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Trading Cornfields for Palm Trees

August 18, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, School Counseling Ambassador, Brianne France:

As I approach one year of living in this fine city of sunshine and saltwater, I have found myself reflecting on what can happen in 365 days.

I would love to say the moving process was simple, but that would be an exaggeration. The stressors were endless (top three: FAFSA, apartment hunting, FAFSA), and would have been impossible without the support I had. So, one year ago to the very day, my dad, boyfriend and I drove here, tag-team, for 36 straight hours from Madison, Wisconsin.

I told myself that, after my support system returned to the Midwest, I would say yes to any experience. I’ve been line-dancing, stuck in rush-hour traffic, and hiking all over. I’ve consumed my weight in artisan donuts, craft beer, and California burritos. I’ve fallen in love with the Ocean, but learned to avoid trying to go between 3 and 7 pm, June through September. I have become obsessed with how to successfully keep succulents alive, beat the brunch rush, and parallel park on the first try.

Things that are different:

  • Referring to the highway by its number (i.e. “oh, just take the eight.)
  • Authentic Mexican food.
  • Cold being 40 degrees, rather than negative 40.

Things that are the same:

  • Complaining about being “cold” in the winter.
  • Majority of complaints being traffic related.
  • Good people.

I have shared my story since moving out here, and I have been told that I was brave to do what I did- something I’m less likely to consider myself. I was scared every day I was “adjusting” to life out here that I’d been foolish. It took exactly the time everyone said it would to see how myself and others, much more so than I, have chosen to be courageous and daring in pursuing a dream.

“Think of how much your life has changed in a year,” a friend said recently. Last year, I was leaving behind the things I love to move somewhere I wouldn’t know a soul (or a place to get coffee). This year, I have more things to love than I can count. I have met the most beautiful souls that I am lucky to call friends and I have found some of the best places to get coffee.

It was always easy, but has been absolutely worth it.


Juggling a Newborn While in Graduate School

July 26, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health specialization Ambassador, Kim Macias:

I am a 3rd year Clinical Mental Health Counseling student here at USD. When I last wrote, I went over the transition from the work force to being a student. Today I am writing about a very different experience: balancing family and school.

At the time of this blog post I have a wonderful 7 month son Mateo. It has been an amazing experience thus far. Both my husband and I are in graduate school. There was a learning curve trying to balance school, work, and a child. I want to share some of how I do that with you.

First off I was lucky enough that we could afford for me to quit working. While I am determined to complete my degree on time and be the very best mom I can be, I knew I just couldn’t work. This last semester I was also able to work with my school schedule so that I was away from Mateo for just one day and my husband was able to stay at home that day. Also, I was able to take this summer off because of taking summer school last year, and carefully planning the upcoming school year.

During the actual semester, my husband and I had a good system down. I would take care of Mateo till my husband came back from his program. At that point, he took over baby duty so I could finish the school work I wasn’t able to do while Mateo was napping or otherwise entertained. There was some trial and error involved, and my family would stop by to make sure we were eating and weren’t buried under a pile of laundry.

With all of that being said, I am very fortunate that things worked out the way that they have. The three main components that made this possible are:

  • Support systems

I cannot say enough how important a support system is. In our program, we are taught that support systems are so important for our client’s success in their counseling journey. The same can be said for everyone going through a trying time. My mom is such a big help. She understands what I am going through and is able to provide the extra support I need.

  • Asking for help

Don’t be afraid to speak up when you need help. There will be times where you may feel like you are doing too much, so let those around you help. Also, the instructors and faculty at USD have been beyond helpful whenever I have had a question or concern about continuing schooling.

  • Time management and planning ahead

Again, shout out to the faculty at USD. When I found out I was expecting, I sat down with my advisor and we came up with a game plan that allowed me the most time at home with Mateo while still graduating on time. Once he was here I made sure that I was on top of my deadlines and kept track of everything I needed to do; scheduling doctor appointments and play dates around essay due dates and group projects.

This coming semester I will be starting my practicum at an amazing site. This will also bring more changes to my family. I am lucky that my mother will be helping out those first few months as I return to school. I have no clue how it will all turn out, but I do know that with the support systems I have I will make it all work while enjoying my last year of school and our little family.


International Experience: Ecuador

July 17, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health specialization Ambassador, Becca Byler:

Being part of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program provides you with opportunity to take a class that allows you to immerse yourself in another culture. My Multicultural Counseling class gave me the chance to go to Quito, Ecuador and gain a new perspective into the lives of the individuals there.


We stayed at the Working Boys’ Center where we helped the children with their English, we helped a family improve their house, we shadowed the volunteers there, and we were able to explore the sights of Quito. The longer we stayed at the Center, the more we became acutely aware of the injustice and inequalities that take place in that country. We found ourselves becoming cognizant of all of the sacrifices that the families make in order to ensure that their children get an education, that they get the food they need, and that they have a place to stay.

I found myself reflecting on all of the privileges that we have in the United States. Unfortunately a lot of my classmates, including myself, left with more questions than answers. One thing that I do know for certain is that this opportunity has given me a new perspective into the field of counseling. Yes, they tell us that we have to take into account the culture that our client is in, in order to better understand the client, but actually being in that situation allowed us to put that into practice.


Study Spaces Around San Diego

July 3, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Ambassador, Aubrie Cook:

Working on a midterm? A PBL (problem based learning project)? A final? And you’re looking for study space? You’re in luck because San Diego has a ton of great spaces to utilize.

On campus
USD has a variety of places on campus available to graduate students to work on assignments. Need a quiet space and you’re in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall (MRH)? Check out the reading room! Feel like getting out of MRH but have a class in an hour? Check out the Copley Library. This library is not just for undergraduates and offers a different type of setting to get that questionnaire completed. Want to check out a different part of campus? A place I would definitely recommend to do some of your studying is the law library. There is a ton of quiet space here ranging from large table areas to individual cubbies – on an entire floor dedicated to quiet study. Want to do a bit of socializing with other graduate and law students while also getting some of your reading done? The Grad & Law Commons (SLP 401) is a great place to study and hang out. They offer a wide variety of programming geared towards grad students as well as bagel Wednesdays! Need to refuel on campus? Aromas has caffeine, snacks and tables perfect for studying.

Reading Room
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall’s Reading Room

Off campus
Feeling like getting off campus? Some of USD’s grad student’s favorites include Young Hickory, Lestats and Liberty Station. Young Hickory has several different types of table spaces ranging from large group tables, individual tables and bar type seating. They offer a variety of beverages from caffeine to grad level beverages. Need wifi, caffeine, something to eat and it’s 2am?! Lestats is your place! Open 24/7, Lestats is where you can pull that all-nighter needed for AR.

Young Hickory

No matter what you are looking for in a study space San Diego and USD have got you covered!

To Be Helped & To Help

June 15, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Ambassador, Bianca Chau:

Bringing only two suitcases with me from Hong Kong, there was so much of me I had to leave behind. Luckily, I found a great group of friends who helped me along the way in getting settled and of course, the International Center (where I work at) and the Grad and Law commons has been my home away from home.

The first semester was particularly hard. I had to accept that supermarkets were no longer a walking distance away, my family and friends back home were asleep when I was awake, and cost of living was not more expensive, but different in many ways. Balancing studies, work, and my personal life was a lot harder than I thought it would be, too. I felt like I was spreading myself too thin across every aspect of my life – but I had a supportive group of friends that I made in San Diego that encouraged me to push through every part of the way.  

Just a heads up for incoming international folks or for folks who are moving across the country to be at USD: it will take awhile to get used to living in San Diego and being a grad student at USD – and that is NORMAL. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no matter how small you think the matter may be. That is how I got through. For example, I mentioned to a colleague that I only had a pot and a pan at home and the next day, she brought eating utensils, a kettle, and smaller pots and pans for me and I have been using them ever since. Acts of kindness like that really help you go a long way! So don’t be shy to open up about what you need and we will be there to help! As a Graduate Assistant at the International Center and being a SOLES Ambassador, my hope is to be that support group for any students who I can be there for.IMG-20170325-WA0005

Moving to San Diego

June 1, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management Ambassador, Sigrid Struben:

I moved to San Diego in 1999 and I knew as soon as I arrived that I would never move again. The best things about calling San Diego home are the weather, proximity to diverse coastal environments, and almost unlimited opportunities for outdoor activities; they don’t call it America’s finest city for nothing!

Mission Bay and Pacific Beach are only a few miles from USD and are perfect for all sorts of recreation. Some of my favorites are kayaking, snorkeling, roller blading, sailing, scuba diving, boogie boarding and biking. If you are running low on energy after turning in a ten page paper you can always sit back, relax and enjoy being a spectator at San Diego’s unique and colorful over-the-line tournament every July at Mission Beach, the San Diego Bayfair power boat races, or just unwind and watch the locals and tourists hanging out at Belmont Park’s wooden roller coaster.

Can’t decide which to do first? Don’t worry, you live here now! Torrey Pines State Beach and Park is a little north of USD but only about a ten minute drive, much quieter, and offers gorgeous hiking trails through the cliffs above the beach. La Jolla is a great upscale beach town, also no more than a ten minute drive from campus. It has a wide variety of places to eat and shop, or explore art galleries where you can browse for free. I always like to go down to the water after enjoying a meal with family and friends to watch the seals and sea lions sun bathing on the rocks and playing in La Jolla Cove. San Diego’s coastline offers something for everyone, so you will never be bored. Whether you want to dive right in or just sit back and watch the sun set into the ocean you will return home relaxed and tan. But don’t forget your sunscreen — this is San Diego!

The childrens pool in La Jolla

Oh, how time flies…

May 15, 2017

A blog post from SOLES Master’s Credential Cohort Ambassador, Lara Angeles:

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you. For me, it’s both. As a one-year candidate in the Master’s Credential Cohort program, the fact that time has gone by all too quickly is an understatement. It may sound cliché, but it really does seem just like yesterday we were having all of this information thrown our way during orientation last July. Now here we are preparing to graduate! Yes, we still have summer classes, but with many of us completing our international experience this summer, it’s a welcome break in comparison to the go-go-go that the rest of the year has brought.

But as I sit year writing this blog, I can’t help but reflect on the year that has passed by. From the time I began the application process for graduate programs to now as I’m in the midst of the application process for teaching positions, it’s hard to believe how much I’ve grown during that time. I know it may sound silly considering it has *only* been a year, but so much has happened that has challenged me and strengthened me: from balancing a hectic schedule to Teacher’s Appreciation Night at the zoo to lengthy class discussions about different pedagogies to yoga before Friday morning class to potlucks with my cohort to tears of joy and tears of stress… it’s amazing how much one can actually fit in a year and how close we have all become because of that! As I write this, it becomes more and more apparent to me how thankful I am not only to the family and friends that have supported me throughout this crazy time, but also to my cohortmates who have walked alongside me through this journey.

Even though the year isn’t over yet, I still feel a bittersweet ending up ahead. Amidst the stress of wrapping up our credential process, completing our action research, and job hunting, of course I’m relieved that there is an ending in sight. On the other hand, I know there will always be areas of growth for me and will miss the people that have helped me get this far. Since the ending is inevitable, I am glad to be finishing strong with the Class of 2017 and am excited to see what more is in store for the rest of our lives!

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” –Michael Althsuler