Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day: Photos For Reflection




and a video:

Monday, May 19, 2014

College: The Scariest Thing Since High School

Whether you're going 'away' to school or not, here are some things you might be worrying about as you get ready to begin college:

You're going to worry about the money it takes to go to college, and you're right: it's a big deal. Just be prepared to have no money for the next few years while you're a student. Learn to appreciate any offers of free food, and the joys of shopping at thrift shops. You can live comfortably on a lot less money than you might think, and the good thing is, almost all your fellow students are in the same boat.

Be aware of your loans and what they're going to be like once you graduate. Remember, with loans offered through FAFSA, you will have six months after you graduate to start repayment.

I'm going to be homesick.
Maybe, but that's why you take a first-year experience class or an orientation class. You need to meet a few other students who are also new. Join some kind of a club, or several, even if you don't go to  every single meeting. You'll meet people that way, and it will make you feel less alone.

Keep this in mind: you are by far not the only one who's missing home.

You might think in order to get past your homesickness, going home on weekends will help. It won't. It just reinforces the idea that you don't belong on campus. Stay on campus, and go home rarely. There are always activities going on, whether on campus or off. You'll never be independent if you keep going home.

We also advise you come to an understanding with a boyfriend or girlfriend if you are parting ways: a true friend will want you to be happy and spread your wings. You don't have to abandon this person as a friend, just so the two of you realize that now things are going to be different.

This is important: Give it time! By the end of your first semester, you'll be fine.

I won't like being on my own.
You can be on your own as much or as little as you prefer. This is where your new friends come into play: find a good spot to study together, or something you like to do outside together. Conversely, if you study better alone, then do it that way. But spend time with new friends in order to keep them.

You may make a great contact with someone who has been at your campus for a semester, or a year, already. This person can tell you how he or she managed and show you that, with some time, it got better.

You'll probably find that others on campus are more than willing to give you directions or explain things to you. Just ask.

What if I don't like my roommate?
Start with a positive attitude: This is going to be great! I can't wait to find out about this person. Give him or her a chance. Be patient, be fair, talk out any concerns you have. You'll probably find your roommate has some of the same worries as you do. Many times, college roommates become best friends and stay best friends long after graduation.

Be aware that if you have serious problems in your dorm you can always speak to your resident advisor.

I don't know how to do any basic housekeeping or basic cooking.
Now's the time to have somebody show you what you don't know. See how you change sheets on a bed, do laundry, clean a bathroom, or operate the vacuum. Here are some great tips for cleaning/washing/what if your phone gets wet:

                                      ...but you know where everything is, right?

I'm afraid of the 'Freshman Fifteen.'
The reason a lot of people gain some weight at first is that they're eating junk food, and more of it, than they have before. You may be part of a meal plan on campus, but you may want to cook something yourself from time to time. Limit how often you eat pizza or something else that's not the greatest (see calorie and fat counts in the Triogenius blog of March 24). Here are some ideas for food you can make in your dorm:  and

Worst case scenario: you have to work off those extra few pounds before they turn into 15 or more. Get outside and burn some calories-walk, run, play a game, or check out your on-campus facilities. Workout equipment and gyms are many times available for students, possibly even in your dorm building.

I'm scared of professors. Aren't they going to be strict and give bad grades? What if they're really old and don't understand young people?
Don't be afraid of people you never met! Most instructors have office hours when you can stop by and speak with them.

Yes, it is possible that you'll have one or two that are difficult. I'm willing to bet that not every teacher you have ever had, has been outstanding. Do your best, but don't be afraid of them.

As far as age is concerned, remember this: if you have an instructor who seems old to you, remember how many students he has taught: this instructor is likely still teaching because he loves it. At the same time, be aware that in many cases, a masters degree is all that's required for college level instructing, thus your instructor could conceivably be 25 years old or younger, you never know.

I'm afraid I'll be 'disconnected' from my religion, which is important to me.
Your college community will likely have many religious affiliations available to you, including on-campus groups. Look for signs or ask other students where they go. Possibly your 'home' place of worship can refer you to another in the vicinity of your college.

I'm afraid I will not be safe on campus.
You are, for all intents and purposes, an adult. You now have to be capable of taking care of yourself. This means being sensible: always have a friend walk around campus with you, especially at night. If no one is available, go to campus security and ask for an escort. Tell someone where you're going, and when you'll be back. Get to know a potential date before being alone with him or her. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, leave. Be careful if you choose to drink or use.  Know where the on-campus emergency phones are, and if you feel you need to, use them. Here are some basics:

I'm afraid there will be too much stress on me.
Your job as a college student is (1) to do well in your classes and (2) enjoy your entire experience--becoming more independent, having new experiences, learning about other people. If you do your best in both instances, that's all you can do. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to be the best at Every. Single. Thing. You. Do. Remember, it's about the journey as well as the destination.

I don't know what to choose as a major. I'm afraid this will mess everything up.
You are wise not to choose too early. In your first year of college, notice what subjects really interest you the most-is there something that really gets you fired up, something you might make into your career? You may need to visit your advising center and take a career choice test to help you decide. Meanwhile, you can take basics that you'll need no matter what your major is. Be aware, too, that people change their majors all the time---if you need to change yours, it will be OK.


This should be a fun time, a time of discovery, learning, and new experiences. Remember how quickly your high school years went by. Don't be afraid: you can do this, and do it well. Enjoy!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Job Interviews: What The Interviewer Wants You To Know

Today we're speaking with a person who interviews people and makes decisions as to who will be hired and who will not. Pay attention to the things that can make or break your good impression:

Interview 101 - a view from the other side of the table

Preparing for the Interview

·         Just prior to your interview, reread the job description and your application.  You’ll want to be prepared to speak to your application and to the job, and it might be hard to recall what you wrote if some time has passed between when you applied and when you are being interviewed

·         Read about the company beforehand- look online, ask around, visit the building if appropriate.

·         If you are interviewing for more than one job (first of all, that’s great!), be sure you are in tune with which job it is that you are interviewing for

·         Remember that just because you meet the job requirements and have an interview, this does not mean that you have the job.  Your application says you meet the requirements.  Your interview should let the company know that you are qualified for the job.

·         Update your resume to fit the job you are interviewing for.  It’s very easy to tell when you have not done so.  Interviewers like to at least think that their job is the only one you really want.

·         Think about why it is that you want the job you are interviewing for.  This will likely be one of the first questions you are asked, in some form. 

·         Browse the internet for interview questions, and have a friend ask you a series of questions.  It’s much easier to formulate the words silently in your head than it is to spit them out.  Practice.

·         Think of some examples of times you learned something, times you had to step out of your comfort zone, times you had to stand up for someone, and/or times you tried something new.  Examples are the best way to show your personality and strengths at an interview.  There is a mantra that past performance predicts future performance.  You never know what questions you will be asked, but having some examples of work/school/home life experiences will give you the tools you need to successfully answer many questions. 

·         Also, think about at least 2 or 3 areas in which you know you could use some improvement.  This is the most dreaded question:  “what is your biggest weakness.”  It may be worded differently at the interview, but you will likely be asked about it.  Be prepared to say something (see below, under The Dreaded Questions).

Arriving for the interview

·         Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early. Be SURE you have the right day and time-there is nothing wrong with calling ahead to confirm when you are to be there. I have actually had people show up on the wrong day and still expect to be interviewed. When possible, I have done the interview, but that lack of consideration for my schedule made up my mind for me:  I would not be hiring the person.
·         Be sure to give yourself plenty of time in case you get lost, have to wait in line anywhere, or need to stop at the restroom.

·         If you arrive more than about 15 minutes early, find a lounge to wait in or relax in your car for a few extra minutes.  While it is often a deal-breaker in the interviewer’s mind if you are late, arriving incredibly early is not good either.  It may seem like you are proving your punctuality, but it puts the interviewer in an uncomfortable position.  Remember that your interview is scheduled within someone else’s day, so that person is planning on meeting with you at your scheduled time.  Your interviewer likely has other tasks/meetings/duties before and after you, and possibly other interviews

Introduce yourself

·         Be aware of everyone you interact with when you arrive at the place of business, including other team members and front desk personnel.  Be friendly and courteous.  Instead of saying to the front desk person “I’m looking for Ms. Smith,” you might say something like “Hi, my name is John.  I have an interview with Ms. Smith at 1:00.  Could you tell me where I should wait for her?”  Often the first people you encounter will relay their interactions with you to your interviewer.  Keep that in mind.

·         When you meet the person or persons who will be interviewing you, clearly introduce yourself and shake his or her hand.  Make eye contact and smile.  Thank the person for their time. 

·         If you have brought a resume, and hopefully you have, now is the time to give it to the interviewer(s).  Don’t wait until the end of the interview, as you want to speak to your experiences/resume during the interview).

The Dreaded Questions

Ø  “What is your biggest weakness?”

§  Do not say that you do not have one or that you cannot think of one.  I warned you it was coming!

§  Put a positive spin on your answer.  Example:  “Something I have really been working on is…”  This proves that a.)  you know you are not perfect, and b.)  you are aware of your shortcomings and are actively trying to make them better. 

§  Use past reviews, manager or teacher/instructor feedback, or even comments from friends and family to create your “weakness” list.  Mention that you have considered this feedback in your response.  “My current manager told me at my most recent review that I...”  This shows that you are open to feedback and want to improve.

§  If the question centers around work and you do not have much (or any) work experience, perhaps that is your weakness.  “Since I am new to this profession, my biggest weakness is that I don’t have a lot of experience.  However, I am a fast learner, I am excited for this opportunity, I enjoy new challenges, etc, etc…”  You get the idea.

Ø  “Tell me about a conflict you have had with a coworker.”

§  Again, do not say that you have never had a conflict with a coworker.  If you haven’t had a job before or can’t think of a work related example, think about a situation with a classmate, teammate, or even a situation with a friend.  We have all had disagreements with coworkers/classmates/teammates.  If you tell me you have never disagreed with someone, I think you are lying. 

§  Put a positive spin on this one too.  “While it was stressful at the time, I learned…” or “After that experience, my relationship with that person was improved because…”  Often times, conflicts are good opportunities for learning about ourselves and others, and for learning new lessons.  It’s not a bad thing to have conflicts.  The interviewer is looking for examples of how you will handle inevitable conflicts/disagreements on your new job.

Ø  If you get really stuck on a question, ask to come back to that question.  “I’d like to think about this one a little more.  Can we come back to it later?”  A pause to think of your answer is perfectly acceptable, but if you are getting uncomfortable with how long it is taking you to find an answer, this can help you move on.  Just be sure not to skip past more than one or two questions during the interview.

Another common question at interview might be: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Your prospective employer wants to know if you intend to stay in this new position for a while. If you say you plan to take this job for 2 or 3 years and then probably move to Ohio, the employer isn't likely to bother hiring you. Neither is saying that it's close to home so it's an easy commute, or you really like the benefit package, or you're anxious to get some paid vacation. While probably true, this is not what a potential employer wants to hear from you. He or she wants to hear that you're genuinely interested and eager to get started.

 Also, considering the 'five year' question, if you say you're only doing this to 'have a job..any job" that isn't going to bode well for you, either. You can mention an aspiration to advance within the company, or some personal goal you might have, or you can say "Hopefully still doing this job, because I think it's such a good match for me."

Did you know that in some instances, employers invest over $40,000 over a period of three to four years in order to have an employee properly trained for his/her job? They are considering that kind of commitment on their part before they offer a position to someone
Be honest with yourself about the 'mechanics' of the job before you apply: Are you really OK with working different shifts, if that is in the job description and/or interview? Do you have a good idea of the salary range, and is it OK with you? Are you ready to work part time or fulltime without conflicts at home? Do you have care lined up for your children? Because the job is as listed, and you can't expect the employer to change it to suit your needs.  Some people have asked at interview and also after receiving a job offer, if they might change the hours to be worked or the pay level. The answer is no, and you wasted a fair amount of resources  by interviewing at all. If the job doesn't suit you, don't even apply.

You do not need an expensive outfit to make a good impression. You do, however, need to be dressed appropriately. A clean, crisp dress shirt and pants and a decent pair of shoes will be adequate for either men or women, although if you have a sport jacket, this does add a polish to your look. Men should wear ties.  Women should wear something modest with closed-toe shoes (this is not a place to wear something you'd wear to a wedding). Keep in mind where you would be working; if it will involve a uniform (such as in the health field), then for the interview you will wear business style clothes. Make sure your nails are clean and your hair is neat. Remember, you really only need one 'interview outfit.' The next people who interview you, won't know you've worn the same thing five times. And, fair or not, body piercings and tattoos may at the least be a distraction for a job interviewer. Remove piercing jewelry and cover tattoos if possible.

 Take some advice from someone who's seen it all: Make the best of your interview.

What would you like to ask the interviewer? If you have questions, please let your advisor know.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Study Abroad: Is It Your Thing?

Have you thought about studying abroad as part of your college experience?

Why would study in another country be of value to you?

  • It's the best way to learn a new language
  • Obviously, you're traveling to a new country....but you may travel to nearby countries as well
  • You will learn how people live in that country--their culture, their way of life
  • You gain new skills out of necessity and become self-sufficient
  • You will make new friends
  • You will learn about yourself
  • Travel abroad can enhance your resume and make employers want to hire you
  • It increases the value of your degree
           Using any of these cities as a starting point, look at the number of other places you can visit.

You will see how other countries are different and the same by living in them:
  • How does their money work?
  • How do they measure things---most European countries use the metric system.  
  • What does gasoline cost, and how do they travel?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • What is 'acceptable' behavior? Do they have rules of etiquette different than we are used to? (in some countries, you shouldn't touch someone as you speak to him, even just a tap on the arm)
  • How does their government work?
  • What is school like there?
  • Do they have different names for things, such as in England, chips are French fries, Crisps are what they call chips.
  • What are the foods eaten in that country?
  • What expressions do they use, and which do we use that they don't understand (like "deer in the headlights")
  • Once you've made some friends, they will want to know the same things about you and about America.

Study abroad is not only for language majors. It can include countries where English is commonly spoken, like:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
                                       University College, County Cork, Ireland

  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
                                                        Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Sweden
                                                            Swedish coastline                  
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Belize
  • Ghana
  • Malta
  • Cyprus
Many of these countries do have native languages (for example, Ireland has a history of Celtic language and customs), and it's always a good idea to know some key phrases in those languages; you'll probably learn it once you are living there.

What it's like:

Here are links to some blogs written by students who are  learning abroad:

Top 10 things to know about Denmark--a video blog from a Macalester student:

Also a student in Denmark: he's from Iowa and attends Yale:

Studying in Australia:

Various travel tips from a student:


How to investigate? Be sure you speak with someone in a college with a good reputation---don't just look up 'Study Abroad' online, because you may find a site that is not trustworthy. Check with your college to see what sort of program they have. Here are some to check out:

Mankato State University:

North Dakota State University: