2

1 Week Down, 175-ish More to Go

So I survived my first week back in college. Ya’ll ready for the long boring-ass play-by-play? Too bad, here we go!

Last Wednesday before my first class, English Composition I (English 101), I stopped by my parents house. Of course, my Facebook feed has recently been flooded with parents posting photos of their precious little cinnamon rolls on their first day back to school. So…

20170823_095115

My mom, who graciously took the photo at my request, found the whole thing incredibly amusing.

Then off to the campus I went. My early-arrival plan paid off, too. The class is extremely full, as predicted, and I was the only person who managed to hog a double-desk all to myself. Because I’m a dick.

Class was interesting, and the professor seems okay. She had us do a one-page narrative writing assignment in class, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. “But Billie, you love to write narrative pieces, you egomaniac!” Yes, this is totally true, however:

  1. I am extremely accustomed to writing and processing my thoughts on a computer screen, not a piece of paper. On the screen I can appease my anxiety with editing, reorganizing, adding, deleting, and reorganizing some more. On paper, you’re more or less committed to the first bullshit word-vomit that spews out onto the page. As such, this totally fucked with my flow. Not just a little bit, but I mean SUPER DUPER badly. I actually apologized to the professor when I turned it in because I knew it was far from my best work, or even a passable example of what I’m capable of as a writer.
  2. Another reason I’ve a strong preference for typing is that I have Systemic Lupus, and one of the places it regularly manifests is my hands. Gripping a pen, pencil, knife, scissors, etc causes me joint pain relatively quickly. People have commented at my various office jobs over the years how very little that I actually write down and instead choose to keep all my notes on the computer. When I type I don’t actually keep my fingers curled up in proper typing position, they stay extended out for the most part, hence far less ouch. But when writing with a pen or pencil, I’m good for about 2-3 lines before the pain starts. For this writing assignment, I had to write a full page, and the worse the pain got, the more distracted I became, and the more illegible my already horrid handwriting turned. I could hardly read it myself by the end, and I’m the one who wrote the shit.

giphy12

I had brought my laptop with me but nobody else was getting theirs out, so I didn’t either. Besides, this assignment had to be turned in at the end of class and it’s not like there was printer in the classroom that I could network to, so it wouldn’t really have mattered.

We discussed at length our first actual essay assignment that’s due in a few weeks (the first of five over the course of the semester), and how we will start prewriting our rough draft in this week’s class. This one is another narrative piece, 800-1000 words, and the theme has to be about an social/ethical/moral issue we used to feel one way about but have since changed our minds, and what events in our lives lead to that change. And believe it or not, I’m stumped.

I’ve been pretty damn liberal in my views since my late teens, so the only thing I can really come up with is to go even earlier, and talk about how I was raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong and how my life experiences, starting with my best friend coming out to me in high school, progressively made me realize just how fucking stupid that shit was. The problem is that essay will likely be WAAAAY more than 1000 words due to it’s closeness to my heart, so I’m trying to think of a topic that I’ll be able to fairly express more concisely.

Of course, I say this even as I’m typing a stupid fucking long 2,511-word blog post, so obviously concise really isn’t my jam.

giphy13

I’ve also considered writing about how I came to the decision to leave the Christian faith that I was raised in, but that’s another one that I can’t imagine doing proper justice to in under 1,000 words. Another topic I’ve thought about is how I used to think I wanted children (because when I was young and had never spent any real time around children, I was programmed to think that getting married and making babies was the only recipe for a happy life) and how grateful I am that it never happened because I’ve learned in my 30s that I actually don’t enjoy anything about kids. But I’m considering saving that one for the Argumentative paper later in the semester since it might be a good one for me to go into all the really great reasons for a person to choose to be childfree. (Y’know… Overpopulation, reducing your carbon footprint, shorter lines at Disney World, etc.) However, even that might be a risky topic because the professor is a very proud mother of six, so I worry it might push the wrong buttons which is the last thing I want to do since my grade is seriously important.

Maybe I’ll be a dick (sensing a theme here) and just write 1,000 words about how I used to love lima beans but now I hate them. I only have until 5:30pm today to decide, so I’m hoping for inspiration to strike within the next few hours or so.

Oh, but hey! Good news! When discussing this prewriting we’ll be starting in class tonight, the professor added that we can totally bring and use our laptops if we prefer to type. Say whaaaaat!

giphy14

Hallelujer! After class, I waited until everybody else had left so that I could speak with her privately. I asked if there would be other in-class mini-assignments that we had to write and turn in immediately, and she said yes, so I reluctantly explained about my Lupus. (It’s honestly a conversation I absolutely HATE having with bosses/teachers because I always feel like I’m just being a big fucking baby. Yes, I know I shouldn’t feel that way after 22 years of living with this illness, but I still do anyhow. Fight me.) I asked her if it would be okay for me to type up those in-class assignments and just email mine right over to her.  SHE SAID YES.

giphy15

She was very cool about it, and even suggested that I have the college put a note in my student record so that professors will know ahead of time that I might require this type of special accommodation. That’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I try to live as normally as possible, so I really don’t love having those kind of notations hanging around unless it becomes absolutely 100% necessary. And since she’s my only on-campus class this semester, I’m going to hold off for as long as I can.

Speaking of hauling my laptop around, do you see that super cute purple bag with the Mickey Mouse heads in the above Facebook photo? That’s my Disney’s Animal Kingdom bag that I bought back in 2015, and I just love it. It’s what I’ve used as a laptop bag for the last couple of years, and it’s been perfect. However, I discovered that the laptop plus my books for class all just very barely fit in it (like the zipper was totally struggling), and it was a LOT of weight to be toting across campus on one shoulder with just thin leather straps digging into my flesh.

So I reluctantly decided that I need a good laptop backpack. (Reluctantly because I’m 36 goddamn years old. Have I ever mentioned that?) I hit up Amazon, and ended up ordering no less than FIVE of the motherfuckers. Because I’m indecisive as shit. The last of them arrived yesterday afternoon, and this is the one I finally decided on:

20170822_210649

The other four (not pictured, obvs) were all the same model of a particular JanSport bag, just in different colors because I couldn’t make up my damn mind. Once I had them in my hot little hands, it was a bit easier to choose. So eventually I narrowed it down to a baby pink one, and then loaded it up with all my stuff to see what I thought and compared it to the Swiss Gear bag pictured above.

While the JanSport bag was definitely roomier and I could fit more stuff in it, the Swiss Gear bag was a lot more comfortable to carry. It’s something in the way the back panel and the straps are constructed, the difference was quite noticable. So obviously I went with comfort. All four of the JanSport backpacks have already been boxed back up and will get sent back for a refund tomorrow. (Thanks, Amazon Prime!)

Anyhow, so when I got home from that first English class last Wednesday, I ate some dinner then wandered into my office to log onto the computer and check out what was up with my two online classes, Spanish I (Spanish 101) and Western Civilization to 1689 (History 101). I kinda poked around in the History class first, reading up on the expectations, what weekly assignments are due and when, etc. Then I dipped over to the Spanish class to do the same.

Wait.  I’m sorry, what? An assignment? Due by tonight at midnight? Estimated time to complete is about an hour? And right now it’s… 10:37pm? Oh, okay. Cool. Just fuck my life. No problem, yo.

giphy16

I did manage to get it done and submitted by the skin of my teeth, and then with further exploration in the class requirements found out that there is an assignment of this nature due six days a week, Mon-Sat, by midnight each night along with the occasional quiz. Yowch. But the good news is that the professor posts the assignments several weeks out, so I can complete them in advance over the weekend if I know I’m going out of town or have a big test in one of my other classes or whatever. So it’s not so bad really now that I know what to expect, and I can manage my schedule accordingly. That first one stressed me the fuck out, though.

Speaking of schedules, both the Student Support Services coordinator (Jamie) and my academic advisor (who also happens to be Spanish professor) had the same recommendation when I expressed my fear of screwing this college thing up because of my inate laziness and lack of discipline: Make a study schedule, and stick to it like glue. At first I scoffed it off, but then I thought about the itinerary spreadsheets that I always make in Excel for my Disney vacations and what an enormous help they are in accomplishing all the things I want to do while there. So I figured I’d apply that same method to this study schedule idea, and here is the result:

schedule-cap

I showed it to Jamie, and he was so impressed that he asked if he could keep a copy to show other students as an example of how to put a study schedule together for themselves. On the other hand when I showed my boss Karen (who is totally awesome and super supportive of me going back to school), her response was “Oh my God, I don’t like your life.”

Also, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that the Sunday 9:00pm slot is currently occupied by Game of Thrones. Because priorities.

giphy17

But as the season finale is this weekend, afterwards that window of time will turn into “Blogging” for the next year or so until it comes back off of hiatus. See, I think about my followers!

As for the final peice of the Fall 2017 semester puzzle, Western Civilizations… It’s a lot of work also, but nothing unmanageable. every week I have to read a complete chapter in the textbook, which is honestly the hardest part. Even though I’m interested in the material, my mind constantly wanders off all over the place. So it turns out staying focused on what I’m reading and actually absorbing it is a real challenge for me.

Every Wednesday morning the professor posts up a “Paragraph Answer” question regarding the chapter assigned that week, and just like it sounds, we have to write a paragraph or two (this week mine ended up being four paragraphs… oops) in response to the question. Sort of like a weekly essay question. I have until the following Wednesday morning to submit it. Chapter 1 was about Mesopotamia and Egypt in the Neolithic Age, and we had to write a Contrast & Comparison on some key features of each civilization. I submitted mine on Sunday afternoon (I’ll spare ya’ll having to read it here) and already got my grade on it: 10 out of 10 possible points.

giphy18

There’s also a weekly timed quiz on the chapter. It gets posted on Monday morning, and is also due by Wednesday morning. Once it’s started, you get 35 minutes to answer 20 questions. I did this first quiz on Monday evening when I got home, and stressed myself out through the whole damn thing. But I managed to complete it in 24 minutes and got a 100% on it.

giphy19

The final element of grade in this course is the Book Review. We’re given a list of three books to choose from, read, and write a 7-8 page review of (following very specific guidelines) to turn in towards to end of the semester. The books I had to choose from were:

The Death of Caesar (Meh.)
The Maid & the Queen (About Joan of Ark… Double Meh.)
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria (Ding ding ding!)

The lost library of Alexandria is something I’ve often been interested in, and I love the idea of learning more about the city. However, it’s still a history book and as such is quite dry. I’ve been working on it for about two weeks now, and lemme tell ya’ll… Ambien ain’t got nothin’ on this shit.

giphy20

No, seriously.  I last about 30 minutes or so before I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.  Hence why it’s on the schedule every night at bedtime since it’s clearly going to take me some time to get through it due to my inability to remain conscious for more than half a chapter or so. I’ve never in my life found a book that I’m actually interested in the material yet it still puts me right on to sleep.

And that, friends, was my first relatively successful week of classes! I’ll close this post with this picture of the adorable unicorn decal I put on my laptop last night, with derpyface Cupcake photobombing:

20170822_211953

Have an awesome week, ya’ll!

0

No Turning Back Now

Well.  Tomorrow’s the day.  The first day of the semester.  And I feel like I’m going to puke.

Anxiety is a real bitch, ya’ll.

Yesterday I finally went and got all my books, though.  So despite my nerves, I guess I’m technically ready!

20170814_170344

My student loan still hasn’t come through, so I ended up just putting it all on my credit card.  Oof.  My man Fernando promises me though that I will get my refund check by the end of September, and when I do I’ll just throw the whole thing at the statement and call it good.

Tomorrow after I get off from work at 4pm, I’ll head straight over to campus and spend a little time in the library before heading to my English 101 class that starts at 5:30.  I want to get there hella early for first choice of seats.  Mainly because:

  1. I want to call dibs on a spot near an electrical outlet, should I end up using my laptop in class.
  2. The classroom has double-seater desks and a completely full roster, which for a person with Social Anxiety is baaaaaasically the ninth circle of Hell.  Being the first desk occupant is infinitely less awkward than being the person who has to choose from desks that all already have their first occupant.  (That’s serious nervous breakdown territory for me right there.)

For the last 24 hours or so, I’ve been watching Blackboard filling up with all the information for my three courses.  Two of them are completely online so there’s been a massive amount of content to read (and print for my binders, because I’m that nerd).  But even the professor of my on-campus English 101 class uses the online interface for sending announcements, etc.  In fact, this was one of the first things that popped up for her class, and I’m tickled:

english101-meme

Any professor who starts off the semester with excellent meme usage in her communications to students is okay by me!

So I’m off to bed now, with hopes I’ll be able to actually get some quality sleep.  Wish me luck (both with the sleep and the classes)!

Oh, and before I go, here’s a super fucking adorable photo of one of my idiot cats (and I say that with love because not even an hour ago she quite literally sat her ass on a lit candle on my desk and caught her tail on fire), lounging with my stack of English books for tomorrow.  You know, to make this photo relevant.  Her name is Cupcake and she’s ridiculous.

20170814_192633

2

One Week To Go, and I Need To Talk About It

Buckle up, buttercups, because this is gonna be a long one.  There’s only one week left until classes start, and I’m a big jittery fluffy ball of nerves, anxiety and excitement… Which for me translates to writing ALL the words.

giphy3

On Monday, I found myself back on campus, trying again to iron out the details that still hadn’t been wrapped up. I dipped out of work early, in the hopes that I would be able to knock everything out in one visit:

1. Find Out How This is All Getting Paid For
So of course, I started with the Financial Aid office and, as expected, there’s about a million people waiting ahead of me. (Guess I’m not the only student who is still fighting for their aid the week before classes.) Finally I get called back by my man, Fernando! Finally got to meet him in person, which was pretty cool.

So here’s what’s up:

The Good: I was awarded a Pell Grant, a South Carolina Needs-Based Grant, and a South Carolina Lottery Tuition Assistance Scholarship. All total, it’s enough to cover my entire Fall and Spring tuition, with a little leftover to cover a portion of my Summer tuition. Hooray! So my Fall classes are officially paid-in-full now, and there’s no risk of me missing the payment deadline or losing my seat in each section.

giphy2

The Bad: I’m on my own for books, supplies, and whatever the remaining balance for my Summer semester tuition ends up being. Of course, I’ve been telling them from Day 1, back in April, that I figured that would be the case and that I would be needing to do a small student loan to make up the difference.

giphy3

The Ugly: Despite all of my howling into the wind to let them know that I was going to need a loan, nobody in Financial Aid ever actually initiated the process or even had me fill out a loan application form. So there I was, sitting in Fernando’s office, a week before classes start and I have zero dollars for books (which this semester alone, for my three classes, are running me a cool $500 bucks) and no loan application even on file, much less processed. Neither of us were pleased.

He had me complete the form and told me he would get it processed that night. However, I saw the two very large stacks of loan paperwork he added my stuff to. And I’m fucking nervous as hell, ya’ll. I’ve been checking my WebAdvisor account online every other hour, but still nothing is posted about a loan award amount.

giphy4

2. Get My Student ID Corrected and Reprinted
This was probably the easiest part of my visit to the campus that day, thankfully. I had been trying to call the Student Records office all day Monday to see if their ID card printer was fixed yet, but I never could get anybody on the phone, which was giving me mad anxiety.

Since that office is just across the hall from Financial Aid, I decided to take my chances. They were pretty swamped too with kids doing last-minute registration for Fall, so I did have a short wait. Nothing too bad, though. The girl was super sweet and helpful, and got me in and out of there pretty quickly, with a newly corrected ID in-hand. The only kinda crappy part was that she had to retake my photo, which I was totally unprepared for, but whatever. (No, ya’ll don’t get to see the new one. #sorrynotsorry )

giphy5

3. Visit The Bookstore and Buy All My Books for the Semester
Yeeeeaaahhh. Well, as we already know from the Financial Aid visit, no books were acquired. But since the bookstore is located in the same building as my last stop of the day, and I was super early anyhow, I decided I would pop in and just to talk to somebody to verify that the printed materials that I had brought with me were indeed what I would need to get all my books once the money magically appears.

Well, quite unexpectedly for this awkward, shy, eye-contact-dodging, introverted lady, the next thing I know I’m chilling there in the bookstore with three other students (two were work study there and one was just hanging out), talking about Game of Thrones and random fantasy fiction novels, and letting them give me pointers on a couple of my classes and professors. So that was a pleasant surprise!

They also clarified for me that that out of three particular books on the list for my Western Civilizations class, I only need to choose and buy one of them. The professor makes you do a big report on which ever one you pick, and I guess it’s a huge part of your grade. And since I prefer to read on my Kindle anyhow, when I got home that night I went ahead and purchased my choice via Amazon so that I can get a headstart on reading.

giphy6

4. Meet with the Guy from Student Support Services
This is the meeting that I told ya’ll about last time, that I got stood up for. We finally rescheduled, and were to meet up at 4:30pm that afternoon. Well, even with all of my other business and socializing around the campus, I still found myself parked on a couch in the Student Lounge (where is his office is located) nearly an hour ahead of schedule. And he was nowhere to be found, so it’s not even like we could just go ahead and meet early.

So I spent that hour just messing around on my phone and lowkey eavesdropping on folks around me. A few people were playing pingpong and talking about school and their career goals, so that was interesting. But then. Ugh. But THEN. A couple of dudes came in and sat somewhere behind me, laughing and watching some bullshit on one of their phones with the volume all the way up.

(SIDE RANT TIME! Seriously, when the holy fuck did it become acceptable to be in public listening to/watching stuff on a personal device without headphones? Over the last year or so, it’s become pretty much my #1 pet peeve in life. It drives me absolutely insane, and I see that shit happening everywhere. People either listening to music or watching stuff on their phones, no headphones, just speakers on blast for everybody around them to just fucking deal with. It’s seriously like nails on a goddamn chalkboard to me, ya’ll.)

giphy7

The guy, Jamie, showed up right on time, 4:30pm on the dot. We had a really productive meeting! He explained the program to me, and basically because neither of my parents ever obtained a 4-year college degree, I automatically qualify. Apparently first-generation Bachelors students are considered “at risk” and have a much higher rate of failing to succeed in academia because they don’t have a support system at home that really understands what it’s all about and how hard it can be, or how to help their kids succeed. Which I totally understand now, honestly. I can’t help but wonder now if I had gotten hooked up with a program like this during my first college attempt nearly 20 years ago, would I have been more successful? Maybe so.

The Student Support Services (SSS) program basically creates a support system for those at-risk students. They stay on your ass and make sure you keep your GPA up, and require you to spend a minimum of 12 hours each semester in either the library or the tutoring centers. You’re also required to meet with the SSS counselor (Jamie) at least twice a semester, and attend at least 4 workshops per semester regarding study skills, time management, etc. The reward for meeting all of the requirements? Every other semester, you qualify for a government stipend grant that could range between $500 and $1,500 bucks (based on your financial need).

giphy8

Not gonna lie to ya’ll, that stipend is the entire reason I signed up. I mean, that’s free book money, yo. And, I mean, let’s be real… I’m actually pretty lazy and undisciplined most of the time. I’m totally getting better about it as I get older, but the struggle is still very real. So I figure the studying, counseling, and workshop requirements can only help me succeed, right?

Of my three classes this semester, two are online and one is on-campus: My English 101 meets every Wednesday at 5:30pm. I get off work at 4:00pm, and my original plan was to go home, have 30-45 minutes to change clothes and eat something, then head to class. But now what I’m thinking is that I’ll just head straight to campus and grab food on the way, so that I can get in 45 mins to an hour in either the library or the tutoring centers each week. Should knock that particular requirement out pretty easily!

Speaking of the tutoring centers, Jamie did walk me over to the building next door where the centers are located and introduced me to the lady who runs them, who actually gave me a lot of good information. Best Part: I found out that they can help me study for retaking my placement test for Algebra, and ensure that the things that I’m learning with them are the things that will actually be on the damn test! (Don’t get me wrong, I still love Khan Academy, but it’s so incredibly comprehensive that it’s taking forever to complete, and I have been finding myself wondering how much of it is more than I really need to know at this point.) And the hours that I spend working on that (which I plan to start doing ASAP) will count towards the requirement for SSS. So that is super exciting!

giphy9

So that was my afternoon at campus on Monday! And today, Wednesday, I found myself back over there again. Part of the paperwork I have to turn-in for the SSS program includes a page that has to be completed and signed by a Financial Aid counselor. And since it’s been 48 hours, and classes now start one week from today, I figured that I may as well check-in with my man Fernando about that loan application.

So after leaving work early, getting caught in a thunderstorm that was still raging when I got to the campus, wading through puddles and soaking my work shoes all the way to my feetsies, I finally made it there.  And.  Well.  If I had thought that the crowd waiting to see Financial Aid on Monday was bad…

20170809_164121

20170809_164126

That’s just what I could downlow snap pics of from where I was sitting.  There was another area behind me with probably 7-8 more people.   (Including somebody who brought their toddler, which of course randomly started screaming it’s head off at one point, so to shut it up what does the mother do?  Pulls out her phone and turns on some super whiny high-pitched children’s show.  Without headphones.  On blast.  In this super crowded waiting area.  I seriously can’t escape this shit, ya’ll.)

giphy10

Finally an hour later, Fernando finally calls me back to his office.  Guess what?  Nope, no money.  My loan is still pending.  Sigh.  But alas, I was still able to get a couple of things accomplished.  He filled out the paperwork that I need to turn in for the SSS program, and he also showed me some stuff I can go ahead and complete at studentloans.gov tonight which keep the process from getting delayed an additional 24-48 hours once the loans get approved.  Basically it’s just required financial counseling that normally they have you do after the approval comes in, but he showed me what to do so I can go ahead and finish it up now and get it out of the way.  Of course, I’m totally going to work on that as soon as I’m finished writing this stupid long blog post.  You know, because #priorities .

So to wrap this up, I’ve basically come to the decision that if my money isn’t there by Tuesday @ 3:00pm, I’m just going to put my books on a credit card, and then once the loan money comes in I’ll use it to pay the bill.  I’m far too Type-A to mentally handle putting it off any longer, and I certainly don’t want to try and rush to do it between work and the start of my first class on Wednesday.  And I absolutely refuse to be that person who shows up the first day unprepared and without her books, regardless if the reason is completely valid.  Not.  Fucking.  Happening.

giphy11

3

Minor Problems and Frustrations

So I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  Sorry about that!  But really, with classes starting in two weeks, you probably should just get used to it.

giphy17

It’s not that nothing’s been happening.  It has.  Just small-ish things that really don’t deserve their own post at this point.  But I thought I’d check in all the same, and write a bit of a hodge-podge post to summarize those things:

First Generation Student Program / Student ID Problems
Something I forgot to mention in my last post about the orientation I attended was that I briefly met the gentleman who is in charge of Career and Transfer Services.  In the very brief handful of minutes he was given to talk to our group, he mentioned that one of the things he administers is a program for First-Generation college students, to encourage and support them in successfully obtaining a 4-year college degree.  What got my attention is that if you sign up for the program and continue to meet all of the requirements (which basically means keeping your GPA up and utilizing the Tutoring Centers), you actually get a cash stipend every other semester to apply towards books or whatever.  And ya’ll know I’m all about dat free money, yo.

giphy23

Neither of my parents have degrees, so later that weekend I emailed him to see if I would qualify, even at my advanced age.  He said there’s no age limit on the program, and we arranged to meet at 4:30pm on last Wednesday to discuss it further and get me signed up.

Well, to make a long story short:  He stood me up.  His office door was wide open when I arrived, so I thought surely he’d be back soon.  But I waited until 5:05pm before I gave up, choosing to head across campus to try and accomplish another errand so that it wasn’t a completely wasted afternoon…

giphy19

Shortly after I got my Student ID Card a month or so ago, I noticed that there’s an extra digit just chillin’ in the middle of my student identification number.  It’s very obviously a typo and an easy one to make, so I wasn’t too fussed over it.  Just figured I’d get it fixed before the semester started at some point.  So since Old Boy never showed, I decided I’d save the day myself by heading over to Student Records to get that corrected.

Yeah, no.  Wrong.  I arrived at the Student Records office only to be told that their printer was down, and to check back net week (I haven’t).  So that was a bummer, and my trip to the campus really was a complete waste of time that day.

giphy20

When I got home I emailed the guy and politely called him out for blowing me off.  He was very apologetic, and we’ve been going back and forth regarding rescheduling, trying to nail down a day & time that works for both of us.  Still nothing confirmed, though.  I’ll let ya’ll know how it all works out!

Major Concerns
I kinda let the whole decision about my major slide away for the time-being, figuring it wouldn’t kill me to actually complete a semester or three or core curriculum classes before really stressing about it.

Yeah.  That didn’t last.

giphy21

Aaaaaand so I’m right back in that place again.  (Thanks, Anxiety!)  Today my thoughts were along the lines of:

Fuck it!  Why don’t I just major in something I’ll actually enjoy learning about, even if the career prospects for it are absolute garbage?!  Like Anthropology!  (Yes, I’m still stuck on the Anthropology thing… That shit looks absolutely fascinating to me, even if it is utterly useless!)  Or Creative Writing!  Or Psychology!  Or whatever!

And in addition to that, why don’t I just minor in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and treat that as my fall back!  (Because really, the more and more I look at the Major program requirements, the more I just want to curl up and sob like a little bitch.)  But on the other hand, do employers really give any flavors of fucks about your minor, or just your major?  Plus aren’t the two supposed to be somewhat related, or at least complimentary?  Does any of this shit even matter at all?

giphy22

Financial Aid
So while we’re talking about the fucking awesome choices I’m not making regarding this extremely important investment in my future, let’s talk about the money I’m gonna spend on it!  Or not spend, at least for now.  I think.  Things finally happened with my Financial Aid.  Sorta.  Confusing things that need clarification, so I’m not prepared to go into detail quite yet.  But for now I’ll just say there’s money on the way, I just need to have a chat with my boy Fernando to clarify the amounts, disbursement intervals, etc.  Hopefully I’ll have more details the next time.  So at least that’s exciting stuff though, right?!

giphy18

4

The Most Adulty Choice Yet

I’ve been putting off writing about this degree option for a while now, but I figure it’s probably time to put it out there.  I think I was kinda hoping that it would just kind of fade away and I would forget about it completely.  Unfortunately, that super pragmatic part of me keeps coming back to it, and so it deserves discussion.

The majority of my adult work history has been in the hospitality and tourism industry.  15 years of it, in fact.  I was hired by my first hotel back in 2002, at just 21 years old, working the front desk in Guest Services.  After that, I went to work for AirTran Airways for a few years as a Customer Service Specialist in one of their call centers.  Before too long, I found myself back in another hotel, doing the same role as before, for a couple of more years.  After that, I became a Travel Agent for a little over six years, and I was pretty damn good at it, too.

giphy24

I only very recently left that job (in February of this year, so just 4 months ago) for my current administrative position… which is in a completely different field.  Why did I abandon my beloved travel industry?  Actually, it really came down to just two reasons, but both were pretty major factors:

  • Money. See, most travel agents work solely on commission, which is something I could never do.  It’s too unpredictable, especially living paycheck-to-paycheck.  But the agency I worked for was different.  They didn’t pay commission, but instead paid an hourly wage, so I knew what my income would be every two weeks and could budget accordingly.  Unfortunately, that wage was extremely low given the amount of work and level of knowledge and skill required.  I was barely clearing $23,000 annually, ya’ll.  But I made it work for all those years even though it was definitely tough.  The hardest part, though, was that I knew I was worth more.  So when an opportunity presented itself, even though it meant leaving the tourism industry, I jumped on it.
  • While I loved the industry itself, I was completely, truly, 110% burnt out on customer service and sales.  Every time the door would open or the phone would ring, my chest would get tight and my anxiety and irritability levels would skyrocket.  I still very much enjoyed the research and planning part, learning about destinations and assembling dream vacations for clients.  I just hated dealing with them.  Pasting on the fake plastic smile every day became more and more of hardship.

So I left, and never looked back.  Until now.

uscb1

The University of South Carolina offers a completely online Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management degree completion program, and it’s even administered out of the Beaufort campus.  So.  Let’s weigh the cons and pros of this one, shall we?

CONS

1. I fucking hate customer service and sales.  Maybe in 5 years by the time I graduate, I’ll have been away from it for long enough that I’ll get over that some.  Plus, in management, yes I’ll have a good deal of front-facing guest/client interactions, but a lot more back-of-house work, too.  And I’m really good at both, I just don’t love the first part.

2. In the curriculum are a required 9 hours of food/restaurant classes, as well as some sort of departmental partnership with hospitality and concessions during the annual RBC Heritage golf tournament out on Hilton Head… all of which sounds absolutely fucking miserable to me.  I mean, it’s just 3 classes and one week a year for a couple years, so I suppose I could suck it up.  But UGH.

PROS

1. I wouldn’t be throwing away 15 years of industry experience.  This is honestly the top reason I’m considering this degree.  In fact, I might even be able to get out of some classes and practicums with my work history being as tourism-rich as it is.

2. While the classes are administered online like all of the programs I’m considering, I do love that the campus is right here in my town.  I know I’ve talked several times on this blog about how my preference is to go to schools within a reasonable driving distance, so that when I need to go to the school and fight with Financial Aid or whatever, I can easily do so.  Well, I really can’t get any closer than USCB.  Plus I know they have a relationship with Technical College of the Lowcountry, so all of my credits are more likely to transfer.

3. Something I have only touched on briefly in this blog is my long-held dream of relocating to the central Florida area.  Not just because of Walt Disney World either (though that is a huge part of it), but I genuinely enjoy the area and all that it has to offer.  I’ve actually been kind of in love with Florida in general ever since I would spend summers there as a child with my bio-dad’s family.  As such, all of the degree paths I’ve looked into so far have been low-key in the context of “Could this take me to Orlando?”  Well, this is the one degree that the answer is a resounding YES.  With all the other degrees I’ve considered, my lack of work experience in those fields is going to be a major hurdle to overcome.  However, with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism, combined with my work experience, I could potentially land a great job in Orlando straight out of school.  Not to mention that the salaries are pretty nice in that area for tourism management positions.

4. Once I’m in Orlando, I would be perfectly positioned to pursue my Masters degree should I decide that I want to do so.  The University of Central Florida (which I’ve talked about here many times) has the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, which is a huge school for hospitality and tourism.  They don’t offer a bachelor’s degree program online, but they DO offer an online Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management.  And really, having that could only enable me to get even better employment and salary offers, so I most likely would do it.

5. Though I’ve put vacationing on hold for the most part while I focus on school, I do still love to travel and likely always will.  There’s still so much of the world on my bucket list.  By staying in the tourism industry, I’ll have access to so many benefits and discounts and opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise.

giphy23

So.  That’s two pretty lame Cons versus five really practical Pros.  The choice is kind of obvious, right?  As much as I would love to pursue a different path, this one just makes the most practical sense and will likely benefit me the most both immediately and in the long term.

It’s just going to require a lot of adulting and patience on my part.

giphy25

2

I’m Official, Ya’ll!

So back on this post here, I shared what I believed to be the end of an email exchange with my Financial Aid counselor, Fernando.  Much to my surprise, I heard back from him again on Tuesday:

Billie, sorry for the late reply. I was out on vacation and just came back today. Billie, call me Fernando. 🙂

Ok, you can still pick up your ID and parking decal, as far as we are concerned you are an admitted student. Registering for courses is proof of that. You should be able to get your stuff from student records.

Fernando

Hmm.  Well, that’s fascinating!

giphy21

I’ve been following TCL’s online step-by-step guide to enrolling, and it lead me to believe that I couldn’t be officially admitted or obtain my student ID or campus parking decal until after my classes were paid for.  So yesterday after work, I swung by the Admissions office and chatted a bit with the woman at the front desk.

She agreed with me that it’s ridiculous that I applied back in April for Financial Aid to begin in the Fall and still haven’t gotten my package.  I did ask her what students who haven’t received their package by the first day of class typically do, and she said sometimes they will sign up for TCL’s Student Payment Plan just to give themselves more time for their Aid to come in.

The plan costs an initial $35 to enroll in, and then you have until October 4th to pay for your Fall semester tuition (instead of having to be paid-in-full prior to the first day of the semester, August 16th).  Which I hadn’t even considered, so I’m glad to know that’s an option for me.

On the other hand, should it come down to that then I will probably have to put my books and supplies on a credit card and just pay it off as soon as my aid comes in.  But that will have to be a last resort, as it’s something I’m truly hoping to avoid. I only recently began working on repairing and rebuilding my awful credit history (look at me, adulting all over the place these days!), so the interest rate on my card is pretty fucking heinous.

giphy22

I also shared with the Admissions lady what Fernando’s email said.  She confirmed that because I’ve already registered for classes (like two months ago), I am considered enrolled and could go ahead and get my stuff.  Wait, what?!  So across the hall I went to Student Records, and handled some business.

Check it out… I’m officially a college student again, ya’ll!

studentID

parking

I am very excited about this!  And for real, though… I can’t wait to start using that ID card for sweet discounts around town.  (Example: There was a concert recently I thought about going to, but it was $30 full price… and only $12 for students with ID.)

As for Financial Aid, I figure I’ll give it until a couple weeks before the semester starts before I get loud again.  If I still haven’t heard anything more from my dawg Fernando by August 1st, I just might hafta to pop up in his office and introduce myself.

giphy20

0

So the Plan This Week Is…

Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with a Concentration in Professional Writing and a Minor in Social Media Marketing.

b3a2f-clarification

No, really. I’m serious. Let me explain.

So of course, in typical Billie fashion, I’ve continued to turn the idea of the Creative Writing degree over and over in my head until it’s tumbled to death. And here’s the thing: I’m an okay writer with a decent-ish grasp of language mechanics and grammar, etc. I immensely enjoy words and crafting things with them in an engaging way.

When possible, I particularly love to make people laugh with my writing.  Turns out that not every platform is the appropriate place for dick jokes, though.

What I’m not great at is making up stories. I don’t really ever write them, and I’m not into poetry at all, to be quite honest. I was thinking that maybe once I was in a structured Creative Writing program, I would learn to be excellent at it. But then I look at sample writing prompts, and they do absolutely nothing for me…

  • Smoke, Fog, and Haze: Write about not being able to see ahead of you.
  • Sugar: Write something so sweet, it makes your teeth hurt.
  • Numbers: Write a poem or journal entry about numbers that have special meaning to you.
  • Dread: Write about doing something you don’t want to do.

giphy6

All that being said, I do enjoy the creative process of stringing words together, but in a different sort of way. Ways that directly observe the world around me, that inspire action or reaction, that convey thoughts and ideas, that bring real life to the page (or screen). Words used to persuade, to help, to inform. That’s the style of writing I’ve always enjoyed best. Travel recollections. Book reviews. Editorials. Opinion columns. So on and so forth.

Basically what I really want is a degree in blogging, frankly.

giphy7

“Okay, but Billie, you know there’s a division of Creative Writing for Non-Fiction, right? Some programs even let you do a concentration in it within your major!”

Yes yes, I know. And believe me, I have very much considered it, and haven’t entirely ruled it out, honestly.  University of Central Florida‘s Creative Writing program offers classes and workshops in Non-Fiction.  So if I do go with a Creative Writing degree, that is more-likely-than-not the direction I will go with it.

Another type of Writing major option is Technical Writing, but it’s just way too dry for me.  Technical Writers are the people who write instruction manuals and such.  Which I don’t want to do.  Because I would rather not spend all of this money on a degree only to wind up sitting in an office like…

giphy8

So all of these wandering thought-bunnies eventually brought me to another place…

When I was a travel agent, one of my favorite tasks was having to write up the copy for and work with our company’s Marketing department to produce a poster/flyer to advertise upcoming special events we were offering. Another favorite job of mine there was managing our office Facebook account, combining images with copy I would write to try to get people interested in our services, attractions, and destinations. And as much as I didn’t love direct sales (aka customer service), I did always enjoy the part of crafting an exciting and persuasive presentation via email to pitch a pricey vacation to an interested potential client.

Which got me to thinking about a friend of mine who works as a copywriter with the Universal Orlando Resort, in the in-house marketing department.  He loves it, and I’ve always been kind of envious of what he does, as it seems like an absolutely fantastic gig and something I would truly enjoy.  So.  Why not go for it, riiiiiiight?  Or at least put myself on an academic path that has more of a chance of leading me in that direction.

giphy9

The other reason I’m considering moving away from the Creative Writing degree and more towards this Professional Writing degree is simply Adulting.  As I conveyed previously, if I’m going to do this… you know, spend all this time and money, especially this late in my life… then it would be vastly preferable to get a degree that will actually have at least some potential to for improving my career prospects and financial position.

And frankly, this degree is just far more practical, with courses like:

  • ADV 263: Advertising Copy and Design
  • ENG 220: Business Communications
  • COM 230: Graphics and Layout in Print Media
  • COM 235: Intro to Journalism
  • COM 310: Social Media
  • COM 325: Editing for Media and Publication
  • COM 340: Writing for Public Relations
  • COM 445: Writing for New Media
  • COM 232: Desktop Publishing
  • COM 315: Communication in the Digital Age
  • COM 329: Editing for New Media Technologies

See?  Definitely less artsy-fartsy and more worky-jobby.  But still things I feel that I would enjoy learning about and honing my craft in.

giphy10

I initially wanted to do a minor in Graphic Design, something else I’ve always enjoyed and have often been told that I have a talent for, but I ran into a snag.  One of the courses required for the minor has a pre-requisite course, which is fine, I don’t mind taking additional Graphic Design classes.  However, that pre-req course is described as being “Mac-based.”  And I’m a PC user.  And I’m not about to run out and spend an enormous wad of cash on a Mac just for one class.  Sooooo… Sadly, I had to scrap that whole idea.

So after exploring my options some more, I came across the Social Media Marketing minor.  By adding this skill set to my degree, I’m effectively exploring my love of digital platforms and learning how to use them to make money, as well as expanding my career options that much further.  Plus, given my vast ineptitude with math, something dealing with the online world is the closest I’m ever going to get to a STEM career.

giphy11

Now all of this being said, I do have a couple of reservations about this degree path (of course I do… thanks, Anxiety!):

  1. It’s a Communications degree.  I haven’t been out of school long enough to forget all of the shit that gets talked about Comm majors.  No, seriously.  If you don’t know, then google “Communications Majors Stereotypes” sometime, and you’ll see what I mean.  And while I don’t much care what the average schmoe thinks of my Communications degree, I do have to consider how it will look to employers.
  2. I recognize that I’m probably overselling it, not just to ya’ll but also to myself, as while some of the course work looks really interesting, other bits of it seem super boring, especially the Marketing classes.  But I’m sure there’s no such thing as a program where you’re going to 110% love all of your classes, right?

After spending waaaaaaay too much time comparing schools and programs, the only one I’ve found that offers the blend of professional writing, advertising, and digital media that I’m looking for is Southern New Hampshire University.

2f890-snhu

The good news is that they have a fantastic online degree program, and the classes are administered through Blackboard, which is the same software that TCL uses for their online courses so the transition would be pretty seamless.  However, choosing SNHU also means giving up on my goal of staying within my region so that I could take road trips to the school as needed. I would only ever see the SNHU campus twice: When I fly up in a couple years to check it out before I officially enroll (which most online students don’t ever do, but I feel very strongly that I need to see with my own eyes what I’m getting into and where I’m going to be accumulating a massive amount of debt before I make a commitment), and then again 2-3 years after that for graduation.

So that’s where things stand this week.  I’m sure I’ll be back in a week or two with a totally different agenda.  Stay tuned!

giphy12