Portsmouth, NH | Durham, NH
Academia, Uncategorized

Who needs scholarship anyway?

If you are or have been in college, there’s a decent chance that you owe a lot of money to the U.S government, or whichever magical entity has loaned you the funds needed to pay your wildly expensive tuition. There is a simple solution to the I’m amassing debt up to my eyeballs every semester and I’m not even guaranteed a job after this anxiety that seizes me every time I look at my online bill statement, and that is scholarship. Free money. Getting paid for good grades or being left-handed or being a first-generation college student or writing some kickass application essay.

Sure, my parents bugged me to apply for one occasionally. Just fill out some forms, they said. Write a few essays, they said. But before I left, I still lived in a youthfully simple wonderland where financial stresses were this distant enigma that only parents dealt with. I hadn’t a clue how mortgages or insurance worked, (I still don’t know how those things work) and college bills seemed the intangible part of the experience. I couldn’t bring myself to worry about them.

Well, now I’m a sophomore and taking out loans with unspeakable interest rates, and financial woes have become all too real. In the midst of copious applications, I’ve come to one conclusion. This is the worst.

The very nature of scholarship applications breed discontent with oneself. They start off benign: What’s your name? Your birthday? Where do you go to school? Then they get demanding. What was your high school GPA? What clubs and sports were you involved in? Are you a leader, ARE YOU A LEADER?? SHOW US ALL OF YOUR AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS.

Sometimes I think I’m a fairly cool person. Then I’m forced to list everything that’s cool about me in the format of a 3-by-5 table on a Word document, and I feel significantly less impressive. Is that really all I do? Why aren’t I president of more things? I could’ve sworn I was a member of more things.

Now, let me tell you a little story. Once upon this January, I was in the middle of an intense application for a scholarship to study in London for 5 weeks and write. If the reward hadn’t been so fantastic, I never would have thrown myself into the intensive process that was this application. I downloaded a word document filled with endless things to be signed and boxes to be filled in, along with two page-long spaces in which to put my uniquely inspirational and beautifully-crafted essays. This was going to be a stretch. When I decided to apply, I was directed to a woman who worked in the International Fellowships office and she graciously helped me revise the junk that I sent to her in an attempt to make my application more competitive. She had a kind smile and never seemed to tire of my disorganized drafts.
Things were going well, until one night at about 2 in the morning when I realized I forgot to write an entire essay. My heart sank and my mind immediately wandered to thoughts of giving up. I mean, what are the chances I’ll actually get this? Two essays? That’s flirting with inhumanity. But romantic thoughts of penning my fabulous endeavors in London, (probably sipping tea with crumpets, maybe sporting a monocle, who knows) pushed me continue. I made the somber vow not to sleep until I finished the second essay. I hunched over my laptop, glared enviously at my sleeping roommates, and set to work.

Either 45 minutes or 3 hours later I had a pretty decent draft on the page. What started as confused ramblings somehow organized themselves into a semi-coherent piece with a point and everything. Exhausted but triumphant, I hit save and sent an email to my mentor. I fell asleep blissfully unaware of a grave mistake.

Like many great writers, (this is something I tell myself) I struggle with beginning things. I feel the need to wait until the most perfectly ingenious sentence comes to me straight from the mouth of God, and seeing as this never happens, I become irate with frustration when the words elude me. In a fit of 2-a.m-writer’s-block-irritation, I typed the first thing that came to mind to serve as a temporary introduction. I punched the caps lock key and wrote, “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I CAN NEVER START THESE THINGS.” I giggled as my fingers tapped the keys. Aren’t I amusing, I’ll change this later. Since, apparently, I can be a massive freaking idiot, I never edited out my little joke of an introduction. I didn’t notice until I received an edited version from my mentor the next day. The profanity was highlighted and the attached comment read “Consider an alternative intro”. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, so I rolled around on the floor for a bit emitting strange noises. I didn’t get that scholarship, but I think it was just because I’m not president of enough things.

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Sweaty

We Jumped Out of a Plane

I have a lot of things I’d like to say about college, like how university brochure pictures blatantly lie or how much I love it when professors accidentally walk into things in the middle of their lectures. But all of that wondrous observation will have to wait, because I jumped out of a plane yesterday morning.

(In case you didn’t quite absorb that the first time, let me reiterate: I jumped out of a plane yesterday morning.)

Skydiving has always been one of those distant, vaguely interesting activities that other people do, like going to Red Sox games or changing their bedsheets on a regular basis. I would’ve signed up if someone asked me to go with them, but I probably wouldn’t have inspired an army of friends to jump out of the sky with me of my own accord. When I was twelve or thirteen, my aunt or my friend or my friend’s dog had a birthday or something, and all of my prepubescent friends and our parents got to go indoor skydiving, which was a rather strange experience. They gave me a purple jumpsuit and a pair of plastic goggles that cut into my skin, guided me into this giant cylindrical wind-chamber thing, and shot enough air at my face that my body actually lifted off the ground. (My cheeks also lifted off my face, a flattering phenomenon which can still be admired in the framed picture hanging in my parents’ basement.) It was fun, but to be honest, I spent more time posing for the picture guy outside the chamber than I did actually paying attention to the levitation. (I’m not proud.)

Fast forward a few years, and it’s a warm summer night. Julie and I are sitting on my couch, watching either Tangled or The Blair Witch Project (I can’t quite remember which), and we get an excited phone call from our friend Meg.

(Meg, in a nutshell: Environmental Engineering major, continually frustrated/entertained by the liberal-artsy nature of my homework assignments, owner of a vast collection of pullover sweatshirts in varying colors and styles, the kind of friend who’ll let you know when you’ve got a booger and no one else has the courage to point it out. She lived on our floor last year, and would always stop by to chat on her way to the bathroom. The bathroom plays a surprisingly large role in forming college friendships.)

“Guys, there’s a skydiving Groupon! We could save like a hundred dollars! But we’d have to buy now, probably within the next half hour because Groupons go really fast. Are you in?” Meg said on speakerphone. We’d all talked about the possibility of jumping out of a plane together, and I’d contributed to the conversation with the kind of oh yeah, that’d be fun that some people might reserve for discussing glow-pin bowling. Skydiving had seemed a faraway, logistically difficult adventure, and I kept thinking of my earlier indifference to indoor levitation. But now skydiving, actual skydiving was here, knocking on our doorstep. Maybe this was fate.

(And if not fate, then it was Groupon, which has some pretty magical qualities itself.)

Julie and I looked at each other.

“Uh, fuck yeah, we’re in.”

*****

We pulled into the skydive airport just before seven yesterday morning, oohing and ahhing at the sun rising over haze-filled fields. The air was crisp and cool; it smelled like golden leaves and bonfire smoke.

The afternoon before we had waited on cloud delay for several hours, preparing to jump, but the clouds stayed frustratingly low. We watched the training video. (Set in the 90s, a man with a beard shows how tandem-jumping equipment works while strapping himself to an attractive young woman. The body position demonstrations are jazzercise-sexual.) We signed the all-inclusive waiver. (We literally cannot fit all the ways you could die from what you are about to do on one sheet of paper, but YOU CANNOT SUE US.) We tried to tell each other a few riddles to pass the time. (No one could guess the answers right, everyone got frustrated, brief bathroom break to cool down.) We went home, slept sporadically, and were back on site before some of the instructors had even arrived.

We were ready to jump out of a fricken plane.

The instructors were talking about the awesome party they had thrown the night before, sipping their coffees with bloodshot eyes and scratchy voices. This was slightly disconcerting. (Brief mental image of being strapped to a hungover man as he vomits from 11,000 feet. Not exactly optimal.) But when they realized that we were ready and waiting, the instructors jumped into action.

Jumpsuits, helmets that made us look like The Coneheads from 1980’s SNL, and those beloved plastic goggles– we hopped, adjusted, zipped, and smiled like lunatics. Within twenty minutes of our arrival on site, Meg, Julie and I were piled into a plane with instructors strapped to our backs, a nimble woman with a camera attached to her head (to accompany Meg, who had splurged for professional photography), and a pilot we were trusting to not drop us in the middle of the Atlantic.

They opened the door at 11,200 feet. We couldn’t hear each other over the roaring wind, but we all knew what we would’ve said. Let’s fucking do this, ladies. If I had jumped first, Julie had been planning on waiting until the very last second before I fell from the plane, then shouting, “MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR GOD!”

But I was last to jump, so that plan didn’t work out. Meg and her dude were up first.

One, two, three. And just like that, Meg was out of the plane.

Julie and her dude were up next, with my dude (who was very tall and calm and decidedly not hungover) and me waddling up close behind. I looked out the door for the first time, all the way down at the sprawling Earth below. There were checkered green fields and shimmering ponds and blue skies extending to infinity in every direction. Over the roar of the wind, I could just barely hear Julie’s dude counting down: ONE, TWO, THREE! And they fell gracefully into the open air, flipping once before drifting under the plane and out of my range of vision.

Then, finally, it was my turn. Jumping out of an airplane. This is actually happening.

It pains me that there’s no actual proof of this (as I jumped last and couldn’t find it in my college student budget to invest in a professional photography package), but we did a barrel roll into a back flip coming out of that airplane. My dude had suggested it when Meg told him that I sometimes like to do daredevil-y things, and I was just like, you know what yeah, I could go for some barrel rolling into a back flip out of an airplane today. So when we fell out of the door into blissful oblivion, we started out sideways. My dude counted to three, our feet left the ground, and the plane drifted away. Then there was only sky, then land, then sky, then land again, and a strong cold wind lifting my cheeks off of my face.

I fell from the sky for 5 minutes, or maybe several years. We could see everything, the entire world it felt like, from Boston to Mt. Monadnock to Nashua to the White Mountains. My dude did some roller coaster-esque maneuvers on the way down, and I thought of nothing but the blue at my fingertips and the green below my feet.

Upon landing, I ran to Julie and Meg, we grouped hugged (hurray for survival! hurry for not saddling our families with unmanageable medical bills because they couldn’t sue!) and walked towards our parents looking something like a scene out of Top Gun.

So you may be asking, what does all of this have to do with college? Well, to be honest, not a whole lot– I kind of just wanted to tell you guys about the time we jumped out of a plane. But crazy opportunities are everywhere my friends, especially if you’re lucky enough to be in college. You don’t necessarily have to jump out of an airplane to see how far the world extends, but don’t forget to leap out of your comfort zone every once in a while. You might just find you like the view better from the outside.

(See what I did there? Pun and a metaphor. You’re welcome.)

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1
College

The Library: Naps, Snacks, and an Unsightly Rash

Your university library is no doubt a magically cozy haven of quiet studiousness . Maybe you call it the lib. Or perhaps the ‘brary. You might even refer to it as that overheated hellhole that you avoid like the plague until the week of finals, when you camp out there hunching over textbooks with your neck cramping. Either way, it’s a difficult place to avoid for four years of schooling, so we thought we’d provide a list of fun activities you can try (besides writing essays and scrolling though Facebook) to break the monotony. Try this!

Nap on comfortable couches and chairs. Truly commit: set an alarm, lie down, and pass out. Why walk all the way back to your dorm to sleep when there’s a perfectly good quiet room to snooze in?
Awaken from said nap overheated and confused, but overall triumphant. Ignore lingering glances from neighbors. You look great when you fist wake up.
Eat pretzels and hummus.
Regret eating pretzels and hummus. (Have I always been such a loud chewer?)
Buy oversized chocolate chip cookies from the cafe.
Lament over your lack of dining dollars with which to buy oversized chocolate chip cookies from the cafe.
Make weird faces at your friend in the quiet room.
Make weird faces at strangers in the quiet room.
 Wander aisles aimlessly, pretending to look for a book.
Check compulsively about whether or not your music can be heard through your headphones.
Loudly rip a piece of paper from your notebook in the tense silence of a quiet room. When someone looks at you judgingly, shush them harshly. SHHH.
Chug an entire bottle of water, then go to the bathroom every 20 minutes for the next two hours. (You won’t regret this one, I swear.)

One piece of advice I have for you is this: don’t classically condition yourself to depend on certain snacks while you work. Last fall, my mom was awesome enough to buy me a rather large box of individually packaged fruit snacks. (My mom’s been asking for a shout out on here. I don’t think it occurred to her that only about twelve people will probably read this. Hi, Mom.) Each time I went to the library, I’d bring a pack of fruit snacks to reward myself for being such a studious student as to study for hours on end at the library. I’m about to read four chapters from a book called Functional Anatomy of Speech, Language, and Hearing? Go me! Take a bag of fruit snacks, I’ve earned it. Hell, maybe two. A few weeks later, my stash ran dry, and I was at a loss. What motivation did I have to drag my laptop and books across campus to work if I wouldn’t be able to eat 12-15 tiny, chewy strawberries? Surely my grades would plummet! They didn’t, however, and I survived a short withdrawal period (increased irritability, drops in blood sugar, an unsightly rash.) And I somehow managed to keep trekking back to my familiar corner of the ‘brary.

   Just some light reading                             

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College

College, Not Death

The week before my freshman year in college, I felt a lot like I was getting ready to die. It was a melodramatic thought, and of course I knew I wasn’t actually dying; I was just moving to college. And college was going to be awesome. It was going to be magical. It was going to be so much better than high school. It seemed like everyone I talked to was reading from the same script. When do you move in? That’s great. Are you excited? Of course you are. Best days of your life, kid.

But my childhood bedroom looked so bare! No clothes in the drawers, no papers on my desk. My favorite ski poster (LIFE IS MORE THAN A SPECTATOR SPORT!) was rolled and packed up in one of the bins my mom had bought at Target. It was like I’d already gone. And my friends– every day brought a new teary goodbye, a tight hug that ended with see you at Thanksgiving! but felt like see you on the other side. My mom and my sister couldn’t walk past my emptied bedroom without giving me a quick hug. We’re really gonna miss you, you know. I wrote delightfully angsty poems, I listened to weepy indie music. The whole shebang had an undeniable feeling of impending doom.

But on a sunny Friday in late August, I moved in to my first college dorm room, and– this is important– I didn’t die. I unpacked my posters, introduced myself to my roommates, and spent the next few months trying to 1) refrain from quoting offensive comedians to easily offended people, and 2) figure out what to do with my hands to make me appear approachable yet mysterious. (On my hips? Relaxed by my sides? One on a hip one relaxed? So many options.) Everything was new and exciting and surreal and sometimes a little bit lonely, but it was so college. I played frisbee on the quad and wore my Dave Matthews Band t-shirt. I also started hanging out with this girl from my high school named Julie. She was cool, I guess.

By October, the loneliness had faded, and my mom only called me every other day. By Christmas break, I didn’t even want to leave campus. Julie and I made some awesome friends, we joined a few clubs, and we figured out which foods in the dining hall make you extra gassy. (Broccoli. Always broccoli.) We did our homework and made a lot of fart jokes.

Now we’re sophomores, and I am happy to say that this year’s move-in day did absolutely nothing to remind me of my own funeral. The campus was familiar and beckoning! My friends were within walking distance again! My mom jumped for joy as she remembered how low the grocery bill dips when I leave the house! It was a celebration for everyone, really.

So college is pretty awesome. Adults everywhere are still constantly telling us that these are the best days of our lives, we need to enjoy it while we can. (I wish they’d stop telling us this because it’s really kind of depressing. Maybe I’ll win the lottery in a few decades and retirement will be the best days of my life. You never know.) But we do plan on enjoying college while we can, and telling you about it as we go along. Because I promise, it’s not all frisbee and kegs. (Well, it’s probably a lot more frisbee and kegs than you’d find anywhere else, but still, there’s a lot more to see here.) Whether you’re looking forward to going to college, currently in college, or wistfully looking back on those days of frat basement glory, this blog is totally for you. And if you’re not doing any of those things, you should still read our thoughts, because we’ll probably be making more fart jokes every now and again. (Seriously, who doesn’t love a good fart joke?)

We’ll be posting every Monday, so come on over and we’ll do our best to entertain you. Even if you’re not entertained in the least, maybe send this blog to your best friend or your Uncle Norman or that nerdy kid in your Biology class who mutters Harry Potter spells under his breath. There’s a good chance he and I would get along.

(Also, I’ve dabbled in this blogging business before; if you like yoga and cheesy jokes click here!)

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College

Welcome, all dear friends.

Whenever I’m struck dumb trying to find the right way to begin a piece of writing, which is every fucking time, I take comfort in the words of my old pal Ernest Hemingway. The marvelous old drunk once said, “the first draft of anything is shit.” At least, I read online somewhere, probably on some tumblr, that he said that. Keeping in mind that not everything I write has to be gorgeously profound takes a lot of the pressure off. But since this is the first time I’m offering up my writing for the general population of the internet to see, I’m experiencing some pretty killer nerves. My innermost thoughts are no longer tucked safely away in the “writing” folder on my desktop, and I am no longer the only living being who reads them. Suddenly the concepts of rejection and failure have become terrifyingly real, so I could use all reassurance from classic dead writers I can get. (Seamus Heaney, come tell me it’ll be okay.)

Despite the irrational feeling of risk, I’ve decided to throw myself at this blog thing, and by extension you, by reading  this. And I’d like to thank you for at least skimming the first of many attempts at witty ramblings that we will post about our lives in college. If you’re inspired to come back, you can enjoy countless musings such as, How much Netflix is too much Netflix, and, How crunchy can my snack be before it’s too loud to be eaten in the quiet room of the library? and, What do my posters say about me? Are the selections from the University sponsored poster sale too mainstream? If Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali’s faces are going to be all over everyone else’s walls, do I really want them on mine??

                And do not fret, there will other material to peruse that is not us frantically questioning the legitimacy of our every move. We will also be sharing (perhaps forcing upon you) the latest books, movies, and albums that have radically changed our lives, as we experience personal revolutions fairly often. When life gets boring, we like to delve into some new idea that challenges the very way we live and think and catapults us into existential uncertainty and mayhem. It’s a blast! And we’ll be passing that mayhem onto you, you lucky sons of bitches. Recently we, (and by “we” I mean Hann) have thrown ourselves into fabulous lifestyles of yoga and meditation, and just last year we decided to try out feminism. Because why not?

I’m Julie, by the way, and I hope, dear reader, that you will consider checking up on my roommate and I as we continue to post and satirize about these, the supposed “best days of our lives”. Before coming to school I always thought that “best overall” was a big promise to make about four year of school, but it’s 5 p.m. on this lovely Saturday and I’ve hardly left my bed. So these glory days can be rather glorious. Join us, won’t you?

 

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