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Joanna Danielak transferred to UCLA from Cerritos College in Fall 2010 and plans to complete her B.A. in spring 2012.

This is a very exciting week for me.  I have officially declared my double major!  Come June, I will be the proud owner of both a Bachelor’s degree in English with a World Literature Concentration and a Bachelor’s degree in French/Francophone Studies in Literature and Culture.  Whew, that is quite a mouthful!  After a fairly plump stack of repetitive forms and a few weeks spent hunting down various individuals, I have finally submitted my completed paperwork.  Two years of transfer work at Cerritos followed by two years at UCLA will now be summarized on one fancy piece of paper (or do double majors get two? I should find out).

How did this happen?  I have been spending a lot of time going to school, at school, and thinking about school.  People keep making comments about how much more studying I seem to be doing nowadays and how much more stressed out I appear to be.  This is true to a certain degree.  Now that my coursework is composed entirely of foreign languages, I have definitely been feeling a new type of strain.  I’ve also been filling out applications for summer jobs, looking into options for graduate school, as well as trying to keep up with my classes.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but I have recognized that I need this constant stream of work to keep me motivated, thriving, and interested.  Too much free time on my hands, and I grow bored, restless, and angry.  I have discovered that I need to maintain a full schedule to remain satisfied (although I do complain about stress…because everybody likes to complain about stress).  I believe that this juggling act is actually beneficial – that it’s good preparation for the “real world,” and helps me to discover my limits.  Now, isn’t that what college is supposed to be about?

I’m not saying that everybody needs to burden themselves with so much work that they won’t be able to handle it all.  That’s more likely than not, a recipe for disaster (and may lead to those dreaded withdrawals on a transcript).  I am saying that every single one of us needs to venture out of our comfort zones more often.  How will you know that you don’t like spicy food if you don’t actually try it?  That habanero sauce might be just what your tacos were missing.  How can you be sure that you aren’t interested in anthropology if all you know of it is that which you learned from Indiana Jones movies?  Sure, it’s convenient to look up a teacher’s rating online and decide against their class for no reason other than that they give too much homework.  But what’s at stake when you do that?  That teacher might be personable, the course might provide a new passion in your life, and you would definitely feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you took on that challenge and succeeded.  We will never really know ourselves and our boundaries without trying.  And if there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s that lingering sense of “what if?” that comes from not taking chances.

So I for one have decided to take chances.  I guess that years of watching PBS finally paid off, since I’ve begun to take the advice of Miss Frizzle (one of the most awesome teachers of all time) and “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.”

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Joanna Danielak completed her studies at Cerritos College in spring 2010. She transferred to UCLA in fall 2010, where she is majoring in English.

Today marks the first day of the third week of the fall quarter at UCLA.  That means that we have had between 6 and 8 sessions of each class so far, depending on the frequency of meetings within the week.  Somehow, it feels like a lot more.  And as usual, I already feel like I’ve fallen behind.

All complaints aside, I’ve had to deal with several new questions that have been brought to my attention.  Actually, just one really: WHAT DO I INTEND TO DO AFTER GRADUATION?  I feel that as a transfer student, this question is an especially tricky one.  After all, I spent two years working my butt off at Cerritos with the clear goal of getting accepted to a good university.  That happened, and I chose to attend UCLA, and here we are.  But where do I go from here?  I have this nagging feeling that I have grown complacent; that now that I’m officially studying at this school, I’ve patted myself on the back and gone “Job well done!”  After all, this was the metaphorical carrot dangling before my eyes.  But now what?

Yes, I’m working towards completing my English major…but then what?  During the first week of classes, the most popular question upon meeting fellow students was, “What will you do after graduation?”  I’ll admit, this question caught me majorly off-guard.  Oops, I guess I was supposed to be aiming for a further goal; that I was a little too shortsighted in my academic vision.  I am comforted knowing that I’m not the only person in limbo, although I am definitely finding it devastating to talk to those who have the rest of their lives already planned out.  I just want to shake them and scream “What the heck? You’re twenty-one!  Aren’t you still supposed to be flighty and impulsive and short-sighted like the rest of us?!”

Anyway, as I said, I’m not the only person in this fog of indecision, and a lot of the students that I’ve talked to have been attending UCLA for the complete four years, so it’s not like the two years at Cerritos have put me behind.  Knowing this is comforting; however, it does not remove the nagging feeling of indecision from the back of my mind.  Sometimes it just attacks me in a mental hit-and-run:

“What do I have for homework today?  We went over this in class so it must be…”



“What? Oh my goodness, I’m not sure!  What will I do?  I feel so unprepared!”


And then it’s gone, and I’m left wondering what prompted this completely random mental assault from the inner depths of my brain.

So, what DO I want to do after graduation?  Do I want to go to graduate school?  That’s always a possibility.  I don’t know that I want to go to work right away.  It’s a little idealistic, especially when so many people are looking for jobs out there, but I’d like to do something that I enjoy, and that makes me feel like I’m making a difference.  After all, it’s all really a matter of setting my mind to what I want to do, and going out there and accomplishing it.  Mind over matter and all that jazz.  I guess stressing over this isn’t really helping at the moment.  What would probably be most helpful at the moment is to focus and do well in my classes so that if I do decide to apply to graduate school, I’ll have a greater scope of knowledge, as well as authority figures who will recognize me as a potential asset to the world and be more willing to help me achieve my goals.

Is anyone else majorly stressed in anticipation of graduation?  And do we community college students stand at a disadvantage when considering graduate school?

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photo of Ruby CastilloRuby Castillo is an English major at the University of California at Riverside, transferring from Cerritos College in fall 2010. She wrote the following blog post while studying at the University of Cambridge, England, in summer 2011; today, she’s a senior at UCR.

I am a student at UCR, but this summer I am studying abroad at Cambridge University with students from UCI, UCSB, UCSC and UCLA—oh, and not to mention, students who come from all over the world to study at this prestigious university. For the summer, I am a member of Pembroke College, one of the oldest colleges of Cambridge, established in 1347. The fact that I am sleeping, eating, studying, and living in centuries-old buildings doesn’t fail to amaze me.  The brochure describing this place said it would be “Harry Potteresque” and it really is. When I found out that studying abroad existed (because I honestly didn’t know programs like these were offered when I first started school) and that it was available to all students, I knew that I wanted to do it. I didn’t know what I needed, how much it would cost or anything about the process I needed to take to study abroad, I just knew I had to do it. When I transferred to UCR, one of the first places I visited was the Education Abroad office. I found out that for the summer I could choose any program I wanted and basically just fill out an application. I found a program I liked and linked-up with UCI to get my paper work started; as a cross-campus student, there was a bit more paper work for me, but it was all worth it and not so difficult, plus I get credit for all my course work. I am now in the U.K and as I am writing this, I look out my window to see the library lawn, and the view only proves to me once again that everything culminating in this trip was worth it.
view from Ruby's window in CambridgeI am taking two classes at Pembroke College, a painting class and a Shakespeare class. Studying here is different than in America. The classes are still set to lecture and discussion, but the questions asked for a Shakespeare class are very different than those in the states. The painting class is hard to comprehend sometimes; I don’t know if it can be compared to one in the states since I never took art, but when the professor asks, “How do we see?” and the answer is more complex than “with our eyes,” it becomes difficult to understand, but we have to keep pushing and advancing in our thoughts until we come to a better and reasonable answer. In my other class, I encountered new ideas and new approaches to the way we view Shakespearian plays; not only do we discuss the text, but as a class we took a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater to see “Much Ado About Nothing” so that we can also discuss the performance. We also took a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town! There we visited The Royal Shakespeare Company and saw “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” It was a great experience to see where he lived, and also to see his wife, Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Being abroad in a new space full of things to see makes it difficult to stay in, study, and work on papers. I have to organize my own time so that I can focus on my studies while still being able to enjoy the city. Of course we get some organizational help by the program advisors who know the difficulties of getting organized in a new and exciting place, so the schedule they create for us is very easy to work with and it still gives us a lot of free time.

In the month that I have spent studying abroad, I have received more stamps on my passport than I could have ever gotten on my own; for some reason, those stamps are very rewarding. Traveling is expensive and that is why I am so glad that I traveled through the study abroad route. I know that if I had tried to do all of this without the program, I could not have afforded it. This was always a dream and I was always the dreamer, but thanks to this program it came true.  I have taken weekend trips to Scotland, London, Paris, and Dublin; before I leave I will be making one more stop in Brighton for a day trip. Traveling to all these new places definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. I stayed in hostels, some which were not the most comfortable ones, but instead of complaining, I made the best of it and learned to plan ahead for the next hostel. I learned to pack a towel since they are not provided. I have also learned to speak differently; no–not in a British accent–but I had to learn that when I said, “I am not going to wear pants, I am going to wear a dress,” I was actually saying, “I am not going to wear underwear, I am going to wear a dress.” “Pants” are for us means “underwear” for them; the word I now have to use is “trousers.” If I want to tell someone that I am not going to wear pants, I have to say, “I am not going to wear trousers.” When some friends and I first found out, it was funny because we learned why it was that some people would look at us weird whenever we said “pants.”  I have also learned to punt, play croquet and to love a good spot of tea and scones with clotted cream and jam— it is delicious. The relationships I have built are strong because as a group we all go through some of the same things; it is easy to build friendships.  When I leave, I will miss all the people whom I most bonded with.

Ruby's Cambridge ClassThere are so many things that have happened to me while abroad that put life in perspective. I love this country as much as I love mine and the education system here is also intelligent. However, I don’t take our educational system for granted. I tell all my friends that they have to study abroad; it really is a life changing experience, and I didn’t only learn about other cultures but while I immersed myself in them, I also learned about myself and it has been absolutely brilliant. I have one more week here at Cambridge University and I will try to make the most of it, but for all of those who are thinking about studying abroad, do me and yourself a favor and set your goal to make it happen.

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Joanna Danielak completed her studies at Cerritos College in spring 2010. She transferred to UCLA in fall 2010, where she is majoring in English.

I’ve really hit a wall in regards to time management.  I am finding it ridiculous and nearly impossible to commute to school (usually one hour and then some minutes), go to class and/or work, commute home (another hour and thirty minutes – oh 5 freeway how I loathe and despise you!), and then be expected to have any stamina left to read the hundred or so pages a night average I’ve amassed.  I do suppose that this is part of the load that an English major must take on; I can’t say that I was unaware that actual READING would be involved.  Sometimes the reading are tedious and a chore to get through, but then sometimes an assignment will come along that really stands out (in a good way).  For example, I think I have discovered a personal, previously unrealized, love for Oscar Wilde. And I now realize that it is the assignment that results in personal discovery that really makes all of this worthwhile.

The commute issue is not something that can be so easily remedied.  Sometimes, I wake up and feel this overwhelming urge to just roll over and not go to school that day.  I recognize that this is a familiar feeling to students and workers the world over, and I remember having that exact same feeling while attending Cerritos.  The difference now is that I have this mental image of freeways backed up with cars at a standstill that strengthens the case for staying home.  Often, when caught in these afternoon traffic jams, I just want to scream and get out of the car and walk home because it just might be quicker.  Obviously, I’ve never actually done that, but I’ve come to believe that if you want to attend a school with a commute, that you figure out your threshold for the extremes of L.A. traffic.

Is it possible to deal with the daily stress of traffic that moves too slowly, or conversely, traffic that moves too quickly (and results in those guys that tailgate the heck out of you just because your car doesn’t accelerate fast enough)?  Is it actually feasible to go to school and still have time to study (and have a life) with the amount of time spent in transit?  Is the amount of money saved by not having to pay monthly dorm/apartment rent worth the cost of gas and your sanity?

In addition to this, the question of the “campus experience” comes to mind.  I am definitely feeling disconnected from my fellow Bruins, mostly because I have no time to partake in campus life.  Clubs meet while I’m in class or in the evening when all I want is to make it home before 6:30.  Sometimes, they meet on weekends, but I’m not going to sacrifice a day from my weekend to make that drive when it’s not necessary.  I figure that once I lighten my class load, I’ll sign up for an activity here or there.  Or maybe I’ll just suck it up and stay on campus long after my classes end for the day.  Who knows.

So another question you must ask yourself is: how integral to my experience are the extracurricular activities offered by the university?  If the answer is “very,” then something is definitely going to have to give.  In my case, I chose the commute, and I intend to stick with this decision (for all my complaining).  It’s definitely a personal choice; being able to sit at home and eat dinner with my parents almost every night makes the hellish traffic well worth it, and I have another year to get to know the school even better.

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Joanna Danielak completed her studies at Cerritos College in spring 2010. She transferred to UCLA in fall 2010, where she is majoring in English.

I have all these thoughts which aren’t making it into blog form, darn it.  I thought maybe I’d try something different this time and give you an idea of what the daunting workload at UCLA looks like for my spring quarter 2011.


10 weeks.  4 classes.  Bring it.

Books to read in 10 weeks, spring 2011.

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Joanna Danielak completed her studies at Cerritos College in spring 2010. She transferred to UCLA in fall 2010, where she is majoring in English.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s more than a movie.

The good: I had to turn in an annotated bibliography for my Native American Literary Studies class, which happened to totally kick butt thanks to Professor Clifford at Cerritos College, whose nitpickiness has left me with the skills necessary to create a virtually flawless annotated bibliography.  Thank-you!

The bad: I am currently working on an essay on Shakespeare due this Wednesday, a draft for an essay contrasting Native American works due Monday, a finished French paper due Tuesday, and a yet undetermined essay due for my Politics of Language class due sometime in the future.  And of course, assigned readings are not to be neglected.

The ugly: I got back my corrected Shakespeare midterm today.  It was not pretty (hence the ugly).  I’ve heard that the Shakespeare classes are some of the most challenging available to English majors, and this professor has written the book (literally); so it is understandable that he would be one of the toughest professors teaching this subject.  For anyone who would like an idea of what this class is like, I strongly suggest taking Professor Mixson’s Shakespeare course at Cerritos.  I admit, the quizzes he gives at the start of every class begin to feel tedious after awhile, but they become ridiculously invaluable in the long run.  The same system applies to the class I am currently taking; only, the quizzes take place about a week or two after the book is supposed to have been read.  And they include questions from the supplemental reading.  And they can quote any part of the play (sometimes two).  So yeah, take Mixson’s class and don’t complain about the workload if you’ve got your sights set on becoming an English major at UCLA.

This week, I’m feeling very thankful for the teachers I’ve had at Cerritos.  Had they not attempted to discipline me as they did, I’m pretty certain that I would be doing absolutely horrendously in all my classes.  I’m a big believer in going to teachers’ office hours for help – it clarifies the assignments and they recognize you as a student who cares about their education.  I suppose this is something I’m having problems with now.  My teachers have office hours exactly during my other classes, in which case, email seems to be the only way to get their attention.  I’m still unsure of whether or not I like this manner of corresponding.  If anything, it’s just new; I’m so used to informal computer correspondence that I keep accidentally typing out maniacal “hahaha’s” and emoticons (probably not appreciated in the world of academia).

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photo of Rosa CastanedaRosa Castaneda is in her fourth quarter at UC Santa Cruz, where she is majoring in English. She was the first president of the iFALCON Club at Cerritos College prior to her successful transfer.

For the previous weeks I’ve been pondering on the “why” of everything I do. I was at the bus stop after a long day of classes, meetings, interviews and dance practice and thinking of this and the month’s all-nighters. I started thinking about what I wanted to blog about. I went through each letter of the iFALCON acronym and I was able to think of something for each, but I asked myself, “What brings these skills together and how are they to be fueled in order to be efficient?”

Later on that week I picked a story idea for my article in the university newspaper about a factory that makes university logo apparel for over 300 universities in the U.S. and Canada. It is an apparel factory in the Dominican Republic that pays its workers a living wage, which is three times the minimum wage there. I spoke to a worker from the factory in the Dominican Republic and heard the story of how being able to afford the bare necessities –like food, clean water and with this, an education for her children—completely changed her life and her family’s. The connectedness I felt with someone so far away and how my choice as a consumer can make a difference in a person’s life, made me feel attached to my story. The idea of this type of factory has commenced to be a national campaign to promote sweat-shop free apparel. I read a lot of recent publications on this factory and felt even more motivated to let students on my campus know about this and their affect on people they will never meet.

I felt I had duty to do something with this information and to voice its importance through my writing.  At that moment I felt that I had an incentive—I was motivated. That motivation not only pushed me to write the story, but it made me see how coming to school is a privilege—one that many don’t have. Through the knowledge I obtained, I wanted to help others in some sort of way.  Instantly, I thought about iFalcon and how I could write about this and so it just came to my head that before we are able to focus or advance etc., we need a driving force—an incentive.

It is then that FALCONing becomes almost automatic. We are able to focus when we know what we are doing and why. With an incentive, we have substance to organize. When someone is very passionate about something, that person will go through all means of finding the necessary skills, people and knowledge in order to execute their ideas—linkingup. In my perspective as a student, it pushed me to excel in my schoolwork by researching about my interests which helped me advance and further comprehend. It is true that through knowledge comes power—power to help change your surroundings by developing new ideas.

Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch, but I always refer back to Friedrich Nietzsche, a quote I read in a book called Man’s Search for Meaning which was assigned in one of my English classes at Cerritos College. Viktor Frankl, the author of the book, quotes Nietzsche: “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how.’” If one can really dig deeply to find a reason, perhaps a goal—to be the first in your family to get a degree, to be independent, to help out in your community, to let other students be aware of issues that they are otherwise unknowledgeable of, whatever it is—it is then that one is able to excel in anything one sets her mind to.

Sometimes finding a motivation is not easy because we feel that our goals are too far away. Talk to your professors about what you want to do with your career, or about doubts concerning your education. Talk to them about ideas, issues you are pondering. Conversing with peers, professors, counselors or family will help you see how attainable goals are and this will also push you to thrive in your education by changing the way you perceive it.

So the next time you feel as if something is missing even though you know what you have to do—focus, comprehend and organize, etc.—ask yourself, “What is my reason to be in school, and what goals do I want to accomplish?” He who has an incentive can achieve almost anything.

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