticipated. I’ve had a couple of unexpected situations this semester, from being approached by a student in need to having ambiguous student participation at a PM event. I did handle them, but I would like to feel more ready for such situations and have more confidence when handling them. I would also like to get better at knowing my students, although I have definitely improved in this aspect over last year. I see many of the students in the Neuroadvising office and around campus, but there are still times when I see people and am not sure whether or not I know them from survey, from elsewhere, or if my mind is playing tricks on me.

This semester, I was also ecstatic to find that students were more comfortable in approaching me with questions. Some stayed after class; others sent emails, but in overall, they were more open to using me as a resource than last year. Again, many factors came into this. Part of it was the age difference—it makes more sense to ask a junior for advice than a sophomore and the fact that I was Lead Mentor this year may have also played a role. The biggest difference, in my opinion, is my demeanor. I was far more confident this year in talking to others and sharing my opinion. I’m also more comfortable in and out of the classroom, and so my interactions with the students/mentors have become less unnatural and more like how I actually behave. I’ve changed that way I carry myself, and that makes a difference.

This internship has also helped me grow in so many ways. I loved the increase of responsibility this year, from arranging the schedules of the mentors in the class to the internship project. The internship project was especially rewarding. I remembered suggesting that mentors get to make a lesson plan for next year, and the project basically served in the same context, giving me the possibility to show the students something that I considered important. The conversations that arose from the presentation were thought-provoking and just what I wanted. The other idea that I had for the project in the beginning of the year was talking about what leadership really means. If I do the internship again, I would like to try something in this theme, perhaps talking about how to program events or how to do meaningful service.

My favorite part of this semester, however, has been the personal connections I’ve made with the students and my other peer mentors. This semester, I’ve developed closer relationships with my students. Between seeing them in class, at events, and around campus, there are multiple students that know on a personal level. After one-on-one PM meetings, I always email students with resources relating to what we talked about, whether it’s letting them know about a grant that could fund a study abroad they want to go on or giving them more information about moving off-campus. For example, I know Bernadette, a girl in my class, enough that I’ve been able to email different opportunities in her interest fields, from clinical psychology research job openings to crafting organizations. One girl, Claire, isn’t even my class, however, she’s come to all my PM events and we hang out outside class at various club and university events.

I’ve also made such great connections with my fellow peer mentors this year. I love the way that we work off each other and how everyone takes initiative. Carol created a PM event calendar that greatly organized and improved how we handle those events and was able to take care of a student in a sensitive moment. Sean organized our correspondence through Groupme and has stepped in when other mentors are sick or had to leave to help students. I’ve also been able to meet other mentors, such as Shannon. The four of us did a joint event to North Market that allowed me to become closer to the students and all the mentors.

Although there are always areas to improve, I’m proud of how I’ve grown and what I’ve done this semester. This experience has been absolutely amazing, and worth far more than these 1214 words can convey.

Honors Peer Mentor Internship Reflection #3

If these past couple weeks in survey have shown me something, it’s that I’m the adult now.

Even though eighteen was when I officially entered adulthood, there’s still a significant amount of leeway I receive due to being twenty years old. Others still consider me a kid; the word “college” just happens to be put in front of it. There are times that I admit that I still feel like a child in my mother’s shoes, especially when I waffle over career plans or commitments. Sometimes it’s the woman in me who says “I’m already twenty,” and sometimes it’s the girl that goes “I’m just twenty.”

But to the first-years, suddenly those two years and change that separate us become the difference between being one of them and one of the adults. Suddenly, I am the “authority figure,” the one who is expected to have the answers and to hold them accountable. This division was never really apparent to me during class or other interactions, but for some reason, I became aware of this continually shifting boundary this past month.

The first feeling came during scheduling week. Suddenly I was receiving multiple emails from students, asking for recommendations for GEs, what my opinion was on certain workloads, etc. One student asked about the process of changing her major to Health Sciences. I found myself spending a good hour trying to learn about her new choice, gathering resources to email her and explaining the steps to changing (from making an appointment with their advising office, from letting her know the requirements to become a pre-major to major to explaining that she would need to talk to Joe because that major was in a new college etc.) and what I would do in her situation. I spent a long time on these emails, not only because I wanted to be a good resource, but also because I remembered that, when I was a freshmen, I took what the peer mentors said as truth, the same way I trusted the information from my advisor.

Presenting my internship project was the next hurdle. I had centered this project on dialogue and recognizing and reacting to triggers, a topic that I hadn’t encountered in a survey class before. My original plan to create small group discussion had to change last minute when I found I lacked the handouts, so our discussions took place as a large class.

There’s a distinct difference between presenting something for a class, such as doing a skit or PowerPoint, and asking for their participation. You are now at the mercy of the students to interact and give you something to work off of. Silence, I learned, doesn’t mean disengaged. Even when the class was completely quiet, I could tell I had their attention from the nods, eye contact, and changes in facial expression. These nonverbal cues were a confidence booster, but I definitely gained a newfound appreciation for those students who have no fear of talking in class and giving their opinion. Their participation usually helped other students talk and comment off each other’s’ viewpoints. And, thankfully, the presentation did do what I wanted it to: spark discussion and dialogue. The other peer mentors and I, as well as our advisor, starting talking about the controversy of sensitivity training, bringing up questions like when is it too PC and discussing opinions on the statement, “some situations don’t have a right answer.” As class left, Sean and I ended having a conversation with another student about their biases against humanities students, business in particular. During the presentation, the student commented that he knows it’s wrong, but also knows that he’s guilty of it himself. As we left, he commented that he feels bad about it, but believes he’s right and it’s okay as long as he doesn’t verbally belittle anyone about it. Sean brought up that “that might actually be worse,” and we ended up discussing it as we went to our next classes. In the end, I consider the project a success, because it started deeper discussions about understanding our biases and the ideas of appropriate behavior.

The point that really drove home this feeling of “adulthood” was my second and last peer mentor event, which, ironically, was all about being a kid. For five hours on a Saturday morning, the students and I volunteered at the Buckeye Village Fall Festival, setting up and running crafts tables and activities. This event was a collaboration I organized between BV, MUNDO (a club I’d been in since freshman year) and KindCarts, a service initiative I started, and so, was very close to my heart. It was amazing to see the students have fun and de-stress, as well as to see them get enjoyment out of helping the younger kids paint, color and be safe.  On the CABS ride home from the event, the students and I got to bond over the event, and talk about different topics like moving off-campus, service, applying for grants, and pre-med problems. With two hundred children running around with access to paint, scissors and glue, it was a while before I noticed that one student wasn’t actually participating. This student, who we will call Layla, was sitting on the couch playing with her phone, while the other students were interacting with the kids. After noticing this, I checked in on her periodically, and each time, she was on her phone or talking to a friend in the corner. I never saw her interact with the families or work the event.

I had no time to think about it during the event, but found myself troubled about it afterward when it came time to send her name to her advisor. On one hand, I didn’t feel like she fulfilled the assignment, either in the talking to the peer mentor or the participation in the event. On the other hand, during the event, I never went up to her and specifically told her to participate more, and due to the many duties, kids and students I was juggling, it’s possible that I merely looked over when she was taking a break, and she was working the event when I wasn’t looking. I was torn over if this was something that I should tell her advisor. I personally didn’t think it was respectful to the children or Buckeye Village, but, depending on the advisor’s opinion, it could have resulted in her not getting credit for the event.

As students, there is an implicit understanding that, in ambiguous situations, we cover for each other. We make sure the situation goes the way that benefits our follow student because, at the end of the day, we understand their experience with classes and work and clubs. This mentality stretches strongly to a class like this, where “it’s just survey.” There’s a mentality of being in one group, and professors in another, so you should stand with your group. Telling her advisor would be like crossing that group boundary and joining the adults/authority. I asked other peer mentors if I should let Layla’s advisor know and got mixed responses, following the same reasons above.

In the end, I did end up telling Layla’s advisor what I observed at the event, as well as my disclaimers of not seeing her all the time and not explicitly telling her to talk to the kids after the first explanation of the event. I had multiple reasons for deciding to let her advisor know. First of all, all the other students had great participation, from helping the kids to cleaning up, so her behavior wasn’t characteristic of all students. Secondly, there were multiple options for PM events, most of which didn’t involve volunteering, so if she had somewhere she needed to be, or didn’t want to do the event or service, she didn’t have to. The reason that held the most sway with me, however, was the fact that this was a service event. It wasn’t solely a program to have fun and craft (although we did that as well!), it was about making sure the children had the best time that they could. For some of the shyer kids, having someone to play with them, paint with them, or show them how to use the tacky glue can make their day. If something is just for your fun/education, the only person you’re truly affecting is yourself. But if you sign up to volunteer and then don’t, you start affecting the experience of others.

To me, the PM event situation highlights the see-saw feeling of being child and adult. Although I made the decision to let her advisor know, I don’t have the final responsibility of deciding whether or not Layla gets credit, a decision that I’m currently grateful to not have to make. And, although I felt more like an adult this month, as the end of survey comes along, I know I’ll tip back over to a kid as I start thinking about no longer seeing the new friends I made this semester due to Peer Mentors.