Challenge By Choice: To Stay In Honors?

 

Challenge by Choice: an environment where participants are asked to search for opportunities to stretch and grow during the experience

After my first couple class sessions in Honors 300, I really did not think it was for me. I am barely going to squeeze my degree into 4 years and the mountain of requirements seemed to only get bigger as we continued on in class. I was feeling more stressed than excited, so I scheduled a meeting with Phame, the Director of the Honors Program at CMU. I really just needed someone to shoot it to me straight to determine whether it was worth continuing. So, three weeks into the semester, on September 15th, I thought I would be quitting Honors. Quite the opposite happened however. I was reassured on my position in Honors and had a great conversation about my future and aspirations with Phame instead. I am using this meeting to fulfill “Participating in the Honors Community”. While I didn’t see this being a positive interaction with Honors, it was in reality.

The reason for my visit became the least of my priorities once I got taking with Phame. Once my mind was put at ease about achieving my Honors requirements, we discussed my future. I told him about my plans for law school and we discussed what my interests were to narrow down what kind of law I would pursue. He was very knowledgeable about my interests which gave me more confidence in taking his advice. I also shared my passion to study aboard, which he is a huge supporter of. I explained my dilemma between getting an internship before law school, working to save money for school, and studying aboard. My mother is not entirely interested in the idea, so Phame gave me great ideas on how the experience would be beneficial, if not superior, to the activities my mom thinks are important. He even offered to speak with her, because he felt so confident about sending me abroad. Honestly, he re-sparked my interest in study abroad, because I had become discouraged.

Going into Honors and even into my meeting with Phame, I thought the program would be good for my resume and law school applications. I really hadn’t thought about how the program could propel me as an individual. The initial purpose of the meeting was to discuss the ridiculous number of requirements they had added to my full plate; I left believing those requirements were opportunities instead of obligations. Yes, they were still required, but Phame made me see each activity as a way to further my academic and professional career, which is ultimately my purpose for being at the university. I began thinking deeper about all of the things I had involved myself in and if I was doing them for the “right” reasons. In addition to feeling more confident in Honors, my discussion also inspired me to take more steps toward creating connections personally and professionally. I have since reached out to a CMU grad who has since attended Harvard Law, among other professors and local professions that will help to build my future. Phame told me these are the activities that set you apart from the competition; not the title of a honors student, but what you did personally while you were in Honors.

I have gotten pretty excited about my last few semesters after my meeting. I signed up for the Honors Seminar, Service Behind Bars, suggested to me by Phame, which doubles as an Honors “requirement” and relevant career experience. I am really excited. I have also spent a lot of time researching study abroad programs, which I will be completing over the Summer. Overall, I am beginning to see how what you do with a title has greater significance than just the title….thanks to Phame.

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Challenge By Choice: Vegetarian Week

Challenge by Choice: an environment where participants are asked to search for opportunities to stretch and grow during the experience

In the month of October, I decided to adopt a vegetarian diet for a week. I participated alone, but my roommate is a vegetarian, so he walked me through a lot of the basics and showed me good recipes to try. This year is the first time I have lived alone and been responsible for cooking for myself, so aside from the challenge of not consuming meat, I have had to slowly learned the basics of cooking in general. I have thought a lot about making the switch to no meat, but because my family is one of meat eaters, I found it hard to adopt the lifestyle (they were not particularly supportive). This was the push I had to at least attempt it. My freshman year of college I removed meat from my diet for a good chunk of my first semester, however when I returned home, I was not welcomed by meatless meals. I was hoping after the completion of the week I could continue to forego meat indefinitely. I used this activity to fulfill “Exploring Diverse Groups and Ideas in aGlobal Society”.

This project was extremely meaningful to me because I am one of the biggest animal lovers you will ever meet. I wish meat had never been a part of my diet, because it really is heartbreaking to me. I am going on the Animal Endangerment Alternative Winter Break coming up, so this seemed like the right time to make the adjustment. My break members and I have even decided to go vegetarian for the duration the break as well. In general, animals have always been a part of my life. It really just seemed like it was time to sacrifice my taste for meat for the greater good of the critters I claim to adore.

It was a very hard week. First, I already had meat products in my refrigerator that had to go unused. It is also hard for a non-vegetarian to create balanced meals when you don’t know what you are supposed to be eating. A lot of times I will forego eating when I don’t know what to cook, so I am guilty of doing that during this week as well. That is where my roommate, Peter, came in. He showed my the alternatives to animal products and how they can be used in meal preparation. We made breakfast smoothies with almond milk and protein powder to substitute cow milk and meat protein. I also used quinoa burger to get a meat flavor in some dishes. Vegetarianism can be expensive as well. You have to build your diet around fresh vegetables and fruit, which for a college student is not the cheap stuff. At the same time, your meals and grocery shopping becomes much more deliberate because you have to avoid animal products and your food doesn’t last as long in the fridge. I began to understand the commitment my friends have made to their diets when I started to take into account all the extra, behind the scenes, activities that go into not consuming meat.

Additionally, the community of vegetarian and vegans, especially in my generation, is growing and the culture associated with the lifestyle is unique. I wanted to at least get some outside perspective so even if I didn’t remain vegetarian, I could make healthy meatless alternatives in the future. They are a highly misunderstood group as well. The divide between meat eaters and non-meat eaters is pretty distinct, which again shows how embedded meat is in our culture. A large group of my close friends are vegetarian and vegan. We celebrated Thanksgiving as “Dipsgiving,” where everyone brought a chip dip to share. Many of my friends brought vegan dips. It was a fun way to see the vastness of the diet and while I am no longer a part of the community, I could still appreciate the deliciousness of their food culture. It was also nice to see people respecting the health choices of one another. I just made me think more about whether it was something I saw myself doing for a long period of time.

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Soup with quinoa burger, celery, spinach, and additional vegetables. 

Vegetarianism expands so much further than saving the animals; it also helps the planet. Raising animals for meat is hard on the Earth, water supply, etc. Fossil fuels are another issue associated with producing meat. Additionally, it really isn’t AS good for you as most Americans believe. So aside from animals, I felt like to be an active citizen in preventing global warming and protecting the environment, this was a healthy step. In the area of animals, I felt like I wasn’t doing my part in all the way I could be, which became very disheartening. My family rescues animals instead of shopping for them and we purchase locally raised, grass fed meat, instead of grocery store product. The problem is, we still eat meat. I have continued to eat meat after this hiatus week, but I think I would like to attempt a slower transition. The goal is to move from only eating chicken to eventually adopting a meatless diet completely. I really need to do my research before I attempt this again however. I don’t believe I prepared enough for my own wellbeing for it to be appropriate for me to continue. Vegetarianism is only ideal if it is healthy and I think the reason people are successful is because they are dedicated to learning about how their lifestyle affects the world and themselves. I am excited to continue making strides towards a better lifestyle for myself and the planet.

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Challenge By Choice: Cardboard City

Challenge by Choice: an environment where participants are asked to search for opportunities to stretch and grow during the experience

This past week, I participated in the Honors Program tradition called, Cardboard City. This event is a campus wide service opportunity meant to raise awareness of homelessness in America. To do this, students spend the night outside in cardboard boxes to simulate what homeless people do every day. We stayed on the lawn outside of the Park Library, November 15th from 7:30pm to 7:30am. I identified myself on the Active Citizen continuum as a “conscious citizen”, because I have always thought a lot about the problem of hunger and homelessness, but had yet to take any steps to further my involvement or knowledge. This service opportunity was a way to move further along the continuum to active citizenship. I used this event to fulfill “Becoming an Active Citizen Serving the Greater Good”.

Active Citizen Continuum

I have always been very sympathetic to the homeless community; I get very offended when people accuse individuals on the street of being lazy or addicts. The reality is, many of them were just dealt bad hands in life. This is part of the reason I chose to get involved. The stigma behind homelessness is part of the reason America has not solved the issue yet. Like I previously mentioned, I myself had a lot of experience and education left to learn on the topic as well. It is really enlightening to forego my privilege and experience the lifestyle many have no choice to live. I compliment the other individuals who participated, because it takes a lot of social awareness to make the step to participate in a fairly drastic event considering those of us who have never slept outside in our lives.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of students who were participating. It takes a lot of mental strength and resilience to choose to sleep in a cardboard box in Michigan as winter approaches and it was nice to see I was not the only one who left strongly about the issue. I got my box all set up and found some familiar faces from my class. We all had homework to do so a lot of us were using laptops to finish up. Aside from the electronics, the event was pretty realistic. It rained nearly all night so we had to be creative on how to keep the boxes dry so they wouldn’t fall apart. You really don’t concern yourself with the elements until the elements are your home. My biggest struggle was where I was supposed to fit my bags, that had my clothes and belongings in it. My box, which was decently large compared to others, was not meant to sleep myself and all my belongings. Looking back, that is probably not an issue many homeless people have to worry about. However, I can see why the few things homeless people own are so important to them; to keep your shoes, clothes, work gear, etc. dry and safe outside is difficult, and when it all you have, it becomes even more important.

Many people started taking off throughout the night, but I felt committed to sticking out the remaining hours. I eventually had to leave at 2am because I was feeling very sick, but I did not leave easily. I truly wanted to experience being homeless; it’s not like a homeless person can choose to pack up and go home, so I felt very guilty about having to. However, I also felt proud for being dedicated enough to sleep outside for 6 hours when I had to opportunity to sleep in my bed. I think a lot of people write off the homeless as useless, but the amount of courage and determination it takes to survive the cold, the negativity, and the hardship makes them warriors in my book. I began to really struggle at the midnight mark when I began to not feel well and the temperature dropped. I can honestly say I would like to never do it again; the reality is people do it every day.

Through the week, when I told my friends, family, and classmates that I planned to participate, I receive the craziest looks and remarks. No one could believe I was actually going to do it. That gave me pride in what I was doing even more, not for the recognition but because I was making them think. If by me discussing the event and taking the initiative to do it made those around me thinking about the issue a little more often, envision their privilege as such, or make steps to emulate my actions, then I have made a difference in poverty justice.

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Challenge By Choice: A week without make-up

Challenge by Choice: an environment where participants are asked to search for opportunities to stretch and grow during the experience

I have decided to further challenge myself by eliminating makeup from my routine for a week. In the month of September, I stopped wearing make-up for an entire week to challenge my self-confidence and make a statement regarding traditional female beauty standards. This activity included, going to class, the gym, restaurants, etc. I am using this to fulfill “Exploring Avenues for Personal Development and Professional Achievement”.

 As a future female professional, I believe I could really benefit from a internal mental challenge (confidence-boost). I have grown up in a time where girls are encouraged to wear make-up at a young age and are increasingly being exposed to sexualized women on TV and in music, and even in their professions. I have spent so many years of my life wearing make-up as a way to hide my flaws, so I decided it was time to challenge myself in embracing them instead. It is rare to see a women walking around in public completely bare-faced; that is what I did. I also see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the time I will save to dedicate to other things I enjoy. A make-up routine can be time confusing and in the grand scheme of life, does not propel me to greatness. 

I want to be a lawyer in the future. I am at college to achieve this goal, so the week long opportunity to focus more on school and less on traditional female roles was enlightening and refreshing. Females are statistically less likely to make partner in a law firm than men. Lawyers have to command a room and women have to even more so to out shadow her male counterparts; this takes a lot of confidence and drive. While makeup does not seem to correlate, it does for women. I want to be seen as a legal powerhouse, whether I am a woman or not. However, I want to be a female powerhouse for my own satisfaction and the achievement of women in general.

For most people, I am sure it does not seem like makeup is a big deal. However, on a college campus, where everyone is in their prime, it is not exactly comfortable to be flawed. I am naturally a very self-conscious person so at first I was very uncomfortable knowing I could not shelter myself from judgement. After getting use to not wearing my makeup out, I felt more comfortable continuing throughout the week and then after the week was up as well. To this day I often forego my makeup routine for a little extra sleep. Looking back on the week, most people probably did not notice that I was doing anything different; this form of exercise was differently targeted at improving my own internal mental state.

I have continued to leave my makeup at home, and I have even been more likely to not travel with it at all. I know women are still trying to break the glass ceiling in business and other professions, which is hindered by the public believing we are only good for a pretty face. Women have begun to fight against the stereotypes given to our gender by refusing to shave, embracing their natural hair, and protesting for women’s rights. While I chose to do this for internal reasons, I also thought I could be inspiring for other woman on my campus. It is so much easier to feel confident when you see other confident people; I have been inspired by these people already. This is one of the more important activities I participated in this semester, because it is applicable across various areas of my life. By taking time to improve my internal self, instead of always focusing on others, I have put myself in position to be more effective in other facets of my life.

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**All Images included in this post are without make-up at various times throughout the Fall semester**