Welcome Back, Bears!

by Jenn Carr on August 27, 2014

Aaaaaaand we’re back!


Talk about time flying, am I right?

To incoming new folk, welcome! Thank you for choosing to join our truly awesome community of dedicated staff, and I hope you’ll find this your home away from home.

To returning students and, we’re glad to see you again and look forward to another awesome year!

As we gear up for next week’s kickoff of the semester, I have a few tips to make your life easier over the next two weeks:

1.) Double and Triple Check all your class info. Remember the names of your instructors. Memorize your route across campus, which classrooms and the start times of each course.illinoisedta

2.) Do yourself a favor and do a dry run. Take the books you need for your classes for     the day and your laptop– basically whatever you’d be carrying on the day-to-day  basis, and   start from the parking lot. Pick a place and get to your classes in fifteen minutes. Make sure     you know the best shortcuts around and through buildings, and that you know exactly          where your classroom is. Remember, fifteen minutes isn’t a heck of a lot of time, and despite what some people think not everyone can get from point A to point B at Flash speed   carrying a 35 pound book bag and trying not to trip over the throngs of people all trying to make it to class on time.


3.) Scout for parking spaces. Know exactly where you are allowed to park. Get the required permit. Watch when students arrive every day and approximately where they go. If your first classes are on East Campus you have plenty of options. Moakley, Burnell, Hart? Easy-peasy, park in Hooper and you’re good to go. Boyden? You are not going to want park in the garage.

 Remithenextwebnder: I know it’s tempting to park closer to your classes by using the lots of nearby  businesses — but DO NOT DO IT. You will be towed, your day will be ruined, and  honestly it’s not fair for paying customers to be out of a parking space when we have plenty  to use. And yeah, I know, the parking situation isn’t perfect for sure– I’m a commuter so I  get it — but as someone who’s also worked in retail, I’ve had customers screeching at me that  we don’t have enough parking space, and really, is that fair to the employees at the local  businesses? We want to foster community relationships not end them.


4.) First five minutes of each class? Meet 3 new people. This is actually really hard advice for me to follow, myself, but it can be absolutely vital.

  • toptenstuffsIt will cut down on stress by easing you into a new setting/situation with a few companions.
  • It will benefit you greatly during the semester — you will be grateful when you come down with some new and horrible variation of the swine flu and you’re out of class for the week, but hey! you have the email, cell number, and facebook info for three friends in each class!
  • The best peer editors and advisors on homework and papers are those that are in the class with you, attending the same lectures and taking similar notes. Study sessions Community style are a great way to get work done, get it done well, and also get up to some fun shenanigans.


communitysitcomwikia *Another Pro-tip: If you haven’t seen Community yet? Fix that. There’s something for everyone in it. Literally.*


5.) Pick one thing, any thing, that you can do on campus at least once a month to have fun. It’s not much. It can be viewings of movies, a game of trivia or bingo, a free dinner, a theatre performance, a dance, a game night, anything. There’s so much to do and college is so much more than just the classroom experience. It’s also about what you take from these years personally and professionally. If you work yourself to the bones, you’ll be worn out and exhausted and you will burn out. If you party too much you could get caught up in adrenaline and lose track of life outside the social scene. A club meeting or fun event every once and a while is a great way to keep that balance, and switching up what you attend makes for a great variety of friends and fun!


6.) Get to know your professors. Introduce yourself after class. Tell them about your individual life so you’re not just another name on a roster. Ask them questions and tell them what you liked or loved or gained from the lesson. Discuss — give your own thoughts on the content that could add to others’ interpretations and enlightenment.Foster relationships that will teach you not only classroom courtesy and long lectures, but a mutual respect for the mentor/mentee relationship and the eagerness and love of learning that our staff have and wish to pass on to us. I promise, the majority of professors aren’t Snapes.


7.) Consider things outside your realm of probability.urbaninterns This time last year I never thought I’d be able to work in an internship between school and my kiddo and all the other responsibilities I have — but then after taking a course with Dr. Lee Torda and another with Dr. Allyson Ferrante I realized how valuable and rich that kind of experience could be. This past April I started working for an event planning company that organizes the largest flagship Steampunk Event across the globe — and I get school credit for it! You can work with your advisor to design your curriculum and make it a fantastic and doable experience. It’s not a nightmare, really!


8.) Do something every day that challenges you or scares you. You are the best teacher you have access to. Everyone else can talk at you, hand you material, and point you in the right direction, but unless you apply yourself to your learning and living — inside and outside the classroom — you certainly won’t get far. You have to make this your experience.glennstarkey


Have an awesome week, and see you when school starts!

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I’ve now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest…Earnestly Industrious, that is.

It’s July now and vacation is in full swing. I hope all of you reading this have had at least a few nice, long drives with the windows down, sunny picnic lunches, the feel of sand between your toes as waterfronts amuse… and I hope you’re also considering how to use this free time to your advantage. Summer is great for having a good time, enjoying yourself, and getting the laundry list of errands and chores taken care of. These few months of leisure aren’t just for leisure, though.

After four years of studying here, I’m about to take on my most busy and challenging semester yet. It’s become perfectly clear to me that I need to prepare myself ahead of time if I’m to have any chance at all of surviving my classses, my jobs, my obligations, and everything else that’s on my to-do list.  While I have the luxury of a few hours of reading time here and there, I’m using them to my advantage and taking notes. Best part of it is, I can take my notebook and a book out by the pool, watch my daughter play with her cousins, and still manage to get some reading and note taking done while collecting inspiration or organizing programming for the next blog or convention. It’s going to be difficult to balance it all, but I hope to find myself more capable of managing the heaping plate as the summer goes on and I approach the semester with some serious preparation out of the way. Now that I’ve finally learned to work hard to prepare myself, I have much higher hopes for the rest of the year.

In order to maximise my preparation and not waste time on things I normally would…(like browsing the infinite scroll of tumblr or giving into the eternal dance of the wikipedia links….) I’ve come up with some things to do to use your spare time to your advantage:

  • Find out which classes you’ll be taking and keep an eye on when the books are posted for that course. If they’re novels, read them by the pool and jot down notes in the margins. When you’re done, take the book, summarize it in an outline, and expand on whatever notes you found most interesting. You could listen to audiobooks to help if you find the work a little dry, but the most effective way of listening would be to read along and absorb the information through both senses.  If the books aren’t novels, read and highlight the most interesting parts to you. If words are bolded, they’re probably vocab and will be important. Formulas, equations, and vital information will generally be repeated in large print to make them stand out. Make note cards and jot down the most interesting and important tidbits, taking not of the main points of each section and organizing your thoughts in a reflective free-writing session to ensure that you understand the material. If you have questions, write them done so that you remember to ask your professor come time for the class to start.

I know it’s not exactly a fun proposition, suggesting to do school work when you don’t have to. It’s not my idea of a rollickin’ good time, either. But I find that if I read on my own time, I’m way more likely to enjoy, understand, and retain the material than when I’m spreading myself thin trying to read six different books and articles at any given point between Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday afternoon and Thursday evening. As a writing major, my classes require me to juggle gigantic amounts of reading in a very short span of time and then write multiple papers on each. Admitting my shortcomings, I’m more likely to either read on time or write on time, and since I like to be present and aware during class discussion I’m more likely to complete a reading assignment than a written one, which can seriously deplete my grades. Reading these all ahead of time, taking notes, and just revisting the material and reviewing later, I am more confident in class conversations and more able to handle the written assignments and their correct due dates.

  • Network. Network, network, network. Hanging out with friends is fun and awesome, but meeting people who can help you find new experience and open new doors for you is a vital step in surviving the post-college job search. Take advantage of volunteer opportunities, apply for internships, ask professional acquaintances for connections to other people who are similar to you in personality, drive, and passion. Like minded people challenge one another and can often help give the other a hand up, but it’s also greatly beneficial to experience something you would not normally particpate in. Observe how others get things done and note the differences between your idea and the reality.
  • Take risks. Think that job is too out of reach for you? That internship too competetive and you don’t have the edge? Go for it anyway. The worst that can happen is they say no — and if they do, use it as a learning experience. Inquire as to what kind of candidate they are searching for and where you fell short. You can use this to assess yourself as well as realistically obtain a glimpse at which positions require which prerequisites.
  • Step out of your shell. This past year I took my 90-year-old great uncle to his high school reunion. I witnessed the reunion of highschool sweet hearts separated by World War II. All these years later, though both have suffered through illness and both experience dementia, they recognize one another. They still remember their feelings from when they were teenagers in love. At that same reunion I met the daughter of another of their classmates, and we sat across from one another. I was lucky enough to converse with her for nearly three quarters of an hour and we exchanged information. She was a graphic designer and writer, and I, a fledgling blogger with a passion for mythology. If I had stayed in my car and done homework like I had intended rather than join in the reunion and socialize, I never would have witnessed such inspiring interaction or made a new connection in the industry I someday hope to influence.

Every day that you have off is a day to do something extraordinary and change your life. From making a to-do list full of errands and chores and checking each off as the day goes on, to preparing yourself for your upcoming semester, or to launching yourself into a network of professional and friendly connections who will assist you get into a job you don’t hate — or better — a job you love. No matter what you do, take a relaxing day of chilling in the shade with an iced lemonade and a nice breeze, and then take the next day to work yourself to your next goal.

You can do this. You can work your way to making your life easier by spreading out the workload and ensuring you have plenty of time to achieve your goals– and still manage to have a good time in the hot sun. Don’t check out and head to Bunbury just yet, you still have time for work and play. Good luck, and great summer!


EXP needed to Level Up

by Jenn Carr on June 5, 2014

level up

I am, and always have been, a writer. Storytelling has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been aware of my surroundings. From the campfire stories of “Jenny and the Haunted House” that I forced my brother’s fellow boy scouts to endure on the family-and-troop trip, to my god-awful poetry, to fanfiction and original stories, I have had an impulse to write, write, write. Due to this, my ideal job (aside from a few wistful moments of wishing to be a rock star or a movie star or a 14-year old billionaire babysitter with a multicolored limo) was that of novelist. I dreamed of being a reclusive genius, stuck inside at a typewriter or huddled in a corner of an obscure coffee shop with a notebook and a litany of published titles. I soon learned to indulge my storytelling through role-playing games both online and off. Games like Dungeons & Dragons, though they have a bad reputation as games of the basement-dwelling socially inept nerds, is a prime example of a way to provide a creative outlet for storytelling and team work. There are as many editions, modules, settings, campaigns, and adventures as you can imagine– and if somehow it hasn’t been made, YOU can make it with some simple mechanics. The only limit is the imagination of you and your party. I started playing in high school, and I never stopped.


In high school, I took as many English writing-based electives as I could, and I joined the Creative Writing Club which I later inherited as president. When college rolled around, I was less sure. I had lost confidence in myself as a writer, I was faltering because I wasn’t sure how I could use my passion for writing and my other very many passions in a career of plot-twists and publishing deadlines. Mostly, I was worried about my daughter, whom I now had first and foremost on my mind. I didn’t think that I could actually write and make a living off of it. I spent two years as an “undecided” major, even though I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree in English (with a hopeful dual or minor in untitledanthropology as well). Those two years, I spent hammering away at my core classes. When junior year finally rolled around I declared myself an English major with a concentration in Writing. I knew that my passion for writing would overwhelm any other more “practical” degree and that I would be happiest with the extra experience in written communication and edification through literature and studies.

[Note: I strongly suggest you don't take ALL your core classes in your first two years. Generally speaking, your major requirements will be not only higher-level but higher-pressure. You'll need to spend more time and energy on those classes, so spacing them out with easier, lower-level classes of cores is a good way to balance out your schedule. Declare as early as you're confident doing so and then just get the requirements done as you go.]

When friends of mine started up a blog for ladies who love being geeks, I jumped on board. I’m now a gaming contributor philosoraptorover at the Daily Geekette, which gave me experience in both writing blogs and promoting them. With the experience that I have, I was able to apply for this job– just a blogger for my school community. Now I’m sitting behind a computer, baffled that I have a job and an internship in writing— I’m making a name for myself, gaining experience, and learning as much as I can which will allow for future career possibilities. This is what college is for. It’s not just classroom tests, but real world experience to. Once you get that diploma, you’re just beginning a new level. The EXP you need to level up? You gain from classes, internships, and networking. So get on it! Push your expectations and see what you can do.

work exp

*EXP means “Experience points– a way that one gains levels in many games.
Gaming really isn’t that far from real life, after all.