To Speak or Not to Speak; Don’t Ask me the Question

Post by Elom Tettey-Tamaklo

The power of voice and expression is something that has always intrigued me. From toddlers attempting speech for the first time to full- blown professional theatrical pieces, the ability to express various emotions and accomplish otherwise mundane tasks through voice is something I have always admired.

“One of the largest mammals found in water is the hippopotamus”, I exclaimed to my 12 seminar mates proudly (as if I had discovered the cure to cancer). Without warning, a sudden awkward silence enveloped the class, replacing the jovial and somewhat ‘safe’ space that often characterized class discussions.  I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what its was. Did the lettuce in my lunch sandwich betray my pearly whites? Was something wrong with my face?  A plethora of thoughts rushed through my mind. Was it something I said? It suddenly hit me! Of course it was something I said! I had pronounced hippopotamus as Hee-Poh-Poh-Tay-Mos and that was not ‘right’- whatever ‘right’ was. This was the genesis of my experience with the ‘wrong’ voice.

when the realization of one’s difference stifles personality, creativity, intelligence and comfort, something needs to be done urgently.

Coming to Haverford College as an international student, I had always been intimidated and even ashamed sometimes by the strikingly different accent that poured out of my mouth every time I spoke. From pronouncing waderrrr as wha-ta to enunciating the - J – in Fajita, my accent was, and is still is, a stark reminder of my difference. This made me uncertain about speaking up in class- even when I knew I had important contributions to make. Even in social settings I would always hold back and rehearse my few lines of speech over and over again before I actually said anything. I couldn’t afford to be the ugly duckling, especially in a place like Haverford, where our diversity index is somewhat malnutritioned and in serous need of resuscitation. My situation is not a peculiar one and many other internationals or different -accented individuals face this constantly.

I must admit however, that it is almost normal to face this kind of pressure, especially in a liberal arts college where there is a major emphasis on communication. However, when the realization of one’s difference stifles personality, creativity, intelligence and comfort, something needs to be done urgently. However, this epiphany didn’t hit me until I began to behave like a mute. I retreated into my shell, refused to associate and explore opportunities simply because heads would always turn when I spoke. I would not speak up in class and dreaded the idea that the teacher may call on me to speak. With such a big personality ready to burst out, I felt I was slowly being suffocated. At this point I decided to put all fears behind me and speak up!

This deliberate decision to speak up was reflected in class, my social spaces and even outside the college parameters. I would still rehearse the lines sometimes but always make sure that they never remained unvoiced opinions. The first couple of times, my voice would oscillate so much, I sounded like a broken record. However, as I kept speaking and telling myself that my opinions were as valid as anyone’s, I realized I became more comfortable asking for a cup of wha-ta or making my observations about the Hee-Poh-Poh-Tay-Mos without repenting for sounding different. I must say it hasn’t suddenly become a piece of cake to speak, but it has definitely gotten better and is steadily getting better. So the next time you feel as though you shouldn’t speak up because you fear you’ll sound silly or awkward, understand that your opinion matters and is valuable even when it may not be the conventional voice; after all your differing sound makes Haverford a more colorful place!

-Until Next Time,

Elom

 

The Opportunity of a Lifetime: Study Abroad!

Post by Ethan Lyne ’19

Although it may seem so far off at this point, our junior year is just around the corner. It not only marks the start of the second half of our lives at Haverford, but it also brings the opportunity to undertake one of the most transformative experiences of college: studying abroad. Studying abroad is an opportunity of a lifetime, whether it is attending one of the most storied universities in the world or immersing yourself in a country you only have dreamed of. Don’t think that your major or ability to pay will stop you from spending a semester abroad; there are dozens of programs and many opportunities to get financial aid!

For me, studying abroad has been a goal of mine ever since I remember thinking about attending college. For others, you might not have really have considered studying abroad and are just finding out information about how it works. I hope this post will be handy for everyone and will share some of the insights I have learned at Haverford in the past year or so about going abroad.

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Why should I study abroad?

There is no better time to go see another part of the world than junior year of college. You are (hopefully) independent enough to be able to live far away from home, but still young enough to enjoy the country’s culture to the fullest. Sure, you might take a couple weeks to travel around another country sometime in college, but studying abroad is different. You get four months to make new friends, to find your favorite coffeeshop, and take classes you would never take at Haverford. Most programs also allow you to travel to neighboring countries from wherever you are staying for way cheaper than you could from the States too.

Leaving the country for four months isn’t an easy task by any means, but the benefits of being immersed in the food, the language, and the culture of a distant place far outweighs the negatives.

Alright. It sounds interesting, but how I can work it into my major?

If you are majoring in nearly any social science or humanities major in the Bi-Co, there’s a program out there for you. If you are majoring in a STEM field, there is hope for you as there are plenty of programs for you! From Ireland to the Barbados, there are STEM majors around the world this semester doing what you could be doing next year.

When should I start planning for studying abroad?

The earlier you get everything planned out, the better! If you are planning on studying abroad in fall of your junior year, get started now. Start thinking about where you want to go and what you want out of the experience. In addition, there is a very important info session that all people who want to study abroad must go to on Friday, November 4th at 4:15. Also, the process of getting a student visa in many places can take several months, so do not delay in getting your ducks in a row.

Tips for Success

  • Each program has their own requirements that might discount you from being able to apply and attend, so make sure you look at the fine print. For example, some of the programs in Spanish-speaking countries require taking a 200-level literature course prior to going abroad and other programs require a specific GPA.
  • Nearly all the programs in the Southern Hemisphere have different academic schedules than we do in the United States. Fall semester goes from July to November and spring semester typically is from February-June/July. This means that one of your summers will be quite short and may not allow for a summer job, research position, or internship!
  • Talk with your major advisor or the department head of a potential major to see how you can study abroad within the major and what programs they suggest if you need inspiration. They can be quite helpful in giving you a plan.
  • The Study Abroad website has student evaluations of nearly every program that give an honest opinion of the program and all of the nuts and bolts! These evaluations go back for several years and offer contact information too so you can really get a feel for the program before you commit.

I want to share a quick story with you that I hope can inspire you to take the leap and study abroad. My father attended a school very similar to Haverford and was very active in sports and activities on campus. When his junior year rolled around, he decided to not study abroad because he didn’t want to give up his roles in these organizations for a semester. To this day, he regrets this decision to not study abroad and sees it as short-sighted decision with little thinking towards the future. Don’t make this mistake!

Leaving the country for four months isn’t an easy task by any means, but the benefits of being immersed in the food, the language, and the culture of a distant place far outweighs the negatives.

Check out Haverford Study Abroad office for more details.

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In Celebration of Self Care Week!

This week Fords on campus will be pausing and reflecting on the importance of taking care of themselves in the midst of their busy everyday lives. I asked some of our Year After editors and their friends to personally define self-care and share some strategies they employ to prioritize themselves in the midst of the semester. Enjoy!

What are the challenges to finding time or prioritizing self-care?

Vanessa Morales ‘19: The challenges in my life to prioritize self-care mainly stem from cultural differences and a busy schedule. Self-care was never introduced to me before Haverford. Coming from a Mexican family, machismo was valued – sticking out the pain, discomfort of situations was preferable to hearing complaints, whining, and tears. However, since I’m a very emotional person, those things were my outlet. I’m starting to learn how to use those outlets just be, and how to turn my anxiety, sadness, and/or even anger into something productive. I make sure to let myself be around other people, to treat myself every now and then with a new lipstick or a trip into Philly, or even a night-in with Netflix. I recognized the importance in doing these things because they helped reduce the negative feelings I had, they made life feel more manageable and made me feel like I was in control when I set time aside for myself.

Tania Ortega ‘19: Not considering self-care is important because you have all these other responsibilities that seem much more important because they’re more important – but in retrospect, they’re not worth sacrificing self-care.  

Elom Tettey-Temaklo ‘19: Sometimes the pursuit of our goals seem to be the most important aspects of our lives as students therefore we do not even focus on caring for ourselves. In many instances, “self-care” may seem to be a waste of time especially as you have many deadlines to meet. The issue of meeting family expectations is also a challenge that diminishes the importance of self care.

How do you personally define self-care? What is a work-life balance?

Vanessa Morales ‘19: To me, self-care is taking the time to be honest with yourself, and by doing so, you then know yourself better, and how to make yourself feel better from everything going in your life. Self-care then for me is taking the time to treat myself the way I would want others to treat me – with kindness, respect, concern when it all hits the fan, and with love. Ways I do this is reconnecting with my family and friends, reading a book I always meant to but college readings took priority, going to watch that new movie by myself because I wanted to treat myself and learn to be okay with being alone (a very hard lesson I’m still working through, that will pay off in the long run.) A work-life balance to me seems to be a fine line between working hard and playing hard. It’s making sure you’re putting in your all, 100%, into classes and work, but also making sure to relax and have fun when you’re not grinding out homework sets, reflections, papers, and everything else you have going on.

Karen Mondaca ‘20: Self-care is a mix of being alone and also being with people. But I make sure to set time aside for myself, even 30 minutes, but everyday and recognizing that you’re wonderful on your own.

Elom Tettey-Temaklo ‘17: Personally, I feel self-care is a holistic, intentional treatment of the human person which is meant to relive, restore and rejuvenate oneself. Self care can take many forms, the traditional being activities suited to an individual which improves an individual’s mood and makes them feel better. However, self care also has another dimension which is often times underexplored. The other dimension involves making key decisions and, or changes which will have far reaching implications in the future. Some of these decisions include but are not limited to, how one studies, prioritizing work when one needs to etc. A work-life balance is the maintenance of a healthy relationship between school work and social life. When one outweighs the other, its disastrous effects are often experienced by no one but the individual. This includes but is not limited to mental, emotional and psychological breakdowns, non-achievement of goals etc. This dimension of self-care is more active and involves the human person intentionally seeking opportunities that would shape their futures.

Alejandro Wences ‘17: I personally define self-care as doing the things that you feel that you need to do in order to have a healthy mind and body. For a work-life balance, it is where you’re able to not have one trump the other. While work is definitely important and it involves things that will earn you money in the future, having moments where you prioritize yourself or put your life first are important as well. This is to ensure that you grow to enjoy your life and not have it completely swamped with stress.

 Many, many times I consider just stopping because the world seems like it’s never going to change. But there are those beautiful moments that remind me that work I’m doing is important, and it does matter

What do you personally specifically need to do in order to find balance between your work and life at Haverford?

Vanessa Morales ‘19: I use a google calendar to help define that line between work and life here at Haverford. I schedule in sleep, meals, classes, professors’ office hours, question center hours, study time, work schedule, rugby practices, and time for friends, Netflix. This can seem a bit restrictive, but in many ways it’s fluid because nothing is set in stone – it’s just a calendar and things can be canceled or rescheduled because that’s simply the way life is really. It also reminds me of what’s already going on in my life, so I can say no – which is something I’m still “learning” to do without feeling bad/guilty. It is okay to say no, and yes FOMO (fear of missing out is real) but taking care of yourself is also real and important.

Elom Tettey-Temaklo ‘17: I think the key to this is scheduling. Because of the secluded nature of Haverford, you can easily get lost in the Haverbubble and end up in the routine of seeing the same people and doing the same thing on repeat. When one is able to do academic work at the appropriate/ scheduled times you get time to involve yourself in other non-academic activities. Therefore, in getting that good work and life balance at Haverford, schedule, schedule, schedule! (oh and stick to it)

To me, self-care is taking the time to be honest with yourself, and by doing so, you then know yourself better, and how to make yourself feel better from everything going in your life.

If you’re involved in social justice work how do you manage self-care in work that is emotionally demanding and often very distressing?

Vanessa Morales ‘19: Being involved in social justice work is consuming, it’s draining and exhausting in ways that classwork and work schedules aren’t. Many, many times I consider just stopping because the world seems like it’s never going to change. But there are those beautiful moments that remind me that work I’m doing is important, and it does matter – it can be a conversation with a peer, it can be seeing how your work empowers the people around you, it can also be as simple as someone telling you that you matter. However, it’s also important to recognize your limits and learning to be okay with taking a step back. In doing so, you can channel your energies into other aspects of your life for the meanwhile.

Elom Tettey-Temaklo ‘17: With such work, it’s essential to know yourself and what gets you back in focus. From management strategies such as seeing someone at CAPS to drinking hot chocolate over a romantic comedy, you need to know what works for you. For me, my faith and prayer is one of my main grounding factors, therefore when the emotional demands of school life or other work are at my neck, I turn to God in prayer and reading of scripture. Basically, find what works for you and never be afraid to turn to it!

Alejandro Wences ‘17: “My friends are one of the best ways that I am able to channel my stress. They are understand people who often know what I need to hear. So after dealing with a stressful environment, I then message our Latinx group in the hopes of meeting up.” 

Finding Balance (even when it all hits the fan)

Almost exactly a year ago my wife and I welcomed our son, our first child, into the world. It’s been a roller coaster of an experience, filled with moments of sheer joy and absolute exhaustion. Having a child has helped me empathize better with college students. Now please hear me out, I am not being paternalistic or patronizing—what I mean is that having a child has reminded me how easy it is to sacrifice taking care of yourself in times of stress and extreme demands.

In my role in the OAR I’m constantly imparting (ok sometimes preaching) the virtues of self-care and balance. However after my child was born many of the things I typically need for balance or taking care of myself suddenly took a backseat to the immediate demands of our newborn and my wife. So many sleep-deprived, frozen pizza and gym-less months later I am realizing I need to be more intentional in prioritizing some more healthy habits and practices in my daily life; however, that’s easier said than done!

As a college student you know that there are a multitude of unexpected events, assignments, and problems that arise during a given semester (or week!) and finding a work-life balance can sometimes seem impossible, especially when it seems there is always work to be done.

In my personal experience and from years working with students I’ve noticed the first thing we sacrifice when it hits the fan is sleep, eating habits, exercise and/or our healthy mental or spiritual practices. This creates a vicious cycle that can be really hard to break. Often we don’t realize how unsustainable or damaging this cycle is until we pause, and realize something doesn’t seem right. Possibly during the break you had one of these moments (I did!). The first step to finding balance is identifying the stressors or any underlining reasons we’re sacrificing what we need to feel whole. Pressure to get the grade? Desire to please a family member, faculty or another person you value and find important. Or does self-care normally take a backseat every semester? Question the legitimacy of that pressure. Is it causing you undue stress? Is there someone you can talk to about it?

Once you have addressed a cause you can begin trying to find a better balance. Here are a few things that have helped me kick the cycle.

Don’t compare yourself to others listen to what you need. Reflect on what gives you energy. Make a list of things you enjoy doing and prioritize doing one or two of them every week of the semester.

Prioritize YOU, even at the expense of other things
How? This can often be the most difficult first step because it involves saying “no”. But it’s OK to say no, you can’t do everything and feeling burnt out is your body’s way of saying, “slow down”. It might be painful to back down from a commitment at first but in the end you will be grateful—trust me. It’s better to do two things with a whole heart than five with a third of your passion. If it’s sleep you need, draw a black line on your schedule and do not study or schedule anything past that line. Maybe your problem-set or essay doesn’t get done but the sleep you gain will help you be more productive in the long run. If it’s finding more time to be social or hit the gym, prioritize those things in your planner before scheduling  time to study.

It’s better to do two things with a whole heart than five with a third of your passion.

Balance is different for everyone, we all gain and expend energy in different ways:
What I need to do find balance (listen to music, go for a walk in nature, cook, spend quality time with my wife) is what I need to do, not necessarily what you need to do—everyone is wired differently. Some people need to be alone, maybe, with a comfy chair, a good book or their favorite record. While others need a night out on the town with friends or a good conversation over coffee. Don’t compare yourself to others listen to what you need. Reflect on what gives you energy. Make a list of things you enjoy doing and prioritize doing one or two of them every week of the semester.

Make a plan: Journal your progress
What is your goal? What are the challenges you face? Take time to put your goals in writing. Take time at the end of the day to reflect on what is working or what barriers are keeping you from achieving a better balance, maybe even develop a plan or strategy to attempt tomorrow to address difficulties you experience today.

But it’s OK to say no, you can’t do everything and feeling burnt out is your body’s way of saying, “slow down”.

Accountability: Find a wellness partner!
You are not alone. Ask your fellow Fords, including your professors or Dean, how they balance everything. You might find their still learning too. Feel free to borrow from their good ideas on how they find time for themselves. Find other classmates with similar interests and hobbies and make time to do those things together. Find someone you trust to ask you honest questions or check in on you.

Expect the unexpected
Julia Child, a personal hero of mine, once quipped “Do everything in moderation, including moderation”. The semester is comprised of peaks and valleys and there will be challenges. Some weeks might force you to buckle down, but make sure you follow it up with a break and some fun.  Anticipate the unexpected but pace yourself. You can’t and are not expected to do everything. You can’t sprint the whole marathon. An outcome of establishing a work-life balance is knowing when to slow down in order to finish the race and finish strong.

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Here is pic of the little guy that threw me off my game… totally worth it!