February 24, 2007


My interview with my Peace Corps recruiter Allen went fantastic on Wednesday. We were able to talk for an hour and a half, but it felt like 15 minutes. Every question turned into dozens of others and every story went back and forth between the two of us until Allen would look up at the clock and said, “Oh, wow, we’ve got to move on.” Mostly questions revolved around leadership, openness, diversity, flexibility, acceptance and whether I knew what I was getting myself into. I told stories, gave examples, answered yes and no to dozens of questions and summed up the last four years of my life into bite-size pieces the best I could. Not only did I feel like I was exactly where I needed to be, but I couldn’t have asked for the interview to have gone any better.

Finishing our conversation Allen said he would be nominating me on the spot for placement within my desired region of the Pacific Islands working in Health Extension (Assignment 155, in case I wanted to know) and I would probably be leaving around July or August of this year. Although there will be some more work ahead, such as Medical Clearance Forms and Placement, the hardest part of the application process is pretty much over. My application, two essays, resume, recommendations, fingerprints, background checks, transcript and interview forms are now on their way to Washington, D.C. and within the next few weeks I will be communicating with my Placement Officer and Medical Officer to go through the next steps.

Except for Christmas Eve, Wednesday night was the first time I can remember not being able to sleep because I was so excited.

February 16, 2007


Family, family, family. Some people see their families once a week, some people once a month and some once a year. Often that is because of going to college or moving out of your hometown (or home country), but it can also be just because of changing priorities. For example, when I came to college my priorities shifted toward "finding out who I was" and "developing myself" as an individual, student, future professional and friend. Freshman year came and went, sophomore year came and went, junior year came and went, and until the end of the last year, those priorities remained the same. Family, as I have heard other people put it, seemed like it would be there forever and I could always just fall back into it with no harm done. Whether I called home once a week or once a month or visited home once a month or once every few months, it didn't seem to matter. Or maybe more accurately, I didn't want it to matter that much. I wanted everything to stay the same while I changed. What I found, hopefully not too late, is that what I did mattered and things did change.

During my time in college, my brother has grown from a third grader into a sixth grader and I now hesitate to carry him to his bunk bed when before I could practically fling him up into it. My sister has grown from a tenth grader into a high school graduate and, though I still can't quite believe it, I notice how very close to a woman she is every time I hug her. My parents have gone through a separation and my old house, which I have called home for eight years, was sold last week. So each time I go home now my family is in (at least) two spots: my mom's house and my dad's house. (I say at least because other spots might include basketball games, soccer games, work places and so on and so on). My dad has a new job and my mom has a new job too. My parents are still my parents, but (unlike when I left for college) I see them now as people too. My mom is my mentor and my friend. And my dad is my mentor and my friend. And my brother and sister, whether they know it or not, are my friends and my mentors too. This is not unlike the fact that I am their mentor too, whether I know it or not.

Change, I am finding, is not bad but good. In the case of my family, change means finding out more of who we all are and who we all want to be. We get to explore what makes us each truly happy and what makes us each feel successful, together. It is hard. It is even frightening sometimes, but it is good.

College has been an important time to "find out who I am" and "develop myself" like I thought it would. But I have been surprised to find that who I am, what makes me truly happy and successful and what I want to develop into is a strong family member. Right now that means being a good brother, son, nephew, cousin and grandson. In years to come that will probably include being a good husband, father, grandfather and everything-in-law (son, brother, etc.). For now though, I think the first few will keep me busy. In fact, I'm quite glad they will.

February 15, 2007

Stay Open

When I first came to Campbell, I was very curious, appreciative and open. I was experiencing all new things, both environmentally and socially. For the first few weeks, I remember, there were very few cliques to be intimidated by or excluded from. There were just new faces and new friendships to find. I wasn't scared of anyone and I didn't talk bad about anyone. Everyone was just too cool.

Once the second or third week came, however, things started to change. People started to sit with the same groups, tables start to have regular inhabitants, and exclusivity started becoming normal. Everyone had one or more groups to which they "belonged" and, consequently, several dozen groups to which they did not. It was a comfortable place for those within the groups, but outside them it wasn't that friendly. I remember, I started becoming comfortable but unfortunately I became pretty unfriendly too.

My personal challenge, for a long time, has been trying to get back those first few weeks of school. I want to find that openness, curiousity and appreciation and stay in it again. It can be scary to sit with new people, hard to realize that new friends might be right around the corner, and fun to always sit with the same group, but imagine what would happen if we didn't every once and a while. We all remember sitting by ourselves, we all remember being new to the group, can we remember what it was like to be innocent and kind again? My guess is that it's a much more enjoyable place to be and it probably only requires sitting at a different table every once in a while.

Beliefs of Each

I was able to watch Barack Obama's speech on Faith and Politics tonight and I am very impressed. Beyond the recent empty and, I think, manipulative discussions on faith and politics Obama stands not only as a man of faith but as a reasonable, appreciative and understanding man that recognizes the pluralistic and diverse culture in which we live. We stand at a sharp religious divide in our country, not so much because we differ that greatly in our beliefs but because it is advantageous to many political leaders to have us believe that we do. Us against them is an attractive perspective to many fearful and anxious people, but I believe divided we will fall as a country. "Each night I say a prayer," Barack Obama says as he ends his speech, "a hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It's a prayer worth praying and a conversation worth having." I completely agree.

February 10, 2007

Barack Obama

What I think inspires me, and so many other people, about Barack Obama is his humanity and his personal touch. When he says in his Presidential Candidacy Announcement Preview, “I hope that we have a chance to meet in person over the course of the campaign trail,” I believe him. And when he finishes with the same thought that he did today in his actual Presidential Candidacy Announcement and says, “Let’s go get to work,” I want to. All of a sudden “the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer telling us that a different future is possible” doesn’t just refer to Abraham Lincoln anymore. Thank you Barack, for running for the office of President of our United States of America. It is a privilege to support you.

February 8, 2007

Zoo Animals

One of the neat ideas we had right after school ended last semester was to visit the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. There were five us all together (Amy, David, Chase, Wee and Me) and we had a great time. There were tons of wonderful animals to see, some I had seen before and some I hadn't: polar bears, sea lions, wolves, bears, otters, zebras, alligators, lions, panthers, chimpanzees, baboons, giraffes, ostriches, bison, elk, puffins and my personal favorite, the gorillas. I loved watching them, but I also hated it. I was drawn back over and over again, every time we passed them to and from the many parts of the park. They sit like I would it I was in an enclosure without hope of leaving. They play as I would if I didn't have much else to do and they think like I would if I knew I didn't have freedom. I know the overall goals of our zoological parks is to educate, inspire and create a sense of wonder, enjoyment and discovery in those who visit. I know we have a responsibility for taking care of animals in our world and for recognizing our interdependence with one another, but sometimes I wonder what that means for me. Is it excusable to use animals to educate people? Is it reasonable to put animals in enclosures which simulate but never provide the true sense of freedom that an animal desires? Do animals deserve freedom? I know most zookeepers probably answer these questions early in their careers tentatively, but ultimately with a "yes." We are all interconnected with one another, but seeing it face-to-face in the case of a gorilla or giraffe helps drive home the point even further. I think it certainly did with me when I saw it, as I hope it does with many others as well. Animals deserve our love and our respect and, as much as we can possibly provide it, they deserve their freedom. It is my belief that we have far too much in common to think anything otherwise.

February 7, 2007

Philosopher's Stone

Two years ago I wrote about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone for you U.K. folks) and I am pleased to say I watched the movie again with Pawan and David last night. It's an incredible series of films, ranked number 3 in my list of top overall movies ever, and I think the first film still stands as my favorite. It's philosophical, hilarious, innocent and full of lessons for people of every age. I love watching how everything works together, how much the characters grow with one another and how much we all have to learn from each other as well. Like I mentioned in the other entry above, one of my favorite quotes comes from Professor Dumbledore regarding the Mirror of Erised:

“Back again Harry? I see that you, like many others before you have discovered the delights of the Mirror of Erised. I trust now, you realize what it does. Let me give you a clue. The happiest man on earth would look in the mirror and only see himself exactly as he is.”

“So then, it shows us what we want…Whatever we want?”

“Yes, and no. It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts. Now you Harry, who have never known your family, you see them standing beside you. But remember this, Harry, this mirror gives us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away in front of it, even gone mad. That is why tomorrow it will be moved to a new home. And I must ask you not to go looking for it again. It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.”

I wondered, as we watched the movie last night, what I would see if I looked into a mirror like that. I don't think I would see myself exactly as I am...but I would like to.


Moo! Uploaded by Travis Hellstrom
Two weeks ago I wrote about Moo MiniCards and today received mine in the mail. I am excited to say I am quite pleased. The quality of pictures printed on them is great and I have already given away a few to my friends. If you would like to order some of your own visit Moo.com. A pack of 100 cards costs $19.99 and you won't be sorry you got them, promise.


Often I miss the deeper meaning in things as I go through my day-to-day tasks and mostly this is a result of my failure to ask questions and seek out meaning when I could. For instance, when I visited New York City two years ago, I walked through Central Park for about an hour. It was covered in snow and beautifully landscaped. There were plenty of diverse plants, statues, monuments, memorials (like Imagine for John Lennon), lakes, trees and paths throughout the park. But above those paths, there were also huge orange gates throughout the park. I took a few pictures of them, but it wasn't until two years later that I would learn they were quite famous to a large number of people. At the time I knew they were put there by an artist at no charge and with no money coming from them. What I found out this week in Art class, two years later, was the name of the artists and the purpose behind all of their works. I am very impressed with Christo and Jeanne-Claude and am very lucky to have seen one of their works in person. Even my art teacher, who loves them, has never been able to do that herself. I hope I can not only keep my eyes open each day, but truly appreciate what I am seeing.

February 2, 2007

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day. Yes it's a day, but it's also a movie. And it's an entry I made two years ago (yes, I know, I did this for Harry Potter too). Since Groundhog Day comes once a year on February 2nd I usually watch the movie Groundhog Day once a year too, preferably on February 2nd. The movie is great at highlighting the American tradition of Punxsutawney Phil (which is why it is also in our National Film Registry) but for me it is a great reminder of the value of one day and how much we really can accomplish if we think about the time we have. This time when I watched the movie I noticed it also provides a lesson regarding personal development: Bill Murray's character Phil Connors goes through periods of denial, selfishness, despair and unselfishness before he realizes what he really wants to live for. This is a process of education and experience that I think all of us go through, so I think everyone can relate to this very easily. I just hope I can make use of each of my days like he does with his on Groundhog Day. Maybe practice, as was the case with him, makes perfect.

February 1, 2007


Of all the advice I have given to fellow and incoming college students, I think some of the most valuable has been, "Take CLEP exams." I, and many of my friends, have placed out of English Composition (101 & 102), English Literature (201 & 202), Spanish and French (up to 202) and many other courses as well. Why take years of classes for thousands of dollars when you could take a test to place out of them for under a hundred dollars? "I just didn't know I could," is the most common answer. Well, here it is. Now you know.

CLEP® (College-Level Examination Program®) exams are official tests given by The College Board (the makers of the SAT) which count for credit at approximately 2,900 college institutions nationwide. In the Official Study Guide for CLEP, The College Board writes:

CLEP is based on the premise that some individuals enrolling in college have already learned part of what is taught in college courses through noncredit adult courses, job training, independent reading and study, and advanced high-school courses. CLEP provides these individuals with the opportunity to demonstrate their college-level learning by taking exams that assess the knowledge and skills taught in college courses.

CLEP Exams
These CLEP exams, covering topics such as Freshman Composition, American Literature, Spanish Language, Western Civilizations I & II, Biology and Calculus, correlate directly into full credit for required courses at Campbell and anyone can take them. Here is a list of select exams and the course credit they correlate into at Campbell:

Although this information is up-to-date as of the 2005-2006 school year, it is important to remember that it can change. Campbell University reserves the right to add stipulations to what credit they will and will not accept and it is important for each student to realize that before they take their particular test. Simply ask the registrar about your particular test and they will tell you what they plan to give you credit for on your transcript.

Taking the CLEP Exam
Now that you are ready to take your CLEP exam, there are a few things you need to know:

First, you need to plan on studying for the exam. It might seem surprising that you should study first, but it really makes sense. It is easy to forget things from classes that were years ago and we could all do for a little brush up on most subjects. The College Board provides an excellent Official Study Guide which I would highly recommend. It covers all of their 34 exams and only costs $25. Although you can also purchase individual test reviews online in PDF form for $10, but these are only sections out of the Official Study Guide and this is not very cost effective. I would recommend just buying the book and sharing it with your friends. You never know when you’ll take another CLEP exam or when your friends might really like the idea themselves. Also, reviewing for your test can be done on your own. Depending upon the subject being tested, use your previous notes from classes, books from those classes, or review materials that are available at the bookstore. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American Literature, for example, has helped quite a few students review for the American Literature CLEP test and they passed the test the first time. Search for books yourself, ask around and use the Official Study Guide practice tests (already within the book) to test yourself on the material.

Second, you need to decide on a place to take the exam. There are over 1,300 testing locations in the United States and Campbell has a new locations nearby including Fayetteville State University, Methodist College and Barton College. For a full list, visit The College Board website and serach CLEP Test Centers. Once you decide on a location, call them and ask them about what days they provide testing. Usually a CLEP test requires 2 to 3 hours to complete and most offices are open atleast 2 days a week. Decide on a day and time to take the test and then reserve your spot with the testing center. For Fayetteville State you will need to use the following form to reserve your spot. Congratulations, you are now ready to take the test!

Finally you will arrive at the testing center. Here you will get a little paperwork to fill out in registration for the test and you will also have to pay a small fee. The examinations cost $55 each and the testing center will likely charge around $10 for processing. After filling out this information and paying for the test, you will be led to a computer and allowed to begin on your test. Again, expect around 2-3 hours depending on which test you are taking. It will be self-timed and will conclude with a single question, “Would you like for this test to be scored?” If you feel like you received the required score to pass the test, feel free to click “heck yes.” Then the test will be scored automatically and you will be notified of the result. If you select “no”, the test will not be scored and Campbell will receive no notification of your result.

CLEP testing is a great way to receive credit for what you already know and I hope you all enjoy it. Good luck and tell your friends!