” I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” – Jack Kerouac, Author of On the Road
Hello everybody! Happy July! Wow, seven months into 2020. I hope I’m not the only one whose perception of time has been scattered over these past few months.
I know this is a travel blog, but today’s post kind of fits the travel theme because the subject of this post- my college- has students from all over the world (More on that later!) and it’s about NYC, so this post is going under the NYC Diaries category on this blog. And maybe this post will just give you some info about myself and my college past, something that I didn’t really talk about here amid my American destination posts 🙂
So…I hit a life milestone! On Monday, June 8, I graduated Baruch College with a B.A. in journalism and a minor in art history. In a world where COVID-19 didn’t exist, we would have had a graduation ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and would have went to a restaurant to celebrate. Last month, we had a virtual ceremony at 9:30 a.m. I gathered with my family in the living room as the site went live. CUNY’s 8th Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez and Baruch College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein gave a speech. There was a performance by Blue Notes, Baruch’s a capella group (I actually did a news story about them for my Podcasting and Radio News class back in February! I was lucky enough to sit in at one of their Thursday rehearsals and record them singing Bishop Brigg’s River and John Legend’s All of Me. I got to interview the director and someone from the basses group). The Class of 2020 valedictorian spoke, and then special sites for the college’s three schools went live. My journalism major is under the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences. There was a video where faculty members gave their congratulations, and I recognized a journalism and English professor. Underneath the video, there were slides with the names of each graduating senior. You had the option of customizing your slide with a photo and message. I customized my slide!
Baruch College is a senior college under the City University of New York, a public university system that is the largest one in the United States and has over 300,000 students. The City University of New York, or CUNY, advertises itself as the greatest urban university in the world. There are college campuses in every New York City borough, ranging from four-year colleges to community colleges.
My school is in the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, Gotham- whatever you want to call the amazing city that is Manhattan! Baruch College offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s programs. The college is split into three schools: The Zicklin School of Business, Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, and the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. Named after financier Bernard M. Baruch, (He was born in South Carolina and met with President Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt!) Baruch is CUNY’s crown jewel of business. The business school is the largest one in the United States, and has the highest enrollment of students out of the three Baruch schools. I met a ton of finance, accounting, and marketing students in my classes and campus organizations! They are our nation’s future analysts. But the Weissman and Marxe School are just as good. My journalism professors included people that were also teaching at Columbia University, a lawyer, a published author and screenwriter, and former NY Times reporters. My favorite art history professor received a Fulbright and published a book about World War I.
One of the biggest things that drew me to Baruch was its diversity. Baruch consistently ranks as one of the most diverse colleges in the nation. There are over 18,000 students that speak over 100 languages and come from over 50 countries. It was so nice to talk to international students. I loved hearing Spanish, French, and Russian in the hallways and the cafeteria. Each individual class had people with roots in different places in the world. Greeks, Romanians, Albanians, Poles, Austrians, Dominicans, Ukrainians, Guyanese, Bangladeshis…the list goes on. Hearing about their culture, history, and artistic heritage expanded my wanderlust list and made me look into new places I would love to travel to.
Another thing that drew me to Baruch was the vibrancy of New York City. I know every city college says that the “city is your campus” and it’s true. I am always inspired by my environment, and New York City is no exception. I love the sense of urgency in the morning and seeing everyone get to their destinations. When I walked into Baruch’s NVC building and was surrounded by tons of students, I got the feeling that I was part of something greater. All the students were aiming for a college degree and wanted to leave their mark on the world. It felt very motivating.
Also, just being in arguably the greatest city on Earth was so much fun. One of my favorite things about college was leaving class or the library in the evening and seeing all the skyscrapers lit up at night. It made you think, Wow. This is real. I get to be here four days a week. It was fun to see the Empire State Building from a class in the Lex building. It was nice to read in the NVC building and see the Chrysler Building through the windows.
Baruch College is located on Lexington Avenue at 24th Street. That part of Midtown East in NYC became my little world. I would go to the library before or after class to study and use my printing credits. I met with my art history professor in the Starbucks across campus in December. I tried the raspberry latte at Black Press Coffee before my Podcasting and Radio News class. I ate at Shake Shack with my friend after midterms season was over. I went to Flying Tiger Copenhagen with another friend after our American Short Story class, got a pastry at Maman with her another week, and had Chipotle with her another week. I went to the Union Square Barnes and Noble for Christmas gifts, and tried Le Pain Quotidien with a friend after Nineteenth-Century European Art. I journaled in Gregory’s Coffee, and did readings for my Survey of English Literature class over a cup of coffee and cannoli at Eataly (Can you tell I’m a foodie?) I did an Environmental Reporting assignment in Madison Square Park. I tried the coffee at Fika and celebrated the end of a school week at Paris Baguette with a friend over a pastry.
If I could describe this commuter college experience in one word, it would be busy. Commuting, attending classes, studying, campus involvement, and internships kept me occupied. My classes remained my top priority. My major classes included Multimedia Reporting, Media and Law Ethics, Environmental Reporting, Television Field Reporting, Journalistic Criticism and Reviewing, and more. It was an unconventional class setting, as we would pick up our cameras and tripods and leave the classroom to go work outside on the city streets. Simply attending the lecture, paying attention, and taking notes was not enough. Outside of class hours, there were interviews, transcribing, editing, and proofreading that needed to be done.
We learned about DSLR cameras, Adobe Suite, and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. We learned how to report on different beats: local news, environment, and the arts. For my art history minor, I took classes such as Museum and Gallery Studies, Nineteenth-Century European Art, and Asian Art. We had class meet-ups at the Met, MoMA, the Rubin Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Museum. For the Arts in New York City class, we went to Lincoln Center, the New York Public Library, Museum of the City of New York, and the High Line. New York City really was my campus, and I came to love the city even more. I think my favorite classes of all time were Sudden Fiction and Nineteenth-Century European Art. Sudden Fiction was a creative writing focused class that taught us how to write short stories, and it was awesome to learn about French and English art in that European Art class. I also took French for the Weissman language requirement, and I took English electives for the journalism major. My favorite English class was the American Short Story where we read short stories by authors such as Jack London and Kate Chopin.
Another major part of my college experience was club life. The advice to join a club in college-especially if you’re at a commuter school- may sound generic, but it’s actually one of the most valuable pieces of college advice you’ll ever receive. At our 2016 Convocation Day, I remember President Wallerstein saying to join two clubs: one related to your major, and one just for fun. I wrote for the newspaper and later became the Science and Technology Editor, and then joined Humans of Baruch. Everyone was welcome to attend club hours events, and I found it so much fun. Thursdays were my absolute favorite days of the week because of the club hours that took place from 12:40 to 2:20 p.m. I painted canvases at the Art Club and Our B.I.A.S events and drank hot chocolate/made an ornament at a Lexicon Yearbook holiday event in December. Free food at these events were always a plus ;). 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays meant more events too. I loved the Polaroid booths at the student government events on Thursday nights. One of my favorite memories from this semester before it got cut short was spending a Thursday evening at a Valentine’s Day themed student government event with my friend. We painted our own canvases and made our own lip balm (I made cherry and vanilla!) And we went for seconds when we saw that there were pasta leftovers. Honestly, the amount of free stuff that I’ve accumulated in my room from college events is mind-blowing. I have t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, notepads, pens, a bracelet, mug, keychains, and tote bags from campus organizations/events. I think I can drink out of a new water bottle for 14 days straight. College students really love getting free food and a t-shirt huh.
And then there were the more educational events, like going to the Baruch Performing Arts Center to see the Alexander String Quartet perform and to see staged recordings of plays. Or having a lawyer from The New Yorker visit my Media and Law Ethics class or a book reviewer from the Times visit my Journalistic Criticism and Reviewing class.
Another major highlight was scoring my dream internship with New York State’s tourism company. All those I LOVE NY signs you see throughout the Empire State? I got to intern for them on the 37th floor of their Midtown Manhattan office, the same building that Governor Cuomo visits at least once a month from Albany. I got to combine my love of travel and writing. I already loved New York State because of its diverse landscape- We have the Adirondack Mountains, the Finger Lakes, the beaches of Long Island, and New York City- but getting to talk about New York every day made me love the state even more. I got to improve my fact-checking, proofreading, and writing skills. It was this travel-related experience that inspired me to start a travel blog in July 2019.
Okay, one last thing- I did a Danish Institute for Study Abroad summer session in Copenhagen back in June 2018, and this was also a major part of my college career. I was thinking about study abroad back in September 2017, and went to the fall study abroad fair at the Baruch gym. I was immediately drawn to the College of Staten Island’s Danish Institute of Study Abroad summer sessions because Session 2 participants traveled to the country they were discussing in class. I enrolled in Cross-Cultural Communication, and we learned about Northern Ireland’s the Troubles. In just three weeks, I was able to visit Denmark, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Sweden.
But I won’t miss Baruch’s crowded elevators, crowded hallways after classes would end at noon, the decrepit elevators in the old building, and some of the broken-down bathrooms…
Overall, Baruch taught me so many things and I am currently not the same person I was walking into the NVC building back in August 2016. I was taught how to be a better writer, photographer, and video reporter. And there were other things too. I learned about the human body in Biology and about the Patagonia region in Latino Studies. But college was also a mental learning experience, and I was taught some vital lessons in the self-growth department. Here are the biggest lessons I learned in college.
MY FOUR BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM COLLEGE
1. Find your passions and pursue them
Before college, I knew that I loved writing, wanted to write as much as possible, and declare a journalism major. College fueled that, and exposed me to a whole new world. Writing haikus for freshman year English class inspired me to write up some new things. I now love taking photos wherever I go, and I love making videos. I see what makes me happy and realize I need to incorporate these things into my life. Going forward, I am realizing my interests and how I want to spend my time. I will continue to blog, make videos, write, and maybe even paint something from time to time.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
Okay, so this statement has been extremely popular on social media and I’m sure you’ve heard of this statement before. But I’m going to repeat it again, because the statement is especially resonating for college students: Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
People at Baruch are passionate, drive, and diverse. It can get competitive. You truly have to work for that A, and there are certain terms like how only an X amount of people in an accounting class can get A’s.
One student has had internships at name-brand companies and had leadership positions in clubs. Another student is fluent in four languages and has a successful side hustle. But you can’t compare your path to someone else’s path. Everyone’s accomplishments and interests are worth celebrating. Don’t forget that.
3. Time spent recharging is never wasted/Know your stress management tools
I learned that I was a Type A person in the A.P. Psychology class that I took during my senior year of high school. I knew I loved making daily to-do lists so I can hold myself accountable and stay productive. My first skill on my Gallups StrengthsFinder assessment was discipline.
The hustle and bustle of NYC can be motivating. But being constantly on the grind can also be toxic. To be honest, I didn’t even realize what burnout was before college, and I wasn’t even familiar with the term. I felt uninspired and unmotivated to do my schoolwork one day in May 2018. I was confused, and didn’t know why I couldn’t focus that day. I then realized that this tired feeling was the result of burnout. It was the end of the semester slump because it was that “crunch-time” period when finals were approaching and you just wanted the semester to end.
That was a lesson for me. I learned that to avoid complete burnout, you should be able to recognize when you’re beginning to experience it and take action right away so you can feel mentally refreshed. College taught me stress management skills. If it’s over halfway through the semester and you sense you’re getting overwhelmed because it’s officially “that point in the semester,” do one small thing that brings you joy. That can be rewatching an episode of your favorite TV show or calling a friend. Identifying your stressor and then doing a daily minor action like putting your essential oil diffuser on in your room keeps the worry at bay and can stop a full fatigued experience toward the end of the semester.
I know the self-care industry has exploded in recent years, so don’t be afraid to take a look at some self-care techniques! Journal, color, or take a bath.
4. It’s okay to try new things!!
Taking classes outside of my major and academic interests was super worthwhile because it introduced me to new perspectives and diversified my class experience. And then there were also the little things- I never even tried yoga before going to college. I started taking free yoga classes through Baruch’s Office of Health and Wellness my spring semester of freshman year. And I tried meditation for the first time ever in college. It gave me focus and clarity, especially during this past semester.
And now….here are some graduation photos!
GOING FORWARD/THE FUTURE
I painted a sunset and a sailboat on my graduation cap with a quote by Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. I first saw this quote two years ago on Pinterest, and loved it. I wrote it down in my planner. I think it’s pretty relevant now.
I also love the following quote by author Jack Kerouac (I wrote it at the top of this post): “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” My current mindset is a combination of these two quotes. Going forward, I’m excited for post-grad life and the transition into the real world. But I can no longer take comfort in my courses. But I am relieved that exams, essays, and assignments are behind me. I feel so free! I’m currently job searching for an entry-level position.
I’m looking forward to this new chapter. The future may be a little uncertain in these times, but I have to make the best of the situation. Once again, I just feel so free. I’m excited that this new chapter will have a little more time for novel writing, blogging, and video-making (I self-published a book of poems recently! You can get the paperback from Amazon here). But, of course, I’ll never forget my time at Baruch.
Speaking of blogging, my one year blog anniversary is coming up! I created Expeditions and Happiness in late July of 2019. I owe a big thank you to everyone who has read my posts and took the time to check out this website. I couldn’t have done it without you! Keep your eyes open for future posts.
If you’ve read this far, thank you and thanks for sticking around.
Until next time! Stay kind and stay generous.