20 Reasons Why Winter Break is the Best and the Worst

Why it’s the Best:

  1. No homework! Finals are over and you’re at peace with the fact that cramming may not result in the most impressive of grades. But it’s over, right?
  2. Upon staying with your parents (or other family members) for a month, you revert back to the helpless state of a middle schooler and allow them to make you PB & J’s and wash your clothes.
  3. The potential for taking up the old hobbies you’ve neglected like skateboarding, close up magic, or cooking is endless.
  4. Netflix. All the time.
  5. All the food, just a short walk to the kitchen away.
  6. All of the best holiday movies are on repeat.
  7. Staying up late, and sleeping in late. That is, if college hasn’t ruined your ability to sleep past 8 am.
  8. You start to remember what it’s like to live a life free of stress, sleep deprivation, and too much campus food.
  9. You finally get to return those pesky textbooks that have been weighing down your backpack and, consequently, your spine.
  10. You can finally drive somewhere without worry of getting a ticket for being in the wrong lot. You can also ditch the constant worry of finding a parking spot, or deciphering the bus schedule. Cherish it.

Why it’s the Worst:

  1. You find yourself stranded in your old room, potentially still decorated with outdated pictures of yourself sporting either bleached blonde hair or wearing a choker.
  2. Frozen reruns dominate TV.
  3. The chore of wrangling those last minute classes, and the hysteria that ensues when they remain closed. All. Break.
  4. The inevitable small talk you must engage in with family members, neighbors, friends, or the mailman feels endless. (“So what are your plans after graduation?”)
  5. Chores, am I right? The driveway isn’t going to shovel itself!
  6. Accepting that you forgot (insert important item here) in your dorm and that you won’t see it again for a month.
  7. Packing to go home, packing to visit family, packing to come back to JMU; not to mention the eventual disarray your suitcase will end up in as it gets messier and harder to close every time.
  8. The separation from your JMU friends feels like an ill-timed breakup.
  9. You run into people from high school while at home and remember that some social interactions are still, and always will be, awkward.
  10. You neglect your email all break and come back to find you have 100 emails. The overwhelmed feeling that results is all too familiar.

The above section of this post was meant to be funny, but its larger purpose was to provide a platform to briefly shed light on an issue that often remains shaded. While most of us can relate to many of the above statements, some students may be facing a winter break in which they can’t go home for any number of reasons. Others may be facing a break with limited resources such at food, shelter, or warm clothing. Should you find yourself in one of these positions, consider the following: seeking out locals who need pet sitting or house sitting services, short term subletting, or staying with friends. For help with resources, head over to this site. And lastly, if transportation is your issue, make use of carpooling as a way to get home! Check out your options at JMU here.

What Harrisonburg Sounds Like to Me

What would your answer be if someone were to ask what music means to you? It’s one of those questions that can be tantalizing and frustrating, not because of our lack of a response, but because it’s sometimes difficult to put such an intangibility into words that do it justice. Music has the amazing ability to make us smile, laugh, cry, and even write about it in a long list of clichés. For me, music has played a huge role in preserving memories and even defining periods of my life. Hanson will always remind me of the first time I bought a cassette (I know. Laugh it up), the Smashing Pumpkins bring vivid recollections of my first girlfriend, and Rage Against the Machine will forever be tied to the day I realized a white, affluent pre-teen from the suburbs could raise his middle finger to the government. Now as I get ready to leave college and reluctantly watch another milestone of my life fade into the distance, I’ve thought a lot about the ways music has made a difference these past few years and how it will resonate with me in the future.

When I came to JMU two years ago as a transfer student living off-campus, the change in scenery was intimidating. Adapting to a new school and friends was something I had all but forgotten how to do. During this time, music played a crucial role in the process by helping me connect with those around me to establish meaningful relationships. The first day I met my new roommate Michael, it was easy to overcome social barriers because of our shared interests. Even if the conversation was something as simple as discussing what the best Weezer album is (Pinkerton of course), it provided us a relaxed topic through which we could easily connect.

As my time at JMU progressed, I continued to use music as a means of extroversion. After only about a month, my good friend Nate and I had our own radio show through WXJM. Airing during the primetime slot of Saturdays at 12 am, this outlet provided the incredible opportunity to share something that was so important to us with a wide (probably like 6 people) audience. Between WXJM and other chance encounters, music has proved to be a binding aspect of building the relationships that I still value to this day.

Whether bands were playing soundtrack to the good or the bad, they helped make these past two years become the unique and special times that they were. During my first month at school, The National’s brooding lyrics and soft piano melodies accompanied me perfectly. I will never forget listening to the new Vampire Weekend album while walking home to Stonegate, or watching my friend stand on his porch with a beer in hand, loudly singing Whitney Houston to anyone who cared to listen.

When I finally head home after two fantastic years here at JMU, my life will change drastically, but like always, music will remain a constant. It will be there to help me re-connect with the old friends that I’ve been apart from, as well as remember the ones I’m leaving behind. As I said at the beginning of this post, however important music is to us, sometimes it simply defies description. In an effort to try and share these feelings in the most direct way possible, I have put together a short playlist of the songs that define my time here in Harrisonburg. Whether you love them or hate them, it is my hope that at least one of these songs will resonate with you the way they did with me, and perhaps even become an important part of your life.

Eric’s Definitive Harrisonburg Playlist

Brainy – The National

Movie Star – Swearin’

Amenamy – Purity Ring

Everything Goes My Way – Metronomy

Klapp Klapp – Little Dragon

Genesis – Grimes

Every Single Night – Fiona Apple

Lodi – Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Mother We Share – CHVRCHES

Made-Up Dreams – Built To Spill

Breezeblocks – Alt J

T.S.R – Against Me!

Someone Great – LCD Soundsystem

The Drying Of The Lawns – The Tallest Man on Earth

Custom Concern – Modest Mouse

Pusha Man – Chance The Rapper

I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

Money Trees – Kendrick Lamar

Obvious Bicycle – Vampire Weekend

Two Truths and a Lie

A month ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Ask Me Anything,” about making the most of a job interview. If you’ve read that article, you probably assumed that I am some powerful and professional, all-knowing goddess of job obtainment. And although that perception looks fine to me from way up here on my high horse, I find it necessary to show the World Wide Web that I’m more than that—more than just an extremely successful and strong woman with a pretty face.

But in all seriousness, I am interested in displaying a different side of myself, and what better way to get to know someone than playing two truths and a lie!

Let’s begin:

  1. I am related to the Kellogg cereal people.
  2. I cut men’s hair.
  3. I want to be a professional volleyball player.

Now, take a second and formulate your opinion. Which one is the lie? [Cue Jeopardy music.]

Well, I am related to the Kellogg cereal people. My father’s grandfather was named Robert Kellogg and was a descendant of John Harvey Kellogg, the founder of Kellogg’s cereal. However, when his wife, Hazel, my great grandmother, kicked him out of the house and remarried a different man, hilariously named Oliver Hazard Perry Kenney, she took his name. And she didn’t stop there—without her children’s permission, she changed their names too. Imagine coming home one day after school and your mother telling you you’ll have to start writing a completely different name on all your papers. Difficult, right? And no, I’m not bloody rich.

I also do enjoy cutting men’s hair (or women who are unafraid of electric clippers). When I was a sophomore, a friend of mine asked me to cut his hair. Having had hairstyles that resulted in cruel nicknames like “trapezoid head” and “tiny face” (I don’t want to talk about it), I really wasn’t comfortable putting someone else’s social status—not to mention hair and flesh—in danger. When he insisted that I simply “look like someone who’s good at cutting hair,” my ego felt sufficiently inflated enough to take on the task. It’s safe to say my career took off from there; I have been giving the oh-so-unique “long on top and buzzed on the sides” cut for two years now. If you are ever in need of a cut, I give them for free!

As you may or may not have guessed by now, I do not want to be a professional volleyball player.  In fact, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea of sweating and rolling on the floor for my livelihood. If you asked me what I wanted to be ten years ago, this would have been the truth. But the real truth is that my volleyball career was stunted because, well, I am. After being the captain of my high school volleyball team for two years, I was cut junior year for being too short for my position as a setter. Although I was devastated, I used my newfound free time to start doing improv comedy, which changed my life drastically. In fact, I now see that as one of the most crucial turning points in my life because I not only started to become someone I liked, but it helped guide me to my passion for writing.

So, did you guess right? If you liked this post, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more personal blog posts coming from the other wonderful members of the TAD writing team later this month!

What are Online Portfolios all About?

Whether you are an artist, a writer, a scientist, or even an events coordinator, you have the need to market yourself. As graduation quickly approaches, there will likely be one thing on your mind: finding a job. So what if you had the ability to not only find a potential employer, but the ability to direct them to a personalized site of your own creation containing an anthology of your best works, your resume, and a some basic information about yourself? Well friends, this is what an online portfolio is, and it could be the deciding factor between you and a candidate with equal qualifications.

An online portfolio serves many functions, here are a few:

  1. As I mentioned earlier, it can offer an array of work samples, your resume, etc. This allows an employer direct access to your best work and gives them a chance to get to you know you a little. Humanizing a name on a piece of paper is always a good thing!
  2. Going into job applications with a perfected portfolio communicates professionalism and passion for your given field.
  3. An online portfolio is more accessible than scanning and mailing your creations, or attaching them to an email.
  4. Online portfolios have endless potential for customization. So this means that you get to choose exactly how your site appears, and can design one that is tailored to the kind of work you want to show off.
  5. Online portfolios increase your visibility ten-fold. You can put the link on your LinkedIn, your business card, and even in your email signature. So anyone who is intrigued can check out your work, and even pass it along to colleagues.
  6. Online portfolios are ideal for digital works such as photographs, writing, graphic design, and more. You can’t beat the stunningly crisp quality a digital image lends itself to.

Now, how do you create one of these online portfolios? Well it’s simpler than you think. First, choose your site. WordPress, Wix, and Weebly are all good starters and they all offer a wide range of free options (with the potential for upgrades if you want to spend the cash). Each takes time to learn, but dedicating time to this will be worth it in the end. For help and tutorials visit JMU’s Lynda. Second, look over your work samples. Pick four or five of your best works that are relevant to the field you want to work in. If you feel you don’t have enough samples, then take the time to create some! Lastly, work on the aesthetics. Fields such as design or art leave room for a more creative look, whereas other fields like science or writing would be best presented in a cleaner, simpler style. Search for some inspiration if you get stuck, there are already a ton of portfolios out there, so don’t be afraid to mimic a style that you like.

To round this out, a few last words of advice: don’t provide links to your social media unless they are spotless, do present yourself in an honest and genuine way, and do put some information about yourself, but don’t make it overly personal; always be professional, and good luck!

Don’t Let This Ship Sail off Without You!

By Elaina Taylor

I remember very distinctly my parents encouraging me to intern back in high school. However, when I found out that most of them were not the paying type, I quickly dismissed them. I have plenty of time for that, I thought. Why wear dress clothes and uncomfortable shoes free of charge all summer while my friends are out and about raking in the cash? Well, let’s fast forward to the present.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am now one pretty broke college kid. Free stuff? Let me at it! Free food? Holy guacamole, where?! Looking back, it’s only after you fly the coop that you realize just how much you depended on your parents for well, everything. Now more than ever, come summertime I want to be making money and internships don’t always compensate for the work you provide. But before you write them off consider their value.

There are many benefits to interning, and the experience yields valuable tools that often cannot be acquired elsewhere. Chiefly among them is experience – this is quickly becoming a critical factor in hiring decisions. A potential employee with knowledge and experience in a given field is a much safer hire because they already have exposure to that line of work and clearly wish to work there. And with experience comes the acquisition of new skills not to mention confidence in your abilities and contributions. In a competitive job market, an internship can give you the boost you need to edge out another candidate with near similar qualifications. Additionally, internships can also provide course credit for some majors (take a peek at the undergraduate catalog to see if this applies to your major).
Lastly, internships give students the chance to network and create more contacts that could contribute to a possible job in the future. Getting a foot in the door can lead to entry-level jobs, if only because of the connections you established in the duration of your time there. But don’t forget that connections you establish with professors and fellow students could also lead to possible internships and later, job opportunities. Sometimes the best resources are right around you. I myself obtained an internship through a church acquaintance that happened to be the president of a non-profit organization headquartered in D.C. My point is that you can always find people who can help you along in your career, however adolescent it may be, and occasionally not in the most expected places. Take care to remember however, that these opportunities don’t always just present themselves, they have to be sought out and you have to be willing to work to earn your stripes.

Now that the importance of internships has been established, how do you find one? To start out, I’d suggest making a list of places you would be interested in working for and contact them directly. Also be sure to take advantage of the school resources available; JMU has job fairs and services that are specifically tailored to help students find internships and jobs. The Career and Academic Planning Center provides a wealth of related information under the Jobs and Internships tab, and beyond the biannual Career and Internship Fair also offers the Recruit-a-Duke service with recent job and internship postings. Check out Eric’s blog post below for a comprehensive summary of the services offered by the Career and Academic Planning Center!

Once you find an internship you’re interested in, send in an application and follow up! Even if you consider it to be completely out of reach you may land an interview, if only based on your tenacity to be given a chance. You may not have the skills they are looking for, but your persistence and willingness to learn just could pay off. Hint, this has happened to me before! Good luck to you all!

Looking for more information or know-how advice with regards to internships? Then be sure to take a look at my sources: Internships – Career and Academic Planning, Internship information – Academic Services Center under the College of Business

Ask Me Anything

As college students, we are all too familiar with the looming anxiety that comes with entering the job market. Most of us will inevitably spend hours, days, even weeks searching and contacting potential employers trying to land a job—any job—or if we’re really lucky, one that we might truly love and be fulfilled by. Even getting a response about a job inquiry can feel like a massive victory- but don’t celebrate just yet! The next step in the process, the interview, can really make or break the opportunities you are afforded. Although it can be a nerve-wracking process, interviews are actually a great chance to let yourself shine. For those with a less than desirable resume, interviews allow you to make up for what you are lacking on paper by demonstrating your personality and capabilities firsthand. And if you are on the opposite end of the spectrum, the opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills will only further compliment the spectacular resume you worked so hard to build.

Obviously, interviewing is a stressful and ongoing process; it is not only the interview itself that matters, but also how you prepare before and follow up after the interview that will make an enormous difference—and just may get you the job!

Before the interview:

  • Get to know your company and interviewer. Gathering as much information as possible about your potential employer is integral to a successful interview. Scour the company’s website, find any available information on the interviewer, or even call the company to speak with someone who is currently employed there. The more you know, the more prepared and interested you will seem.
  • Dress for success. Not only will dressing professionally show that you take yourself seriously (and that others should too!) but it will also make you feel better. By looking your best, you can feel your best and ultimately perform to your maximum potential.
  • Practice. Available online are a whole slew of potential interviewing questions. Make a list and practice answering each one. JMU’s Recruit-A-Duke offers two interviewing services: Practice Interview Program, in which students can schedule appointments to meet with employers and practice interviewing, and InterviewStream, which allows you to practice interviewing online using a webcam.

During the interview:

  • Take your time. Always think before you speak. When the interviewer poses a difficult question, take your time to compose an answer that is worthwhile instead of rushing through with an inadequate response, or worse, blathering on about nothing.
  • Ask questions. By either creating a list of questions beforehand, or writing down questions as the interview progresses, you will show your interest in the company and desire to grow as a future employee.
  • Remain professional. Of course it is important to remain calm, cool, and collected during an interview, but this does not mean you should let your guard down. Feeling too comfortable with the interviewer can allow you to slip up and come off as unprofessional. Remember: the interviewer is your future boss, not your new best friend.
  • Sell yourself honestly. It is integral to sell yourself during an interview, but it is commendable if you are able to remain honest at the same time. For example, the interviewer will most definitely ask what your strengths are, but will also expect you to know your weaknesses.
  • Provide examples. When answering questions or referring to your skills and experience, be able to cite concrete examples. Saying that you “volunteered at a soup kitchen in Baltimore” will come off as much more respectable and noteworthy than saying something vague like you “helped those in need”.

After the interview:

  • Say thank you. Just as you have gone out of your way to make time for the interview, so has the interviewer. Thanking them shows that you are grateful for the opportunity and humble enough to recognize the effort and time someone else put forth for you.
  • Call them back. If you don’t hear back within a reasonable time frame (say 2-3 business days), take the initiative to call or e-mail them back, express your continued interest in the position, and politely ask if and when you can expect to hear back. This will not only show to them that your interest is sincere, but it also will help you decide your next move within your own job search.

Interested in more information? Check out these sites that helped me out!

Monster Job Interview Tips, 7 Interview Tips That Will Get You the Job

Let ‘CAP’ Help You Take That Next Step to Success.

After a few years here at JMU, I have come to realize that there is truly something for everyone. When I wanted to host my own radio show, WXJM allowed me to do that. When I wanted to play in an organized soccer league, JMU’s intermural program helped me make that a reality. When I wanted professional experience in my field, the Office of Technology and Design was there to offer me an amazing job. JMU’s vast expanse of extracurriculars and services cater to virtually every conceivable situation students would want to find themselves in.

I am now a JMU student in the twilight of his senior year, becoming exponentially more panicked each passing day about life after college, and much to my relief, JMU has something for that too.

The JMU Career and Academic Planning Center’s goal is to “provide opportunities and support that will engage students in the process of exploring, evaluating, and choosing academic programs and careers.” Whether you are a freshman concerned with choosing a major or a panicked senior trying to lock down a job, the CAP program has something for you.

After speaking to the very helpful communications coordinator Emily Blake, I learned that the ways in which CAP helps students can broadly be broken up into three categories.

Helping students find their direction. By providing knowledgeable and friendly professional liaisons for every major, CAP makes sure to cater directly to all JMU students. Whether you are a freshman trying to determine your major or a senior frantically researching graduate schools/potential career options, the CAP faculty is here to help!

Cleaning up that resume and sharpening those interview skills. Working in tandem with their faculty, CAP provides an extensive online guide to crafting the ideal professional persona. The numerous links on their website cover everything from resume building to networking techniques and everything in-between.

Job and internship opportunities. Job fairs and professional workshops are all held on a regular basis. Keep up to date with the latest events with the handy calendar located on their website.

Last but certainly not least, CAP offers students the “Recruit a Duke” service. This online amenity allows students to search through a wealth of potential employers who are interested in hiring JMU students. By using multiple filters, users of “Recruit a Duke” are able to create a personalized experience that helps bring you one step closer to landing that job.

Now that you know all about the comprehensive, available, and completely free services dedicated entirely to taking that post-grad stress off your shoulders, come check it out here!

The Heart and Soul of James Madison University

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