Binghamton University

Saturday, May 10, 2014


If you’re looking for fresh, homemade food, Despina’s Mediterranean Taste is a fantastic option. Located on Court Street in downtown Binghamton, Despina’s is an adorable local restaurant with the best Greek food I’ve ever tasted. There are a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, though you can also get meat, so it’s perfect if you’re going with a group of people with different dietary restrictions. I highly recommend getting a platter so you can try four different things plus warm pita bread.

The restaurant is small and intimate but still spacious, and Despina, as well as all the other people who work at her restaurant, is very sweet. If you’re a ridiculously astute reader, you may realize that I’ve mentioned Despina’s once before on this blog—over a year ago, when Despina very generously donated a gift certificate to my event on local businesses.

I hadn’t been to Despina’s since around the time of that event, but recently, some friends and I have started going off-campus for lunch on Wednesdays. Living on campus can be a little bit like living in a bubble (especially if you’re an RA), and a change of scenery in the middle of the week can be super refreshing. So, I want to remind you guys that your exploration of the community need not be confined to the weekends. Even if you only have an hour between classes, you can use it to grab a bite at Despina’s. The five friends I’ve brought there for Wednesday lunch thought it was amazing, I thought it was amazing, and you’ll think it’s amazing, too, the minute you take a bite of a flavorful falafel or gyro.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Once upon a time, I found a book of baby names on my parents’ shelf. I thought it was fascinating and read the whole book. Years later, when the internet was a thing, I started reading websites about names. I grew into a full-fledged name nerd and before high school ended I was a member of the American Names Society (yes, that exists). My first issue of Names: A Journal of Onomastics arrived shortly after I’d made the decision to attend Binghamton University. I was thrilled to discover through that journal that one of the Society’s officers in fact worked at my new school.

While I thought it would be amazing to meet this officer, Dr. McGoff, I didn’t think I ever actually would. He works in the higher levels of Bing U’s administration, so we would probably never cross paths naturally, and I was too timid to reach out—until last week. Then I emailed him asking for his autograph, thinking if that made him think I was a weirdo, it wouldn’t matter because I’d be graduating soon anyway. Fortunately, he was actually enthusiastic about hearing from me and let me set up an appointment to come into his office. I met him yesterday, and he was incredibly nice. People who are not into names might find this crazy, but honestly, I was super excited, and since last night I’ve been relishing reading a name-related document he very kindly gave me as a gift.

The only thing I regret is not trying to find him sooner in my college career. Knowing an extra established professional—and such a nice one—in a field that interests me would have made my time at Binghamton brighter. and when you think about it, if I’d emailed him when I was a freshman and he’d thought I was weird or ignored me, what would I have lost? Nothing. So, for those of you getting ready to start your college career, I highly recommend finding out about some of the people who work at your school whose careers interest you, and I very highly recommend trying to meet them early on. After all, if it doesn’t work out, you don’t lose anything—but you can gain a lot if it does.

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.


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.