Hello All!

Well I’ve made it through my 3rd year at Hollins, I’ve settled into my summer, and now that I’m not so busy with homework and other school obligations I have some new thoughts for you. Perhaps I’ll start a summer blog series. Or perhaps I’ll just post this one and let it stand on its own. We’ll see if I get more inspiration.

Before coming to Hollins, I hadn’t really heard of Gap Years. And if I had, no one had proposed them to me as an option. And I certainly wish they had, though I’m not sure I would have taken one. In retrospect, I should have. I’ve been a “professional student” for my entire life. If you consider that, except for summers, most of us have been in school from 7-3 or thereabouts, 5 days a week, roughly 9 months a year, for 13 years, we are all professional students. We’ve been trained to sit in school and learn, and then go home and study for school. When you get to college this is intensified by rigorous courses and the need to balance a social and educational life with sleep. In addition the costs of university are growing. Most of us plan to attempt a graduate program also. Needless to say, we’ve had little time to think about many of the big questions that a costly education demands we know. The biggest is probably  some combination of “What do you want to do with your life/your degree/after you graduate?” And I certainly think that a gap year gives you the opportunity for clarity outside of the classroom, but they are not for everyone and that is understandable.

That’s not to say that I’m unhappy with my choice to come to Hollins when I did. I’m so proud to be part of the Class of 2015. I couldn’t imagine Hollins any other way than as I have experienced it with my 2015 friends and those that have since left Hollins. I’m saying instead that I feel that I have missed an amazing opportunity to make some decisions in life and I’m certain that a gap year could have been one year of amazing self-discovery. Most students that I know who have taken a gap year have come back from it more prepared than before for school with some of those huge life questions and answers. Some of those questions never get answered, but at least you can begin to have an idea if you’ve had time to do exactly what you want. If you come to school rather certain of what you want to do or where you want to end up, it helps. Certainly not everyone who comes in to university with a clear intention of what they want to do will continue to pursue those same interests. University changes you, it opens your mind. The same way a gap year spent working, traveling, and discovering yourself does.

There are a ton of programs that can help you find internships, jobs, and make travel abroad simpler during your gap year. Gap years are very popular in the UK. There are scholarships for gap years if you complete them with organizations like Americorps & CityYear. Some gap years cost as much as a year of university if all you are doing is traveling, or if you are paying a company to locate you for your gap year.

Here are a couple benefits I found for taking a gap year:

1. Gap year students who took a year off after completing high school are less likely to burn out in college. Harvard recommends in its admission letter (and has for the past 40 years) and on its website that students accepting admission should defer and take a gap year. I would really recommend that you read Harvard’s “Should I Take Time Off?” page

2. If you’re worried you won’t go back, 90% of students returned to school after their gap year. Source

Gap years are not for everyone, and they are not always a success. But with planning and foresight, a gap year can be quite beneficial. And if you’re afraid of being a year “behind” your classmates, I doubt you’ll even notice.  Also – you can take gap years in the middle of university. You can still com back and still be involved. Don’t let the fear of what is different when you return keep you from coming back to university. Think of it this way: it was like you took a year abroad, something that is becoming more common among university students. Just like those that went abroad, you will bring back new experiences, knowledge, and outlooks to every situation that you are in. Two of my good friends I met my first year are a year older because they took a year away from university to pursue other interests. I have some very insightful conversations with them on a regular basis and I go to them because I find myself respecting them as wiser and with life experiences different from my own. University is not just about learning from your professors, its about learning from the people all around you.

To close, if you’re lucky enough to be able to have the opportunity to take a gap year, do so. Or plan for one after university is over. Or during if you need it. This is the time in our lives where we are able to be self-focused and I find that to be something terribly important. But no matter what, arrive in the fall ready to work and with an open mind. Because university will change you. Hollins will change you more.

If you didn’t already know, these last three months in Virginia have been cold and snowy (deep snow for VA), a pattern slightly out of the ordinary. Personally I’m used to random snow days as far into the year as June, but I suppose that comes with growing up at a mile high. Here, snow is not something that happens on a regular enough basis to demand that the DOT have snowplows. Anyway: Snow. And snow means a lot of water and runoff that supply the lakes, rivers, and stream. But snow also means very cold run off, which in turn means very cold paddling.


This year we didn’t make the spring break trip to North Carolina, but the few that decided to put up with cold water practiced on the James  in canoes, kayaks, and on Smith Mountain Lake on a stand up paddleboard (a new team event at nationals this year.).


The drive to Dillsboro was uneventful and the van remarkably quiet. It was rainy on Friday and Saturday, so we raced in the rain. Considering I was the only paddler that had been to nationals before, we did quite well. My partner Ashleigh and I managed to garner 3rd place in the Women’s Tandem Canoe.

3rd Place Women's Tandem Canoe

3rd Place Women’s Tandem Canoe

As a team we finished 3rd in the Relay, bringing us all a medal in the Women’s Division:

3rd Place Women's Relay

3rd Place Women’s Relay

And after a sunny and eventful day on the Standup Paddleboards, we came home with some snazzy hardware: 3rd place Women in the Nation!

3rd Place Women's National Team

3rd Place Women’s National Team

All in all it was a fun weekend and a good way to end Spring Break! Congratulations to all the other teams that competed and the winners!

This may have been the best January term of my life. The trip to St. John was one that I will remember forever and I’m already thinking of ways to return. Much like the connection I developed to a new home during the semester I spent in Paris, I’ve developed a similar connection to VIERS on St. John. For a look at the course blog visit it HERE. By the way,  you’re in for a long one. The trip was 10 days and we did SO MUCH. I won’t be offended if you just scroll through for the pictures.

If you read my previous blog post you’ll know that I was delayed in returning to Roanoke from Wyoming because of the winter storms, those same storms which are still hanging around and making it absolutely frigid everywhere. The flights to Roanoke from DC went something like this that Sunday: Delayed-Further Delayed-Cancelled. That happened three or four times before I found my way to a lovely hotel and slept. Monday, the same Monday I was supposed to be in class, I finally got on a flight around dinner time and made my way back to Hollins around 8pm. I was finally back but felt perpetually behind as I had to do laundry and study, while also catching up on what I missed that day. It was a bit rough.

The rest of that week went well, and we all left for St. John on Thursday the 9th. I abandoned all forms of communication from then until the 20th. It was quite nice. The flights were uneventful and we were incredibly lucky to get out of Charlotte as the winter storm proceeded to close down the airport after we took off. And stepping off the plane into the St. Thomas sunshine and heat was a very welcome change from the below freezing states we just left behind. Half of the adventure of Friday was getting everyone together, loading an open-air taxi with all twenty of us, plus our bags, and making across the entirety of St. Thomas to the 6pm Red Hook ferry to St. John. The drive was peppered with local artworks placed on the retaining walls alongside the road and the ferry ride was punctuated by our first island sunset. Once the drivers had gathered rental cars it was time for our first winding drive along mountain roads in the dark of the night to our new home, VIERS.

Sunset from the ferry  - January 10

Sunset from the ferry – January 10

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As I sat in Dulles Sunday night waiting for my perpetually delayed flight to Roanoke, I decided it was about time that I wrote a new blog. As it is a new year, it is only appropriate that I have a resolution, but the main one that even pertains to this blog is that I’ve set a goal to post far more regularly. Bi-monthy at least, weekly ideally, but I don’t always have great things to talk about so I suppose that I will do my best to have something interesting to say bi-monthly. I even put it on my schedule for the semester and I already have a few ideas.

You may have wondered where I disappeared to after November began, the simple answer is that I was absorbed by homework, which meant a lot of work over Thanksgiving (I stayed on campus) but also the prioritization of sleep as towards the end of any semester an ever-increasing deficit begins to catch up with me, and then finals. Once finals were over I basically decided to disappear for a while and enjoy the short time I had at home. Finals went well. I had three papers and one actual exam, so that wasn’t so bad, but it was a little overwhelming in the moment. I actually managed to bring up my GPA this semester, which I exciting since it was a pretty full semester for me.

Now we’re on to JTerm. It was great break, though a longer once would have been appreciated. However, I’m terribly excited about my class. I’m lucky enough to be going on the research trip to St. John, US Virgin Islands, with Professors Godard and Wilson, two fantastic biology professors. We will be there for 10 days, which will be jam packed and exhausting in the best way possible. I cannot wait to see the sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, and to swim with the marine life there. The other bonus is that everyone on this trip gets to skip over some of the lovely January weather that is pounding the whole country. We will be blogging as a class here:

St. John January Term 2014

Be sure to follow along. I plan on doing a follow up post when we get back, and then starting in with regular blogging again. Hopefully I will have a ton of fun pictures to share with all of you.

If you’re traveling: Safe travels! If you’re not: Stay cozy!

Talk to you all soon!


Tinker Day is a magical day! This year the upper classes were rather confident in the fact that the special day would fall on a Wednesday and it just so happened that we were right. Unfortunately Tuesday was a gorgeous day. Wednesday morning, not so much. It was rainy and cloudy, but luckily it wasn’t cold. Instead of hiking the mountain we had a modified Tinker Day that was in many ways just as good as regular Tinker Day.

We rose early to the banging of pots and pans, and ate our fair share of doughnuts (or is it donuts? Hmm. A long debated question.)

I made my stick horse into a Unicorn:

Calliope the Unicorn

Calliope the Unicorn

We dressed up:

Class of 2015 Cabinet

Class of 2015 Cabinet

We walked:

March on!

March on!

We sang at the rock. We had skits.

Class of 2015 Skit

Class of 2015 Skit

And WE ATE delicious things. Like chicken and potato salad and Tinker Cake.

And as all Tinker Day afternoons tend to go, we all took a much needed afternoon nap.

Also to finish up the month of October there was of course Halloween, which saw the return of the Rough and Tumble. They were here last fall also, but I was abroad and didn’t get to see them live, and everyone raved about them. They were downright fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed their music. You should all check them out!

The Rough and Tumble, picture courtesy of #myhollins

They also kindly remind me that Sunday is the end of Daylight Savings Time. And it’s Fall so that means “Fall Back!” WHICH MEANS AN EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP. I’m a fan. So don’t forget to set your clocks back before you go to bed on Saturday or you’ll be super early for everything on Sunday.

Have a great weekend!

The Fall Colors

The Fall Colors

So you know while you sleep sometimes you wake up a little and dream that you’re doing all the things that you should be doing, like writing blogs or showered and on time for class, but then end up waking up late for classes in real life or never writing that blog you dreamt you wrote? Or sometimes you do that while you’re awake too? I do it when I read a text and then have to do something, but in my head I totally and completely though through my reply, but it never actually gets sent. Yeah, that happens to me more often than I realize sometimes.  So while in my mind I had every recollection of writing a blog post this month, obviously I haven’t. My apologies to you! So if you’re still with me and you’re in it for the long haul, get something cuddly and a snack and I’ll fill you in on October, which was very busy.

I started off the month by having a lot of meetings, but I was very lucky in that I got to volunteer for CityWorks (X)po, which is an incredible three-day conference here in Roanoke. (X)po is focused on “Big Ideas for Small Cities” and it’s kind of like a mini TEDx conference with a multitude of speakers focused on ideas that can be used to improve and grow Roanoke. It’s a great conference to be a part of and I met some really cool people.

The following week C3 happened here on campus. Having been abroad last year during C3 I hadn’t yet experienced the new idea that was C3 and was excited at the prospects. Classes were put on the condensed schedule to allow all the students to attend, and I’m slightly glad it wasn’t an all day conference because there was so much to take in that even just half a day was exhausting. I went to presentations on building resumes and interviewing, and had the chance to meet some very successful alums. That is one thing about Hollins, we have a large alumnae network that is still involved with Hollins and willing to help us as students and future professionals.

As a side note I turned 21! Happy Birthday to me! I was lucky in the fact that though I had been so busy and my birthday was on a Monday and it was the start of mid-terms, fall break was the end of the week of my birthday. So it may have been full stream ahead even on my birthday (I had a presentation on my birthday. How’d it go? It went quite well, thanks for asking!), my parents came out and we drove down to Asheville, NC so they could show me around one of their favorite cities. It was a great trip and I really like Asheville! The fall color was great too, and a nice treat for my parents since it’s been snowing at home for weeks.

My sister sent me an Edible Arrangement!

My sister sent me an Edible Arrangement!

Post fall break mid-terms kept happening and events kept coming. It was also really cold for ages. But this week has been much better. I’ve really just been doing a lot of studying and homework, which I have been. And I take naps when I can. Perhaps October is the hardest month for school? I don’t know, but I survived as I knew I would.

Last night I went to a very thought- provoking talk on cultural appropriation and the difference between that and cultural appreciation since Halloween is fast approaching and costumes are not always kind. It really made me think of the various costumes worn on Halloween, and the various clothing we wear everyday.
If you’re interested in learning more about cultural appropriation, what is means, what it is, and how not to do it, feel free to watch this video and Google cultural appropriation:


I’ll be posting again soon! And then it’s November. What!?


I feel as though I talk about how fast time flies quite a lot lately. But the fact that it is seriously the last day of September is a little sad. I’ve finally noticed how early it is beginning to get dark, and my brain keeps thinking it’s about two hours later than it actually is at the time. Perhaps I’m reluctant to let go of long summer days. I don’t mind the chill in the air though since it keeps my room nice and cool.

All of September has gone by in a  blur. Making the daily swim through the giant vat of homework, balancing that with fun, friends, campus events, and other responsibilities is a challenge but it is always worth it. I’m liking all of my classes quite a lot, and they are all challenging in their different ways. The best part is when concepts in all of my classes begin to intertwine, and projects become very interesting because the links between my majors of Environmental and International Studies become quite clear. I’m not sure that I told you all what I am taking this semester: Intro to International Studies, Ecology, Environmental Politics and Policy, and Marxist Theory. I like them all and Marxist Theory is most definitely the hardest of them all, but I think it will be very useful next year when I write my thesis (which is both a terrifying and entertaining thought).

In Ecology we went up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and watched migratory Raptors as they flew down the Appalachian Mountains on their way to Central and South America for the winter. It was a record day for Harvey’s Knob as they saw well over 8000 birds, and seeing as many as we saw was absolutely incredible with the majority being Broad Wing Hawks. I love birds, and the fact that Hollins lies so close to a migratory path gives us an opportunity to learn about birds in the field instead of simply from a book.

Overall, September has been great. But I think October holds many great things, including my birthday which is obviously the highlight of the entire month.  I’ll be writing about HOP in my next post, so check back in a week or so!


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