Adjusting to Louisiana Culture as an Out-of-State Student

BrandonBrandon Oliver is from Houston, TX and is a Senior majoring in International Studies and French. Brandon is an LSU Ambassador and served as one of LSU’s Parent Orientation Leaders this summer.

For every incoming student, college is a great adjustment. However, there are certain things out of state students must adjust to that in state students will never experience. While attending college out of state may seem a bit daunting, college is a once in a life time opportunity, and I strongly believe an individual should not limit their options for higher education to the boundaries of the state they live in.

I came to LSU from out of state, and I would not trade my experience here for the world! When I began my college search during high school, I looked at universities all across the United States. I lived in Texas during high school; even though Texas is the largest state in the contiguous U.S, and there were plenty of excellent colleges for me to choose from, I did not find the college in state that was the best fit for me. To be honest, I dreamed of attending LSU since I was a little kid, but after I went to a Kick-Off LSU in the Spring of my Junior year, I could not imagine myself going to any other school.

My first semester at LSU was incredible! No doubt, there were some things I definitely had to get adjusted to. Coming from five hours away I couldn’t go home to wash my clothes on the weekends, I had to spend my birthday without my closest friends from high school, and I to adjust from seeing my family everyday to hardly once a month. I was the only person I knew coming into LSU, but I came in with an open mind, and I met the most amazing people.

The fall semester is so much fun at LSU. The first week students arrive on campus, there are so so many activities going on. After this, football season starts! I believe everyone should experience at least one football game at LSU during their life because it’s amazing. Homecoming and Fall Fest were my favorite events I attended Freshman year. In addition to all these great activities, I LOVED the classes I took freshman year. I remember taking Sociocultural Anthropology, and I thought it was incredibly fascinating!

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Everyone is different, but I did not feel homesick until after winter break. I truly had blast my first semester, but after I went home for the break and hung out with my friends and family, it was hard for me to leave them all again. When I got back to campus in the spring, I kept myself busy with school and decided to join a few organizations where I ended up meeting my best friends to this day.

Culture-wise, I have met out of state students who have experienced a bit of a culture shock when they first came to Louisiana. I grew up in and out of Louisiana, so the culture was nothing new to me, but I met a girl from Houston who didn’t know Cajun was culture and ethnic group, she just thought it was a type of seasoning. Most people who come from the North are surprised by the friendliness of the natives here. I personally love the French culture here. French is one of my majors, and I have had multiple opportunities to practice my French with native speakers and attend French festivals, which I would not be able to do if I attended college in any other state.

The best advice I could give to an out of state student would be to have an open mind, and to GET INVOLVED. I literally knew no one on campus the first day I arrived, but by Sophomore year LSU was my home. People come to LSU from all over the world and there are plenty of resources at LSU to ensure the success of all their students.

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How To Balance Everything

megMeg is a third-year undergraduate student from Lacombe, LA pursuing a degree in industrial engineering at LSU. She is actively involved in LSU Ambassadors as the current Funding and Financial chair while having also served as a 2015 Orientation Leader and 2015 SROW LSU representative. Her favorite things to do are travel and eat all the good Cajun food possible!

Balancing everything in college, especially your first few semesters, can be trickier than some of those equations you deal with in Calculus! There’s school work, plus organization meetings, job shifts, and more with a maximum of only twenty-four hours in a day. Here’s a few theories of what three years of college have taught me thus far:

  1. Get a planner and USE it – A planner could be anything from a small notebook to a large calendar where you keep everything in. I recommend checking out the bookstore and finding what works best for you. The important thing is to have one and actually use it. This can help you see as things are coming up ahead of time so you aren’t waiting until the last minute or forget.
  2. Have friends to hold you accountable – It’s great to have friends that you can hang out with outside of class and go on adventures with during the weekend, but it’s important to have the friends that will spend an afternoon after class studying with you or working on that group project.
  3. Exercise – This is such an underrated component of keeping students happy and healthy in college! Even if it is just thirty minutes on a UREC machine or maybe an hour-long fitness class, just go and do something. Getting your body moving and focusing on yourself for a little while each day can help keep you focused. 
  4. Get involved but don’t overdo it – This meg2may not make sense now, but you’ll know when you get to this point. It’s great to be involved, but maybe you joined one organization too many and now you’re struggling to keep up with all your obligations. Maybe you’re finding yourself spending a large majority of your time on one specific involvement of yours and not keeping up with the other aspects of your life. To quote my mother, “Don’t be afraid to say no sometimes!” 
  5. Don’t forget to call home – Sometimes you just need time to chat with people you love from home that keep you grounded. All I can say is thank goodness my wireless provider has unlimited call minutes because I sure do wear out my mom’s phone catching up about our week or even sometimes the simpler questions like how long do I leave a chicken in the oven before I know it’s cooked. 

New Year, New Semester, Fresh Start

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Lexi is first-year graduate student at LSU, pursuing an MBA with a specialization in marketing analytics. She currently serves as the marketing & communication graduate assistant at LSU First Year Experience (FYE). Before pursuing her master’s degree, Lexi received her bachelor’s degree in mass communication: public relations from LSU. She is from the small town of Lockport, LA, but has enjoyed living in Baton Rouge for the past five years.  

With a new year, comes a new semester and a fresh start at tackling classes and all of the exciting, yet occasionally stressful, things that come with any college experience. The best way to kick off a new semester is to take the time to reflect on the one that just passed. The very first thing all Tigers should think is: “Wow! I conquered another (or your first) semester toward a long-term goal I’ve set for myself!” This past fall semester was a rough start for everyone at LSU, and having made it through is a huge accomplishment that all Tigers should celebrate. After considering all that you’ve accomplished in the past semester, you should begin to think about things you can improve upon. Ask yourself, “How can I make the spring semester even better? How can I finish this year off strong?” As a Tiger with years of experience of balancing course work, student leadership and involvement, internships and work, as well as a social life; here’s the advice I would give any student on starting the semester off strong:

  1. Be proactive, not reactive! Plan ahead, Tigers! The best way to ensure that you start off the semester on the right foot, is to know what you want to accomplish. Set goals for yourself now, before the semester starts. While it sounds like a minor thing, starting classes with clear-cut goals of what you want to accomplish will take a massive amount of stress off of you during the first weeks of classes. I am a visual person, so the way that I set my goals is by writing down what I want to work toward, and even writing down how I am going to do it. This helps me stay focused, even when other things pop up.
  2. Tackle Homesickness. During my first few years at LSU, coming back to campus after the month-long break was tough because I would get used to being with my family and hometown friends again. While the saying, “There’s no place like home,” is absolutely true, the only way to make the feeling of homesickness subside is to make LSU your home. The best way to do this is to get involved and take advantage of the resources and events that the University offers. You should take comfort in the fact that your becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be, and you’re accomplishing a major goal by being here.
  3. Stick to the rule of three! I am a big believer that the more involved you are, the better you do in school. With that being said, I also believe that you cannot give a thousand things 100 percent of your ability all at the same time. So my advice is to stop doing several things half-way and do three things extremely well. For example, during my senior year of my undergraduate time at LSU my three things were doing well in school, serving as vice president of PRSSA at LSU and my job at LSU FYE. When you focus all of your effort on only a few specialized things, you’d be amazed at all you can accomplish and how well-received your work will be amongst your superiors and teachers. My advice for how to narrow down to only three things is to stick with what is going to help you accomplish the goals you’ve set (See #1).
  4. Know what helps you de-stress! Sometimes no matter how much you plan in advance, the stress of the semester still sneaks up on you. When this happens, it is good to know what is going to make you feel better and gain a handle on things. For me, depending on how stressed I was at the time, it could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and watching my favorite TV show or even going for a run regularly. Everyone is different, but it will be helpful to have a healthy way to de-stress in mind when that overwhelming feeling sneaks up on you. LSU’s Center for Academic Success has great examples of ways to manage stress, and the LSU UREC has a lot of active ways to decompress.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I would be willing to bet that there are very few, if any, successful people out there who achieved their success without the help and guidance of others. That is why it is important to know your limits, and know when you may need help from a classmate or a tutor, or when you may need to take advantage of the additional resources on campus. Asking for help will never hinder you from reaching a goal, but giving up surely will.
  6. Know that you can do it! You’ve already made it through one semester this year, so there is no doubt you’ll make it through this one! You can accomplish all of the goals you set by staying focused, organized and working hard. Good luck this semester, Tigers! Even though you won’t need it because I know you’ve got this semester covered.

Being a First Generation Student

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DaMika Woodard will be serving as the POL for the College of Art and Design. She is a Senior from DeRidder, Louisiana. She is majoring in Kinesiology with a concentration in Pre-Physical Therapy. She is involved in LSU Ambassadors, STRIPES, and Association of Pre-Physical Therapy Students. Her favorite spot on campus is Middleton Library. 

Being a first generation student is a great accomplishment that comes with a lot of pride, and a lot of pressure. I was proud to be the first person in my family to go to a four year university, but I also felt pressured to succeed. Statistically, the odds were not in my favor. It was reported that first generation students are the least likely to graduate from four year universities; I did not want that to be my story. Growing up, I watched my mom bounce from job to job to provide for my siblings and I. My mother always told me things such as: “nothing is ever going to be given to you, you have to work for it. The world is yours, you just have to go and get it!” She constantly stressed the importance of education to us and made sure that we excelled academically. Thanks to her consistency, I graduated from DeRidder High School in 2013 in the top 15 percent of my class, and didn’t stop there! In the Fall of 2013, I began my journey as an LSU Tiger, which was a bittersweet transition for my mother and I. We were excited for this new chapter of my life, but also nervous; this was not only my first taste of college, but hers as well.

My first semester was challenging; not only academically, but in my personal life as well. I had trouble networking with others and keeping my parents up to date on information and events. In addition to those problems, I did not know how to properly study, manage my time, or how to handle my own finances. While trying to juggle it all, I came to the realization that I needed extra help; I could not do this alone. Thankfully, LSU has a service called Student Support Services. At the SSS, their mission is to work directly with first generation students from their freshman orientation to their graduation.

Damika PictureThey have services that teach the students about money management,studying styles, as well as time management. They also offer weekly tutoring sessions and peer mentors, who are first generation students, too. This made things easier because I was surrounded by people who understood me and could give me the extra help that I knew I needed. There are many times that I felt overwhelmed, but my on-campus support system encouraged me to keep going. Now, I am set to graduate in December of 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. In the words of my mother, “The world is yours, you just have to go and get it.”
 

Freshman Survival Guide: Changing Majors

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Chandler Wall will be serving as the POL for Music and Dramatic Arts and the College of Agriculture. He is a Junior from Dallas, Texas. He is a Human Resources and Education major with a concentration in Leadership. He is involved with LSU Ambassadors and his favorite spot on campus is Mike’s Habitat. 

Changing your major is quite common to the average college student. I personally have changed my major a total of 4 times now and almost every time I had to change my senior college. I would think that this next one would be the major I graduate with, but each time I would realize that it wasn’t for me.  After I realized that my third major change wasn’t what I hoped it would be, I decided that it was time for me to change again. Except this time was different, this time I felt lost. This time I wasn’t changing my major because I found something I felt I liked better.

Chandler BlogI didn’t know what I wanted anymore, or what the best fit for me was. I just knew that I wasn’t happy in that major anymore. It was a terrifying feeling. I had just finished my sophomore year of college, now half way through my college career and I no longer knew what I wanted to do. I went and talked to my friends about what I should do next and they all said the same thing, “Pay a visit to the Olinde Career Center.” I had heard about it in the past but had never been there myself. I didn’t realize that I walked by it almost everyday in the Student Union. I wasn’t sure if it would be able to solve all my problems, but I knew that it was definitely worth a try.

When the new school year was starting I walked in and set up an appointment with a career counselor. She sat me down and we talked for a long while until she had a grasp on my situation. From there we started from scratch, we looked at many different majors offered by each college at LSU. She could tell that our conversation wasn’t getting me any closer to figuring out what I wanted to do. She then proposed that I take on online test known as the Strong Test. This test would help to tell me what kind of work style I had, what jobs would really suit me, which jobs wouldn’t, it even told me whaChandler Blog 3t majors I would work well in. So I went and took the test and I would meet back with her once the results came in.

About a week later, I went to meet her again to look at my results. I was surprised to see my test results were a stack of papers half an inch thick. They were telling me things about myself that I never realized and options that I had never even considered. We talked until I could narrow it down to three majors. Then I went and spoke to each senior college to weigh my options. Eventually I choose to go with Human Resources and Education. Words couldn’t describe the feeling of relief I had now that I had a major and a plan again. Sometimes people realize that they actual don’t want to major in what they came to college to study and that is okay. It’s better to realize this early during your undergrad, instead of a week before graduation or even after. The LSU Olinde Career Center is there for this specific purpose and it should definitely be utilized, because it definitely can’t hurt.

To SPIN or not to SPIN

Meet Troi Benjamin, a IMG_9156Human Resource Education major, Leadership and Development concentration, Business Administration minor, from New Orleans, Louisiana. Involved in LSU Ambassadors, currently an Associate chair for the Orientation committee, student worker for the Office of Orientation.

Spring Invitational: An orientation for outstanding students who are invited to participate in this prestigious event. Spring Invitations’ staff is dedicated to the students to ensure an exceptional time and aiding in recruiting the future tigers. There are added benefits to coming to Spring Invitational besides having a summer to yourself. Students who attend Spring Invitational have the opportunity of receiving college credit before attending college, scheduling classes with first priority, and enjoying the extraordinary company of other high achieving students.

During Spring Invitational, there are many resources for the exceptional students to hear about in addition to seeing their college advisors more than once to guide them on the journey to scheduling classes. Every student is broken into groups based on a random selection within their senior college, this allows for students to meet potential classmates and/or friends.

I did not get the opportunity to be an attendee of Spring Invitational, but has not been a barrier to my passion of Orientation. I have served many different roles for Spring Invitational over the past 3 years of being an LSU Ambassador. I began as an Orientation Leader in 2013, moved into being a College Leader in 2014, and I currently hold one of the Associate Chair positions, while working for the Office of Orientation.

Working

Associate Chair Role: Working as one of the associate chairs for Spring Invitational allowed me to see the program from another angle. There are more aspects to Spring Invitational than just being an Orientation Leader and serving the students directly. As one of the Associate chairs, I was aided in assigning all volunteers who worked Spring Invitational. This position allowed me to understand how if one piece of the puzzle is missing, you do not have to panic but adjust your puzzle.

Student Assistant Role: I originally believed that there wasn’t much student interaction done between the student assistants and the students attending Spring Invitational, but oh was I wrong! As a student worker every day of Spring Invitational we are set up in the Orientation Headquarters to answer any and every questions asked by a future tiger or parent. We as the Office of Orientation are here for the assisting of every individual at Orientation.

My word of advice to all students who get invited to Spring Invitational would be to dive in to SPIN and allow the potential memories to take over and fall in love with being an LSU Tiger who will bleed Purple and Gold 24/7!AMB Photo

Why STRIPES?

IMG_3286Bio: English major, Junior, from Marshall, Texas. Involved in LSU Ambassadors, served as a STRIPES small group leader for 2 years, currently serving on executive staff

STRIPES bio: extended orientation program focusing on history and traditions, spirit, and making students feel more at home and have a more personal or intimate connection with campus and with other future tigers. It stands for Student Tigers Rallying Interacting and Promoting Education and Service.

Take it from someone who heard about STRIPES and said “Ew. That sounds lame.” STRIPES is worth your time. Though I was never a participant at STRIPES, this program has shaped me and changed me more than I can express in 500 words or less. However, this isn’t about me, is it? It’s about you. And how STRIPES can change your life like it changed mine.

S is for spirit.

I don’t necessarily mean cheer camp or fired up spirit. While this program is fun and energetic, it instills a sense of pride for LSU that doesn’t have to be loud and noisy. Whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, there are parts of the program that can show you how sweet it can be to be a tiger.

Just an example, all participants get a little card with the lyrics to the LSU alma mater, and line by line, we sing it together. What a resource. I was mumbling those lyrics for a solid year and a half after football games, and knowing that it said “worth” and not “birth” would have been handy.

T is for tradition.

Did you know that LSU is one of the only universities with a land grant, a sea grant, and a space grant? Did you know that we have the Indian Mounds on campus, a landmark older than the Egyptian pyramids? Did you know that Death Valley started our as a residence hall and somehow was magically converted a football stadium by Governor Huey P. Long?

LSU’s history is full of wild, interesting tidbits, making it a unique university with tons of interesting fun facts. And while I might be a little partial, I think ours are more interesting than any other school in the SEC – two words for you Bama, GEAUX and TIGERS.

But I digress. All of these interesting tidbits are things that I learned from the STRIPES program.

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R is for respect.

There are 30,000 students on this campus and they all come from different walks of life. Aspects of the program focus on getting students to see from the perspectives of others, and to unite the student body. No matter our gender, racial identity, sexuality, political party, or economic class, we’re all tigers. That’s something we can’t forget when starting a new chapter.

I have seen STRIPES give students the pen they needed to keep writing that chapter. Students can leave with a respect not only for their campus, but for the 30,000 beautiful individuals that call it home.

I is for intelligence.

STRIPES works with LSU’s Center for Academic Success and the Olinde Career Center to give students resources to help them succeed for their first semester and beyond. One of my favorites is the Learning Style Preference Assessment, where students are given strategies that are individualized to help them learn to the best to their own ability. Also, students get to see the faces of the workers at those offices, opening doors for them to be unafraid to ask for help.

P is for people.

This is my favorite letter because the people at STRIPES are some of the programs greatest assets. STRIPES has over 60 qualified student leaders that come from every corner of campus. These student leaders take on the role of mentorship for participants, for the program and beyond.

Staff aside, students are put into small groups that go through the program together.   There is something special about watching groups go from painful small talk to camaraderie in four short days. I have no idea how it happens, but somehow I have found every small group I have ever had laughing while eating breakfast without student leaders  having to drive the conversation.

squad being cute

E is for eats.

Okay, honestly maybe this is my favorite letter. STRIPES is catered by some of Baton Rouge’s best restaurants and caterers – they believe and invest in the program and I thank them from the bottom of my heart and stomach. One new part of the program – GEAUXchella – is a Baton Rouge appreciation festival that will bring in restaurants from the Baton Rouge area to show students that Baton Rouge has cool things for students off of campus as well as on campus.

S is for stories.

Before my freshman year of college, I though STRIPES was lame. Let’s blame that on me being uncomfortable at LSU. Stripes showed me that whether LSU was my first choice (which it wasn’t) or at the bottom of my back-ups (which it was), there was something I could find on campus that would not only make me successful on campus, but make me feel like I belonged in the midst of 30,000 terrifying strangers. While this was comforting as a sophomore, it would have been a real life-saver as a freshman.

Thus ends my plea. As a group leader, I have seen this program do amazing things for students. And it’s my firm belief that it can do that for anyone. As a small group leader, I have met so many people and learned their stories, and those stories have pushed me, inspired me, and given me so much confidence that I am in the right place.

If you’re on the fence, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.