Volunteer Work = Interview Fodder

Guest Post by Beth Earnest:

When I was a junior or senior in high school, I realized (too late) that there was a significant lack of volunteer work in my college applications. In a panic, I rushed to get myself signed on at the local nursing home as a volunteer. It was a terrible experience, and I wound up going there only a few times before I quit in frustration.

It wasn’t until I started at Valparaiso University that I started to understand the importance of service work—not just as a resume builder, but also as a missing piece in my life. My sophomore year, I became a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity, and I participated in two different Habitat for Humanity spring break trips that were sponsored by St. Teresa of Avila. In each situation, I learned something new about myself, and I felt I made a difference in others’ lives.

But, of course, you already know the value of service work. What you may not know is how it becomes a factor when you’re looking for gainful employment after graduation—specifically, during job interviews.

While potential employers want to hear about your education and work experience, they also ask you many open-ended questions. Some examples:

  • Tell me about a situation in which you showed leadership.
  • Tell me about a particularly challenging situation. How did you handle it?
  • Have you ever encountered a person with whom you had difficulty working? How did you overcome those challenges?
  • Tell me about a situation in which you showed initiative.

You get the idea. Think about the volunteer experiences you’ve had over the past few years. Have you encountered any challenging people or situations? Have you shown leadership? Have you demonstrated your ability to think outside the box? Use it all! College is about the whole student life experience—not just the classes you take and the internships you complete. Potential employers want to know who you are as a person, and talking about your volunteer work is a great way to show them.

Beth Earnest, ‘00

Valparaiso University Alum, Greater Milwaukee Area

~Thanks from the VV Team!

The Volunteer Hangover

As I woke up this morning I couldn’t stop smiling. My phone was filled with text messages from happy party goers. Last night was a story that is worthy of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Yesterday, I hosted a surprise bachelorette party for another graduate student. Her wedding plans are stressful and our wonderful cohort felt she deserved a department wide bachelorette party. We bought cupcakes, photo booth props and decorations to make the classroom into a department party. After yelling surprise at school we took a little road trip to a restaurant. Stories and good food filled the night with friendship and laughter.

In order to maintain the surprise I had announced the party as my Graduation party. Everyone else knew the party was for her, but the bride didn’t know that. She decided to buy me a surprise gift and wrote a wonderful and touching card.

The gift I received was a delightful and insightful gift. The bride gave me “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering & Giving Back: 101 Inspiring Stories of Purpose and Passion.” As the founder of Valparaiso Volunteers and adamant believer in good works I love it! A wonderful surprise, one that I’m sure will bring many more happy nights of laughter at good stories.

Sometime doing good for others gives you 101 good stories in return. Next time you get the chance to do something good for someone else consider all the wonderful memories you could make. Doing good really does feel good. Now I’m signing off for some joyful bed-time stories. Good-night and sweet dreams Valparaiso Volunteers!

Graduate Faces of Valparaiso University

The Graduate School selected their top Graduate Students for 2019! Meet a few of the upcoming stars at Valparaiso University. Thanks Valparaiso University for giving us the opportunity to meet Jess and Faith!

Jess Del Re

What is your name, program and focus of study? Jess Del Re. I am a second year in the clinical mental health counseling program with a focus on inpatient severe mental health. 

Why did you select this program? What will you do with it?I selected this program for a number of reasons, but the primary being to educate about mental illness and decrease the associated stigma while spreading awareness of how mental illness impacts more than just the client. I am planning to continue my education in a Ph.D program starting in the fall. I want to contribute to this field through research surrounding inpatient hospital stays and connecting those clients and their families to beneficial outpatient services. Additionally, I want to continue to advocate for mental health treatment in communities and in schools while educating the population to what mental health can look like and how it does not have to stigmatized. 

Do you know anyone in this group? Do you have groups that overlap with the same volunteer minded people? What service groups are you in?
I am in the same cohort as Faith and know Monica and Trisha from other areas. Within the CMHC program we have two strong service groups that do overlap with the membership. Currently, I serve as the chapter president for Chi Sigma Iota, which is an honor society for counselors that focus on community outreach and other service related experiences. 

Outside of academic life what do you enjoy doing?My main hobby is spending time with my two adorable dogs. Additionally,  my wonderfully supportive boyfriend and I love to play racquetball and watch any type of movie-even though I usually fall asleep about ten minutes in. 

What type of community service or good works do you do?Most of my service is focused on assisting those with mental health diagnoses. This is typically done through community mental health agencies by assisting with their programs or partnering with them through the CSI group. 

Can you tell us about a specifically kind moment you shared here at Valparaiso University? (you could be the person doing good or receiving) One of my favorite memories was this past Christmas season. The CSI officers were lucky enough to be connected with Mental Health America of Porter County to assist with their giftLift exchange program. It was a night right before break and the three officers were taken into a large room filled with donated gifts for those in the community. There were stacks sorted for different families as well as mental health agencies. Being able to see the community come together with one mission was such a memorable feeling and the reason I love to the counseling field so much. 

What do you wish you’d known before starting your program or what should people know that you learned here? I want to emphasize that the CMHC program is exhausting both emotionally and mentally. I was not prepared for how much personal growth I was going to experience during these two years. There are some tough times that you might feel overwhelmed and like a small fish in an ocean, but if you continue to trust the process and the professors and remember why you wanted to be in this program you will get through everything and come out a completely different person, for the better. 

Would you like to add anything else?Valpo has been able to provide amazing opportunities during my two years here. I will be sad to leave my program, faculty, and cohort, but I am so thankful for all the memories I was able to gain. 

What is your motivation to do good (motto of website)?When things get tough, I always try to remember that I might be the advocate that someone else needs to better their life. Mental health treatment is a community effort and I aways want to make sure I can step up and help for my contribution. 

Faith Briggs

What is your name, program and focus of study? 

My name is Faith Briggs. I am in my second and final year of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s Program at Valparaiso University. 

Why did you select this program? What will you do with it?

During undergrad, I had a hard time envisioning both meaningful and challenging work in my field. As graduation loomed in the distance, I began considering a career in mental health and learning what steps would need to be taken in order to pursue my new career goals. My researching led me to Valparaiso University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s program. I selected the Valpo CMHC program primarily due to the warmth and educational attitude of the faculty, which I was able to experience during the interview process. Additionally, I preferred staying in the region for my graduate studies, which Valpo’s program allowed. From an academic perspective, this program allows me to serve as a mental health therapist upon completion of my degree and offers training that prepares graduates for state licensure. It also readies me for a doctoral program, which is something I am currently planning to pursue. I want to obtain a Ph.D. in Counselor Education, as my career aspiration is to be both a professor of counseling and a practicing clinician. Once I receive my Ph.D., I will be able to teach as a faculty member at a university, supervise counseling students and therapists, and counsel individuals in various settings. If I did not pursue a doctorate degree (which most of my classmates opted for), my plan after graduation would be to get hired on as a full-time mental health counselor.

Do you know anyone in this group? Do you have groups that overlap with the same volunteer minded people? What service groups are you in?

As far as I am aware, I have not had the privilege of meeting anyone in this group. It is most likely because most of my time over the last two years has been spent with individuals within the graduate school and, more specifically, in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. As an undergrad at Valpo, I was a fellow for the Institute of Leadership and Service, which connected me with many other students and faculty that were service or volunteer oriented. As part of this institute, I was matched with a community service organization for a summer internship. Additionally, I have taken part in Valpo’s Spring Break service trips, where I have met so many wonderful people both in the Valpo community and within the communities where we served.

Outside of academic life what do you enjoy doing?

While my academic responsibilities take up a lot of time, I try to be intentional about self-care and finding time for the important relationships in my life. My daily schedule includes time allotment for prayer and meditation, as well as for chatting with friends, co-workers, or my family. I have been blessed to know and thus journey alongside so many incredible individuals who, at times, inspire, encourage, and guide me. When I have free time, I like to devote it to productivity (boring, I know) or adventure. In the summer, adventure often looks like camping, hiking, hanging out (literally!) in my hammock, or cruising on Lake Michigan with my family. In the winter months, I find myself journaling, reading, catching up on television series, or, if at all possible, escaping to somewhere warmer for a few days!

What type of community service or good works do you do?

Currently, I am the president of the Counselors for Social Justice chapter at the university. I co-founded this social advocacy group last year alongside a few of my classmates (and true friends) after many discussions that took place in our Community Counseling class. Our collective hearts yearned for a space to continue these discussions, foster open dialogue, and provide an active way to expand awareness at Valparaiso University and the greater Valpo community, specifically regarding issues related to social justice and advocacy. In addition to creating a platform for conversation, CSJ’s mission is to educate, empower, and unite individuals by identifying social issues locally and nationally. At our core, we want to give a voice to the voiceless and bring about unity and restoration in our community.

During my undergraduate students at VU, I co-founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that served young adults in Northwest Indiana. It was a parachurch, which is an organization that works independent of church oversight but does ministry both outside of and across denominations. During development of this organization, I was part of deciding what the mission and goals would be. We focused all activity on one of three things: service, community, and spiritual growth. My area of focus was service, where I had the privilege of connecting with many community service workers in the area and planning service events for the young adults in our community. While many events were hosted during my time at this organization, one sticks out as particularly impactful. I developed a program called Chicago Give Back, which consisted of an annual food (and other goods) drive, a packing night, and a trip to downtown Chicago. Through our network with churches and community service organizations, we collected winter wear (hats, gloves, socks, etc), food, and monetary donations. Shortly before the scheduled journey to the city, we would gather to fill care packages for homeless people in Chicago. The bags consisted of two meals and other goodies, which we offered to individuals that we encountered on the streets of Chicago. We provided warm winter wear to these folks, as well as offering bibles if they were interested. Each year, this was a profoundly moving experience for the volunteers and hopefully for the individuals that we had the gift of meeting. There are hardly words to convey the overwhelming experience of connecting to someone, hearing their story, and sharing the space together.

Additionally, I have volunteered at many different churches and inter-church ministries in the area. I participate yearly in 500 Turkeys, which is a ministry that helps families in the community by providing a thanksgiving dinner (and clothing, etc). Also, I was part of a group that developed and renovated the café area in Life Bridge Christian Church. While I could share more about the specific ways that I have been involved in “service” activities, I want to expand the definition to be more tangible and practical in a day-to-day sense. I see “service” as part of my purpose in this life and hope that my daily choices serve those around me in a positive way.

Can you tell us about a specifically kind moment you shared here at Valparaiso University? (you could be the person doing good or receiving) 

While I have encountered countless moments of kindness at Valpo, one person stands out. When I was still in high school and undecided about my collegiate aspirations, I reached out to Holly Simpson, who was a counselor in Valparaiso University’s Career Center at the time. While she had no obligation to assist me, as I had not accepted the offer from Valparaiso University yet, she spent time discussing the different options and offering guidance to me. In my mind, I can imagine the scared, timid high-schooler that I was going into her office for the first time and how her kindness and genuine care for me allowed the next chapter of my life to begin with peace and a newfound sense of confidence.

What do you wish you’d known before starting your program or what should people know that you learned here? 

I wish I had known the amount of personal growth that was going to take place during the course of my graduate program. I would like those who are interested in the program to know that, if attending, you are going to learn so much about yourself and grow profoundly if you are open to it. Also, look around because these people just might be lifelong friends.

Would you like to add anything else?

During the course of my master’s program, thus far, I have developed the richest relationships, gained precious insight into myself, and found work that I adore. In developing my skills as a therapist and watching client’s grow, I have become more confident that this is the field to which I want to devote my career. In reading countless journal articles and brainstorming with professors about potential academic research, I have awoken a part of myself that I didn’t know existed, where my affinity for deep thinking and hunger for exploration and understanding have found a purpose.While I struggled to find meaning and my place in undergrad, I have found so much more than I anticipated while studying to become a counselor. I want to continue to be a part of students’ journeys and to teach and encourage them in the way that I have been taught and encouraged. It is my greatest desire to be of service to many throughout my career, as a teacher, counselor, and supervisor.

What is your motivation to do good (motto of website)?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”-1 Peter 4:8

Thank you Jess and Faith! ~The VV team!

Earthtones Conference

The second annual Earthtones Conference will be held at Valparaiso University. On March 23rd 8:30am-4pm students, professors and the community will come together to discuss our environment.

Here at Valparaiso Volunteers we know a healthy environment and thriving world is an important component of volunteering. All day volunteer speakers will present panels, discussions, posters and interactive presentations. There is no cost but your valuable input is needed.

This year our founder will be presenting. Check out how volunteering and community service really does change the world. In addition, there will be free food, a snake show and prizes. Come for an hour, or stay all day to hear some great talks.

The goal of the conference is to talk about environmental issues and find solutions. From the innovative solutions to the daily struggles of sustainability this group will show you new ideas and ways to help out.

“We hope that everyone who attends both shares their knowledge and learns from others’ diverse areas of expertise and experience,”

Rachel Sims ’19, Earthtones president.

To join Valparaiso Volunteers click here to register.

2019 Spotlight Professor

Valparaiso Volunteers interviewed Betsy Burow-Flak.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself:

I teach British literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which means Shakespeare, Milton, and writers such as Thomas More, John Donne, Aemelia Lanyer, and Elizabeth Carey.  I also teach courses in digital media and in literature and humanities.  These courses range from first-year core up through graduate courses.  This semester, in addition to teaching core, I am teaching courses in Banned Books and Global Shakespeares.

2. What qualities do you think prepare you to be a Professor?

This is my twentieth year at Valparaiso University. The single most quality that enables a professor to thrive over this amount of time is to be constantly learning and changing.  I teach countless works–dramas, books, performances, scholarly articles–that did not exist when I was in graduate school, and I am continually learning from professionals in my field, from my students, and from colleagues and my own research.

3. Who inspires you?

My students and today’s youth inspire me.  More and more, students coming to college and graduate school seem to be pulled in multiple directions.  Some speak multiple languages; they and others may live with a “dual consciousness” of fitting in at the university, but also in a home where the university experience may be quite foreign. I see students who are working, with their families, against increasingly difficult challenges in paying for their education, and others who, despite incredible talent and advantage, battle anxiety and the struggle to “do it all” in fear that they will slip away from economic stability.  Yet despite all of this, the students who make up this university bring their own unique knowledge and experiences, and with those, they contribute new perspectives, energy, freshness, and hope.

5. Do you have any advice for incoming Freshman or continuing student leaders?

Learn everything you can, including opening yourself to viewpoints with which you are not inclined to agree.  The “filter bubbles” created by search algorithms and social medial platforms tend to sharpen our own viewpoints and dull our ability to understand, talk, and work with those with whom we disagree.  We cannot function in a democratic society if we cannot even listen to opposing viewpoints.  It is also important to ask others about themselves.  Sometimes, for example, U.S. students are afraid to even talk with international students for fear of appearing unknowledgeable about world politics or cultures.  But that is ok.  Anyone who has traveled knows the importance of people simply being curious about their lives and motivations.

6. What drives you academically, personally and spiritually?

I am active in my church and in the lives of my husband–a fellow English major to whom I have been married for 30 years–and my high school-aged sons.  In my research, I have been exploring how Shakespeare and playwrights contemporary to him express ideas of redemption: moments of grace, transformation, forgiveness, and second chances as they could explore them secularly and in the context of seventeenth-century religion. Redemption on the seventeenth-century stage exceeded ideas of what is fair or just or what anyone deserves.  In our daily lives, related moments occur when unexpected understanding, learning, acceptance, or solutions to difficult problems occur.  These moments are truly miracles, often unsung, that keep us motivated academically, personally, and spiritually.

8. Outside of your career goals, what do you want to accomplish in life?

Completing my book manuscript is a major goal right now.  But in the near future, I also want to see my sons settled and doing well in college.  This is their challenge and it will be their accomplishment, but making it through college requires a lot of support from family members.

9. If you change anything to make the world a better place what would it be? 

Difficult problems are never solved with simple solutions.  We need hundreds of solutions, small and large, to address two major issues: the changes to our climate caused by human activity, and the concentration of wealth, in recent decades, in the hands of a very small class.  Both of these problems can be difficult to talk about.  Education about them, within universities and without, is a first and vital step, as is compassion for all who are affected by these issues.

10. What’s your favorite animal, comfort food and television show? Why?

Our family dog, Bella, a three-year-old husky-lab mix, is my favorite animal.  Food of all kinds is appreciated in our household, and most of us cook when we have time.  Some comfort food-like shows on Netflix that we enjoy: European comedies (Bonus Family; Welcome to the Family) and the Great British Baking Show.

11. What’s your motivation to do good?

Gratitude has inspired me, primarily.  I teach Sunday School, for example, out of gratitude for the people who spent time with my sons when they were young.  But there’s more, and that is what I have learned to recognize and articulate in working with Lisa Talley.  Part of my motivation to do good is the enrichment–the fun–that comes back to me, sometimes in unplanned, unexpected ways that are definitely moments of grace.

Thanks Professor! Have a great spring break! ~VV Team!

2019 Spotlight Student

Valparaiso Volunteers interviewed Katherine Nickolaou.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself:

I am majoring in meteorology with a minor in digital media. I have been a VUTV staff member for 4 years, during which I was the News Director for 1 year and the Executive Director for 2 years. I am currently at the end of my tenure as the Executive Director as I am graduating in May. I’m also a member of the Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team  (VUSIT) as well as a member of the Valparaiso University chapter of the NWI AMS/NWA. I’ve also been the V-Rex at the Men’s basketball games for the last 3 years.

2. You were recently featured by the Communications department for your role as the Executive Producer at the Valparaiso University Television Studio. What qualities do you think prepared you for these leadership roles?

My compassion and ability to accept criticism are the biggest qualities that prepared me for this role. When working in television, especially on-air, you are putting yourself out there for people to judge you. Some people like you and others think you are the worst newscaster who’s ever lived. The same applies to being a leader. Some people will follow you and think you are amazing while others will tell you to your face that you are the worst leader on planet earth. You have to be able to take criticism, both constructive and destructive, and find ways to improve both yourself and your organization. I also have a lot of compassion for the people I work with. Running a student organization means that you work with students. You have to understand that things come up, tests get moved up, assignments get piled on, and you have to be able to understand that and show compassion for those trying to juggle school and your org. If they miss a meeting you have to understand. If they need extra help this week because they have 3 exams, you need to understand and work with them. It is all about working with people and making sure everyone comes out of your organization better than when they came in.

3. Who inspires you? Professor or Celebrity?

This list could go on forever. My mom, dad, and brother inspire me the most. We have all been through so much together and they continue to show unconditional love and support for me and everyone they meet. I love them so much. Dr. Bart Wolf of the meteorology department is also a major inspiration for me. He has shown me that being who you are and not hiding your true self is the best way to be. Be fun, be spontaneous, let people see how passionate you are about what you love, even if they don’t entirely understand you. He is one of the people who has helped me the most to feel confident in myself both on-air and in real life. As far as celebrities go, Scott Bakula has to be my main inspiration. I love all of the shows he has done, from Quantum Leap, to Star Trek: Enterprise, to NCIS: New Orleans, all of the characters he portrays are ones that I look up to. He is a genuinely nice person who lives by what he preaches. He helps people when he can, he is kind, caring, and passionate. I really look up to him.

4. How do you foster self growth?

I foster self growth by surrounding myself with people that I want to be like. I have so many mentors, some don’t even know that I think of them as mentors, and I try to find the parts of them that I like the most; the parts that I want to incorporate into myself. By simply being around them I am teaching myself the qualities that I strive to have.

5. Do you have any advice for incoming Freshman or continuing student leaders?

My best advice is that it is okay to fail. Seriously. Don’t spend all of your time and energy trying to dig yourself out of a hole that you cannot possibly escape. Acknowledge defeat and build from it. College is the time to take chances, make mistakes, and learn before heading out into the “real world”. Take this opportunity and make the most of it.

6. What drives you academically, personally and spiritually?

My family, plain and simple. Nothing in this world is more important to me than my family. They make me want to be the best person that I can possibly be. They help me to strive for academic excellence and help me to grow as a person. Personally, I want to be the best person I can be. I want to be the person that people can go to for help. That is both one of my greatest strengths and greatest flaws. I love to help people, but I often forget to help myself. Trying to find a balance between the two is something that I am continuously attempting to accomplish. Spiritually, I believe in God. When you chase tornadoes, you have to pray/believe that God is watching out for you.

7. After graduation where do you see yourself working? What is your dream job?

After graduation I will be going into broadcast meteorology. My dream job would be to become the next Jim Cantore at The Weather Channel. To be able to chase tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards and make money doing it would be the most amazing thing! I would also love to work in Traverse City, Michigan. I’m from Michigan, and to work in the northern Lower Peninsula would be a dream come true.

8. Outside of your career goals, what do you want to accomplish in life?

Outside of my career, I hope to have a husband and children someday. I also want to explore my hobby of television acting. During my time at Valpo, I’ve been an extra on Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago Justice. I really enjoy being on the set of TV shows, and I hope that I’ll be able to continue being an extra throughout my life. I also want to just be a good person. At the end of every day, I want to be able to look back and say, “I made at least one person smile today.”  If I can do that, then I will consider it a great accomplishment.

9. If you change anything to make the world a better place what would it be? 

I would find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Anyone who has been diagnosed with or has had family who has suffered from Alzheimer’s knows that it is a fate worse than death. My dedo (grandfather) died of Alzheimer’s my sophomore year of college. It was almost like I lost him twice; once from him forgetting who I was and once more when he actually passed away. God, if I could change anything in this world it would be to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

10. What’s your favorite animal, comfort food and television show? Why?

My favorite comfort food is zelnick. It is a Greek/Macedonian dish and it is the single greatest thing I have ever eaten. It is layered filo dough with cottage cheese and egg in the center. It is such a simple dish, but it tastes out of this world! I can’t just list one favorite TV show! I’m a massive fan of Star Trek, The Orville, NCIS, Quantum Leap, NCIS: New Orleans, Gravity Falls, and Survivor. I’ve actually applied to be on Survivor on three separate occasions. I haven’t heard anything back but I’m still hoping I’ll get the call one day! Star Trek is my all time favorite television franchise. If I ever feel down, or feel like I’m not the leader I want to be, I just turn on Star Trek and I instantly feel better. I have learned so many life lessons from Star Trek. Overall I just love TV shows that have great action and amazing characters!

11. What’s your motivation to do good?

My motivation to do good comes from the people that I help. Everyone is so grateful and kind and genuine. The best feeling in the world is when someone comes up to you and says thank you for being who you are, for being a good person. Once one person tells you this, you just want to keep doing good. In the end, I want to be able to look back on my life and think of all of the people that I’ve helped, all the good I’ve done. There is a great quote by Captain Jean Luc Picard that I always keep in mind: “What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.” Material items are fine and all, but it is the good that we have done that will last far beyond our time on this earth.

Thanks Katie! Good luck on your upcoming graduation! ~VV Team!

How does Studying Abroad Impact Students?

Welcome to a special edition of Valparaiso Volunteers. Today we are talking to a representative of the Study Abroad program at Valparaiso University, Olivia Dausch. Last summer Olivia studied abroad in Japan. Now, Olivia works with the University to inform other students about the benefits and opportunities of traveling abroad during college. 

Why do students volunteer at the Study Abroad Fair? 

            The Study Abroad Fair is a big info-session bringing together students interested in going abroad and students who have returned from abroad. The returning students volunteer their time to try to answer any questions interested students might have about the specific programs.

How has volunteering changed your life?

            Volunteering was a thing that was introduced a bit later in my life. My parents tried to convince me not to go out of my way for others. Once I got to high school and joined Key Club, I realized that giving to others was incredibly fun and rewarding.

Do you volunteer anywhere specifically? Why there?

            I don’t volunteer in a specific place. I usually volunteer with my fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. My friend introduced me to the group, and I’ve been with it for about a year now.

How do you think studying abroad changes students? 

            I think that studying abroad lets students see a world outside of themselves. There is a world outside of Valparaiso, outside of Indiana, the Midwest, the United States. There are different places with different cultures and problems of their own. I feel it is very humbling. It’s very easy to see that one’s immediate surroundings is all there is in the world but going across an ocean greatly expands a person’s world view.

Why do you think studying abroad is important?

            I think studying abroad is important because it puts a lot of smaller problems into perspective. Being away from the familiar, even temporarily, is refreshing and can provide great opportunities for self-reflection. Finding out what issues were left behind and what managed to go with can be a great way to figure out the importance of those issues.

Is there anything students should know prior to studying abroad?

            Outside of the general “pack light” and “step out of your comfort zone”, I think other students should know that it’s okay to take a day to just reflect on everything. It never feels like you change, but you are with yourself all the time. Taking some time to look at where you are and where you were before you left can at least partially show how much you’ve grown during your trip.

How should students investigate where they want to study abroad?

            I feel like students should look at their interests. A lot of people who study in Japan start from anime, manga and video games. However, this isn’t enough. There has to be a genuine interest in the culture itself. For example, anime and manga can be a great stepping stone into researching different cultural aspects that inspired the different stories, and how the cultural facets are integrated into the culture itself. It boils down to having an interest in learning about the culture of the places the student is considering.

How does studying abroad change a student’s life? 

            Studying abroad will give students the tools they need to figure out their place in the world. It’s a safe place to take risks and see what the world has in store. There is time to experience the life of a student in another country with the freedom to explore the country in question. There are opportunities to talk to local students and make lifelong friends. Students also have the chance to go to other nearby countries as well. It’s a chance to experience the world safely and with little risk.

When you studied abroad did you personally feel it changed how you view community service or global responsibility? How?

            Absolutely. I was able to see Japan’s more family-oriented culture. There were people who helped me because I was a foreigner, and I saw how easily they were able to do so. They tried to explain things in as much English as they could, and even the effort to help made all the difference. I saw how easy it was for me to do the same and that I always should. Even helping someone in the store could make someone’s day, and that’s what really matters.

Specifically do you think students become stronger or more informed leaders for our community?

            Absolutely. Learning about any culture outside of one’s own is already a step toward being a more informed leader. Actually experiencing a different culture can give students a perspective they never could have received through reading.

What’s your motivation to do good?

            My motivation to do good comes from knowing that there is a lot of bad in the world that everyone experiences. Taking a second to do something to help someone with anything can improve their day even slightly. I feel that’s the most important thing.

“Thank you Olivia for all you do!” The VV Team!


Last week I played a game with Valparaiso University! Thanks to all the people who didn’t know their volunteer activities were part of this game. Your service showed in this Volunteer BINGO game.

Valparaiso University staff and students shined!

Of course this is one person’s perspective. I’m sure I didn’t hear or see many boxes that could have been checked off. Wanna play? Check off the boxes below and see if you can check them all off!

First person to respond with BINGO gets an honorable mention next week!

Blank Board:

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BINGO board created in Word.

Charity Benefits Me

It’s that time of year again! After the joy of unwrapping Christmas presents, the pricey textbook check comes due again!

This year I price matched my textbooks at a local bookstore and compared it to Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile donates a portion of your purchase to charity for each transaction you make.

My local bookstore cart added up to $161.49

Amazon Smile (including free shipping) was $119.86

My charity earned $0.23 at no cost to me.

That means I saved $41.63! I gave $0.23 = A quarter more for both of us!

That adds up to an easy way to donate to charity of my choice, plus save money for college. What did your textbooks do to change the world?

New Year’s Resolution

Hello all,

Happy New Year! Congratulations to everyone who picked a new year’s resolution. If you haven’t picked out one it isn’t too late!

Once a week this year I am going to be extra nice to someone in my life! This week I wrote a nice long text to a parent. It wasn’t anything big but it made them smile! Somedays that is all that matters.

Instead of one big decision that I might not live up to, I’m picking something realistic for me! A single action once a week to make the world better.

Wanna hear some ideas:

  • Visit a friend who isn’t feeling well
  • Stop by an old Professor’s door to say thanks
  • Make an effort to open the door for strangers all week long
  • Wave hello to my neighbors…even early in the morning
  • Look into at a new place to volunteer
  • Maybe try volunteering somewhere new
  • Write a blog post on something really difficult
  • Buy a cupcake at a fundraiser

Maybe once a month is a better fit or even once a season! Whatever good I can do helps! Want a quick solution to this week’s good deed?

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Happy New Year!