186 South College

grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Author: Victoria Elizabeth Snare (page 1 of 13)

The Case for Learning a New Language in College

I’ve noticed—as I struggle through class participation and oral exams—that the people who most easily pick up the oral aspect of Japanese are the people who already know another language: for example, the bilingual girl from a Spanish-speaking background or the Chinese students who speak perfect English. Maybe it’s because their brains are already adapted to switching between languages. But I don’t know; I’m not a psychologist.

Sometimes I wonder if my own difficulties with speaking Japanese can be traced back to my high school education instead. I took Latin for six years before switching to Japanese at UD, a language virtually without an oral component. But I think my main problem is not learning any language from a young age.

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College doesn’t teach you: humility

Last week, I received an email asking me to submit what was deemed a “Bio-Sketch” for my convocation ceremony. “It should be roughly 50 to 100 words,” read the form email, “stating your full name, your major(s) and minor(s), and 2 to 4 additional sentences about yourself, including any special accomplishments, interests, awards, experiences or future plans that you would like to share about yourself.”

If I had to give a rough estimate, this is probably the tenth email I have received this year that asked me to describe myself in terms of individual promotion.

College has taught me many things. Humility is not one of them.

When you select a college, you’re told that you have chosen to attend the greatest school on earth, that you are surrounded by the greatest peers you could ever imagine, that these are the greatest four years of your life and that what lies ahead of you can only be greatness, defined by an array of statistics detailing rankings and happiness surveys and employment histories. You live in a bubble founded on the principle of narcissism. And when you live in such a bubble, it’s impossible to ignore the overwhelming compulsion that you, as a member of a community that engages in all manner of self-elevation, are also the best.

Over the course of my college career, I’ve seen this compulsion in action. I’ve felt it and I’ve acted on it. I’ve rarely been told to keep my pride in check or to watch my ego, primarily because everyone else was doing the same thing. At some point between freshman move-in day and junior pin ceremony, my classmates and I came to the consensus that accomplishments were only real if you bragged about them. We started to believe that it was not just our job to be successful, it was also our duty to ensure that the rest of the world knew exactly how successful we really were. We bought into the bubble of narcissism. Our egos overpowered our roots and we rejected the importance of humility in lieu of acknowledging our personal greatness because for some reason, we believed that we had made things happen on our own.

Here’s the other truth about college: you don’t do anything on your own. The greatest accomplishments that you list off in whatever your convocation bio may be were not the work of you, as an isolated individual. They are the result of a combination of forces and people acting in your favor. You are here, in whatever your state of success may be, because someone supported you along the way, whether that be your family, your mentors, your academic advisors, or the lady that filled your coffee cup at Dunkin Donuts every day of freshman year.

Working hard is admirable. Having multiple majors and minors, accomplishments, interests, awards, and experiences, 100 words of greatness to be spoken about in front of other people and their parents is impressive. But what’s far more beautiful is the ability to be grateful for whatever it is that brought you to the point of writing a paragraph for your college convocation ceremony. Crediting only yourself for your greatest successes and accomplishments is almost always a misrepresentation of personal history.

~Erin Dugan

How I Changed My Own Life

This past spring break I went on a UDaB trip, although that isn’t really the main point. Yes, the trip was amazing. Yes, I made 40 new best friends. Yes, it was the freaking Everglades. But the point really isn’t what I did this spring break. The point is what I didn’t do this spring break.

Just like any other college student –scratch that, just like any other human- I have had my fair share of struggles with positivity. I’ll be the first to admit that some weeks it just feels like the world is out to get me and nothing can go my way. I’ve had those days where I have to force myself to get out of bed. Those moments where the stress bears down on me and I’m ready to quit college/run away/become an exotic dancer. This spring break, though, I decided that I was going to throw all of my negativity away. Literally. During the first day of the trip, we did a group exercise in which we wrote our anxieties down on a piece of paper, ripped them up, and threw them away. From that point on, I made a personal vow to myself that for one week I was going to try to make the best out of every situation. No longer would I let myself be controlled by my own unconstructive mindset. So, through all the poisonous plants, thousands of bug bites, and sunburn the Florida Everglades had to offer, I stayed positive. For the first time in my life I listened to the cliché advice all those YouTube self-help guru’s preach: happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy and you will be.

The Florida Everglades provided an inspired setting for an inspirational experience

The Florida Everglades provided an inspired setting for an inspirational experience

I have been trying to take step back from everything in my life that has become the “norm.” Instead of settling for the usual and getting sucked into bad habits, I’ve been looking at situations and trying to decide, really decide, if they are adding to my overall well-being. I no longer want to be put into circumstances that bring out the negativity in me. I’ve learned that it is much easier to be positive when the influences around me are positive. With more positive influences, I’ve noticed that everything that has happened to me has been able to be flipped on its head and looked at differently. Yes, I got a ticket today at a parking meter. At least I have a car to be ticketed. Yes, I was late to work and forgot to take my eyebrow ring out. At least I have a job with a forgiving manager.

I wouldn’t quite say that I have made it to happiness yet. What I will say though, is that deciding to look at the world differently has made the world different. Since making this personal choice I have started doing a lot more things for me. I’ve gone back to the gym, begun eating healthier, ended a few toxic relationships, and become more active in my commitments here on campus. All of this is possible because of an influential trip, with a great organization, and fantastic people. They showed me how easy it can be to take charge of my own life for the better. It does take courage though. I’m just glad I was able to find mine.

~Madeline Williams

Going Abroad: Exploring a New Place or a Journey Within Myself?

When I first applied to study abroad for winter session 2016, I didn’t really think too hard about it. Going abroad was something everyone seemed to recommend and I figured, ‘why not? – It would be a neat resume builder.’ Throughout the whole process, from applying, to the final pre-trip meeting, it never actually felt like I was going to Fiji. We talked about it all the time, but the reality didn’t sink in until it was the day of departure. Even then, once it was real, I did not expect to come back feeling completely different about the world around me.

I give the power of words a lot of credit, but my trip to Fiji is something I struggle to detail. Secondhand explanations just can’t do it justice. I fell in love with a culture that was just what I needed. I fell in love with the traditional song and dance, with “Fiji Time”, with the complete openness and welcoming nature of the Fijians. Of course it was beautiful, it’s Fiji, but I got so much out of being there besides pretty pictures (especially since my phone was stolen and I lost a good amount of them). Being fully immersed in a way of life so different from my own with a new group of people all unlike me, I learned a lot about who exactly “Maddy Williams” really is.

Fiji in all its natural beauty

Fiji in all its natural beauty


The best way to explain this is with an anecdote: The day I went to swim with sharks. No one else in my group wanted to come with me, but I decided to go forward and do it anyway. I woke up early the morning of to catch a bus traveling a city away. These buses were open to the air with no window panes and full of Fijians staring at me, not used to seeing white tourists take the local transportation. From the next city I took another bus to another city and from there a boat to another island completely. I did my thing, swam with some sharks, and took the return trip all over again. All in the entire trip took all day. I was nervous to take this journey by myself, especially since I don’t even regularly take the buses here on campus. But after it was over? I was so proud of myself for doing something I really wanted to do. I didn’t compromise and miss this once in a lifetime opportunity simply because no one wanted to come. I really came out of my shell, both talking to people on the bus and making friends on the island. I do not regret one second of the excursion.

Now that I am back here on good ole ‘Merican soil, I find myself thinking differently. I miss Fiji and the friends I made there. I think about how my actions and the actions of my country affect the world at large. I feel more mature and sure of myself. Trust me when I say this; studying abroad was one of the best things I have ever done. My experiences will stay with me the rest of my life and it comes highly recommended.

~Madeline Williams

Things College Doesn’t Teach You: The First Installment

The first day of freshman year, I learned that wearing an official University of Delaware lanyard around your neck is a serious social faux pas.

I remember leaving my dorm room in a burst of false confidence, empowered by the fact that I was no longer required to wear a 100% polyester school uniform, inspired by the singing omelet-maker in the Russell dining hall, excited for the prospect of basking in professorial intelligence with one hundred other co-eds.

As I crossed Academy Street at the peak of morning pedestrian traffic, someone behind me muttered “Freshman are so painful sometimes, walking around with their lanyards hanging out. Like, just stop.”

I discreetly ripped the lanyard off of my neck and shoved it into my pocket.

“How to avoid blatantly advertising your first year status” was the first big lesson I learned in college. And it was followed by a series of equally important lessons.

How to make a dining hall salad edible.
How to subtweet.
How to write a 20 page research paper on the media’s sexist depictions of Hillary Clinton and its influence on her overall public narrative.
How to become addicted to Dunkin Donuts pumpkin swirl coffee.
How to use a sledge hammer.
How to sleep in a room without air conditioning.
How to prevent New Jersey stereotypes from influencing your friendships.
How to wear Sperry’s.
How to heal blisters caused by Sperry’s.
How to pretend you know what you are doing when you order your first cheesesteak.
How to pull an all-nighter.
How to remain calm during class registration.
How to make a second home that’s 2,109 miles from your first.

College has taught me a lot. The list could go on. But as I near the end of my undergraduate career, I’ve also come to the conclusion that there are things that I haven’t learned in college, things that I could never have learned in college, simply because I was too caught up in learning the stuff that felt required, the stuff that made all of this possible.

It’s funny how when you take a minute to look up from your day planner and close the mental file cabinet of color coded stressors, you realize that you might have missed some big lessons in the past four years.

Freshman year Erin. Yours truly has come a long way.

Freshman year Erin. Yours truly has come a long way.


So for the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about the things that I didn’t learn in college. The “how-to’s” of this messy thing that can only be described as “real life”. The essential wisdom I wish I had recognized earlier. The stuff that I missed along the way.

I’ve learned a lot in the past seven semesters. But the biggest lesson that I have learned is that school can’t teach you everything. Part of this whole “learning” thing is about you.

~Erin Dugan

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