Advice from The (Peer) Advisors: Doing Homework Is a Skill?

Image of Peer Advisor Gwen Umbach

Check out the following study tips from Senior Peer Advisor Gwen Umbach (CCAS ’20)!

On the second day of this semester, the slam of my apartment door startled me from a social media stupor yet again, to see my homework spread around me, long since abandoned. I hadn’t intended to spend thirty minutes checking my notifications, I actually wanted to get ahead on my work this time.

UHP students are notorious even within GW for doing lots of things at once, and for me one of the biggest challenges of college has been keeping myself focused enough to finish all those things. Though it’s always a struggle, this semester I’ve finally managed to implement some of the great advice I’ve gotten over the years, and I want to share a of the few things that have actually helped me not only start my work, but finish it.

As the brilliant Ben Faulkner pointed out to me, not all homework is created equal, and choosing what to work on first helps maximize time. Whether you’re a morning person, or one who only does homework when it’s dark out, knowing what time of day you focus best (not just when you’re the most
panicked) helps manage those assignments that require the most brainpower. Similarly, when I have lots of assignments to do in a night, working from hardest to easiest, or giving myself easy work between the hard assignments, has helped make my brainpower last much longer than it used to.

The second and the biggest change I made to my work habits was defining where I work. In high school, I always studied at home, and when I started college I continued that without any real thought, but over time it has become apparent that I am terrible at concentrating in my own home. After trying most places on campus, I have finally settled on the DC Public Library as my place for more intensive homework. For easier or less pressing work, I choose a different location—maintaining the sanctity of
the library as a hard-work-only zone has helped me stay on task when it matters the most. Regardless of what the best place is for you, finding it and committing to it makes a big difference.

The last, and hardest, piece of making a work schedule, has been the actual ‘schedule’ part: deciding when to work. This is the advice that I heard repeatedly from professors and advisors, and failed repeatedly to put into place: Block off time for homework, and if anyone asks you to hang out during those times, say you’re busy. In order to stay focused, not just during one afternoon but in the long term, consistency is key. That means tricking your brain into thinking that you absolutely have to sit down and work, even though there is nobody forcing you to follow through. This is a big adjustment to make from high school, where parents, teachers, and coaches oversaw most of our activities and knew if we skipped out on something. And it’s even harder when you start long-term projects like an honors thesis, that might require a lot of self-discipline. Last semester, I utterly failed at this. I ditched my scheduled work hours for activities with friends, campus events, and even peer advisor meetings. Now, though, I’m holding to that schedule (so far), and it has made a huge difference in the amount of work I get done.

It is both frustrating and heartening to realize that now, as I’m about to leave GW, I have finally discovered some strategies for working and studying that I can actually stick to. As useful as this would have been four years ago, it’s remarkable to think about how far my habits have evolved from where I was in my first year. I’ve finally accepted the reality that study habits are a skill to be practiced, and despite the many question marks in my future as a soon-to-be-graduated senior, I’m starting to trust that as time goes on, I will continue to improve at the skills that I’ve gotten a grasp on in college. Even when I still find myself hopelessly distracted, it’s comforting to know that if I’ve come this far, I can get even better in the years to come.

Published at 19, ft. Chris Zuniga

Join me for a Book Talk I am hosting on January 28th, 2020 in the basement of Gelman at 6:00 PM. There, I will talk about my journey in getting published and what it really is to sit down and write and know that your work will become part of the public discourse. The event doubles as a University Academic Workshop. While I will be speaking on the industry and how to navigate it, I will delve into the structure, teachings, purpose, and content of my book. How I Became a Traitor will publish in April 2020.

There will be time for Q&A. Ask questions about anything. I’ll answer.

If you’re looking to learn more about the book and my journey, follow me on Instagram (@AtChrisZuniga) and read the section below.

Enjoy your day. Thank you.

_______________________

Story of My Book

My name is Chris Zuniga, and I am the author of How I Became a Traitor. I wrote this book because I have had enough of the social isolation I and others experience for the “discrepancy” between our genetics and our ideas. The biggest obstacle in rebuilding our political and social arena in modern-America is the very social isolation I speak of. I believe the cause of it to be the same people who claim to understand the struggles of others and champion their causes as allies. Sympathy is not empathy. At the sight of my people’s brown skin, we are greatly “valued” by social advocates because we “matter and deserve a seat at the table”. But when we disagree, we are “traitors” and simply “not woke enough.”

Conservatism is not Republicanism, but the recent conflation of the two things has damaged our country. By conflating personal and social values to objective policy prescriptions that do not necessarily correspond with them, we force ourselves into a corner with our faces toward the wall. There’s no way we can begin to sympathize with something we corner ourselves into never understanding. At its core, my book is about the obvious truth no longer commonly practiced: politics is beyond appearance.

My hope is that, in reading this book, you will understand that conservative principles reach far below the surface of everyday liberal-conservative politics. I hope to instill in you the same passion and excitement that I have for understanding society’s facade of understanding the marginalized for its own social and political gain. Ultimately, I want you to see this book as a tool to help you gain special insight into the experiences of everyday people like me, who are assumed by outsiders to have specific ideas, characteristics, and experiences simply because of the way we look. More importantly, this book will help you grow closer to who you are as an individual and more confident in your control of the life you choose to lead.

How I Became a Traitor is a non-fiction book that speaks to everyone interested in the intersection between politics, values, and identity.

 

 

The Book – How I Became a Traitor

The book is written in 3 Parts….

Part 1: The Betrayal — Through stories like that of Antonia Okafor, Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, and my own in the context of my family’s journey across the Southern Border, readers will understand identity politics beyond its definition, as well as how its adoption tears our social fabric.

Part 2: The Battle — Through stories of institutional and social suppression and outright racism, readers will learn how identity politics labels everyday minorities as either “tokens” or “traitors.”

Part 3: Our Truce — An exclusive conversation with writer and political commentator Steven V. Roberts will contrast today’s political arena with the recent past, demonstrating how a two-minute change in mindset is enough to restore political unity, promote social progress for all, and treat the country of its politics-by-appearance.

 

 

What I Need & What You’ll Get

This book will be published with New Degree Press. I set up the pre-order tiers to help cover the costs for publishing my book. Money raised will go towards the following:

  • The Editor I will work with to revise and publish my manuscript in April 2020
  • The Cover Design of my Book — the mockups you see currently are a placeholder!
  • The Layout Design for the interior of my book (Physical Copy, Ebook Formats)
  • The Copyediting for My Book — to help polish the grammar and spelling prior to publication
  • The Launch & Promotion Efforts for my book — when I ultimately publish this Spring

When I pre-sell 100 copies of my book, I will publish. When I pre-sell 150 copies of my book, I will also publish an audiobook. When I pre-sell 200 copies of my book, I will publish a hardcover edition. When I pre-sell 250, I will publish a translated version in Spanish.

I am also offering some exclusive rewards for people who pre-order my book now. When I publish, you will receive the following :

  • A personally signed copy of my book
  • A personal thank you note for pre-ordering my book
  • Your Name will appear in a Special, Acknowledgements Section of my book (“with Special Thanks to”)
  • Early access to the Introduction of my Book.
  • The opportunity to help give me feedback and be involved in selecting my cover
  • I will do a book topic/workshop seminar where I will share experience the experiences of writing my book
  • An Invitation to my Launch Party

 

 

About the Author

Chris Zuniga is an Honors student at The George Washington University, studying Political Communication and Sociology.

Born into an undocumented and poor family in inner city Passaic, Chris experienced crime, poverty, a struggling school system, and hopelessness. Yet, his ideology isn’t what you expect it to be. Having always been put on the spot for his in-the-minority beliefs, Chris learned to manipulate negative attention to his benefit at a young age. He owes this skill to those who try to isolate and discredit him, as he says they “cluelessly promote my success by giving me a platform. They make things like this book a reality”.

In 2017, Chris’s outspokenness earned him national press and an invitation to the Rose Garden for a formal address by the President of the United States. Chris wants a career supporting Black and Latino youth in navigating “toxic, but particularly toxic ‘liberal’ spaces” through imparting what he has learned in his journey from the fourth Most Miserable City in the United States (Business Insider) and into the pinnacle area of elitism, Foggy Bottom/Georgetown in Washington DC.

Chris speaks publicly at a variety of events and aspires to gain a platform where he can make social commentary that he believes will change mindsets, outlooks, and lives. In his free time, he dedicates himself to just that, having previously spoken at Universities, State Board meetings, Boards of Education, Tedx Conferences, and soon, his readers and podcast listeners.

For more information, you can connect with Chris via email at AtChrisZuniga@gmail.com, on Instagram @AtChrisZuniga, and on LinkedIn.

 

 

Risks & Challenges

The biggest challenge with publishing a book is delivering the finished book to the backer, specifically my mailing of the book to you. I have eliminated this risk by building into the campaign the mailing and shipping costs of your signed copies to you within each pre-order tier.

The risk of delivering the pre-sale copies of my book is contingent on the publisher we use. I will be working closely with New Degree Press to make sure we get the earliest possible ship date of the signed book copy to you. We will keep all pre-sale backers up-to-date as my book hits each key milestone and publishes. You will know when the copies of my book you pre-ordered are expected to ship.

 

 

Other Ways You Can Help

Some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help:

  • Please Share my Pre-sale Campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with your friends, family and network. Please use #IAmATraitor and tag me as well as my publisher, New Degree Press, so we can help amplify your efforts.
  • You can easily share my Pre-Sale Campaign Page via Indiegogo at the top of the page
  • Please share my book with five friends, family members, or co-workers who you think would enjoy it. Please do this as a text message or direct message on social media.

Thank you so much for all your love and support!

Thanks again,
Chris Zuniga

The Great Alone, The Review

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020 The Review had its first monthly meeting where we discussed Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. Here is what we had to say. (Warning, spoilers!)

 

First, our general consensus is that the novel reads like a bestseller. The story checks off many boxes of fiction like romance, adventure, coming of age, trauma, and family crises. At the end of nearly every chapter there was a cliffhanger or new plot line opened, making putting down the book a challenge. Although there were important themes that were thought-provoking, the novel didn’t change most of us. If anything, the constant movement of the plot became tiring and fantastic, which made it challenging to read.

The three main themes in the book that we discussed were trauma and violence, the forms of love present in relationships, and the themes of feminism. First, we discussed the challenge of placing blame on Leni’s father or seeing him as a victim of PTSD. Hannah wrote Leni’s father’s character in a way that made reader’s conflicted and almost felt relief when he died, yet felt sorrow for his pain and how he had to deal with PTSD. It made sense given the time period that his suffering after being a POW in Vietnam would be glossed over and not well-played out, since many veterans suffering from PTSD at this time had similar experiences. What was interesting is that Matthew received therapy after his traumatic experience with his mother’s death, so it was not as if treatment was unavailable for people living in Alaska at the time. Leni’s father refused to accept treatment ever, making him not just a victim of his experience. Another great question brought up by my own mother who read the book after I did is whether Leni’s mother should feel blame for putting Leni at risk by following her father to Alaska.

For themes of love in the book, Hannah plays out neighborly love, love as a “sickness” with Leni’s parents, family love, and love as a form of survival. We did notice that there is never true platonic friendly love. Leni misses that even when she moves back to Seattle, where Hannah only develops out the love she experiences with her family. Large Marge and the other female neighbors help Leni and her mother survive in the wilderness and Leni’s father, again following the theme of love as a form of survival. Even Leni and Matthew’s love becomes a form of survival.

Finally, we discussed the themes of feminism and strong female characters in the novel. A clear example of this was the strong female neighbors and their protection of Leni and her mother. What we struggled with is that Leni did not seem to grow much as a character on her own. When she was in Alaska, she may have been lonely but she was not growing on her own and in her own will. When she left Alaska, she was a young mother and had to grow as such. The only true decision she made on her own was returning to Alaska, where she immediately returned to being in a relationship and growing with Matthew. It was frustrating that Leni could not grow as her own person, but perhaps that was the tragedy of her character.

Interested in joining The Review? You can sign up for emails regarding our meetings here. Next month in celebration of Black History Month we will be reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

#HonorsProblems: Navigating The Impostor-Syndrome Horror of Honors Classroom Discussion

Peer Advisor Natalie Stands in front of a pillar

Academic terror.  Sheer intimidation.  My first day of Origins, I considered dropping out of the University Honors Program.  Was I smart enough to be here? Could I get high enough grades? Could I contribute thoughtfully to discussion? These were the doubts rushing through my mind.  

I was surrounded by brilliant peers discussing their desire to be the next generation of philosophers.  The professor asked weighty philosophical questions, and the students had profound thoughts on modernity, philosophy, and society.  

I had never read an original philosophical text in my life.  

Though only a few semesters ago, I was misguided in my intimidation.  After becoming more immersed in the UHP community, I am now able to recognize the importance of self-reflection rather than comparison.

Chances are, I’m not going to be the smartest person in the room, the most well-read, or most well-educated.  But, there is one thing I can control; I can always be the hardest working.

Instead of becoming frustrated with the vast intellect of my peers or their quick grasp of concepts, I focus only on my level of effort. 

By re-centering my focus on personal work ethic, I can curb frustrations that often arise from comparison.  I can’t control the grades I will get on a paper or exam relative to my peers, but if I am confident in the time and work I put into studying, I should be satisfied with the outcome.

This mindset has not only allowed me to succeed in my academics but also in my internships.  Rather than accepting the status-quo of other interns, I prioritize my individual effort. Being proud of my attitude and the work I complete allows me to thrive in a workplace environment. 

Whether in Origins classes or internships, if I’m proud of the effort I invest, I have no other choice than to be content with the result.  As UHP students, it is normal to fret over the brilliance of our peers. But, recognizing that we are all selected as unique and valued members of this community is essential in becoming the best versions of ourselves.

#HonorsProblems: The Kindness of Strangers and Other Nice Sentiments for Finals Season

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Tori, an ESIA senior studying international affairs and applied ethics.
“You speak English like Americans; may I ask where you’re from?” After a long day of travel plagued by poorly planned logistics, my friend and I had just ordered our first meal in Malta when the elderly couple sitting at the table next to us asked the dreaded question. Having just finished a semester studying in England and, thus, painfully aware of our Americanisms, we answered with a “yes, how could you tell?” and a smile. They had just finished dessert but appeared to have taken an interest in us.
My friend and I explained that we were both Americans but met while studying abroad. The woman, Charmaine, and her husband, Nick, immediately proceeded to ask us all sorts of questions: Why England? What did you study? What brought you to Malta? How long will you be visiting?
This conversation lasted two more hours. We answered their questions and, as soon as they realized that we were willing to engage with “boring old people,” they opened up to us immediately. Charmaine was Maltese and grew up in Malta; she moved to New York City as a teenager and met Nick, a Long Island native, a few years later. They had been happily married for decades and, now retired, spend nine months of the year in Malta and three months Maine. They were very excited that we had decided to visit Malta and wanted us to have the best experience possible in our limited time there. After spending 45 minutes writing notes and outlining must-see places on a small map, Charmaine asked where we would be going the next day. My friend and I didn’t have a set plan. The next thing I knew, Charmaine and Nick offered to pick us up the next morning and drive us around to their favorite spots in Malta. My friend and I were absolutely astounded by their kindness and enthusiasm, so we agreed.
The next morning, Nick and Charmaine pulled up to our AirBnB in their tiny black convertible, palpably excited to share the island they loved so much. We took every scenic route we could, and Nick and Charmaine told stories of Maltese history, culture, language, family, love, loss, and life. Throughout the day, we hiked to ancient ruins, ate fresh strawberries on an oceanside cliff, saw places where Game of Thrones season 1 was filmed, and ate cake inside an old fortress overlooking the sea. When the afternoon was coming to a close, Nick and Charmaine invited us into their home for dinner and dessert, and we continued to chat. Feeling fulfilled and thankful, my friend and I were exhausted; Nick and Charmaine were exhilarated.
Absolutely touched by their kindness, Laurel and I gave them a card and expressed our endless gratitude for an incredible day. Before we left, Charmaine pulled me aside and told me that our day had meant as much to them as it had to us: “we both had surgery a few months ago, and we were feeling pessimistic about our ages. We were retreating. You showed us that we still have a lot of life left to live, and for that we will always be grateful.” When Nick dropped us off back at our AirBnB, he left us with a challenge: “I hope someday when you’re old farts like us, you’ll see some young travelers and treat them the same way we treated you. Think of us; we’ll be there with you.” And with that, our first full day in Malta was complete.
—–
Sometimes people enter your life when you least expect it. Everybody is struggling through their own personal battles, but everybody has something to share. If you’re feeling like deadlines are approaching but your grasp on what needs to get done is slipping away, remember that this too shall pass and that good things are coming your way. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and deadlines of Finals Season without remembering that it’s also the Holiday Season. Remember to embrace each day this holiday season, and try to live each day fully. Nick and Charmaine would be proud.

#HonorsProblems: FOMO and JOMO: Learning to Balance the Two

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Michelle, an ESIA sophomore studying international affairs and economics.
Avengers: Infinity War, that was the first movie that I went to by myself. Yes, that’s right. I was that person in the theater. The reason why my decision to go alone is so taboo can be attributed to FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. This feeling is especially felt by our age group and is further exacerbated by the college setting. We’re keenly aware of our constant connection with others, but that connection often lends to social comparison, a behavior destructive to our sense of well-being.
As Montesquieu said, “If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.” In my first year, I remember constantly wondering why I didn’t have a close-knit group of friends yet. Why was I not as happy as the people on my Instagram feed?
The problem with FOMO is that it causes people to look outward instead of inward. When you’re so tuned in to others and things that are deemed as “better,” you lose your authentic sense of self. So, how do you maintain this authentic sense of self? Well, I am no philosopher king, but I can offer knowledge about FOMO’s antithesis. Welcome JOMO: Joy Of Missing Out. JOMO entails spending time alone, disconnecting, and being okay just as you are. It can be equated with solitude, a word that gets a negative connotation. It’s tough to think that solitude is acceptable when society, and especially college, tends to favor extroverts. But, cultivating one’s relationship with one’s own self is crucial. Solitude can boost overall well-being, and most importantly, help to prevent burnout.
As we’re gearing up for the chaos of finals, it’s important to remember to take time for yourself. I was overloaded, overwhelmed, and tired from the constant social interactions. Hence, the solo Avengers movie trip during finals week. Phone turned off, those couple of hours disconnected and in tune with myself was enough to improve my headspace and mood.
As proposed by economist Paul Dolan, happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. If you aren’t as happy as you could be, then you must be misallocating your attention. Linking to Origins (because you’ll find that it links to literally everything), the best practice is moderation. You can’t always go out. But you also can’t live in isolation. A step to having this healthy balance is feeling secure in your relationships, which in turn, makes you feel less compelled to always be connected. Know that if you choose to take some me-time, your friends will still be there and eager for the next chance to hang out.
In short, here is the most concrete advice I can offer: utilize Screen Time (sorry Android users), scoot to Smithsonian Zoo alone, meet up with friends there to enjoy Zoo Lights.

#HonorsProblems: Getting Stuck in the Foggy Bottom Bubble

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Linnea, a GWSB junior studying international business and French.
The Foggy Bottom Bubble. I first heard of it at Colonial Inauguration. My group leader talked about how easy it is to forget how much more there is to D.C. than GW’s campus. She warned that despite all of the exciting events, concerts, and museums in the city, many students find themselves sticking to the small confines of GW’s campus.
I swore I would not let myself succumb to the Foggy Bottom Bubble. Coming from a very small town that quite literally shuts down at 8 pm every night,I was beyond excited to move to a city. I vowed to check out a new museum every week, explore all the neighborhoods, and go to every restaurant on the @dcfoodporn Instagram account.
Fast forward 2 years and–spoiler alert–that did not happen.
I definitely knew in the back of my head that I wasn’t taking full advantage of living in D.C. but it didn’t really hit me until I spent a summer here.
Midsummer my two best friends from high school came to visit. It was such a blast showing them around and it really forced me to be a tourist for a weekend. They both go to a large southern school that is very different from GW and they absolutely loved D.C.  After a full day of museum hopping, eating, and shopping, one of my friends remarked “There’s so much to do here you must never get bored!”
My first thought was Yikes as I found myself bored somewhat often, but I also knew that she had a great point.
Around this time, I also realized that one of my work friends, who was from Texas and interning in the city for the summer, had done more “D.C.” things in 2 months than I had in my 2 years at GW. She had gone to museums I kept saying I would eventually go to, eaten at restaurants I said I was dying to check out, and explored neighborhoods I had never been to.
This was a serious–and much needed–reality check for how little I was taking advantage of going to school in such a cool place. I promised myself I would make a more conscious effort to follow through with the “D.C.” goals I made freshman year. While I have yet to eat at every restaurant from the D.C. foodstagrams or make museum trips a weekly occurrence, I am proud to say that I actually followed through this time!
Getting off campus does not have to be an elaborate, expensive, or even planned out trip. It can be as easy as studying at a coffee shop other than Gelbucks, or eating in a new neighborhood instead of going to your favorite place on M Street for the tenth time. We are so fortunate to go to school in such an amazing city so why not take full advantage of it!

#HonorsProblems: Learning to Be a Professional

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Anshul, an ESIA sophomore studying international affairs and security policy.
We are all here at GWU in the Honors Program for a couple reasons. One, we are intellectually curious students who want to learn in an interdisciplinary manner about the world we inhabit in the city that runs the world. Two, we want a job so we can pay back our absurdly high GWU tuition. Internships are a way that students gain work experience while not being paid, in the hopes that they may get a job in the future.
Coming into my freshmen year, getting an internship was all that I had on my mind so much to the point that I made my first mistake. Lesson number one is learn how to say no. I took a position with an expatriate group that ended up having pretty shady connections which led me to resigning after three weeks. Later on, the United States government informed me that continued work for that organization would have led to me being blacklisted for a security clearance. Washington D.C. is full of people who want smart, capable talent that exists in the Honors Program. You are in much higher demand than you think, so take a beat to assess where you are and what risks you are taking. Learn to say no, and leave short term gain for long term benefit.
The decision to leave the internship was a culmination of lesson two. Lesson two is get mentors and figure out channels of advice. When I started working at the organization, I informed multiple mentors of mine about my decision. Some of them were retired, some of them were young, and some of were senior professionals. They were the ones along with my father who first sounded the alarms about the organization. More recently, I used their advice to navigate a complex situation where I had to negotiate with two government agencies regarding conflicting offers. Washington D.C. is run on institutional knowledge, knowledge that no matter how many books you read you can’t get. Mentors use their years of experience to help you get ahead. Make sure that you develop mentors across different fields, ages, and experience levels.
Lesson three is learn to be responsible for not only your actions, but also your team’s. Personal responsibility is one of the most sought after characteristics in the hiring process. As someone who has held a few positions by now, I know that there are good and bad bosses. I have had both. The key to dealing with bad supervisors is knowing how to accomplish the mission while dealing with a frustrating boss. Interns have low to no influence in the organization that they work. You can go to HR but that rarely results in anything. Instead take charge of projects that aren’t going anywhere. If your boss is making you do administrative work instead of your job description, stay late to meet your actual deadlines. Take work home or speed through the nonsense. You have to be humble and tenacious to make sure that you make the most of the opportunity that you can.
Working is hard and make sure that your schedule can deal with the extra time commitment and stress. The more experience you can get, the better prepared you will be when you graduate and enter the workforce.

#HonorsProblems: Honors RA Life

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Mark, an SMPA junior studying political communication.
It was a bristling cold afternoon on February 10th, 2017, and I was coming out of the Honors townhouse after having a paper I had written torn apart by a professor I was meeting with (with good reason, I might add). I had known that an email from the GW Center for Student Engagement would be coming at some point that day with Resident Advisor (RA) decisions, but I had no idea when it would be. After biting my nails all day, the email finally dropped at 4:57 p.m. I was selected as an RA and would be placed in the Honors community in West Hall. When I read it, I was standing right outside the townhouse in between the two benches. My shivering self-leaped for joy. Unfortunately, that was the same night that I contracted bronchitis and had to go to the hospital, so it was a largely difficult day spotted with an incredibly happy moment.
I was certainly looking forward to being an RA for Honors, but I never expected it to be quite as amazing as it was. I had the most kind and engaged residents anyone could have ever asked for. I got to have deep conversations, hear corny jokes, engage in funny hallway conversations, be a romantic matchmaker, feed people, and help people figure out their schedules and their lives. I was probably better at helping my residents figure out their problems than I was at figuring out my own, but don’t tell anybody that.

Me with my five Honors rezzies who became RAs

I was so proud of the people I watched my residents grow into over the course of the year. I saw them learn profound truths about themselves, learn how to be in relationships with others, and take steps to advance confidently in the direction of my dreams. I was especially proud of the five of my residents who became RAs this year and are making a positive impact on their communities. I also had the greatest team in the world, between my amazing floor partner Kate Jones, my outstanding faculty-in-residence Mark Ralkowski and residence hall dog Lola, and the rest of the RAs on the Mount Vernon team.
I remember my time as an RA for Honors students as a time where I learned what a strong and empowering community really looked like. I remember the amazing surprise party that Kate and the residents threw for me in the West Hall Common Room on my 20th birthday. I remember the spontaneous cooking events my residents would hold in our kitchen and the pizza and taco events we would have in the hall. Like any community, it wasn’t always perfect… people went through issues and we had to work out some problems. But ultimately, I am so grateful to have lived in a place where love took me in, and where I learned as much from my residents as they did from me.
Applications to be a Resident Advisor for the 2019-2020 academic year are due Thursday, November 15th. Learn more here.

#HonorsProblems: Finding a Place for Yourself

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Mary, a CCAS sophomore studying archaeology and biological anthropology.
It can be difficult to try to find your place in the big city. Unlike many of my peers at GW I do not wish to work in politics in the future. In a city where everything seems to revolve around politics, one can sometimes forget the vast number of museums and research institutions located here as well. The Smithsonian Institution is one of the largest museums and research institutions in the world. With several individual museums within it. I decided to volunteer at the Natural History Museum in the most recent spring semester. As an archaeology and biological anthropology major, I see myself destined for a museum or a job in academia. But at the museum I am just a volunteer, I do not get paid nor do I receive credit for an internship. But, instead, I do something for myself.
It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I help people from all over the world find their way around the museum. Several times I have be able to use the Spanish I learned in high school (which I never thought I would do). I meet interesting people, who have interesting stories to tell. Most of my fellow volunteers are retired middle and high school science teachers and it’s very cool to hear about their relationship with the museum. I had never considered how much of an impact a single place can have on a person until I started volunteering here.
Volunteering at the Natural History Museum reminds me of where I live. While we all live in DC for at least the four years of undergrad, it can be easy to forget that most people only come to DC one time in their entire lives. This is a destination for many US citizens and foreign visitors alike. It is my job to help them make that experience as memorable as possible. As related to me during training, the volunteers of the Smithsonian are the people that visitors have the most interaction with. We are the face of the Smithsonian that most of the 7 million people remember. And as one of the most visited museums in the world, it is important that we are professional and welcoming.
I would encourage everyone to find their place in DC and at GW. My place where I can escape all the stress related to school is at the information desk next to Henry the elephant at the Natural History Museum.

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