All posts by hudsontntad

Thinking Outside the Cap

by Taylor Hudson

I’ve been looking forward to decorating my graduation cap since the moment I stepped on this campus. And I’ll admit, over the past few weeks, I have seen some pretty creative caps. I suppose I will start with my own cap. The explanation is quite simple. I wanted to say thank you to the most important things in my life—God and my parents. A lot seniors go with the simple, yet effective, “Thanks Mom and Dad!” But you see, with divorced parents, fitting “Thanks Mom, Dad, and Stepdad!” all on one cap was a bit too much. So I shortened it. I say it gets the point across, don’t you think?

89 Congratulations Class of 2014, we did it! Kudos to these seniors—you’re natural cap-decorating skills are superb.

My Alternative Break Experience in the Dominican Republic

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By Taylor Hudson

If someone asked me what I did over spring break, I don’t even know where I would begin.

Should I mention sleeping outside in hammocks for a week with no electricity or plumbing? Should I describe sitting on the back seat of a “motoconcho” for a 30-minute ride through Dominican mountainside? Or, what about sliding and jumping off 15-foot cliffs in the Saltos de la Damajagua?

While all of those experiences were unforgettable, the majority of the memories of my spring break reside in a small construction site in the village of Angostura. My favorite part of the week was not the white-sanded beaches or the breathtaking views. No, my favorite part involved sweaty foreheads, blistered hands, and heat exhaustion. The days spent building a house for Ernesto, Hida, and their seven grandchildren are what truly made my Alternative Spring Break experience a life-changing event.

Before, Ernesto and Hida’s house was barely a house. The walls and roofs had holes. The home sat at the bottom of a hill, so water had ruined any existing foundational structure. The floor didn’t even meet the wall. But then, Village Mountain Mission (the organization that is responsible for this trip) told them that they were going to build them a new home.

A week before we arrived, a group from La Salle University demolished the old house, leveled the ground, and began the foundation. When my fellow JMU students and I arrived, it was our job to finish as much of the house as possible before we left. Challenge accepted.

Within four days, we were taught how to lay block, cut frames, nail siding, and attach windows. We didn’t do it alone either. The entire village came out to watch the construction. More often than not, a random villager would squeeze in to work alongside us for a few hours, and then disappear without ever saying a word. Even the youngest kids—no more than four or five years old—would pick up a hammer and start whacking random things simply because they wanted to help. The sense of community and work ethic in Angostura was admirable.

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When the roof was finally completed, Ernesto looked up, raised his hands, and exclaimed something in Spanish. Of course, none of us knew what he said, but Jamie, one of the Village Mountain Mission staff, translated. Ernesto had said, “Now when it rains, we won’t get wet!”

It was the small moments, like that, that made the entire week so impactful. Realizing that this family got soaked during every rainstorm before this house was built changes your perspective. Further, realizing that this family will now be dry, humbles you in an unexplainable way.

All week, the smallest moments made the biggest impression on us ASB participants: Watching kids walk around the construction site with no shoes. Seeing Hida’s face light up when we gave her the leftover rice from our lunch. Being gifted a hand-made bracelet from a little girl. Singing and dancing to “Danza Kudoro” with the little boys on the way to the construction site. They are the moments that I don’t think I will ever forget.

As we left Village Mountain Mission on Friday night, we hugged the staff members goodbye. Jamie said it right when he said, “This isn’t goodbye, this is a see you later.” I know I speak for all of us in the group when I say that returning to the Village Mountain Mission and the nation of the Dominican Republic is inevitable.

I Loved Being a FROG, But…

By Taylor Hudson

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Photo Credit: James Madison University

Being a FROG is seen as a quintessential experience for a JMU student, and I am not going to disagree. For those of you who want to be a FROG, I say do it. This past summer, I was one and dove headfirst into the sea of camaraderie and friendships that come with it.

But fair warning: there are some “buts” about the entire experience that they don’t tell you about. Or at least some things you don’t expect, though, that are bound to happen.

1. I loved being “mama-hen” to over 20 freshman guys, but… you will forever be that “mama-hen.” It’s time to accept the fact that those parental-like feelings will probably not disappear. Every time I see a status update about how one of my first years received a bid to a fraternity, my first thought is, “I’m so proud!” When anxiety-ridden tweets drowned my newsfeed during their first finals week, my first inclination was to shower them with food and energy drinks. And come on—how do you turn down a first-year when they text you asking for rides to get a hair cut, or to fulfill a prescription during flu season? You don’t. That’s exactly my point. Motherly (or for you guys, fatherly) instincts will exist to some degree and won’t disappear, so you might as well accept it now.

2. I love my FROG partner, but… we are two totally different people. He’s tall. I’m short. He’s blonde. I’m brunette. He’s a science major. I’m a SMAD major. He’s an only child. I’m the oldest of five. He’s an extrovert. I’m an introvert. I could go on but you get the picture; we are very different. However, I loved the fact that we are so different because it made us a great team. It was a yin and yang relationship, and it worked. Sometimes differences are what truly make a friendship flourish.

3. I love showing my school spirit, but… I was exhausted. Maintaining the hyper, school-spirited, and positive FROG image is hard work, and it is even harder after moving in boxes for 8 hours, after 3 hours of sleep, and nothing but D-Hall coffee. By the end of the day, the affirmation you receive from parents for making move-in day a welcoming and smooth experience is unbeatable. In my opinion, it is worth the watered-down coffee and back sweat.

4. I love the FROG dance, but… it will forever ruin the Top 40 Song list for you. Seriously—if I hear “22” by Taylor Swift or “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, my natural response is to break out into dance. You will forever hate “that one song” because it reminds you of that “one move” that you could never quite get. Sorry Ke$ha, but “Die Young” and I will never be on good terms again.

5. I love the friendships I made with my fellow FROGs, but… I hardly ever see them anymore. Our schedules are always packed. Everyone is always busy with classes. Or jobs. Or clubs. Or homework. Yet, you know what’s great? Even though I barely see them anymore, they are the few people I know will always say “hi” to or give a huge hug if we happen to pass by each other on the Quad (and, I may be a little bias but, they are the best huggers). I guess it is true what they say—absence makes the heart grow fonder.

If you want to be a FROG, do it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

JMU and Female Longboarders: Give ‘Em a Break

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( Photo retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/101106985@N03/ )

Guys who longboard? They’re cool. Girls who longboard? They’re unskilled wannabees.

I’m not quite sure when gender became an indicator of ability to ride a piece of wood with four wheels, but as a girl who genuinely enjoys a good longboard ride at home, it irks me how I don’t feel comfortable bringing my longboard to JMU.

I’m a Delaware native which usually implies one of three things: I’m a northerner from around or near urban Wilmington, a redneck who lives amongst hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans, or I’m a beach bum. And although I do live in the middle of a cornfield, I am definitely a beach bum through and through. The beaches I grew up around, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, are family-oriented and include hundreds of massive beach houses and miles of flat, skinny side roads. So, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to you that my summers were spent outside. And most of the time, my transportation during the day did not involve a car. I traveled with my feet, a bike, or—you guessed it—my longboard.

Okay, let me clarify before I continue: I would never claim to be an awesome or skilled longboarder. In fact, by most standards, I suck. The roads I typically ride on are flat and straight. The few times I went to our local skate park to ride, I sat on my butt as I rolled down the hill. But that doesn’t eliminate one factor—I have fun. I thoroughly and genuinely enjoy longboarding.

When I came to JMU, I was keenly aware of how many hills existed here. I moved from one of the flattest states on the east coast to one of the mountainous, but I was optimistic. I knew how to ride a longboard (in its simplest form), and I needed to get from East Campus to the Quad in less than 15 minutes. So why not longboard from class to class? It made sense, right? Even if I did fall on my face, I could slowly learn how to master the hills.

My optimism and confidence was quickly shaken, but not from some horrible face-plant at the bottom of the Village Hill. In fact, the first time I tried to ride around campus, I didn’t fall at all because I knew my limits and would pick up and walk my longboard if I felt I wasn’t ready. My confidence was shaken by the judging looks I received throughout campus. The guys I saw riding to class were completely ignored, as if a guy on a longboard was more natural than a sorority girl holding a Starbucks cup. But I—a girl—was met with a spectrum of reactions. Some looked at me with a judgmental glare; some just stared because they were shocked that a girl was even within touching distance of a longboard; others would stop me and ask questions about my board or experience—questions I couldn’t answer because, as I mentioned above, I was under no impression that I was going to have a professional longboarding career. Longboarding was just a hobby to me, not a passion. So my lack of knowledge, honestly, just made me look like an idiot.

I kept trying, but eventually gave up. And by the time my freshman year ended, my longboard was just a dust collector under my bed. I brought it back to school for my sophomore and junior year, but never touched it. And when it came time to pack up my things for senior year, I just left my longboard at home.

Even today, I read tweets people post about girl longboarders on campus: “Do they even know what they are doing?” or “Ugh, if you are girl, just stay off the board.”

Now, this isn’t to say that everyone one looks down on a girl who longboards, or that there aren’t highly skilled girl longboarders at JMU. I am just saying that, from experience, longboarding became a lot less fun for me.

Looking back, I wish I could have just grown a back-bone and ignored everyone around me. However, being the people-pleaser and introvert that I am, longboarding just became less and less fun. And now, I only ride at home, on flat land, near the beach.

So can we all just agree to give us girls a break? We are allowed to enjoy longboarding, and yes, some girls do kick butt at it.

Tackling the Daunting Résumé

By Taylor Hudson

“Graduation” is a four-letter word around here.

Yeah, sure—it’s supposed to be a proud moment, signifying four years of hard work and good times with life-long friends. But let’s be honest, graduation is more terrifying than it is exciting. Most seniors are somewhere between a mild-panic-attack and a quarter-life-crisis when it comes to actually planning this unknown, yet not so far away, concept called “the future.”

As a soon-to-be graduate myself, I have attempted to prepare and have spent a lot of time during the past few weeks knee-deep in “grown-up” documents, such as my résumé, portfolio, and job applications. And I only have one thought about the entire process—It’s a lot harder than it looks.

Lesson One: Avoid the Microsoft Office résumé templates at all costs.
That was my first mistake in this entire process. I thought it would be the most efficient to just click on one of the templates and fill in the blanks. No, I was wrong.

First of all, those templates are extremely generic, so they most likely will not include the best or most effective sections for your particular goal or job search. For example, most of them do not include a relevant course work section. Another problem I had was a lack of space to include the hyperlink to my online portfolio, and, as a media arts and design major, that is really important.

Second of all, it’s near impossible to condense your résumé into one, convenient page using those templates. They are unnecessarily fluffed up with images, chunky boxes, and 12-point font. Any attempt to make the font smaller just messes up the entire layout and will have you screaming at your computer in a matter of minutes—and yes, I speak from experience. It’s much more simple to just create your own résumé layout from scratch.

Don’t get me wrong; those templates are good to use as a reference or basis. But, overall, just make our final résumé an original.

Lesson Two: Don’t compare your résumé with your friends. It never hurts to get feedback and criticisms to improve your résumé. However, I suggest receiving professional feedback, such as from a professor, mentor, or employer—not a friend or roommate.

If you are like me, I am the only one in a house of four people pursuing a career in my particular field. I am pursuing a journalism career, one is pursuing a dietetics career, one is pursuing education, and the final one is pursuing theater. Four clearly different fields. It didn’t seem like much of a barrier at first, because at first I thought, “How different could our résumés be?” Again, I was wrong.

Theater-focused résumés look like Mars compared to my journalism-focused one. In theater, for example, a clear and definitive objective is of higher priority in order to state your artistic goals as an actor. Meanwhile, in journalism, an objective statement could be included, but if you need more room for your internship experience and skills sets, then those take higher priority. In my case, I completely deleted it, but my roommate believed that I needed to write an objective statement. She wasn’t wrong.; objective statements aren’t bad. On the other hand, they aren’t good for everyone. The moral of the story is simple: don’t argue with your roommate for twenty minutes about what to include in résumés, when in reality, you are both right.

Lesson Three: Sometimes you just have to hit the “Submit” button. Pushing the “Submit” button after you have completed an online job application is terrifying. Don’t worry, I completely understand. Nevertheless, at some point, you just have to stop re-reading, editing, and revising your application, and click the button. Let go. Just do it.

I decided to apply to Teach for America, and I completed my application about a week and a half ago. Yet, I just submitted it three days ago. I was so paranoid that I misspelled something, or that I awkwardly worded a sentence in my responses. So, instead of actually sending the application, I just let it sit. My stress just exponentially grew every time I looked at. I probably rewrote the application about three times.

Eventually, I realized I just needed to send it because my acceptance into the program has no direct correlation to the amount of times I edited the application. Once I hit the “Submit” button—regardless of how initially terrifying it was—I felt infinitely better. So, if you currently have an application just waiting in limbo like I did—please, do yourself a favor, and go send it.

Last but not least—believe in the power of drafting! I realize it is only October, and graduation is over six months away. But it is never too early to start thinking about post-grad life. So, don’t be afraid to tackle those “grown-up” tasks—just remember to take it slow and learn as you go through the process. Your resume and portfolio will not be perfect the first time. You will have to re-write and re-organize, but it will all be worth it in the long run. But don’t just take my word for it.

If you are looking for professional help, and not just the advice from a fellow stressed out senior, I suggest looking into an appointment with Career and Academic Planning. They are awesome with this sort of thing—from resumes to cover letters to personal statements. You could even browse Recruit-a-Duke, a convenient one stop location for JMU students to search for current job or internship openings.

Tasty Autumn Treats Make Early Appearance in the Arboretum

By Taylor Hudson

On any given day, JMU’s Edith J. Carrier arboretum boasts picturesque landscape, a calming atmosphere, and a plethora of prosperous and beautifully tended plants. Although, on Friday, August 30th, the arboretum offered more than just a beautiful stroll; it gave JMU students, faculty, and local residents a chance to indulge in locally created refreshments.

“Wine and Cheese in the Trees” is an event hosted by the arboretum staff twice a year—once in the spring, and then again in the fall. The treats offered are typically centered around seasonal foods.

As the title suggests, the event offered many types of wine and cheese. But, at this autumn inspired event, apples were the true stars of the show. Tables of locally brewed hard-ciders along with homemade apple cider doughnuts gave this event a unique twist.

Misty Newman, Assistant Director in the Office of Community Service Learning, claims that she was excited to learn about the introduction of ciders at this typically wine-centered event. “It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the first week of classes,” Newman says. “You hear a lot about a lot of wine and beer pairings, but you don’t often hear of cider pairings. It’s nice to enjoy something different.”

Approximately seventy-five people attended the event, which included JMU students, faculty, and local residents—all obviously over the age of twenty-one. Each guest was given two tickets upon entry, and then, could exchange a ticket for beverage. The beverage menu included wines from Stone Mountain Vineyards and Barboursville Vineyards—both Virginia-native wineries. The hard cider was from a relatively new cidery in Timbersville, Virginia called Old Hill Cider, owned by Showalter Farms.

The owners of the cidery, Shannon and Sarah Showalter, attended the event as well. They stood up in front of the crowd and discussed the history of their farm, the process of creating a hard cider, and the different types of cider created. This family-owned cider business is still in its beginning stages, but, according to the Showalters, its progress has leaped beyond their expectations—the revenue has already tripled from what was expected in their business plan.

Laura Williams, a Ph.D. student in the JMU Assessment and Measurement program, tried both ciders—Cidermaker’s Barrel and Yesteryear. “The Cidermaker’s Barrel Cider has more depth of flavor, almost a multi-flavor. It’s much richer,” she explained.

In addition to a beverage menu, there was an abundance of sweet treats. To compliment the hard ciders, homemade apple doughnuts were offered. Elizabeth Forsland, former JMU E-Hall pastry chef and current manager of Festival, put on a cooking demonstration. She walked guests through the process of making three different glazes—chocolate, white chocolate, and white chocolate maple. Each time she completed a glaze, guests could indulge in a taste-test of the warm, freshly made doughnuts.

All in all, the event was relaxed, enjoyable, and merely gave guests an opportunity to enjoy good company and great food, under the trees, on a warm August evening. What more could you ask for in a visit to the arboretum?

For more information on upcoming events in the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, visit their website at http://www.jmu.edu/arboretum.

Finals Week Myths: True or Busted?

By: Taylor Hudson

Summer is within your grasp! After what I am sure has been a long semester, finals week has approached us. But don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with your schedule overflowing with papers, projects and exams. And, more importantly, don’t fall victim to many of the finals week myths and study schemes that some students swear by.

Study Now, Sleep Later: BUSTED!
I suggest that you refrain from entering Carrier or Rose library during finals week after ten o’clock at night. The only thing you will find in there at that point are overstressed, overworked and ridiculously tired students that are probably not leaving until their exam time on the following day. Don’t be one of those people; studies show that all-nighters actually decrease grades. You brain needs sleep in order to function properly, so depriving yourself completely the night before an exam will actually hurt you in the long run. Aim to get at least four or five hours of sleep, and I promise you won’t regret it.

Lots and lots of Caffeine: BUSTED!
As a coffee drinker myself, this one hits home. One or two cups of coffee won’t hurt, but drinking massive amounts of caffeine through out the day will do more to hurt you than help. Your attention span will decrease, your anxiety level will increase, and energy level will decrease faster. So, you can see how this won’t exactly help your already high stress level and heavy workload.

Jamming Out While Studying: TRUE!
Music will actually keep you more focused, if used correctly. I suggest not listening to your favorite songs or artists because you will end up singing along—or in my case, dancing around the kitchen—rather than focusing on the task in front of you. Perhaps, you can try some acoustic or classical music without lyrics?

The Library is the Best Place to Study: BUSTED!
Contrary to popular belief, there are many places you can study on this campus besides the library. Both Taylor Hall and Warren Hall are open 24 hours during finals week. Try some off-campus locations such as Starbucks, Panera Bread, Greenberry’s, or, or head to Martin’s Grocery Store—the little café in the corner is open 24 hours and they have free wireless Internet.

The moral of the story is simple: Don’t believe everything you are told. Finals week shouldn’t be about all-night cram sessions and overworked students. It should be about ending the year on a positive note and heading into summer knowing you just kicked that exam’s butt.