Monthly Archives: December 2013

One Down, Seven to Go!

Well, here we are, already approaching mid-December. I remember in elementary school complaining about how summer vacation went too fast, and my mom saying to me, “Just wait. The older you get, the faster time will seem to go by.” Of course, I rolled my eyes.

But now, finishing my first semester in college, I understand. The past four months at CBU have been wonderful, introducing me to opportunities I’d never considered, people that have impacted my life and influenced my personal convictions, and talents that I’d never appreciated before coming here.

One of the moments that impacted me most this semester was one shared with my design class recently, and I just have to share it with you all!

Throughout the course of the design and digital media major here at CBU, students will learn a great deal about photography and Photoshop, and how to design convincing advertisements. While today’s media is becoming a considerably controversial topic, students learning to be the media are often not exposed to the reality of it. Often, students at any school studying any subject will be given knowledge primarily about the positives of their chosen field. After all, human beings are naturally inclined to add a little sugar in promoting what they love.

But last week, one of my design professors took a good chunk of our class time to discuss with us how, in some unfortunate cases, design is being used to further the degradation and objectification of women. Instead of choosing to keep us in a private school bubble, he openly shared his opinion, invited us to discuss this issue with him, and even showed us some of the unbelievable advertisements that have been made, using women as sexual objects to promote completely unrelated products.

After allowing us time to absorb the shock of what we had seen, he then went on to discuss with us how we should respond to this crisis, as designers, and how we can look to the Bible for reference when making job decisions based on our personal convictions. He emphasized that we are not gifted with the ability to design solely for the purpose of selling something to society, no matter the cost.

One of his main points in this was not to scare us out of the job, but definitely to be sure we understand what the media now expects from its producers. And in knowing this, he wanted to be clear that, as designers, we are more than that… and that we need to be strong in our convictions.

An essay I am writing for another class of mine proposes the discussion of this topic – that we designers have been gifted with the unique ability to dully, very dully, reflect God’s passion for creating. Design is not simply the talent of selling something to society. It’s so much more than that!

This week, I couldn’t wait to share this discussion with you. I just love that I am learning in a place where my professors are willing and able to expose us to and mentor us on these real life issues, instead of shielding us and only ever showing us the positive side of this field. And then that they can take it even farther by sharing their faith-based convictions, even in the classroom setting, teaching us to be strong under today’s pressures.

With one semester down and seven to go, I have no doubt that after leaving here I’ll feel very well prepared.

A very merry Christmas to you and yours this holiday season!

Cheers,

Natalie  :)

Finals, The UK, and Much More to Come

Readers, I am writing to you in the midst of it all – my finals are in full swing, with each and every project due at relatively the same time. It is definitely keeping me occupied. However, I have to keep reminding myself that this is what I signed up for, and I would not trade it for anything. After all, my work includes examining Homer and writing analyses of classic Hitchcock movies. Oh, I am so fortunate to be an English/film major.

While I can’t deny that I love my classes and am sad to see them end, I am so ready for a break. I have been ceaselessly busy balancing various obligations, Christmas festivities, and homework that I sometimes wonder how I accomplish anything, given how short each day seems to be. How am I keeping sane? Wonderful question. To be honest, my attention is split several different ways, and I have to budget a certain amount of time and attention to each element in my life to keep myself at a balanced level of enthusiasm and studiousness.

The first thing bouncing around my brain is the fact that, starting next semester, I will begin ISP training with a team I already know to be a wonderful bunch. Team Reveal occurred last week, and I discovered that I will be spending three weeks over the summer in the United Kingdom. (Insert screaming and happy-dancing here). I will walk where so many kings, queens, poets, fictional detectives and boy-wizards have tread! I have been passionate about this country and culture for as long as I can remember, and knowing that God has given me those passions for the purpose of sending me there to spread His truth is overwhelming. I absolutely cannot wait to get started! Thankfully, addressing each of my support letters earlier this afternoon gave me a much-needed break from studying, allowing me to spend time praying the matter over and regaining my focus. I am still in awe of the fact that I will begin working toward our mission in the UK next semester, and I cannot help but give this upcoming adventure quite a bit of mental attention at the moment.

Another thing that has dominated my thoughts is the constant reminder that I am so thankful to be a student, even in the midst of this busy, sleepless season. I am reminded of why I came to college in the first place, acting upon a desire to seize opportunities for higher learning in order to honor God with all my mind. He has given me the ability to study the subjects I am passionate about and to increase my knowledge so that I may integrate faith into learning and see how my Creator may be glorified in the work that I do. I am acting upon the skillsets that He has given me, keeping his Kingdom at the center of my focus and trusting that he will be served fully in my endeavors. This is such an important reminder, especially now as I am fighting to stay alert and finish all of my classes well. Praise the Shepherd for coffee – it has helped me achieve just that!

The third and most tantalizing thought in my mind is the promise of sweet rest just as soon as I finish my last final and head home for Christmas. I can’t wait to curl up on my couch with my cat and watch all of those movies I have been dying to view. I crave my mom’s cooking, time to sing with my dad, and days spent watching British television marathons with my little brother. I long for the smell of pine from our Christmas Tree, endless Christmas carols, peppermint bark, services at my home church, and time with my family to talk and laugh and enjoy every good thing my God has put in our lives. This week promises relief and refreshment from a semester that has proved to be one of my most strenuous, yet I also pray for opportunities to love on everyone I encounter. I have been blessed so richly these past few months, and I hope that I can give this back throughout the remainder of the semester and through the entirety of my vacation.

There’s a little snippet of my scattered, well-worn mind. I sincerely hope that you are all surviving your workload, and finding time to stop, be grateful for each breath, and enjoy your lives. As for me, it’s back to studying for now. Thanks for sticking with me this semester, Readers, and I can’t wait to see you back soon! Have a fantastic, blessed, and happy Christmas!

Ending on a Good Note

I enjoy finals week. I’m not sure how many other students will agree with me on that one, but honestly I do. With the semester coming to a close, I can finally stop worrying about mid-semester projects and papers and focus on a much easier task: studying endlessly for a two-hour test. Maybe it has to do with the way engineering professors teach classes that makes the weekend before finals much less stressful. There were points in the semester where I would have a lab report to write, a lab class to make up, and circuit theory homework assignment to stress over all in one night. Then the next week, repeat. By the time I walked out of my last class on Friday, I felt relieved to just go back to my apartment and not think about any  assignments due Monday. Clearly the busiest days were over, and compared to writing VHDL code to create a timer and loading it onto the FPGA chip, studying for a written exam sounded much, much better.

I think my method of studying is a little more entertaining, too. Through the semester if I had a test I would review the night before on my own and usually score a good grade. Nothing too elaborate or creative, just reviewing some old notes or writing out a study guide. Finals are a different story, though. Not only do they cover more material (a whole semester’s worth) but they are worth anywhere from 30-40 percent of your grade—a little daunting to think about, and I had no desire to retake circuit theory next year.

With a change of tests, then, comes a change in strategy. Mine is simple, too: find an empty class room, bring a group of guys who are studying for the same test, and get on it. The great thing about engineering classes is that they want you to work in groups for homework since teamwork is important in the engineering field. I would like to think, then, that I’m only furthering my pursuit of becoming a professional engineer by having these group studies, no matter how much fun I have along the way. For this semester, I met up with two friends at the engineering building and studied a solid five hours for one final. When it comes to studying, I normally have the attention span of 3-year-old, which shows just how effective groups are for me. It definitely has to be the hard desks and whiteboards that keep me focused. Surprising how much work can get done when you’re not in your warm apartment with unlimited access to cereal and animal crackers. The productivity of any study environment is directly proportional to the availability of (or lack there of) bite sized snacks. Common college knowledge.

I don’t know how good my final grades will be, but I definitely felt prepared for them. Studying doesn’t have to be boring if you don’t want to be. I never want it that way so I do what I can to avoid it. On Monday, I was studying with four other engineers for about eight hours, which sounds horrible, but with the right music (Doin it Wright by Daft Punk) and the right group of friends, you can relearn topics well and laugh about it along the way. Finals week is the best.

 

The End is Near

It’s hard to believe that the end of the semester is here. Finals week is in full effect and pretty soon Christmas break will be here. If this were any other year, that fact wouldn’t freak me out. I wouldn’t think twice about fall semester coming to a close. However, this is my senior year and the end of fall semester means I only have one semester left. One semester until I’m thrown out into the cruel, cold adult world.

Just the other day my roommate and I slightly freaked out at the thought. It’s kind of been an unspoken rule in our apartment that we don’t talk about graduation; we want to live in denial as long as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about graduation and, as a liberal studies major, I am excited to start teaching. However, I’m not ready to leave CBU. In fact, sometimes I wish I could just slow time down and extend this last year a little bit longer. We all know that you do that—time will keep going whether we like it or not.

However, the end of the semester means one thing: finals—also known as the most stressful week of the semester. In my apartment, finals week has hit with full force.  I don’t think there is a night that went by during this past week that any of us went to bed before midnight.  Our apartment is a mess and we don’t even care. We are too busy getting homework completed and studying for finals. There are only a few days left, and I still don’t know how I am going to complete everything. These next three days will be crazy, and I cannot wait to be finished with all of this school work. All I know is I am ready for Christmas break to be here so I can have a time with no responsibilities.

Now let me leave you with this finals prayer I found a few weeks ago:

 

Now I lay me down to study,

I pray the Lord I don’t go nutty.

And if I fail to learn this junk,

I pray the Lord I do not flunk.

And if I die, don’t bury me, y’all

Just lay my bones in the study hall.

Pile my books upon my chest,

And tell my professors I did my best.

So now I lay me down to rest,

And pray I pass tomorrow’s test.

And if I die before I wake,

That’s one less test I’ll have to take.

The Perks of Being a Newbie

Last November, I visited the CBU campus as a complete newbie, ready to immerse myself in CBU’s annual 24event. 24 is an opportunity for prospective CBU students to stay overnight in a freshman dorm, cottage, or apartment;to be involved in other fun activities; and attend a class in their field of study during their 24-hour stay. For me, the 24event was when the “spark” happened– the one that made my college decision for me. I attended a fundamental image class – which, coincidentally, has been my favorite class this semester – and was exposed to the incredible world of digital media and design. I also met a couple of prospective fellow design students, Kayla and Caitlin, with whom I now share classes and am still friends.  All in all, 24-CBU was a fantastic experience.

Jumping ahead to this November, I am now again a CBU newbie, on the level of a first-time freshman… and just before Thanksgiving break, seemingly much too soon… it became my turn to host 24 students.

Since one of my roommates knew a high school friend of hers would be coming for 24, we requested that she be our guest for this year’s event. We soon found out, just a few minutes before the student’s arrival, that each of the Tower Hall apartments would host three 24 students each. Oh my!

So when the other two girls showed up, the three of us did our best not to seem surprised and to appear entirely prepared for their arrival. We were not opposed in the least, of course – the more the merrier!

While last year the perks of being a newbie were that I was shown around and given chances to be a college kid for 24 hours, this year the perks of being a newbie were so much better. This year, I got to be the one who has CBU stories to share, advice to give and, hopefully, methods of persuasion to come back next year! What a neat experience that was.

Our three girls were all sweethearts, and we had a wonderful time with them that evening. From guiding them to their activities, to watching The Hunger Games in the Rec Center, to running back, laughing, to our apartment in the pouring rain afterward, to all of the chats and questions in between. I’m so glad to have had that experience, from the other side of the fence.

All of you younger prospective students, I sincerely encourage you to attend a CBU 24 event next year. If you’re anything like me it’ll be a step out of your comfort zone to go stay overnight in a stranger’s dorm (although, coincidentally, I roomed with a friend of a friend. But that’s beside the point). However I highly recommend the experience. Believe me when I say that 24 really is a fantastic opportunity for someone unsure of where to go for college. And when you do attend, and you fall as in love with CBU as I did, I hope to see you around the following year… and that your name will be on the 24 hosting list!

After all, there are always perks to being a newbie around here.

Double Feature

I’m not much of a stay-indoors kind of guy. If I’m riding past the front lawn and find a group of students sprinting hard to catch a Frisbee, I cannot resist jumping off my board and diving for the catch, no matter who it was intended for. I can’t get enough of the California sun and, fortunately, California usually delivers. On those off days when the weather has actually changed, though, I have to compromise. As crazy as it might sound, it actually gets cold around this time of the year, even in southern California. The cold we experience here is definitely relative, since a cold day during the fall in Riverside is probably a pretty good day anywhere on the East coast. I’m ok with cold weather, but it was the rain that brought me down (literally, I slipped a few times) the week before Thanksgiving break.

I was excited, too, leading up to the end of the week with no homework or work shifts to worry about. That alone is a rare occurrence. Even rarer was the sudden rush of clouds and rain that slowed down the cross-campus commuting as I was forced to forgo my longboard and actually walk to the engineering building. The joy of riding to class was lost until I was quickly reminded why I even bought a board in the first place. The UCO (University Choir and Orchestra) concert in Stamps Courtyard was cancelled, too, which is always an enjoyable time. It was Thursday afternoon, and the International Center was hosting an international sports day on the front lawn, to which I would normally gravitate. It just had to be cold and wet on the only day people actually want to play cricket and badminton. I let weather take those activities from me, but I wouldn’t let it ruin my free afternoon.

I would have to break tradition and enjoy the indoors for once, but luckily tonight was perfect. The CBU theater department was presenting their version of Shakespeare’s 12th Night, and this would be my last opportunity to go. Weeks ago I had told my friend Spenser Deardorff, who played the sea captain, that I would go support the show, and finally I had the time. Now I was expecting to find old European sets, hard-to-follow Shakespearean phrases and, of course, men in tights, which honestly wouldn’t have quite convinced me to stay for the whole two hours. I clearly had no idea what I bought tickets for. The play was indeed Shakespeare’s 12th Night, but the style was entirely changed to steampunk, which involved dark eyeliner and 19th century European outfits. The blend of classic Shakespearean literature with industrial age Europe turned out quite well, and I was laughing the whole way through. If it wasn’t for the smart quips and dramatic monologues, I would’ve forgotten that I was even watching a classic theater production. It was such a great show.

I completed my victory over the rainy day with the CBU Hunger Games: Catching Fire premier immediately following the play. I had bought tickets weeks ago, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day to be inside enjoying a movie. The premiere was only for CBU students, which meant a packed theater full of the best people. They even took into consideration those students with Friday 8 a.m. classes (like me) and set the show time for 10 p.m. I don’t even know how CBU rented out a premiere for a highly anticipated movie, but they did. Way to go CBU!

Rainy days aren’t that bad.

Dressember

December is one of my favorite months. Not only because of Christmas and the holiday season (which is a wonderful time of worship and praise), but also because I participate in something called Dressember. Like the name alludes, you wear dresses everyday for the whole month. This is the fifth year that Dressember will be celebrated. I love wearing dresses, so when I heard about this, I was excited to participate.

Dressember has always been a celebration of femininity and beauty. However, this year Dressember is aligning itself with the International Justice Mission. The IJM organization works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent expression. Now participants of Dressember are working to raise awareness and funds for IJM. “The heart of Dressember is freedom– that every woman, man, and child has the right to be free to live a vibrant life.” This is a quote taken from the Dressember website, Dressember.net. I think what the creators of Dressember have done is absolutely incredible, and I am excited to be able to participate this year.

Since Dressember is supporting IJM this year, I decided to do research on slavery and human trafficking so I would know exactly what I was rallying against. Let me warn you, the facts are not comforting; in fact, it hurts to read about the injustices that are happening. The reality is that these things are happening around the world, and it is important to know what is going on so we can fight against them. There are an average of 27 million slaves in the world today, which is more than at any other time in history. There are nearly 2 million children exploited in the global commercial sex trade, and they have no defender, nobody to protect them from injustice. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is estimated to be the third largest international crime industry, following behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. There is an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children, women, and men across international borders annually. According to the U.S. State Department, approximately 80 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and up to 50 percent are minors.  Finally, according to the International Labor Organization, human trafficking generates profits up to $32 billion.

These are just a few of the statistics that I found at ijm.org. I don’t know about you, but it broke my heart to read them. We are in an age where we thought we were past any kind of slavery, but it’s still here and more prevalent then ever. Anyone can participate in Dressember by wearing dresses, donating money, or by simply praying. Visit www.dressember.net or www.ijm.org for more information.

Maintaining Energy for the Beginning of the End

Brace yourselves – finals are coming. We are in the home stretch of the semester. It is a bit crazy to think that immediately after break, we have one short week before we dive headlong into our final papers and exams, ready or not. In honor of this time of year, I put up the following poster in my apartment (along with our lovely Christmas decorations).

Despite the coming all-nighters and endless cups of coffee, let me just take a moment to revel in the goodness that was Thanksgiving Break. Yes, it was short. Yes, I came back last Friday and was instantly reminded of how much homework I still had to finish before the week began. Aside from these things, however, I was still able to find the energy and motivation to continue on. How exactly? To be completely honest, much of it begins with Doctor Who.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I absolutely adore the BBC show Doctor Who. It’s one of my favorites, and one I always watch with my little brother. The show has been around for 50 years (yes, 50), and BBC America released a special to celebrate the show’s record-breaking run. Thankfully, this premiered the weekend I returned home for the break, so I was fortunate enough to be able to watch it with my brother. We spent the majority of the day in our pajamas and in front of the TV, enjoying the British goodness that unfolded before us. We screamed, we laughed, and, yes, we even ventured to let out a few tears. We basically presented the perfect picture of enthusiasm to my parents, who just watched us in confusion.

This picture of enthusiasm is something I am trying to maintain as I do my best to finish strongly this semester. While these moments at home were simple, they remind me of the reflection of a greater enthusiasm that should be maintained. One awesome thing about movies, shows, music, and other media is that it ignites a spark within each of us. Something about these art forms taps into our humanity and makes us think, feel, and become enthused over what we see and hear. Since we were all created in the image of God, we can notice how these elements of enthusiasm are reflections of Him. This fact was reiterated to me through the remainder of break – we crave community with family, which serves as a reflection of our craving for intimacy with the Creator. We crave food because it enlivens us and points to the goodness of God. Goodness in all things proves to me that each of my desires is for Him, the author of all goodness and beauty. We are made to want more of Him, and all things in creation can point us back to Him.

Bearing all of this in mind, I dig deep into the recesses of my brain to finish all of my remaining projects and papers and prepare to do well on each exam. The life I am living and all things in it are truly a gift, and I plan to live fully as I head into the beginning of the end of yet another semester at a university I love. Carry on, sailors, and live well.

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