Making the Tough Choices

To call this semester stressful would be an understatement. It has been a rough semester for me in many ways and it has forced me to make a couple hard choices that I did not want to make.

The first couple of weeks of my sophomore year started out pretty great! I was enjoying most of my classes, I was choreographing a dance for PAC’s Small Show and I was having a great time at dance team practices. Once I got my practicum placement for my education class, the stress levels started building. Long story short: I was assigned a driver but the time I was given wasn’t going to work with my class schedule and there were no times where both of us could get to practicum at the same time. I have 30 hours of practicum I need to complete for my class semester so I was stuck. I did everything I could do within my power to get the situation smoothed out but eventually I ran out of options. Thankfully, I got myself a new placement but I experienced many headaches and moments of anxiety before my situation got straightened out.

My classes this semester have had their fair share of highs and lows. I’m taking my science general education class this fall and it includes a lab. I like my professor but science is definitely not my best subject and my first test grade can prove that. Yes, I just admitted that I did not get a fantastic grade on my first chemistry test of the semester. I will also admit that Intermediate Latin has been kicking my butt in every way possible this fall because my professor gives us take home quizzes that are closed book, sometimes worth 80 points, and she doesn’t believe in partial credit (which is slowly killing me). I know I can’t be blaming my professors for my unsatisfactory grades but I wanted to make it known that my classes have contributed to my rough semester in more ways than one. I’m making some improvements though! My chemistry grade has improved since I took my second exam and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it continues to go up from here. I’m not sure about Latin, but I’m trying my best to participate as much as I can, be prepared with the homework, and I haven’t missed a class this semester.

I have experienced many moments of anxiety throughout the semester because of my grades, my practicum placement and surprising and unexpected issues in my residence hall. I know there are many people who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and I am not trying to compare my levels of anxiety to those individuals with a diagnosis.

Everything I shared so far brings me to the main point of this post: making the tough choices. A few weeks ago, I decided to put myself on “academic probation” on dance team while I worked on improving my grades in chemistry and Latin. This choice was a hard one to make and I went back and forth on it, but I decided that my grades need to come first. I was a cheerleader in high school and I knew how important the student part of “student-athlete” was to my parents, teachers, coaches and myself. I came to college to get my education, not to dance (but I’m very happy I still can dance at UMW!) so I needed to reevaluate how I would approach my academics for the rest of the fall before thinking about performances with dance team for the rest of the semester.

Last weekend I made the decision to end my season with dance team early, meaning that I am not performing with them at basketball games for the rest of the semester. I don’t want to be considered a quiter because I decided to put my grades first. While I feel like I let down my teammates by making the choice to end my season early, I feel that my decision was a smart and mature one to make. It certainly was not an easy choice for me to make and I hope that my teammates all understand where I am coming from. I am so thankful that the captains of dance team respected and understood my decision.

As an adult, I have to make decisions that I might not want to make. My parents can’t make all my life decisions for me. If there is one thing this semester has taught me, it’s that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and glittery things. There will be rainy days, dark clouds, and… gosh, I don’t know what I could say that is the opposite of glittery things. Uhh, glitter can actually be a pain to clean up off yourself, so I guess glitter stuck in your hairline for several weeks would work? (Does that even make sense?!?) ANYWAY, the point is that life isn’t always going to be easy and I need to face any problems head-on rather than running away from them.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for stopping by and reading!

The Collegiate Catholic Box

I am not being paid to write this post, nor am I receiving any portion of the sales of this box. Thank you to Liz and Allison from the Collegiate Catholic for partnering with me on this post! None of the links I share are affiliate links. 

Hello, everyone! It’s been a little while since I last posted, but classes have kept me very busy this semester! I’ll write an update on my sophomore year soon, but for now, I’m back with a new post! Subscription boxes are so much fun to receive in the mail, and there is a new one that just hit the market specifically for Catholic college students. When I heard about this box, I knew I had to see what it was about. Read on to see what I got in the first box of the Collegiate Catholic Subscription box and what my thoughts are on it! Thank you to the lovely ladies at the Collegiate Catholic, Liz and Allison, for reaching out to me on Instagram. I am so excited to be partnering with them for this post!

Before I launch into what I got in my box, I’m going to share a little bit about the mission of the Collegiate Catholic Box. The mission of the box is “to share the faith and to be a means of encouragement while supporting Catholic religious orders and artisans. The college years are a pivotal point in one’s life. It is our goal to cultivate their faith through prayerfully curated care packages and other Catholic goods.” The box is not monthly like most subscription boxes are. During the fall 2017 semester, the box will be shipped out twice before the team starts shipping out three times a semester after Christmas break. Each box will contain a devotional, a bunch of snacks and treats, Catholic items, a practical item for school, and Catholic art.

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I got my box in the mail at school a few weeks ago and I was so excited to pick it up from the post office on campus. I nearly ripped open the package when I got to my room (I’m glad I didn’t- Otherwise, there would have been blue paper stuffing all over my dorm room!) to see what I got inside.

At the top of the box sat a devotional book titled “Veritas” which means truth in Latin. Each page has a few questions to answer and think about with a Bible verse. I’m really looking forward to sitting down and diving into this devotional now that my schedule has calmed down!

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The next item was a print of St. Joan of Arc. This print is really cool because the shape of it is made up of quotes from St. Joan of Arc. The artist, Kathleen Caswell, can be found on Instagram! Check out her page: @kcaswellco

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Next, I got a beautiful handmade cross made by Rough2Rustic and an image of Our Lady of Consolation in Lezajsk.  Lezajsk is a town in Poland where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1578. My mother’s side of the family is Polish, so receiving this image and prayer was really exciting especially since I had not heard of this image of Mary before I received this box.

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My practical items were pens and a highlighter, which are always handy to have when taking notes. I forgot to take a photo of them, but I think we all know what pens and highlighters look like!

This box contained a lot of snacks! Snacks are always a great thing to have, but I think there may have been a few too many snacks. I got a bag of Skinny Pop popcorn; a bag of Synders mini pretzels; a package of Milano cookies; a pack of Orbit gum; a packet of honey peanut butter (which I am so excited to try); a spiced apple cider drink mix; a caramel apple pop; and a bag of granola made by the Little Portion Bakery. I’m really excited to try the honey peanut butter (if you know me, you know I LOVE peanut butter!) and the granola. Granola is one of my favorite things to eat at breakfast so now I have one or two day’s worth of breakfast, courtesy of the Collegiate Catholic box!

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Overall, this is a really nice first box for the Collegiate Catholic box. I’m happy with everything I received in it, and all of them serve a purpose for college students, whether it be spiritually nurturing their mind and soul or (literally) nurturing their stomachs. The box is originally $50 so this is something I’m putting on my wishlist for my birthday or Christmas (hint hint, Mom and Dad 🙂 ). I really love the concept of this subscription box and I cannot wait to see what the ladies at the Collegiate Catholic do next!

Thanks again to Liz and Allison for partnering with me for this post! Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

Textbook Shopping and Selling Hacks Every Student Should Know

Textbook shopping: it’s the most wonderful time of the year for college students after Christmas. And by the most wonderful time of the year, I mean stressful time of the year. Everyone knows that college students don’t have a ton of cash, and buying books can really break the bank. I like to think of myself as a savvy shopper, so I have picked up a few tricks that I am sharing today to help you save a lot of cash when buying books for school. Happy shopping!

  1. Make a spreadsheet- Spreadsheets are the easiest way to see all of the books you need and the retailers you are considering buying from. I can compare prices from website to website and can decide if I should buy or rent a book.
  2. List all the books you’ll need and some book buying sites- When listing the book, make sure to include the ISBN number. Textbook editions change, so your professor may or may not require you to have the most current edition of a book. Every edition of a book has a different ISBN number so make sure you have the correct one! If you can get away with having a previous edition, grab it while you can! Older edition books are usually cheaper. New versus used and buying versus renting can make a huge difference in price, so pay attention!
  3. Use a book comparison site– There are many price comparison websites for books available. I like to use Bookscouter because you can search for a book with their buy, rent, or sell search bar. Bookscouter doesn’t list every book site I like to use, but it hits a lot of sites and their marketplaces.
  4. Don’t buy from just one place- I will admit that when I needed to buy an extra book or two during the fall semester of my freshman year, I went straight to Chegg. Sure, Chegg is great, but I probably paid more than I should have for a textbook I rented. There are so many websites that sell textbooks besides Chegg and Amazon. I discovered eCampus and Textbooks.com, which I used to buy many books for this fall and I saved over $300!
  5. Search for off-line options- Some schools have textbook buying groups on Facebook where you can buy books from classmates. I have bought a few books from a friend of mine because I’m taking a class she has previously taken, so she is able to get rid of the books, and I don’t have to pay for shipping!
  6. Do some good for charity (or for yourself!) when shopping for books- If you’re shopping with Amazon, I highly recommend shopping on the AmazonSmile site, rather than the normal site. Every time you place an order on AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.05% of your order total to the charity of your choice! On other sites, you can use Ebates to earn cash back on tons of purchases, including textbooks! If you click the link below, you can use my referral link to join Ebates. Just a heads up: if you choose to use the link below, I will earn $5 for every referral who joins with my link. If you don’t want to use the link, that’s cool too!

Alexandra’s Ebates Referral Link

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Here’s how I set up my book spreadsheet!

Now that I’ve covered the buying part, let’s get to the selling books part. Lots of sites that sell books also buy books back, like Chegg, eCampus, Textbooks.com, and Amazon. Read on for a few book buyback hacks.

  1. Use a book comparison site (again)- Like I mentioned above, use a book comparison site like Bookscouter. After you type in the ISBN number, the site will search through their partner sites to find the highest buyback price for you. Again, it doesn’t search every website so you may need to go to the site you’re interested in selling to for their buyback prices.
  2. Read the fine print- Not all buyback programs are equal, so make sure you read the fine print and details. Make sure the program provides you with a pre-paid shipping label. Some programs require that you meet a minimum quote price before they will buyback your books. For example, eCampus has a $5 minimum and Textbooks.com has a $10 minimum. Amazon and Chegg have no minimum quote. Payment is also an important thing to pay attention to when selling books. Amazon only pays in gift cards, but many other sites will pay you in a check, PayPal, or store credit. Make sure you are getting paid the way you want to be paid.

There you have it! I hope these tips are helpful for you as you embark on your book buying adventure! Are there any tips I missed? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for stopping by!

Workin’ Day and Night (It Certainly Seemed Like It…) – Life Update

Hello again, friends! It’s been about a month since my last post, so I thought I’d give you all some updates about what I’ve been up to this summer! I was hoping to get some more posts out this summer, but I have not had a chance to write up what I’d like to share over the last several weeks. I’ll try to share a post or two before I return back to campus in late August.

The biggest thing I have done this summer is work! I am working at the pool I have worked at for the past 4 years again, and I scored an internship! The internship has nothing to do with what I want to do with my life (becoming a Special Education teacher) but it has given me so much experience in working for a non-profit asociation; reaching out to members; writing; and creating various PowerPoints for a number of meetings and events. I’ve learned a bunch of medical terminology and training procedures, as well as more about the fields of gastroenterology and hepatology.

Besides working all the time, I have been working on scholarship applications. My Dad has been unemployed for over a year now, and applying for scholarships is my way of helping ease the financial burden on my parents. The topics have been all over the place! I wrote an essay on how computer viruses impact the economy; what type of ice cream flavor I picture myself to be; and I even made a video on how I save money as a college student. The essays have been fun to write, and I’m hoping that I win a scholarship or two after all that writing.

Afternoons at the pool can be slow some days, so I have been slowly choreographing a dance to perform at Small Show this fall for PAC. My style of choreographing is pretty strange, but everyone has their own creative process. I always sit and listen to the music, and then I choreograph the movements while sitting down. One would think that sitting down and choreographing would be silly, but I find it works. I’m about three quarters of the way finished with the dance now, and I hope to finish it before the end of the summer. I don’t want to give anything away about it, but if it is selected as one of the dances for Small Show, I’ll be sure to share a video!

I will admit, I’ve done some shopping over my summer break. I like to shop! Is that such a terrible thing? I got myself a few goodies from Tarte, a new backpack and planner from Vera Bradley (which I got for 50% off each!! WHOO HOO!!) and a new backup portable hard drive from Amazon Prime Day. There is plenty more shopping to do as soon as textbook lists are available and as move-in day get closer.

At the end of June and the middle of July, I got to speak at a College Night for rising college freshmen that was hosted by the Associates of St. John Bosco. The College Night was geared towards students who want to remain active in their Catholic faith during their college years. I attended a night last summer and I was invited to speak at two of the nights this summer! I hope to have a blog post posted soon about the topic I spoke on: how to be confident in your faith at college. Stay tuned for that!

Finally, I’m getting my wisdom teeth taken out on August 1. I’m not looking forward to the whole procedure, but I am excited about all the ice cream, applesauce, and mac n cheese I get to eat afterwards! Please pray that the procedure goes well!

Well folks, that’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. I hope everyone is having a great summer! What have you been up to during June and July? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by to read! God bless! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Built From the Ground Up

Watching something be made or built has always fascinated and excited me. From Refinery29’s videos on how lipstickeyeshadow, and nail polish are made, Lush’s How It’s Made playlist, WIRED.com’s How the Tesla Model S is Made video (which is so cool!), Roadshow’s Tesla Fremont Factory Tour, to any show the Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, has done on HGTV, seeing with your own eyes something being made and then seeing the finished product is always pretty exciting! But there is something even more exciting when you get to see a family member’s new home being built from the ground up on a website.

For the last year and a half, my grandma has been involved in the building process of a retirement apartment community that she will be moving into in the fall. The retirement community has a time lapse and pictures of the construction site updating every 10 minutes so you can watch the construction happening from the comfort of home. It’s been exciting to watch the building come together over the past few months online and talking to my Grandma about the progress during our phone calls.

A few weeks ago, my dad and I drove up to Pennsylvania to visit my Grandma and help her with some packing in her garage. We were able to also attend an open house the community was hosting for the “founders” or first owners of the apartments on the new property. I was very excited to see Grandma’s new place in person! We drove to the nursing home which is adjacent to her new apartment and took a shuttle bus that took us to the building site. We were able to see the garage units and drive around the building to see where the courtyard and other amenities would be located. Once we got off the bus, we were directed inside where we got to see three furnished apartments so the future residents could see the final furnishings and take measurements.

The most exciting part of the afternoon was when we climbed up two flights of stairs (the elevators haven’t been put in yet) in search of Grandma’s apartment! The doors have not been put in but each purchased/claimed apartment had a sign over it reading “Welcome Carolyn Cooper!” (Just to be clear, not every apartment had “Welcome Carolyn Cooper” on it. They had different names for each one!) I can brag a little and say that I was the first grandkid to see Grandma’s new place even if it was the bare bones of it. It was very exciting to see what will be her new home in a few months. Once September rolls in, she will be moving in!

Building something as big as an apartment building can take some time, but watching it come together is pretty amazing especially when it’s for family. I can’t wait to create new memories with my Grandma and the rest of the family in her new home in a few months after the construction is complete.

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Being Catholic in College: 8 Months Later

Hello, everyone! I know it’s been a month since I last posted, but I’m now home from UMW for the summer so I’ll have some more posts hopefully going up soon. In the meantime, enjoy today’s post! 

About 8 months ago, I published the short essay that started Adventures of a Catholic College Girl, titled “Being Catholic in College: A Freshman’s Transition from Catholic School to a Public University”. Since publishing that post, I finished my first year at the University of Mary Washington! I have learned a lot about myself and living out my Catholic faith on campus since September.

First of all, I’d like to mention some of the changes since the first essay: my wardrobe has expanded quite a bit! Before, I was worried about having enough pairs of shorts to wear to class by Friday morning. Now, I have plenty of pants, jeans, and shorts to last me through the week and then some! I have shifted away from a lot of the high school spirit wear (I say that as I sit here writing while wearing one of my House of Dominic t-shirts) and I can now be found wearing some form of UMW spirit wear at least two or three times a week. However, there are some days where I wonder if I put my high school uniform on, go back to John Paul, and sit in on a school day, would anybody notice? Catholic school will always be part of who I am, but UMW has quickly become part of what makes me who I am today.

Talking about my faith to my friends at school has come very naturally to me, especially to my friends who are Christians or who do not practice any religion. I am very comfortable sharing events the Catholic Campus Ministry is hosting with my friends and dance team teammates who are not part of the community, whether it be Supper Social on Thursday nights, a Friday Fun Night activity, or another special event like our Mass Under the Lights or the power breakfast during finals week. Even if those I invite cannot come, I always make it known that they are welcome at any time to stop by the CCM!

Since I started at UMW, I have faced a few situations where I was uncomfortable with a discussion topic or a presentation in class. My faith has helped me through those tough situations, especially when they were during my Intro to Education class. As a teacher, I’m going to face very tough situations in many ways. I will need to think quickly and assess situations to make smart decisions. The Serenity Prayer is a short prayer I try to say each day to help me “accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Short prayers like that one give me peace of mind during the day- any challenges I face can be changed, but sometimes I can’t change the hard situation, so it’s up to God to turn something bad into something good.

I have met so many great people through UMW’s Catholic Campus Ministry. The friends I have made are so inspiring, bubbly, and enthusiastic about their Catholic faith. Their example of holiness has inspired me to increase my prayer life and get more involved in the community. I joined the communications committee and serve as a photographer and am in charge of sending out weekly email updates, as well as a lector at daily mass. My involvement has given me the chance to grow in my faith life throughout my freshman year, and it can only go up from here.

My freshman year has come and gone, and it’s hard to believe I have three years of undergrad left! There is so much left for me to experience in college, and with my faith behind and before me, I’ll be ready to take on the world and what it throws at me.

Silence is Golden

A few weeks ago, the Catholic Campus Ministry held an all-night adoration service in preparation for Holy Week. I was only able to stay for the first hour since my friend Emily and I were walking a 3K for a fundraiser at our high school the next morning, but it was still a great way to prepare my heart and mind for the events of Holy Week.

Father Vaccaro, the CCM’s chaplain, spoke briefly during praise and worship about silence. We can build an intimate relationship with God if we make time to go to adoration and be with Him. However, time is not easy to give up, especially as an adult. Sometimes I feel like I need to add time with God to my schedule, which isn’t a good thing. God isn’t someone I should have to write into my schedule like it’s a rehearsal, meeting, or special event!

Silence is something very hard for me to reach. My mind is constantly buzzing with new choreography ideas, organizing my schedule, and trying to complete assignments. I’m always surrounded by noise of some kind, whether it be music from Spotify streaming from my speaker, the noises outside my window from the Vocelli’s Pizza delivery guys riding around campus on their bikes with cart attachments, conversations floating down the hall from my hallmates, etc. When I went to adoration tonight at St. Mary’s down the street from campus, I was surrounded by silence.

When I went to adoration tonight at St. Mary’s down the street from campus, I was surrounded by silence. It was amazing. The silence allowed me to stop, take a breath, and focus on prayer for a little while. Father Vaccaro said that silence allows us to calm our racing hearts and minds and focus on God.

With the end of the school year quickly approaching and finals beginning next week (AHH), I am bound to be stressed. I think I have had a good semester academically (with a few hiccups at a couple spots). Next week is going to be packed with writing papers, submitting assignments, and studying for exams but if I take a few moments to sit in silence, I think I’m going to be fine.