Hello friends. It seems like I have dropped the ball horribly when it comes to updating my blog. I’ve been a busy busy person but I know I should be contributing some to justify paying $17 for having my name be its own website (I still get giddy knowing I’ve branded my name). I’m currently sitting at an airport terminal in Las Vegas waiting for a red eye to Houston before flying to Boston. Thank six hour waits at the airport for this blog. I am coming home from the 2013 ACPA National Convention where I was able to learn so much. As an undergraduate, I am very appreciative to be able to attend this conference knowing so few were able to attend. During this week, I also got into graduate school. Without giving too much of what I am going to blog away, I never expected to be going to grad school in the fall so I thought it would be cool to commemorate this accomplishment with a retrospective look into where I am now… PS, it’s another long blog so… sorry.
Freshman Year – 2009-2010
I started my academic career at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. A private, Catholic, small-sized institution, I was in love as a high school student and was ecstatic to attend. I was quick to realize that Salve and I were not meant to be. I was an underrepresented student that also came from working-class. Salve’s population was majority upper class and did not fit the bill. I got into heated roommate conflict a month into classes starting revolving around my sexuality. It escalated so quickly that it went straight to the area coordinator as my roommate was posting anti-gay things on his side of the room to make me feel uncomfortable. I ended up getting a single across campus. However, the single was in upperclassmen housing and I was now completely removed from all other first year students. Unfortunately, the paraprofessional staff at Salve was unable to cater to my needs and caused me to transfer out after only one semester.
I began taking classes at Bridgewater State University in the spring semester. I actually did not have a great first experience (and hopefully my BSU friends don’t kill me for disclosing this). My transfer transition did not help me matriculate well into campus life. I was involved at Salve and wanted to stay that way at BSU; however I was not given any resources to get involved and was too nervous to reach out to get those resources. It also worked against me that I was a commuter student that worked almost thirty hours per week. I went to class two day a week for four hours and that was it for me. Thankfully, the one thing that I did want was to become a resident assistant. My boyfriend was an RA at another school and through seeing him in that role; I knew that was something I wanted to do. So I applied to be an RA and, shockingly enough, was hired despite being both a commuter and transfer student.
Sophomore Year 2010-2011
Coming into the RA position as a commuter was comical for me. I had no clue what “floor prep” or things like “door tags” were. I am not a creative person but I dived in head first with everything given to me. Through high school and my first year of college, I had difficulty assimilating into new populations so I had fears that I would not find my campus being a resident. I made quick friends with one of the RAs on my staff so that helped me through that fear. That new friend came with a lot of baggage that I took on as mine. It put me in the awkward situation of deciding that their safety was more important than our friendship and reported their activity to my supervisor. Through this experience, I became really close with my senior resident assistant, who is one of my best friends to this day. She helped me navigate what was best for my friend while also connecting with me on a personal level.
During this same time frame, I was overachieving in my duties as an RA to the extreme. During my first year as an RA, I hosted twenty seven programs and sat on five subcommittees in the department. When it came to work-life balance, my life was my work. This year was defined by my involvement in ResLife. Though I was extremely active in the department, I did not expand into other areas of the university. I also applied to become an SRA and was not offered the position. I honestly believe that not becoming an SRA during my first year in the department was a reason why I started to branch out into other areas in the following year.
My sophomore year was also crucial for me because it was the first time that I seriously considered a career in student affairs. I was terrible when it came to sticking with a major or career path. In the first two years of undergrad, I had six different majors. My career interests went from being a high school history teacher to forensic psychologist to prosecutor. Through conversations with my SRA and her ambition to enter the field, I realized that it was both a career to begin with and something that interested me more than any of those prospective career paths. I attended my first conference (an RHA regional conference) and through that, realized that this was for me.
Junior Year – 2011-2012
I entered my junior year and it felt much different than the previous. I was a returning RA rather than a new one and the enthusiasm I had for the position had started going away. It felt different not having my best friend be my SRA and having a new staff with a different dynamic. I also decided that I wanted to get more involved and did so by joining student government. I started focusing more of my attention on SGA than on being an RA because it was a new, enjoyable experience. I was able to start getting recognized on campus, got involved in some of the governance procedures, and found a new base of friends that I still appreciate.
Another impactful part of this year was that my partner and I separated during RA training. This is significant because it was the first time (give or take a couple breaks in the relationship) that I had been single during my entire college career. It opened the door to a new opportunity that ended up changing my life. My floor partner had a program about study abroad opportunities at the end of September. Attending the program merely to support her, I ended up looking up information about studying abroad. I have always wanted to travel but came from working-class and did not have the means to do so. I ended up applying to study abroad in England the day before the deadline at my school. A very spur of the moment thing, I ended up being accepted and spent a semester abroad.
Being able to study abroad allowed me to grow as an individual in several ways. It was the first time that I had been removed from my support systems; I had to start from square one. I also was able to see different cultures and the perspective of our country from the lens of others. It tested my ability to continue being connected on my campus as well. During this time frame, I applied and accepted an ACUHOI internship for the summer which was exciting as the majority of those positions are for grad students and I was only in my junior year. Iy also stayed in the conversation that SGA was having on a weekly basis, watching every meeting they had online and staying engaged via social media. Staying engaged with SGA, I also ran for and was elected to Treasurer of the organization, something that I take pride in running a campaign remotely. Most importantly, I applied for SRA again and was hired this time. One of the biggest fears that I had going abroad was regressing on the progress I had made to become more involved on my campus. I’m glad to be an example for other student leaders that you are able to take advantage of study abroad opportunities without giving up the affiliations you have.
I could put this part in junior or senior year but it needs mentioning. When I returned from England, I was home for two weeks before moving to western Maryland for my ACUHO-I internship. I worked in a camps and conferences department at a small rural state school. I went without a car, support network, anything. Seems very familiar to when I left for England, huh? I was miserable there though. At least in England, there were things to do. I never considered what my fit was when looking for a position and this place ended up not being a fit for me. I ended up resigning after a month due to it not being a fit and because my mom’s cancer had progressed and I felt obligated to return home. Though the internship was a wash, it provided me with a good understanding that I need to focus on more on just getting a position; it’s also about making sure I will be happy in that position.
Senior Year – 2012-Present
This year has been interesting for sure. I came in with several leadership roles while also being separated from American campus life for nine months. It was really difficult to re-acclimate myself to BSU while also helping a staff of ten RAs and managing the budget for student government. I’ll be honest: I struggled, especially with my SRA work. My work-life balance would definitely off and I started to see working in ResLife as more of a chore than a passion. That mentality changed over time as I was able to connect with my RAs and see the value in the work I was doing. During this time I focused a lot on student government. My aspiration was to be president for the following year and I had support internally and externally for that. I also applied and received a social justice grant to fund my attendance to the 2013 National Convention, my first national student affairs conference. This is in additional to attending two regional conferences for the first time in the fall: NASPA Region I (and attending their Student Affairs Leaders of Tomorrow pre-conference) and ACUI Region I (I realized I was getting a potluck of organizational involvement).
During winter break, I reentered a relationship with my boyfriend. This was actually very substantial. My boyfriend is successful in his career and is pursuing his second master’s degree. He put emphasis on wanting to start to build the foundation to start a family life, though he never asked me directly. I made the decision to try and graduate as soon as possible to try and provide that for him rather than taking it easy and graduate in spring 2014. I was able to restructure my schedule to graduate in winter 2014, though I wasn’t completely satisfied with that.
When I came back to school after break, I was on the search for summer internships to add to my credentials. Looking both at NASPA and ACUHO-I listings, I decided that there was nothing that was a fit for me. I needed to be close to home and there wasn’t anything in the Boston area. I decided to ask my mentors to reach out to their contacts to see if there was anything possible for me. I ended up having a position created for me at Merrimack College, which was my #1 grad school prospect. I was encouraged to try and get credit for this internship as it would be unpaid. I returned to campus the next day, rescheduled my entire course schedule, got my internship approved, and miraculously found out that I could graduate in summer 2013.
In two weeks I had gone from graduating in spring 2014 to summer 2013. It was a whirlwind but it wasn’t going to stop there. Graduating in the summer meant I was eligible to attend grad school in the fall. I decided to apply only to Merrimack as it was my number one program. I was cautious to get my hopes up as it was a new program that was competitive. Despite that, I knew it was the best fit for me and played the waiting game. I also dabbled into looking at jobs as I would be able to start position as early as July 15. I realized when I looked at open positions that t was not ResLife or student activities that drew my interested anymore. It was positions in international engagement that got me excited. Being able to provide a global education to students like I was afforded as well as being a support system for students that attend school here from abroad was something that I related to from my experience abroad.
As I said in the intro, I just finished attending the 2013 ACPA National Convention and I had a great experience. It was the first time networking with professionals from across the country and I walked away with new connections, lots of pertinent information, and got to see Las Vegas for the first time. Most importantly, I was also given the news that I had been accepted into Merrimack’s Higher Education program. It actually came as a shock to me because I wasn’t completely confident in my abilities so getting that news was fantastic.
So yeah, it’s crazy how much six weeks can do. I went from being on the path to being student body president to being accepted to a graduate program in six weeks. I am so grateful for all the experiences I have been given throughout my undergraduate experience. I have been able to take advantage of more opportunities than most and I cannot say how appreciative I am of that. I am looking forward to the future to see where my path leads me.
I haven’t blogged in months. I will keep it frank and say that I have been very busy and let the blogging go by the wayside. I am going to make an effort to do better but I can’t make any promises. I just renewed my domain name for $17 so hopefully that’s motivation! For this post, I wanted to share a paper I wrote for my Crime Theory class. My professor asked us to write about what we wanted to do when we graduated and what skills I have to achieve that goal. I got it back saying that it was excellent and that he would be quoting it to the class. Here is what I wrote, unedited:
While I know most of my peers are going to be listing off careers such as police officer, various types of legal personnel, or working in the field of corrections, that is not where my true passion lies. Even though I minor in criminal justice, I do it for the fascination I have for the field and not because I want to pursue a career within this field. My career path is going to keep me at a higher education institution for much longer than any of my peers. I want to work in leadership development at the higher education level and help college students be able to grow as individuals by developing the skills that they need to be a successful leader both while they are in college and once they graduate.
I blame this passion that I have on the involvement that I take part in currently at the university. I currently am the Senior Resident Assistant for Shea Hall, which means I am a liaison for ten Resident Assistants in a first year residence hall to the Resident Director. I also am the Treasurer for Student Government Association, so I hold the responsibility of ensuring that all events on campus put on by clubs and organizations have funding so they are able to be held. Lastly, I work as an Ambassador for the Office of Study Abroad due to my experience spending a semester in England through their office earlier this year promoting the various types of opportunities that the office has for all students. It has been through these involvements that I have become a confident young man. I was a transfer student to the university and I commuted so I saw little value in student engagement. After being hired as an RA, the development in self-worth that occurred really struck me. I realized that I was making a difference to so many people through this position. So I expanded myself to the positions listed above and find immense pleasure in being able to help others enjoy their college experience.
Through my time as a student leader, I have been able to identify several strengths that I have that compliment the career path that I am going down. The biggest strength that I have is that I am an achiever. What that means is that I am emphatically motivated to exceed at everything I do. I am never satisfied with the status quo in my life and strive to go farther in my jobs and do better with my academics. My second strength is that I am empathetic, which means I am able to identify with other people’s struggles. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I sympathize for their struggles, but I am able to take in their perspective and help them in the most constructive way possible. My last strength that I know I have is that I am an “includer.” What that means is that I am the type of person to bring everybody into conversation, involve everyone in a circle of friends with social plans, and make sure that each person’s voice is heard. I believe that as a person going into the field I am planning on going into, these skills are essential to being a well-rounded professional.
I also know that I have a long way to go. While I know I am well ahead of many people competing against me to get into graduate school programs for this field, I still have a lot of learning to do about what it is I want to do exactly. The field is expansive and the various departments in it are cross-sectional and multi-functional so I have many options and need to narrow my scope over the next year before I apply to graduate school. I need to meet with professionals in the field to get a perspective of the field to expand my knowledge of what it is beyond Bridgewater State. I also need to continue seeking out internship opportunities to gain experience other than at Bridgewater.
I could honestly write a thesis on my passion for going into this field. I’ve switched my major seven times and it ends up that I want to do something that doesn’t even have an undergraduate program. I feel like I major in student involvement right now and am taking classes in programs that interest me. However, I do not want to go over the paper requirements and hope that this paper conveys that even though I am not going into the criminal justice field, I am going into something that I am truly passionate for and am so excited to pursue. I have a long way to go, but if passion is any indication of success, then I am already on the cusp of greatness.
It’s all about passion. And thank goodness, I have a lot of it!
HOLY. SH*T (Holla Den #3)
Just to clear it up, that was the name of my den for Camp Pride; I’m not being purposely vulgar :). So wow. It’s been a very long time since I’ve blogged. As I listen to “Marylin Monroe” by Nicki Minaj and look through pictures of the last week I have with tears in my eyes, I knew I had to let it out by writing about it.
I’ve spent the last week in Nashville, Tennessee. Bridgewater State gave me and one other student the opportunity to attend a leadership camp called Camp Pride. “The mission of the Campus Pride Summer Leadership Camp is to build leadership capacity among LGBT and Ally undergraduate college student leaders and to create safer and more inclusive campus communities in the United States.”
I don’t hide the fact that I identify as gay, homosexual, queer, whatever. I am open to telling anyone that asks me the truth about my sexuality. What I have conditioned myself to do in the past is hide pieces of me that would show me as “too gay.” I’ve never felt safe being completely open with my sexuality because our world still sucks. We have bigotry, judgment, hate, corruption, and dishonesty in our daily lives and I was afraid to be a victim of any of those. Guess what? I’m not anymore. I’m done being afraid of a world that is going to victimize me for what I was born as. I am finally comfortable in my skin.
I learned. You would think that living as a gay male and being out of the closet since sixteen, I’d know it ALL about LGBTQIA matters. Well you’re so very wrong. I was on still on Genesis if I was reading the Bible. A lesser known fact about me is that I had done LGBT activism back in high school. I was on the planning board for Boston Youth Pride 2008. I have been to conferences about LGBT matters and once had the passion and desire to make a change for social justice… but it died. I saw the result of nine months of planning and became jaded against my entire community. I saw us as sexualized beings with no desire to fight for our rights; only a need to find someone to fill the void in their bed, as if it filled the void in their heart. I have secretly held that self-hatred and loathing until this past week. My walls were broken down seeing so many amazing student leaders in the same place to grow as leaders, learn how to create change on their campus and beyond, and make worthwhile lifelong connections. I learned how to love myself this week.
I grew. I am not going to lie: I have learned a thing or two about being a student leader since being in college. I have been fortunate enough to been given many professional development opportunities through my positions at school and through the organizations I am a part of. I honestly did not think I was going to walk away with that much in terms of developing how to be a better leader. I was dead wrong. I had always led with integrity. I had always led with conviction. But I had never led with love. I’ve always been a cynic and a realist, mostly to put up a wall to protect me from shortcomings. Learning how to love myself this week allowed me to grow as a leader in a way that I never had. It actually became apparent to me when I was working today. I supervise at a supermarket and my workers know me for being scathingly sarcastic (I was still endearing to them, don’t worry!) One of those workers told me today how much happier I seemed than usual. It was something as simple as that that made me analyze how I was acting differently. I had so much less angst than I ever had. My sarcasm has definitely not left me by any stretch of the imagination but my wall of cynicism is not here anymore. Oh, and I wrote poetry for the first time for a talent show and it turned out to be something awesome! I grew into a leader that leads with integrity, conviction, AND love.
I embraced. I was asked one month ago the following question: “What are the biggest challenges you currently face and how are you approaching these challenges?” This was my response: “When it comes to my sexuality, the biggest challenge that I face is that I don’t necessarily feel like part of the LGBT community. Don’t get me wrong; I know that I am part of it by default since I am gay. However, I constantly feel like I am in the minority when it comes to my mentality about the community. It gets me a lot of flak that I am embarrassed by the community that I come from. I haven’t had a group of friends that were gay since high school when I was coming out and exploring my sexuality. Now I only have two friends that are gay. Since I’ve matured some, I’ve always been distant towards events like Pride (which is ironic, since I was on the committee that organized Boston Youth Pride in high school) and even gay nightclubs. My problem with these events and with a lot of the LGBT community that I interact with is that I feel they promulgate the stereotypes and hatred that people have for LGBT people. I am very proud of being gay but I don’t think that me dancing in the street in my underwear or being topless at a club is going to make things any easier for anyone. Having worked on Pride in the past, I see it more as a spectacle and not as a celebration of who we are and it brings our community backwards with our goal of having equality. No other large group celebration conducts them in the way LGBT people do with Pride and I feel that is a reason why our country is combating our community in its fight for rights more than most other groups. To me, it’s seems like my mentality is different than others; sexuality is a detail to me and it’s more for a lot of other people.” Excuse my frank language, but F*CK THAT. I honestly don’t even know how I had such a different mentality two months ago as I do now. It’s true that I have never considered myself to be part of the LGBT community, in part because I consider myself an asexual homosexual, but I was stifling the pride that we have as LGBT people. I was ignorant, jaded, and was full of self-loathing. Being at Camp Pride this week, for the first time in six years, I held another guys hand around Vanderbilt University’s campus, I kissed in public, and danced with guys, and I generally stopped giving a crap about what others thought. I did things that I never EVER thought I would do in my life. And the best part is that it empowered me, not caused shame. I embraced the skin I was in and the apathy I should have for anyone that hates me for it.
I struggled. As amazing as this experience was, it also challenged me every day. We had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. So I struggled. Cancer was brought up at one point as a joke and it really triggered me and caused me to check out for most of that day. As hard as it was to overcome the trigger, it really taught me to fight those triggers as they’re going to hit me at unexpected times. The trigger did hit me a couple more times but I was much better at combating it and it helped that I had great support from my new friends. I also fought personal demons that I had long buried. I came out during this experience. Not as gay of course. For the first time in my life, I shared a part of me that I had never shared with a single person in my life before. I shared that I have dermatillomania. That is an anxiety disorder that causes me to subconsciously pick at my skin, specifically at imperfections, to relieve my anxiety. I’ve never shared it because I’ve been so ashamed of it but I learned this week that I need to embrace all my imperfections and stop hiding. And I was received with so much support for it. I also fought depression and general anxiety during the week but had so much support through the week. I struggled with my past but overcame those demons and stood with conviction.
I connected. Part of the above self-hatred caused me to really avoid being interactive with a group of more than two or three LGBT people (especially gay people). I distrusted them since I felt like such an outsider. I knew that going into this week that getting over that road block was going to be one of my hardest obstacles preventing me from growing this week. I was depending on my ability to be very versatile in social situations to guide me this week. I never would have guessed that I would be embracing the community I was in on only the second day. I’m sitting at home yearning to be back in it. I have met 61 of the most inspirational student leaders I have ever encountered, a gaggle of amazing mentors that helped run Camp Pride and shape it into the amazing experience it is, and met a handful of keynote speakers that are well-known for the impact they’ve made. All of these people are people I can now call on to help me in my journey to create change. Even more than that, I have made some connections that have transcended into close friendships that I will have for the rest of my life. I think that’s the thing I will appreciate most about this experience: I connected to a community that I had long scorned, distrusted, and stigmatized and now fully embrace every letter, acronym, and person that falls into that continuum.
So what’s next? I have less than a month before I go back to school. My goal is to create a GLBTA overnight leadership retreat so that students at BSU can grow as leaders in a safe space to feel the self-worth and empowerment that I experienced the past week. I’m ready to shake the world up and make it better.
As long as this blog is, it doesn’t even scratch the surface as to how impactful this week has been. Highs, lows, ups, downs, everything. I am a better person right now. Thank you to every person I interacted with, no matter how long or short the interactions were. I am living a better, healthier life now thanks to you. Better yet, I am ready to go out and create change.
I am completely aware that if this blog was part of a course right now, I’d have to take it over I’ve been so dreadful at keeping up with it. In my defense, over the past two months, I have slept in my bed in Manchester for approximately seven days. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to jump around Europe for most of my holiday break and the weeks beforehand. I have one more week of travels and that will be all she wrote. I come home in a matter of weeks and I am going to try my hardest to catch up on all the travels I’ve done so you all can hear about them and so I have something to remember! Let’s travel back to March 4th for a little journey I like to call “Lo Siento Que No Lo Siento”
PS. I’m on the hotel’s internet connection which is not at all as high speed as it claims. So right now there are no pictures but I will be putting them in as soon as I have a good connection, so hopefully tomorrow!
I lucked out really. I had been researching flights to Ireland for my mom in February for the beginning of March to see if she would be able to visit me. As it later turns out, she has been able to visit (she actually just flew off back to Boston an hour ago from the time I am writing this) and she’s loved it. Why do I tell you this? Well, the week that I ended up getting the best deal for round-trip flights just happened to land during BSU’s Spring Break! I was hyped but I still didn’t know if anyone would want to give their Spring Break to come visit me.
I spread the word around to my friends a little bit. At first, it didn’t seem like there were any takers. Obviously taking a vacation for Spring Break is becoming increasingly difficult for college students because of the economy and so many other external factors. After a week or so, I got an email from my best friend Lisa saying “send me the info, I want to come!” You honestly could not even imagine how much I freaked out. A week later and Lisa and our friend Nia were booked on a flight to Dublin for Spring Break!
As luck would have it, I flew into Dublin from Manchester an hour after they landed from Philly. It was the first time that I had seen anyone from back home in over three months so the reuniting was a bit emotional, even for someone like me. After we finally got our bearings, we headed from the airport to the city centre. Luck ended up being on our side as our hostel was off of Dublin’s busiest street, O’Connell, so we were very centrally located. We grabbed lunch at the Bachelor Pub (it was so good that I brought my mom and met some cousins from Ireland to the Bachelor!) and then did some sightseeing. We walked around Trinity College, saw Dublin Castle, and toured the Temple Bar area (Dublin’s night life). We grabbed dinner at ThunderRoad, which was an American restaurant because clearly we don’t know how to immerse ourselves (Just like the Bachelor, I brought my family here last night because it was so good)! Then we headed to the hostel to shake some jet lag.
While in the hostel, we met a guy around our age called David (I pray that I got his name right). He was from Seattle and moved to Dublin three months ago. He was a very cool guy. He street performs to earn an income and he really earns a lot! In Dublin, you don’t have to be licensed to perform in the streets so anyone is able to jump on a plane and start earning money. We then continued to shake our jet lag until about 10pm, when we decided to go out.
Unfortunately, it was a Monday night and there was not a lot happening in Dublin. We ended up going to a bar/club called Q Bar. When we got there, we were a little nervous since not that many people seemed to be there and we wanted to socialize. After about 45 minutes, we decided to take a look around and realized that it was multi-level and didn’t see the dance floor. We relocated to the ground floor near the dance floor and had a great time. Even though some Caribbean men tried to pick my friends up, we did not walk away with any battle wounds on our first night out in Ireland!
The next day, we headed to Galway on a coach with three hours of sleep. We were lucky to book ourselves a tour of the Cliffs of Moher but we needed to get to Galway by 10 in order to catch the tour so we were forced into an early morning. We got to Galway around 9:15 and quickly sorted ourselves at our hostel before rushing back to the coach station and catching the tour. I have to say that the tour was very long. It went for about seven hours, though it was fun. We didn’t luck out when it came to the weather as it was rainy and foggy. We didn’t even get to see off the Cliffs! However, our tour guide was so empathetic that he brought us down to the water and we got a great view of the cliffs from below. Honestly, it made up for the cruddy weather.
After a long day touring on a coach, we headed back to the hostel and reenergized before going out for the night. I was lucky and found a bar in Galway that does a silent disco and we lucked out because it was the night we were there! Lisa had gotten to be part of a silent disco when she went to NACA last year but this was Nia and I’s first time. For those of you who don’t know, a silent disco is where everyone is given headphones before getting to the dance floor. Those headphones can switch between two channels, each channel with a different DJ playing a different genre. So you are clubbing like normal but the room is silent!
We headed out around 11 (it’s crazy how late everything begins in Europe!) to a bar called The King’s Head (and no surprise, I took my mom here when we were in Galway!) that had a lot of roots with Shakespeare, I believe. We got to enjoy some live music while in the pub as we prepared to go to the silent disco. I didn’t realize how silly I was but I ordered a pitcher of Black Russian for myself fifteen minutes before last call! I was a trooper and downed the entire thing though. My Irish relatives would be proud.
We then headed down the road to the silent disco. I have to say that we lucked out with where our hostel was again. The first bar was a one minute walk from the hostel and the silent disco was only about five minutes away! We got to the silent disco around midnight and it was a great time. I definitely suggest to anyone that is able to check out what a silent disco is all about.
Another day meant another coach ride as we headed back to Dublin from Galway. I have to say that if you are planning to travel to Ireland and want to see traditional Irish culture, skip Dublin and head to Galway. Dublin has really become a metropolitan European hub and reminded me a lot of Boston. Galway was much more traditional, with a whole section of the city being pedestrian only and loaded with wonderful traditional pubs.
We got back to Dublin in the mid-afternoon and we headed straight for a tattoo parlour! I bet you are saying that I am psycho but this was planned much before my friends and I got here. After an hour and a half in the parlour, Lisa and I had matching tattoos on our hip saying “Cairdeas” with a shamrock beside it (Check out my blog post below for a more in-depth analysis of why I got the tattoo!). Cairdeas is Gaelic for “friendship” and was a perfect symbol for Lisa and I to have for the rest of our lives (: . In addition to that, I was crazy and got a SECOND tattoo! This one was a celtic cross on my left shoulder with a shamrock at the intersection. I have always loved crosses and this tattoo symbolizes how much I care about my faith and my Irish heritage. The tattoo artist told me while I was getting the second tattoo that I was one of very few people who is brave enough to get multiple tattoos in one sitting! As annoying as the pain was during the entire thing, I am proud to have that accomplishment!
Guess what we did after we got tattoos?! Took another coach! I swear that coaches need to have air miles like airlines because I would be making bank with those. This time, we are headed to Manchester. The cool thing about this nine hour coach ride is that it was cut in half. The first half we spent on a cruise from Ireland to England! The ship had a cinema, mini casino, shopping area, and bar/restaurant. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of it because we were so exhausted. We slept for 90% of the four hours cruise on some couches. We then mustered through the four hour drive from Holyhead to Manchester and crashed at my flat until around noon.
When we woke up, it was my one day to show off the city that I’ve come to love. We got lunch at a place that had five pound beer & pizza, which was a wicked good deal, before heading to the city centre! We got to ride on the Manchester Eye and see the entire city from above. While in the air, there were a bunch of people in the city centre chanting for their football team. It turned out that Manchester United was playing Bilbao in the Europa league and a BUNCH of Bilbao fans had crowded in the city centre to cheer their team on. After that, we went to the Manchester Cathedral which was amazing. Even though I had been in Manchester for three months, I still hadn’t seen a lot of the city. I got to introduce my BSU friends to my American friends that are studying abroad in Manchester at dinner, which was great. Then we headed back to the flat to get ready for another night out!
As it turns out, our plans had us going out to Manchester’s Gay Village, Canal St. This was actually my first time going out on Canal St since I had moved to Manchester! Canal St is the largest gay village in Europe so it was a big deal. We went to two clubs and had ourselves a great time. I will be honest and say that I really don’t remember a lot of that evening so that’s why there are not many details about the night. But apparently I had a great time!
Guess what we did after our big night out?! Another coach journey! This time our destination was London, which was exciting since this was the first time I was seeing London as well. As luck would have it, one of my friend’s friend that we met the night before was on the same coach as us so that was a fun coincidence. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got ourselves to London and made our way to SoHo, where our hostel was located.
In case you didn’t know, because I didn’t until after I booked the hostel, SoHo is the Red Light District of London. Yikes! It also is the best location if you want to go out so we lucked out. We explored the area for a bit and grabbed dinner at this very modern café/restaurant. We then decided to refuel before going out for the night. After few hours rest, we decided that it would be in our best interest not to go out. As much of a bummer as it was, our batteries were teetering on empty and it was better we enjoyed our only full day in London. Lisa and I decided to go out and explore a bit more after dark and it was crazy! Like, New York City style crazy with all the excitement and lights and activity. I know NYC is the city that never sleeps, but London can claim that title in Europe!
On Saturday we were in full sightseeing mode. We got ourselves a free walking tour of London and got to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and so many little gems we wouldn’t have known to check out otherwise. After the tour, the same company that did the tour told us that they also did a pub crawl and we jumped on that bandwagon quick! To kill some time between the tour and the pub crawl, we went on the London Eye. I was surprised at how long the wait was! It took us more than a half hour to get on that dang ferris wheel!
The pub crawl that we went on took us to two bars and three night clubs. I have to say that we really enjoyed ourselves throughout. The only downside was I had to still to vodka & red bull as my drink since that was the crawl’s drink special. After the fifth venue, they wanted to bring us across the city on the subway to the final venue. That was definitely not in the brochure they gave us and we snuck away real quick. We were tight on cash and weren’t going to try to navigate London at 3am on a Saturday night after a pub crawl! We ended up going back to the hostel but all of us were wide awake and decided to chill in the hostel lobby. We ended up meeting a couple of guys from the States and we chilled for about four hours until after 5am! It was really an awesome way to finish our trip.
We woke up all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for another coach back to Manchester (sarcasm is bleeding out my fingers right now)! We were really down because we knew we only had a few more hours together. We got back, grabbed some Subway, and chilled in the flat for a few hours. Then I brought Lisa & Nia to the coach station, where they headed off on the same nine hour coach to Dublin to catch their flight (bless their hearts).
I have to say that this week was the most fun I had. The thing that I hated most about studying abroad is not being able to enjoy it with my friends from back home. As great as it is to travel with new friends, being able to see new places with my close friends is really what the doctor ordered for me. It completely cured any homesickness I had and gave me renewed energy for the rest of my stay over here. The amount of inside jokes and memories made this week are endless and those are going to be with me for the rest of my life. Oh, and a tattoo or two as well (;
Tonight I am heading back on a coach from Dublin to Manchester (yes, the same coach we took in the blog!). As soon as I get to Manchester, I am jumping on a plane literally an hour later for Ibiza! I am in Ibiza for a week and that is my final holiday while I am studying abroad. After that, I have two weeks in the UK, studying and taking my exams, before I head home! I hope to have my blog up about my second trip to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day at some point this week. I’m not sure if it will happen depending on how much I love Ibiza. We have an apartment rather than staying in a hostel so the chances are much higher that a blog will be up! Thanks for reading about my journeys; I know it’s a very long read and I appreciate that you care enough to hear about it!
Oh and if you’re wondering what’s up with the name of this blog, it’s one of the inside jokes from the week. It’s “Sorry I’m Not Sorry” in Spanish and we just started screaming it in the empty streets of Dublin after going to Q Bar the first night. So… lo siento que no lo siento
I realize that I am failing miserably when it comes to blogging about my travels. I am still planning on doing it but I am currently in Ireland again and will be in Ibiza next week. I have a week and a half off to blog after that so a flurry of blogs will be here at that time. This is a blog I wrote almost two months ago the day after I got my tattoo done.
Cairdeas. It stands for friendship in Gaelic. It’s now a part of me forever, hanging out with a shamrock on my right hip. The reason that I got it was because I wanted to get a tattoo in Dublin with a shamrock. My best friend and I have matching tattoos on our hips now. Reflecting on this tattoo, its poetic how this is the tattoo that is now with me forever.
If you know me, you know that I’m a closed book a lot of the time. I am not the type of person to share information about myself freely. There are a lot of reasons why that is but some of it has to do with the fact that I grew up in my own personal hell. I’ve been conditioned over the year to put on the thickest of skins because of how hard my life was when I was a kid. It’s typical to hear people say that they had a rough childhood but mine truly was horrendous.
From the time I was five until tenth grade, I really had no friends. When I tell people that, they think I am exaggerating… I’m not. To this day, I still don’t know why nobody liked me when I was younger. I was very into sports, being one of the best players in our city’s soccer league and making it onto baseball teams during middle school. There is no story or “big incident” from my childhood that caused me to be bullied going through the grades like some people have. I ask myself if it’s because I am gay and the kids just knew I was different even though we didn’t know what gay was but I have no idea.
I was bullied. A lot. When I was in middle school, a guidance councilor told my mom that he has never seen someone go through what I have to go through every day and that he wouldn’t be able to walk in my shoes. I switched in and out of schools six times between fourth grade and tenth because it was too much to deal with. I went to therapy up until the eighth grade, being diagnosed with anxiety and depression in middle school. When my mom got me up for school in the morning, I would cry and beg not to go and she’s told me that it killed her that she had to make me. The school had an IEP (Individual Educational Plan, I think it stands for) for me, not because I was slow in any of my classes, but because I was bullied. I had to ride on the bus for special needs students to get me to and from school because I was bullied too much on the regular bus. There are stories that people are horrified to hear from my childhood but I think this paragraph has already made angels cry so I won’t delve into specifics. Growing up with nobody as my friend is the reason that I hold friendship so highly now. I have no shame in saying that I am truly one of the best people to have as a friend. Friendship to me is as strong as love for my family.
I’m lucky because I have so many amazing friends now. It’s sad that I cry about the fact I have friends sometimes but I’m okay with that. They’re so good that if you had my friends, you’d cry tears of joy too! I originally got cairdeas because it looked nice and I wanted a word to be with my shamrock. Now I reflect and realize that it wasn’t a fluke that it stands for friendship. I live every day for my friends and now I have it itched in my bones. When I look at it, I think of two things: my friend who has the matching tattoo and the fact that friendship is my mantra.
I’m sorry if this blog is a little off the beaten track. I was looking at my tattoo in the hostel and I started reflecting and decided it’d be good to write it down. I’ll have my blog about Ireland & London up soon. Cheers.
I am very sad that I will not be at BSU to take part in today’s Day of Dialogue. It seems like an event that will be very successful and spur a lot of positive change on our campus. Even though it’s 2012 and we live in one of the most liberal states in the country, our campus still sees discrimination every day. Most of the time, it isn’t overt discrimination as much as it is ignorance to people that are different than the majority. People seemingly are just not interested in learning the struggles that various minorities have on campus and, unsurprisingly, an institution like our university is going to cater to the majority before minorities. I am going to twist this blog to cater it somewhat to study abroad again.
Living in the UK on campus compared to the US is different. Here in the UK, there is not as much prejudgment made by people as there is in the US. For the most part, people allow actions to define a person rather than first impressions or preconceived notions. I remember coming to the UK and being a bit afraid that I could be ostracized because I am gay and was unsure how that was treated over here. It took a week for anyone to even ask whether I was gay or not here. When it was asked, it was asked in the same vein as where I am originally from. It didn’t matter at all what the answer was, basically, because it doesn’t matter what you are over here.
Another thing I’ve noticed here is that the US is much more politically correct when it comes to minorities but less accepting. In the UK, someone of African descent is simply called Black. In the US, we’d be trying to clean that up to make it more politically correct, calling them “African-American” or “Jamaican” or anything to not called them “Black.” In the same way, most people from the Middle East are called “Pakis,” which would NEVER fly back home.
Ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and other characteristics don’t define a person here though. Here they are exactly what they should be: a characteristic. I love living here because I don’t have to worry leaving my room everyday and being prejudged by people that I don’t even talk to. My wish is that in the near future, people will begin to see people as a whole rather than pinpointing one characteristic and defining them as that characteristic.
My motto for this is “Tabula Rasa.” I learned that in high school as being one of the main teachings of John Locke. In his book An Essay on Human Understanding, he says: “”Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characters, without any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience.” Tabula Rasa translates from Latin to mean “blank page” or “blank slate.” I treat every person, despite their appearance or demeanor, as if they are a blank page and they are defining themselves with each interaction they have with me. Perhaps if people started having this mentality, we wouldn’t be stuck with the ignorance we are accustomed to.
Sorry friends. No pretty pictures for this blog. Just imagine the Mediterranean breeze while reading it.
Hello all my friends and followers. I hope you are enjoying the wonderful spring weather (tehe, it’s snowing in MA and sixty degrees in Manchester; had to make that cheap jab). I am going to take a walk down the road less traveled and not talk about studying abroad for once (cue simultaneous sighs of relief and boos). I am going to be sharing my experience in the ACUHO-I Internship program.
Now I’m sure a couple people are asking what the heck an ACUHO-I is. Well, my curious little learners, ACUHO-I stands for The Association of College and University Housing Officers – International. Breaking it down, it’s an organization that supports members of the housing community. For my international friends, accommodation in America and several universities elsewhere is much different than it is where you are. Rather than being moved into your room and not having any interaction with members of the Accommodation Office until you check out, in America, housing at universities strive to create an environment that is conducive to social, educational, cultural, physical, and emotional growth. That is done through programming (we do events in your hall to keep you entertained as well as educate) and bulletin boards. Students called Resident Assistants live with you in the same hall (usually one or two RAs to a floor) and create a sense of community with the goal of having all of their residents feel like their hall is a home rather than just a room. It’s very difficult to explain how much of a contrast it is living at university in the States having lived in housing in the UK, but that’s what I came up with.
Back to ACUHO-I, one of the great things that they do every year is a housing internship program. This allows graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to work at another university for the summer and gain more experience in residence life. It is a really beneficial opportunity for anyone that is going into student affairs. Not even going into the benefits of having an internship to bolster your resume, it allows you to see what it’s like to apply and interview for a position in the field. The program does cost you $30. The great part of that cost is that it gives you membership to ACUHO-I for the next twelve months.
So I was unsure whether or not to take part in the program because I saw that it was geared more for graduate students and I didn’t want to look under qualified compared to other candidates. I ended up having lunch with the Director of Residence Life and Housing at my university, Beth Moriarty, and she encouraged me to take part. I have to say that I owe so much gratitude to Beth for being such a great mentor as I learn more about student affairs and getting ready for graduate school. I would be lost without her help so thank you so much Beth!
I paid my $30 in October and was all excited to look through internships… until I realized that they aren’t released until January. I panicked quite a lot when I found that out… I would be abroad while applying for internships back in the States. I didn’t know if that was going to make me look unfavorable as I had to request video interviews on top of applying for positions. On the flip side, it also let the schools know that I had experience with study abroad, which is a great attribute for anybody to have regardless of what you’re applying for (and provides great conversation starters!)
Fast forward three months and the internship listing opened! My jaw dropped at all the positions that were open. Another thing that relieved me was that the positions were sorted based on what the school wanted in terms of educational background (aka. Some schools specifically wanted an undergrad). I was given advice that while you should always look up and see what the school is like before applying for positions, in this situation where I am at a possible disadvantage for being an undergrad, quantity is better than quality. So I applied to A LOT of positions. The great thing is that 95% of the positions that I applied to were ones that I was genuinely interested in.
The problem with me being so excited about this program was that I applied for all my positions the first day they were available. There was still a week between applying for positions and schools being notified of applicants so there was another waiting game! I became concerned after several days passed without schools contacting me. I decided that it was best to be proactive and reach other via email to the schools I applied to. Best decision that I made. The emails started to pour in with requests for cover letters, resumes, and interview requests. My luck was turning.
I ended up having interviews with thirteen schools. I have to say that I am very proud to have gotten that many interviews. I was expecting to get five at most but I underestimated myself. After going through my first several interviews, my perspective of the program changed. Initially, I was doing this solely because I wanted a housing internship for the summer to solidify that I wanted to go into student affairs. I wanted to make sure that I was in love with student affairs in general and not just my undergraduate experience. After having some great conversations with awesome departments, I realized that I was equally happy being able to gain knowledge from so many schools and how they operate. As much as an internship is going to help me getting to know student affairs intensively for several months, being able to talk with so many schools about what they’re about opened my eyes so much. By the end of interviews, I was content with or without an internship (of course I still wanted one!).
The interviews also gave me a chance to develop professionally. I have been lucky that I have gotten a job with every application I’ve submitted but two in my entire life. This was the first time I was applying for a position in ResLife externally and it really opened my eyes to how it works. It also gave me a chance to work on how to fine-tune my resume and writing cover letters. Additionally, it was the first time I had to research about the position I was applying for as well as the institution the position was at. This really has helped me prepare myself for when I apply for live-in positions or graduate school.
Then there was another waiting game. Positions were not able to be offered until the day before Valentine’s Day. This was even more of a problem for me because I would be in Paris as offers went out! I was afraid that I would be offered a position and could not respond in a timely fashion and would lose out (I am really good at analyzing and predicting obstacles).
Finally, after four days of no correspondence, I got a message on Skype from one of the schools I applied to. They asked if I had received their voicemail. I did not even think that offers would go out via phone. The number that I had listed on my resume was for the phone that works in the US that charges an absorbent amount overseas. Even worse was that I was in Paris and had left my phone back in Manchester so I had no way of checking my voicemail. I told them that I had no way of accessing my voicemail. They then skyped me in my hostel and offered me a position. I was so excited. I officially had an internship for the summer. I told them that I would get back to them as I wanted to make sure that I had time to reach all my other schools to see if they’d offered me anything as well. It ended up that I was offered two positions and an alternate position.
After four months, I finally had landed and accepted an internship position. I am happy to say I will be the ACUHO-I Intern at Frostburg State University in Maryland, working in their Conferences Department. I ended up choosing Frostburg because I needed to look at what was going to best support me when I got back from England. I knew that I was looking at credit cards having to be paid off and needed to go with what was going to be best financially. With this position, I am able to get paid hourly without a cap amount of hours, so I can be the workaholic I am while being paid for every minute of it!
I am so excited for the summer. It is going to be a great experience working at Frostburg and getting to learn intensively for three months. It’s so crazy how the things that are in the distant future have you wanting time to move fast. Even though I am having the time of my life studying abroad in Manchester, travelling throughout Europe, a part of me wants summer to come right now so I can come home, see everyone at Bridgewater, and start my internship. I am truly blessed to have such great things happening in my life right now.
I want to say thank you to ACUHO-I for having such an amazing program that gives undergraduates and graduates the opportunity to develop throughout the application process as well as connecting us to wonderful departments across the country and internationally. I’d like to thank Frostburg State for giving me this opportunity to share my strengths and make this summer great for both the university and for myself. Also, thank you to all the schools I applied to. This experience would have been nothing without interviewing with every single school I had the opportunity to learn from. I would be lucky if I ended up at any of your institutions full-time in the future. Lastly thanks to the student affairs professionals at Bridgewater State, especially Beth, for being such a strong support system for me through this process. Even though I am an ocean away, I felt supported at all times and am so thankful to have such amazing people to learn from on a daily basis. I hope I can come back from this summer and be able to share my experience so that others can benefit from it.
It’s sad this blog is almost two thousand words and on the short end of my blogs over the past two months. I think this is going to be my last blog for a couple weeks. Other than a concert I am going to tomorrow (TYLER WARD AHHHHHH!) and a football game the weekend after (Go Manchester City!), I have nothing going on until March 5th, when two of my closest friends are visiting me for their Spring Break! We’re going to Dublin, Manchester, and possibly a third location. So excited to see a piece of home!
Alrighty friends and followers, I’m out!