A Letter to Freshmen

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By Samuel Alvarado

Freshman year of college is less than a month away for the class of 2021, and high school will soon feel like it was ages ago. And now, you are about to start a new chapter of your life that will be unlike anything you’ve known before. It is alright to be scared, it is alright to be hesitant, and it is alright to be worried, for those feelings are only natural as the melancholic reminiscence of days in the known environment of high school are left in order to start anew.

The newfound freedom, responsibility, and opportunities that come with life at college are sure to be challenging to adjust to now that you don’t have parents watching your every move. Where once there was a required and early schedule, there is now the freedom to choose. You now have choices such as to sleep in until noon, stay up through the dead of night, or not go to a class because you choose not to (although you should just go to class). The task at hand is to find a happy medium between the newfound freedom of college and the possible consequences of your choices and actions. For instance, you could choose to stay out late every night for the first half of the semester and attend class but not do much studying. Fun, right? Unfortunately, the consequences of such freedom can be devastating. Your grades start to slack, and you end up losing scholarships because your GPA suffered from the lack of effort. I know that predicament all too well, as I made the mistake of not putting enough effort into my classes and ignoring those responsibilities. Because of the mistakes I have made, I urge you to be careful in how much freedom you give yourself when going out while the responsibilities of college go unnoticed. Now, college tuition and boarding are costly reminders that you are no longer in the relatively cheaper setting of high school. The freedom to make your own schedule and be more self-determinant is great when used properly to pursue the career you want and be the person you choose. Responsibilities, however, wait for no one and cannot be ignored for long.  You are no longer able to pass the blame onto someone else as easily or try to wriggle out of something you have done without some sort of consequence. Responsibility is learned whether you wanted to learn it or not.

The opportunities of college can be a welcome mediator between the freedom to choose and responsibilities. You are given many opportunities at college to see who you want to be as well as where you want to go in life. Whether you want a career in medicine or a career in art, the opportunity will arise if you are prepared to act. For example, I was given the opportunity multiple times through the UWF Kugelman Honors Program to be actively involved in volunteer work at the beach and getting to know student leaders. I was also given the opportunity to be a leader in the program and talk to current leaders about leadership positions currently held by Honors Students at UWF. I chose to go after these opportunities and gained new responsibilities while making advances into the field I want a career in by taking steps to show my leadership skills and potential. These opportunities were presented to me by a fellow Honors Student who was a leader in both RHA and the Kugelman Honors Program. With the support and encouragement of my wonderful fellow Infinite Wisdom Staff Writer Jade, I am now the Secretary of RHA. The only reason I now have the opportunity to show who I am now and what I can do is that I changed my ways from the beginning of my freshman year to the end of it. I still take time to be free, go to the beach, and relax, but now I can better balance the fun with the responsibilities of college life. With my current leadership position, I am responsible for helping other people make college easier for themselves, and I would not have been able to do this if I had not chosen to change how I handled my new found freedom. College is all about trying out different things to see how you will respond to them such as student organizations, fitness classes, courses in varying subjects, and new life experiences.

If you learn to balance your freedoms and responsibilities while going after new opportunities in college, you will be all the better for it. How you do it is up to you, but I would suggest from experience that you seek the advice of peer mentors who can help steer you in the right direction.

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What is Honors?

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By Jade Jacobs

This article can be considered as an open letter to the incoming freshmen. Look at this as a mini crash-course on “what have I gotten myself into” of sorts. If you’re like most of us, you’re moving off to college and joining the Kugelman Honors Program because an honors student is what you’ve always been. Hailing from the lands of AP and dual enrolled course work, you feel like college is just another step on the way to that dream job. Sure, having “graduated with honors” on your diploma looks nice for your resumé, but being a member of the Kugelman Honors Program offers so much more than a check mark in a box. It’s not just about the prestige or specialized classes, it’s about a network and community that will have impacts lasting long after graduation.

This fall I’ll be starting my third year within the Kugelman Honors Program, and if someone had told me when I started that I would be in the position I’m in today, I probably would’ve nodded at the ground and silently walked away. Working my way up from an introverted freshman to running student organizations such as the Residence Hall Association and National Residence Hall Honorary wasn’t something I had planned, it’s something that resulted from connections I made on campus and within Honors. Stepping out of my comfort zone has never been easy, but the people I’ve become surrounded by here have made it an adventure. I could have easily hidden myself away in my room freshman year and avoided the amazing events Honors and UWF offer, but I never would’ve met many of the most interesting people at UWF. Bonding with my mentor Alyssa and waving ‘hello’ to my across-the-hall neighbor in my first few days here ended up gaining me two of my best friends. Alyssa ended up inspiring me to become an Honors mentor myself, leading to more wonderful experiences and an amazing support system with my colleagues.

In everything from simply attending Honors Council meetings and volunteering or enjoying committee events, to going to Honors retreat, presenting at conferences, and studying abroad, the Kugelman Honors Program is more than just a line on paper. Honors gives you the opportunity to broaden your horizon, build character, learn and strengthen leadership skills, and be a part of something much larger than yourself. All you need to do is decide that you want to make it happen. Opportunity is knocking, it’s time to choose whether or not you’re going to open the door.

Dream For Tomorrow, Live For Today

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By Jade Jacobs

From the moment a child is able to utter a coherent sentence, the question comes up. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Wide eyed and mind reeling, we blurt the first thing that comes to mind. As we grow older, the questions never leave us. “What are you doing this weekend?” “Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?” “What will your wedding be like?” These questions all share a common theme: they plan for a future that we aren’t guaranteed to have. By the time we are eighteen, we may be less bobble-headed and glassy-eyed than that three-year-old version of ourselves, but many of us are still far from being able to answer the question that has plagued us. Even now, seventeen years after first being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I could have a different answer every day.

As a society, it has been so deeply ingrained in our psyche to set goals and make plans that we’ve forgotten what it means to live in the moment. We’ve forgotten what it means to appreciate those we surround ourselves with not for what they do for us, but simply because they’re here. We’ve forgotten what it means to wake up early not to get that workout in or clock in the extra hours, but to simply take in the sunrise. We’ve become so focused on who we’re going to be, that we’ve forgotten who we are.

I’ve come to realize that people bounce between two modes. We’re either planning, or we’re waiting for plans to happen. If someone isn’t planning a trip, then they’re counting down the days until they leave. If we aren’t planning what classes we’ll take, then we’re waiting for them to start (or waiting for them to end). This loop of monotony never ceases. We give ourselves the illusion of change by looking forward to a future that seems different from today, when all we do is fall into the same patterns over and over.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught that I need to think three moves ahead of the next action I’ll be taking. There will always be the next step that needs a path to follow or the next set of doors where only one can be opened. I’ve spent most of my years thinking about where each path would lead, or what is on the other side of each door, that I forget to see what trees line the paths or what colors the doors are painted. Time that I can’t get back was spent worrying about where I need to be tomorrow and not enough of it was used to enjoy where I am right now.

However, there are moments that make me think by pulling me out of this uncertain future and immersing me in the present. My favorites of these moments are cold sand sifting through my toes, the Milky Way stretched out across the sky, a million lights mirrored on the waves, and the moon, orange as if aflame, climbing high or laying to rest on the horizon. We need to take in these small moments and realize that they are much bigger than they seem. It’s the times we take for granted that we so dearly wish to return to. Don’t let today be just another grain of sand in the hour glass. To reach your dreams tomorrow, you first have to let yourself dream them up today.

The Squirrels, The Myths, The Legends

 

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Photo from the Pensacola News Journal

By Jade Jacobs

For years, there has been lore on the University of West Florida campus regarding the existence of rare albino squirrels residing between the Information Technology building (79) and Math/Engineering building (4). Many students have their own theories about why the squirrels are here or what their purpose is among us. Although up to two have been seen at the same time, no one knows if there are more out there. A sighting of even one albino squirrel is said to alter a person’s mind and enlighten them to a bit more of life’s grand story. In hopes of gaining more insight to the mysteries of these aloof animals, students were asked to share their beliefs and myths about these legendary squirrels. These are their stories.

Long ago, the 6 colleges educated students as a university; then, everything changed when the funding arrived. Only the albino squirrel, master of all 6 disciplines, could divide funds. But when UWF needed him most, he vanished. Years passed until students discovered new albino squirrels living near building 4. Although the squirrels’ finance skills are great, they have a lot to learn before they’re ready to give any money. But I believe, they can save UWF.” – Albino squirrel advocate.

The white squirrel is a vengeful demon whose physical body was used in a ritual on UWF campus. He now roams the grounds looking for the people that caused his transformation in an attempt to repay them for their kindness.” – Jerrad H.

He’s an international squirrel from Antarctica here to study human behavior” – A friend from afar.

Not only are there rumors as to how the squirrels came to call UWF home, but mystery also surrounds exactly where the squirrels live on campus.

I heard it’s responsible for the weird missing reports on the nature trail.” – Patrick L.

It has been said that if you rub its head 3 times and scream ‘Yahtzee!’, class grades will improve miraculously.” – A believer.

Seeing him is an omen that you’ll make an A on your next test” – Brianna M.

Even further speculation has gone into why the squirrels have their prominent color in the fur-st place.

Supposedly, he jumped into a highly chlorinated pool. Some humans think it’s a ghost, but it’s far from dead.” – Anthony N.

The albino squirrel is the embodiment of unfulfilled wishes and dreams of all college students. That’s why it lacks color, with inadequacy and disappointment comes loss of wonder.” – A student in search of hope.

He was caught in a hurricane and the salt from the sea water turned his fur white.” – Jamar G.

Some students are firm believers in the existence and powers of the albino squirrels, while others just think it’s a tall, fluffy tale. Though it’s true that there is no conclusive evidence to back up these reports, the fantasy alone is enough to keep the dream alive. Whether you choose to believe these accounts is up to you. However, one thing is for certain: the imagination of college students knows no bounds in cases where oddly pigmented animals come into play.

Towards Change

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Photo by Jade Jacobs

By Jade Jacobs

I know where I am, because I’ve seen where I’ve been. Although I’m not sure where I’m going, I know I won’t be back again. The past has snares that bind, and the future’s high beams blind, yet I leave footprints behind me as I move forward towards change.

The path I’m walking is far from straight. Some stretches have holes hiding as they await an unobservant foot. My gait becomes awkward when I wade within the water, waist deep, wishing to wash me away. The undertow shifts underfoot and undermines the purchase put beneath my own weight. The surface of this cypress swamp sits still. The mossy haze mocks me as a woven wood of roots wind the path into a maze. Still, I move forward towards change.

Occasionally the sun beats down, providing my head a glistening crown and sheaths my body in a crimson cloak. Each step another hot coal stoked. The arid climate a threat to choke me of the breath I hold so dear. Mirages taunt of oasis near but sand sweeps, serpentine, and swirls to sear my sight. Still, I move forward towards change.

Clouds converge to cover the sky, while lightening crackles and creatures cry curses to the storm that soaks them and soils their shelters. The path becomes soggy and seeps to my bones. There’s no place to dry in and no hearth to make warm. Yet frogs plop into puddles and worms rise from the earth. Unbothered by the torrential pour, they spring forward to embrace the storm, and I move forward towards change.

When darkness falls on an open sky, the stars glisten and remind me why I march on. For just as they sail through celestial seas, I too feel a burning need to strive for whatever lies beyond what can be seen. Through the cosmos waltz flaming ships that never settle, but take their risks so every petal blooms into constellation. Thus, we all move forward towards change.

Meditation and Chi: The Energy Force That Connects Us

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By Jade Jacobs

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are an entire ocean in a drop.” ~Rumi

At the core of every major religion and spiritual belief system lies the practice of meditation. When we look deeper, we see that meditation is defined as “the disclosure of considered thoughts on a subject” or “spending time in quiet thought,” and we can see how meditation truly is the center of religious practices. In this case prayer, philosophical questioning, and 2 a.m. discussions about our purpose in the world are all considered variations of meditation. Today, meditation, along with other ancient practices, is most commonly associated with the Eastern Hemisphere. However, centering exercises, such as meditation, are more than their typical portrayal of a way to connect spiritually to a deity; they allow us to focus our energy inward on our own personal well-being. In modern society, we tend to become so fixated on work, classes, and other obligations that we forget to allocate time to work on ourselves.

A notion that I personally believe in is that each of us are connected. Whether you follow a more faith- or strictly science-based outlook on the world, both tell us that the energy in our universe has been here from the beginning. None is added, and none truly leaves. Energy flows through the system in a cyclical fashion. Our bodies and belongings return their energy to the earth and are reborn in new forms of life. Our life energy flows on as well, whether to an afterlife, reincarnated, or with our bodies back into nature. This energy connects each of us to one another similarly like how the roots of a rain forest intertwine to connect each tree, each branch, and each leaf. The energy flows through the forest providing life, and it connects each of us as well.

Just as the energy connects us to one another, it flows within each person individually. An ancient belief is that the human body harbors seven chakras, or pools of life energy called chi. Each chakra is connected to a different element, and is governed and blocked by a different trait. To help restore peace to the body, mind, and soul, the chakras must be unblocked in order from bottom to top, similar to how river dams are opened and water is allowed to flow.

The first chakra is the root chakra located at the base of the spine, and is connected to the element of earth. It’s governed by survival, and is blocked by fear. Meditating on this chakra teaches us to realize our fears, and accept them so they no longer control or burden us. The chi flows into this chakra from the sacral chakra located in the lower abdomen. This chakra is connected to water, governed by pleasure, and blocked by guilt. Meditating on the sacral chakra opens the mind to the guilt that weighs us down to teach us that negative things happen, but dwelling on negativity only clouds our judgement of the present. The chi flows to this chakra from the third chakra in the solar plexus, located just below the ribcage. This chakra is connected to fire, is governed by will power, and is blocked by shame. Meditating on the fire chakra allows us to continue from the previous chakra and let go of the negativity that plagues us. The shame blocking the fire chakra is often tied to the guilt of the previous; both must be left in the past to cleanse these chakras.

Unblocking the lower chakras allows for us to move into the upper chakras, starting in the heart. This chakra is connected to air, is governed by love, and blocked by grief. Harboring grief locks the chakra and mind from expressing emotions clearly, and can lead to internal strife. In Chinese medicine, common psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can occasionally be attributed to a blocked air chakra. Disorders are said to be due to the tension and pressure of the chi pooling within the air chakra which renders the body unable to properly handle the complex emotions. Furthermore, if cleared, the throat chakra, connected to sound, allows us to open the pathway of truth that is blocked by lies. The lies blocking this chakra are often the ones we tell ourselves, ones that keep us from fully realizing and accepting who we are. Our throat chakras are commonly blocked, and are especially difficult to cleanse. In a society that instills constant pressure of who you should be, it is difficult to accept who you truly are. However, acceptance and elevated self-identity leads to cleansing the following chakra: the third eye. Located between the brows, the third eye chakra is connected to light, governed by insight, and blocked by illusions. Throughout time, one of society’s greatest illusions is that of division. As stated previously, everything is connected through the chi it possesses. To unblock the third eye chakra, we must let go of divisiveness, and realize that there is no “us” or “them.” We are all only parts of one whole energy force. The seventh and final chakra is the crown chakra, located just above the head. It is governed by pure cosmic energy and blocked by attachment. Few people are able to see past the material world to connect directly to the chi that comprises life as a whole. We become so attached to the objects, emotions, and people around us that how completely connected we all are becomes difficult to see, and to accept.

We are all connected to each other, and to life as a whole, through a web of chi that flows incessantly through time and space. Like leaves in a great rain forest, we breathe as one. Meditation and centering practices aren’t attached to a specific religion or culture, they’re exercises that allow us to tap into this chi to let it flow freely through us. It is a way for us to connect to ourselves and others through the chi we borrow during our lifetime.

University Rhapsody: A Four Year Journey

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Photo by Jade Jacobs

By Jade Jacobs

Do you ever wonder if the life you’re living is real or just a fantasy, a figment of the imagination? Sometimes we feel like the stress just gets to be too much and we get caught in a landslide with no escape from the reality of what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Then when the weather’s nice we’ll take a break, maybe go out to the beach to open our eyes, look up to the sky and see clarity. We’re just college students, and we need no sympathy because days are easy come, easy go and grades are a little high, little low. We just flow with how the semester goes and anyway the wind blows.

When life gets to be too much, we call up our moms and tell her how we kill our motivation by how much of a crapshoot it is with how much we’ll actually get done by the time it’s due. When we got to college, we felt like our life had just begun, but now we’ve gone and thrown it all away by trying to “grow up” too quickly. We don’t want to make her cry along with us but let her know that if we don’t call again tomorrow to carry on as if nothing really matters.

It’s too late to go back now. Stress sends shivers down our spines and without sleep our bodies ache all the time. Some days we tell everyone goodbye so we can go face the truth of how much work we’ve gotten ourselves into. Even if we joke about it, we don’t want to die, but sometimes we wish we had never been born at all. Sometimes we see a little silhouette of our stress and just want to act like Scaramouche and to frolic about and do the Fandango. Other times, deadlines and exams loom eerily like thunderbolts and lightning that frighten us. We receive exam scores and wonder if we’ll ever reach the greatness of Galileo or be able to scheme like Figaro. Will we ever be magnifico?

We’re just poor college students and sometimes we feel like nobody loves us. We’re just poor students from poor families. We wish there was a way to spare us this life from this university! Too often our mental health is easy come easy go… Will anxiety every let us go? We pray, “Bismillah.” No, It will not let us go and often time it feels like Beelzebub has a devil put aside for each of us. Trying to keep our GPA up feels like we’re being stoned and spit in the eye. It seems social groups are just here to love us and leave us to die. By the time senior year comes and goes, we can’t do this anymore and just have to get out, just have to graduate from here.

Then the college years are over. We look back and see that all the stress over our grades, social groups, and resume builders doesn’t really matter. Anyone can see now that it never really mattered in the long run. We move on with our life, anyway the wind blows.
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