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Advice on “Never giving up” from an NU Student Nurse

Editorial Note: This blog post was written long before the current public health crisis was dominating the conversation here in the US. However, this message of never giving up, working hard, finding creative solutions, and overcoming obstacles and challenges couldn’t be more timely. We are thinking of all of our NU student nurses and nursing school grads, as well as all of the heroes working in the medical and public health fields at this time.

A smiling young female nursing student in front of flowers
Tori Chavez, a Student Nurse and NU Scholar (January 2020 Cohort) shares her inspirational message of perseverance and hope

Don’t Give Up

I hate to sound cliche, but when I look back on my life, the first thing that comes to my mind is “everything does happen for a reason.” I always knew that I wanted a career in nursing but, statistically, the odds were not in my favor. My parents had me when they were teenagers and had only a high-school education. When we weren’t stressing about how to make ends meet, we were stressing about the next time we would have to. I quickly realized that accomplishing my dreams was going to take more than validation and encouragement from my family. Nonetheless, I made sure to make my education a priority and did everything I could to get myself into college. 

I knew at a young age that if I wanted to go to college, I was going to have to do so by myself. I had a deep passion for school and would immerse myself into every subject; however, despite this hard work, my outside responsibilities started to affect my academic life. I decided to join a rowing team solely because it would help my chances of getting into school. And this choice paid off – by the beginning of my junior year, I was proud to be the first in my entire family to get accepted into college. 

person holding white scroll
A lifelong goal – the diploma at the end of a tough and winding road

I was paired with an academic advisor who quickly shut down nursing as my desired major: I was working 40-60 hours a week, was required to maintain full-time status in school, and had to put in 20 hours of rowing practice a week. Reluctantly, I agreed to my advisor’s recommendation that I instead pursue Kinesiology, but knew that it wasn’t the right fit for me. And then, at the height of my athletic career, I was in a car accident which resulted in me losing my scholarship. I now found myself a full-time college student who had to pay for a major that I was never passionate about. I met with another academic advisor in the nursing department, but once again my hopes were shot down. I was told it would be impossible to get into the nursing program because I was a B-average student and had repeated a couple of courses.

I switched into Public Health because, with a degree in this field, it would be easier to get into a nursing program later. It was intimidating for me to switch majors halfway through my college career, but it seemed like the only way to ever get into nursing. Over the next three years, I went in and out of part-time and full-time status in school while experiencing a horrible break up, an assault, and the deaths of three of my family members. 

When I finally reached my senior year I was broken, tired, and unsure of everything going on in my life. I sent out over a hundred emails to nursing schools across the United States explaining my unique situation, and asking if there was any chance that I could get into their program. Most responded positively, and I was willing to go anywhere if that meant that I finally had the chance to fulfill my dream. 

travel nurse
There are so many paths to take in nursing, but I’m glad I chose mine.

While finishing up my last two classes in my public health program, I got a job as a travel nurse recruiter. Approaching graduation, for the first time in my life, I finally had a job that offered me financial stability. I was then faced with another tough decision: Did I want to try to get into nursing school in another state? Or should I stay stagnant in a secure position? I shared my concerns with a manager, who told me that his wife had attended National University, despite having had a similar experience in a traditional college herself. I reached out to an academic advisor at National, and it was the first time in seven years that someone said my goals were possible. I quit my job that week, took the additional classes that were required, and within six months I was officially accepted into National University’s nursing program

I look back on all the obstacles and hardship and can’t help but feel grateful for them, because they led me exactly where I needed to be. I am a year away from completing my dream and have recently been blessed with being accepted into the NU Scholars Program. National University said yes to my goal and put me in the position of success. I am now setting new goals for myself. I want to go for my masters, maintain honors, and give back to the community in any spare time I have. I want to motivate anyone who may be uncertain about their educational and career goals to reach out to an advisor at National University and see just how possible they really are. 

"Push harder than yesterday if you want a different tomorrow" over mountains

adult learner, Advice, Community College, Education, Online

What do Journalism, Horticulture, Criminal Justice, and Social Work have in common? All steps in my path to a career in Early Childhood Education!

Smiling blond woman in business attire
Emily Klein shares her tips for a career in Early Childhood Education

Emily Klein

Master’s in Early Childhood Education

College is hard. Going to college and having a full-time job is even harder. Going to college, having a full-time job, and taking care of a family member is even more challenging. These are all challenges college students face on the daily, and while some may take it in stride, others might struggle. What many people don’t know is that I take care of my disabled mother and with that comes helping to pay the bills. Taking care of a disabled family member has always been a major factor in my career choices.

Growing up, I was never a great student, and I struggled a lot in math, especially. While I really wanted to be a teacher, my math skills held me back. Because of my poor math skills I knew there was no way I was going to pass the math portion of the CBEST or the CSET. I also knew that I couldn’t give up the full-time job I had to do student teaching for free – taking time away from my work schedule was not an option, as I helped support my mother. But what career would I do, and how would I get it done AND work full-time at the same time? After much thought I turned to writing, but, after a year of journalism classes, I slowly started to realize that this wasn’t the right career path for me. I changed my major to ornamental horticulture, but this wasn’t the right fit either. Four years later I finally graduated with a double major associate degree in Journalism and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

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Math- Never my strong suit.

After wasting four years in community college, struggling to pay the bills, taking care of my mom, and trying figure out my future, I finally enrolled in a degree completion program in early childhood education. I decided to pursue ECE because in the end my math struggles kept me from passing the CBEST. Before my third attempt at taking the test I decided to let it go and give it to God. I said if I didn’t pass it the third time around then being a credentialed teacher wasn’t in the cards for me and I was made to do something greater. My greater would end up being early childhood education.  At this point I just wanted to hurry up and finish my education so that I could have a better future. Completing my bachelor’s degree was a struggle – I slowly realized that I was in the big leagues and this wasn’t community college anymore. Two years later I would walk across the stage with my gold cords around my neck and the highest Latin honor, summa cum laude, printed on my bachelor’s diploma.

After I finished my bachelor’s degree I got my dream job as an early childhood educator at a great school and couldn’t have been happier. However, two years into my career I hit a plateau and found that I wanted more in life and out of my career. I was tired of always settling for less and wanted to make a greater impact on those around me. I had this feeling that I was called to do greater things but was not able to figure it out what it was that I was called to do. So I did the only thing I knew how to do and went back to school. I enrolled at the local community college and started taking classes in criminal justice thinking that I wanted to be a police detective. After a less-than-thrilling semester in the world of criminal justice, I decided to keep on the search and take classes in a different field this time – social work. I enjoyed the social work classes but realized that I didn’t have the heart to take away children from their families or put myself in danger every time I entered the home of a stranger to take away said children.

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We all wish the path forward were this clear.

Although I gained a lot of valuable information from the class, I didn’t want to be a social worker. At the same time I was taking the social working class I was also taking administration classes for ECE. One day I was sitting in class talking to a peer when out of nowhere a lightbulb went off. I FINALLY realized what it was that I was called to do: Be a college professor. I spent most of my early adult years in community college, so why not get my master’s degree and come back and teach at the very same school where I started my college education? However, the thought of more debt crippled me, but I knew I would never make it to my goal of being a college professor and early childhood education mentor without a master’s degree, so I pulled the band aid off and went for it.

I wanted a program that I could do at home and at my own pace; I also knew I didn’t want to wait two extra years to finish a program. National’s unique online platform allowed me to finish my master’s in a year, from home, all while keeping my dream job and taking care of my mom. I would no longer have to sit in three-hour classes every night, get home late, and stay up even later to do homework. Being selected to become a part of the NU Scholars Program was a huge honor and a huge relief, and I am excited to be part of an organization that gives back to the community.

No matter how many challenges life threw at me, I continued with my education because I wanted a better life for myself and for my future family. It may have taken me longer than I wanted or planned, but I persevered. I wanted to have a positive impact not only on children, but on adults as well, and this was the only way I knew how to do it. I wanted to have a life that I was proud of; and I am now truly proud to be one step closer to my goal of being a college professor. College is hard. Life is hard. But with strength and determination you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. No matter what was thrown at me I persevered, and you can, too. Don’t let the negatives of life and the pressures of family consume you. Stay focused and stay committed. You may think the odds are against you, but you, too, can rise against them.

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Take the leap!
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.  

Cristyn Alspaugh Blog Post picture 2
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.

variety of vegetables on display
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.

flat lay photography of three tray of foods
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.

sliced lemon fruit in glass picher
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

close up of christmas decorations hanging
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!