By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

Well, this is crazy. I can’t believe we’re finally here! It feels like it was just yesterday that I was anxiously writing my first blog post. Another semester, all online… it quite literally ZOOM’ed by;-) All jokes aside, this internship has been a fantastic experience. The resume workshop was a success, which I couldn’t be happier about. Getting the opportunity to help individuals in the community was such a fulfilling experience. It truly goes to show that even within the era of COVID, our reach can extend far beyond that of just campus. Certainly, there are days where I want nothing to do with Zoom. However, it and other platforms like it have allowed us to create community outreach programs and have them be successful. Of course, there were many hurdles and challenges to overcome this semester due to the online platform. I can’t wait until we may start doing things face-to-face again. However, in the spirit of building connections with those in our neighboring communities, I’d say it’s worth it.

It’s an odd feeling knowing that my undergraduate career is coming to a close. There were many twists and turns, delays, surprises… frankly, there was just a lot of uncertainty. I changed my major a total of 4 times. 4 TIMES! Physics, Environmental Science, Education, and English. And because of that, there was a gigantic cloud of ambiguity surrounding when I’d actually graduate. Now that I know it’s coming in just a few short weeks, I’m actually a little sad. Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to graduate. I mean, I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I enrolled in college. But, as cheesy as it sounds, I’m a little sad that this whole chapter of my life is ending. I’m scared about what the future holds. It feels like I traded one uncertainty for another, especially given the pandemic. But, I know that the classes I’ve taken, particularly this internship, have all prepared me for this moment.

resume mania

By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

The time has finally arrived! I have been hard at work, curating helpful resources for next week’s Resume Workshop. After researching and surfing the web for many (many) hours, I think I have a pretty good grasp of resume writing! I am quite nervous about Tuesday… What if someone asks me a challenging, specific question regarding their work experience? What if NO ONE asks a question, or talks, at all?! What if I freeze? What if the workshop isn’t helpful? My monkey-brain is racing right now with all of the things that can potentially go wrong.

I want so badly for the workshop to go well and be useful for people in the community. In my PowerPoint, I tried to account for a variety of employment backgrounds and untraditional work experiences. I incorporated some helpful links and made the slideshow easy to read & visually appealing. I have studied functional, chronological, and hybrid formats and when it’s appropriate to use which. As I get closer to the date, I’ll continue to brush up on the material. Regardless of how much information I can cram into my head about resumes, I will still feel this anxiety and worry. In no way, shape, or form am I an expert. But, I know a bit and have a strong desire to help people. I’m not saying this should suffice– I think that everyone, regardless of previous experience, deserves a great resume, and I hope to provide people with the necessary tools to create one. Despite not knowing everything, I know myself and know that if I’m presented with a question I’m unsure about, I will do whatever I can and spend as much time as I need to figure it out. As my psych professor would suggest, we feel anxious because we care. And I really do.

With the stress of finals setting in, these next couple of days will be busy for me. Yet, amid the storm of presentations, papers, and projects, the workshop continues to be at the forefront of my mind. I’ve learned so much during this internship and I pray I can represent all I’ve learned in this workshop to the best of my abilities!

I leave you all with the coolest trick for resume writing:

The 20-second test!

Have someone read your resume and time them for 20 seconds. What all did they learn about you? What came through the most? Did your reader pick up what you want employers to pick up about you? If so, fantastic! That’s the sign of a direct and targeted resume. If not, revise, revise, revise! Try moving more important aspects of your resume up! Too much fluff? Cut it. You want to be as concise as possible.

Try it out : )

Workshops and Prep-work

By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

The past couple of weeks have been full of ups and downs. The unpredictability of it all has sure been throwing me for a loop. Regardless, clouds still come with a silver lining!

Because of my affected schedule, I’ve recently been assigned to lead our upcoming Community Resume Workshop! I’m very excited to take this on. However, I’m also a bit nervous. As a writing center consultant, I’ve reviewed resumes in the past. But I never fully understood what a “good” resume was. There’s SO much variability in resume building. For me, I have always relied on the resume templates in Word…

No shame here.

Anyways, I have been doing quite a bit of research about resume construction, the different types of resumes, and what kind of information should be accounted for in resumes. This workshop is unique in that it’s geared toward serving individuals in the Pittsburgh community. Now I don’t mean to generalize, but it’s relatively simple for us college students to describe our school and work experiences to others. We attend class. We maintain jobs throughout the school year and either take off over breaks or pick up another job while back home. We might hold a position in a club and enjoy partaking in some type of hobby. We make connections and might even receive an award or two for academic achievement. My point here is that our school and work lives are rather predictable.

This isn’t necessarily the case for others outside a college setting. Some people have to take long periods away from work in order to care for a loved one. Others had to serve time in correctional facilities. Perhaps someone was out of work for medical reasons. This is all to say that this workshop has to account for diversity and variation in work histories and backgrounds. Our neighbors in the greater Pittsburgh community have life experiences that differ greatly from our own. Resume building can be quite a stressful process. I want to make sure that I’m educated enough to provide helpful feedback in the hope of alleviating at least some of that stress.

I want to make sure that the workshop is as respectful as it is informative. I also want it to be a rewarding experience for those who choose to join. Regardless of their work/school background, any individual deserves a clean, polished resume to provide employers with. I hope to make this happen! I’ve been working pretty hard, yet there’s still work to be done. I’m looking forward to this experience and can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Webpages, Worksheets, and Worries

By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

As an English major, I’ve grown accustomed to conducting in-depth critical analyses, reading hundreds upon hundreds of pages a night, keeping a sharp eye out for hidden meanings in between every line. Really, I’m doing exactly what an English major is expected to do.

What I am not so often doing is constructing lesson plans.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I was a Secondary Education and English major. During that time, I gained many insights in pedagogy and curriculum. However, I reached a point where I knew I no longer desired to teach, in the spirit of being honest. It’s an honorable profession, and I admire every single person that wishes to pursue it. Frankly, I don’t think teachers are given enough credit. Despite this, I knew my path was leading me in another direction. It was a bittersweet moment. I was so excited for new opportunities; I could pick up a Psychology minor with the open space in my schedule. But I was also going to miss the Education department and its faculty.

I mention this is because once I left, I never thought I’d find myself in a situation where I’d be lesson planning… But here I am! While an Ed major, I never had the chance actually to lesson plan for students. So far, I’ve found that it’s super intimidating. I mean, you have to account for so many factors, like varying proficiency levels, competencies, skills, and interests. Each student is incredibly unique, and I want to make sure that I’m choosing worksheets that all will enjoy.

Not only does my lack of experience heighten my worry around lesson planning, but I was also recently notified that I may not have as much time with ACH students as I initially did. In an effort to reduce screen time, ACH thought it best to cut down some of the days we hold sessions. And I agree entirely with the decision; I know how difficult it is to be plugged in, staring all day into that pixelated, techy abyss. I can only imagine how taxing this is on a child!!

While I’m happy they are given more time offscreen to recover, I am disappointed that I won’t be seeing them as often. This disconnect, I worry, will make lesson planning more difficult. What if they acquire new interests over the coming weeks? What if there’s a particular activity they’d like to do in future sessions? How can I ensure that these are being reflected in the worksheets I assign? Will I be out-of-touch? These are just some of the questions running through my mind.

Luckily for me, I have wonderful co-workers with who I’m in constant communication. I know that while this new hurdle will be a tough one to jump, fellow co-workers have my back. I’m grateful to be a part of such a great cohort of peers who genuinely want the best for these students and drive this initiative to connect with the community forward.

It’s that time again.

By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

It’s that time again. The grey hairs are beginning to sprout. The twinkle in your eye that you initially arrived at campus with is dwindling. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for you to pay attention during class. Motivation and morale are at all-time lows. On top of that, the work never seems to cease. You even develop an ulcer due to stress and the copious amounts of coffee you consume. Where was I going with this again? Right. It’s that time again.

Except for my sessions with students from ACH, as the situation demands that I’m present and engaged, I feel like most days I operate on autopilot. Muscle memory takes over, as my fingers click away on the keyboard and flip through the pages of a book. It’s as if I have turned a button off. We’re almost mid-way through the semester. My body and my mind are all starting to show it. By suppressing my stress and anxiousness about work, I’ve managed to get by. However, is “getting by” the best I could be doing? No, definitely not.  

Earlier today, I presented at the Sixth Annual Conference on the Integrity of Creation. Along with discussing environmental action (as this year’s theme was sustainability), I also talked about how we can better ourselves and increase awareness by integrating meditative practices into our daily routine. When we become more aware of ourselves, we’re more attentive to our words, actions, and how each one impacts other people. You’re able to appreciate life in the present moment, regardless if you’re swamped with work or not. Not only that, but meditative practices bring about a sense of peace and stillness. As students situated in this fast-pace, dreadfully demanding environment of academia, tranquility is probably something we all crave. At least, it’s something I crave. Yet, here I am, still stressed as ever.

I am not, by any means, the best at stress management. Far from it. But, by presenting on it and listening to the testimonies of those who have effectively reduced their stress and who have become more present in their everyday lives, I’m reminded of how important it is to prioritize mental health.

Even on your most stressful days, carve time out to care for yourself. Even if it’s just five minutes around lunch time, meditative practices can make a world of difference. Below are some of the meditative techniques that I’ve been introduced to. This list is not exhaustive. You deserve more than just “getting by”. Try some out! See which one fits you and your lifestyle best. Meditation is certainly not the end all be all, but it’s a start. I vow to dedicate more time to my practice, because I owe it to myself.

Here’s to practicing what you preach! Take care of yourselves 🙂

Vipassana Meditation

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Zazen Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation

Centering Prayer

Body-Scan Meditation

Holding onto that “spark”

By Kihei Staruch-Paikai, English Major & ACH Clear Pathways/Community Writing Center Intern

When students near the end of their undergraduate education, they often experience a mix of emotions. There’s this odd sense of feeling like you’ve just run a marathon and someone, somewhere is expecting you to run five more. Do you know what I mean? It’s the end, yet only the beginning (as cliché as it sounds). While I still have the rest of this semester to complete, I’m taking it in stride, relishing in the little moments. 

If someone were to have asked me in previous years, “what do you think your last semester at college is going to look like?” I definitely would not have anticipated that it’d be amidst a global pandemic. Yet, here we are.

It’s an incredibly strange time, especially for academics. Not only has it been strange, but lonely, as well. With not being able to visit each other in person as often as we once were, the time of the coronavirus has proven to be quite the test. To preface, I’m extremely privileged, in that both myself and my family are well. Many are afflicted with an unjust and much greater suffering than I could ever come to understand.

With that being said, I, like other students, am finding it difficult to motivate myself, nurture creativity, and hold onto that “spark” in academics. Most days, I hardly leave my room. Having elected to take my courses online, I’m happy with my decision to do so…overall. I do take comfort in the fact that if I were asymptomatic, I’m not infecting my peers or other Duquesne faculty. I also didn’t want to risk anything, especially with this being my last semester and all. Despite all its pros, the cons weigh heavily in everyday life. My schedule nowadays is very cut and dry. At least, it was until my internship with ACH Clear Pathways began. While it has only been a week, I’ve already noticed a significant change.

ACH’s students are incredibly warm, enthusiastic, and bright. It’s amazing to see how, in just this short amount of time, their creativity, their imagination, and their energy have had such a positive influence on my work life. Days spent inside seem less dreary, and more colorful. The relationship I’ve built with coursework during the time of the pandemic is slowly beginning to restore. For me, it’s precisely that child-like wonder and fun that’s been lacking. Earlier in March, school became something that I “just need to get through.” I carried this mentality with me throughout the summer and the first weeks of the semester. Having now gained a new perspective, I’m beyond excited to continue working with such brilliant and inspirational young minds. I look forward to helping these students in their writing and creative projects. Not only that, but I also look forward to the laughs we’ll share and the joys we will bring one another. From experience, I know just how important it is to cling to each other for support (whether it be academic or personal). Though these sessions are conducted virtually, this, by no means, diminishes their value. The impact that ACH students have since had on me is nothing short of magic. I hope that in some way, I can reciprocate this feeling. That is my ultimate goal of the semester. I want to walk away from this internship knowing that I’ve left students in full recognition of their potential, their creative talents, and their exceptional genius. I believe that my fellow interns and I agree that while the coronavirus has given us new challenges to face, it has also given us a unique opportunity to encourage and support one another in the community, making this “reconnection” to the outside world all the more precious and rewarding.