Diploma ≠ Golden Ticket

[Opinion article published in the Yellow Jacket Newspaper on Nov. 14, 2013]


As a college student, I have realized a common trait in a vast majority of undergrads: We are incredibly, terribly, shamefully lazy.

America has really bought into the idea of college graduates. In the struggling economy, it is well known that having a college diploma will give you an upper hand in the job market. Many employers are known to make comments such as “It doesn’t matter what you have a degree in as long as you have a degree in something.” Comments such as this give people the notion that a college degree – rather than a strong work ethic, a stellar portfolio, a great transcript, or a combination of all four –  is the absolute most important factor in getting hired.

Since college, or rather the idea of college, is valued so highly, most people feel like they must graduate from college in order to be successful. A diploma from centuries and decades past was appealing because it was rare. Only the hardest workers or the smartest students received college degrees, making the achievement prestigious.

Now, since the opinion of college has been so highly elevated, nearly everyone attends, despite the rising cost of tuition. Families or individuals who cannot afford college take out tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans, spending the rest of their lives in debt. The jobs that college graduates work often times don’t pay enough to allow students to pay off the debt they assumed. The fact of the matter is: College is overrated.

Although college students tend to be viewed as extremely hard workers and perseverant students, a good number of college students who I come in contact with are ridiculously lazy. They complain when they have to lift a finger for their class work. They put sleep and socializing above studying. They wear pajamas and sweats to class. They eat meals and stare at their phones during lectures. They have pity parties for themselves via social media.

And these are the people getting the upper hand in the job market?

We all have days where we feel overworked and stressed out, but this “why me” mentality should not be the attitude of one’s entire college experience.

The sad reality is that since college has become so common, students feel like it is an entitlement rather than a privilege, and for that reason, they do not value it.

When getting ready to graduate from high school, many students choose their university based on their friends, the atmosphere or nightlife of the location, the amount of activities the school offers, or the policies or strictness of the school; basically everything but the education. Instead of viewing college as a time to grow up and prepare for a respectable career, many students view it as their last years to be wild and free without many consequences or responsibilities.

The real problem with this is that college students focus solely on getting a degree rather than getting experience in their field and developing as professionals, breeding grossly underqualified and overconfident college graduates. These people will get a rude awakening when they find that a college degree is meaningless unless you are actually qualified and responsible.

Honestly, many people are just not cut out for college. College should be challenging and time consuming because a college degree should be meaningful. Rather than waste their – or their parents’ – money complaining their way through college, people who don’t want to put in the work should not attend.

No student is entitled to graduate from college just as graduates are not entitled to jobs. This overrated view of college is producing a generation who will do anything to get that “golden ticket,” but nothing more to prepare themselves for post-college life.

I Still Do

[Opinion article published in the Yellow Jacket Newspaper on Oct. 30, 2014]

Last week, I attended a commonly overlooked Howard Payne ceremony: the renewal of vows. This is an event that takes place during homecoming weekend in which married alumnus re-commit themselves to their spouses. “It’s about saying ‘I said I do, I have, and I still do’” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, the HPU professor who officiated the ceremony.
For a large percentage of the world’s population, marriage has become obsolete. There is an extremely high rate of divorce, in our country especially, and it’s something we’ve become accustomed to. In contrast, it was beautiful to see couples who had been married for nearly 50 years still enjoying one another and continuing to put effort into making each other happy.
Couples who have been married for 50 years have spent nearly two-thirds of their lives with one another. There is a level of comfort that comes with being with a person for that long. After spending the majority of your life with someone, it would be unnatural to try and live without them.
What struck me was the middle-aged couple who renewed their vows after 5 years.

My parents on their wedding day 25 years ago.

My parents have been happily married for 25 years. For as long as I can remember, they have had a very positive and encouraging relationship. However, my mom recently told me about a rough patch she and my dad went through when I was small.
“Year 7 was the hardest,” my mom said. By this point, my parents’ honeymoon phase had worn off and they had 3 children to take care of on a tight budget. “Things were really stressful and it was easy to become short tempered,” she remembered. My parents chose to work together to resolve their difficult phases because they were committed to each other.
When a relationship is between the giddy newness stage and the comfortable sense of normalcy stage, couples may find their marriage undesirable. It was inspiring to watch the couples in Grace Chapel who were likely in this stage of uncertainty still look at each other and boldly state their intentions of keeping the promises they made years ago.
Marriage often holds a higher status of importance within religious communities, but it can be very important to secular people as well. Since I became agnostic three years ago, the value of marriage has become increasingly more important to me.

When you adjust your belief system, it is sometimes necessary to re-evaluate what it is you live for. As a Christian, my life revolved around serving God and enlightening others of His greatness. When God was taken out of the equation, my relationships with people took the highest priority. I value my encounters with all people, be it a laugh with a cashier at the supermarket or an intimate moment with a trusted friend. People and the relationships I share with them have become the most important aspect of my life. Recognizing that the relationship I have with my future spouse could possibly become the most significant bond I experience has caused me to take marriage very seriously.

Simply tying the knot with a person does not guarantee a spectacular relationship. But making a lifelong commitment to a person with whom you share a mutual sense of respect, trust and admiration can give you the opportunity to thrive in a relationship that is insurmountable.
Aside from the positive feelings you should have towards your husband or wife, spouses share many monumental events together. They live together and usually spend more time together than they do with anyone else. They manage their finances together and make important joint decisions about which country, state, city, neighborhood and home they want to live. Spouses often have and raise children together and grow alongside each other in their parenting skills. They vacation together, go through struggles together and are present for every curveball life throws.

Of course, these milestones can be shared outside marriage, but marrying gives a couple a sense of security in their relationship by making the commitment legal, verbal and public. Firmly stating a desire to be together through the highs and the lows gives couples encouragement to press on, even in moments when the relationship is not enjoyable. It may be difficult to love your spouse when he or she is being selfish or irritable, but it should be comforting to know that your spouse won’t stop loving you when you are selfish and irritable.

Marriage is a truly beautiful bond that should be taken seriously. In a world where marriage is so often seen as a joke, it was encouraging to watch the couples at Howard Payne say to their spouses “After all this time, I still do.”




U.S. vs U.K.

Two months, I got on a plane and flew 5000 miles to my new home. Since that day, I have learned an incredible amount, seen spectacular things, and had experiences I will forever remember.

I heard about the study abroad trip to London two weeks before the deposit was to be paid. I received a mass email about a study abroad meeting and decided to go, just to hear what Howard Payne had to offer. I, by no means, thought that I would be studying abroad the very next semester! As we talked about London, it seemed really exciting. Most people don’t study abroad their second semester of college, but the question that kept popping into my mind was “why not now?”

I aspire to be a photojournalist, a career that will allow me to travel all over the world. I have such a heart for travel and I long to see so many parts of the world. I knew that coming to England would give me a great chance to see new things and experience a new culture. Many people go their entire lives without getting the chance to travel anywhere. I am so thankful not only to be able to travel, but to be able to start my travels at the ripe age of 18.

When I first came to London, I was in a bit of shock. I was expecting it to be almost the same as America; just with royalty and red buses. But when I found out that 24-hour stores don’t exist here, pedestrians don’t talk to one another, and that a driver can actually sue you if you get hit by their car, I thought to myself “Toto, we are definitely not in Texas anymore”.

But being completely out of my comfort zone has proved to be a really great thing. London is one of the most, if not the most, international cities in the world. There are people from every country, religion, and race. Even sitting in a park or in the subway (called “the Tube”) for a few minutes, you can always hear a plethora of languages and accents. Living in London is not always convenient because it’s not always what I’m used to. But being here helps me to understand so much more about the English and about life in general. There are so many differences between life in the States and life in the UK; some good, and some bad. Experiencing these things helps me to form a more objective and understanding opinion of the world.

One thing I have learned about people is that we all love our homes. I have talked with people from England, Wales, Columbia, Brazil, and more about their experiences and travels. It is great to see someone’s face light up remembering where they came from. It is really awesome to visit other places and to experience something different, but there truly is no place like home.

In about a month, I will be leaving London with a torn heart. I will be ecstatic to see my loved ones (and eat Chick-fil-a) again. But I will really miss London and everything it is; the ability to see a West End show whenever I want, the glow of the lights along the River Thames, the hustle and bustle of the city, and the juxtaposition of new and old architecture. There are so many things I love about London.

I have been homesick many times and missed people and things about America a lot. But this semester has been so worth it. I wouldn’t give back my time in London for the world.

London & Texas; The barriers are more than geographical

The 5,000 miles between Texas and London is more than just a geographical barrier. London and Texas are two different worlds.

In London, I used the public transportation system, which meant that I never had to pay for gas and never really had to get directions. I lived in an apartment with 3 other girls. I was wearing a coat right up until the last day.

In Texas, I have the freedom to go wherever I want whenever I want with my car. I live in my house with my 3 brothers and parents. I am now basking in the glorious Texas sunshine.

There are so many great things about both places, but it has been difficult to make such a quick transition from one lifestyle into a completely different one.

During my semester in London, I learned an incredible amount about the culture and the history of Britain, partially from my classes and partially from my own observations. Of my 4 classes, 3 were taught by British professors (or, “tutors”). One class, British Life and Culture, was about just that. Every Monday morning, we would walk around London and our professors would talk about certain buildings, monuments, and landmarks, while explaining their historical significance. Although Monday mornings somehow seemed to be the coldest of all and our class lasted 3 hours, I really value all the knowledge I received through that class.

I also took Art Appreciation, which is normally a pretty boring class. However, when I was able to go to a different art gallery every week of the semester and see the real art, it was incredible. I visited world famous galleries such as Tate Modern, Tate Britain, The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, and many more. I saw special exhibitions by famous painters such as Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, George Bellows, and more. We saw such a huge variety of art ranging from all different time periods, places, styles, themes, and movements.

Another one of my classes was Theater (or, Theatre). We saw a show every week while in London and in this class, we deeply discussed the shows we had seen, along with the history of theater from all around the world. Among many others, I saw Billy Elliot, Spamalot, Singin’ in the Rain, Wicked, Great Expectations, Thriller Live, and Kiss Me, Kate in London. It was incredible to be able to see so many spectacular musicals and plays.

In the past year, I have lived in 3 different cities. The first being my hometown, Waxahachie, TX, a city of about 30,000 with a decent amount of things to do and only about 30 miles from Dallas, Arlington, and Ft. Worth. The second was Brownwood, which we all know doesn’t have much to do and is pretty isolated, but offers a nice little sense of community. The third was London, one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities. Living in these 3 places, especially with such a small amount of time, has opened my eyes tremendously. All 3 locations offer such a different lifestyle, which really affects the way a person grows up, thinks, works, and acts.

My favorite part about living in London was how much opportunity was available. I could wake up every morning and ask “what do I want to do today” and just go do it. London also exposed me to so many different cultures. There is a China town in a part of London called Leicester Square, there are people from all over the world traveling to London for business or vacation, and London is home to a huge Indian population.  It was refreshing to see so many different people in one place.

As much as I will truly miss the hustle and bustle of that beautiful city, it does feel good to be home. I woke up this morning and walked onto my porch and it wasn’t freezing! I saw the sun! And trees! It is also great to be around my family and friends again, since I didn’t get to talk to them very often while in London. I got to drive my car, eat Chick-Fil-A, and go to Wal-Mart (oh, the little things in life).

I’ve learned so much this year about life. One of the biggest lessons I learned from being in London is that there is so much more to the world than Texas. We can’t expect people who are from completely different places and cultures to all think and act the same. Experiencing and learning about different cultures helps me to be more understanding and loving of humanity as a whole.

I strongly encourage all college students to expand your mind through travel. It is an adventure that you will never forget!


window1_edited-1The images in the Windows Project were taken individually for over a year, all over the world. The idea behind this project was inspired by film photography. I feel that the clarity of today’s cameras can sometimes eliminate the mystery or privacy between the viewer and the subject. Film cameras provide a grainier and blurrier image, but the message can still be communicated clearly. I wanted to find a way to insert that filter between myself or the viewers of my images and my subjects while still using digital photography as my medium. I found that windows were an interesting way to create the space to give my subjects some privacy, albeit they often felt intruded upon as none of these photos were posed. The following images are honest depictions of a single frame of each subject’s dynamic life.

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