thursday tales undergraduate adventures birthmay featured image

Thursday Tales: Undergraduate Adventures BirthMay 2021

Hello everyone! I wanted to share some more Thursday Tales, which are basically fun stories of my past that I don’t think I’ve ever shared on my blog! Today’s tales revolve around my life as an undergraduate student.


Now, I’ve been blogging for many years now, so maybe I have shared some of these, or part of these, stories. But I’m pretty sure I haven’t! So these stories are all from my time at Elmhurst College (now Elmhurst University) as an undergraduate student starting in the fall of 2009 to the winter of 2013. I had a great time in undergrad and do remember it fondly, so here’s some of my stories from that time.

Oh! If you’re new here (newer than May 2020) you might be wondering, what’s BirthMay? Well, every year I blog every day in May because it is my birth month. I just figured it was something fun to do, and it has proven to be really enjoyable for me. This will be the fifth BirthMay on my blog! No matter how many BirthMays you’ve been through with me, thank you for being here this BirthMay and thank you for your support!


Undergraduate Memories: Student Photoshoots

So you know when you go online to a school’s website and see those photos of the campus with students out and about? I was one of those for my school! I was very involved on campus in tons of student organizations and activities, so I was pretty well known in my little school. Over the years I participated in various school photoshoots and I was featured in the alumni magazine, student newspaper, and school website/marketing materials due to those shoots.

I think the first one I did was early as a freshman when I was featured as a first generation student, and a photo from that shoot was used for a long time on my school’s campus housing page until the website got a major redesign. I also remember participating in one with the president of the college at the time, I think I was a junior at the time, and one of those photos was used for awhile too, usually in the alumni magazine. The only shoot I didn’t take part in that I had really wanted to was for the banners that were put on the lamp posts around campus. Those photoshoots took place right before I started at Elmhurst and the next photoshoots for those took place right before I left, so they were looking for the new faces on campus to feature. Boo! But I had so many opportunities by that point that I knew whoever was picked would have a great time and feel a huge sense of pride every time they saw their photo around the school.

Undergraduate Memories: President Obama’s Second Inauguration Trip

When President Obama was elected for a second time in 2012, one of the departments on campus organized a trip to go to DC for students to see the Inauguration. The school majorly subsidized it, so students only had to pay $20 each out of pocket to go. I had finished my classes in December, so I was already considered a graduate in January although commencement wasn’t until February. But I asked the head of the department if I could join the trip if it didn’t fill up and got permission to do so.

Now, when the trip was announced we were told we were going to take a bus to DC, we would have some sort of reserved seating with tickets to be close up to the stage when President Obama would give his speech, and then we would get a dinner with a college trustee at a restaurant before heading back on the bus overnight. It would be an intense day trip but I thought it sounded really cool and who knew if I’d get an opportunity like that again!

Well, the trip didn’t really go to plan. We took the bus in as expected, but the faculty hadn’t updated us with how the trip would actually go. We didn’t end up getting seats as we were promised after all and we got in too late to be dropped off close to the entrance either. The bus had to drop us off way out of the way and everything was already closed off so we had to walk all the way around the city to get to the mall. The faculty member who was supposed to get us seats ended up bringing his family so he disappeared with his family almost immediately (we suspected they only got seats for themselves and then ditched us so we wouldn’t know), and the rest of us ended up by the Washington Monument, arriving a little after President Obama’s speech started. The faculty members that did stick with the group wanted to try to get closer but we (the students) insisted that we could see the big screen that was set up already and we didn’t want to miss another moment. Oh, the group had also gotten split up again by that point so we also used the Washington Monument to rest so we could reunite after the speech.

After the speech, the group headed to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. That is where the other half of the group met us (except for that faculty member with his family). I’m not going to lie, we were so tired after walking around the city all morning! However, the Lincoln Monument was right there. The faculty was still trying to find the missing faculty member so they didn’t want to move from the MLK Jr. area, but yours truly decided that she wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to see as much of DC as she could. So yes, I led a group of rebellious students who also wanted to see the Lincoln Monument but didn’t want to get in trouble and off we went. The rest of the group followed even though I told them we’d be right back. *Please imagine the girl shrug emoji here, I’m on my laptop so I can’t put it in myself.*

So we went to the Lincoln Monument, and it was every bit as amazing as you can imagine! Then we sat on the steps of the monument because the faculty finally put their foot down and forbade us from going on until they could figure out what the next step for us was. It was okay though, I’d already led the student resistance to the monument I wanted to see, so I was fine with this plan.

Eventually we were led around the city again to a pizza place, where they’d made a reservation. This was more of a late lunch rather than the dinner with the trustee we were promised. The “missing” faculty member and his family arrived but the trustee never did. So after lunch we were led to a fancy hotel behind the White House itself. We got a kick out of the heavily armed snipers on the roof of the White House and all reminded each other not to make any sudden movements. Looking back it’s hilarious that we were so nonchalant about it.

At the hotel we waited in a hallway awkwardly as really fancy people walked by. We tried to just stand quietly to the sides but we were so tired we all eventually ended up sitting against the wall! Finally we met the trustee that we were supposed to have had the dinner with and then we headed back out.

At this point, the faculty ended up buying tickets for the DC metro to get closer to the bus. Thank goodness because we probably wouldn’t have made it otherwise! Finally, we reached the bus and headed home. I can’t tell you much of anything that happened after that until we reached campus because we all fell asleep almost immediately.

So that’s the one and only trip I took to DC! Would I recommend a day trip like this during a major event in the city? No! While we did see cool monuments and the energy of the city was really unique, I would rather recommend a proper trip during a quiet time in the city so you can see museums or something cool on top of the monuments. And also not have to struggle to get around! Either way, I’m glad I went because it gave me a fun story to share for years after the fact.

Undergraduate Memories: Volunteering

During my undergraduate days, I really got into volunteering. I’d volunteered at my local library during high school and wanted to continue to volunteer in college. There was a department (different from the one in the previous story) that coordinated monthly volunteering opportunities. I tried my best to participate in as many as possible, but I was also a student athlete for a while or had other commitments. Here’s a few that I remember!

One that I remember was a graveyard clean up. There was a small cemetery next to the campus, and so every year one of the volunteer activities was to go and clean it up a bit. I think this was a fall activity because of leaves and such, but since it was also spooky season, I’m sure that this one was popular because of that. I remember this was a relatively easy volunteer opportunity because it was so close too. I want to say I did this one at least two or three times, but I can’t remember for sure. I know this one always filled up quickly!

Another clean up activity I remember doing was after a student retreat, organized by this same department. We painted benches in a park that overlooked a few baseball fields. I don’t recall if they were just local park fields or part of a sports complex or maybe a school but I do remember we painted them bright orange.

Another one that I took part in was at food pantries. I remember I went to the Feed My Starving Children volunteer day at least twice. There was also a different food pantry, I want to say it was a big food bank in the area but I can’t remember the name of it besides that it included “food bank”. Those were really fun too. For Feed My Starving Children I somehow volunteered for one of the harder jobs! If you’ve volunteered there before, you’ll know the role of the person who switches out the bins for everyone with the food stuffs. That was me! I have really weak arms so that was NOT the best role for me but I had so much fun and it felt so good to work hard to make those meals. For the food bank, I don’t remember specifics anymore but I was packing something into each bag. I remember it was cans so many it was gravy or something as we were volunteering around Thanksgiving and it was meant to be part of the Thanksgiving meals.

Oh! I just remembered another volunteer trip I took! This one was actually from the department of the DC trip and much better organized LOL. So that department was the religious/spiritual center on campus (Elmhurst is religiously affiliated), and they never really got along with the student activities department, which led the other volunteer days I already mentioned. So they did their own! They typically did one or two bigger days though instead of once per month. The one I participated involved a group of about fifty students bused into Chicago to do a day of activities.

First, we helped clean up a church or community center (I don’t quite remember which it was). Half the students stayed outside and cleaned up the yard, while the other half went into the building and painted the basement. Although now that I think about it, I remember that I did help out in the yard AND I also painted? So I’m not sure what that was about. Maybe we finished up early outside? Or maybe I was so bad at the outside stuff they sent me inside? I wish I remembered!

After that we were bused to a church. From there we did similar work to the food pantry and we packed up bags and boxes of food for the church from donations they’d received. I think we were given guidelines like make sure it has X amount of fruit, X amount of canned food, and so on. After that the church members served us a meal to thank us for our help and then also did a sort of mini service for us upstairs in their main room too. It was such a sweet day and we felt really good after helping out!

I don’t volunteer regularly anymore, but these stories bring such a smile to my face that I think I really should do so once I’m fully vaccinated and places near me start opening up again.

Undergraduate Memories: A Ballet Recital and A Band Concert

Okay, one more story! (I had to cut one because this post was getting so long already!) So as I mentioned, I graduated midyear in 2013. Because of this, I joke that I didn’t get a senior year, I just got a senior semester as it was an early graduation for me. My last semester I took a ballet class for fun and also participated in a school band too (I played flute). Early in semester I realized that both the end of the semester dance recital for my ballet class and the winter band concert were on the same night. I instantly panicked and approached both instructors separately to inform them. They were both slightly concerned because participation was required for the grade but my dance instructor promised to be as flexible as possible for me (she knew me better and the band instructor was newer).

So in the weeks leading up to the big night I thought everything had worked out. The ballet dance was pushed up to be the second or third dance so that I could dance, change quickly, and then run across campus to get to warm up a bit before my band concert. Phew! We actually performed the dance recital two nights in a row, so the first night gave me a big peace of mind as the timing was working perfectly.

But then… the night of the of the second dance recital and the night of my band concert we were running late! One of the other seniors, who was actually a dance major, realized her parents were running late. She was an amazing gal, super sweet and mega talented. And, naturally, it was so important to her and her family to see her perform. So the dance teacher was trying to delay starting the recital for the parents to arrive. But she also was trying to make sure I wasn’t too late to my concert. The stress was real that night.

Eventually the parents did arrive, the recital got started, and our dance was next! My heart was pounding because I was meant to have already been warming up across campus with the band. But the shows must go on! So we danced our ballet dance, and this is where things got real. All the other dancers in my ballet class immediately got out of the way to let me run into the dressing room and get changed as fast as I could. Someone held up my dress, someone else grabbed my dance skirt and put it away, and someone else handed me my flute and music on my way out the door. I was heading back for bows so I left pretty much everything else behind as I sprinted out. All the other non-ballet dancers were so, so confused!

Oh, this is a great time to mention that my own parents and sister had come to see my recital and concert so they also confused the people in the theatre as they quietly filed out and explained to the ticket booth that they’d be back later.

I arrived at the music building a few minutes later, stashed my instrument case behind a couch in the main lobby and put my flute together in record time. My band conductor had also been trying to stall for me! I quickly apologized and he was just happy I’d made it. His boss wasn’t too thrilled with me, as I heard later that she had been slightly telling him off for not starting on time and then she got mad that he was letting me go on stage having skipped the warm up. That’s a huge no-no in the music world! But again, the show must go on!

So we entered the concert hall, performed, and everything went great! After the concert I wasn’t on a time crunch anymore so I was able to grab my case, head down with the others, and that’s when I had to explain to my conductor’s boss what happened. She actually knew me a bit because I’d been in a different band at the school for the three years prior to my senior semester (not her band, but a different one) and so she eventually understood. I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t had such a good track record prior to that night she might have insisted that I fail the class but I’d always been diligent about giving plenty of notice if I had to miss a rehearsal for a sports event back when I’d been on a team or something else. Then I explained that I had to head back to the dance recital for bows and off I went!

Back at the theatre I changed back to my dance outfit and then hung out with the other dancers. I ended up holding up other costumes or shoes and helping stuff people into them for quick changes too! Then we went out for bows and the night was over!

This story always makes me laugh at the chaos of the night. But it always makes me happy because it reminds me of how willing people are to be helpful and willing to make adjustments to their plans if you work hard and prove yourself. As I mentioned, I’d been involved in the music department’s bands for years, even before I’d arrived on campus as a freshman I was already signed up for the program. As for the dance department, it was only my second class in ballet but I loved it so much and worked hard in class, so the dance teacher was willing to work with me. Plus, I was a senior and it was my last concert and dance recital so I am forever grateful at how supportive everyone was to allow me to do both in my last semester in school.


So those are my stories from undergrad! Again, I have such fond memories from my time at Elmhurst in undergrad and I’m glad I get to share those stories with you today.

Thanks for reading!

Pamela

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