So I graduated this past Saturday! I’m now an AU alum! But I am no longer an AU student =(. I guess this post is similar to that of AU_JennaL from a couple of weeks ago. I just want to use this space to reflect on my AU experiences and provide some words of wisdom to all who are beginning or working their way through the college search process. I’m sure it’s all advice that you could find elsewhere online but now that I’m graduated I feel that I am somewhat qualified to offer college advice (or maybe not?). (If you aren’t aware, the time around college graduation is always one of reflection). Also, this makes this my 31st blog post (WOW! – I’m sorry you guys have been subjected to so many of my AU adventures) and my final blog post, =(.
SOME (just some) of My Favorite Things About AU:
- Community. This is probably my favorite thing about AU – the AU community. It’s hard to explain via words on a blog but AU has a great community and you can feel it simply by stepping on campus. AU is full of great people. AU also has the traditional college campus and community feel, even though we are located in Washington, DC. In my opinion, it is the best of both worlds – you do not feel overwhelmed by the city but rather enjoy our traditional college campus in a residential neighborhood but you also have access to all to the amazing opportunities, events, and excitement of the city. From the people to the campus, AU provides a warm and welcoming community where you can feel at home.
- Internships. AU encourages students to use DC as their “laboratory for learning.” One of the most popular ways of doing so is by interning at one of the many organizations located in the DC area. There is literally every type of organization in DC representing the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. Internships allow students to get hands-on experience in their field of study. The great thing about internships is that they can help students decide what they want to do when they graduate, and help students decide what they do not want to do when they graduate.
- Professors. The professors at AU are amazing! They want nothing but the best for you. They are great resources so get to know them. The one thing I wished I had done while at AU was to spend more time getting to know my professors. Not only will they help you with the coursework but they are more than happy to help you outside of that, as well. My friend Ross graduated a year ago but was looking for an internship his senior year. He stopped by one of his professor’s offices and asked if she knew of any places in DC that might offer internships in his particular field (forensic accounting). She recommended that he apply to one internship. Ross sent his cover letter and resume, secured an interview, and got the internship. Then before Ross graduated, the same firm offered him a full time job. So Ross now has a job because he had an internship which he got because he talked to one of his professors. So learn from Ross and talk to your professors! You never know what might result of that conversation.
General College Advice I’ve Learned From My Time at AU:
- Have fun! After you graduate from college, you’ll be out in the real world. Scary thought! So make sure you have fun while in college – whether that is cheering on the school’s basketball team or enjoying late night conversations with your friends or landing an exciting internship or anything else. Enjoy your time in college.
- Make friends! At least for me, I’ve met nearly all of my best friends here at AU. The friends you meet – in your classes, in your residence hall, at your internship, or in a club – will be your best friends. Remember, it is likely that you may not know anyone when arriving at school, and the same is likely true for many of your peers, so you have nothing to lose. Be open to making new friends!
- Get to know your professors! Professors teach because they love teaching. Not only are they there to teach, they are there as a resource for you. Ask them questions. Ask them to write a letter of recommendation or serve as a reference. Visit them during their office hours. Professors are willing to help you find the right graduate program, find the right job, and find the right internship. Just do not be afraid to ask.
- Get involved! Find a club (or two or three…) to be involved with on campus. Don’t just go to their meetings and events. Make friends with the other members (see #2 above). Take a leadership role in the organization your sophomore, junior, and senior years. Important note: don’t over-commit yourself. In college, there are so many different opportunities and organizations. Certainly, don’t limit yourself but just know that you can’t be sufficiently involved in 20 different organizations.
- Find out who you are! College may be the time of great discovery. You will be away from home (possibly, for the first time). You will meet new and different people. You will take new and different types of course. Allow yourself the chance to explore, academically and professionally. Find your passion. What classes are you genuinely excited to go to? What problems do you want to tackle in your professional career? What makes you happy? Yes, college is about the education you receive but it is also about realizing who you are.
So last fall, there was a LivingSocial deal to go skydiving near DC. The way the LivingSocial deal worked was that I would buy a voucher for half the price of a jump. The voucher, though, is worth the full price of a jump for a whole year. After that, only the paid value remains. I brought the idea of going skydiving up to some of my friends as a joke but it quickly turned into reality. We ended up buying the LivingSocial deal!
We did not want to jump until the weather got nice so we waited until this second semester to plan a day. After finding a day that worked with all of our schedules, this past Sunday – April 28, we called and made our reservation. On the morning of April 28, I had finally mentally prepared myself to go skydiving. Unfortunately, that morning, I found out that our jump had been canceled because of the weather. I was angry and frustrated. I was ready to jump. I had rented a ZipCar for the day so that I could drive out to the skydiving place since it was an hour or so away from campus. I knew I had to use the ZipCar since I had already paid for it so I searched for something else to do…
I decided that I could go to Mount Vernon instead. Mount Vernon is only about a half hour from DC and I had never been before. While the folks I was going skydiving with decided to study for finals instead, I called up my roommate who is a history major and was eager to join me on my trip to Mount Vernon. We drove down the GW Parkway to Mount Vernon and got there about 3 hours before they closed so we wouldn’t have a lot of time there – meaning we would need to come back. We bought an annual pass (this way we force ourselves to come back and it pays for itself in two visits), toured Washington’s mansion, saw Washington’s tomb, saw the estates’s animals including goats and pigs, and spent a little bit of time in the museum. It was definitely a lot of fun! The house was beautiful. One of the rooms was under renovation so I can’t wait to go back and see what it looks like. And George had an excellent view of the Potomac River from his back porch! I can’t wait to go back to see the rest of the property – the wharf, gardens, hike the forest trail, spend more time in the museums and education center, and buy a birthday present for my Dad from the gift shop =) (my Dad loves early American history).
Here’s some pictures of Mount Vernon:
On our way driving back into the city, my roommate saw a bald eagle out the car window! We stopped at the grocery store before I returned the ZipCar and resumed studying for my finals! Though, I didn’t get to go skydiving, I had a blast at Mount Vernon. I will be rescheduling my skydiving trip and finding another time to return to Mount Vernon.
Here at AU, finals are quickly approaching, and the AU National Residence Hall Honorary decided to bring trained therapy dogs to campus to provide stress relief for students!
Dogs really are great to help you relax and even cope with depression or tragedy. You may have read recently about therapy dogs being brought to Boston after the Marathon bombings. All of the dogs that were at AU today are all trained to be pet and loved. Most of the owners said that they regularly visit hospitals and nursing homes.
Here are some other Ambassadors petting the dogs as well! And even though I don’t personally have any pets, I’ve always loved dogs and today was an amazing day to get to relax and have fun. I know I now feel relieved from some of my stress!
That’s me holding a particularly small and adorable dog! Not only did all of the students enjoy getting to pet, hold, and play with the dogs. The dogs seemed to enjoy all the attention as well! It was a good time all around, especially right before finals!
As a senior graduating in a little over two weeks, I have been thinking back on my four years at AU a lot (as all seniors do, right?) Coming up with this list was MUCH harder than I originally imagined, but I think these five activities / memories are what made my time at AU the fantastic experience that it was. Here we go!
1. Participate in an Alternative Break trip to South Africa
Nothing changed my college path as much as my trip to South Africa did. I decided to participate in this activity completely on a whim and it wound up being the most life-changing, eye-opening two weeks of my life. Alternative Breaks are a fantastic option for students who want to go abroad (either in addition to a semester abroad or maybe just to use the Alternative Break as their chance to go abroad). This trip allowed me to see how another society lived. It also ignited my passion for HIV/AIDS and Africa in general, leading to numerous volunteer and internship positions after.
2. Join the AU Ambassadors
That’s right, this group of students that you read blogs from. I joined the AU Ambassador program during my first few weeks at AU and it is safe to say that my AU experience would have been entirely different if it wasn’t for this program. I found some of my best friends through this program, I had a supportive, encourage community around me for four years (cue the tears, I’m going to miss everyone SO MUCH!), and by sharing my AU experiences with prospective students I never lost sight of why I truly love this University.
If you asked me where I wanted to attend college during my sophomore year of high school, I would have told you that I had no idea. I don’t think I even knew American existed at that point. I did, however, know that I wanted to study abroad in Australia. I finally got to the land down under during the first semester of my junior year and it really was everything I hoped it would be, and more. Leaving that country, and my friends that I made there, was probably the hardest thing I had to do during my four years of college. Studying abroad was absolutely the greatest five months of my life.
4. Discover DC
AU offers so many ways for new freshman to join a community right from the start (this aspect has REALLY grown since my freshman year, by the way). I decided to do the Discover DC program during my Welcome Week and I am so glad that I did. My current roommates, and many of my friends that I have experienced college with, came from that program. Either they were in my group or I met them through people who were in my group. The Welcome Week programs that AU offers, in addition to the University College program, is a phenomenal option for meeting new friends and starting off AU on the right foot!
There were times throughout college where I got a bit disheartened with DC. I associated the district with work, studying, and stress. The summer before my senior year I finally lived in DC as a true resident. Instead of having class, I held a job and internship during the week and left the weekends for exploring, having fun with my friends, and taking advantage of everything this city has to offer. In addition, a bunch of my friends from high school came to visit for July 4th! Living in DC over the summer allowed me to see, once again, why I loved this city and it was a great test to see if I actually could live here permanently (I could and will be, but only after traveling a bit more!)
So that’s it – the best five things I did during college! I still can’t believe how much I was able to get involved with and how quickly these past four years went. It really is insane how quickly time goes!
On Thursday, April 18, I attended a 2-month advanced screening of Disney Pixar’s Monsters University! Since I am a hardcore Pixar fan, I was so excited to hear that Disney was holding a preview of the film for college students in the DC Area at the ACM Loews Georgetown 14 cinemas. Since over 1000 students RSVP’d for the event, my friend Aliya and I arrived 2 hours early. Even then, there were already about 30 students in line to see it. There were security guards there and we were required to hand in all electronic devices to prevent any filming or pictures. It was a big deal! Only about 200 people were able to see it.
Before the film, the director (Dan Scanlon) appeared on the screen and discussed how the movie was about 99% complete; he explained that they were still editing sound and music. He also asked us not to reveal any plot details, so all I will say is that it was AMAZING! It is a prequel to Monsters Inc. and I cannot wait to see it when it is officially released in June! It was insanely entertaining and had a very touching ending.
Below is a photo of Aliya and I in front of the movie poster at the theatre. Per the occasion, I am wearing my Mike Wazowski shirt!
Last week I went down to the monuments with a large group of prospective students and some fellow ambassadors. Monumenting at night has always been one of my favorite activities to do in DC for two reasons. 1 – It is free and 2 – Walking around the monuments at night is surreal for a kid from Iowa like myself!
First, we introduced the prospective students to the metro system. This is always my favorite part because I can remember coming from a place with no public transportation and being just as confused as they are trying to figure out the fares! Once we made it to the monuments, we checked out the Washington Monument (under repairs), the World War II memorial, the Vietnam War memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.
My mom grew up on a small farm in rural Iowa, so she always makes me take photos of wherever I go in DC. I would include pictures with the post, but I am terrible at taking photos with my phone. Also, it was Cherry Blossom season so we got to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom as well! Remember that if you want to come to AU, make sure you go on an overnight so you can experience fun events like monumenting at night and so you have a chance to truly experience the awesome community at AU!
About a month ago, I went to a fascinating documentary for my Accounting class. The documentary, “Crossing the Line: Ordinary People Committing Extraordinary Crimes,” focused on forensic accounting. Forensic accounting is essentially when accountants become investigators.
This documentary looked into how normal individuals get caught up in white collar crime. The director of the documentary, Dr. Kelly Richmond, introduced the film and held a short question and answer session after the film. The film showed stories of individuals who got started embezzling money through complete accidents up to executives who covered their tracks by making thousands of data entries. It turns out that the majority of people that commit white collar crimes are just like you and me.
The screening was held at the Washington College of Law which is on the Red Shuttle Line about 5-10 minutes away from campus. The documentary was fascinating and showed that I can do more with my CPA (once I get it) than just work at an accounting firm. Many AU classes have fantastic opportunities like this that allow you to see your major in a different light!
This past Monday David Axelrod was on campus. That’s thanks to the Kennedy Political Union, a student government organization charged with bringing top-notch political speakers to campus.
For those who don’t know, David Axelrod was a top political adviser to Presdient Bill Clinton and a campaign adviser to then-Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. Many credit him as being a mastermind behind the “Obama machine.”
Axelrod spoke about his life and education at the University of Chicago in Illinois. He started out as a journalist working for newspapers in Chicago. One would assume he became frustrated with the political process and became a political consultant. He told his story about becoming involved with people like former Governor Rod Blagojevich and President Obama. Axelrod said his theory has always been that there are two types of people involved in politics: ‘Those that want to be something and those that want to do something.’ He wanted to work for the people that wanted to do something. “If I have to tell you why you should run for political office, you shouldn’t run for office.”
Axelrod spoke mostly about healthcare and working with President Obama and Congress on getting it passed. He used this example to show how he believes President Obama to really be a politician that wants to do something.
I had the pleasure of meeting David Axelrod at the reception after the speech. There are some pictures from the event below.
When my boyfriend graduated from American a year ago, there was one thing I was looking forward to: never having to watch him play rugby again. Don’t get me wrong! It’s a really interesting sport. I like it even better than football! I just have a hard time watching him get tackled by 200-something pound ruggers without any protective equipment. In all of my excitement, there was just one thing I was forgetting…
The alumni match.
Every year, the team invites former players out for a “friendly” match followed by a barbecue. Some of the alumni who turned up for this year’s game graduated from AU before I was even born. (One man was from the class of ’79!) Because of this, I thought it would be a nice, sportsmanlike game of touch-rugby. Boy was I wrong! This was good old fashioned, tackle everyone rugby.
Much to my surprise, the alumni held their own. They were actually in the lead for the majority of the game. In the final minutes, the current AU players tied the score and won in overtime.
Regardless, I was really glad I went to cheer on the team. I was really close with some of the boys while Dave was on the team, and it was nice to see them again. I also got to hear stories about what AU was like, “back in the day” from some wonderful alumni. Since I’ll be graduating soon, it’s nice to know that there are lots of ways to maintain the AU connection after I’ve gotten my diploma. I don’t expect to be seen on the rugby pitch anytime soon, but who knows…? Maybe I’ll start group of AU Ambassador Alumni?
Most people are under the assumption that by your senior year, you can fill your schedule with random electives like yoga and pottery. While that may be true for some people (although, I don’t know any…), all of my classes are going towards my major- even though it’s my last semester. One of the classes I love is “BIO 496- The Biology of Birds.” It’s a “topics” course, which means that a professor designs a special course on a topic he or she is passionate about, and teaches it for a semester. The topics change from semester to semester, but it’s always a great way to mix up your schedule.
Biology of Birds is taught by one of my favorite biology professors- Dr. Tudge. He’s a really funny guy. Plus he’s from Australia and he wears Hawaiian print shirts every day! Great, huh? Dr. Tudge is an extreme bird lover. He literally plans family vacations around bird migrations. I’ve never seen somebody get so excited over birds before! But his enthusiasm is contagious, and I’m learning a lot in his class.
Like most science classes, this one is very hands-on. Instead of purchasing a regular textbook for the course, we had to buy binoculars and a bird guide. And while we were learning about the muscles of a bird- he brought in four rotisserie chickens from the grocery store for us to “dissect.” (They were fully cooked, so once we correctly identified the muscle, we got to eat it. Yum!)
This past weekend, we went birdwatching out at the McKee-Bescher Wildlife Management Area. It’s a wildlife preserve about 30 minutes from campus. The weather here in DC is finally starting to get nice, so it was nice to spend some time outdoors. We saw all sorts of birds on the trip, and gots some experience identifying them in the field. (It’s not as easy as it sounds- trust me!) We saw herons, ospreys, turkey vultures, tree swallows, and even a red-headed woodpecker. Dr. Tudge was especially excited about the red-headed woodpecker. Apparently, it’s only the 3rd time he’s seen one in the DC area in twelve years!
While I don’t think I’ll become an avid birdwatcher after taking this class, I’m always looking for an excuse to get outdoors. I’ve enjoyed learning a little more about the birds I see around me on campus, and I can impress my friends by saying, “Hey, that’s a catbird,” or “I think I hear a blue jay.”
Here are a few photos from our weekend trip: