Category Archives: The campus life

All about Finding Perspective

By Elaina Taylor

While this blog post is supposed to be about the most important thing we’ve learned this year, I’ve found that the growth I’ve experienced cannot be examined, confined, or defined by a single event or lesson.  So I choose to touch on multiple moments and experiences because they all have shaped the person I am now.

In the realm of self-realizations, I have found I decidedly hate change, which happens to be a serious problem, since our lives are forever changing, our spirits and souls forever evolving.

As someone who has always struggled to fit in, I clung to my close friends with a tenacity some did not deserve.  Certain friends often failed to treat me with the same respect and kindness as I did them, and while that hurt, I still struggled on to make the friendships work.  To be terrified of change in this case was to be petrified of letting anyone go, even those who did not deserve my friendship. Through the friends I’ve made during my time thus far in college, I’ve found a wellspring of support for the person I am, and learned my own self-worth. And in that, I realized that I deserved better than those false friends and was finally able to let them go.

I also learned the hard way that first impressions can make or break you, and that a resume and writing samples can only go so far. How blunders in mannerisms or word and clothing choice in an interview can destroy your initial chances of leaving behind the most positive impression of yourself. I left my first interview feeling like I’d missed a step on the stair, doubting if I was treading on solid ground; so shaken was my confidence. In my case, I got very, very lucky. My passion, fearlessness, and dedication to pursue writing for TAD are what landed me the job, and only by the narrowest of margins.

And as cliché as it will sound, I’ve learned to recognize and reflect on how my first-world problems are not the end of the universe, nor are they even the end my own little universe, as I often have to remind myself. I have found the perfect remedy for whenever I feel grumpy or begin to lament my worldly woes: the Humans of New York Facebook page. Photographer Brandon Stanton goes around New York City interviewing his subjects, who give him the most interesting, and often thought-provoking answers. These little snapshots of humanity never fail to put me back in my little college white girl, middle class place with equal doses of laughter and tears alike. It also enables me to see the best of my situation after reading the heartfelt words of people who have survived infinitely more trying experiences than I have.

Though I may bemoan a poor result on a test, I know that my own work ethic will push me to achieve more next time because I myself demand better. So what if it is raining and my shoes are ruined? Maybe that’s Mother Nature’s way of saying I need a pair of rain boots! A summer job opportunity closed up before you could apply? It wasn’t meant to be this time, but there’s always next summer. And if a relationship didn’t work out the way I wished it would have, well then there are clearly more worthwhile fish in the sea! The perspective you gain simply from reading the sorrows, or even joys, of others will more often than not cause you to reanalyze your own problems and priorities. I hope you find your own perspective, your own snapshots of humanity as I did with HONY, and I hope you grow from it as I continually do.

This Year? No Regrets

By Elaina Taylor

It seems that only yesterday it was FROG week and I was starting out as an excited freshman, eager to participate and engage in everything. But you know how time flies, and next thing I knew I was saying goodbye to my first year as a freshman and leaving this gorgeous campus for the summer.

I am now a sophomore and determined that this year will not be like the last one. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great year; I met some amazing people, took some cool classes, and completely fell in love with JMU and the community we have here on campus. Yet I look back and feel I neither accomplished nor discovered much at all. I barely scratched the surface of what this university or the surrounding community offers. I never ventured downtown, didn’t get involved in any clubs, hardly attended any events the university put on, and went to a grand total of two football games.

So, my motto of the year is discovery and thus far I think I’m doing pretty well. I’ve already:
• Explored part of downtown Harrisonburg
• Unsuccessfully attempted to participate in Thursday Salsa nights at the Artful Dodger (There is a dress code requirement!)
• Dined at Billy Jack’s, a cheap, but scrumptious “wing & draft shack” with a wicked cool atmosphere and décor
• Auditioned for a few of the A Cappella groups on campus
• Accidently found my bucket list item #22 – Union Tower!
• Finally tried Lakeside Express – a gourmet sandwich and pizza shop tucked away next to Mrs. Green’s in Chandler
• Attended a UPB Spotlight Sounds concert and absolutely loved it
• Toured White Oaks Lavender Farm
• Dropped in at the Rockingham County Fair (there’s such thing as a goat obstacle course?)
• Stumbled upon Lake Shenandoah, a cute little spot not five minute down Port Republic; picnic anyone?

This motto also means rediscovering everything I came to love last year. I encourage every freshman to attend at least one or two of the group fitness classes that UREC offers (Athletic, Cycle, Dance, Mind/Body, Step, and Toning). Or if you’re looking to just relax, check out the Student Activities & Involvement calendar, which has listings for $3 movies at Grafton (#dateworthy!), not to mention many other weekly events like Open Mic Night, TeaTime, and Get Down at Sundown. College is about finding your niche – so it wouldn’t hurt to check out the clubs on campus as well, and perhaps meet people with whom you share a passion or even unearth a new one. This university as well as the surrounding community have so much to offer if you just take a minute or two to search.

My point is I missed out on a great deal my freshman year, and I aim to fix that my second go around. Don’t be the senior who finds out that there are free concerts monthly at TDU and that an up-and-coming band you like played there just last month. Take charge of your time here at JMU, because the years roll by faster than you realize. So I implore you to explore my fellow Dukes!


As a senior, I have watched JMU grow over the past four years. Actually, explode would be a more fitting word for the vast changes, renovations, and expansions that have taken place on campus over the years—and within even just the past year alone. With an incoming freshman class of 4,300 and 880 new transfer students, there are currently upwards of 20,000 students on campus daily. But when even the line for pizza at Topio’s (the option with typically the shortest line) in Duke’s extends almost to the entrance, you might feel like one of a million rather than a measly 20,000—a feeling we are particularly vulnerable to as fresh-faced first years. But, would you believe me if I said that a snow leopard with a blue tongue helped me combat those exact freshman year blues?

It all started on the first fall day of my freshman year. It’s always a wonderful day when you realize the weeks of backpack-shaped sweat stains on your back are through, and sweater weather is upon you. That day, like any other day, I woke up and peered into my closet to put together an outfit, excited at the prospect of finally slipping back into cozy autumn attire.

Normally, putting together an outfit is my favorite part of the day; I love to express myself through my clothing. But, since my arrival at Ikenberry Hall on move-in day, I had been trying to dress like the typical JMU student. I suppressed my need for self-expression and opted for wearing what everyone else wore in order to seem less like a freshman, and moreover, to blend in with the rest of my peers. In high school, I had worn whatever I darn pleased, often mixing multiple patterns, sporting my mother’s old high school geography bee jacket, and tacky sweatshirts bought at Mt. Rushmore over the years. But as an incoming freshman, I was more concerned about fitting in.

Inspecting the contents of my closet that morning, and gazing upon all of the awesome tacky sweaters, the velvet pants, and the leather jacket, I felt conflicted. I wanted so badly to wear the clothes that made me feel most like myself, but felt that I couldn’t–or shouldn’t– for fear of seeming different. Standing there in front of the sliding doors of my Village-style, wooden closet, I had an epiphany: Weren’t there upwards of 20,000 students going to this school? Did I really expect to please all of them? Weren’t there probably other students on this campus that dressed like me, or chose to express their style similarly? Feeling like an idiot, I grabbed the first tacky sweatshirt in sight, a black crew neck with an enormous blue-tongued snow leopard’s face down the front, and ran with it, desperate to make up for lost time.

I will always remember that day as the first day I decided to be myself at JMU—the day I began to fit in because I was no longer trying to be something I wasn’t. Now, I’m not saying that wearing an ugly thrift store find changed my entire college experience, but it was one of my first steps of many toward my own self-acceptance in my new environment. Although one can feel lost at sea on such a large campus, being yourself will give you the clarity of mind necessary to truly grow and thrive, try new things, and ultimately find your own personal niche in the JMU community.

The College Culinary Guide for the Lazy and Hungry

by Eric Cecchett

Returning to school after a long summer can be difficult for some students. Exchanging those long beach-filled days and carefree summer nights for 15 credits and a job hardly seems like a trade worth making. For me, one of the hardest parts about coming back to Harrisonburg in the fall is saying goodbye to the coddling embrace of living in my parents’ house. After living in an apartment for two years where you would be hard-pressed to find a paper towel, I have come to truly appreciate the beauty of a domesticated and well-established kitchen.

Until I came to JMU and began living on my own, I never quite realized the challenges involved in shopping for and feeding oneself. But after many ramen dinners and desperate walks to E-Hall in two feet of snow, I like to think I’ve learned some valuable lessons. In this article, I hope to impart some of this knowledge in the hopes that it will educate even the most parsimonious and nutritionally confused college student.

Perhaps the most essential ingredients (get it?) to maintaining a well-stocked kitchen is to find recipes, plan ahead of time, and most importantly, make lists. On too many occasions have I absent-mindedly left the grocery store having forgot to buy the very thing I went there for in the first place. If you are half as scatter-brained as I am, a well thought out list is an absolute must for any successful grocery run.

Although I would strongly suggest using recipes (I’ll provide some later), if you are someone who simply prefers to wing it, I have some tips for you as well! Amassing a large selection of versatile and non-perishable foods allows you to have a wide range of meal options for an extended period of time. Purchases such as rice, canned beans, and frozen vegetables are easy to store and provide a countless variety of options for the cook who prefers not to follow directions.

Lastly, I will play the role of the concerned parent and implore you to not ignore fresh fruits and vegetables. Most grocery stores in the area offer a fine selection of fruits and veggies for an affordable price for any college student (try downtown Harrisonburg’s Friendly City Co-op for slightly more expensive, but delicious and local produce). I’ve learned in these past few years that buying lots of veggies for myself forces me to get creative and find new ways to use them that I never before would have considered. If you’re still like I was a few years ago and are scared of those greens on your plate, it’s time to grow up and learn to love your veggies.

Hopefully these tips have provided some guidance from your kitchen to the grocery store and everywhere in between. Here are some of my personal favorite recipes for your viewing (and perhaps tasting) pleasure. Enjoy! Easy, healthy and completely vegan tofu lettuce wraps! Sweet potato fries are an easy, moderately healthy snack (or meal) fit for any occasion.

This last recipe is one that my girlfriend and I have pieced together over the past couple of months. It incorporates tons of veggies and leaves enough leftovers to feed yourself for most of the week!

Chelsea and Eric’s lazy veggie pasta:

1 lb of your favorite pasta.

1 can of plain tomato sauce.

~2Tbs olive oil

½ large onion, diced.

½-1 green pepper, diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

½ block of tofu. (optional but highly recommended)

frozen spinach (however much you like.)

8-10 baby carrots, diced.

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Cumin (to taste)

  1. Start by sautéing onion, garlic, and olive oil in a medium sized pot (this will be the same pot that you cook your sauce in. So make sure it’s big enough!)
  2. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the rest of the veggies and crumbled tofu. Continue to sauté for a few minutes on medium heat.
  3. After a few minutes, add the entire can of tomato sauce and stir, making sure the veggies are evenly incorporated. This is also when you want to add your spices. Turn heat to low and leave covered for roughly 30 minutes. Make sure to come back occasionally to give it a good stir.
  4. After the 30 minutes are up, cook your pasta according to the directions on the box. Once it is finished, combine with sauce in a large pot.


Experience the 30-Day Challenge

College is about learning right? So what better way to learn than through experience! A 30-day challenge is the perfect way to set parameters for experiences. Their logic is very simple; chose a challenge and carry it out each day. Say you chose a BIG challenge like eating a vegan diet. You are going to have to take steps that you believe in to achieve this challenge. If you want to go cold turkey, that’s great, but if the challenge is intimidating take it one step at a time. Start by only buying vegan foods at the grocery and slowly replacing those you already have. It is important to set goals you feel you CAN achieve.

Some of the people I admire most are constantly finding new challenges for themselves. One of my friends makes it a point to reach out to the meaningful people in her life and spend time with them when she is at home, another has recently embarked on the peace corps for two years, and a third has removed all items from his room only to return 100 or less. I see these challenges they set for themselves as a path to a new experience and perhaps a new perspective. It keeps things fresh.

For this reason, and with some help from my TAD team, I have compiled a list of challenges for all of us to consider. I even organized them with input from Dr. Anne Fabine’s advice in a 2012 “Harvard Men’s Health Watch” publication which discusses different ways you can exercise your brain.

So, without further ado:

30 Day Challenges


Unplug from any unnecessary social media (TV, FB, Twitter, Radio)

Reconnect with an old friend or reach out to someone new

Write a thank you note


Try a vegan/vegetarian diet

Bike everywhere within two miles

Write out a workout routine and follow it

Use the concept of sleep cycles or the circadian rhythm for sleeping

Pick up hula-hooping


Turn your phone off for an hour a day

Dedicate an hour to yourself

Start your day with meditation/yoga

Capture a moment in a photo

Find a list of topics to mull over and write a journal entry on them

De-clutter: get rid of one thing

Don’t buy anything new


Don’t plan out your free time

Learn a new word and apply it

Explore a new place

Read a news article, or section of a book

Discover a new artist (art, cinema, music, etc.)

Unofficial Orientation

And so another semester at JMU begins. You reacquaint yourself with those signature JMU hills, curse at the traffic you hoped would magically disappear this year, and dig out your trusty JAC card. Or maybe this year is your first at JMU, and if so, just look at that last sentence as a preview of what’s to come.

Welcome freshman and transfer students! Consider this your unofficial orientation, and some advice from someone who’s been-there done-that.

  1. Get involved! No really. Go to Student Org Night each semester! Even if it is hot, crowded, and people are shoving flyers at you all night. You never know when you’ll run across The One; the club that helps unearth your true passion.
  2. Explore all possible majors. You may think you have it all figured out, and you may think you’re perfectly happy with your predetermined major. But what if you were to discover something like, say, Justice Studies or Biology, and realize that’s where your true calling lies?
  3. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable. You are here to challenge yourself and that means experiencing new things, so don’t rule out the hula hooping club (Free Flow), the Quidditch team, or D-Hall (Cheesy Thursdays!).
  4. Get the JMU Bus App. It will help you decipher the maze of bus routes and you’ll thank yourself later.
  5. Save your documents online. Use something like Google Drive so when you inevitably loose that USB dangerously dangling from your keychain during finals week, you won’t see your life flash before your bloodshot eyes.
  6. Explore downtown. I have heard way too many upperclassmen say they still haven’t ever really been downtown. Venture outside the JMU bubble, like now. Who doesn’t love a good farmer’s market, salsa night, burger topped with mac and cheese, or a little light afternoon shopping?
  7. Save yourself some money. Don’t make the mistake of spending $500 on full priced books the first semester. Chegg (and Amazon) exist for a reason, people.
  8. Invest in a good quality, waterproof backpack. Because we all know that canvas messenger bag or Vera Bradley tote is cute, but when you’re halfway through the semester with an aching back and rain-soaked notes, you’ll be thinking otherwise.
  9. Look for internships early. Don’t wait until your last semester. Consider these as test runs for your future career, resume builders, and invaluable hands-on experiences in your job field.
  10. If you live in a dorm, shower shoes. ‘Nough said.
  11. Look for unique classes to fulfill your credit requirements. Because why not take Fly Fishing for your lab or Elementary Ballet for fun?!
  12. Find a job on campus! If you’re like me, money doesn’t just appear on that worn out debit card, you gotta work for it. You can’t beat the commute, flexible hours, and the always-flattering purple uniform (seriously, purple is a good color on almost everyone).
  13. Lastly, seek out diversity. Don’t let yourself fall into a blissfully ignorant state, constantly surrounded by people just like you. There’s more out there, you just have to look for it!