Passports, Puerility and (lack of) Preparation: How to (un)successfully prepare to study abroad

Image of a U.S. Visa.
Courtesy of Google Images.

“Congratulations! I am happy to inform you that you have been officially accepted into ISA’s Individualized Studies With Spaniards Year 3 2012/2013 program at the University of Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain.”

Those are the now (in)famous first words that I heard alerting me that I would be spending 10 months abroad. With them came a frenzied wave of excitement, a pinch of trepidation, and dozens of high-fives, hugs and “That’s going to be so awesome! That’ll be an amazing experience!” facebook posts.

Like most of my friends, who were updating their statuses more frantically than when Bin Laden was killed, I was over the moon with the thrilling opportunity set before me. However, that initial giddiness subsided after a day or two, and after a brief scan of the rest of my acceptance letter, which included quite a few “as soon as possibles,” I continued on with my life and nonchalantly thought nothing of the pressing deadlines before me…like only a 20-year-old could.

So, as thoughts of actually preparing to go to a foreign country cozily rested in the distant corners of my brain, days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. After a disturbing amount of time had passed, I finally broke my fast of abroad information and realized that I should probably send one of these ISA folks an e-mail – just to make sure everything is gravy.  Well it turned out gravy things were not, and screwed I sure was. In the middle of May, as finals started turning from specks on the horizon into precipices in front of me, I got hit with a firestorm of abroad paperwork – and it hit hard, very hard. You know that feeling you get when you realize you didn’t write that 10-page paper due in six hours? It hit harder than that and then some.

To break it down for you, I got absolutely bitch slapped by all of the following (in order of realization):

  • My passport was due to expire in a month, so I needed to get it renewed. (Takes 6-8 weeks to process)
  • Realized I was going to have to go to the Consulate General of Spain in New York City to get my visa…which had no openings until July, and there is absolutely no way to expedite. (Takes 6-8 weeks to process)
  • Realized, “Oh wait, a safety net! ISA does this all for you for a fee!” Then realized I had to get a hefty packet of materials to Austin, Texas in two-and-a-half weeks, with miles of red tape and government bureaucracy to trudge through to get there. Yikes.
  • Realized I had to get a criminal background check for any state I’ve lived in over the past 10 years – Colorado and Connecticut.
  • Realized said background checks had to be stamped and signed by the Secretary of State for each state. (Takes 2-3 weeks to process)
  • Realized I had to get a physical scheduled with a doctor in Colorado…where I knew no doctors. (Earliest appointment was 10 days out)

I thought it was over. The fat lady had sung. The pigs had flown around the world and back. I was not going to Spain. This sucks. But, the tale does not end there…I am writing this blog after all. Sparing many details, I somehow, someway scraped and clawed my way to that ISA deadline and got my materials to Austin, Texas on time. It involved daily phone calls with my parents, dozens of light rail trips downtown, repetitive head banging on the steering wheels of friends cars, hundreds of dollars of expedite fees, and hours upon hours of restless anxiety. Needless to say, it was not exactly a mosey through a meadow on a spring morning, and I would not recommend it or wish it on anybody.

However, that two week experience, taught me my first two, and perhaps most important, lessons of my study abroad experience:

1.) Be prepared and organized, only bad things happen when you aren’t.

2.) Relax, breathe and know that things will eventually, somehow, by some miracle, work themselves out…usually.

Have you ever studied abroad? How did you prepare? Respond below!

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Employment Rates Bleak For College Graduates, University of Denver Better Than Most

College graduates gather before a commencement.
Image Courtesy of Google Images.

As millions of college seniors receive their diploma this spring, many of them may be thinking of a familiar mantra soon after they cross the stage: We are the 76%.

The ideals behind this phrase are far less revolutionary than those on Wall Street, although the message is the same: the majority is in need of what only the minority has. However, in the case of recent college graduates, that “what,” is a job.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2011 Student Survey, only 24% of America’s graduating seniors were employed at the time of their graduation in 2011, and the number is predicted to stay roughly this same in 2012.

Luckily, that statistic is significantly higher at the University of Denver (DU), with 47% of graduates employed at the time of graduation according to the DU Career Center.

While DU fares better than the national average, advisors at the career center such as Assistant Director Pat O’Keefe, still warn that it is a highly competitive market and students should rely on standard job searching techniques and look to expanding fields for employment opportunities.

“Look at where there is growth, like in healthcare and business services,” O’Keefe said. “Be proactive and open minded about the opportunities that are out there.”

Scott Adams, a DU student who has a job lined up and set to graduate this Saturday, agrees that the climate is competitive, and cites that the key to finding employment is preparation.

“It’s extremely competitive,” Adams said. “You have to over-prepare to the maximum. I think that people can get jobs, they just really need to bust their humps for it.”

Poll:

Are you, or someone you know, a recent college graduate? What do you think of the job market for graduates? Will the market improve any time soon? Respond below!

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University of Denver Skier Sustains Severe Injury, Now Running Marathon

As she lay there, in a purgatory of shock, pain and adrenaline-fueled anxiety, Ellie Mango wasn’t thinking about the dozens of hours she would be spending in doctor’s offices during the coming months, or the thought that she may never walk again, but that she was missing out on such a perfect, sunny day of skiing.

“I just kept thinking, it is such a nice day, what a terrible time to have a life threatening ski accident. I didn’t want to waste it,” she said.

That was Jan. 8, 2011, when the second-year Environmental Science and Geography major from Simsbury, Conn., caught an edge at Breckenridge Ski Resort and slid head first into a tree.

The 19-year-old shattered the T8 vertebra in the middle of her back and fractured the surrounding T7 and T9.

“The scariest moment of my life was when I looked down at my toes, and then I wiggled my fingers and I wiggled my toes to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed. And then, well, once I realized I could do that, I knew, I knew eventually I would be OK. I told myself that.”

Mango was carted down to the bottom of the hill where she was driven to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, CO before eventually being transferred back to Denver for immediate surgery.

However, it was during this agonizing ride, in which she was being injected with “the baby form of heroin” according to the paramedics on board, that Mango first showed her mettle and that she was no ordinary ski-accident victim.

“Do you have any tunes in this thing?” she asked those treating her.

“I mean, I guess,” one of the paramedics replied, startled that the barely consciousness teenager was even talking. “What do you want?”

“Surprise me,” Mango said.

The driver turned on the stereo, at which point Mango took her free hand that was not hooked up to the IV, and started first bumping.

“They [the paramedics] laughed. They were happy I still had some spirit in me, they were encouraged by that.”

Mango has displayed more than spirit in the months since the accident. And, encouraging those around her that her spirits are still high has morphed more from encouraging into inspiring.

After surgery in which her three broken vertebrae were fused together with a synthetic adhesive and a conglomerate of shattered bone, as well as the addition of two titanium rods spanning from vertebra T3 to T11 (about the base of the neck to the lower back), and countless hours of occupational and physical therapy, Mango has more than conquered the long road back to full health and mobility.

The inspirational exclamation point will come next weekend when Mango runs the 26.2-mile Colfax Marathon.

“I Decided to do it, because, if my back is going to get increasingly worse, It’s the best right now as it’s ever going to be, and I’m as young as I’m ever going to be, so I might as well just go for it,” she said.

Unfortunately, things will get worse.

The discs in-between vertebrae meant to absorb impact from movement and exercise are missing from her fused T7, T8 and T9 vertebrae. This means that the vertebrae and discs directly above and below the fused section will age and deteriorate faster than in someone with a healthy spine.

“When we’re all old and hurting, I’ll just hurt a little more,” Mango said. “I’m not going to stop doing any activities. You’re body is going to wear out anyways; mine just might wear out a little sooner. I don’t know by how much, but I’ll tell you when I’m 80.”

Mango started training on Jan. 2 of this year, just six days shy of the anniversary of her accident. She hopes to complete the race in less than five hours.

When asked how she would describe the entire experience, Mango replied with the ubiquitous college phrase of the present day.

“I think I might say YOLO. Not even kidding. You only live once. I mean, as much as the term is thrown around, the deeper meaning of it [is sincere]. You never think deathly ski accidents will ever happen to you or a close a friend and then it does and then you have to deal with it. And you know, I’m so thankful and lucky to be given my life back, so I appreciate everything more than I would have. It’s definitely an experience to know that you could have died, and you didn’t, and you get to live. You have just got to live [and] do what you want. Do it all, experience everything, love it all, take it all in.”

Mango’s parting words expressed relief that the ordeal is over, and perfectly encapsulated her light, happy-go-lucky attitude.

“It’s good to be back,” she said. “No pun intended.”

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Sexy Pizza Opens On Pearl Street With “Green-Minded” Pies

Sexy Pizza opened on South Pearl Street last month, bringing with it some controversial ideals.

Our loyal friend and confidant, Merriam Webster, defines the word sexy as, “sexually suggestive or stimulating, generally attractive or interesting.” While part one of that definition may not entirely apply, the second perfectly describes the name of a new fixture on Old South Pearl Street, Sexy Pizza.

The New York style pizza shop, which has been a Denver staple in the Capitol Hill neighborhood since 2008, opened it’s doors on 1579 S. Pearl St. in mid-March.

While the greasy, beer-ridden kitchen may not fulfill the first part of Webster’s definition, it certainly meets the criteria for another connotation that has come to be associated with the word sexy: controversial.

Owner Kayvan Khalatbari will be seriously testing the wholesome, family-oriented waters Pearl St. is known for by publicly supporting the use of medical marijuana at his pizza shop.

Khalatbari is also founder and current Medical Marijuana Center Manager at Denver Relief, a medical marijuana center and wellness service provider located at 1 Broadway.

Sexy Pizza features four pies that are sponsored by a specific pro-marijuana non-profit, and one dollar of the profits earned from those  pizzas is donated to the specified organization. The organizations are: Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Sensible Colorado and SAFER.

So, if you don’t mind possibly tossing a buck to the pro-marijuana movement, give Sexy Pizza a try and enjoy some of their sexy deals. Two slices and a beer for $6? Count me in.

What do you think of Sexy Pizza coming to South Pearl Street with pro-marijuana ideals? Is it a good opportunity for the neighborhood to diversify and people to learn more? Or, is it contradicting the family-oriented atmosphere the neighborhood has fostered for years? Comment below!

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Occupy Denver Protestors Willing to Help Occupy DU

A sign from the Occupy Denver camp.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images. Retrieved from huffingtonpost.com.

The Occupy movement has recently spread its reaches all the way to the copper-laden rooftops of the University of Denver campus.

Occupy DU, which started this past January, held a student and faculty panel Thursday, March 29 in Driscoll Underground to incentivize support and discuss the future of the organization.

The fact that the panel was attended by a combination of students and professors totaling only about 20, seemed to beg the question, why doesn’t Occupy DU work in conjunction with Occupy Denver? The two organizations have relatively the same goals and are set up less than 10 miles from one another.

Robert James, 19, of Denver, CO and current resident of the Occupy Denver camp stated that he and others at the camp would be glad to assist Occupy DU, either by inviting them to see the camp downtown or speaking at another on-campus panel.

“I know people down here right now who are willing to speak all day about this,” said James.

James has been living at the Occupy camp for nine months and has spent time at Occupy sites in Casper, Cheyenne and San Francisco, but says that Occupy Denver is the camp that has caught his eye the most.

“These people are not just laying around out here because they want or need to. But, they are willing to get arrested for their rights, for their reasons and for their entitlement as a human being.”

James also said that Occupy Denver’s most immediate goal is to ensure that the proposed urban camping ban is not signed into law.

“It would destroy our movement. Period.”

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April Fools Woes: Fake Vomit Prank Gone Wrong

When I feigned being sick for my weary and tired Aunt, Uncle and cousins, hilarity did not ensue.

April Fools Day always seems to bring out the prankster in everyone, however the timing of a prank is as important as the prank itself. April 1st, 2002 is a prime example of a time when the pranker’s heart was in the right place, but the mind of the prankee was not ready for shenanigans.

It began with a simple and innocent stop at a local store, at which plastic, artificial vomit was purchased. There was innocent fun around the house the rest of the day with the newly obtained plaything, however the innocence would be instantly erased later that evening.

My Aunt, Uncle and three cousins were arriving to my grandparents’ house that night from distant and not-so-tropical Iceland.

Needless to say, after a five-and-a-half hour flight to Boston and ensuing three-hour drive to New Hampshire, the family of five was in no mood for pranks. However, with the artificial vomit placed neatly in front of me, and some water added on top for authenticity, they stepped in the door to find what they thought was an ailing and vomiting 10-year-old. They were not enthused. Pranking a weary traveler, rather five weary travelers, is not something I would recommend. They did their best to console my faux-ailment, which I quickly informed was by no means real, at which point they forced a chuckle, but were noticeably irked.

In sum, while April Fools Day is for the most part all fun and games, know your audience, and choose your pranks wisely.

Have you ever pulled a prank or been a recipient of one that landed you in some hot water? If you have, or know someone who has, respond below!

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A Brief Recap: November through March

Hello once again to all my fans and followers (Mom and Dad I am talking exclusively to you)! This blog has been dormant on the inter-webs for some time now, and due to my enrollment in a new blogging course, it is going to be back and in full force.

Although, it was never specified, this blog was started in September of 2011 for a class entitled “Online & Visual Journalism” which I was taking at the University of Denver. The class ended, as all things do, and I lazily neglected to post any content between November 2011 and now. Due to the fact that I will now be posting almost every week for the next 10 weeks, and there is an obvious hole in my content between now and when I last posted, I thought it would be somewhat appropriate to recap what has happened in the good ol’ U.S. of A. between November and March. I just wanted to give a brief summary of what has happened in a few categories that have been touched on previously in this blog, so my vast and expansive fan base can be caught up to date. So, here it goes.

As a note: Obviously much more in the world has happened between now and then, however this list touches upon solely the categories of news I have been following, and even within those categories there are bound to be lapses. This is simply to provide some continuity within this blog.

Politics

The presidential GOP race has had it’s fair share of ups and downs over the past few months. Riddled with dissatisfaction amongst voters, scandal and a seemingly never ending chess match between the front runners, it has made for some interesting twists and turns. To recap a few…

-Herman Cain went from “being our next Vice President” to dropping out of the race and having some serious explaining to do to Mrs. Cain.

-Michele Bachmann went from being the favorite of the far right, to dropping out of the race as well and needing to, nicely put, crack open her piggy bank.

-Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have both been slowly spiraling downwards since about January, however both are staying the course. And while Gingrich still has a leg up on Paul, the latter refuses to throw in the towel.

-And of course, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Two politicians who have been square dancing with each other for a definitive lead of the race since I last posted in November. While Romney has the current lead, you never know with these two. And things just may get interesting for Santorum, who recently (accidentally?) made the race a little more racial.

Sports

-Tebow-mania effectively came and left the Mile High City, however it is just beginning in the Big Apple. But with the media coverage Tebow has already received without playing a down, people are going to get sick of “The Mile High Messiah” in NYC faster than you can say Mark Sanchez.

-Superbowl XLII. There is not much to say other than that New England fans will forever be slaves to Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.

-Tiger Woods won for the first time in 30 months. Clearly the sex-scandal-hear-round-the-world had no effect on his game.

Entertainment

-Whitney Houston passed away, and although it wasn’t necessarily shocking to anyone in the music industry or the world, the mourning of one of music’s greatest voices was ubiquitous. At least she left us with plenty of jams for those warm spring/summer days when you are craving a nice jean jacket and considering cutting your hair into a mullet once more.

-Lana del Rey was effectively booed out of the industry as evidenced by the cancellation of her tour. This was in direct correlation to one of the worst SNL performances in history. The world just isn’t ready for indie music to take the pop-music world by storm–at least not by someone who can’t sing.

Adele is still awesome.

-And naturally, Nikki Minaj is still absolutely off her rocker. But at this point, I think most of the world wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Of course, this is an incredibly meager list of news, however it features solely the news that I primarily follow, (clearly nothing but the most intellectual content) and is by no means meant to be all encompassing. It is for the singular purpose to create some sort of mangled thread within this amorphous heap of information called a blog and attempt to foster a distorted sense of continuity. And of course, it is always fun to reminisce. Look forward for more posts soon, I know all 297 of my viewers will be absolutely riveted and enthralled with what comes next. Stay Tuned.

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