Fun fact: The English department is the only department offering an internship class this semester.

Long story short, the ENGL497 students (shameless plug, I’m one of them) are doing poster presentations about their internships on Tuesday the 28th in Trimble Forum, 5:30-6:30.  Yes, there will be snacks.  The snacks were, in fact, an important conversation topic in one of our classes a couple weeks ago.

Why does this matter to you non-English majors?  Dude, a bunch of Puget Sound students got internships plus class credit for them.  Is this not a thing about which you want to find out more?

On a broader note, though, I think (in my extremely unbiased opinion) that these will be cool and interesting and relevant and applicable to your future job search and money-earning potential because there’s a really wide range of internships.  All of them relate in some way to writing, because this is an English credit about which we’re talking, but still – the variety of things into which an English degree can translate is at least a slap in the face for any non-humanities majors who like to make fun of us.  Jokes on them, though, because one of the themes of our class discussions was the ways in which good writing is a part of every job.  What “good writing” is, exactly, varies, but the point is that writing’s everywhere so you might as well get used to it.

So you really should consider it in your best interest to come to our event next Tuesday.  Because even you hard scientists are going to find yourself in need of a grant someday (let’s be real, sooner rather than later).  Or you business majors are going to want to learn about managing an organization’s social media image.  Or you math majors… well, you just keep on doing your thing.  Maybe you’ll do the budgets for the grants or something.  I don’t know; come eat our mini quiches.

Fun fact: William Cronon dropped out of college to try and write a novel.

In my eight semesters of college, I’ve taken twelve and a quarter classes that are either explicitly about environmental issues or that combine them in some way with the humanities (and, over the course of those eight semesters, have used three different platforms to view my course history – I’m liking the transition to myPugetSound!).  I’ve read William Cronon’s essay “The Trouble with Wilderness” for class at least four times in the past four years and definitely did not appreciate it the first time I read it in my freshman writing seminar.  However, I’ve fortunately had a decent amount of time to correct that oversight on my part, and it’s now probably my favorite assigned reading I’ve ever had.

So I was just a little bit excited to learn that William Cronon himself was coming to campus this semester.  I’m taking one final class this semester in the environmental policy minor program, and one of our assignments was to attend at least one of the lectures.  Well, duh.  Like I wouldn’t be doing that anyway.  He gave two lectures last week about environmental history, on which he is a leading thinker and actually sort of the creator of that area of academia.  I also attended his lunch Q&A session, which is where I learned that he dropped out of school as a sophomore to try and write a novel.

What I found fascinating was how he successfully combined his three passions – writing, history, and wilderness – over the course of his academic career.  I’ve had multiple conversations with my cousin, who’s a computer programmer, about the importance of interdisciplinarity in the real world and therefore in academics, so it’s always satisfying to see that endorsed by established, eminent people and not just a couple of 20-somethings.  Regardless, it’s a little late in the game for me to drop out of school to write a novel – but I’ll keep that plan in mind for grad school.

Fun fact: “logger” is a regional term specific to the West Coast.

I’m using this particular fun fact for two reasons.  First, because I was just reminded of it by a friend and teammate, and second, because the crew team’s first race is this coming Saturday, so the topic of mascots seemed appropriate.

If you look at the women’s crew team’s three-page, color-coded spring training plan, you would see that we’re already halfway down the second page.  We’re seven weeks through the thirteen-week season (which doesn’t include the four-week post-season, although we certainly have that in our minds as we aim for our thirteenth consecutive bid to the NCAA Championships).  For a lot of people, it’s weird that we’re at this point in the semester – right after the halfway mark, three-quarters of the way through the school year – and we haven’t even raced yet.  What have we been doing, stuck in the erg room, blasting music through windows gaping to try and exhale body-heated air?  Why have we spent so many mornings up before sunrise, in the rain, in the cold (or, alternatively, in the monochrome of a clouded sunrise or the glory of a clear one, pinks and golds over American Lake)?

My older sister started rowing when she was a sophomore in high school because there were cute boys on the team.  I joined the team the next year, when I was a freshman, just to give it a try.  I didn’t intend to stick with it all through high school, and the thought of being a collegiate student-athlete never even crossed my mind.  (Possibly because I wasn’t very good.)

As a senior at Puget Sound, I’ve been realizing (but also sort of trying to avoid thinking about) how much this last season means to me.  Every season has been important – even choosing to study abroad, which was during a fall semester and therefore not a championship season, was difficult.  After my freshman year, when I had seen our opponents (on both the regional and national level) and understood the history and the traditions of this team, both of which can be boiled down into “we like winning things and goofing off while doing so,” I knew that I wanted this team to be better by the end of my college career than it was when I had joined.  And we weren’t exactly slacking at that point, either.

So that’s why my alarm is set for 4:30 am.  Because I am not a naturally athletic person, and I know that I need to put in a lot of work if I want to keep improving.  And I want to know that, when we line up against Western Washington and PLU and Lewis and Clark and Humboldt State (whose mascot, incidentally, is the Lumberjack – a term specific to the East Coast, therefore giving us the pedantic high ground over them) and whomever else that we are well prepared.  As Thomas Jefferson (allegedly) said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Puget Plaid

I hate to break my pattern of blog post titles, but hopefully some alliteration makes up for it?

Anyway, we’ve had a solid spate of sunshine lately, but the next few days are scheduled to return to the usual Washington gloom.  And I’ve decided that this is prime time to do something I’ve been intending to do for ages: play Count the Plaid.  I usually forget about it until I’m sitting in class and realize that half of my classmates are wearing flannel.  But if I post it on the internet, then I can’t forget about it, right?

I’ll be spending as much time as possible in public places on campus today with a tally sheet in hand.  Stay tuned, Loggers.  Hack, hack; chop, chop.

Update 1, 8:50 am: Not a lot of plaid at morning land practice; unfortunately (hey, Puget Sound Athletics, you could change that!).  But it looks like Diversions is the place to be.  Stereotypes are holding strong.  Tally so far is 8.

Update 2, 1:45 pm: Data is now somewhat skewed (because my observations were previously definitely scientifically sound), because I spent two hours this morning at the trainers instead of somewhere with a more representative distribution of clothing styles.  That being said, the trainers are lovely people, and after some hasty counting in the SUB and in Wyatt, our total is now 21.

Update 3, 6:00 pm: I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten worse at remembering to count as the day has gone on.  But we can add at least six more people to the tally.  I think I should have spent more time in Thompson to capitalize on the “crunchy scientist” stereotype (looking at you, geo majors).

Update 4, 8:30 pm: About 34 people wearing plaid over the course of ten hours on campus.  I don’t have any conclusions to draw from this besides the fact that I’ve always wondered how popular that particular PNW trend is on any given day.  And now you have a blog post about it.  You’re welcome.

Fun fact: the Puget Sound crew team is 52 years old.

Novice year 4 first win

My high school novice team won our first race of the season. But as a former coach used to say, novice races aren’t won by skill, but by the boat that manages to go in the straightest line.

I started rowing when I was a freshman in high school.  My sister had joined the team the year before (because there were cute guys), and I joined because she joined.  I probably weighed about 105 pounds when I started, and the first 2k test that I ever pulled was over ten minutes.  (For context, a decent female high school rower would have a 2k time in the low 8 minutes or below.)  I decided that I would row for a couple of years, but quit before my senior year so I could concentrate on other things, like piano.

Well, sophomore year I found myself in the lightweight 4+ boat, which had won the state championships the year before and of which I was in awe.  It was fun to do well in races and see the improvement that I had made from the year before, so I decided that I couldn’t possibly quit on my high school teammates but that there was no way I was going to row in college – I couldn’t handle the pressure, and besides, I didn’t think I was good enough.

Junior year, I started looking at colleges, and always eventually found myself on their athletics websites, looking for crew teams.  Whenever I could, I would fill out one of the online “prospective student-athlete” forms, but didn’t expect anything to come of it.

Senior year, the head crew coach for Franklin & Marshall College contacted me, and that was when the idea of rowing in college became possible to me.  We scheduled a meeting, during which he asked where else I was applying.  I mentioned Puget Sound sort of as an aside – it was so much farther away than the rest of my schools, I hadn’t even visited, no one from my area had really heard of it, but somehow it was still on my list.

“Oh,” he said, “Puget Sound has the best DIII team on the West Coast.”

Fast forward a few years, and the spring championship season of my final year of representing the University of Puget Sound on the water is beginning.  (Racing schedule is here!) I don’t know what will happen this season, but I am proud to be a part of the legacy that is Logger Crew.

Fun fact: The Mississippi River drops 1,475 feet over 2,340 miles.

As some of you know, there’s a nonprofit (founded by Puget Sound Crew alums!) called OAR Northwest that’s all about adventure education and long, self-propelled journeys via water.  They’ve won an open-water rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean, mostly completed a second Atlantic crossing to collect scientific data and run online webinars, have tootled around the Salish Sea and Puget Sound a bit, and most recently have rowed the length of the Mississippi River to collect water samples and visit local schools doing environmental education programs.

The Mississippi trip (also known as Adventure: Mississippi River, or AMR) isn’t just supposed to be a one-time thing, though.  They’re hoping for it to be an annual trip with a new set of rowers each time, each with a different story and each experiencing the river in different ways.  For example, last year, the group of OAR Northwest guys was trucking along, doing their thing, chatting to kids in an elementary school in Tennessee, when apparently they heard a boy say that girls couldn’t do what they were doing.  Therefore, the trip this fall will not be all guys.  It’s a changing beast – both the river itself and the AMR.

Anyway, on Thursday I got to row with Jordan Hanssen, president of OAR Northwest, in one of the modified skiffs that they rowed from Minneapolis to the Gulf of Mexico (the first 400+ miles, from Lake Itasca to Minneapolis, were traveled in canoe to account for the narrower and shallower waterway).  I’ve been rowing since my freshman year of high school, but this was a bit different from competitive racing.  For one thing, the two person boat weighed more than an eight person racing shell.  It’s a whole lot wider and doesn’t need anyone’s help to balance itself.  Also, the oars are an entirely different shape, which sounds trivial, until you consider the fact that the hydrodynamics of your water propulsion have changed.

I hear you get used to it pretty quick, though.

Fun fact: I am 112 days away from being a college graduate.

Well, we’re done with the first week of classes.  I’m not sure what I think about this.  Do I like the relative security of being a college student?  Of course.  Am I looking forward to adventuring off after graduation?  If I weren’t looking forward to it, then I wouldn’t be doing it.  So yes.  Does that mean I can’t wait for the end of the semester?  Not really.  I try to avoid thinking about it.

On that cheerful note, I think I’m going to talk about the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having lately.  There are bulbs sprouting by the front door of my house, and I’ve spotted a few blossoms outside the library.  Man, they’re going to have a hard time in 112 days if it rains like it did at last year’s graduation.

Okay, take two.  Classes.

I’m taking three upper-division English classes, one of which is an internship with the Gig Harbor History Museum, so there will be a lot of reading and writing this semester.  I’m also rowing, of course, plus one of the quarter-credit EPDM department classes (which I highly recommend, by the way; they’re a fun way to mix up your course load), plus beginning rock climbing.  I’ve been meaning to get into rock climbing for a while, and am really excited that I got into the class in my last semester of college.

Nope, we’re not thinking about that.

What about winter break?  I lounged around for a couple of weeks before volunteering for the internal communications department of the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters in Northern Virginia.  Turns out that that was the place to be, because my supervisor introduced me to all sorts of cool people – the director of a team of three hundred scientists doing coastal research, the chief of the Science Publishing Network, the regional director of the Northwest region, who might have some contacts to help me get a job this summer after I graduate.

Well, so much for not thinking about graduation.  In any case, thinking about it is only serving to help me put off homework, which is sort of a necessary component of getting there.  Plus, I’ll be rowing 2,300 miles with OAR Northwest’s Adventure: Mississippi River expedition this fall, so why should graduation scare me?

Fun fact: Undergrad enrollment has increased 50% since 1990.

My younger sister, Grace, got her first college acceptance letter yesterday.  (Sorry, she isn’t applying to UPS – I did try, but apparently being a younger sibling makes her disinclined to follow me to college.)  This is a bit weird for me, because she just turned seventeen, and I swear I was seventeen just last year or something, despite our four-year age gap.  But besides that, it’s weird because I’ve been hearing all about how awful college applications are, and despite my misperception of my age, college apps feel like a long time ago.  The Common App?  You mean that one website with all the forms and tabs and things?

Grace has two older siblings from whom to learn, and thus appears to be far more on top of things than I remember feeling as a senior in high school.  Except for one thing: she doesn’t have a “type” of college.  Small liberal arts school?  She’s applying to one of those.  Varying sizes of state school?  Yep.  Big private schools?  Got those, too.  The only consistent thing is that all of the schools are in places of extreme cold – with the exception of UC Santa Barbara, which our mom made her add to counteract the preponderance of upstate New York and Michigan-types of places.

I was talking to my cousin over Thanksgiving, and the subject of “if you go back and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?” came up.  This particular cousin is my age, went to college for a year, hated it, dropped out, and is now working as a pretty well-paid computer programmer.  But he said that he would tell his younger self to go to college.  Maybe a different college than the one he briefly attended – one with a bit more of a small, liberal-arts-type of feel than last time, with its 35,000-strong student body – but college nevertheless.  And not only to go to college, but also to study something that isn’t computer programming; he said he’s noticed that, career-wise, it’s generally a lot better to have multiple areas of expertise.  (Interdisciplinarity!  Who knew, right?)

The type of school can clearly make a pretty big difference in your success in college.  Unless you’re Grace, who can apparently do anything, like apply to a random mix of schools and take six AP classes this year and intern for a congressman and still have me edit her college essays.  (I’m going to continue making fun of her for as long as I can, because of my impending battle with College Apps Round Two: Grad School Edition.)

Fun fact: 4 out of 5 employers think all students should study liberal arts and sciences.

When I was a senior in high school and applying for colleges, I could not escape from people asking about the status of my applications.  If it was someone from school, it was “UVA or Virginia Tech?  Mary Washington or William and Mary?”* If it was someone from church, it’d be “How’s the BYU app going?”  So coming to Puget Sound, a small, private liberal arts school 3,000 miles away, was a bit out of the box.  Hipster, even, one might say.

As a fellow senior was kind enough to point out recently, there are now fewer than two hundred days left before graduation.  This is only mildly terrifying.  Over the summer, I went through a freak-out phase and, during a slow week at work, made a spreadsheet of potential future plans: grad school options, companies and nonprofits for which I could see myself working, volunteer opportunities.  This was a fantastic idea and I highly recommend it: even though I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, I look like I do, which then annoys my older sister, and that’s always nice.

Last week, Career and Employment Services held a career fair.  My usual reaction to events like this used to be “Psh, not a senior, don’t have to go.”  (Don’t do that, kids.  Never too early and all that.)  Anyway, during another slow week at work over the summer, I read a bunch of articles with headlines along the lines of “Half of Recent College Still Relying on Parents for Money, Study Finds.”  That is not a situation that I like.  So I’m now pretty motivated to attend CES events, and so far it seems to be paying off (keep in mind that there are also articles like this and this).

My other sister, the younger one, is in the throes of applying for college.  So, even though unemployment rates are scary things, this has been a nice reminder that things could be worse – at least at Puget Sound we have CES, which is significantly more helpful than my sister’s high school advisor.  Job applications are intimidating, but aren’t as labor-intensive as the Common App and don’t cost $50+ a pop.  And I have reason to mock both of my sisters.  Life is good.

*To be fair, I did actually apply to Mary Washington and William and Mary.  I wrote W&M an essay correcting the grammar of the essay prompt.  It was a fantastic essay.  They wait-listed me.

Fun fact: This day last year, I helped an elementary-schooler draw a picture of “how drugs affect your family.”

About little over a year ago – on August 24, 2013, to be exact – as I was getting ready to dive (get it?) out of my comfort zone and do a super science-y study abroad program, I made a goal to keep a sort-of-journal while I was there.  Part of this was because I wanted to record my experiences abroad, of course, but mostly it was to maintain my ability to write creatively and hold onto my English-major-ness – I said it’s a “sort-of-journal” because it’s predominantly for free-writing, not for recording my daily whims.

This time last year, I was wishing the UPS crew team good luck at this weekend's Head of the Lake while underwater.

This time last year, I was wishing the UPS crew team good luck at this weekend’s Head of the Lake while underwater.

I currently have that first green Five Star notebook sitting next to me.  The front plastic cover, for some reason, is permanently curved and has been ever since my study abroad program’s three-day camping trip among the ants and invasive coconut palms of North Caicos last October.  Deciding to fill this notebook was easily one of the top four decisions of my entire study abroad experience – the other three being to take the Advanced Open Water SCUBA certification course, to do a homestay during my mid-semester break, and to help my younger sister organize a book drive for the schools on the School for Field Studies’ island.  I finished the last page of this notebook on July 6, 2014, and have started a new one with the hopes of finishing it in less time than the first.

The reason I bring this up is because I think that self-improvement is an important part of the college experience, and writing – whether creative or journaling – is, for me at least, the best way for self-reflection and thinking.  I’m all about academic learning; I think it’s extremely important and inherently valuable – something I probably picked up on from my grandparents, who have never stopped looking for knowledge.  But your intellect is not the only thing that should grow in college – and that’s why I go to bed about fifteen minutes later than I could on most nights.  And taking that much time to free-write is kind of a big deal when your alarm’s set for 5:30 a.m.

It’s also interesting to look back through last year’s notebook and see what I was up to this day last year.