Auld Lang Syne August 11th, 2008
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the last few posts about everyone’s first impressions of Corvallis and the anticipation for graduate school to start. As my departure date from Scotland draws ever nearer, I must remind myself that if I have to leave beautiful bonnie Scotland, at least I get to return to beautiful Corvallis and the wonderful people there. I miss my cohort, the farmers’ market, long bike rides through the Willamette Valley (Newcomers to Oregon, to save yourself the embarrassment I experienced when I first arrived in Corvallis, it’s pronounced Will-am-it, not Willa-met…!), and watching the leaves change colors as I walk across the quad. Corvallis is a worthy consultation prize for leaving behind this unforgettable place.
My summer internship has been – agh, words fail me – just brilliant. For the first half of the summer, I served as an advisor to the students studying abroad for the summer in the palace, planned different house field trips and outings around Scotland, provided administrative assistance to the director, managed community issues, assisted with the organization of house duties, catering and facilities management, responded to crises and conflicts, and really, in sum, just made sure the students were making the most of their experience abroad. I went with the students on house trips to the Highlands, a ceilidh, museums, fly fishing at a loch, pubs to watch the Euro 2008 final, wanders around the city and estate, and more. As I observed the students go through the many stages of cultural acclimation and adjustment, I provided support and hopefully they would agree, a willingness to listen.
The students left at the end of July, and I was very sad to see them go. They were a wonderful group of students who made me feel very lucky and excited to be entering into this profession. They also restored in me the confidence that I just might be good at what I do. I feel from working with them so closely, I have developed my own voice, style and – dare I say – philosophy for working with students, especially when it comes to addressing community needs, responding to developmental issues, and challenging them into new territory. I feel rejuvenated and ready to return to my internship at the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and my assistantship at Career Services in the fall.
After the students left, my internship responsibilities transitioned to more facilitaties and conference administration. The director of the study abroad program went on holiday for two weeks at the end of July, leaving me in charge to oversee two large group conferences (with parties of 120 and 80 people, respectively). This meant I was solely in charge of room assignments, overseeing catering (luckily for them we contracted out so I did not have to cook for these people, though I did wash dishes and cleaned up after the meals!), supervising support staff (housekeeping, caretaker, maintenance staff), facilities set-up, customer service, and providing assistance to the conference coordinators… I did it all and boy, was I exhausted when those 10 days were over!
Tiring as it was, it was also great leadership experience. The director had entrusted to me to take care of the house and ensure the conference guests had a great stay, as conference groups provide a lot of necessary revenue for our program. Therefore, I had to make sure the guests enjoyed themselves but not at the expense of the palace’s wellbeing (I don’t think the Duke would appreciate red wine stains on the carpet or mud on the tartan staircase) – not an easy feat (especially because one of the conference groups were a group of 120 economics professors – it was a little awkward reminding them that they could not consume food outside of the dining room or prop the front door open). I also had to make decisions in times of extreme stress and crises, which tested my ability to make sound judgments with either very little information or very little time to deliberate, knowing I would be the one who had to justify my reasoning if something went awry while the director was gone.
After the large conferences were over and the director returned, my responsibilities shifted to organizing guest stays and working on a few projects. My first project is to create bulletin boards for the program. I decided to create a progressive and interactive series of boards that will be changed throughout the term, as new cultural adjustment issues arise. Another project is to create invoices for the different conference groups who have stayed at the house and meet with my supervisor, the director, to learn about how she manages program finances, which I think will be a good introduction before I take Budget & Finance. I am also hoping to create a few administrative systems that will help with the program organization and facilities management.
Like I mentioned before, I will be returning to Corvallis and graduate school with a different perspective towards the work I do, student interactions, community issues, and for my own sake, life balance. My internship is a live-in position, much like the work I did as a Resident Advisor in undergrad. At the start of the internship I felt myself slipping back to old habits of not creating enough balance for my own well-being and spirit. It’s easy to get carried away and allow yourself to be at the beck and call of the students in the house. However, I soon started to plan little outings for myself in the early evenings and on weekends. From a breezy bike ride around the 820-acre estate to a weekend away in the Highlands, I feel I have become 110% better at making time for me, something I have struggled with for years upon years. At the mid-program review in May of last year, my committee member Don warned, half-jokingly, that if I don’t find balance for myself over the next year, he would not allow me to graduate!
In fact, I think the only problem to look out for when I return is staying in one place! I have picked up the habit of jumping on a train to a new place any time I can. This summer I have been all over the Highlands, the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Lewis, Marseilles, Madrid, Lisbon, Oxford, London, and Alnwick, and this week I will be heading off for a week in Belgium and the Netherlands! As exciting as starting another year of graduate school is, it will be hard to watch my passport collect dust. However, I mustn’t forget that graduate school itself is an adventure and like all you are learning now, Corvallis can be a very exciting place with many hidden surprises, waiting with baited breath to be unearthed and discovered by us all.