Sara Says: The Final Column

When I began this column back in September, I told you all this: I know that who I am is all that I have. That was all I seemed to know at the time that I started editing with the Provoc, and it was the main thing I had learned in college. But now, seven months later, I seem to know a little bit more—that words have a fickle way of sticking out of everything, of not wanting to bend to the circumstances you have, that sometimes they’re going to fail you, and others they’re going to run like a leaky faucet onto a page and you won’t be able to stop them.

I’ve come to know now, with all of the bravado and certainty in the world, that I was right when I started this whole thing. Who I am is all that I have, and all that I have and all that I am are words.

Words seem to have traced my entire trajectory throughout college. I’m a history major and (officially declared!) English minor, so pretty regularly I’ve found myself hunched in front of a computer pounding away at a keyboard. I have searched for them, and found them, when I’ve had a hot date with Microsoft Word and a Her Campus article or blog post or Provoc article. I have spent hours on end with the dance team when words have left me to go see something else. Words have been why I can fall asleep at night, and why I’m able to hold the folks around me with tight little hands.

And I blame you, Assumption College, for all of this. I blame the many people who have touched me, with positive rays of sunshine or with heartbreaking sadness. I blame the girls who have lived by my side for this little journey, the teams who have made my hands feel light and full, the lectures that have taken me to fantasy lands where I, from the comfort of a desk, have had the ability to see everything.

Shout out to the Provoc staff for being magical word fairies, for making me feel hilarious and for teaching me how to step into the large, large shoes that leaders often wear. My love for you is infinite, and if you need to hear about it again, check out issue seven.

Shout out to the dance team for being there when words weren’t. Thank you for teaching me how to dance and walk like a champion, how to ‘put my loser up’ in all sense of the words and for Sobfest 2015.

Shout out to 5J for being the most hilarious and unique women in my life. Thank you for the Wall of Shame, for the denim stains our dancing has left on walls and for the toxic group message that plagues my iPhone. Please stay weird. Always.

And shout out to my professors, for giving me books to read, and a whole world to explore. Special shout outs to Professor Wheatland, who gave me the worst grade I’ve gotten in 117, and for pulling out the best paper I’ve ever written in senior seminar; Dr. Kisatsky for letting me write an honors thesis about Disney, and for making sure it came out okay; Professor Land for reminding me that journalism, and writing in general, is all about talking to and learning from people you would never have gotten the chance to meet; and to Professor Hodgen. Thanks for telling me to “ruin my life” and become a writer; you—and writing—have saved me in more ways than you could know.

Thanks to the Andover High friends who never let me stop calling them home. You all are everything to me.

Thanks to Douglas, Colleen and Eric for being my first friends ever, for keeping me irrationally attached to Massachusetts, for teaching me to laugh deep in my gut and for teaching me that the earth is the greatest thing that we have and we should go out there and enjoy it. Thanks to Mom and Dad for making bill payments, high grades, extracurriculars and big dreams all possible.

Forever and ever I will always say that humility and gratitude will be the most important and most attractive qualities someone can have, so I try to pull them into my heart every morning and every night. Thank you Provoc, Assumption and everyone who has filled this space with love for always keeping me humble, and always keeping me grateful.

Talk Nerdy to Me: How to Stay Organized and Nail your Senior Thesis

THESIS_Pinterest

As we all prep to head back to school for spring semester, some folks might be gearing up to write (or continue to write) their senior thesis. Lucky for you all, I just finished mine (and did pretty well on it, if I do say so myself).

Writing my senior thesis was really stressful for a lot of reasons, but mostly because this is such a freakin’ beefy project. I’d done lengthy research papers before (thesis proposal, senior seminar [which I took as a junior…?]). Because of all of that, I was able to really kind of figure out what I wanted to do in terms of organization for the project.

Since my senior thesis was so important to me (it was the #1 thing I was thankful for this year), I really wanted to knock it out of the park and do something great with it. I knew that since it was so much research, I was going to need to be so so organized.

So what was my thesis even about?

My senior thesis was entitled, “The Implicit Imperialists: The Disnification of American Hegemony 1990-1991.” I took a look at the relationship Disney has with the U.S. government and how, for better or for worse, everything we see (Disney cartoons included) serves as some sort of propaganda. I also looked at the history of American primacy, otherwise known as “orientalism.” This refers to the way the West perceives the East as kind of subhuman, like the way colonial powers in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century justified going into Middle Eastern countries and sort of imposed Western conceptions of freedom and civilization on them (but we have to ask– who made up these ideas of freedom/civilization?). In the end, I kind of weave this all together to make sense of the First Persian Gulf War and the depiction of Arabs in Aladdin.

It probably sounds boring to you, but I promise, it was awesome.

I tell you all this just so I can show you how many different components projects like this have. For me, I had: the study of Orientalism (I read a lot by/about Edward W. Said), history of U.S. foreign relations, Cold War and Gulf War readers (big books filled with primary documents), the study of Disney, the study of media analysis, and the study of Disney with regards to history. I organized all of my research accordingly.

The Organization:

So I decided to take all of those research topics and split them into different file folders, and decided I’d store all of those folders into one box.

THESIS_Box

You can, of course, make these folders on your computer and store everything digitally, but personally, I’d prefer to highlight and take notes on the hard copy of a journal article (if you do store things digitally, every single time you do something, back it up on a flash drive in case, heaven forbid, something get lost). When I read books, I would read the book and type out notes on my computer (I used an interlibrary loan program, so I wasn’t allowed to highlight the actual books.) I took note of different direct quotes I wanted to use, or I paraphrased ideas– mostly I transcribed actual quotes, though, because I figured I could always go back and paraphrase, but if I’d returned the book, I couldn’t get the quote again. I printed those out and put them in folders, too.

The folders were labeled: media analysis, foreign policy, orientalism, and Disney history. I also had a folder for all of my drafts.

THESIS_Folders

A note about drafts: I was super lucky because my thesis advisor was some kind of superwoman and was extremely brilliant at so many different subjects and disciplines. As a result, I got my drafts torn to gosh darn shreds. First, don’t take this personally. I took every note she gave me because I knew she knew better than me; second, if you don’t get this from your advisor, demand it. If you’re like me, your thesis is counting as a class; that means you’re paying to write this son of a gun. You should be getting so much attention. You need to be firm with your advisor about what you need. I suggest you make them return drafts to you that look like this:

THESIS_Edits

…and that was just my introduction.

As the project continued, the pages got less and less messy, but even now, after I’ve submitted my final copy for publishing, I’m sure there are so many things she could find to improve. I wanted this because frankly I spent hours on the project and I’m submitting it for awards and I want to win those freakin’ awards (woohoo for extrinsic motivation!).

A note about defending: What is a thesis without a defense? I’m a petrified public speaker, even though people always say they’re surprised by that (I think it’s because my voice projects). My goal for my defense was to make it basically like a TED Talk, and while I totally did not achieve that (although, TED, if you want me to talk, I am SO DOWN. #pipedream) I think I did a nice job. Something that made a huge different was using Prezi.

Prezi was so simple, free, stored everything in a dropbox type thing on its website, and had clean yet interesting animations. I got so many compliments on my Prezi, so I definitely suggest you give it a try.

I also super suggest taking a video of yourself doing your presentation. I did mine in the Provoc office where I could set up one of our computers with my Prezi and use the other to take a webcam video of myself (note to self: delete those before the staff comes back to school). This helped me notice stupid crap I do when presenting, let me hear where I stumbled over words, found certain phrases that worked and used them in the actual presentation, and let me time myself.

Do you have a senior thesis coming up? Do you have suggestions on how to make it work? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you!

Rave Reviews: MayDesigns Weekly Planner

Rave ReviewsSo I’ve been buying MayDesigns products for years, and there’s a reason for it. Every year, around the start of December, I design my very own weekly planner/organizer and email to my mom exactly what I’d like as a Christmas present (it’s the only thing I get that isn’t much of a surprise).

With MayDesigns planners, you get to design pretty much every aspect of it– you get to choose from approximately a zillion background colors, get to choose what will be on the front cover (name? initials? personal mantra?) and in what font and behind what nameplate, and you get to choose if it’s going to be a weekly planner or a calorie diary or a notebook with blank pages or any of their other options.

I love being able to personalize my planner so that it looks like something nobody else has. I also love that the pages are stitched together so that it’s eco-friendly. I also love that I’m supporting a small business. Suffice it to say, I love pretty much all of the aspects of this company.

MayBooks_Front

This is the beaut I got this year. I believe the pattern came from their Tea Collection from this past fall, but I thought it was a nice combination between pretty and sort of retro boho (what a strange combination, huh?) and would reflect my personal style. I also challenge myself every year to get a different nameplate than I did the year before, even though I always do a monogram of my initials in the script.

MayBooks_Weekly MayBooks_Yearly

This year MayDesigns did something a little different. They always include both a monthly view as well as a weekly view for planning and organization, but usually they would put the monthly view right before a series of weekly pages. That would get awkward sometimes because, as you can see on the left, they show you one week on one page and another on the next page. When a new month would come in between, it would kind of get out of whack. This year, they put all of the monthly views at the beginning and put the weekly views consecutively after that. The font and general design is also a little different, and it has a really nice clean view.

MayBooks_YearlyReview

At the beginning of the book they also gave you a year in review page. I love this feature because it keeps you from needing to flip all the way to that month in the calendar to see what day a certain date falls on or something like that.

MayDesigns are so simple and so easy to work with. They don’t take up too much room in your bag due to the fact that they are stitch-bound and have plenty of space for you to write all of your homework assignments or any engagements you need to plan out. Getting my new planner almost makes me excited to head back to school so I actually have stuff to write in it!

DISCLAIMER: All of these opinions are my own, and this post has not been in any way subsidized by MayDesigns by way of monetary compensation or gifting. Read: My mommy and daddy got me this planner for Christmas and I wanted to share with you all 🙂