The Joy Of Pen Pals

By Tess Berghoff

In the age of instant communication, there is something so beautiful about sitting down and hand-writing a letter to a loved one and receiving one back. Maybe it’s the hand writing which seems to say so much about a person. Or maybe it’s the physical aspect of opening an envelope and carefully unfolding the paper. Maybe it’s even more special because these letters aren’t just texts that fall into the abyss. Whatever it may be, writing letters is one of my favorite past times. 


Currently, I have three pen pals. The first is a good friend of mine I met while studying abroad in Ireland. She lives in Boston now and our letters are usually very long full of updates about school, stressors, and comic relief. My second pen pal is one of my dear friends from Santa Clara who travels all over the world. Throughout his stays in India over the summer to studying in El Salvador this quarter, we have kept up our diligent pen palling (not sure if that’s a verb, but I am making it one). I love opening his letters and reading about the various cities he’s been to and the people he meets. My last pen pal is my wonderful sister, Kayla, who lives in New York City. Our letter writing is rather recent and sparked because I ordered some new stationary online and it reminded me of her. It has a little rose at the top of the letter head and I instantly thought, “Oh Kayla will love this,” so I wrote her a note. I respond to them in different ways from long hand-written notes on binder paper to that cute stationary for Kayla, but each pen pal holds a special place in my heart. 


Keeping in touch with long-distance friends and family is tough due to the constant rush of life and days full of work and to do lists. Writing letters makes it easier to cultivate the relationships that aren’t right in front of you. I check my mail every day and receiving a letter feels like Christmas morning. Around 1 PM I am usually home for a quick lunch break. This is some great timing because that happens to be when the mail man stops by. I run out to the mail box and when I see my name on the envelope, my heart races. I can tell just by the handwriting which pen pal it’s from, and with each person, I get that same rush of joy knowing I get to read about their lives and miss them a little less. 


I cherish each correspondence and the envelopes stack up on my nightstand. Having a pen pal, or three, is something I lovingly value. My three pen pals span across the country and western hemisphere, but writing to them makes me feel like they are just a few miles away. 

On Rejection

By Giannina Ong

Yesterday, I heard back about the Rhodes Scholarship. (And as you can probably discern from the title of this post, I am not going to be a Rhodes Scholar.) So, how am I dealing with rejection?

From my perspective, the best policy is honesty when it comes to these things. I am heartbroken. Not because I was deluded into thinking that I was meant to be a Rhodes Scholar, but because I put my whole heart into it. I wrote a passionate personal essay. I spilled my guts about my dreams for my academic future to professor after professor.

Then the doubt settles in and I wonder if I wrote about the right thing. Should I have instead written a more passionate, timely, a la "Me too," essay? Should I have written about my ability to multitask? Did I not present my best self? Do I even have a best self?

This other part of me feels that I was simply not enough. That is: what if I had decided to go straight to college after high school? What if I had chosen the better options in life instead of driving into tumultuous waters of typical teenage life? Had I made the wrong choices that led me to this rejection? I think even of the guy I flipped off while driving last week and wonder if this is karma.

The best thing to do is tell people, and listen. I held it in for a few days, got through my classes and homework, and then let it go. I told the people around me because the frustration was going to affect my mood and how I acted. (It does not excuse bad behavior, but does clarify cranky and moodiness.) Telling my mother was the hardest thing to do because I felt like I had let her down. But that is not true.

People say that Millennials have a hard time with rejection because we are so used to succeeding. The truth is Millennials don't allow themselves to fail; we don't take enough chances. I am glad I took this chance and I am better for it. I know what I want to do with my life, whether or not I know how to get there. I am still going to pursue academia, because I know this is what I want to do and I know that I am good/relatively decent at it.

Looking past rejection can be tough, but it can also motivate you dig deeper.

Top Seven Places to Kiss a Cryptid

By Shelley Valdez

i’m talking MOTHMAN. i’m talking IN-BETWEEN SPACES. i’m talking TRUE OCTOBER VIBES.



but only at 8PM, 

and only after drinking 2 cheap coffees, 3 red bulls, and a slushie

and trying to fight your own shadow in the parking lot.



is it the neon lights? the dirty linoleum? 

    the flimsy wrapping paper? the cross-eyed figurines? 

or is it the quiet but powerful capitalistic reassurance 

that you could buy anything you see? 

the unfamiliarity of that experience 

and the strange authority you are permitted to carry 

could surely summon Mothman. 



it’s the pins, my dude. the pins. 

where do they go after you knock them down? 

i mean, i guess we all sort of think we know,

but do we? do we really?



it’s the muffled noise—

the music far from you, but still reverberating through the walls.

and it’s the desperation, too.

you want (or have) to be there, but you don’t. 

and you feel alone in there too

(but you don’t).



i know what you’re thinking. didn’t i already mention a gas station? wouldn’t they all be the same?

but the gas station you go to out of habit is different 

from the one you’ve never known. 

especially during a roadtrip, and especially alone. 

as you lament the .000007 ply toilet paper in the bathroom 

and scavenge for new snacks

you feel drawn to the other customers, 

but you don’t know what to say.

any one of them could be from another dimension,

    but maybe you’ll never know.



once, in a stairwell at a museum,

i heard the most beautiful singing. but no matter how high i climbed, 

i couldn’t find the source of the sound. 

as i began to get lost, 

out of nowhere, I called out, 


“you have a wonderful voice”


i wanted to be true to my gratitude, even if it was

to something invisible.

in the end, the singer turned out to be a body guard.

but there, in the stairwell, we had both been believing

in ghosts.



but only when you’ve just gotten up to pee, 

or when you haven’t been sleeping at all. 


you’ve known it by the way 

you never let any of your limbs 

hang off the mattress. 

you’ve known it by the way 

you always speed-walk back to your bed 

after turning out the lights. 


there’s something you see in the mirror, but it doesn’t look like you. 

don’t make eye contact.

A Few Ways to Let Stress Go

By Ally O'Connor

As we head into the second half of the quarter, our stress as students is mounting. Midterms continue, with the simultaneous emergence of final projects, presentations, and papers. Sometimes, obviously, it can be a lot to handle, so this week, I’ve listed a few things that have helped me to find calmness in even the most stressful of times. Maybe these methods can help someone else too.

1.  Breathe.

I know it seems obvious, but consciously take deep, full breaths. While this is a small, involuntary thing, it may also be the most important. As we rush through each busy day, we rarely stop to take a moment for ourselves. Help yourself to relax and to feel centered by consciously breathing. 

2.  Listen to music.

Listen to whatever puts a smile on your face. Let it motivate you and be a source of strength.

3.  Work Out.

Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling within your brain and body. I know that we all have so much to do, but taking an hour off here or there to work out might actually help you to gain a more productive and positive mindset when you get back to studying.

4.  Spend time with people who care about and support you.

Lean on the people whom you love. Let them be there for you. Call your mom or vent to your best friend. Somebody is always there to listen.

5. Take a pause from technology.

Sometimes staring at a computer screen all day, with the nonstop commotion that is social media and messaging, can give you quite a headache. Take a little bit of time to put it all away. It’s okay to take a break from technology now and again. Just focus on yourself.

6.  Cook good food…and eat it. 

When have cookies not solved a problem? What about macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes? Comfort food always moves us into a good place.

7.  Get off campus.

Take a walk, get some ice cream with friends, have dinner with your parents or do whatever allows you to clear your mind. Because a lot of us live on campus and are engrossed in the stressful academic environment, it is healthy to take a little bit of space and time from school.

8.  Sleep.

Sleeping helps to refocus, re-charge and re-balance your brain. A good night’s sleep can alleviate some of the stress and place you in a better frame of mind.

Drawing With Purpose

By Tess Berghoff

Zaria Forman is an artist striving to bring awareness to climate change and show the fragility of Earth. Forman makes massive pastel drawings of glaciers to document climate change. Her drawings are incredibly realistic and overwhelming. At first glance, they look like photographs and while a drawing resembling a photograph doesn’t make it too far in the “Art World,” her pieces seem to transcend that limit. A photograph of these glaciers could not convey the staggering impact of the situation at hand. She personally travels around the world to see these remote landscapes which gives the unbelievable realism to her work. She gave a Ted Talk on the concept of her art and why she makes it. In her talk, she describes the purpose of her work, “My drawings celebrate what we all stand to lose.” Art that sends a message about our dire need for change and environmental consciousness is the art I want to see. 

Forman has been a huge inspiration to me as an artist trying to make some sort of impact with my own work. Combining global issues, whether it be climate change or social justice, with art has been a goal of mine since the moment I decided I wanted to be an artist. Seeing Zaria Forman show her work in more places (fun fact: her drawings have been featured on the set design for House of Cards) and gain a greater following has made me believe it is possible to use art as a foundation for change. 


Covering the Cover Letter

By Giannina Ong

This is a hot topic for seniors and those seeking internships: what to write about in your cover letter/personal statement. There are, of course, differing opinions, depending on the industry you see yourself in.

From my experience in the retail industry, I've been given two kinds of advice: (1) "We don't read them” and (2) "Don't make spelling errors." Furthermore, for some jobs, the cover letter is not the entry point but instead a deciding factor — when two identical resumes come in, a cover letter could shift the winds in your favor.

If you are pursuing academia or further education, you will need to write a personal statement. Either way, you should still write a solid letter whether it will be seen or not. Advice from a professor was to keep these three things in mind:

1. What do you have to bring to the table?

2. What do you want?

3. What are you going to do with it?

Number one is pretty simple: tell the reader who you are, BUT in the context that will be applicable to the reader. If you are applying for a sales job, don't tell them about the time you jumped off a cliff unless it is for an outdoor retailer or if you are literally selling cliff jumping passes. Or, if you are applying to be a social media intern for a clothing brand, discuss yourself in the context of clothing and fashion, but more importantly your knowledge of social media.

Number two can be either tricky or simple: state the job you want, or if it is a personal statement, state your interests or your area of study. If you are going into research, you might want to study up on the topic of your choice.

Number three is where the imagination comes in: where is this opportunity going to take you, and how will this fit into your life? From a social justice angle, how will this opportunity help you change the world?

My last piece of advice would be to be yourself, but if you are a wordy English major like me, then "Keep it simple, stupid!" (KISS). Good luck with essays and remember to always save and write multiple drafts. Who knows, maybe some of the bad drafts could lead to a great piece of nonfiction work you could submit to the Santa Clara Review!

A Few Lessons on Life from my 92 Year Old Best Friend

By Ally O'Connor

    Since I was born, my grandparents have played an important role in my life. I have always considered them my second set of parents and two of my closest friends. Sadly, a little over a year ago, at age eighty-seven, my Grandma Sophie passed away. The experience of losing someone I loved so much is nothing I could put into words, and not a day passes that she doesn’t come to mind.

    Today, I am still very close with my Grandpa Ed. His life is vastly different than when Sophie was alive, but he has been resilient and successfully independent since her passing. Because of my experiences with my elderly grandparents, I enrolled in a class this quarter entitled “The Anthropology of Aging.” One of the class’s larger projects involves an interview with a man or woman over age seventy, so I was thrilled to have this opportunity to ask my grandfather some questions that have always made me curious.

    Although the professor asked that we speak to our interviewees for only ten minutes, my Grandpa Ed and I spoke for forty-five minutes, and went on to have dinner and more discussion afterwards. He explained to me that he feels fortunate every day to have lived so long, because when he was young, people were lucky to live to be seventy. He also relived both his and my grandma’s experiences with lung cancer (they were diagnosed about two years apart in their seventies). Although I was afraid to bring it up, I asked my grandpa if he had worried about dying. He said he’d genuinely feared losing his life, and prayed for more time. Grandma Sophie, he said, was very emotional when she received her diagnosis; she had hoped to live a few more years to see my First Communion, and wound up seeing not only that, but also my high school graduation. My Grandpa Ed said they valued the many “extra years God gave them” after their battles with cancer by worrying less and always remembering to be grateful.

    He told me that getting older is not always easy, but the lifetime of memories are his greatest possessions. Unlike my Grandma Sophie, he didn’t always move with the times, and still doesn’t own a cell phone or computer, but he is definitely getting better at taping Giants games on the television and playing with the Amazon “Alexa” that my cousin bought him for company. He divulged that he understands he’s in the “last mile,” but is aided by his religion as each day goes by; he isn’t afraid, but is “ready.” My grandpa appreciates each day he is able to spend with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and feels fortunate to believe that when he passes on, he will be with my grandma again. Our interview really made me realize that he thinks about life from a different perspective than I do at nineteen, and that I have much to learn.

A Few Things I Have Learned About Kids

By Ally O'Connor

I’ve been training in various styles of dance for about sixteen years now, and began working as a dance teacher two years ago. Although many of my most gratifying moments as an instructor involved helping a student improve their leaps or turns, some of my favorite moments were simply found in the questions and comments I directly received or overheard from some of my youngest dancers, a few of which are listed below.

1. During a lunch break at a summer dance camp, I accidentally mentioned that my parents ran into, and had a conversation with, Hillary Clinton on a trip to New York. The moment the words left my mouth, I knew that I had made a mistake, as one six-year old exclaimed, “My mommy says Donald Trump is an asshole.” Fortunately, I was able to divert the conversation before more political banter erupted.

2. One of my students was especially imaginative and would become fully immersed in his solo pretend games, sometimes even inviting others to join him (while still in character). At the end of an hour long jazz class, students line up to receive a cute stamp on their hand, and this particular boy was the last in line. As I firmly pressed the stamp into the ink pad, he looked at me frustrated and said, “I have to go pick up the damn kids.” I figured that it was one of his imaginative games and tried not to laugh, instead replying that I didn’t know he had children, to which he countered, “There’s no way the wife is going to go get them… You know women!” He then, still in character, took his stamp, growled, and ran outside of the studio and into his mom’s arms with a sweet call of “Mommy!”

3. Many of my students like to ask why I, at the ripe old age of nineteen, lack a husband. (Because kids predominantly interact with their thirty-five or forty-year old parents, they expect all adults to be at the same place in life.) They don’t understand why I, as an adult, still attend school and live with my parents, one little girl even going so far as to advise me that I “better get married soon” or else I’d become a “sinister.” She meant to say spinster. 

4. During a tap class, I taught a young boy who was often distracted, sometimes abruptly stopping dancing to peruse the objects and posters around the room. At one point, we were rehearsing a dance for a performance, and I requested that all the kids stand in their opening positions. The majority of the group posed with their hands on their hips and one foot flexed as instructed, yet he didn’t join in. When I called to him, “Hey buddy, can I see your pose?” he replied with the biggest grin and put his thumbs up, still continuing to do his own thing. He makes me smile, but doesn't listen to a thing I say.

5. After class one day, two little girls questioned my age. I asked them to guess first. One answered thirteen and the other replied seventy-three. I’m nineteen.

6. During a summer dance camp, I brought a group of five little girls to the bathroom. Usually, children always race into the stalls and continue to talk each other, while I pull out paper towels to assist each girl after they have washed their hands. On one particular trip, one young girl shouted from her stall “I’m going number one!” and soon the other girls chimed in, “me too!” “me three!” This was a completely typical children’s bathroom conversation until one girl exclaimed, “I’m going number five!”

7. This was the first card I ever received from a student. A five-year old little girl dropped it off at the studio about a week after she finished her dance camp, and it’s been on my wall ever since.  Kids are weird and strange, but they have the most genuinely kind hearts.  I am so fortunate that I get to work with them and smile at every silly and wonderfully sweet thing they do.


Getting Personal: Tips on How to write a Personal Statement

By Giannina Ong

As English majors, we often find ourselves separating the “I” from our classwork. This maintenance of objectivity is an illusion, of course; everything we write is something we personally think to be true. The falsehood of objectivity within my typical coursework made beginning to write my personal statement or cover letter difficult. I began (falsely) by thinking, What do I want people to know? 

The problem with that? I am always writing about what I want people to know, whether it's about Shakespeare, television, women, popular culture, etc. In a classroom setting, I was separated from the ownership of those ideas and thus, when I began by writing what I wanted people to know, I wrote distant quips about the realities of the entertainment industry and of the influence of popular culture — all things that I care about, but nothing really about myself. 

There is something very daring about the nonfiction that I read as Nonfiction Editor of the Santa Clara Review. The stories are so nakedly intimate; even if it's an essay, the author is putting a part of their mind/body/soul out there for us to view and at times, judge, and more often, understand. (Often, the comments I send out ask that authors provide more of this sense of intimacy.) 

In a personal statement, you need to write about yourself. On the surface, it seems so simple. But for someone who hasn’t written a sentence with a first-person pronoun in a while, it can be startlingly tough. Add on to that the virtue of humility, and I can’t even name the best parts about myself without blushing and feeling embarrassed.

Expose yourself. Not the cringing details that you intend to bring to the grave with you, but in a way that an observer would, and then dive deeper and analyze who you are from your perspective. Why do you think that way? What experiences have you had that formed you? Then tie in what you want people to know coming from your personal standpoint; I know, it's such a subjective bedrock to sell yourself from (but everything is truly subjective). 

Next, I will discuss how your personal statement/cover letter should operate. Because it is not just enough to know yourself and talk about who you are. Yes, it’s a niche audience and specific genre, but also a great life skill to have. 

Up Close and Personal with Jesuit Refugee Services

By Tess Berghoff


Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) is an organization that directly aids refugees in different locations around the world. It was founded in 1980 and now has programs in 51 countries. My brother, Garrett Desmond Berghoff, graduated from Santa Clara University in 2016 and took a position with JRS in Malawi, Africa, this past May. He works for a program called HEM, Higher Education at the Margins, in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp. This is the largest camp in Malawi, hosting approximately 28,000 people seeking refuge from violence. To spread awareness on the lives of the people in the camp and what it’s like to work there, I asked him the following questions.

Q: So, what exactly do you do?

Garrett: I’m a Community Service Officer managing four different teams: the library staff, alumni relations, the alumni association, and the communications team. Within alumni relations, I manage projects and community involvement, and within the communications team, I’m in charge of all communication with the camp. I do photography for events like weddings, funerals, and graduations at camp. I’m also the Editor and Chief of the quarterly newsletter, and I manage the informal English program where we currently only have 6 English teachers.

Q: How do you do all that by yourself?

G: [laughs] I honestly don’t know.

Q: What is your housing like? How has this impacted your experience?

G: Well, I have 2 houses, one in Lilongwe and one in Dzaleka. I stay in Dzaleka with three other JRS workers during the week from Tuesday to Friday, and life is much more difficult than what most people are used to. My housemates and I wake up at 6:30 in the morning and we heat up the m’boula, which is basically a mini charcoal grill. We get two jerry cans, go to the borehole for water, bring the water back to the house, and heat it in a big pot for my morning bath. Once the water is heated, I shampoo my hair and wash in the outhouse, a brick shelter. Afterwards, I go in and change my clothes and make some tea and toast. In the evenings, we return to the camp to buy eggs, pork, garlic, etc., for dinner.

Some nights we try to watch a movie, but we often don’t have power. We only have one solar lamp, so we have to use candles. We charge our devices at camp before we go home. Last night, it was already dark when I went to shower. I saw a massive spider and four cockroaches and just said “nope” and walked back into the house. I have come to understand what it’s like to live without first world amenities, but even though our house is in Dzaleka, I will never know what it’s truly like to be a refugee.

Q: What is one story that encompasses the heartache these people face on a daily basis?

G: One man was forced out of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009 and, unfortunately, his whole family didn’t make it to Malawi. He was the only one who spoke English and they didn’t have any money, so he built bricks for 2 months. JRS’s HEM provided a safe haven for him. Balancing education, providing food for his family, and getting an income was very difficult. He eventually graduated and was then able to help his family. He says, “Without HEM, I don’t know where I would be. Without this organization, I would be lost.” His story is one of many. Some persevere and some don’t.

Q: How has photography enhanced your experience and impacted others?

G: I use photography to capture emotion. It’s a vital tool at getting a glimpse into the life of a refugee and it helps people understand the complex emotions here. Sometimes this job can be overwhelming and I use photography to lighten the mood. I’ll go photograph kids; they love having their photos taken. It brings a lot of joy to people because they love seeing themselves on the camera. However, one of my primary reasons for photographing life here is to share it with people back home. I use social media as a way to inform others. Not a lot of people have been to a refugee camp, so it’s very foreign to most. I’m trying to make it more familiar.

Q: How have your opinions changed since you started working at Dzaleka?

G: It’s made me more frustrated at the lack of our initiative to help people abroad. I seem to notice overgeneralizations from politicians about refugees stealing our jobs or being terrorists. It’s a bunch of bullshit. I interact with people every day that would make the U.S. a better place, but, unfortunately, they aren’t given the opportunity to do so.

Q: How can we help from the States?

G: Well, you can help my community directly through the Gofundme I started. You can also become more informed on the life of refugees and understand that they are all individuals and they don’t fit into any stigma. They have their own desires and weaknesses. They are no different than you and me, but they were dealt a very unlucky hand completely out of their control. They didn’t choose this life; they were forced into it. We have had the privilege to create our own lives where theirs seem predetermined.


Garrett’s Instagram where you can see what he’s doing and his photos: @bergpup

Feminist Review of Wonder Woman

By Ally O'Connor

Wonder Woman is the empowering film for which female audiences have long been waiting. Gal Gadot, in her portrayal of the protagonist, Diana, Princess of the Amazons and “Wonder Woman” herself, embodies strength, power, and compassion. She acts as a heroine like few others — one who adopts the traditionally masculine role of defender, and executes the position even better than her male counterparts.

    The film follows Diana’s journey from child to adult and subsequent discovery of personal values and desires. When she meets American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and learns of a World War raging far beyond her island of Themyscira, she feels compelled to fulfill her “sacred duty to defend the world.”

    Themyscira, the island of women, is a land that rewrites history for the better.  Women are depicted as fierce warriors instead of mute servants to men. Further, the Greek mythology captured on the island helps to define Diana’s character as she embarks upon her journey.

    As the story unfolds, the plot is gripping, but at times funny, as viewers watch the emerging relationship between Diana and Steve. However, Wonder Woman is no romantic comedy.  Diana, Steve, and their few male companions fight for the greater good—to end the first World War and save as many lives as possible. Interestingly, each of the members of this heroic group have a different idea of how to conclude the devastation, Diana’s being the most fantastical.  She claims that Ares, the god of war, is the culprit for all of man’s hatred and that it is he who instills this volition to fight within human beings. According to her assertion, if Ares is vanquished, man will again be good.

    Diana’s strong will is evident throughout the movie as she consistently pushes back against Steve and all other men with whom she works, at one point even reminding Steve that “what [she] does is not up to [him].” These themes of independence are what grasp women and remind them of their own inner strength.

    The first two hours of the film contain this powerful message about refusing traditional gender roles, however, from my perspective, the last twenty minutes or so lack the same strength and contain an excessive amount of overdramatized superhero-style action.  I concede that unlike myself, action film fans might be amazed by the carefully choreographed fight scenes between Diana and Ares, but I found myself bored. While some of what occurred during those twenty minutes was vital to the plot, several instances were too drawn out. Had the director shortened some of the battle, the film’s conclusion would have been far cleaner.

    Overall, Wonder Woman delivers the powerful female heroine viewers have been longing to see.  With the exception of the overextended fight scenes at the end of the film, it is a fantastic creation.

So You Want to be a Grad Student

By Giannina Ong

In the Spring, I was getting a bit discouraged about applying to graduate schools and graduate fellowships because my parents had assumptions about the value of continuing my education (and because I had just completed a quarter where I was over my head in 7 classes and extracurriculars). Real-life irony: I am literally going from telling them in senior year of high school that I did not want to go to college (a story for another time) to telling them that I want to commit the next 4-8 years of my life seeking a Ph.D. That might have fueled their doubt. 

Even I began to doubt this life path too after talking to my mother about it. She was right that the job market in academia, as I am going for a research degree in the humanities, is on the decline, and that once I have been fully trained in 4-8 years, there may be an even sparser amount of job opportunities. Utility was at the front of her mind: how could I market my abilities, and what was the point of getting a specialized degree?

Upon thinking about this point of pragmatics, I realized that my answer was the same as the reason why I am a triple-major, double-minor student-athlete with commitments to social justice and our community: passion. I am passionate about the subject I want to pursue in my future studies, just as I am passionate about everything I am currently involved in as an undergraduate. Even if my area of interest is specific and thoroughly immersed theory not easily translated to the “real world,” my passion will allow me to still change the world.

A professor, whose mentorship I appreciate dearly, encouraged me to at least apply, especially when this realization/fear hit that I would not be graduating into a job with a steady income, but looking forward to more education and stipended living. This mentor pointed out that I was going to grad school not because I could not find a job, but because I wanted to. And she’s right; I could with my skill set find, and keep, a job, as I’ve done before (i.e. in the period of time, I was not going to college), but would I be truly happy and fulfilled if I had never tried to continue my education?

For what it’s worth, my mother came around with my father’s logic and now fully supports my goals and dreams of entering and changing the academic institution. And I am now so fully set on going to grad school and becoming an academic that, for me, seeking a Ph.D. is no longer a leap of faith. However, every path is different, and if considering a similar path, I would suggest cruel honesty with yourself about your potential and opportunities, and if you can’t dish out the honest self-evaluation yourself, find a mentor who will.

On Being a Student

By Giannina Ong

It seems that being a college student has become a necessary step in life, but that is not always so. Going to college is a privilege masked by the ever-normative reality that more and more jobs require a degree. However, there is a huge number of young people who are unable to go to college whether theirs is a matter of means or life circumstances. Thus, I ask: why are you at college?

For me, it has never been enough to simply do something because my parents told me to. And despite the fact that it seems true and universal in our capitalistic society, money cannot buy happiness; albeit, it can buy security to find happiness in some cases. 

Therefore, the answer I would give is as follows: I am here because I want to be here. I do not see myself growing and learning as a person in the ways that I have over the past 3 years in any other environment. 

But yes, I do feel the need—especially after this first last week (and while pondering my future graduate school endeavors)—to move on from certain more generalized learning and inquisitions. This is why my posts will be mostly graduate school theme, although I may from time to time reflect on instances of growth that have shaped me while at Santa Clara. Akin to student life being voluntary and optional in many ways, my pursuit of graduate level studies is not for all but is definitely a choice that I am consciously making. 

Choices abound in college and beyond it; I can’t wait to share more of my choices (good and bad) with you in the following weeks.

A Review of Disney's Response to Hurricane Irma

By Ally O'Connor

Two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma ripped across both the Caribbean Islands and Florida

leaving massive devastation in her wake. News stations described the Category 5 hurricane as the strongest observed in the Atlantic Ocean in recorded history. Days before Irma emerged as an imminent threat, my family and I were enjoying a Caribbean cruise, completely unaware of the destruction about to ensue. After disembarking, we drove up the scenic coastline of Florida and checked into Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. We were thrilled to be spending a few days at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

As our vacation progressed and earlier flights filled, our understanding of the impending natural disaster grew. A Disney hotel concierge honestly explained that flight cancellations were an increasing likelihood in the Orlando area and recommended that we begin to prepare for the worst. Our flight was still listed as “on time,” so we felt somewhat optimistic. The Orlando International Airport had released a statement explaining that no flights would take off later than 5:00 pm on Saturday and our flight was scheduled for 3:15 pm. We hoped that we might just make it.

Unfortunately, our flight was cancelled on Thursday. Soon after this discovery, we raced down to the hotel lobby to extend our stay at the Wilderness Lodge. Disney’s treatment of guests during this time of tumult was nothing less than five stars. While many other families faced similar situations to ours, the Disney employees greeted us and all other guests with kindness and understanding. We were able to secure a room and were generously offered extremely reduced hotel rates.

Friday morning, we received a detailed pamphlet that explained the coming days’ safety precautions and activities. We filled the refrigerator with water and food, as instructed, and placed towels at the base of all windows. Guests were permitted to enjoy Disney parks until their 9:00 pm closure on Saturday and were instructed to promptly return to their resorts. The Disney Parks would be closed for the next two days—a historic sixth closure since the the park’s 1971 opening. The pamphlet also informed us that at 10:00 pm on Saturday, a complete lockdown would take place—no one would be allowed to exit the building until authorities had lifted the area’s curfew on Monday evening.

Saturday was a strange day. My parents and I spent the night wandering around a desolate Epcot park, paying close attention to the safety precautions all around—lamps had been tied to their posts and covered in plastic, windows had been boarded, and flags, tables, chairs, and flower pots had been removed. However, the evening felt as if it were any other Floridian night. The only indicator of impending danger was a warm wind sweeping through the air. By 10:00 pm, we were back in our room staring out the window, watching the calm before the storm.

Sunday morning, I awakened to light rain and mild wind. This was it? My family and I watched the news and discovered that the storm’s timing had slowed—the curfew had been changed to 7:00 pm, when the strong hurricane force winds would begin. We then sauntered down to the lobby to find food and were completely surprised. The entire room was filled with playful Disney characters and dancing children. One employee led a dance party, while others helped with crafts, puzzles, and games. Disney had also added a large projector screen on which

“Peter Pan” was airing. The company had clearly gone above and beyond to ensure that guests of all ages felt safe and content in the hotel.

When we made our way to the restaurant, we found an extensive and delicious buffet for a very low price. Disney clearly prioritized guest experience over its own bottom line during this situation. With two hours before curfew, we decided to walk to the other Disney hotels. To our pleasure, we found similar dance parties, crafts, and food. Disney had truly prepared and offered all it could to make a difficult situation a little easier.

When the hurricane force winds finally arrived, it was terrifying for about 8 hours. The constant hundred mile per hour winds shook and rattled the windows and roared through every tiny crack. The pounding rain pelted sideways and streamed in under the windows and sliding glass door, while leaks ran across the floor. Trees bowed and bent to one direction, so much so that many snapped or branches flew, loudly thudding on the drenched concrete. The wind blew, lightning struck and thunder resounded with such force that I saw about twenty transformers explode with a spark, the eerie blue-green light illuminating the ferocious storm clouds.

In the morning, light exposed the devastation. Sidewalks were covered in water, branches, entire trees, and mud. Parking lots were transformed into lakes with trees and branches lying on top of dented and smashed cars. Many of the once tied street lamps had crashed across the street, shattering their glass panels among the fallen tree branches. My heart ached for the people who called this state home.

A few days later, I boarded a plane and made it to Santa Clara in time for the start of the school year. To many, this experience was so much more than several difficult and inconvenient days. To them, this hurricane ravaged their homes, towns, and livelihoods. As I write this

review of Disney today, I remember the people of Florida, and those of the Caribbean islands, who continue to suffer due to this natural disaster and wish them all the best in their efforts to rebuild.

In regards to my experience with Disney, I am extremely impressed by this company that did everything they could to help their guests through a tumultuous few days. The men and women who worked worked tirelessly throughout the hotel kindly answered all questions from numerous worried guests, while trying to organize every detail of the two lockdown days, from activities and dances with characters to removing lounge chairs from balconies and pool patios. Further, the discounts and free snacks and beverages provided were exactly the right antidote for a large company to offer during this tense situation. Most importantly, Disney did what it does best in making children (and adults) smile even in the most difficult of times. Disney is truly a five star company to which I offer nothing but respect.