Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be Diligent

For high school graduates, going to college is mostly about learning how to manage life on your own without mom or dad or your really smart best friend, etc. doing all the work for you. "If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will do it for you." It was a lesson I learned a long time ago.

Applying those same principles to my college reentry, I have been very diligent about getting periodic degree checks through the Registrar's Office and double-checking with my advisor to make sure all of the requirements for graduation are on par. I'm sure I have tipped a "9" on the annoying meter, but I'd really hate for my graduation plans to go down the drain because administrators who have their plates full didn't notice that I lacked a few hours or one of my credits didn't transfer properly.

Sometimes, being annoying, I mean, persistent pays off.

Two weeks before the fall semester began, I noticed that my total credits were three hours short. I contacted the Registrar for one last degree check (where they look over your transcripts vs. degree requirements and let you know what you have left to complete). They assured me that it was being looked into and I never heard back from them. So, I asked my advisor who was sure we had worked it all out at the end of the spring semester and who was pretty certain that it should be okay.

Guess who's taking three extra hours this semester? Me, that's who.

My advisor said he hated for me to have to pay for another three hours, but I told him I would hate to not get to graduate because I didn't pay for three lousy hours!

Luckily, I am taking three one-hour classes so they are not extremely labor intensive. They are also self-guided which means I can turn in the work whenever I complete it all, but I have until December. I'm thinking about devoting an entire weekend to it just to get rid of it.

So, I'm not super-psyched to be enrolled in 18 hours this semester, but it could be worse. One guy in my class is taking 21 hours...and he' married with two kids under two years old. Yikes!!

Be diligent when it comes to your education, people!

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Parking. Literally.

I've always known that my campus has somewhat of a parking issue--after all, most campuses these days do--but I confess that I didn't know how bad it was until this semester.

You see, as a primarily Tuesday/Thursday student until this point, I have been blissfully unaware of all the early morning headaches that come from campus parking lots on the heavier traffic days of Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes.

Example: this morning, I arrived 10 minutes early to get a parking spot (I actually planned to get there even earlier, but I had to stop at the gas station first). I literally spent the entire 10 minutes circling three parking lots--one of which was so jam-packed that I could barely squeeze my tiny compact car in between the rows of rear bumpers. No joke: I had to roll my window down to make sure I wasn't going to strip the paint off of the side of my car. I ended up parking in front of someone's lawn on a side street and dashed into class with seconds to spare. It was definitely not the best beginning to my day.

After my first class, I resumed circling the parking lots like a buzzard to roadkill, hoping that some kind soul would allow me to have a prime parking spot near the building where all of my classes are located. Ten minutes later, I was obliged....just in time to dash back into the building.

Administration has implemented a $25 parking fee this semester in order to fund new parking lots in the future. Lotta good that'll do me at 8:54 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

International Version Textbooks

In an effort to save money on textbooks, I always order online, usually through amazon.com. However, I purchased my Public Relations book through e-bay. I should have known something was "off" when I got a great deal on this expensive textbook, but I thought it was just another student willing to unload it at a low price in order to fund his/her next purchase.

When I received my textbook, I noticed the return address was overseas. It perked my interest, but when I pulled out the book, it looked great. As I was reading the back, I noticed that there was a short paragraph that basically said, "this book should not be purchased in the U.S." Then I saw "international version" printed on the spine.

Great. Just great. Now I've got an international textbook to somehow get rid of and I need a book before class begins.

I went back to the e-bay listing and, sure enough, the seller had clearly written that it was an international version but that all of the text was the same as the U.S. version. It was.

I'm not sure I understand why a textbook that is printed in the same place, uses the same materials and has the exact same wording as mine can be sold at a cheaper rate than its North American counterparts. I guess the American version comes with a little extra sprinkle of capitalism. : )

(That's okay, I like capitalism.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Preparing for Life After College

I guess I naively fell into the assumption that college would totally prepare me for the working world. I would just walk into a prospective employers office with a short resume and newly gained diploma in hand and they would be THRILLED to see me.


Have you noticed how almost every single want ad in America wants a mandatory "3-5 years experience in the field" for entry-level positions? It's crazy. They won't let you get 3-5 years experience without a degree yet you can't get a degree and 3-5 years experience at the same time? The old proverbial "chicken vs. the egg" scenario.

I'm really fortunate that my department spends a good deal of time in hand-on experience. Our senior exit interviews includes a review of our portfolio that we are to have developed over the course of our studies. That's great, but any employer is going to be able to tell if your entire portfolio consists of college-related projects.

Today, I decided that it's time to add some portfolio pieces on my own! I guess I was emboldened by my article being published in The Baptist Messenger--Oklahoma's third largest newspaper--or the fact that my professor couldn't believe that Oklahoma Today had turned down one of my articles (I, however, was not so shocked). I came into college with experience in the field, but it is very limited. I have a real hankering to break into magazines. (I bet if I use the word "hankering" in a query letter, I'll be shipped off to print right away--lol!).

So, I sent in a query today (like 3 minutes ago). Who knows what will come of it, but I find that the hardest part is always just getting started.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The (Last?) First Day of School

Could today have been my last "first day" of school? Considering that I've already been looking into graduate school and/or teaching certificates, I'm going to go out on a limb and say "probably not," but you never know...

It was a really long day for me. I'm in class from 9-2 without a break and four of those hours are in the same classroom under the same glaring florescent lights and in front of the same computer screen. Ugh. On the upside, I was glad to see familiar faces and be able to chat with classmates that I already knew (it didn't happen that way last semester). And, another upside is that a lot of my classroom will be less theoretical and more hands-on which I always favor. Plus, I will be building my portfolio for prospective employers.

I still haven't found a solution for the food problem that I've been so concerned about, but I'll keep you posted--lol.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looking Back

Almost a year ago, I was a nervous wreck the night before I began my college studies anew. What a difference a year makes. I don't have all my books ordered (though I admit, I have purchased all but two over the internet already), I'm not trying to frantically finish reading a 700-page novel (though I have read a handful of books in the past week), and I not making myself sick over unfinished projects (though Heaven knows I had a big ol' list of them). Heck, I don't even have my clothes ironed for tomorrow and I'm not sure if the car has enough gas to get me to campus even though I know I have to get up extra early and leave before my kids head out to school themselves.

I'm looking forward to this semester because every single class is an upper-level class in my major: Mass Communications. That means, I'll be studying things I love and I can't wait.

My one concern? Food. Yes, food. I'm afraid I will absolutely starve to death because my day starts at 9 a.m. and I don't have a break until 2 p.m.! My fat cells may start burning away in "starvation" mode or something!! LOL. (I guess there's something to be said for a granola bar in a backpack....)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Me? In a Sorority??

When I was a freshman, I was strongly opposed to sororities of any type. I told people that "I refuse to buy friends"--in my eyes, that was the equivalent of membership dues in social sororities. Besides, sororities had bad reputations for activities that I didn't want to be associated with.

So, imagine my surprise when I recently received a postcard inviting me to the Gamma Delta Kappa kick-off at our school this semester. I laughed as I held the postcard covered with blondes and brunettes posing for the camera. From the photos, I assumed it was just another social club (they didn't seem to be doing anything significant other than smiling a lot) and I guessed they must have sent out a mass mailing to all enrolled females.

Then I found out that it is the women's honor sorority on campus and that I had received an invitation because of my GPA. Hold the phones...am I really having these thoughts? "I wonder if they have any older students?" "It would look good on a resume'." "Maybe I should give it a try..." Then I laughed at the absurdity of it all.

The question is: why haven't I thrown away the postcard yet?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Now This is What I Call a Summer Break!

For the first time all summer (my vacation to the beach not withstanding), this week has actually felt like a summer break. No homework, no work work, and lots of peace and quiet since my children have gone back to school. I'm even caught up on some of the household things I wanted to get done. I've been taking advantage of some "guilty" pleasures like listening to the radio and recreational reading! Man, I love to read, but it seems like I rarely have the chance to anymore. I've been downing books faster than a 16 ounce Dr. Pepper these days! I'm so glad I got a chance to do something that I enjoy and recharge my batteries a bit before I hit the (text)books next week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Day My Youngest Child Started Kindergarten

Today, my youngest daughter started kindergarten. I'm not really sad that she's in school (she's been in some sort of partial day school program for 3 years now), but I have become very anxious about my own future.

For 10 years, I have been a stay-at-home mom. I knew it was the right thing to do and I don't regret it one bit. My plan was to finish my college degree once my youngest started kindergarten, but opportunities and circumstances allowed me to start back a little earlier than I expected. All these years, I have never felt pressure to make career plans because I have known that "mommy" is my first and most important job. Now that both of my kiddos are in school full-time, I am beginning to panic about my future. My personality is such that I have to stay busy. The thought of roaming my empty house without a job makes me very anxious and nervous! While I am glad that I am finishing my degree, I now feel that I have put too much hope in it. I have found that college really does not prepare you for the working world all that much; it is simply "one of those things that you need to do."

Right now, I have no idea what the future brings. I don't feel as if my current job will be a long-term employment option and, as I have mentioned many times before, I live in an area that does not provide many opportunities in my desired field of work. And what is my desired field of work anyway? I still have questions about that, too!

On one hand, my daughter's kindergarten year has brought a whole world of new possibilities to me and on the other, it has brought a whole new level of fear and uncertainty.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Schoooooool's Out. For. Summer.

Man, what a difference a day makes. Since turning in all my summer school coursework yesterday, I hardly know what to do with myself! Well, actually, I do know what to do (pack for vacation, laundry, clean out my pantry, go through my kids' closets....) but there's a big ol' empty space in my brain that is usually filled with reminders not to forget test dates, homework assignments and so much more. It's a strange feeling, but I think I can handle it!