back in the saddle

I am so not ready for spring semester. Of course, spring semester started on Tuesday (well, with the snow day it started on Wednesday).

I’m gearing up for a crazy month at work next month, with 1 open house, 1 faculty candidate visit, and 2 speaker series presentations. One of the presentations is from a UConn MPA alum who helped out in Newtown after Sandy Hook. I’m pumped about that, but all those events mean that I’ll be running around like a madwoman coordinating logistics, etc.

I also got to write the annual appeal letter for the department! I’ve always wanted to dabble in development, so I was super excited to actually write it myself.  Those one page requests for donations seem pretty short and straightforward. Well, I was wrong. After several weeks, revisions, and input from multiple colleagues and faculty members, that damn thing is finally done. Now I really respect what fundraising professionals do. It ain’t easy, yo. I get to stuff envelopes all week, but hopefully all the hard work will be worth it and we’ll rake in some serious cash!

Because of snow I only had two classes last week-Financial Management for Public Organizations and Policy Analysis.  I can tell I’m going to love Policy Analysis–it’s with one of my favorite professors, and the material is super interesting. Basically, we’ll get to learn how to analyze and propose solutions to public problems using economics and other frameworks. Financial Management has promise–the course is about managing money for public and nonprofit organizations (as the title probably told you). I’m not naturally inclined towards finance, but I know these skills will be useful once I leave UConn and embark on my career. Plus, I’ll get to listen to another semester of my professor’s deadpan jokes.

Clearly I’m only writing to procrastinate from my two problem sets already due this week.

Oh, how was winter break you ask? Let’s just say two words: Netflix (watched 5 seasons of Parks and Rec, rewatched 3.5 of Supernatural, and also something else I forgot) and Boston (Fabulous New Year’s with three of my favorite people in the world. Also bubble tea.). Also work.  But that goes without saying.

Maybe I should just plan my trip to Baltimore….

Officially an AmeriCorps Alum

Hello from sunny Florida! I’m currently on vacation for the first time in 2 years. My family and I are enjoying Disney World, one park at a time. More to come on that. I officially ended my VISTA Leader term on Friday. The end was bittersweet–I absolutely loved my work as VISTA Leader. I have worked with some truly amazing people, and I have grown so much , personally and professionally. Let me just say that it sucks to leave a job (and coworkers)that you truly enjoy. I made an infographic about my VISTAs progress over their service terms. As a result of their efforts, we recruited more volunteers, raised more funds, developed partnerships, and ultimately served more students over the course of the year. Our project has really made a difference in New Haven, and for that I’m proud. Last Wednesday, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro announced our grant expanding the project to 21 VISTAs. We got some press and I got to hug Rosa DeLauro. Talk about ending on a high note! That being said, knowing what I am about to do next has really helped me deal with the transition. I start school and my graduate assistant position in a little over a week. I’m just pumped for this next adventure.

CONNECTED!

Guys, I FINALLY scrounged up enough cash to buy a new computer! I’m writing this from my brand new MacBook Pro! I’ve wanted a Mac for years, since I first went to college actually, so I’m basically in geeky heaven right now.  I will finally be able to blog more regularly seeing as I won’t be sharing a computer with my entire family any more.

I digress.

August was a pretty good month for me, all things considered. I’ll give you a quick TL;DR of my life at the moment.

Last year, Freddy won a smoker at a fundraiser that he organized for one of his fellow firefighters. He finally busted it out two weeks ago, and the results were beyond amazing.

Smoking meat takes a long time, but oh my god, the brisket he smoked was out of this world. I’m not really a big red meat or pork person generally, but I really loved the brisket and even the pork shoulder. Not to mention spending all that time with my friends was great.  We’re all in different directions so it’s great when everyone is all in one place.

Last weekend, I went to my cousin Matthew’s eighth birthday party. It’s so weird to see him and Andrew grow up. In some respect I’ll always see them as babies, but they are both so grown up right now! I had a great time spending time with my family and seeing some extended family members I typically only see on holidays.

Finally, work has been busy-good. I’ve been going on six week site visits for our July cohort of VISTAs. The purpose of the site visit is to make sure the VISTAs are doing well at work and in life. I have a list of questions I ask them and I get to look at their office space, etc.

My function is to act as a support system for the VISTAs throughout their year of service, so the site visits are a really good way to get to know the VISTAs on a one-to-one basis.  I’ve always enjoyed the mentoring aspect of the job’s I’ve had (coughkimballcough), so the site visits were pretty fun for me.  I am not their supervisor, so I don’t have authority over the day -to-day aspects of their jobs, but I am there to help troubleshoot and ensure that their service years go smoothly.

Speaking of work, I’m off to Leader training in Chicago on Tuesday! My supervisor, who had the Leader gig before me, says that Leader Training is a lot more professional-development focused than regular VISTA PSO, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve also never been to Chicago, and as a VISTA, I don’t really make enough money to travel extensively. All in all, it should be a good time.

ALSO: I got my business cards last week. I was promised cards last year but never got them (and let me just tell you, giving people your contact info on index cards or post-it notes doesn’t feel very classy or professional), so I was stupid excited to actually get some. Now, I don’t know how I’m going to use them all in a year….

Catching up

Well, the last few weeks went by really quickly. Welp. I kept meaning to blog…but also kept putting it off.

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In the middle of July I finished work at OPP and transferred to the New Haven Education project. The folks at OPP sent Jacqui and me off right. They even framed our end of service certificates and letters from President Obama for us in really classy frames. I definitely miss all of my OPP coworkers, especially the ones I shared an office with. I don’t think I went a day with out laughing. My year of service with OPP had its ups and downs, and leaving early was definitely bittersweet, but now I can look back with my first AmeriCorps year with pride.

When I transferred to New Haven Education, I hadn’t yet finished a full year of service. To be a VISTA Leader, you need to have successfully completed a full service year. As a result, I worked as a Leader Apprentice of sorts, working on planning out my Leader year. In addition to my Leader duties, I’m handling some of the communications duties for the project.

I also got to visit all of our sites and meet the group of VISTAs. We definitely have a great group for this next year!

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Then came my birthday.  Unfortunately, I had to work, but my coworkers bought me a plant for my desk and threw me a little birthday bash.

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My supervisor also brought me flowers! My friends also treated me right with a surprise birthday, featuring more flowers, cake, and copious amounts of alcohol. Basically, I’m stocked for the next year.

My good friend Carrie also came home from England!  I was so excited to see her after 8 long months.  I hadn’t seen her since New Year’s! Carrie will also be serving as an Episcopalian Service Corps member in New Haven! I love just knowing that Carrie is back in Connecticut. Basically, seeing Carrie was my favorite birthday present!

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I spent the last couple weeks watching the Olympics nonstop (I am in love with Nathan Adrian and Ryan Lochte. And also obsessed with the McKayla Maroney is not impressed meme, but I digress). I also officially started my second term of service as a VISTA Leader last Monday.  I ran my first on site orientation for three incoming VISTAs and I think it went pretty well!

I have also developed a falafel addiction. If you’re ever in New Haven, stop by Mamoun’s on Howe Street. The falafel is to die for. It’s also really cheap. And open to 3:00am. You seriously will not regret it.

TL:DR Life is good and I’m so excited for this next year of service!

Long time no talk!

  1. First of all, apologies for my extended hiatus! I have been super busy these past couple of weeks. Last week I had a work trip to 6 Flags which took up my whole Friday (the one day a week I try to reserve for blogging). The meeting was a mandatory all-staff meeting, where we did some team-building and leadership development. After the meeting, we got to play around in the park! I’m blessed with some seriously awesome coworkers, so I had more fun than I had anticipated. I only went on two rides (Goliath + Bizarro) because for some reason I just wasn’t in the mood for rides and stuff. It took a long time to get back home thanks to a car accident in Middletown. 
  2. It has been HOT AS HELL. I made the mistake of wearing black pants to work on Wednesday when the heat wave started (95 degrees, and not the boy band). Unfortunately all my work-appropriate dresses and skirts were dirty.  Just my luck. I’ve been craving ice cream like no other. 
  3. I got my hair cut last week! My Zooey bangs are back with a vengeance. I’ll post a picture when my hair is actually styled and looking fly.
  4. RA Dickey.The man is amazing. He threw two back-to-back one hitters, which is really remarkable.  I’m putting some money aside to get his book, which I heard was awesome.  He also has one of the best Twitters on the team. What else is there to say?  I haven’t been so excited about the Mets in a really long time. 
  5. Possible trip to Worcester to see my good friend Tina in a few weeks! I always love coming back to Worcester. It’s like a second home to me. At this point in my life I’m more familiar with Worcester than with New Haven or Hartford, the cities I grew up around.  I also haven’t seen Tina since graduation (!), so I’m double excited. 

back to the real world

So vacation is over and I’m back to the office!

All in all, last week was a much needed break. I got to spend some time with my friends from home, which was awesome because I’m usually too tired/cranky to hang out after work.

On the Saturday before Memorial Day my friend Alysha had a meat party at her house. We cooked all types of meat over an open flame and enjoyed some brews.  Nothing beats good friends and a warm fire.

This past weekend I went camping FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME on Cape Cod with some of my friends from Holy Cross/the HCGTMB.  I’ve decided that I’m not much of a wilderness/camping kind of girl, but I had a great time hanging out with some wonderful people that I hadn’t seen in awhile.  I met up with my friends Lindsey and Meghan in Harvard, Mass, and then we drove up to BC to pick up our friend Brian.

Johan Santana got the first no hitter in Mets history, after 50 years and over 8,000 games! Unfortunately for me, I was camping with no TV access, and surrounded by Red Sox fans who didn’t understand how exciting this was for a poor old Mets fan like me. I’m so happy that Johan was the one who finally got it! He’s a true class act and an awesome Met.

Unfortunately, we got hit by a huge rain storm on Saturday. We made the best of it by going candle pin bowling.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t encounter the Cape Cod Bear (the black bear that swam across the Cape Cod canal and has been wandering around the Cape ever since), but all in all, I had fun.

I also got a bit of reading and pool time in last week

Now, back to reality…

Friday Five: TV Time edition

  1. I hate to say this, but am I the only one that was a little underwhelmed by the How I Met Your Mother season finale?  The big reveal of the bride was no surprise. I also felt like a lot of the jokes fell a little flat (i.e. baby Erikson’s middle name, Victoria’s return, etc.). I think the jokes and gags had the potential to be funny, but something just seemed a little off about the episode to me. Yes, Barney and Robin are endgame. That’s great. I just really want to find out who the damn mother is. I don’t wnat to see another dead-end or rehashed Ted relationship. I’ve stuck with this show a long time, and there was a time when I was really obsessed with it (Disclosure: I started watching the episodes on DVD in 2009, so I know I’m not like one of the early adopter fans, but STILL. That’s a lot of TV to watch).  Maybe I was the only one who just wasn’t feelin’ it. 
  2. And speaking of disappointing TV…I think I’m over the Real Housewives of New Jersey.  The first few seasons were a lot of fun, but season 4 so far has been full of hate. I mean, the first couple episodes were driven by Teresa’s cookbook and a comment Teresa made to her brother OFFSCREEN. Teresa is no angel (see how she treated Danielle in S1-S2), but I just can’t stand all these grown women gang up on someone.  Caroline is a know-it-all, Melissa is fake, Teresa is a fool, Kathy is a pot stirrer, and Jacqueline is wishy washy. The episodes I’ve watched this season are more painful than fun, so I think it’s time to give up on RHONJ. 
  3. On another note,  the agency where I work is having the annual all-staff meeting at 6 Flags New England. While I’m not super excited about driving all the way up there, I am excited to ride some roller coasters. I haven’t been to a theme park in so long. I think the last time I went was when I went to Fright Fest with my friends Lindsey and Michelle freshman year of college.  I’ll only have a few weeks left here before I start my next service year, so this should be a fun way to wrap things up for me. 
  4. David Wright’s flip-out at Terry Collins for pinch-hitting for him. It’s so refreshing to have the Mets actually actively entertaining me rather than depressing me this year. That’s all I have to say about that. 
  5. I broke one of my biggest life rules this week and bought a pink Mets hat. I vowed to myself long ago that I’d never buy girly/pink team accessories.  I was looking through the MLB.com Shop clearance section and saw this little beauty.  If you know me personally, you know that I cannot resist hot pink. It was on clearance, it was cute, and I can totally wear it to the beach! 

So you want to do a year of National Service?

I realize that I really haven’t written too much about what it’s like to be an AmeriCorps VISTA even though this blog is supposed to be focused on my year of service. I really didn’t have too much to say about VISTA and my service year until now.  It still feels like I just started the service term and have plenty of time to write about it. That’s not true–I only have about two more months left at my current site.

I chose to do VISTA for a few different reasons. First of all, I wanted to do some sort of service program after graduation. Second all, I wasn’t sure at all of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and thought that serving would be a good way to explore a different career path from the ones I’d previously worked in (insurance, food service, retail, customer service) without making too much of a commitment. I also knew that I needed more professional experience if I wanted to land a job.

Here are a couple things I wish I’d known before starting my service term.

Do your research when applying to positions. Make sure you understand what the main tasks and skills required of the position are. Some listings on the AmeriCorps website are really vague and don’t give you a clear picture of what you’ll be doing.  If the listing isn’t clear, and you’re still interested, try reaching out to the current VISTA. He or she might be able to give you valuable insight on the day-to-day responsibilities of the position. Also,  Google the hell out of the organization, and make sure it’s the place you want to be before committing.

Understand what VISTA is. VISTA is indirect service aimed at capacity building, or helping organizations grow in order to serve the goal of ending poverty. That means one thing: you won’t be working hands-on with the community. You’ll be fundraising,  coordinating volunteers, community organizing, and more, but you won’t be tutoring, constructing houses, or handing out food at food shelters.  If you’re more interested in direct service, try AmeriCorps State & National programs or NCCC.

Treat the application process like that of a real job. VISTAs don’t get paid much. That’s a fact. However, lots of VISTA positions receive multiple applicants. Not all of these applicants are straight out of college. Some are retired, some are changing their careers. Take the process seriously. It’s a lot more competitive than you think.

Advocate for yourself. There were a lot of times this year when I wasn’t especially busy because I had already completed projects on my Volunteer Assignment Description (or VAD, basically a job description). My VAD was pretty vague in comparison to other VISTAs, so I had to create work for myself. Try talking to your supervisor, and keep communication clear.

Ask to see a copy of the VAD during the interview process. That way, you’ll get a better idea if the job is a good fit for you.  If the VAD isn’t available, ask more specific questions about the day-to-day tasks of the job. If you get a vague answer, run! The supervisors need to have a clear vision of where the project should go and why the project is important to the agency.  You want to make sure that the project will be worth your time (and the agency’s time).

Understand the stresses.  Being a VISTA is not easy.  You make basically no money for working 40 (or in some cases 40+ hours a week): r. I was lucky that I was able to live with my parents during my service term. Some VISTAs aren’t so lucky–they actually relocate and live on the stipend.  All these external stresses can really effect your work.  Learn how to budget your money and make sure you have a safe place to live.

Make sure you’re committed. VISTA is not like any normal job.  You make a one year commitment to serve, and you shouldn’t view this as a stop gap between college and another “real” job. First of all, you won’t get your education award if you leave early.  Leaving early also leaves your project/organization in the lurch: the agency can’t replace you until the end of your term is up).  Basically, make sure you WANT to make the commitment to serve for a year.

All in all, VISTA can be a good experience.  You can make valuable networking connections, gain references, and gain professional experience.  If you get only one takeaway from this, just make sure you understand what you’re committing to before you commit.

 

everybody’s working for the weekend

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After I graduated from Holy Cross, I started working full time right off the bat at my summer internship from the year before. I’m grateful that I had at least a source of income besides my Kimball bonus so soon after graduation: however, I wish I had taken some time to catch my breath and enjoy being done.

I spent the summer working/saving money and applying for service positions. After completing many applications and enduring 4 interviews, I finally landed an AmeriCorps VISTA position at a youth development agency in Hartford. I only had a week between finishing my internship and VISTA Pre-Service Orientation.

Since then I’ve been working full time without any real time to take a break. With the end of my service term looming ever closer, I’m starting the job hunt once again. And I am completely scared about it. I worked hard in school and at my internship and at my VISTA placement, but I’m just afraid that those things won’t matter.

I went to a training for life after AmeriCorps next week that kick started me into the job search.. Let me tell you, re-starting the job hunt is stressful!

Much props to the Career Planning Department at Holy Cross for reviewing my resume for me so quickly! I didn’t realize how much my resume sucked until I talked to Career Planning. Now I’m tweaking it and making it look classy, and I feel so much better moving forward. I’d be crazy excited if I got a position so soon, but I’m trying to be more realistic about the job hunt this time. Submitting an application or getting an interview doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got the job (I learned this the hard way last summer).

Anyway, so that’s what’s up with me on the post VISTA thang. Let’s hope it all works out!

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In other news, I finally got my wisdom teeth taken out yesterday at the ripe old age of 23. I was super nervous in the days before the surgery (thanks to my fellow VISTAs Jacqui and JoJo for listening to me complain about the wisdom teeth stuff even though I’m sure they were dying to smack me every time I mentioned it). Mostly, I’m afraid of needles, and I got intravenous sedation, so that was probably the worst part of it for me. I was partially  conscious during the procedure, but it was more cool than scary. I didn’t feel anything, but the doctor let me know when he was done extracting a tooth.

So far the pain has been pretty manageable, mostly because I’ve been taking the prescription painkillers the doctor recommended. I figure I’d rather take the painkillers and be a little nauseous than feel the pain.

That’s about it with me.  I’ll be back tomorrow or Sunday with some Instagrams (I know, I’m a little obsessed!)

quick hits

  • I’ve been working and resume-writing a lot. I have a “Life After Americorps” workshop on Friday where I’ll get my resume critiqued. The idea of the job search is already freaking me out. I can’t believe my service year is more than halfway over. 
  • Went out to dinner with some friends on Friday. If you’re ever in Hamden, CT, go to Mikro. They have a great selection of beers on tap and great food (I had the Kobe beef hot dog and it was to die for). The menu’s a little pricey, but you get a lot of good quality food for what you pay for.  And the beer is AWESOME. Only problem is that you have to get there early to avoid the Quinnipiac crowd. 
  • Trip to Worcester to see my sister this weekend. We still haven’t worked out whether or not to see the Hunger Games again.  I’m also going to meet up with my partner in strangeness on Saturday for a couple hours. Long story short: I am excited for this weekend!
  • Titanic is coming out in 3D. I usually hate 3D, but I am jumping at the chance to see Leo in 3D. 
  • They’re coming out with a sequel to Clash of the Titans. The first one was so bad it was funny. Did it really need a sequel?
  • 32 more chapters of Trapped in the Closet are going to be released this fall…and Kells is releasing his autobiography in the summer. I am in R. Kelly heaven. 
  • Mets. What else is there to say?  I am probably going to pick up a copy of R.A. Dickey’s autobiography at some point because he’s a pretty awesome dude. 
  • Wisdom teeth are finally coming out on April 19th. Welp.