Leaving the Nest by Stephanie Schoppe, Graduating Senior

Stephanie Schoppe, Communication Studies major, will graduate from TCNJ at the end of this Fall semester. We thank Stephanie for sharing advice, her experiences, and her study abroad trip to South Africa with us! Please read her farewell post for The School of the Arts & Communication blog. Congratulations to Stephanie and all TCNJ students graduating this December!

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” This is a quote that my generation is very familiar with. It invokes a feeling that, even when you leave a place that holds so many memories for you, when you come back it feels like you never left. Leaving that place may be a little bit scary, of course. But while you’re gone, it’ll be there, filled with people ready to hug you and say, “Welcome back.”

This feeling is all too real for me at the moment. This is my final semester as a TCNJ student. I didn’t feel the despair and dread that comes with the registration period. I won’t be here to experience coming back from winter break in January and catching up on how everyone’s break was. Next semester someone else will be living in my room at my house. These things and more, whether I like it or not, are happening, and they’re happening faster than I really want them too.

I’m currently in the process of applying to grad schools. Whenever I work on my applications, I’m taken back to four years ago when I was applying to undergrad schools. The process was so exciting then. “I get to go to college and meet people from all over the state and I get to experience the typical college life and I’ll be away from my parents and it’ll be great!” And it was. It absolutely was. Fast-forward to today, and I still feel that way about applying to grad schools. Only now it’s a teensy bit bittersweet.

These four and a half years, I’ve done things I never thought I’d get to do. I got to act in plays. I got to sit front row to see some of my favorite comedians perform. I got to study in another country not once but twice; I’m going to London in January, which I’ve neglected to mention in my posts until now (sorry). I got to sing with people from Japan. I made a difference in the world just by baking really cool-looking cupcakes. And I got to witness the initial outrage over our now beloved, shiny, and colorful balls.

Do I have advice for my friends who are graduating in May? I do. Don’t worry about it. I have to tell myself that at least once every single day. The more you panic about getting a good grade on the GREs or the LSATs or getting a job right out of school, the more you’ll stress and burn yourself out, and trust me, you don’t want to do that. Don’t overstress yourself so much that you forget to enjoy your final semester as a TCNJ Lion. Go to the C-Store, buy a lot of ice cream, and watch a bad movie with your friends. Listen to your iPod and take a walk by the lakes. Then go sit by the lakes and just be in that moment. Do something as simple as taking a nice, two-hour nap one day. You’ve worked so hard the last four years, and you deserve to enjoy every moment before you leave here.

To the freshmen coming up on completing their first semester of college, you don’t need to have anything figured out now. I’ve heard some of my friends who are freshmen worry about graduating in four years and about what they want to do with your life. It’s okay to not have that figured out now. If you worry about what’s after college, you won’t enjoy what’s going on in college now. Explore a little. Join a club you’d never think to join. Take classes in a variety of departments if you can. Don’t spend all your time worrying about what to do after graduation. You’ve got four years to do that. Also, not graduating on time isn’t as bad as it sounds. Speaking from personal experience, it’s really, totally fine.

To conclude my final blog post as a TCNJ student, TCNJ has been my second home for 4 1/2 years. It feels weird to leave; you’re not supposed to leave your home, right? Some of my best friends are here, and will still be here when I leave. I’m not ready to leave now, and I probably won’t be ready to leave in December. But I know if I need to, I can always come back to TCNJ, where there will be students and professors here ready to welcome me home.

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Stephanie Schoppe Returns from South Africa!

Stephanie Schoppe, a fifth-year senior majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Music, recently returned from her summer study abroad internship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. We are glad to welcome Stephanie back to TCNJ! Read all about Stephanie’s experiences–from bungee jumping to visiting South African schools to getting up-close with elephants–in her first blog post of the fall 2013 semester!

“It was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now.” – Gandhi

Hi there, everyone! Welcome back! Or welcome, if you’re new here! For those of you that are new to TCNJ, or if this is your first time reading the TCNJ School of the Arts and Communication blog, let me introduce myself. I’m Steph, and I’m a fifth-year senior (sometimes affectionately nicknamed “super senior”) Communication Studies major and Music minor. This is my second year writing for this blog and I’m so excited about this post especially.

TCNJ South Africa Crew at Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains

TCNJ South Africa Crew at Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains

In a post I did last semester I talked about being accepted for an internship in South Africa, and how I didn’t think I’d be able to do something like that with the struggles I’ve had academically in my earlier years here. Well this past month I did go to South Africa! I and eight other students, along with Communication Studies professor Dr. John Pollock, spent three weeks in Durban, South Africa. We were there to learn about the idea of “entertainment education” and how it can be used to educate people in South Africa about HIV/AIDS.  We watched various TV shows and commercials that have been very successful in persuading people to make healthy lifestyle choices (I highly recommend checking them out – one was a soap opera called Intersexions and another was an ad campaign called Scrutinize). We also got the opportunity to speak to some of the leading professors in the health communication field at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), as well as interact with Communication Studies students at the university.

Rachel (back) and Jabulani (front). Jabulani means "rejoice" in Zulu. We got to touch and feed them!

Rachel (back) and Jabulani (front). Jabulani means “rejoice” in Zulu. We got to touch and feed them!

But it wasn’t all just research and learning! We got to do some awesome and fun stuff, too! Some of us bungee jumped off of Moses Mabhida Stadium (where the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup was held), took surfing lessons, went shark diving, and rode the longest zip line in South Africa. One of the highlights of our trip was spending two nights at Bayete Zulu, a resort on the Hluhluwe (that’s pronounced shoo-shlew-eh) game reserve, where we went on four safaris and saw lions, rhinos, giraffes, warthogs, and so many more amazing and wild animals. While also at Hluhluwe, we got to touch and feed not one, but three elephants!

TCNJ South Africa Crew with students from Ekwazini Secondary School

TCNJ South Africa Crew with students from Ekwazini Secondary School

While Hluhluwe was indeed a highlight of the trip, the one moment that we realized “this is why we’re here and this is why we do what we do” came during the last week of the trip when we visited two secondary schools in Durban. We visited these schools with DramAIDe, an organization that uses the arts to educate youth about issues such as HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. The first school we went to, Ekwazini Secondary School, will probably be a day I won’t ever forget. To see a room of 8th and 9th graders speak so knowledgeably about what to do when facing gender-based violence at school and at home, to see their faces light up and to hear how grateful they were that we visited them, to not be able to leave the room because they all wanted to hug us and take pictures with us – I wish there was a stronger word for “inspiring”.

Going to South Africa was truly an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. It’s one that I’ll remember forever, because it’ll be really hard to forget since on our last day there I got a tattoo on my arm and I’m pretty sure those are permanent. And if you liked what you heard, if you want to experience something like this, you can! The trip will be happening again in summer 2014. Keep your eyes peeled for info from the Center for Global Engagement or from the Department of Communication Studies! There will be a study abroad fair on Wednesday, September 11th from 11:00am-2:00pm on Alumni Grove (between Eickhoff Hall and the Library) and we’ll be there! Until then, enjoy some photos from my trip and be jealous. And again, welcome back and good luck this year!

View of Durban, South Africa from the beach

View of Durban, South Africa from the beach

Stephanie Schoppe: “Take a chance and apply to study abroad!”

Communication Studies Major Stephanie Schoppe is packing her bags and heading to South Africa this summer! Find out more about her health communication internship, “entertainment education,” and why YOU should take the opportunity to apply to study abroad, too!

South-Africa-PC-University-of-Natal-main-campus-pan-681University of KwaZulu-Natal Campus, South Africa

I never really gave the idea of studying abroad a chance until about halfway through my junior year. I was pretty serious about it until I abandoned the idea when I realized going abroad for a semester would mean I would have to stay an extra year at TCNJ (I still have to stay an extra semester any way, but that was unavoidable). I had decided on not studying abroad until earlier this school year.

I took two health communications courses last fall: Health Communications Campaigns and Health Communications. I had heard good things about these two courses from people that were in some of my classes in the spring 2012 semester. I ended up loving those classes, and they’re probably two of the best classes I’ve taken here at TCNJ. The first few weeks of the semester, Dr. Pollock, who used to be head of the communications department, came to both these classes numerous times to tell us about a study abroad opportunity that had to do with the health communications field. He said he would be bringing students to Durban, South Africa, where we would be creating different programs to educate the South African people about HIV/AIDS using the idea of “education entertainment”. We watched this South African soap opera called “Intersexions” and did multiple focus groups about the show and discussed what we liked and didn’t like about it. The urge to study abroad came back and I emailed Dr. Pollock telling him I was interested.

When the time came to hand in the application, I again almost didn’t do it. I had applied for another internship which would’ve sent me to Ohio for ten weeks, and at the time I thought I had that in the bag; I didn’t want to get accepted to both and then have to choose. But I did it anyway. Also, because my overall GPA isn’t as good as it can be, I thought that would hurt my chances too. I handed in the application around noon on a Thursday. I went to check my phone at the end of my 2:00 class and saw an email from the Center for Global Engagement. I thought, “Oh, this is just an email letting me know that they got my application and I’ll probably know within a week or so.” The email said I was accepted into the program, a mere two hours after I sent it in.

It still feels pretty unreal to me. This’ll be the first time I’ll be out of the country. But I’m excited. I never thought I’d be able to do this. I thought time and my GPA would have been an issue. So, if you’re thinking of studying abroad but you don’t think you’re eligible to, go ahead and do it anyway! You never know what might happen! Many of my friends have studied abroad in places like Spain, London, and Rome, and they seem to have had wonderful experiences. Take a chance and apply to study abroad! I believe the South Africa trip led by Dr. Pollock is actually still taking some more people. Here’s the link to see what the trip’s all about: http://cge.pages.tcnj.edu/programs/faculty-led-programs/tcnj-south-africa-summer-2013/