Advice, Parents, Single Parent

Single parent of three kids? Haven’t set foot in a classroom in 20 years? Cristyn shares her tips for making the leap

Smiling white woman with red hair, in business attire
Cristyn Alspaugh, NU Scholar, Scholar of Stamina Bachelor of Business Administration

As the single parent of three preteen kidsand as someone who had not set foot in a classroom in over 20 yearsI have to admit I was a little afraid to go back to school. In fact, one could say I was petrified! I had the desire to go back to school, and I knew that I needed a college education if I was going to make a better life for me and my family But college seemed so daunting, so impossible. How would I be able to add school to an already full schedule? I have a fulltime job and my evenings were spent handling my responsibilities as a parent. My weekends were spent trying to find interesting and fun activities for my kids so that we could spend quality time together. Oh, and don’t forget cleaning the house, shopping, cooking, doctor and dentist appointments, school events, sleepovers, sports, and finding time to drink enough water! How would I ever find time for school? 

There were a thousand reasons for me not to go back to school. Time, money, my age, my insecurities about fitting in or even remembering how to be a student. I wanted to turn away. I would hear myself saying things like, “You can’t do this, it’s too hard, it’s too scary.” However, even as I heard myself piling on these negative thoughts, I could also heard my grandma’s voice in my head. Whenever I had been afraid to try something super scary (like broccoli) she would encourage me, telling me to “Be a brave girl.”  When I crossed my arms, pouted, and said “No, I can’t,” she would smile and explain that “Being brave isn’t about not being afraid. Everyone is afraid. True bravery is about being afraid but doing it anyway.” It’s funny how seemingly small lessons can have such a huge impact on our lives.  

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Cristyn & three of her biggest supporters

The encouragement and wisdom of people in my life like my Grandma helped me take the leap to return to class, and I have now been a National University Student for over a year. I was amazed by how quickly I remembered how to be a student, dusting off the cobwebs on my study skills and hitting the ground running. I don’t want you to think it has been easy: Coffee and I have become best friends, and I have had to make some sacrifices; my house is a little dirtier, my shopping lists are a little longer, and the circles under my eyes are a littler darker. However, I can gladly accept these inconveniences when I compare them to how much I want a diploma. 

Happily, and to my surprise, one sacrifice I did not have to make was spending time with my kids. While I have needed to be more strategic with my scheduling, I find that I don’t miss out on my quality time with them. In fact, since I started at National University, my kids and I have a new thing in common: We are all students! I ask them about school and what they are learning about, and they ask me the same thingWe talk about assignments we find interesting, or classes that are difficult for us. They have listened as I have read my research papers out loud, appeared in some video submissions, made unintentional appearances in collaboratives, and even gave a thumbs up to this blog post. Best of all, they are learning every day how important higher education is, and how hard work is worth it in the end.  

If you are thinking about going back to school, no matter how far away you are from a degree, you can do this! I am convinced that single parents can do anything. If we can get little disgruntled people up, ready for school, fed, and dressed in a lastminute Halloween costume made from household items before 8am, we can do anything!  Remember, being brave isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about being afraid and doing it anyway. 

Cristyn Alspaugh Blog Post picture 1
Single-parent magic: Would you have guessed that this Halloween costume was assembled with five minutes notice?
adult learner, Advice, nursing, Parents, self care

2020 Goals: Self-Care in the New Year

By Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar (October 2019 Cohort)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Smiling young white woman with brown hair in professional attire
Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar

My life as an adult learner is filled with a seemingly endless to-do list.  Day-to-day responsibilities extend well beyond reading assignments, projects, tests and clinical hours for my nursing program. Even with the help of my supportive and understanding husband Scott, between childcare drop-offs, home maintenance, laundry, and other housework, I don’t have a minute to spare.

With all of this busyness, it’s no surprise that I have not made enough time for self-care.  Self-care is emphasized over and over in my nursing program as a vital tool for managing stress, achieving a sense of calm, and re-energizing one’s self.  Between having a daughter and starting my nursing program, I had let many of my previous self-care habits fall to the wayside.  My daughter is almost two years old, so it’s been a while: Almost two years of driving by the gym I pay too much for, eating an embarrassing amount of fast food, and taking no time to indulge in the things I love most like warm baths or the sauna.  So, I am making a commitment now to treating myself better. I encourage you to join me in my first self-care change: ditching my fast food habit.

Here is how I plan to do it:

Eat Real Food:

I will try to incorporate as many unprocessed and unrefined foods into my diet as possible.  Examples include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains.

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Step 1: More fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Meal Prep:

Too often, I have used the excuse that I don’t have time to pack a lunch before I head to clinical or lecture.  Meal prepping will allow me to spend less time every day worrying about what to eat, and instead dedicate a specific time to planning and preparing meals for an entire week.

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Step 2: Prep multiple healthy meals at once

Drink Water:

I know it’s time to ditch the super sweet coffee and soda.  It’s so easy to take in unnecessary calories and added sugar in drinks, not to mention the cost!  I have a tough time drinking plain water so I will try to dress it up with lots of ice and a sprig of fresh mint or slices of cucumber.

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Step 3: Get fancy to drink more water and less soda and coffee

I hope that building this habit of making my own nutritious meals will nourish my body and mind, not to mention help my pocketbook. I hope this post inspires you to join me in making this change, or to commit to your own self-care goal. While it can be hard to justice the time at first, I promise that taking care of yourself will recharge your batteries and ultimately give you more strength and time as you move through your academic program at NU.

 

 

 

 

adult learner, Advice, self care, Undergraduate

Loving Yourself in the New Year

JD 3

J.D. Melendez

B.A. Pre-Law Studies

NU Scholar – October 2019 Cohort

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Exploring Love as a single person during the Holiday Season

Regarding that four-letter-word… LOVE

Here we are. Another holiday season, and the New Year is fast approaching. I gave up the whole “New Years’ resolution” thing a while back. Instead, I wanted to reflect on what I feel like I got right in 2019, which is LOVE. In November, I turned 38 years old, making it more than four years since I was in a committed relationship. If someone were to tell me five years ago that I’d be single and living alone with my dog Tita today, I probably would have laughed.

To be single at 38 was never my plan. More and more of my friends and family members are having children, getting married, building families, or adjusting to life with their new partners. As for me, I am instead learning the art of falling in love with who I am. I’m proud of my decision to separate from the person I am not, to move away from old behaviors that no longer honor the man I want to be. I have finalized my divorce from toxicity- both toxicity that was self-created, and the type of toxicity that I was welcoming into my life, ignoring the red flags that kept popping up everywhere. I had developed a habit of looking at those red flags, and then just painting them green. Sound familiar?

Being single by choice is not an easy thing, especially in one’s late 30s. Throughout my singleness, I continue to challenge myself to fight for my own happiness, without using another person as a crutch. By trial and by many, many errors, I have learned how to be self-sufficient, starting with something as simple as walking to the pharmacy on my own to buy flu medicine when I needed it. I forced myself to go to a movie theater by myself, to enjoy a solo steak and lobster dinner. I’ve traveled all over the world by myself (or sometimes with my dog). Through all of this, by learning how to love myself I became better equipped to love my friends for who they were, and I found myself spending time with and getting to know family members that I had rarely engaged with. I pushed myself to find a meaningful cause in my immediate area and volunteered my time and my resources to others, with no expectations or reservations. More than anything else, I started to live an authentic life; in turn, I found that others were more and more showing me who they genuinely were, with no pretense or masquerade. Traveling the world enabled me to connect with others and experience the joy of the universal language of humanity: A smile, a polite “thank you,” a nod of acknowledgment to complete strangers in the London subway, hugs from both Palestinians and Jews while in Israel, and a humble interchange of life experiences with students in China. Each time I get to experience another slice of life in a different part of the world, I come back home completely in love with humanity as a whole.

If you’re dreading the fact that you are not in an intimate relationship with someone this holiday season, please know that there are many others like us who choose to give ourselves the most valuable thing in life: Our time. You can’t get time back, you can’t promise anyone your tomorrow because there is truly no day but today. So, today, please take the time to vote for YOU, to be YOUR best advocate, and love and accept yourself unconditionally. You cannot read a book or take a course on love because it’s a spiritual journey that’s uniquely yours. You’re the author, and you have complete control of the narrative.

Perhaps you and I will meet as we travel this journey together. Work towards love, it is there for the taking. I promise you that LOVE NEVER FAILS and that it will ALWAYS be the answer!

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Excited to continue this path in 2020!
Advice

#Goals & Being a Student-Parent

A woman with long dark hair in professional attire against a soft-focus natural background
NU Scholar Karrie Yi shares her tips as a full-time parent, student, military veteran, and military spouse.

Karrie Yi

NU Scholars April 2019 Cohort

Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education – San Diego. U.S. Navy Veteran

Every day as a mother of twin boys, a veteran, a wife to an Active Duty military service member, and a fulltime student, hard work seems to follow me like a shadow. Sometimes this shadow is friendly, and other it gets overwhelming. Hard work became a part of who I am years ago, and I have learned to embrace every challenge and view it as a self-improvement milestone. In doing so, I have learned to change my perception of this hard work from a daunting “shadow” to a softer “silhouette.” First, I start my mornings early and give myself the necessary time to fully wake up and enjoy my coffee.  This time to myself gives me the energy and focus to change my perspective on any shadows into silhouettes of opportunity. As I drink my coffee I ask myself some easy questions like “What can I do today? and “What tasks have a deadline today or coming up?” Then I ask myself my favorite question, “Was that coffee good enough to start the day?”  

Besides a decent cup of coffee in the early morning, my motivation to continue comes from my amazing family, which consists of my twin boys and my Active Duty husband (whom I met while I was also active duty). My husband and I see eye to eye on the importance of constant self-improvement and taking ownership of our lives and goals, supporting each other’s educational and career pursuits while also acting as active role models for our boys. As a family unit, we understand the level of commitment and time needed to achieve each and every family member’s individual goals and dreams. In teaching my boys at a young age, I can actively show them how the silhouettes of hard work aren’t meant to be feared, but are a natural part of life. The simple tasks that teach independence all require hard work, but also instill self-ownership in one’s actions, education, and professional life. These silhouettes push each of us to confront obstacles and to build our personal legacies. 

            I came to National University to complete a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, with a dream of building my own child learning center from the ground up. The NU Scholars Program offers me amazing leadership development opportunities, connecting me with community leaders whom I can learn from and who can help me achieve this dream. This program also connects me with equally dedicated, talented, and likeminded peers who support me in maintaining and pushing my high standards and accomplishments. Finally, this program continually connects me with mentors who help guide me through my educational experience. I am so appreciative of National University and of the NU Scholars Program for giving me the tools that I need to start my journey as a professional and as a leader.  

adult learner, Military, Navy, Parents, Undergraduate, Veteran

Going Back to School as a Veteran

Kevin Matzke headshot

Kevin Matzke, Bachelor of Science, Biology

San Diego Region

U.S. Navy Veteran

https://portfolium.com/Kmatzke88

The decision to go back to school as a veteran was not a difficult decision. The military always pushed education and the need to better oneself. Knowing the large veteran population attending National University helped in making my mind up to attend. The challenges that came with working full time, studying full-time, and maintaining a family were not what I expected. When I first started at National University, I was married but had no children. The transition into becoming a student was fairly streamlined, and because of the way the military uses intensive training, the 1 month compressed format of National Universities classes seemed natural to me. As a veteran it is sometimes hard to find common ground with people who haven’t had the shared experience of military service. I have often found myself feeling alienated or uncomfortable because my time in the military had changed my way of viewing things. This sense of alienation was one of my biggest fears going into starting up as a college student. I quickly found that a large portion of my classmates were also prior service, or active duty, and shared the same struggles as I did. The veteran community at National definitely helped in smoothing the transition from being fresh out of the military, to being a successful student, while supporting my family.

As I progressed in my education I also was growing my family.  My first daughter was born in 2016, and my second in 2018.

The addition of children definitely adds new stressors and time demands on top of the already busy work/ school schedule I was maintaining. There are days where it can be overwhelming, and on those days I remind myself that completing my education will help to provide a better future for my children. It has not always been easy, but the faculty has been very accommodating and understanding of the fact that many of us attending are parents, working to support our families while attending school. The smaller class sizes allow me more interaction with the instructors, and a makes learning and understanding the material easier, when everything outside of class is trying to distract me from my studies.

English learner, First generation, Graduate Student

First Generation Student Success

Claudia Garcia

Inaugural Cohort, Master of Family Therapy, San Diego Region

For many students, the path to college is paved by the example of their parents or grandparents. For first generation college graduates, like me, college is a path that must be created as you go. As a teenager, I had the goal to become a college graduate and often wondered if it was just a dream. My great-grandmother did not know how to read, write or count and my grandmother only attended the first grade. As I graduated high school, I did not know what tuition was and I remember searching the meaning of FAFSA.  My parents supported me through my journey but also struggled to navigate a system that was new to them. While I faced the challenges of being a first-generation college student, my family supported me and learned with me. I soon realized that in obtaining a college education I was not only accomplishing my goal but the dream of the generations before me. At the same time, I was paving the way for the generations that will come after me. Today, I am a college graduate and so is my younger sister. Looking back, the courage and determination instilled in me are what inspired me to meet my goals. These qualities enabled me to turn my goals into reality and become the first person in my family to obtain a college education.

In the present, I wish my younger self knew there are people who want to help. Besides family, there are advisors, mentors, students and professors who provide valuable support. It is astonishing how many people are interested in the success of others and all you must do is ask for the help. I wish other first-generation students were aware of the amount of support the college community provides. I must acknowledge, that my experience in college was possible because of the people that explained what FAFSA was and defined tuition to my parents when I needed to enroll. Through my time in college I learned to accept the fear of the unknown. While seeing others be confident in living the college experience I struggled to understand if I was doing things correctly. I failed to understand that they had parents and possibly many generations before them who had done this before. As first-generation college students, we must acknowledge that it is acceptable to be afraid because we are doing something new and something that is unfamiliar to us. While at times it may feel like you do not belong in college, you must remind yourself of what got you there.

The most important thing to remember is that college may be hard, but it is worth it. Having a goal and vision for where you are going in makes it a bit easier. Learning to be a college student while you are a college student can be challenging itself and having a specific goal reminds you of where you are going.  Lastly, as a student, I have learned of the importance to give yourself permission to ask for help and create your own path. It is acceptable to need help navigating college even for people who are not first-generation students. You are not the only person doing this for the first time and you are creating your unique path to a college education.

Graduate Student, Study Abroad

Why should you study abroad?

Jordan Montejano headshot

Jordan Montejano

https://portfolium.com/JordanMontejano

Creative Writing MFA

In 2018, I went on a study abroad trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Here is what I gained from the experience and why I recommend study abroad programs.

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Why Should You Consider Study Abroad?

Study abroad allows for you to bond with your fellow students, learn about history, practice a new language, and experience the richness of a culture through firsthand experience. It’s also a lot of fun.

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Cultural Interaction and Learning

The 2018 National University Scholars Program study abroad trip to Tijuana, Mexico allowed me to learn about the people, history, language and culture of the area. I was able to admire the beauty of the natural landscape and the handmade crafts. At the Cultural Center, I viewed an extensive collection of artifacts and read up on centuries of history. I engaged in conversation with locals and enjoyed cuisine in areas of cultural interest such as Mercado Hidalgo, a large market with fresh produce and crafts, and La Calle Revolucion, a bustling street packed with various stores, restaurants, and iconic places like Caesars. Through my research, I discovered that many of the popular tourist locations in Tijuana today were first made famous during Prohibition, when there was a huge influx of people crossing the border from the US.

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A Group that Studies Together

What I enjoyed most about Study Abroad was bonding with my fellow Scholars through a shared and collaborative experience. The trip helped to bolster a sense of comradery and allowed for us to see things from different perspectives, so we could reflect and gain a better understanding of what we learned and how to apply it.