Final Finals Week

The end of the semester is a whirlwind. The last day of classes, a time for celebration, is short-lived. Finals week looms overhead like a dark thundercloud that releases a torrent of battered GPAs and hastily packed belongings. Students spend time hunched over flashcards or perched for hours in the corners of the library, face illuminated by gray computer screens. Long sleepless nights are fueled by espresso shots, unplanned naps, and fierce adrenaline only the fear of a failing grade can produce. As exams finish and the days accumulate, short tearful goodbyes are heard through the halls and across the quad. A common phrase “the last” becomes attached to thoughts and actions so seemingly mundane activities hold increased importance. The last time I’ll see you before going abroad. The last time we’ll live on the same freshmen hall. The last time I’ll eat in the caf.

I almost missed the subtle difference between the end of this semester and semesters in the past. The papers, exams, and expectations were the same. The cups of coffee and time spent furiously revising the perfect conclusion paragraph reflected any other finals week. I watched my underclassmen friends pack up their SUVs and move futons from their cramped dorm rooms into storage units for the summer months. Yet whenever I attached “the last” to a completed activity, the weight of my words hung heavy  as they slipped into the air.

Approximately 43 minutes ago, I emailed my final assignment off to my professor.

“I have attached my personal reflection. Thanks for a great semester. -Katelyn”

And that was it. I would be lying if I told you a fanfare sounded or a chorus of voices floated through my open bedroom window. The only confirmation I received signifying the end of my 19 year academic career was a Gmail text box. Your message has been sent. Time to move on.

Tomorrow I will pack up and travel with four best friends to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a 7-day extravaganza affectionately known as “Senior Week.” This migration happens across the campus as people pack up and drive down south for one last hurrah. This is the time for reliving the past four years of our undergraduate experience with strong drinks and stronger friendships. It will be glorious and fleeting– a beautiful sunset that disappears as soon as the camera lens clicks into focus.

So bottoms up to the last of many things and the first of many more. Image  

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2012 Student Environmental Retreat

We all have ideas. Ideas that spin and jump and dart in and out of the conscious confines of our minds. For me, most of these ideas have the lifespan of a fish bubble. They are tiny pockets of gas that ascend rapidly, gaining size and speed until they reach the surface with a triumphant pop…before disappearing back into the aquarium of lukewarm water. How many  new year’s resolutions would be kept, charities created, and dream careers acquired if we held on to our little bubble ideas? I wonder what would happen if we didn’t shake our heads quite as much, acknowledging our newest inspiration as “just plain crazy”? Well this is my bubble idea turned reality.

I got thinking about all the interesting and dedicated students who have a passion for the environment. Environmental Studies as a major has grown astronomically in popularity and I don’t see that going away any time soon. Our generation is already dealing with climate change, threatening weather patterns, increasing population, and decreasing food supply. We are the future leaders with the responsibility to look toward the future and turn international conversations into realistic action plans.

I came back to school in the fall with a thought. Why wait for leaders of the world to come to an agreement on the energy crisis, CO2 reductions and policies on sustainable development? Change can just as easily start with the youth in America as anywhere in the world. And so, with the tremendous help from Cathy Myers, the executive director of the Bucknell University’s Environmental Center, and Carol High, the program support coordinator, the 2012 Student Environmental Retreat was born.

What: The 2012 Student Environmental Retreat

Who: Participants from eight liberal arts colleges and universities from Pennsylvania: Gettysburg, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Franklin and Marshall, Villanova, Dickinson, West Chester, and Bucknell

What: The retreat is a two-day event where students have the opportunity to present and exchange a variety of environmental programs currently working on their college campuses. Students and faculty advisors share ideas and create individual campus-specific action plans  to implement at their home universities based on the projects discussed at the retreat.

Where/When: Bucknell University’s Conference Center on February 11th and 12th.

I uploaded the Invitation Letter and Proposed Agenda for easy reading. The application can be found here and the deadline is January 20th 2012. Contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding the content or deadline.

I highly encourage any undergraduate student who attends one of the aforementioned schools to consider attending. If nothing else, the retreat is a great way to meet people who are similarly dedicated to your own goals and aspirations. Want to change the world? The time is now.

Well the time is actually February 11th and 12th but you know what I mean.

Click for 11 BEST ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGES