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Life as a student is short, so why not get ahead in the short time your here? What have you been doing to be more prepared after life as a student is over with? If you answered nothing to that question, then you seriously need to get on your A game.

This is the time to learn and grow: as an individual and professionally. CUNY SPS hosts a lot of webinars that help us improve on those soft skills vital for being successful in life.

Join a club: research a club that will help jump start your career. If your majoring in media/communications/journalism a good club to join is the National Association of Hispanic Journalist. They offer fellowships and internships. They also send out great networking events and career workshops. I recently just went to one of their networking events, where I got to mingle with people that work for the New York Times, CNN, ESPN, and BuzzFeed, just to name a few.

Internships: don’t wait until the last semester to intern! Start right away if you can. Internships are a great way to gain exposure in different areas of your major firsthand. The more exposure you get to different professional environments, the more confident you will be when you graduate about what area in your field you want to go in.

Develop your mind: all of these things are great ways to get ahead but they’ll just be a waste of time if you’re not mentally prepared. If you’re the type of person who’s always second guessing themselves or don’t think they are good enough or smart enough, stop, you are enough. You don’t need to be the smartest, or the fastest, you simply need to be the best you can be. If you need a little extra push listen to motivational speeches, read books, and/or have little pep talks with yourself.

“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”—Les Brown

Yerelyn Nunez is a native New Yorker with Dominican roots in her blood. She loves to read, write, and is pursuing acting. She loves lending a helping hand or words of encouragement to those in need of it. She is majoring in Communication & Media at CUNY SPS.

This post was written by Alexandra Schonholz, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

Turning Homework into Ohmwork:

As graduation approaches, I have naturally found myself reflecting on my unconventional route through academia and my time as an adult student at CUNY SPS. In my last semester, now a passionate supporter and member of the SPS community, I look back on the last several years of my life and think to myself, “How the hell did I manage to pull that off?”

The online degree finally appears to be bypassing the stigma that it is somehow “lesser than” the typical classroom environment. The stigma, of course, is not true in the slightest. Online courses possess more material to read and therein more material to write about, a huge degree of independence and discipline that will make or break your success, as well as the fact that, much unlike a typical classroom, there’s nowhere to hide online. There’s no chance of cramming the moment before the assignment is due or piggy-backing off others’ responses and “faking it” (something I was certainly guilty of in classes).

Receiving an online degree comes with its advantages as well as its challenges, particularly when classes are supplementary to a 40-hour work week. The work-life-school-sanity balance is one that doesn’t come without effort, but is one that is critical to being able to shoulder the weight of the work in addition other life callings. In the thick of it all, it can be easy to forget why we’re all here in the first place. At this point in our lives, whether it be returning to college to finish a degree or matriculate for the first time, we must remember that education is a gift to ourselves. So, in hopes that my experiences may help you not lose sight of that, here are a few tips I found vital to my academic and work/life/school/sanity balance:

  1. Meditation and gratitude—a little goes a long way.

I’m a relative newcomer to meditation (less than five years) and have found that 10 minutes at some point during my day does wonders for my concentration and quelling anxieties. There are a number of excellent apps out there for free to help you practice for all levels of experience (my favorite is Brain Wave by Benzai Labs; Stop, Breathe, and Think: Meditation Tailored to Your Emotions by Tools for Peace is also excellent). Every day of the week would be great, sure. But is it realistic? Probably not. I find that meditating for a short time is extremely beneficial when transitioning from my job work to school work as well as before bed, a time when the minds has a greater tendency to replay all of the goings on in the upcoming day or weeks ahead.

Remember, meditation is all about practice, routine, and appreciating where you are in that moment—be it distracted or not. Be gentle with yourself through the process. Starting with a guided meditation may be best for newcomers, as it can familiarize the mind and body with the state of being associated with a meditative state.

If meditation isn’t for you, try writing or speaking out loud a list of things for which you have gratitude. Again, while this technique is best effective when employed each day, I found it incredibly centering in moments of frustration and apathy.

Don’t forget to check out adult coloring books, either—yes, I get it, and I know how that sounds, but hear me out. I received one from a dear friend for my birthday last year and, aside from the beautiful detail and general nostalgic fun, the calming effects of this activity are undeniable.

Taking 15 minutes to color leaves winding down a vine or a distant cityscape against the night sky may sound ridiculous or feel silly or even counterintuitive, but there’s actually a lot of science behind the effects it has on the brain. What’s more, since the adult coloring book market has been up for grabs for a little while, there are all types of themed coloring books that are sure to suit your level of artistic ability (minimal, in my case), style, and interest—like these:

ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz

There are 40 ornate eggs in that coloring book for the ornate egg-lovers out there. Forty!

ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz ACE Scholar Alexandra Schonholz

 

 

 

 

 

There’s even one called Sexy Girls Coloring Book for Grown-Ups 1.

I recently purchased one for my younger sister who is beginning medical school at Mt. Sinai this fall. She was preemptively, very grateful

  1. Keep good with the holy trinity: sleep, nutritious food, and exercise.

Are you getting enough quality sleep? The eight-hour mantra we’ve all been accustomed to saying, hearing, and striving for may not be true, it turns out. Daniel Kripke, one of the most acclaimed sleep researchers, has now found that getting between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night leads to a longer life as well as increased happiness and productivity. It’s not a matter of being tired the following day (or week), it’s a matter of keeping focus and our brain’s ability to refocus.

Likewise, napping for 30 minutes or less (quite literally, do not sleep for more than 30 minutes). provides numerous advantages and is much healthier than trying to push through with energy drinks, soda, or coffee—all destructive decisions in the end. Napping has a plethora of benefits that will make you reconsider incorporating this childhood-era activity back into your schedule.

Afraid that you’ll fall asleep and won’t be able to wake up? Well don’t be. Drink a cup of coffee before lying down to make the wake-up-get-up process less arduous. On another note, we all have very loud and annoying alarms on our cell phones in these modern times. In a simple search in the iTunes App Store, I came across several apps you might find useful for those days when it may be extra difficult to pry yourself out of bed or off the couch.

  • SpinMe Alarm Clock: The alarm shuts off only after you have gotten out of bed and physically spin yourself around until the alarm stops.
  • Math Alarm Clock: A terrifying prospect for a words-not-numbers gal like myself, this alarm clock requires you to do math out loud, correctly, to disable it.
  • FreakyAlarm: This alarm doesn’t stop ringing until you solve a series of logic games and scan pre-determined items around your house.
  1. Leave time for yourself and actually use it.

American culture is well known for its “work hard and then work some more” attitude (not to mention New York’s amplified version of that whistled tune). Breaking away from partners, family members, friends, situations that require us to be “on,” and, most importantly, screens lends itself to improved physical and psychological health.

This is yet another task that is easier said than done. For simple ways to incorporate your ‘you’ time, try waking up a half-hour earlier than the rest of your household, close your door, go for a walk, read during your lunch hour, or exercise. It could even be as simple as taking one hour every Saturday to walk to a coffee shop, grab a drink, and sit on a nearby park bench for some people-watching. Find out what “me” time means for you and make it part of your schedule.

  1. Reach out, don’t freak out.

If there’s one thing that has been at once extremely difficult and incredibly rewarding for me at SPS, it has been the ability to reach out when I have felt like I was in trouble. I’m still bad at it—I want to do everything to fix it first but sometimes find myself spinning in a sea of make-up work after a semester of unexpected roadblocks. Reaching out to professors has been one of the most effective ways in which I’ve been able to keep calm and carry on throughout the difficult moments. The SPS team knows who its students are—we are professionals young and old, mothers, fathers, caretakers, and sometimes, long-time outsiders to academia. The faculty at SPS also knows that each and every one of us is there because we want to be. We share a sincere desire to pursue education for personal growth, not just a letter grade. More importantly, being there doesn’t mean that everything else in life comes to a screeching halt—quite the opposite, actually.

In my experience, professors have always been sympathetic, understanding, and willing to work with me through the tougher times. Do not suffer silently—there is no need. Suffer out loud! Express yourself and the challenges you are facing along with the ways in which you aim or hope to overcome them.

So there it is—a few words of wisdom from a young woman who now questions what it is that she can’t get done with her evenings ahead, each extending the promise of freedom from eternal ‘to-dos,’ and each one bearing a red, flashing VACANCY sign posted where all of the homeworks used to live.

We are a group of courageous and extraordinary individuals, all with different, wonderful stories of how we arrived. At CUNY SPS, we are celebrated, encouraged to be proud of ourselves, and inspired to do great thing. In moments of uncertainty and lack of confidence, I was met with understanding from the people at CUNY. I was taught that those less-than-stellar perceptions of myself were not true; they may have felt real, but they were not true.

In my final moments as an undergrad I am content. I am proud. I am so thankful to be a part of the SPS family.

Remember why we’re here. Remember that it’s not easy and that is okay. I’ll be the first to tell you that the tough times make us stronger, but in those moments you must also find grace. What we’re all doing here is not easy; I would even argue it is a more difficult path (I would also argue that it’s been a million times more beneficial for me to return to school as a working professional but that’s a whole different blog post). Take the time to pause and reconnect with your inner drive and the reasons you’re really here. Don’t forget that sometimes, it takes stepping back for a moment to regain perspective and remember to keep your eye on the prize. To everybody: good luck and godspeed.

Alexandra Schonholz is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Communications and Media degree program in June 2016.

 

I own a piece of land in the middle of the Mayan jungle in a small town near Valladolid called Uayma. I bought it because I love its church. But soon after my purchase I fell in love with the people.

Miguel Xooc is my unaware Mayan Professor and helper. He keeps calling me to tell me every detail of what happens in this isolated and abandoned, by me, piece of land. He gets extremely excited when I visit the place and he shows me all the progress he has made in keeping the jungle away from the small destroyed construction of the Hacienda home that used to be there. He keeps track of every wild animal he sees and of every snake he kills. He even saves their skins for me. I had to tell him to secretly inform me all the details of what he does and specially keep any animal skin he kills away from my wife or I will never convince her to move there in our retirement!

Last weekend Miguel told me that he discovered a cave. He anticipated my desires to give it a look and so he made a path so we could walk with my son to explore the cave. It was about one kilometer from the entrance of the lot so he really worked hard to create this path. While we were walking I told my son to look at the wild orchids blooming on tops of the trees. While looking at the tops of the trees Miguel warns us to watch our steps and be careful with the thorns of one of the branches of the trees he cut earlier. I asked him, “What do you call this tree Miguel?” and he said, “It is a Tzubim.”

We continued walking until I saw an identical branch and I warned a friend of my son by telling him to be careful with the Tzubim. Miguel immediately corrected me by telling me, “No, Patron, that is not a Tzubim, that is a Chimmay!“

“How would I know? They look all identical to me,” I responded.

Miguel could not believe that I was not able to tell between such tremendously evident differences. He decided in that moment that he was going to give me a botanic tour and he started to name and describe every tree he saw while we were crossing such a densely thick forest.

“So Patron, this is a Chaka. Look how red its wood is!”

It has a very soft wood.

“Now look! This is a Dzilzilche, this has very beautiful shells around its trunk.” Miguel said. “This is a Chacté. This one has bigger shells around its bark and it has a very red Chulul.

“Hey Miguel,” I said, “Stop there. What is a Chulul?”

“Ohh! Chulul means heart in Mayan. The Chacte’s chulul is very red and its wood is very hard.”

“Look that is a “Bacabché. In this one the trunk is very smooth, it does not grow thorns and its “chulul” is brown,” he said. Then Miguel gets extremely serious and tells me, ”Patron, this is a Chintoc.”

Miguel introduces me to this tree as if it were a person. “This tree is so hard that it breaks axes.”

We slowly continued moving our steps into the forest when we found more than fifty flowers laying on the floor. Miguel tells me those are the flowers of the Piim. That tree has many thorns but its flowers get bees crazy. Then he points to the top and there they are, hundreds of flowers coming out of the branches like a miracle. Then I asked Miguel why bees get so crazy about these flowers. He takes one and asks me to smell it. In that moment I joined the bees as the most incredibly intense and unexpected vanilla essence escapes from the flower.

We moved on and then he points at a tree and tells me, “That’s a Mahahual, this tree’s bark is so thin that we use it for tamales’ wrapping.” Then we walked next to a Tzubim, and Miguel’s experience sadly tells me that this tree has such big thorns that if you step on one you cannot sleep all night long. We walked again next to a Chimmay and then he tells me that it has a very, very hard wood with an extremely brown “chulul” but it compensates those sins with its very beautiful fruits.

He goes on with and describes trees with names such as pomoCHE, bacabCHE, chinCHE, ikiCHE, piniCHE, yaxCHE. Then I asked why most names end with “che.” Well, it means wood. So the beginning describes the type or purpose of wood we Mayans give to a tree. Some are the wood that cures, the wood that hurts, the wood for shelter, the wood for the gods.

While he describes all the trees features, I get close to them, I look and touch them, I start to detect their subtle differences as Miguel tells me what they are used for until we found a “Chechen.” In that moment as I approach to that tree a scared Miguel yells at me to stop. “No patron, do not touch that one! Its bark is highly poisonous, you will get a terrible itch and the swelling will be unbearable.”

As I am impressed by the height of the thousand oaks among their Mayan friends I cannot help asking Miguel, “How come do you know all these trees?” Miguel tells me, “Well, we are all Mayans. The trees and us were born here and for us knowing the trees is like recognize a family member.”

Overwhelmed by the immense variety I end our tour by asking, “And who planted them?”

Miguel, with absolute conviction answers, “God, of course!”

Rodrigo Rodriguez is a human rights and immigration lawyer living in the Yucatan among the Mayans. He is a lover of good music and food, and is always looking to be amazed by nature. Rodrigo is a student here at CUNY SPS working on his Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law.

Peter Magri is a student in our new online Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing program. He explains why he enrolled here at CUNY SPS and what he expects to gain from his degree.

Peter Magri

1. Why did you choose to continue your education at CUNY SPS?

CUNY SPS offered the sense of continuity for me within the CUNY system since I had recently graduated from the Nursing Program at Queensborough Community College. I had come to trust the faculty at QCC and thought that it would be a good fit. I also was happy to hear that SPS used BlackBoard, which was also used at QCC, so the online demographic would be easy to fit into.

2. What is the single most important professional or personal goal that you would like to achieve during your studies at CUNY SPS or after graduation?

I would really like to land a job as a nurse. I have been on so many interviews and have applied to countless jobs and have yet to be hired in a hospital. I would like to get into critical care or the fast pace of a busy ER to really prove my skill sets to myself and those from nursing school.

3. How have you grown intellectually as a result of your studies at CUNY SPS?

I have definitely broadened my assessment techniques and understand the body and how it works because of the Pathophysiology class I took. I also have learned so much about culture and teaching and how important it is to incorporate a patient’s culture in the plan of care.

4. What advice would you offer to someone considering applying for admission to the program?

APPLY! I am so glad I did. The faculty are warm and are always there to assist you through anything that may concern you. You may feel that since it is an online program that you would get lost in the shuffle, but there is nothing further from the truth. They’re there with you every step of the way.

We also asked Peter a few fun questions about his life and his studies.

1. Place of residence: Franklin Square, New York.

2. Favorite CUNY SPS course: NURS301-Assessment.

3. Weirdest place you have studied: Oh God…really??? OK—the toilet.

4. Your favorite music to play while studying: I actually don’t like to listen to music while I study; I like to have CNN on in the background.

5. Best thing about your community or NYC: It’s close to Manhattan and my parents live just down the block from me! Always get great home-cooked meals!

Thank you, Peter, for bringing such a positive attitude about online learning and a passion for the field of nursing to your work here at CUNY SPS!