Defying Gravity

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This article was published in the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition in February 2013.

The spring semester brought me a challenge with picking classes that I didn’t face in the fall. I decided to take physics but had to give it up for the sake of my writing time. Although it did not make sense to dedicate myself to a class completely outside of my major, I justified my decision as an academic challenge and different experience. The lesson I learned following my choice, however, is that there’s a significant difference between challenging oneself and mismanaging one’s time.

 On my first Monday of classes, I attended the physics lecture, excited to dust off my calculus skills and study the behavior of the universe, as I did in high school for three years. The professor seemed helpful and engaging, but after the first day, there was a load of homework to do. By Friday, I realized that taking this class would overtake my time for my writing and major classes. My intuition whispered “Don’t take this class, Georgia” and I decided to follow it.

Physics is extremely interesting to me, but I made a bad choice in enrolling in a class for engineers, where I was the only creative-writing major, for obvious reasons.

Physics is extremely interesting to me, but I made a bad choice in enrolling in a class for engineers, where I was the only creative-writing major, for obvious reasons. The emotional conflict that overtook at the moment of my decision to drop it or not was foreign: last semester, all my classes were perfectly picked and fit in my schedule. But the idea of dropping out of a class that I wanted to succeed in evoked a sense of defeat, although I knew taking it would be more disadvantageous than not.

A couple of days after I dropped it, I got into a comparative-literature class that both challenged and complemented my academic endeavors well. Out of this schedule complication, I’ve learned that, yes, college is about experimentation, but it’s also about learning how to react when plans fail. This complication allowed me to identify whether a decision of mine would hurt me more than benefit me, thus preventing a bad decision from tainting the rest of my semester. My hopes for this semester are up high again!

Time Well Spent

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This article was published in the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition in January 2013.

It’s hard to believe but it’s true: My first semester in college is over.

It felt long because of all the changes. I moved from the East to the West Coast, started living away from family, read books at a much faster pace and wrote more academic papers than I considered possible. I learned life lessons and acquired a different sense of the world that could have taken years to develop on my own.

Yet, it also felt extremely fast, The semester was, in fact, only three and a half months. Crammed in these months, I learned a new language, made friends, visited different places and cities and broadened my worldview even more. Life really changed, and I can see the differences going back home and reflecting on this turbulent yet delightful college semester.

The first difference I’ve noted is I become a more fast-paced person by the day. Although I’m on break, I cannot relax all day, hang out or chat with relatives and friends. My mind constantly calls to read that Victorian novel that sounded interesting in literature class; write a piece of fiction about the dramatic episode I witnessed yesterday; or read the New Yorker to keep up with American politics.

College has a powerful way in teaching students a lesson that high school never does: the world never stops, and we are always part of it.

In addition, I’ve also developed different desires: to become more financially independent, to keep an eye out for internships and job opportunities. Although I’ve always carefully thought of the future, college has stimulated my focus on future even more, because it has shown me how much farther those who plan can go.

To give an example on a smaller scale, the dedicated students who valued Advance Placement classes and busied themselves with worthwhile extra-curricular activities, started college at a much higher level than anyone else. These students are the ones who spend more time working on what they love and skipping the boring introduction classes. In the same way, I’ve come to think, those who plan ahead while in college will also start ahead in the job market.

Surprising or not, I really look forward to starting a new semester in college. I’ve enjoyed my break with family, eaten the tasty food and rested on the comfortable bed, but I eagerly await the moment to be back on campus. College is not as easy as students fantasize about in high school: finals week is a killer time and earning a high GPA takes much greater effort than showing up to class. But the effort is worth it because college lets you learn about the world without actually being part of it. Students will probably never again have the grace of living on their own without worrying about electricity and water bills, and having the only obligation to learn and become successful.

My first semester of college has flown by because time was well spent. Every second of it was dedicated to academic and personal growth in a way that would have been impossible had I not been in college. After sending my goodbyes to first semester, my only wish is: let the second be even better!

Be Resourceful

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This article was published in the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition in December 2012.

It is hard to believe the end of my first semester in college is arriving, but there is one reason why time has seemed to fly by: I’ve been so busy and content with college life.

The reason is because USC, like other great universities, provides students with plenty of opportunities and resources that would be otherwise challenging to find in another context. Libraries rich with books, interesting classes, academic and cultural events, internships and research, networking, student jobs and a considerable chance of falling in love with different study areas; all bundled up and delivered as a student’s academic world.

I have immense passion and appreciation for books, so it is no surprise that I find libraries the most inviting places on campus, primarily for their unique ability to open up worlds with different stories, facts, ideas, countries, cultures and dreams.

Having been born and raised in Brazil, Portuguese is my first language, and so one day I decided to search for Brazilian literary books at a major library on campus. Enthusiasm overcame me when I found not only translations but original works by Clarice Lispector and Carlos Drummond de Andrade.

The variety of books available serve as stimulus for a more energetic intellectual community, which should be taken advantage of.

In addition to those, I’ve been able to check out the latest fiction books, sparing myself from spending money on new paperbacks and providing me with the additional thrill of walking around stacks with thousands of books.

Even better than outstanding availability of books is the chance to hear authors read and discuss their works. In early November, USC hosted a reading by T.C. Boyle, and he read a couple of his short stories and answered questions from the audience.

The university also has “Visions and Voices,” a series of events that promote the arts in theater, music, writing, as well as social engagement. I’ve attended operas based on Shakespearian works, talks with social activists and singing workshops, and I am satisfied with my cultural enrichment in college.

Events like these are valuable because students can experience a bit of their desired career fields and become inspired by successful role models.

The beauty of college is being part of a community dedicated to evolving and becoming more knowledgeable, and fortunately there are plenty of ways to explore academic passions differently. As classes come to an end and finals week approaches, I look forward to what’s coming next spring.

Information Quality More Important Than Speed

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This article was published in the Daily Trojan online and in print in February 2013.

The Department of Public Safety at Curry College, a small liberal arts college in Milton, Mass., waited nearly a week to notify students about a group rape of a highly intoxicated college student, according to The Boston Globe.

Curry College did its students a service by waiting for the three suspected aggressors to be arrested on Jan. 25 before notifying students of the assault. An informative email was sent on Monday, Jan. 28. Because of the weekend delay, the administration was suspected of suppressing the news and neglecting to warn the community about danger.

Some might feel scared at the notion that the administration was attempting to keep information from them, but one must take all of the facts into account. Gang rape is a brutal crime and the college has the job of protecting everyone at the school — including the victim. Catching the perpetrators is the first priority and the college’s response was completely appropriate for the circumstances.

Curry College properly waited to release factual information about the rape until the men accused of the crime were arrested so that students would not be misinformed. In this 24-hour news cycle, where information is released every minute on various online platforms, accuracy and truth become undervalued, allowing inaccurate information to flood the public. Hasty delivery of news often distorts correct information and compromises an institution’s credibility as a trustworthy news source.

It is better for the public to be well-informed than to quickly be given improper information, especially on a campus, where students depend mainly on the college’s news releases for information regarding safety.

Accuracy takes time, and Curry College administrators had to vet the email to ensure its quality and accuracy; thus, the email was delayed for several days. If there is no immediate threat, colleges should not frighten its students with emergency alerts.

Even if the email had been sent late on Friday or during the weekend, the college could have easily been suspected of releasing information when the community was least likely to be attentive to administrative releases.

It is also important to consider that Curry College ensured the community’s safety first by having the accused arrested, instead of preoccupying students with possibly inaccurate news, news that would not have given students enough information to be useful. Frances Jackson, the college’s spokeswoman, said Curry properly followed ongoing procedures of the city’s police force first and released a warning email to the community later, when danger had already been dissipated.

The college administration’s actions would have been far more worrisome if the suspects’ arrests had not been ensured, or even worse, if the crime had been hushed altogether without any information released.

Though speed of news delivery is important, it should not overcome the need for accuracy so that news sources can remain reliable. Colleges should be encouraged to take preventive and reactive measures toward public safety first and inform their communities shortly thereafter.