Are you really having conversations right?

We live in a world of controversy.  It’s all around us and it is inevitable. Too many times, people have “conversations” that are entirely unproductive. After years of social media and avoiding important topics, genuine dialogue can be a rare find in our world. Odds are, your job after graduation will require you to have difficult dialogue with other people. In order to get the most out of difficult conversations, you have to think critically about your approach to such interactions. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:

 

  1. Were you on your phone?

That’s right. If you want to have a meaningful conversation with someone, it will require putting down your smartphone. Social media can wait, and if you’re on your phone, you’re automatically not fully engaged in the conversation.

  1. Did you ask questions?

Were you actively trying to understand the other person’s point of view? Too many times, we have interactions in which we’re too focused on what we’re going to say next, and we miss important parts of what the other person is saying.

  1. Did you question yourself at all?

At any point in the conversation did you ask yourself: Could I be wrong about this? Is there a chance that the person I’m engaging with might have more relevant experience than me? I’m not saying you have to change your opinion, but if no one is ever willing to question their own viewpoints, a conversation will never be productive.

  1. Did you learn something?

“Everyone you ever meet knows something that you don’t.” ~Bill Nye

If you leave a conversation thinking that the other person has absolutely no knowledge or perspective to offer, you’re probably not listening. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you should be able to leave a conversation having gained some piece of perspective.

 

Overall, it’s always important to ask yourself if you’re really listening. Stephen Covey said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” He further challenges people to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. This is an incredibly difficult skill to master. Challenge yourself to do so. It will make your interactions and relationships so much more valuable, and you will become a better person for it.

Imposter Syndrome: Am I a Fraud?

As a college student at a prestigious university, it is common for people to automatically think of you as a naturally smart, brilliant student. You hear things like, “Well you got into The Ohio State University, so you must be smart!” These phrases are especially common among students in majors that are infamously difficult, like engineering, any type of science, and so many more. When I tell people that I’m a math major, they often respond with, “Wow, you must be so smart!” or “I could never do that!” People assume that I am some sort of genius. What they don’t know is that I don’t feel like a genius at all. Hell, I don’t even feel smart. And neither do a lot of the people who receive these types of comments. People assume that if you are in hard major, it’s easy for you and you get As in all of your classes and don’t struggle at all. Truth is, I got a C- in my first math course that I took at OSU. Often times, this leaves me feeling like a fraud. Everyone thinks that I’m so smart, but I don’t feel smart. Am I lying to them? Letting them believe something that isn’t true? Do I even deserve to be here? If you relate to any of these feelings of inadequacy, you may be experiencing something called Imposter Syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is characterized by an inability to internalize accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It is extremely common among college students, and is often not talked about. But constantly second guessing all of your accomplishments and questioning your worthiness can have a severe impact on your mental health, and can lead to anxiety and/or depression. This is why imposter syndrome is important to be addressed, and it is important to realize that you are most definitely not the only one feeling this way. Imposter syndrome is something that can be overcome, and below I will list some tips and techniques I found from an article (https://startupbros.com/21-ways-overcome-impostor-syndrome/) to overcome imposter syndrome and embrace everything that you deserve.

  1. Accept that you’ve had some role in your successes. You feel like a fraud because you believe that everything you did to get you where you are today was just pure luck, or chance. But it’s important to realize that you did do something to get you where you are. You wrote all the application essays, you passed all the necessary classes (even if barely), and you said yes to things when you could have said no. You got to where you are today based on your own decisions, not just chance. And that’s pretty freakin awesome.
  2. Remember: being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. The best basketball players miss most of the shots they take. Making mistakes and messing up sometimes doesn’t mean that all of your achievements have been fraudulent, or that you don’t deserve to be where you are. It just means that you’re human. Nobody is perfect, and it’s important that you don’t expect yourself to be either.
  3. Take action. Being actively aware of the negative thoughts that you are having and the impact that they are having on you can go a long way in not letting them have such a strong impact. Facing those thoughts and saying, “you know what, screw you, I’ve worked damn hard to get where I am today,” can be a powerful tool in overcoming imposter syndrome. Recognizing those self-doubting thoughts and stopping them in their tracks is a great way to take your confidence back.
  4. Find one person you can say, “I feel like a fraud” to. This can actually be really helpful, especially when the thoughts that are leading you to believe you are a fraud tend to be a bit irrational. Expressing this thought to another person and receiving their input, probably on how you are absolutely not a fraud, can be a huge help.
  5. Sometimes faking things actually does work. Ever heard of the phrase “fake it till you make it”? Everyone does it! No one knows everything about everything, so sometimes you just gotta fake it till you know enough. This does not at all make you a fraud. It makes you normal. It makes you eager to learn more and gives you a place to sit while you get there.

These tips may not be a cure-all for imposter syndrome, but I think they can be useful in leading to healthier thinking. Nobody knows what they are doing, and everyone doubts themselves sometimes. But it’s important to take credit for the accomplishments that you do make, and to learn to believe in yourself through times of strife. You will be ok. You are not a fraud, and you deserve to be here.

 

Counseling and Consultation Services: https://ccs.osu.edu/
Dennis Learning Center: http://dennislearningcenter.osu.edu/
Career Counseling and Support Services: http://ccss.osu.edu/

 

 

Identity struggles (A little inspiration from watching Super Bowl 52)

At the time I started writing this blog post, I was also getting ready to watch Super Bowl 52 (only the third Super Bowl I have ever watched) and that brings back memories for me. Watching the Super Bowl prompted me to think about how I spent the past 2 and a half years – what I’ve accomplished and whether I am proud of who I am after all this.

I’ve done a lot of things in my life. Some good, some bad, and some just straight up stupid. I decided to come to Ohio State (which turned out to be the best decision I have ever made). I decided to tell people that I’m from Cincinnati instead of Taiwan (which now I really regret). I decided to offer to buy this person behind me ice cream at Jeni’s. And I’ve decided to spend 10 hours watching 3 previous Ohio State football games on YouTube during finals week. I think you know which category those decisions go into.

To me, football isn’t just some sport that people watch. To me, football is what connected me with American culture. Before I came to Ohio State, all of my knowledge about football came from the movie, The Blind Side, and I had no idea that Ohio State even had a football team. During the first game of the 2015 season against Virginia Tech, some upperclassmen in my learning community hosted a watch party in their room. I went because I thought I wouldn’t have anything to talk about the next day if I didn’t go (I mean, I still had nothing to talk about even after I went because I couldn’t understand anything). My friend Alex Steitz was sitting next to me during that game and I told him that I knew nothing about football. He started explaining every single thing to me despite me understanding only about 2% of what he said. Little did he know, that was one of the first times I really felt welcomed here. We started to watch every OSU away game together and he would teach me more and more about football. I fell in love with the sport. I’ve been thinking about my identities and why I do certain things. It makes me think that the reason I love football so much is partly that it is where I found a friendship early on and partly that I think that it makes me more “American.”

Through my two and a half years at Ohio State, a lot has changed in my life and that caused me to constantly think about how my identity is changing. Yet, I was never able to really step back and say “Yeah, that is an accurate representation of me!” Even now I still don’t know what defines me and what I really identify with. In all the thinking I did, one thing really stood out to me: I’ve always been reluctant to tell people that I am an international student. Being an international student can have come negative connotations and it can mean certain restrictions for me legally and culturally. Every time when I have a conversation with someone and then they ask me where I am from, I have two choices: I can either be honest and say that I am from Taiwan, or I can “lie” and say I’m from Cincinnati because I’ve stayed with my Cousin in Cincinnati for a summer.

I’m proud of being a Taiwanese individual but all the “standard” follow-ups really exhaust me. The common response is usually “Wow, you speak English really well! I would’ve never guessed you’re not from the states.” And sometimes when the individual is interested in world politics, I would get asked “What do you think of the political struggle between China and Taiwan?” For the former, I understand that they are trying to give a genuine compliment but hearing it over and over again really frustrates me and made me not want to proactively say that I’m from Taiwan. For the latter, I’m a very non-confrontational and yet patriotic person, I will state my view and then try to steer the conversion away from that topic. But if I say that I’m from Cincinnati, the response I get is “Oh! This Ohio weather, right?” In this case, telling the alternative actually made my conversation a lot easier and a lot more “American”.

Most students at Ohio State don’t know that International students have a very different orientation than they did. Most students don’t know that international students are usually the last ones that schedule for classes for their first semester. Most students don’t know that international students are treated very differently than domestic students because of all the regulations and “initiatives.” I’d love to speak up for international students but there’s really not many ways of doing so. I’d love to help international students integrate with domestic students but there are not a whole lot of resources to make this possible. I’d love to see more international students represented in Ohio State community but I’ve only heard from domestic students that international students are part of the population that makes Ohio State more diverse. These constant downsides have made me not want to proactively identify myself as an international student. But now, I want to use this identity as an advantage.

Most of the time when we hear someone’s motivational story, when we hear how someone overcame their struggle, we think “Wow, that really inspires me” or “Wow, if they can overcome that, I think I can overcome my challenges, too!” It’s just like thinking “If the Eagles can win a Super Bowl with a backup QB, I can conquer this upcoming thing.” It’s not a bad thing to be inspired by a story, but we have to recognize that these stories are only being told because the struggle was overcome. How about those who are still struggling? How about those who are still having a tug-of-war with their destiny? I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve told a lot of story with an ending. But now, I want to start telling a story without an ending. I still struggle with acknowledging my identities, but I’m working on being proud of being an international student. I don’t want my identity to define me, but I don’t want to throw them in trash and ship it to landfill. Because even though I don’t think these things define me, they are a part of me. And it’s not about how these things make me who I am, it’s about how I want to use these things to empower me. I don’t know where this will take me or what this will bring me. But I know…

 

I am Willy.

Why Should I Care?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Although this poem was written over a century ago, the message translates through time.  Niemoller wrote this about the complicity of Germans and their silence towards the Nazi persecution of millions of people.  Take a moment to reflect on how the meaning of this poem might change if you replaced ‘socialist’, ‘trade unionist’ or ‘Jew’ with any marginalized identity in America.

Complicity can be just as bad as active action.  Recall those anti-bullying campaigns we all went through in elementary school.  There is the bully-the one taking action, the victim-the one negatively affected, and the bystander-the one who sees injustice, but stays silent.  We all know the consequences of the bystander affect: everyone thinks that someone else will do or say something, and in the end, nothing is done at all.  The bystander is complicit in the injustice by staying silent.  That affect goes much further than a high school bully, however.

Consider the ways in which not only people, but institutions, policies, and media bully and neglect people of marginalized identities. Just focusing on one identity isn’t enough though. All identities intersect. There’s race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ability, language, citizenship, religion, and more. If you don’t recognize the affects of any of these, you may be complicit in your privilege.

Awareness of your own privileges are the first step in taking action.  For me, this means using my whiteness to advocate for people of color, using my economic status to advocate for low income populations, and my citizenship status to advocate for immigrants and refugees.  I recommend choosing to give up an easy, complicit life style for one of advocacy and speaking up for those who can’t.

Don’t know where to start? Start with a google search ‘inequality in America’, ‘problems facing diverse populations’, and ‘the affects of privilege’ are some good starting points.  Explore the Multicultural Center in the Ohio Union or Hale Hall on south campus.  Go to a Pride meeting and just listen. In a few days, Black History Month will begin and there are more than enough options for presentations, Ted Talks, and events focused on Black history and pride. Educate yo’self.

Eventually, if you don’t start to care and speak up, there will be no one left to speak for you.

 

The Powers of Reflection

Congratulations! You have successfully made it to your second semester here at Ohio State. And now that syllabus week is over, the work begins.

I had a rough first semester at OSU. I didn’t have many friends, I didn’t want to admit to my parents that I was having a hard time, and I didn’t do well in classes. I ended up skipping classes to watch Netflix and sleep in and rarely left my residence hall. I ate a ton, did no homework and didn’t study and I ended up coming home for winter break 20 pounds heavier with a terrible GPA. Luckily, I had wonderful parents who, although disappointed, did their best to help me move forward instead of dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time that winter break trying to figure out what went wrong and how to help me get back on track; and through that experience I learned how amazingly powerful reflection could be. I went into my second semester with a new outlook and ended it with a 3.5 semester GPA.

You have all more or less successfully completed a full semester at OSU and believe it or not you are now a veteran! You now have a pretty good idea of the in’s and out’s of college so why not put some of that knowledge to use? You will do so much better this semester if you take the time and space to reflect on what went right and what went wrong.

I have a little reflection activity (it takes about 30 minutes) that I want to share with you. I’ve started, weekly, going out by myself to eat or putting on some background music and lighting a candle in my room and just thinking. Below I’ve written out a way that you can engage in a similar activity that helps with mindfulness and goal-setting.

Reflection Activity:

Think back to the first days on the Ohio State campus: moving into the dorm rooms, meeting new faces, your parents moving your stuff into your dorm room. Remember how your room looked when you first stepped in. And how it looked when you were done with it. Remember saying goodbye to your parents, and spending the night with your new friends and roommates.

Fast forward through Welcome Week: all of the activities, the whirlwind of people, the cheers, the crowds, getting used to campus.

Now it’s the first days of classes: remember rushing to find your first class, pulling out the Maps app on your phone to find Arps Hall. Remember returning to your room at the end of the day exhausted but satisfied because at least you now know where your classes are.

Keep going fast-forwarding through your semester, letting your mind snag on the important parts, dwell on them a little before moving on. Try writing some of those moments down to remember them. Remember the good things and the bad things. Continue until you finally get to winter break. Imagine all of the things that went right last semester. What did you do well? When was your first success? How can you keep that up this semester? Write this stuff down.

What went wrong? What did you improve? What could you have done better in? What do you need to change? What can you do to improve? Write. It. Down.

Now look and think about everything you just wrote and thought about. What goals do you have for this semester that could hit on those points you just wrote down? Write those down and put them on your phone or hang them in your room.

Those are your goals for this semester.

What Your Peer Leaders Want You To Know About the Peer Leader Role

Leia Washington

I knew that I would love my time as a Peer Leader, but I was surprised by how much it has impacted my college career. As any Peer Leader would tell you, this position is way more than just a job. It requires hard work, commitment, and a large amount of dedication. However, the rewards are well worth it. There are no greater feelings than seeing one of your first-year students succeed, feeling the love and support from the rest of the peer leader team, and knowing that you have made an impact on this campus. This position will allow you, and your first-year students, to rediscover love for Ohio State and all that this wonderful buckeye community has to offer.

Madi Task

I think meeting so many new faces and being able to connect with them wasn’t the hard part for me, that’s the fun part and why I wanted the job. The hard part is knowing that so many intimidated freshman look to you for guidance and trust you with their stories and intimate insecurities, and it’s absolutely imperative that you remain an unbiased, trustworthy, and supportive voice for them. The job pays off a lot in terms of what you can get out of your experiences and relationships at Ohio State, but don’t come in thinking it’s just about hosting fun events with freshman. You might end up reliving your most problematic parts of your freshman year with someone just like you. I’ve learned how to better hold myself accountable to being that success story I wanted to see my freshman year by talking about the dreams of goals my freshman want for themselves this year.

Tony White

Being a Peer Leader is an amazing opportunity to enrich the lives of others during a very pivotal time in their lives. It is an important responsibility that takes courage, responsibility, and builds character. Every experience is what you make it, and this has the potential to be an unforgettable life changing experience.

 

Daphne-Jane

I think the most important trait of an effective peer leader is compassion. Being compassionate allows me to better care for my students by enabling me to truly work to understand their struggles and help them to determine the best solutions for them.

 

Logan Woodyard

To be a Peer Leader is to be an authentic leader. It’s important to be vulnerable and create a space for others to be vulnerable with you. Share your mistakes! Give what you have learned. And above all else, listen and love all people well.

 

Sarah Myers

As a Peer Leader, I have learned skills that help me relate, empathize, care for, and serve first year students. The office of First Year Experience not only prioritizes supporting students, but also how we support them. These skills have not only helped me build relationships with first year students, but it has helped me become a better person! This job has taught me that simply caring for people and giving them your time can truly make a difference ion their lives. I used to be in the habit of hoarding my time as my own, but now, I cherish the time I get to share with others. I have been so blessed with the opportunity to be a Peer Leader. If you even have the slightest interest in the job – APPLY NOW. You won’t regret it.

 

De Maas

Knowing that you can provide a student with resources and help them navigate campus from a student perspective and make Ohio State feel like home is extremely rewarding.

 

Corey Cox

Being a Peer Leader has allowed me to interact with students that are not like me in various ways. It has challenged me to think about my perspective, opinion, and values because I have learned about different world views and personalities through new relationships. My favorite thing about being a Peer Leader is the opportunity it has given me to cross paths with people who I would not have found on my own.

 

Isis Abreu

The Peer Leader role is something that you have to be very passionate about. The most important part to me is the student support we do. We work to make sure that we are helping students with their transition to college and giving them the tools they need to make their transition and first year a smooth ride. If someone is not passionate about taking a lot time out of their lives to focus on others, it is a job that will not come as easy. I am very passionate about relationship building and the well being of those around me. It does not make the job easy, but it does make it worth it to me.

 

Madison Taylor

You have to be self-aware and willing to engage in self-reflection about your experiences, biases, and character, because this job challenges you holistically. You have a lot of autonomy regarding the ways in which you carry out the roles of a Peer Leader, so motivation & creativity and success are positively correlated. College is a trying time, especially for first year students, but Peer Leaders and First Year Experience are here to be an additional network of support, and I am thankful to have been a part of this process.

 

Ezequiel Herrera

What I learned as a Peer Leader is to be a better supportive person by actively listening and providing the best support a individual may need by establishing long lasting active relationships with my students. Its so rewarding to hear all of their accomplishment and having them ask for your opinion during some of their rough times they are going through. One aspect of the job that surprised me is how some students do attach to you and you become extremely close friends! When they are going through a rough spot or something big happens you maybe the first person to hear. That is so special and so meaning fun. Establishing these friendships and helping to cultivate a great first year for my students was my favorite part

 

Josh Underwood

I have truly learned the definitions of the terms selflessness and diversity. Selflessness is possibly the biggest part of the job, and I think it is tested the most during the school year when you will have to be prepared to assist several first-year students with their questions and struggles while also managing your own personal life. The selfless part is so important because this can be a tiring feat, but staying connected to the goal of supporting first-year students in their transition and realizing the positive impact a helping hand can have on someone’s development is amazing to me. I have truly learned so much from the diversity on our staff and from the students in my groups at orientation. I’ve had the chance to interact and learn from others with differing racial, religious, political, socioeconomic, and sexual identities. Meeting so many different people has changed my worldview for the better and has made me feel more connected to different people like never before!

 

Raghad Kodvawala

This job challenges what you think you know. It’ll test your boundaries, challenge your assumptions, help you grow, but it’s also an incredibly difficult job to do at times. When you leave this position I guarantee you will learn so much and you will see the world differently.

 

Shawn Knecht

Being a Peer Leader is an experience unlike any other. The people you will meet will have a lasting impact on who you are and how you go through the world. Know that, because you will put so much into the work you do as a PL, you will get more than you would have expected out of it.

 

Emily Derikito

This is a job where you spend a lot of time helping others so it can sometimes be easy to forget about yourself. So make sure to take time for yourself, do something you enjoy, and practice self-care.

 

Shivani Patel

There is so much I have learned from being a Peer Leader. First, I feel like it has helped me gain new insight about the students that attend Ohio State. Growing up in the Columbus area, I always felt that I had an idea of what Ohio State was but the role of being a Peer Leader has given me a new perspective. I have learned that Ohio State and the college experience is unique to each person. As students explore what college and Ohio State means to them, I truly have seen the value of making connections to other people and resources early. In addition, prior to this job I felt as if I just assumed I knew someone’s story or identity. However, this job has allowed me to learn so much about listening to other’s stories and placing value in their background and experiences. I want to pursue a career where I am around people regularly, and I think this job has shaped me so that I can better understand and support the people I may work with. One of my favorite parts about the job is how genuinely caring the staff is. It has helped me feel connected to Ohio State in ways I thought I never would. I always thought that I was going to college purely for academic reasons, however this role of supporting first-year students has aligned well with my interests and passions. My main advice to give to students to be an effective Peer Leader is to have faith in the first-year students you work with. At such a big school, it is easy to feel lost or disconnected but I think it will go a long way for the first-year student to know what someone else has faith in them and is looking our for them.

 

Kelly Eyers

Apply to be a Peer Leader if you truly have excitement and energy about helping people find their way here at Ohio State. It’s a great way to make a difference in the Buckeye community.

 

Dylan Munson

My love for helping people is what initially drew me to this the Peer Leader role. Being a Peer Leader is a lot more hard work than I thought, but I wouldn’t trade my time in FYE for anything else. I am constantly trying my best to help first-year students feel at home here at Ohio State. I truly love helping them in navigating college life and finding their place on campus.

 

 

Mary Tillman

You don’t have to be the 4.0 GPA, super involved, optimistic, well-rounded Ohio State students to be successful as a Peer Leader. It just takes a real person with real experiences who wants to share their story.

 

Andrew Batarseh

My biggest piece of advice is that I wouldn’t take this job just because it looks good on a resume. Being a Peer Leader requires a lot of time and emotional investment and can be very difficult at times. With this, however, this job has helped me grow in many ways. Through the support of probably the best professional staff team on campus, I’ve gained maturity, time management skills, professionals skills, relationship skills, and much more. All this being said, being a Peer Leader doesn’t require a superhero of a person who has their whole life together. Being a Peer Leader simply requires a person who is invested in supporting students and will carry out that investment with their time and energy.

 

Jillian Channell

The connections you make from this experience are ones that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. My fellow Peer Leaders have become some of my greatest friends and the professional staff are great role models to look up to. I have gained experience in public speaking, professionalism, communication, and much more all while having a ton of fun!

 

Natalie Garrett

When I was first coming to college, I remember how incredibly terrified I was of the unknown. I remember having so many questions and no one to ask them to. One of the most rewarding parts of being a Peer Leader was being able to calm some of those nerves that the incoming first-years had. Knowing that students left orientation no loner feeling nervous, but excited and ready to come to Ohio State, made all of those early mornings worth it.

 

The Raw Truth About Agriculture

When you hear the word “agriculture”, what words or images play in your mind? Perhaps you see an image of a combine plowing through a field. Maybe you think about the acres and acres of corn you see on your drive home. Maybe you think about cowboys, “southern accents”, that one Luke Bryan song, or that one person in your class who always came to school with mud on their boots. These ideas are small fractions of rural agriculture in the modern world.

When I tell people I’m an agriculture major, I usually get a lot of replies backed with stereotypes and assumptions. Most people ask me if I grew up on a farm or if I’m from a “farm town”.  Although I did grow up in rural southern Ohio, I never considered a career in agriculture until a scholarship opportunity nearly fell into my lap my senior year of high school. I was desperate and driven to burst through every open door that would lead me to my dream school- Ohio State. Little did I know that this opportunity would change my life entirely.

Most people transition to college “knowing” what they want to study or exploring the freedom that comes with choosing your major. My agriculture scholarship had restrictions so I was indefinitely locked into the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.  I was scared out of my mind and worried that I wouldn’t enjoy my classes or that I wouldn’t connect with any of my peers. To my surprise, I found a great need in the ag industry that I actually saw myself fulfilling- communication.

I would be lying if I told you that I perfectly molded to my peers. We had some similarities with our involvement in 4-H, but my projects consisted of cooking and scrapbooking, not livestock. Our families both worked with natural resources but my father worked in the lumber industry, not the agricultural industry. My school did not have an FFA program I could be involved in (until my senior year), I was not a 4-H camp counselor, nor did I grow up on a farm. Despite these contrasts that make me feel somehow less experienced, I have come to understand the advantages I have in communicating and analyzing my perspective and other’s perspectives of the ag industry.

I have realized that I do not fit into this perfect, square mold. I cannot morph comfortably into a box shape that confines my opportunities and achievements. But one year later and here I still stand, ready to shatter the glass ceiling that traps the future into oblivion about the raw truth of agriculture. I have found that I am most passionate about breaking the stereotype in a way that inspires other young people to pursue a career in agriculture. I  am passionate about my role as a young women in agriculture. And because I am passionate, I am now confident that agriculture is for me.

Having IT Together

There she is, that girl you always see getting coffee every morning. She is always so put together. She for sure has it together. Or that cute guy you really like, who everyone knows and is really involved at the university. Yup, he has it together. And what about your peer mentor? There is no way they don’t have it together. I mean how could they not? How does everyone have it together, and how can you get in on it? Well I can let you in on a little secret: most people do not have it together and are going through something you know nothing about.

I get it — you want to have it together — but what is “it”? Maybe you want to have it together on social media. Everyone else does. Every time I log onto Instagram, everyone is happy or just getting back from some super cool trip. Maybe you see everyone else has found their very best friends and you don’t have that yet. Or maybe you want to have it together when it comes to your major and career path. You still do not know what it is you want to do for the rest of your life, spring semester is creeping up on us, and you honestly do not know what to do. And I am here to say, that is perfectly okay. We are all on different paths and that is more than alright. There is not just one Ohio State experience, but multiple ways to have your very own experience.

No one knows this better than me.

Ask anyone that knows me and you will find that I constantly feel like I do not have it together. I am a senior and I have no idea what next year is going to look like for me. I have some plans, but none that are official yet by any means. I also fall victim to comparing myself to others. And with social media being relevant in most of our lives, it is an easy thing to do. I see how others are doing, then have the nerve to deem myself successful or not successful just by looking at other people’s post. How could I possibly measure my success off of that? I do not know what others are truly going through. We only see what other people let us see. And like I said, we all have different paths. This is my life to live and I am going to live it the only way I know how.

So maybe I am saying a whole bunch of nothing. Maybe you still do not feel like you have it together. So hopefully this can help: make plans but know plans vary like the wind. You want to have some structure in your life, but do not get too caught up in the details. Make goals and actually follow them. You can write goals down, place them where you will see them, remind yourself of them, but try to have something to work towards. Do not be afraid to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Find yourself in the process. And lastly, do not forget the little everyday success. Sometimes getting out of bed and going to that 8 am is having it together.

Things might not be going your way now, but trust with effort and hard work it will. And it may not go the way you thought it would, but life will work itself out. But for now, let’s just take one day at a time.

Finding My Community @ tOSU

The Ohio State University was not what I expected both in a positive and negative sense.

Escaping the Brecksville Bubble

I came from a predominantly white high school in Brecksville, Ohio (20 minutes south of Cleveland) where you could count the total number of black students on two hands. People for the most part had similar beliefs, political views, lives and just general outlooks on life. And while I was used to living in that community for most of my life, and was definitely a part of it, I 100% felt sheltered from my identity and often felt I didn’t have a chance to find out what being unapologetically black meant for me. I told myself I’d go to college at a big school like Ohio State to escape the “Brecksville Bubble”, and essentially expose myself to more racial, religious, political, economic and even sexual diversity.

How I Found My Community

I did an early arrival program for the Bell National Resource Center’s (BNRC) Early Arrival Program for African American males. I knew this would be the first time I’d be surrounded by majority (all) black males in an academic setting, and not just at a family event or church setting. One would think I might be nervous being around such a variety of people, but it automatically felt right for me. There was about 50-60 of us who showed up three days early to move in and begin all of the BNRC events. We were split into cohorts of about 8-9 students, and we built relationships on smaller scales at first. We got very close with our groups early on and throughout the first couple of days because of all of the time spent together, but the last day we probably got the closest as we did a campus wide scavenger hunt starting at the ARC, going through West to North to South campus, and then all the way back to the ARC, all by running! It was a competition in which cohorts teamed up and faced each other, and to this day it’s one of my best experiences at Ohio State. I finally had the opportunity to feel unapologetically black and meet people and make friends with people who could relate to me better. Even now our cohort and group still keeps in contact, and I’m close with multiple people from the program.

A Little Wake-Up Call

At this point, my excitement was sky high and I was so ready for the year now that I had developed so many relationships with different types of people. However, I was brought back to some of the realities I would face after I was in the elevator of my residence hall (Park-Stradley) on the regular move-in day. I saw a white mother (you’ll understand why I had to mention her race in a moment) trying to get into the elevator before it closed, and I held it open for her. She said, “Thank you,” but her very next words were, “Oh, so what sports do you play here?” And my reaction to yet another microaggression was…

I said, “Uh…I don’t play any sports here.” and she said, “Oh…so you go to school here?” And I said, “Yes I do,” and she said, “Ok, so you like live here?” and once again I had to say, “Yes I do”. What could be a bigger buzzkill than to have tokenization and microagressions I was used to in high school become the same treatment I received on my first full day of college? Unfortunately, I’ve experienced microaggressions from several other people I met during the time I was here, even from my own roommate.
The lack of racial diversity relative to the size of Ohio State was another unexpected fact. About 6% of the total population is black, a percentage that is mostly made up of women.
There are only about 120 black males per class. That stat seems to be declining each year and is made up of primarily black athletes. This meant that the majority of black males in my class were at the BNRC and that even two classes of black males at a campus of 59,000 couldn’t fill up the seats of an entire lecture hall — a surprising realization for me.

But for that same reason, I became appreciative of an experience like the BNRC. It helped me get connected to Hale Hall and went to Office of Diversity and Inclusion events and allowed me the opportunity to meet other black students and form really strong relationships.Through my current role as a peer leader, as well as other opportunities I’ve taken advantage of on campus, I’ve been exposed to individuals from vastly different backgrounds that my own. These include others from different economic backgrounds, geographic regions, students with vastly different political and religious views, and peers with different sexual orientations and gender identities.  The opportunities I’ve taken advantage of have helped me to find myself and my community here on campus, and made me more holistic and open minded in the process.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Having done orientations all summer, I frequently asked incoming students why they chose their specific major.  Although some responses included passions, many people spoke in empty buzzwords.  Even worse, Exploration majors were often ashamed of admitting their decision, or in their minds, indecision.  But what is so shameful about recognizing that college, and your first year specifically, is a time to do exactly that…explore?  I’ve found that regarding choosing a major, students are preoccupied with work: type of work, where to work, who to work for, compensation for work, etc.; the last is most common.  But, I’d like to refer back to the more childlike question we should be asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a doctor.  My classes and extracurriculars reflected this desire.  I didn’t always enjoy what I was doing, but I was sure I wanted to be a doctor…or at least I thought I did.  Truth is, I rather arbitrarily chose ‘doctor’ when I was really young, and adults and peers latched on to the idea because it was “impressive.”  So, I went with it, and not many people questioned the ‘why’ of my decision because they were too fixed on the occupation’s status, and, to be honest, so was I.

By the end of high school, when it was time to apply to college, I was beginning to question my doctor dreams.  However, I was too scared to admit this, to both myself and others, so I quietly picked Public Health as my major and chose Ohio State (THE Ohio State??).  Pretty early on I questioned my motivations for majoring in Public Health.  I quickly realized I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore, now that I had a better understanding of what it meant to be a doctor.  I thought maybe I could salvage the major and do health policy, but this led me to my second realization: I was choosing majors based on occupations that had fixed education paths (i.e. undergrad + med school + residency = doctor).  I needed to get out of this headspace in order to figure out what it was that I wanted to do, or, more importantly, who I wanted to be.

I took the time to explore academically my second semester with a GE in the Geography department (Geography 3701 – Making of the Modern World for those that are curious) because someone I looked up to told me it completely changed the way she saw the world.  I wanted that feeling.  That is what I wanted to get out of college, so I chased that feeling.  I got that and so much more when I changed my major to Geography at the end of second semester.

I know that not everyone desires to be a geographer.  We need doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but we need artists, teachers, and academics, too.  As long as you think of your major like I think of geography, you’re off to a good start.  Don’t think of your major as what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, but rather how you will be doing it.  Four people could be passionate about environmental justice, for example, but one decides to be an environmental engineer, another an environmental policy analyst, the third a community organizer in an area greatly affected by climate change, and the last an artist whose work changes the way people feel about the environment.  Same cause, different strategies.

It took a lot of time for me to be comfortable with having a major with no set career path, but I don’t want to conceptualize the future in a fixed way.  I want to be, do, study, learn, explore, and create.  My dad always told me, “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  That’s the dream.  That’s my goal.  That’s my future.