I swear I had the best intentions of writing an entry every week or every month, but I guess being extremely busy with student-affairs related activities is better than having too much spare time to blog about such activities. Anyway, I feel as though I was just writing my grad school essays and asking past professors and current supervisors for recommendation letters, and now I am sitting here in Corvallis at OSU about to head into my second year of the CSSA program.
Prior to moving to Corvallis I had expectations and ideas of what it would look and feel like to be a graduate student in the College Student Services Administration program. After a year, I’m still figuring it all out, but I can easily say that it is nothing like I had imagined (for one, it rains far more than I ever thought could be possible).
Before going into the program, I knew that I would overextend and overinvolve myself on campus. I was told many, MANY times to work on my work-volunteer-life balance, but during my first year of CSSA I couldn’t really seem to find a healthy balance between everything. I wanted to attend every event, become a part of every committee, become the best GTA in the history of GTAs, and get a 4.0 – all while trying to volunteer 10-15 hours a week and love on my foster cat, Bitsy.
I soon found out that there are always going to be amazing opportunities on campus and it isn’t humanly possible to attend every event, conference, meeting, or social opportunity. You have to pick and choose what is most important to you; being a great student and a GTA were (and are) really important to me, but eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting off of campus and out of Corvallis several times a term are also really important. I became Courtney Nikolay, PeaceJam GTA/Student, instead of Courtney Nikolay, human who enjoys volunteering who also happens to be a CSSA grad student and the PeaceJam GTA.
This summer has been really wonderful for my mental health. I originally planned to dabble in student affairs this summer with an internship at Willamette University and then I was going to go to Thailand for a month to relax before fall term began. NOW out of nowhere I have three internships, an on-campus job, I’m writing several articles a week for The Daily Barometer (the OSU student newspaper), and will be taking a five-credit service-learning course next month…..OH, and I just got a 2-month old puppy named Cooper. However, the difference between last year and this summer is that I’m managing my time in a healthy and balanced way by getting outside, going on walks, cooking every now and then, and really, REALLY enjoying everything that I’m doing.
My internship at Willamette University is in the Office of Community Service Learning and I ADORE the work that I’m doing and the people with whom I’m working. I’m so happy that I chose to do this internship because not only is it so interesting and fun, it’s in a completely different environment that I’m used to. During my undergrad, I went to the University of Minnesota, where over 55,000 students attend, and I worked at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where over 24,000 students attend. Now, at OSU, where about 25,000 students attend, I hadn’t felt the small, private school feel. It’s amazing, yet also amusing to me that I can go to a staff meeting on Tuesday morning and sit across from the Dean of Student Life, the Director of Student Activities, the Director of Multicultural Affairs, the Director of Recreational Sports, the Interim Director of Community Service Learning, and several department interns and student workers. To make this meeting happen at a large, public university, you’d have to schedule months and months in advance and do several doodle polls. At Willamette, the departments are typically run by one staff person and they wear several hats, which I LOVE.
I’m also interning with United Way and helping them plan the OSU Day of Caring, which is a large-scale service event for nearly 800 OSU students and Corvallis community members. You know those days when you’re at work and you are just having such a great time and the day just flies because you feel so good? My internships and projects that relate to service and civic engagement make me this happy. Some people don’t have the opportunity to ever really discover what they are meant to do and what they are best at, and I’m pretty lucky that I’m already so aware of what brings me joy in life and how my joy is able to help others through my commitment to service.
Finally, I have been chosen to serve on the Oregon Campus Compact Student Advisory Board next year. I get to work with other student leaders who are passionate about community service/volunteerism/service-learning and figure out ways to get students on all of our different campuses involved in their communities, whether tutoring at a local school, serving beverages at a local soup kitchen, or enrolling in a service-learning course. It’s pretty neat that I’ve been given this opportunity and I look forward to seeing what ideas we come up with throughout the year. OSU is definitely a place where students are interested in volunteering and faculty members are curious about service-learning, but the value of civic engagement and service just aren’t as deeply threaded into the culture as it could be; thus, I’d like to help change that for as long as I’m here!
I’ve blabbed on a bit too long. Time to go play with my puppy!
My new form of work/life balance!
Thanks for reading!