Monday, January 30, 2012

My Description of New York City

Last year over Spring Break, the choir department at my school took a trip to New York City, New York. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. It was my first time to New York and I loved every minute of it. I have been to big cities before, such as Chicago and San Francisco, but I had never been any place like New York City.

The Lights: Wow. That is all I can say. People are right when they say that New York City is the city that never sleeps. Time Square was constantly lit up, whether it was noon or midnight, it was always as bright as ever. The flashing signs, the people lit up, the car lights, everything. There was never a dull moment and you were always being distracted by something. Our first night in New York, we went to the Empire State Building. We didn’t go during the day either; we went at night and boy, I am sure glad we did! That is when the lights were really bright and the whole city seemed to be lit up. There were no dark buildings, and there appeared to be nowhere where it was just silent. The lights were bright and some were colorful. It was amazing to get to see “the city that never sleeps.” When I think of New York City, the first things I think of are all of the lights.

The People: There are many different types of people everywhere you go. If you compare the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast or the North to the South, you will see that the people are completely different. However, in New York the people are all different, and are all living in one city together. I remember one experience that was unforgettable was when I was in an elevator with my friend and there were about seven other strangers in there with us. We were the only ones speaking English; everyone around us was speaking a different language. I felt almost like I was a foreigner in my own country. Even when walking down the street, you look around and there were people of different kinds. Many of different ethnicities, some with an interesting style, some with purple and pink hair, some with “rags” on, and some with the fanciest clothing you have ever seen! There were no two people that looked alike. There was always someone to look at. I don’t always like to “people watch” but here, it was what was the most entertaining!

The Atmosphere: Being from Iowa, this was a whole new experience for me. Because I have been raised in an average sized town, I don’t always like big cities. But, New York City was just amazing. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. There was always something to see, something to do, somewhere to go; I was never bored. The honking horns, the constant talking of some sort, the flashing lights, were all amazing. New York City would be such a fun place to live and to work in!

New York City is like a little country within its self. It is a place like I have never seen or been to before, and I have been a lot of places in my life. It is somewhere safe, and somewhere you can go and never get lost without anything to do. It is somewhere I will never forget, and I hope to go back and visit again soon!

My Addiction

Addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
We all have our addictions; some are more serious than others and some are mild addictions. Some people are addicted to drugs, some people are addicted to technology and some people are addicted to a certain type of food. What is my addiction? I am addicted to my chapstick.
When I say that I am addicted to my chapstick, I don’t mean in a way that will affect my life forever, or that will cause me trauma. In my case, addiction means LOVE. I do not leave the house without my chapstick. I do not share my chapstick; my chapstick is MY chapstick. I use my chapstick twenty four/seven. You can ask all of my friends, I never go anywhere without my chapstick by my side.
I can’t really recall when my love of chapstick first came about. The first kind I really got hooked on was Carmex. This was probably one of the worst decisions I could have made when it came to chapstick. As I have been told many times, there is something in Carmex that can cause your lips to become addicted to it, and when this happens, your lips are never the same. Something Carmex uses in it is detrimental to your lips’ health. It seems like it is working, but what it really does is eat away at the outer layer of skin on your lips, and when this happens you just want to use the Carmex even more because your lips appear to be “dry.” After I realized what I was doing to my lips, I had to start weaning myself off of Carmex and I had to switch brands.
These days I use Blistex. I love any flavor of Blistex. So far the Raspberry and Mint kinds are my favorite. I love the way it feels on my lips and how soft my lips seem to feel. My Blistex is always in my pocket, ready to go when I need it. I do not know what I would do without my Blistex! It is almost like it is my best friend; it is always there for me when I need it and it never lets me down!
Sometimes it is hard for me to admit that I am indeed addicted to my chapstick, but it is the truth. I do not know what I would do without it. I am astonished at how some people don’t even use chapstick. How are their lips not completely dry?! I feel as though my overuse of Carmex before permanently damaged my lips and therefore I will have to use chapstick for the rest of my life. But you know what? I am perfectly okay with that because I LOVE MY CHAPSTICK and I AM ADDICTED TO IT.

Monday, January 23, 2012

St. Olaf vs. Augustana (Part Two)

-          St. Olaf: I was VERY impressed with the dorms at St. Olaf. My guide told me that St. Olaf is a residential campus and about 95-99% of the students live on campus in the dorms. The dorms were very nice and were quite large. All of the dorms had free Wi-Fi connection. (This was a very good thing!) The dorms were all nice too; they were pretty much equal distance from the cafeteria and classroom buildings.
-          Augustana: I was semi-impressed with the rooming situations here. When you are a freshman and sophomore, you live in the dorms. The dorms were nice, but not as nice as St. Olaf’s. Only one of maybe five dorms had Wi-Fi. For the rest of them, you were expected to bring your own modem. The only other place with free Wi-Fi was the library. One thing I did not like at all about Augustana was that when you are a junior, they send you to live in campus “houses.” You room with three or four of your friends and live in a house, on campus- but off campus, if that makes sense. It wasn’t as close to all of the on-campus activities, but it was still on the outskirts of campus. And then, when you are a senior, you are expected to find your own house or apartment near campus and live there. You no longer have to pay room and board, but you have to pay rent each month. This did not sound appealing to me because I believe that when you are in college, you should get the full experience by living on campus. However, I am only seventeen, I might be ready to get off campus, but as of right now, I can’t really judge how I will feel in four years.
-          St. Olaf: St. Olaf is very well known for their academic programs. Many kids excel there and are very smart. I am very interested in studying abroad, and St. Olaf has one of the best study abroad programs. Approximately 80% of their students study abroad while at St. Olaf. This was very appealing because it is something I really want to do. They also have a calendar with a January term that makes it easier to study off campus for just one month rather than a full semester.
-          Augustana: Augustana’s academic programs are very impressive. Most of their students stay at Augustana all four years and succeed after they graduated. However, unlike St. Olaf, Augustana does not offer as great of study abroad program. Only about 30-40% of their students choose to study abroad. This number isn’t bad, but it was almost too low for my liking. With more interest and their new Augie Choice (a scholarship for study abroad programs) this number has the potential to go up.  The academic calendar at Augustana is three trimesters with four classes per term which give you a lot of variety, but may make it harder to study abroad because it would have to be for a whole trimester.
Both of these colleges are excellent. There are going to be things I like and dislike about every college I visit and these were only two. By visiting a few more schools, I will be able to find what I want and what I don’t want in a college.  

St. Olaf vs. Augustana (Part One)

Being a junior in high school, I have also become a prospective student for many colleges. I have taken three on-campus college visits in the past six months. Many would say that I am starting early, but the earlier you start, the more you get to see and the easier it will be to make your decision. As I have mentioned in past blogs, I have been raised to believe I should go to a four-year, private, Liberal Arts College, in the Midwest. It is all I have really ever known and it is all I want. Recently I took a visit at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL and at St. Olaf in Northfield, MN. Here were my thoughts regarding these two visits:


-          St. Olaf: I went during August and it was in full bloom with all of the trees. The campus was located on top of a hill and was set apart from the town. There were many trees and it was very green. I loved that the campus had sort of an “older” feel to it. The buildings had been renovated and it had a very elegant, but homely vibe.

-          Augustana: I went to Augustana during the winter. It was chilly, but nothing unbearable. The campus was also surrounded by trees and the buildings were older as well. However, they were renovated, but weren’t as nice on the inside at St. Olaf. I was told that they would be doing more renovations within the next year. The campus was located on a hill, but also had classrooms and dorms not located on the hill. That meant that there were a lot of stairs. However, this made it feel like the campus was bigger and more spread out which was nice; everyone wouldn’t always be right on top of each other.


-          St. Olaf: St. Olaf is known throughout the nation for having one of the best college cafeterias. This was definitely true from what I could see. Their dining area was huge; they do this to make everyone feel as if they are a community and it makes it feel like you are all together, which you are. This cafeteria looked amazing and smelled amazing. The student I asked had nothing bad to say about it! The cafeteria also looked like it had a great selection of food on a daily basis.

-          Augustana: The cafeteria was not impressive at all. I would say it was about the size of my high school cafeteria. The food did not look as appetizing and didn’t smell as good. It also appeared to be about the same quality of food as we get in high school, which is really not saying a lot. The dining area was also very small. Because it was so small, they have two cafeterias on campus. This was kind of off-putting because I didn’t get the feeling that the students all wanted to be together, like I did at St. Olaf.

How to: Live with Divorce

Divorce hits many families every year; we all have our own way of dealing with it. Here is my advice on to how to make due with a sometimes unfortunate situation: 
Don’t choose sides; stay neutral. Growing up, you may feel more of a bond with one parent or the other. Many people would say, “I am a mama’s boy/girl” or “I am a daddy’s girl/boy”. This is normal, but if something like divorce comes into your family, you cannot play favorites or chose sides. This only causes more tension within the family. When kids do this, they make one parent feel bad and all it does is put a strain on your relationships. Sometimes, it may seem like a divorce is one person’s fault. Wrong. There are two people to every marriage, and it is ultimately a joint effort. You can’t place the blame on one person or the other. The best way to be happy within a divorced family is to stay neutral. Don’t play one parent against the other, or make yourself choose between the two of them. They are both your parents, and they deserve to receive the joy you most likely bring them.
It is not all about you. Like every kid, I sometimes think the world revolves around me. Who doesn’t think this way, let’s be honest? But there comes a time when you need to wake up and realize that there are more people around you, than just you. When divorce occurs, the most important thing to remember is that this is not happening to just you. You need to remember that there are more people than just yourself being affected by this sudden change within your family. You also need to remember that your parents are doing what is best for themselves as well as what is best for you in the long run, even though it may not seem like that at the time. If it seems like something is wrong or bothering one or both of your parents, you need to remember that they are going through the same adjustments you are, but they just have to deal with it differently. It isn’t anything you did or didn’t do, so sometimes the best thing to do is to live your life and not let how they feel affect you. Divorce is hard, not only for the kid, but for the parents as well.
Don’t let it define who you are. Divorce may feel like the end of the world, but take it from me, it isn’t. It is just a little bump in the road. You can’t just stop living your life. You need to hold your head up and move on. This may seem hard to do, but it is what will help you get past it all. Don’t let a decision your parents made affect what you do or stop you from doing what you love to do. If I would have stopped caring and doing everything I loved doing when my parents got divorced, I would not be the same person I am today. You have to live your life to the fullest and not let anything get you down.
My parents got divorced when I was three; I have had to live with divorce for fourteen years now. By remembering all of these things, I have been able to live the best life I could imagine. Although it may seem hard at the time, and maybe for a little while after, just remember to always look for the silver lining, and know that it will be there waiting for you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Student-Teacher Affairs

It has always been in the news. It may not be prevalent all of the time, but it is there. Those offenders and victims try to keep it a secret; however it always comes out one way or another. We all have crushes, but what makes those crushes turn into something more; something illegal?

Recently, a male teacher from a nearby town was arrested after turning himself in for having an affair with one of his students. I didn’t really put much thought into it. I just thought, “Oh here we go again…” However, I was immediately drawn in once I heard the name: Brett Messenger. I knew I had heard this name before, and I knew exactly where I had. Brett Messenger was my student teacher for band while I was in middle school. We all loved him! He was really nice to everyone and always had something funny to say. Needless to say, I was like any other young, teenage girl: I had a crush on Mr. Messenger. He was so cute, and when you would flirt, he would subtly flirt back! However, I just thought that was his personality. I never thought he would go farther than just flirting with any of his students. After I graduated from middle school, I lost touch with him. However, the other day when I was watching the news, and the student-teacher affair came on mentioning his name, I was shocked. I immediately looked more into the story.

(Thanks to KCRG and KGAN) Brett Messenger graduated when he was done doing my student teaching and got a full time job at a high school about an hour away. (He is still young; only about 26.) After only spending a year at that school, he resigned (for “no reason”) and moved to a local school in my town. He was liked by many and many people thought he was a great band teacher. I can second this, because I had him as a teacher! However, after news of a student-teacher affair was reported to the police department, Brett Messenger turned himself in. He was immediately jailed and bond was posted for him. He was released on bail, but must appear in court. Since he admitted to it, as did the student, he will face up to five years in prison.

I still cannot put into words how shocked I really am. I never thought that his flirtatious nature would turn into a serious issue. Even though it has been 5 years since I last saw him, I still feel affected by this. The fact that someone I know will most likely be in prison for having an affair with a STUDENT! I don’t understand the need for teachers to break their code of conduct and for students to do this. Having an affair is very risky for everyone. It looks bad on the school, the teacher, the student, as well as anyone else involved. There are no excuses for having an affair with someone who is your teacher or your student. They are either your authoritative figure or you are the authoritative figure for a reason.