Making New Friends During a Pandemic

There is a saying that I heard once –  “You never know what you got ’till it’s gone. The truth is you know exactly what you have though, you just never thought you’d lose it.”

For me, it was losing the chance to make new friends and meet familiar faces that became the epitome of that phrase. The pandemic changed everything!

Like many of you, I went into isolation before I got into college; I lost the chance to meet friends and teachers new and old. I lost the chance to explore and expand my boundaries which I’d slowly begun opening up to at the time, and it pushed many of the things I wanted to do back many months.

At first, I was happy. Not having to wake up early for school. Class assignments are all due on Sundays. Not having to meet with people. (I’m not the biggest social butterfly, don’t judge me.) Not having to eat cafeteria food. Sign me up! And for a while, it was great; I was able to work at my own time, help around the house more, get my personal life in order, hang out with my family, etc.

But eventually, the joy of being at home got numb, and like many people, I found myself tired.

Tired of seeing the same few people every day. Of wearing a mask whenever I went outside; or waking up to virtual meetings. And it only grew more tiring and irritable when I found out my next year of college would be like this. TWO YEARS of doing nothing but talking to someone behind a screen?

And it certainly didn’t help that I couldn’t talk to any of my high school friends, either. So much for keeping in touch! And there’s only so much you can do or learn about somebody else over video chat or a text message. So needless to say, even as a not-so-social butterfly, I feel as though I took being around new people for granted. It’s still something I take for granted, but I am willing to admit I’m at least trying. And soon I might not have to try as hard through a computer screen to meet a new face.

Right now, we’re seeing the distant light at the tunnel’s end. Sooner or later, COVID will be a thing of the past and we’ll hopefully be able to look back on it and see where we’ve come from since then. And sooner or later, we’ll be able to meet people and one another face-to-face. But that doesn’t mean we can’t meet one another right now – there are always different ways to get involved with classmates, clubs, and your campus. And for someone like myself to say that, it takes a lot. So I suggest reaching out to new people, make friends with your peers, and just remembering to stay safe during those moments.

By NVC Student Alex Rocha

To learn more about NVC clubs and organizations, go to our Student Life page

 

Progress is Not Linear

When you were a kid, how did you envision spending your twenties? I know I had a pretty rosy picture of myself finally being able to live life by my own rules and following my wildest dreams. I mean we all did, right?

I saw myself balancing all of my most exciting adventures with my definition of success, fueled by a degree. As a little kid and even in high school leading up to the great leap of adulthood, I always figured I would “be on the right track,” and stay there, ever steadily moving forward and up. Obviously, I thought, by my 30’s I’d have everything more or less set up and figured out for myself so that I could live a happy and healthy life. Forever and ever.

As I am sure many can relate, this is not how my 2nd decade on this earth went. To be honest, I had a tough time in my twenties. It began in my first year of high school, where I fell in love.

First love, right? Well, first loves sometimes turn out to be maniacally abusive sociopaths. Sometimes, they stick around for several years until you finally muster up the guts to run away in your bare feet just before your 19th birthday to a gas station and beg to use the phone to call your dad. And you liberate yourself from the pit of despair and you think, okay, I know what to do. I’m going to fix everything and get back on track.

So, long story short, I bit off way more than I could chew. I took such a huge bite I nearly choked to death. I spent the next several years repeating this cycle. Trying to “fix what I had ruined” by taking on too much, crashing and burning, hitting reset. Rinse and repeat. On two separate occasions, I attempted an associate’s degree with the Alamo Colleges and on both occasions, I failed to be successful because I refused to face how unhealthy I was, emotionally and mentally.

It wasn’t until my Stepmom asked me point blank one day at 25 years old if I was feeling suicidal that I finally admitted I needed help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and a few other mental health disorders. I spent the next few years recovering with the help of therapy and my family. Shedding weight, readjusting my life and goals to what I could manage and balance. And to what actually made sense for me.

I cannot fully explain it, but 11 years after I freed myself from my trauma, I woke up one New Year’s Day, and suddenly, I was overwhelmed with relief. It was like I was finally coming up for air for the first time, even after finding peace. And I realized that although I was in recovery, and feeling better than ever, I was still in full-on ostrich mode with my head in the sand. I was playing it safe, too scared to risk my newfound healthy and stable place of well-being.

I never thought I would be able to risk going back to school and failing again. But guess what? I decided by not pushing myself to reach my potential, I was still telling myself I wasn’t good enough. So, the spring before my 31st birthday I returned to the Alamo Colleges after my two previous failed attempts. I was able to bring my GPA up from a lowly 1.8 and back into good standing after 1 semester.

I’m now halfway through my 3rd semester since returning, still going strong. I have prioritized my goals but am working on them at a pace that is manageable and realistic for me. I wanted to share my story with you all in case there is anyone out there who might be feeling like maybe it’s too late or too much of a pipe dream to make a change. Maybe you feel like you’ve screwed your life up beyond repair. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Maybe you’re in school right now and you’re struggling with something personal and it’s interfering with your academic success and your mental health. My advice to anyone experiencing anything similar is this. Please reach out to someone and let them know how you’re feeling and what you’re struggling with. If I had just had the guts to be honest about how much I was struggling I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and pain, not to mention precious time.

It may seem cliché, but it really is true that it’s never too late to go after what you want. You are worth it. But please know that if you are in school and you are struggling with something that is damaging your mental health, there is also no shame in pairing back.

Maybe take one class less or take a semester off. Consult with your advisor on how best to approach it so you can prevent damaging your GPA like I did (but if you do damage your GPA, do not shame yourself into believing you’re doomed, please). That way, when you are ready to return, you can pick up where you left off, even if you end up wanting to take a different direction.

If you burn out and your flame runs too low to function on a healthy level, something is going to give. Do not let that something be you. Let your definition of success also include making your well-being a priority. Making your personal success the priority will in turn set you up in the best way for your academic and professional successes.

By NVC Student Kyla Vance

If you need advice, resources or help, please reach out to NVC’s Student Advocacy & Resource Center. They provide a variety of services including mental health and counseling. 

The Right Time is Now!

In my family, a good work ethic was expected of me from a very young age. My parents always stressed that anything worth having could only be achieved through hard work. As a first-generation American, this was amplified by the idea that as foreigners in this country, the only way to be successful was to work (and to work hard). Of course, they also expected me to excel at my studies, but in school, being an honor roll student was not nearly as impressive to my family as becoming a manager at my retail job.

By the time I graduated high school, my mother was raising us on her own. We were doing well, but not well enough to afford college. I decided to take a year off and work to put myself through school. I had a good job and made good money before I even graduated high school. I told myself I would work one year, save some money and go back to school. Then, before I knew it, a decade had come and gone. I had spent the last 10 years at the same job, prioritizing work over my dreams.

Unfortunately, like many people worldwide, I lost my job last March due to the pandemic. For the first time in a decade, I had the opportunity to stop and reflect on what I was doing with my life. Ten years I spent at a job that I knew I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. It took unemployment and a pandemic to realize that while I was working hard, I wasn’t working towards my goals. I was merely working.

Thankfully, things have been going better than I could have ever imagined. I am currently back in school pursuing the career of my dreams at Northwest Vista College. After so much time off from school, I was nervous about returning, as I am sure many others are. The staff at Alamo Colleges was a big help in easing my nerves. From career counseling to finding the right online degree program for me, they encouraged me to let go of my fears and get back to pursuing my dreams. I am currently wrapping up my first semester back to school, and in eight weeks, I have learned so much. My summer courses covered everything from working with multiple Adobe programs to the basics of HTML, and I hope to use these skills to start my own business one day.

I chose to write about this topic because I know there are numerous other students in a similar situation. The world we live in instills in us that financial security is equivalent to success. I believe having a good job isn’t the same as being successful. For me, success comes from finding your purpose in life and pursuing your dreams. Therefore, to anyone who is considering returning to school or is putting it off for the “right” time, the right time is now. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it.

By NVC Student Janeth Cruz

NVC Scholarships & Undergrad Research Projects in Nano Program

The NanoEngineering program at NVC will be offering undergraduate research projects and workshops in fall 2021. The students who are enrolled in the Nano program and/or are taking nanotechnology courses can participate in these workshops and will receive a stipend up to $1,800. Students will be trained on using microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, biomedical engineering projects, and nano-electronics.

This is a great learning opportunity and also helps students financially. If there are open slots, other NVC STEM students may be considered. To receive the stipend, students must successfully complete and participate in the workshop. 

Space is limited so if you’re interested in these workshops, please email Dr. Neda Habibi, coordinator of NanoEngineering program at nhabibi@alamo.edu.

 

NVC Grad Among Elite Group of Barry Goldwater Scholars

Congratulations to former Northwest Vista College graduate Adam Hooker for being in an elite class to be named a Barry Goldwater Scholar.

According to a story in UTSA Today: Adam is one of only four UTSA students out of 409 national recipients to receive the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, which is the most prestigious national scholarship awarded to undergraduate students engaging in research in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. Many of the Scholars, including Adam, have published their research in leading professional journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

UTSA Today noted Hooker is the first electrical engineering student to win the Goldwater Scholar award at UTSA. He is also the first transfer student from UTSA to win the award. Last year, the Goldwater Foundation increased accessibility for the scholarship, allowing universities to nominate a fifth student, as long as they transferred from a two-year or four-year institution.

While at NVC, he earned two associate degrees. In 2014, he received an Associate of Art (Business Administration and Management), and in 2018 he earned an Associate of Science (Pre-Engineering). Adam said he hopes his achievements will motivate others at NVC that there are many opportunities open to them.

“Through the elite quality of instruction I received from all of my professors at Northwest Vista College, I have the tools to succeed in my field. As I am finishing my undergraduate studies and am beginning the transition into the workforce and my graduate program, I am given reassurance by the skills I developed during my early coursework,” Adam said. “I am incredibly thankful for all the resources that were made available to me during my time at Alamo Colleges and in particular by the Math department of Northwest Vista.”

At NVC, Adam participated in Alamo College’s CIMA-LSAMP (for STEM students) program and has since worked as an electrical engineering intern with Southwest Research Institute and Allosense. Recently, he was hired by NASA – Armstrong Flight Research Center for a 2021 summer internship.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

 

NVC Music, Pharmacy and Psychology Students Making Waves

Congratulations to several Northwest Vista College students for their achievements.

NVC Music Students

NVC singers recently participated in the 2021 South Texas NATS Chapter Auditions. Dylan Ramirez took home the First Place in Lower College Musical Theater and Elizabeth Potts received Second Place in Upper College Musical Theater.

“What a fantastic accomplishment! I am so proud of their unlimited effort, putting in extra hours of rehearsing and showing incredible patience in recording their videos and reviewing with me. Again, Congratulations!” said Dr. Minkyung Lee, NVC Assistant Professor of Voice/Director of Choral Activities.

Pharmacy Scholarship

Jessica Remmers was recently selected as a Pharmacy Technician Certification Scholar. Jessica is one of only 30 students to receive Phi Theta Kappa’s Fall Walgreens Pharmacy Technician Certification Scholarship! NVC’s

Dr. Lisa McGoldrick is the advisor for the NVC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, which is an honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders.

NVC Psychology Graduates Present Original Research at Psychology Conference

Two Northwest Vista College psychology graduates led presentations of their research at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) on April 11.

Kristelle Cefre, who recently graduated with a psychology degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, presented a research talk titled, “Science-Based Higher and Virtual Education Decreases Sexual Prejudices and Discrimination,” and Madison Stout, a junior at UTSA, majoring in psychology, presented a talk titled, “Biological Sex and Sexual Orientation Affect Sexual Consent.”  Other researchers contributing to these studies, include NVC psychology graduates Diane Goguen, Ashley Richardson, and Ashley Schultz, as well as NVC psychology professor Dr. Don Lucas.

Established in 1953, SWPA represents American Psychological Association members living in Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. SWPA promotes and strengthens psychology’s scientific, professional, and educational facets.

Click for virtual versions of Kristelle’s and Maddie’s presentations.

Get Connected With Your Peers

As a sophomore at NVC, I have experienced a good amount of college life. It has been a drastically different experience than it was in high school for me, whether it be from the way classes are set up or the overall difficulty.

Through these two years and change, I have realized that there’s a great importance when it comes to your community at college. If I could give myself one piece of advice when I first started at NVC, it would be to make friends and get acquainted with your peers.

Now, that is a lot coming from an introvert. As someone who finds it rather difficult to talk to new people and make friends, that would definitely be the advice I would give myself and anyone else in college. My first semester was rough just because I had trouble fitting into the classroom and the debates. I found myself shying away from discussions and groups because I had no idea who anyone was.

But trust me, it is well worth making friends when you can. First of all, you won’t have that weird awkwardness of walking into class and feeling like everyone else is involved except for you. Even just one friend to sit beside and talk to makes the day go by a lot better! And there is a lot more than just the classroom chatter, but help on assignments when you are in a bit of a pinch. I cannot tell you how many times I have been stuck on that one question, or missed a day due to hospital visits or unexpected situations, only to be saved by that friend I made. No more scrambling around for what we did the day you were missing when you can just ask your newly made friend!

Also, making connections is extremely important when it comes to what you want to do later on in life and getting a job. Say you are looking for something related to photography but you are having trouble how to start or get involved. Remember that student in your photography class who already had experience and works for a small business? Talk to them and ask them questions and maybe they might even be able to get you set up somewhere!

College is meant to be a fun experience to pursue what career you would like to do, and get in touch with your community. You are not alone in the struggle that is school and picking out your major to decide what you want. Everyone else around you is in the same boat, trying to figure out how they want to live their lives so don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers.

By NVC Student Gina Briggs

 

 

 

Making the Decisions that are Right for YOU!

I remember sitting in my high school class, it was the day when our counselors were helping us decide what we were going to do after graduation. Where we were going to transfer, what we were going to do, and how to pay for everything. It was an extremely stressful point in my life having to decide everything there, and I remember wanting to go to NVC first before anything else so that I would be comfortable.

To my surprise, it seemed as though the counselor pushed for a university instead. She said it’d be better off than going to a community college if I have great scholarships. I thought it’d be okay, but I didn’t quite understand everything completely when I enrolled and found myself miles and miles away from home without a single person I knew around me. Overwhelmed with anxiety, I found the stresses of money and home sickness were affecting my mental health greatly.

I had eventually withdrawn within the first two weeks and enrolled into NVC since it was just a few minutes away from home, and that was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Instead of feeling isolated and alone, I was met with familiar faces and friendly new ones who were willing and wanting to help me through the process. There was no confusion as to what I was going to do and how I was going to do it, because the staff were with me all the way. To me, it was the best way for a high school graduate to get integrated into the new life of a college student.

Going into college life isn’t easy but it’s important you make a decision that’s right for you. Don’t feel peer pressured by others to push you in a direction you may not want to take. There’s not a single part of me that regrets withdrawing from the university and spending my time with NVC. I’m happy to be a Wildcat and to be able to experience college the right way for me.

 By NVC Student Gina Briggs

Easing Anxiety with the Help of NVC

Can you imagine wanting to attend your favorite class, filled with your favorite people to learn about your favorite subject? But just as you’re standing outside the door of the class, suddenly you’re overwhelmed with the feeling of regret, fear, and your stomach starts churning? Being someone with anxiety, this is something I struggle with daily.

Anxiety is an enemy of public places, especially colleges and their campuses. When I want to focus on the information and having fun with my fellow peers, that is instead surrounded by a sea of uncertainty and a strong desire to flee away to be by myself. It made my entry into college life very difficult for me because I often thought about ways to distract myself or spend all day fidgeting in class.

But things took a great turn when I decided to gather up my courage and head for NVC’s Mental Health Counseling. I thought at first it wouldn’t help, but because it’s a resource we have available, I thought I’d give it a try. And let me tell you, I don’t regret it in the slightest. I remember being so nervous and uncomfortable, waiting to be seated with a counselor. What if I was going to be judged? What if they couldn’t understand what I was going through? A lot of these thoughts burdened me in that waiting room until a counselor finally approached me and led me into her office. You wouldn’t believe that just after a few minutes, my worry was swept away.

My counselor was very understanding of my situation, and knew exactly what I was going through. They listened to everything I had to say and made sure that out of everything, I was comfortable. They provided small exercises to suggest helping my anxiety, and even offered to schedule future appointments to talk about my progress and how my day was going.

I was initially worried my experience would be somewhat like an interrogation. But I was far from the truth, it felt like I was talking to an old friend of mine. Ever since, I felt more comfortable approaching that office to talk about my problems with anxiety, and are working hard to work alongside my anxiety so that I can have a great college experience. I strongly recommend giving them a visit if you have any concerns with your emotional or mental health. You won’t regret it!

To learn more about counseling, call the NVC Advocacy Center at 210-486-HELP (4357), or email nvc-advocacyctr@alamo.edu. Students can also complete some initial intake forms by going to the Advocacy website.

By NVC Student Gina Briggs

 

The Little Things Mean so Much

You really start to miss the little things when it’s been taken from you. You start to notice things you silently appreciated when you had them and how empty it feels without it. When COVID-19 hit and schools transferred to being remote-only, I thought nothing of it. In fact, I was almost excited at the thought of waking up in the comfort of my home to only walk like three feet over to my computer to attend class, and I’ve realized how much it’s impacted my school life.

It’s been almost a year now of living through this pandemic, something I thought I’d only read about in history books. All of my classes have been remote only and there’s something I have to say. Although we’re trying our best to stay safe from the virus and protecting not only ourselves but others, there is an emptiness in watching faces on a screen instead of in person.

You can only know so much about your fellow peers or your community behind a camera. It took away one of my favorite things about a new class, and that was meeting new people. I learned a lot about others by talking to them face to face, experiencing new things and ideas, and especially just making new friends. I can’t help but feel like I have taken it for granted now that I don’t have it. I am looking forward to things opening up when it’s safe for everyone to live life like normal again.

But even through all of this, remember that there are still ways to get involved with your campus and your peers. Reach out to them, reach out to the school and attend some of the events. Stay updated with your community and remember to stay safe. If we all team up to stay masked and keep our distance, the sooner we’ll be able to enjoy the little things that mean so much to us.

By NVC Student Gina Briggs