Winter quarter recap: An #SAGrad marathon

It’s the end of March. Campus is quieter than ever as most folks are away for the spring break. I’ve been in and out of my apartment during the break to enjoy some adventures in Indiana for The Placement Exchange 2016 and in my home state of California (which, of course, I couldn’t help but catalogue on my Instagram). Break hasn’t been completely full of on-the-go travels, though; I’ve had a fair amount of down time.

With this rare free time, I’ve been reflecting on the last few months since 2016 began and all the curveballs this time period has thrown at me. The winter quarter was so challenging that I scaled back the amount of time I spent on social media, which, for those who know me, is wildly out of my character. Social media and online engagement is one of my favorite forms of self-care. It’s a passion area for me and I enjoy engaging with folks on most major platforms. Because of the circumstances of the winter quarter, though, I experienced a strange withdrawal from the Internet and essentially abandoned this blog, my YouTube channel, and my Tumblr.

So, what even happened these last few months?

I’ve alluded to having a challenging time throughout the year thus far, but haven’t taken the time to lay out all the pieces in a way that I could share on this blog. This is because (A) I needed a moment to process it all, (B) I wanted to move past the challenges before cataloguing my experiences, and (C) I wasn’t sure where to begin. Now that I’ve had time to compartmentalize my thoughts, here’s the low-down on what made the winter quarter such a doozy:

Academics

Thinking about my job search as a continuing student come next year, I chose to stack my course load with two very difficult classes. Many folks warned me about the potential for difficult times with such an academic combination, but because I wanted to sacrifice for a smoother experience in the future, I (and a few other brave souls) took on the challenge anyway. Within a few weeks, I was feeling the pressure. I was drowning in theory, reading, and research-based projects. With any half hour I had free between meetings, my nose was in a book, feverishly keeping my notes up to date on my meticulously organized Google Drive folders for each class.

The worst part about this was it was my own doing—I didn’t have to choose this course combination. However, having other cohort members going through the same thing made the quarter more bearable.

Work

Residence life is known for being a demanding functional area with lots of turnover. As part of departmental transitions, my colleague and I were tasked with co-directing the largest first-year residence hall on-campus (700+ students, 21 RAs) without the full-time RD we would usually have at full staff capacity. This meant taking on more responsibilities and bringing my A-game.

“At times, I was overwhelmed (which is okay), and at other times, I felt like a rockstar.”

While an incredibly valuable experience for my professional development, I did have to make some sacrifices to pull this off considering the other factors I was juggling. I scaled back my online engagement and I stopped running. The energy simply wasn’t there for these activities because I prioritized doing my best with work and academics over them. Do I regret the cutbacks? No. They were temporary and what I needed to make it through this marathon of a quarter while meeting my goals.

I will not invalidate just how challenging everything became while meeting this departmental transition head-on. At times, I was overwhelmed (which is okay), and at other times, I felt like a rockstar. Managing an exceptionally heavy course load and this professional curveball was no easy feat, and I give myself a lot of credit for accomplishing it all.

Internship & Professional Development

While my assistantship and academics were picking up at a breakneck pace, the winter quarter also meant it was time to investigate summer internship opportunities. As if I wasn’t occupied enough, I engaged in an ACUHO-I and local internship search. This added pressure weighed on me like a ton of bricks, mostly because I needed to find a summer internship that fit a tight time-frame (thanks, quarter system), fit my professional goals, and compensated enough for summer courses I need to pay for.

I interviewed for 7 internships, was offered 5 different positions, and accepted 2 of them. I’m relieved that my search has ended, but the process of getting to these internships added stress to what was already a stacked quarter. Looking back, I’m amazed at my endurance when it came to the internship search.

On top of this, I was also a TPE Ambassador, TPE On-site Intern, and emerging Graduate Liaison for the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community. I was part of several web conferences leading up to TPE and NASPA, which took a small chunk of my time. Additionally, because I had the excellent opportunity of supporting TPE on-site in Indianapolis, I did have to get creative with how I would manage missing an entire week of the quarter while also coming through on multiple group research projects and course assignments. This added an extra hustle to the last couple weeks of the quarter leading up to Indy.

The Outcome

Clearly, some things have shifted between January and March if I’ve had enough time to write this post and launch myself back into the YouTube world. Academically, I came out victorious, earning A’s in each of my classes. Professionally, we successfully managed the building, supported our RAs, and found a new RD to fill the vacancy and start the spring quarter fully-staffed. Internship-wise, I will be taking on two separate internships during the next several months. One will occur immediately in the spring quarter with the International Student Center at Seattle University. The other will occur over the entire summer as a full-time RD at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Needless to say, I’m beyond thrilled for both internship experiences, and the search couldn’t have turned out to be a better fit for what I was looking for.

“There’s a lot to look forward to come next week when the term begins anew.”

With this coming spring quarter comes a more balanced academic course load and a fully-staffed department. I’m rapidly becoming re-engaged with my Internet life and my regular running schedule. Seattle’s about to get more sunshine. Summer is right around the corner. My new internship will begin.

There’s a lot to look forward to come next week when the term begins anew. But for now, I stand feeling accomplished as I look back on the whirlwind that was winter quarter. All things considered, I think I made it out in pretty great shape.

 


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