Binghamton University

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On the brink

Today, with some other RAs, I hosted a pillow-making community builder—residents were invited to come to the Johnson Hall great room with t-shirts, cut up said t-shirts, and tie the pieces back together, this time with stuffing between them. This is what mine ended up looking like:


The Arista on the pillow is the name of an honor society, and the BS is for the name of my high school, Bronx Science. Four or five years ago, Arista was such a big deal to me, and Bronx Science was pretty much my life. I still think about Bronx Science a lot and I’m still friends with people I knew there (Christina, for instance), but it’s not a huge part of my day-to-day life anymore. Arista I hadn’t even thought of in months before finding the t-shirt in my drawer last week.

I’ve got under a month left at Binghamton. I’m excited. I’m scared. Most of all, I’m acutely aware that while I’m immersed in the world of Bing U right now, pretty soon and pretty suddenly, it will be behind me, the same way Bronx Science is. I’ve grown a lot thanks to various opportunities I’ve had in college, and I’m looking forward to taking that growth into the real world. But I’m also so happy with a lot of what I have here, and I’m anxious about leaving it. So for now, I’m trying to savor the things like stressing over my independent study, things like randomly reconnecting with two acquaintances while drinking bubble tea with a friend outside Lecture Hall at midnight, things like meeting up with people to make pillows out of t-shirts and being able to count that as work. Things that I’m sure I’ll miss terribly in a month, and that I’ll probably look back on with fondness in a few years, but that for my last few days at Binghamton I get to experience as simply a part of my everyday life.

Since this is college decision season, I want to remind any readers who didn’t get into Binghamton, or whatever their dream school was, that your lives are not actually over. I promise. Look, I got rejected from my top choices, and I ended up having an experience so beautiful, educational, enriching, and life-changing that I don’t even care about the fact that I might have been better off somewhere else because OMG PROFESSIONAL FICTION-CRAFTING HELP OMG BECOMING A BETTER PERSON  OMG AWESOME/RIDICULOUS COMMUNITY OMG CLASSY EVENING DOWNTOWN OMG UNDERSTANDING MY PLACE IN THE WORLD OMG CHOCOLATE. Right now, you’re immersed in the world of your high school, and maybe your parents or teachers are disappointed with your college plans, or you feel like you’re not measuring up to the kids around you, and honestly, I don’t know if that’ll ever exactly change. But soon, you’ll get immersed in the world of your new college, and that’ll be behind you, and if you keep seeking out opportunities, the things that matter will fall into place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tricks of the trade

My blog is probably not the only place you’ve been told to enhance your college experience by doing large-ish-scale things like going to office hours or getting to know the local area. But what about little strategies to get through your everyday routines at Binghamton University? Here are a few little tips:

1. Don’t try to print things when classes are about to start. At Binghamton, Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes are usually 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM, 9:40 AM - 10:40 AM, 10:50 AM - 11:50 AM, etc., and Tuesday/Thursday classes are usually 8:30 AM - 9:55 AM, 10:05 AM - 11:20 AM, 11:30 AM - 1:05 PM, etc. A lot of people print things right before they go to class, so that there are usually really long lines at the times when classes are about to start. Avoid the crowds by printing in the middle of regular class periods.

2. Check out the Uppergrounds. Located on the second floor of the new union, it offers free coffee and sometimes food during the day.

3. Stop by the bookstore and see what’s on sale
. Sometimes, on the counter, you can find snacks on sale for a dollar.

4. Read B-Line.
B-Line is the campus newsletter and every student gets it in their inbox daily. People tend to ignore it, but it really is the best way to find out what’s going on around campus, and it only takes a minute or so to scan.

You’ll build up your own collection of small-scale ways to make your daily life at Bing better once you get here—but hopefully these ideas will give you a good start.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

An excellent early evening

Yesterday, a friend and I decided to get dinner at Water Street Brewing Co., a new-ish eating place in downtown Binghamton. While my friend had been there before, I hadn’t, and I was excited to try what I’d heard was high-quality food in a classy, relaxed atmosphere.

I liked the atmosphere a lot—it’s set up for people to linger and talk. As its name suggests, Water Street Brewing Co. offers a high-quality selection of craft beers, so it’s a good place to go for those if you’re over twenty-one (I, for the record, am twenty-two). It’s not snobby about that, though (the menu lists beers by IBU and other criteria but explains what those things mean), and beer’s definitely not the whole point. The food is really good in its own right, and the menu offers lots of local and vegan options. I decided to get a spiedie, which, as Neal explained, is a delicious and popular local specialty sandwich made with chunks of marinated meat. Since I’m Catholic and yesterday was a Friday during the season of Lent, I wasn’t supposed to eat meat, so I ordered a tempeh spiedie, unsure of how well that would work. I almost spat out my first bite—because it tasted so much like a chicken spiedie that I thought for a moment I’d been given the wrong order. It was tempeh, though, a little nuttier and softer than chicken. I highly recommend this great new take on a Binghamton classic.

After eating, my friend and I walked around checking out First Friday events. One really cool thing about First Friday gallery showings, aside from the free food they often offer, is that the artists are there to mingle with the crowd. At the ART Mission and Theater, for instance, two artists, Abigail Burpee and Patrick Branigan, were exhibiting their work. One of Branigan’s paintings, The Ascension, showed horses going upstream in a river. My friend was curious as to whether that could happen in real life, so she went up to Branigan and asked. He gave us the picture’s whole backstory about horses on a certain island in Maryland. How cool is it to get that peek behind a painting, within minutes of seeing it, from the painter himself?

That I enjoyed the evening so much was a good reminder to me that having fun on the weekends doesn’t necessarily have to mean staying up late. First Friday only goes from 6 pm to 9 pm, which was convenient for me because I was on back-up duty as an RA, meaning I had to be in the office by 10 pm. But maybe you want to be back to your room early because you want to study, or because you’re starting to get sick and want to fight it off with sleep, or just because you’re an early bird. Whatever your reason, it’s nice to remember that from going out to eat to attending First Fridays to seeing an early movie or sports game, there are lots of entertainment options for weekend nights when you don’t want to mess up your sleep cycle.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The most underutilized resource on campus

Last week, I got an assignment back in one of my creative writing classes, and I was surprised to find I’d gotten a B. The quality of my work, the professor’s comments said, was good, but it turns out that I had not followed the correct instructions.

We creative writing majors don’t generally see creative writing classes as individual pursuits for good grades or even specific knowledge. We all have our own fluid systems for improving our craft, and taking classes can be a part of those systems. The point of me taking this class is for me to learn to write better, so I redid the assignment correctly to see what I could gain from it. Then, hoping to gain even more, this morning I took the redone assignment to my professor’s office hours for review.

Office hours, for those who don’t know, are times that professors (or teaching assistants or whoever) sit in their offices waiting for students to go talk to them. Every professor has them, a lot of students don’t bother to go to them, and they’re actually super useful. You can go to office hours about anything related to your class. If you’re confused or falling behind in a class, go ask your professor or TA for help. If you think something you learned in class is cool and want to know more about it, go pick your professor’s brain. If you don’t have anything in particular to say but want the benefits of getting to know a professor (like a good recommendation letter or possibly insider knowledge about what’s going on in their department), go ask your professor what projects they’re working on. They will probably be super-flattered that you’re interested in their research or creative activities, and you’ll get to learn more about what goes on in academia.

I think the main reason students don’t go to office hours as much as they could is just laziness—very few professors ever require you to visit them, so you do have to be slightly proactive. Another reason is that some people might be intimidated by the idea of just going to a room and talking to a professor. It helps to plan things to ask and say ahead of time. It also helps to know that, for the most part, professors loooooove having the chance to build relationships with students. Think about it: you’re paying all this money to have access to experts in all different fields, and they’re really excited about talking to you. You have every reason in the world to go to office hours.

This morning, my reason was to get feedback to help me with my short stories. My professor gave me some really helpful feedback—he helped me realize some of the not-super-desirable tics I have when it comes to writing the beginnings of stories, came up with punchier ways of phrasing certain things, and highlighted the places where my voice was the strongest. He also bumped my grade on the assignment up to an A-. I’m telling you, office hours are almost always a win-win situation.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Recommendations for recommendations

I have come to a conclusion: getting your letters of recommendation submitted is the most frustrating part of the grad school application process. Essays you pretty much have control over, and your resume you should have updated all the time anyway. But recommendations involve coordinating with your recommenders, and that can become difficult. Here are my tips to make the process go as well as possible.

1. Build relationships with people who can recommend you. As life advice, it’s good to build relationships with everyone, for tons of reasons, but for recommendations you want to make sure you’re building relationships with professors—even the best TA may not be considered a legitimate recommender in some situations. Also, be aware that some professors are really popular and get a lot of recommendation requests. If you have a particularly good relationship with one of them, go ahead and ask, but pay especial attention to the next tip.

2. Ask for recommendations early. Writing recs is time-consuming, and it’s not like anyone is required to recommend you. You’re asking someone for a favor, so be respectful of that person’s time.

3. Build relationships with more people who can recommend you. You never know when someone is going to leave Binghamton and magically become unreachable, or go on sabbatical somewhere, or have some big life circumstance change that otherwise prevents them from recommending you.

4. Ask in person. It’s friendlier and less awkward. Also, it shows you’re not just messing around if you accidentally end up asking on the late side, and it can help a professor who maybe doesn’t know you that well get to know you a little better.

5. Consider Interfolio. Binghamton’s CDC recommends using this online credentials portfolio. It lets recommenders submit letters to one place online, and you can distribute the letters from there (though of course you can’t read them). Personally, I find Interfolio to be kind of user-unfriendly, but it does save the recommenders some trouble, which is a thing you want to do. What’s really good is that it keeps your letters there for a long time—so if a professor recommends you for an internship during your junior year, let’s say, and then you want the same professor to recommend you for grad school, all they have to do to find their old letter is go to your Interfolio.

Good luck to everyone applying to college or grad school or anything else—it’s not fun, but we’ve just got to keep thinking that in the end, it’ll be worth it.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Coming soon

For me, winter break is about halfway over, so naturally, I’ve been looking forward to my next return to Binghamton. As I mentioned before, I signed up for a maxed-out course load of 18 credits. Depending on how much work that turns out to be, I may drop something, since there’s really only one course I need to graduate and I want to make sure I’m also focusing on my other commitments and on last-semester bonding with friends. Here’s what I’m signed up for right now, though:

-Banned Books and Stories Not Told: This is the one class I actually need (to fulfill the English major’s American literature requirement, in case anyone’s curious). I’m taking it for that reason, but also because it seems like the class will give a good amount of weight to both texts and the contexts in which they’ve existed, and I tend to prefer that kind of perspective.

-Humor in Film: I’ve never studied humor or film, but I like both (how distinctive of me). This is a kind of “why not?” class.

-Blacks and Jews in American Culture: This will be the first history class I’ve taken since I was a sophomore, and I’ve missed studying it. I’m especially looking forward to this topic because it seems like it will be complicated, yet not overwhelmingly so, and like it will teach me more about the social context I live in now.

-In the Beginning was the End: As a person who likes to write stories, I often find starting them to be really intimidating. Time to take care of that!

It’s also worth noting that I know who’s teaching each of these courses, even though I haven’t had any of them before personally. Two of them, my friends have had and recommended; one of them, other professors have recommended; and the last one I just looked up on Rate My Professor. Oftentimes, especially in the humanities, the professor makes the class. I’d say teaching quality at Binghamton is, overall, pretty high, but it can also be variable (plus, your particular preferences, learning style, etc., might not be compatible even with every “good” instructor). When you’re mostly choosing among intro classes, it’s not as big a factor, but as you continue through college it’s definitely a good idea to ask around to get a feel for different professors before deciding whose class to take.

Right now, I’m enjoying being home with my family and not doing very much else. Sometimes, I feel excited about the idea of taking on all these classes plus finishing my independent study; other times, I feel anxious. Whichever classes I end up taking, though, I’m sure they’ll be good.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Someone wants brrrraaaaiiins

I’ve seen a lot of people around campus the past two days with neon greenish-yellow bands tied around their heads or arms. No, it’s not some weird fashion fad—it’s Humans versus Zombies.

Humans versus Zombies (or, colloquially, HvZ) is played on college campuses across the country, and at Binghamton it’s run by our friendly Zombie Students Association. Basically, it’s a role-playing game with a plot (the specifics change every time it’s played) revolving around an impending zombie apocalypse. ZSA members moderate the game, and one person who’s playing is designated the Original Zombie. That person has a set amount of time to turn other players, all of whom begin as humans, into zombies before his/her identity as the original zombie is revealed. Zombies turn humans into zombies by tagging them, and humans can “stun” zombies with Nerf guns. For zombies, the goal is to zombify all the humans; for humans, the goal is to stay human until the end of the game. For longer games, there are also night missions that the humans try to complete.

I only played HvZ once, back in my sophomore year, but it’s pretty popular at Binghamton. There’s a core group of people who are really into it, so if you’re super excited about this kind of thing, you should definitely get involved. If not, I would definitely recommend that you at least play it once. College is the last time it’ll be socially acceptable to run around demanding brains or shooting Nerf guns at people, so really, why not?


Binghamton University's Admissions Blog is written by current students for students considering, applying, transferring and enrolling. Here you will find real-life points of view and personal opinions about campus life, classes, faculty and more! The opinions expressed by the bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the university. So, if you want to read more about Binghamton University students, you've come to the right place.