THON; One Hope, One Goal, One Mission, For The Kids!

Icon for Dance Marathon 2007; Many Hearts One Home


THON Spirit; State College, Pennsylvania 02.2010

If there is one thing that I encourage you to do during your academic years at Penn State – Be a part of THON! THON is easily the biggest programming event that goes on at PSU or Penn State.  THON is the more common name for the Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Council Dance Marathon. In fact, it is anticipated that well over half of Penn State undergraduates participate in some way during their stay at PSU. The following paragraphs will give you an introduction, but it is like trying to summarize a huge novel in a few short paragraphs. I suggest you partake in this event at least one time in your life! THON is a great representation of how a community can come together and focus on one single objective –this is For the Kids (or FTK as it is more commonly known)!
Four Diamonds Symbol; State College, Pennsylvania 02.2010
So what exactly happens with THON? The largest event at Penn State is held in February every year and is a 48-hour dance marathon (although this was shortened in 2007 to 44 hours; when I attended PSU it was 48 hours). THON is the largest student-organized philanthropy in the world. Specifically, all money raised goes towards the Four Diamonds Fund; money in this fund goes towards finding a cure for pediatric cancer and helping the families of children with cancer. What are the Four Diamonds Fund and the story behind it?  The Four Diamonds Fund is named after a fairy-tale that Christopher Millard, a young teenage boy, wrote. In Christopher’s story, a knight must find the four diamonds of Courage, Wisdom, Honesty and Strength in order to be released from captivity by an evil sorceress. The four diamonds are representational of the traits Chris believed were necessary to defeat cancer – he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 14. The Four Diamonds Fund has provided over 2,000 families, mainly from the Central Pennsylvania area, but also from nearby states. One of the best features of the Four Diamonds Fund is that it welcomes 100 new families to receive support from the Four Diamonds Fund each year. The mission of The Four Diamonds Fund is to conquer childhood cancer by assisting children treated at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and their families through superior care, comprehensive support, and innovative research.
Kids Smiles; State College, Pennsylvania 02.2007

Bryce Jordan Center Marathon Dancers; State College, Pennsylvania 02.2010
THON is one of the biggest community events that feature thousands of college students, a full-fledged dance marathon, and loads of kids with pediatric cancer. Every year respectable organizations, such as sporting team, clubs, and Greek organizations all raise money for kids with cancer. You may have witnessed me and my sorority sisters, Phi Mu, during several times of my undergraduate studies – we were standing in the blistering cold asking politely for the local community to support our cause. Not only was this a great excuse to be really active, but this event brought your organization a lot closer. Does not matter which organization you represent – the common goal is to raise money for kids with cancer

Love Belongs Here; Symbol of Four Diamonds Fund
My first time in Philadelphia was three weekends before THON. A half dozen of my sorority sisters “canned” at your local supermarket. In other words, during 4 weekends a year we stood on various corners of Northeastern Pennsylvania and held cans asking courteously for donations for our big event. There was 4 inches of snow on the ground combined with your occasional rain showers – it was your “typical” Pennsylvania winter day. Though my sisters and I were freezing, the warmth that helped us get through our 4 hours of canning were the bright smiles of our THON child (she was under the age of 8) and all of the other hundreds of happy children (ages varied from 6 months to 18 years old) cheerfully dancing around. THON allows a “kid to be a kid” – this event encourages kids to forget about their worries and pain; this is the time that they shine where they are not concerned with their daily pediatric appointments and hospital visits! In result, this takes their mind off of their illness for a bit and the thousands of supporters always manage to keep a smile on their face! Kids are free to roam the Bryce Jordan Center without a fear in the world – their mission for the weekend is to live in the moment. Tomorrow is a new day
Poster Support; State College, Pennsylvania 02.2007
Khloe Kardashian’s Latest Tweet
                                                       
The other pillar of the event is the dancers themselves. The event is notorious for raising several million dollars annually – the kids are welcomed by their own personal fan club several thousand’s of Penn State students, along with PSU alumnae, kid’s parents, and on occasions various celebrities. Recently, Khloe Kardashian tweeted about the event and helped spread the word about this fantastic cause. THON is one of the largest Dance Marathons – Penn Staters earn the right to become dancers at THON by actively participating in fund-raising efforts around the region. Thus, a minimal quota must be raised by each dancer to earn the title of a “THON Dancer.” These selected dancers spend the entire THON event on their feet – they must remain on their feet the whole weekend, the dancers are NOT allowed sit down at all! The point? It is an attempt to permit us (many of whom are lucky enough to have never undergone such a disease at such a young age) to understand their condition a tiny bit by subjecting ourselves to hardship. THON is definitely a very emotional sight (especially the last 4 hours) – there are tributes to the children that, sadly, lost their lives to cancer at a very early age (my first THON child was reflected upon), and many of the children that come visit are without hair due to chemotherapy. As will be pointed out at THON, the dancers, and all their supporters are able to go to bed and put this behind them on Sunday night; the children are not that fortunate. An emotional event indeed, THON is simultaneously a lot of fun and a heart-wrenching event.
THON Madness; State College, Pennsylvania 02.2007

THON is a huge event, and this short summary could not possibly do it justice. Please check out the “THON” website, do be a part of this cause, and actively involve yourself in next year’s THON. FTK!

                                                   

5 All-Time Favorite Memories at PSU; Good Times with Amazing People

Phi Mu Sorority Sisters; State College, Pennsylvania 01.2004
In the words of Asher Roth,
“I wanna go to college for the rest of my life
Sip Banker’s Club and drink Miller Lite
On Thirsty Thursday and Tuesday Night Ice
And I can get pizza a dollar a slice”
“Man, I love college”

I can agree to most of these lyrics– I do prefer drinking Smirnoff or Grey Goose over Banker’s Club! As most of you may already know, Corona is my favored beer – Miller Lite will suffice if no Corona is available. The lyrics that stuck in my head the most were when he sung, “I Love College!” I heard this song recently and wanted to introduce my experiences at good ole PSU!
The Pennsylvania State University or PSU was a huge part of my life. I tend to think about my times that I had there more often than anywhere else. Since college is one of the most important times of your life, as well as one of the best, I wanted to write an overview of the “greatest experiences” I had at PSU or Happy Valley – we love our nicknames! Some alumnae would summarize PSU as a “Football Town with a Drinking Problem!” I would love to hear your input as well!
  • ·       1. FOOTBALL GAMES – Penn State is a college that adores its football! I cannot tell you the feeling I had when I first stepped into the roaring crowd at Beaver Stadium. Attending PSU tailgates before the “big day” was awesome! This gave my good friends and me a chance to relax, BBQ, drink a beer or two, and talk about the outcome of the upcoming game. Of course, we ALWAYS thought that PSU would win! Fortunately, 75% of the time we were right; of course, we had a great year in 2006 – which later resulted in this “7 Ways to Avoid Getting Your Car Keyed; Fabulous Florida Spring Break 2007.”  A visit to PSU is not complete without watching a football game! After the hard academic week filled with projects, tests, and home works were over – the Saturday football games established the “perfect weekend” for us Penn Staters! It did not matter if it was sunny or raining, we die hard PSU fans were cheering our team on towards victory. Most of the time it did rain when I went; it made one heck of a tailgate mudding party! Almost everybody knows somebody who is having a tailgate, and everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who is having one! Bottom line: Get yourself to a tailgate pronto; it really is quite the experience! I have heard Penn Staters mention that football is important like breathing, except it would be easier to go without breathing!
 

Hub; State College, Pennsylvania 08.2008
  • ·   2. GREEK LIFE – Greek life is vast on campus! The first time I decided on “going Greek” I was sitting in the 24 hour open student union or recognized to PSU college students as the Hub – “The Stepping Stones of Life; Passion for Marine Conservation” and noticed all these strange letters on guys and girls tee-shirts. I had no clue what they meant, but most of the same lettered tee-shirts seemed to be paired with one another. I discovered this was a well-known organization known as the “Greek System” and was very popular at PSU. If you were interesting in “going Greek” then you would go through a pledge period and journey to find your proper brotherhood/sisterhood that you belonged with.  The males were part of a fraternity and the females were associated with a sorority.  It is important to note that there were your “traditional” social fraternities/sororities, but there were also ones that main interest focused in certain academic fields (i.e. Music, Agriculture, Forestry, and Accounting fraternities). To be involved in Greek Life meant that you were provided lifetime friendships (I still talk to many Greeks, including my sisters), engaged into the local community volunteering and hosting events, offered tons of Greek Events that became part of your monthly calendar (just to name a few – Homecoming, Greek Sing, Greek Week), and interacted with other Greek affiliations in various social events. Honestly, I can say that I am a proud alumna of Phi Mu!

Awesome Sorority Sisters; State College, Pennsylvania 01.2004
  • ·   3. FRIENDSHIPS – Right out of high school and entering the college world, I was a bit nervous about meeting new people in such a large “college town.” I only graduated with 81 students in high school and coming into a campus of 40,000+ students was a bit intimidating! Once I joined the PSU softball team and started rush to become involved in a sorority on campus, I began meeting dozens of people on a daily basis. I could not believe how easy it was to socialize with a group of dedicated and fun individuals that was pursuing the same dream you were – to acquire their PSU diploma. College is supposed to be the years where you realize your limitations, welcome your first time experiences, and enjoy your time during your academic years. Truthfully, between joining a sorority and being a member of the softball team these were the best ways for me to make not only a lot of friendships, but also create a set of close-knit relationships.  PSU had a wide range of diversity and you were bound to meet a new person everyday who shared the same interests that you did. The sorority and fraternity life had 86 different Greek organizations on campus. In the particular degree of field that you were pursing you already shared a similar commonality – you both were learning the same material and interacting with your classmates in “hands on” projects. In my eyes, this was a super easy way to make friends and professional contacts. If you are worried about making new friends or not “fitting” in, I can guarantee you here at PSU you will find yourself excelling in not only academics, but also in forming new friendships.
My Big Sister Jen and I; State College, Pennsylvania 01.2004

  •     4. SOCIAL EVENTS – Every night of the week there seemed to be a “special” event being held at campus or next to campus. The list includes music concerts, professional or distinguished speakers and seminars, socials (sororities and fraternities), and various clubs or organizations that are based around your interests. My favorite concert held at Bryce Jordan Center included the All American Rejects, the Starting Line, the Format, and Gym Class Heroes. Hands down this was one of PSU’s best musical performances; the crowd was ridiculous – filled with enthusiasm that led out into the streets! The lead singer Tyson Ritter from the All American Rejects never looked so good! Women were throwing their bras on stage – it was crazily entertaining! I especially loved his performance in “The House Bunny” starring my favorite actresses Emma Stone and Anna Faris. Other concerts I went to were Good Charlotte & Mest, Yellowcard, and All Time Low. My good friends and I caught a few shows of Bowling for Soup and Yellowcard nearby PSU. I attended several professional seminars, which one of my all-time favorite ones was “Conservation and Status of the Hammerhead Shark” – “The Stepping Stones of Life; Passion for Marine Conservation” and was presented at the branch campus of Altoona. An unexpected baseball legend, Nolan Ryan, spoke with students about the abusive use of steroids and the later consequences that one will face. Nolan Ryan was in my opinion one of the best pitchers that was around when I was growing up!  Sororities and fraternities are notorious for hosting “socials;” which is one sorority mixed with a fraternity normally located on Frat Row. These are best described as a “meet and greet” event that allows each chapter to introduce themselves and meet some of the opposite sexed chapters. It is college; some socials are themed and have different alcoholic functions. My personal favorite was “Beer Olympics” – let’s just say that I am awesome at beer pong! Not all functions are alcohol related, some involve chapters getting together to host a community related event. For instance, my sorority and a local fraternity held an event that featured Joe Paterno or Joe Pa as the guest speaker. I have met him several times; he is a sweet dire hard Penn Stater! Last, but certainly not least are the clubs that you participate in. I was on the Wildlife & Fishery Science committee, Marine Science committee, Biology club, and Softball club. With over hundreds of clubs that to choose from – there is certainly a club that will spark your interest! 
All American Rejects; State College, Pennsylvania 03.2006

      

  •     5. BARS – I have to admit it was nice to finish a test and head downtown to your favorite pub and have a cold beer with a group of your close friends to reflect on the day’s events. Literally 7 days a week, there was always something happening at your preferred pub and you can bet that it was guaranteed to be a great time! With over 100 bars around town and most of them were open till 2am – you are destined to dip into the PSU nightlife. Happy hours and nighttime events determined which pubs that you were headed to that night. Most of the pubs that attracted us girls:

      • Monday – Karaoke @ the Saloon, complete with Monkey Boys!
      • Tuesday – Trivia night @ the Gingerbread Man (G-man for short!) then taxi it to Champs Sports Bar and Grill for Nacho night
      • Wednesday – Mad Mex Margita night!
      • Thursday – aka Thirsty Thursday – Social event then Fish Bowl @ Bar Bleu or Nickel night @ Cell Block
      • Friday – Social event then the Cell Block, formally known as the Crow Bar; Happy Hour central!
      • Saturday – Social event then Drink specials @ the Brewery or en route to the Phyrst for Table Wars and a taste of the Irish; Graham Spanier approved!
      • Sunday – Café 210 West Long Island Iced Teas!
Monkey Boys at Saloon; State College, Pennsylvania 08.2008
Other fabulous pubs that are located next to campus and attract many college students – All-American Rathskellar, Candy Bar Lounge, Darkhorse Tavern, Lion’s Den,  Allen Street Grill, Bill Pickles Tap Room,  Gingerbread Man/G-Man, Lulu’s, Mad Mex, Shandygaff Saloon, The Deli Z’s Bar, and Zeno’s, The Big Easy, Indigo (formally known as Players), etc. 

Fish Bowl at Bar Bleu; State College, Pennsylvania 12.2010

I was skimming through some PSU material online and discovered the list for the “Top 5 Best and Worst College Bars in PSU!”
Penn State University defines its mission as one “that improves the lives of the people of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality programs in teaching, research, and service.”

7 Ways to Avoid Getting Your Car Keyed; Fabulous Florida Spring Break 2007

I learned a few important lessons in Cocoa Beach, Florida when my car was keyed during spring break 2007. I thought that I would share these with you, enjoy!
I would like to dedicate this post to the girls “The Chosen Path Revealed; Epic Spring Break Adventure.” Thank you for pushing me to call the cops and sitting on the corner curb with me to wait for them! It only took them 30 minutes to finally show up!  Of course while I was talking to the cop, the girls were chatting to some cute Navy boys and planning our night! Good times!
How to Avoid Getting Your Car Keyed During Spring Break:
  • 1.        Plan on driving to a popular spring break location, which the parking lot or parking spot where you park has a camera. Most hotels have cameras nearby and if they do not, then find another spot! I realize that in the whole state of Florida it sometimes can be hard to find a magical, lit, and comfortable spot to park in; however, it can be done! Most of the 3-4 star hotels have lighting and a security guard nearby. 
  • 2.        Check your college football team stats before you drive your “precious” car to your spring break destination. During the past year of 2006 the Pennsylvania State University crushed Florida State University in the Orange Bowl, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida. Since my college beat them the year before, they must have been really upset! Talk about a long time to hold a grudge!
  • 3.        Resist from being a smart ass! If you are playing beach volleyball against a larger group of rivals who keep chanting how badly your college football was the previous year (even though this was bogus!), then politely smile and avoid any smart comments to the opposing team. Sooner or later they will start challenging each other to a “friendly” drinking game aka chugging a whole can of beer in one gulp. The focus will be off of your college and onto a new topic, “How many beers can I drink in 2 minutes?” This could lead to a quick beach volleyball game, since the other team has “passed” out. Just think how great it would if a dog came up and did its business on them! No words needed, priceless.
  • 4.        Find a parking place that is located close to the beach, maybe in eye sight of where you and your friends are hanging out. It is always important to make sure that your “pride and joy” is out of harm’s way. A car alarm would surely help this situation! Be aware the occasional spring breaker may come and do his business (yes, usually this is a guy!) right next to your car. If he is taking a while and eying up your car, then politely ask one of your muscle head guy friends to go assess the situation. If you are only with girls, find a really hot big “muscled” man (preferably with a group of other hot men) and ask for him to respectfully remove the man away from your car. If you are with a wimpy guy and/or there are no hot guys around, then you and your girlfriends march up to him and courteously tell him to go to a different location. If he is giving you a hard time, then show him that you mean business by posing in your best karate move position!
  • 5.        Avoid at all costs being a smart ass, but if you happen to layer the smart ass comments on a little thick then you should have a backup plan. If you and your girlfriends happen to smash the opposing team, then weigh out the following options. A) Drinks are involved; rowdiness may occur and more trash talk will be spitting out of their mouths. Do not panic, just smile and nod and think to yourself how would anyone find these guys attractive?!? Do laugh hysterically with your girlfriends as you are trying to decide which one is the alpha male. If they walk towards your car, do follow closely behind and predict their every move. B) If drinks are not involved and you and your girlfriends beat them, closely watch what they are doing and listen to what they are talking about. The mistake that the girls and I made was that we were too busy giggling about our planned itinerary for the week instead of listening to what the group of guys was quietly whispering.
  • 6.        Remove your college stickers before you road trip to your spring break desired location. This would eliminate all worst case scenarios and in the end will make you have an awesome spring break! The great thing about adhesive window decals is that most of them are easily removable, if they are not then head down to the local “Auto Zone” and purchase some adhesive remover. Better yet, the old razor blade trick works just as well. Decals are really cheap, maybe next time you decide to buy a few stickers for your ride, pick up some extras.
  • 7.        Take a “party” bus to your spring break location. Avoid driving all together! This would help you and your girlfriends make new friends and plan the party as it comes. Any slight of discomfort about leaving a vehicle behind is out of your worries. Also, this would save you from a situation of “drinking and driving;” if you are idiotic enough to do this in the first place!






Penn State Football Crowd; University Park, Pennsylvania 11.2006
I hope this helps you to avoid the situation that my girlfriends and I were in. The first mistake tied into with the location where we parked my car. Not only did we park in a non-lit parking spot, but it also turned out to be the only place on the entire side street that did not have a camera installed next to it. The next mistake we executed was that we were not paying attention to what the “drunken hot boys” were saying; we were mainly focused on ourselves and wrapped into our own conversation. The third mistake we created was that my car was never fully in eye sight of the girls and I while we were hanging out and playing beach volleyball. The last mistake that we made was that I did not carefully remove my PSU decals before we left. My car lit up like a PSU Christmas tree! My sorority sticker: Phi Mu was inside the glass (thank goodness!), but all of my other stickers on my car were ripped and torn next to my car. Of course, with the lovely key indentation markings formed on my car, you can also add a 4 inch knife blade that was conveniently scratched into my driver and passenger door panels.
Remember to have a fabulous spring break, but be cautious about your environment and your car’s surroundings. A few extra steps taken from this list and few added precautions will eradicate the hassle of waiting for a cop for 30 minutes. In the meantime, you could have been hanging out with the cute six-pack shaped boys on the beach!

The Chosen Path Revealed; Epic Spring Break Adventure

The Girls: Shannon, Me, Anjoli, Lindsay, and Troxler; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
In the beginning of building this site I have given you some background information on how my interest evolved in Marine Biology over the earlier years of my life. I am sure that more articles will appear in the future, but for now it is time to reveal the chosen path that has led me to where I am now. 
During 2007 I was faced with one of the most important decisions in my life. “Where do I go from here?” I was in my super senior year (I love this term!) and was pursing my Wildlife & Fishery Science degree: Fishery Option and two minors in Biology and Marine Science.  Not to mention that I was in a Panhellenic Sorority: Phi Mu. I was desperately looking for a connection to place me in the field of my interest. I even contemplated asking my sorority sisters if they knew any Phi Mu alumna in the Environmental Field. I was determined to find a “real” job outside of Pennsylvania. I was not 100% sure where to start applying first, but I thought that I would start with Florida. I needed to find a way to place my foot in the door. I was hoping that all the sorority community events, clubs that I participated in, and “hands on experience” projects that I accumulated during my undergrad would help me land an amazing job opportunity in the Marine Field. 
I became really focused that year emailing research companies worldwide; I even applied to a few in the UK. I was not receiving many responses, but I was determined to not give up! I knew that if I could just get 1 interview out of the 50 that I was applying for, then I would be one step closer to reaching my ultimate goal: Become a successful international field Marine Biologist. Of course, this is a lot easier said than done! Lucky for me and my fellow PSU classmates’ spring break was coming up right around the corner! I juggled several “typical” spring break locations back and forth; trying to decide where my good friends and I wanted to travel to. Before spring break arrived, I spent the previous month emailing more companies and attempting to answer the life-puzzling question that seemed to haunt me. “Where do I go from here?” Should I inquire about a job with the Fish & Game Commission in Pennsylvania or could I challenge myself to work and live on the West Coast for a few years?   
The girls – Shannon, Anjoli, Lindsay, Troxler, and I decided on a warm tropical location and a place where you can have beach, beer, and sand literally at your fingertips! As they were determining the destination for spring break, I was busy emailing Florida Environmental companies and trying to set up some interviews for my birthday month of May. Ironically, all of my replies regarding interview dates were located in Florida and the girls’ final decision on where they wanted to spend their spring break… FLORIDA! I penciled in 4 interviews during our spring break and starting making final preparations for the big road trip! I found myself driving my black 2 door 97’ Honda Civic with 4 other girls riding with me and luggage packed in every corner of my car! To this day, I still have no idea how you can comfortably fit 3 girls in the back seat of that tiny “sporty” Civic?  I suppose we were all filled with a drive for adrenaline! Needless to say, this would be an epic adventure! D The girls and I drove 18 hours to arrive in the city of Cocoa, Florida. My uncle Matt lived in Cocoa and we decided to stay with him for the first 2 days of our trip. 
As soon as we arrived at my uncle’s place, we ran inside and immediately freshened up to hit the beach! I recall 4 red bulls later, 0 hours of sleep (we were all too excited to sleep as soon as we entered Florida state!), and sheer adrenaline pumping out of my system crammed with excitement. The girls already jam packed themselves in my car again and were anxiously awaiting our trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida; this was about 20 minutes down the road. I knew I had several interviews in the morning and one of the offices was located pretty close to where I was. I convinced the girls to come with me and double check my interview time for my first morning appointment at Ecoes Environmental Consulting. To my surprise, I pulled into a small brown complex with various little shops surrounding some trees in the parking lot. I noticed a woman standing behind the trunk of her van pulling out some boxes. The girls decided to check out the surf and ice cream shops nearby; I headed towards the woman to ask her where Ecoes was located. While I made my way to her direction to politely ask where the office was located, I thought to myself how great it would be to live down here. My uncle is literally right down the street and the beach is only a few minutes away. I would love to live near the beach and see the incredible sunrises over the powerful blue oceanI have longed for this moment. I would definitely be in heaven! 
I finally reached the woman and asked about the office location. As she was picking up the last box she mentioned that she was headed to the Ecoes building.  She quickly put down the boxes and introduced herself as Mary Jo the owner of Ecoes Consulting! You should have seen the look on my face; I did not know whether to smile or kick myself in the butt for not knowing this sooner! Either way, I tried to make the best first impression. I was about to mention my name when she said, “You must be Jessica Benford from the Pennsylvania State University, from the sound of your emails you want to become a respectable Marine Biologist.” I quickly felt my heart sink into my chest; how did this woman know who I was? Better yet, how did she remember my name? I felt a huge grin on my face as I replied, “Wow, it is great to finally meet you.” She gave me a huge smile back and asked if I would accompany to her office. I asked to carry one of her boxes, which seemed to please her. We walked towards her small corner office and I placed the boxes on the desk. I looked around and saw a few articles of Marine Mammals hanging on the wall. In the corner I recognized a large projector screen that dropped down next to what appeared to be a classroom. I thanked Mary Jo for taking the time to let me see her office. As I was about to turn around and head outside, she told me to call her MJ and if I had a few more minutes to discuss the position that she had offered me. At this point, I was ecstatic! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning that discovered her first toy (the kind of toy that you “actually” wanted!).
Celebration Drinks at Local Pub; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
I explained that I have some friends waiting outside and that if I could go tell them that I would be a few minutes, then I would love to sit down and talk with her about the job opportunity.  She agreed; I ran outside with this massive grin on my face and a brush of exhilaration overcoming my body. It took a minute or two to catch my breath; I then explained to the girls that I need a few more minutes with MJ. They all seemed to look at me quite puzzling and asked all at once, “Who’s MJ?” As I took off towards the office and rounded the tree hanging next to the sidewalk, I yelled back, “I will tell you later!” I reached the office and MJ had opened the door for me. I noticed a series of papers sitting on the desk. Here I am dressed in flip flops, board shorts, and a tank top about ready to be interviewed by a woman company owner and well-respected Marine Biologist who actively participates in Endangered Species Conservation for the United States. I excused my wardrobe as she chuckled and expressed that it was the perfect outfit for this job. I did not know quite what to think about that, but I sat down and eagerly looked forward to our discussion. 
MJ pulled out my recent CV that I emailed her a few days ago. As she was skimming through it, she made a few great comments under her breath. After we talked for 15-20 minutes, she printed a document off of her computer and asked me to read over it quickly. The first line read, “WELCOME TO ECOES ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTING, YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO WORK FOR THE OIL & GAS INDUSTRY ON VARIOUS PROJECTS WORLDWIDE!” I almost fell out of my chair! Seriously, am I being hired as a Marine Mammal Scientist? Did I just get this job? Does this mean that I am moving to Florida? MJ gazed upon me and asked me what I thought about this position. I responded in a very enthusiastic voice, “I would thoroughly enjoy working for you and your company.” She seemed really pleased with my answer. We discussed my starting date, my potential moving date to Florida, my job description in further detail, and the date of my graduation from PSU. I could not believe that I was presented a job on the spot! This NEVER happens to me! Random fact, I worked for my grandfather’s restaurant in Pennsylvania and he did not offer me the job right away; he called me a few days later to tell me that I could start working for him! 
 
A Local Pub near the Beach; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
After MJ and I had finished our discussion, I thanked her many times before walking out of her office. We both agreed to keep in touch and her final words to me were, “I look forward to having you on my team.” What a great morning! A rush of emotions of enthusiasm and happiness seemed to take over my body and all hit me at once. I found the girls eating ice cream next to my car. I excitedly starting jumping up and down; their faces were priceless! I told them the good news and they started jumping around the parking lot with me! I remember the girls saying how proud they were of me; which showed me the tremendous support and great friends that I have in my life.  We drove to Cocoa Beach and grabbed a parking spot in front of a local surf shop. We decided to celebrate spring break PSU style! Beach, beer, sand, and volleyball were all involved; it was a great afternoon. I called all of my friends and family back home spreading the good news. One important moment that I remember within the mist of all the excitement was the phone call I had with my mom. I am glancing at the ocean, listening to the waves crash into the rocks, and hypnotized in a mental stage of utter bliss. This would be the new place that I would soon call home. I finally knew “Where I am going from here!”
 
  
Police to the Rescue; Cocoa Beach, Florida 03.2007
Quick recap of Spring Break: Ironically, I met my “future” roommate playing beach volleyball; Matt worked for the Kennedy Space Center and was looking to fill his extra room in his condo for the summer. Disneyland, Fort Lauderdale (or my personal favorite Fort Liquordale), and Jacksonville were all part of the girls and I’s “typical” spring break. We all had a fabulous time, especially with the never ending celebration week of my Marine Biologist position in Florida! In the end I decided to cancel all other interviews that I had originally planned and accepted MJ’s offer that week in Florida. Despite the unfortunate event of spring break – my car was keyed due to the coverage of PSU stickers on it (least this is what the cop said), it was an epic spring break and one that will be remembered for the rest of my life

Follow Your Dreams; Exceed Your Own Expectations

Coral Reef Researchers (I am on the far right); San Salvador, Bahamas 05.2005

At the end of my Marine Science Minor program I had the chance to research coral reefs in San Salvador, Bahamas in 2005. The trip lasted through the week of my birthday; not a bad present! One of the requirements to participate on this trip was to obtain a full body physical, which focused on scans and x-rays for the main organs such as the heart and lungs. Since I had my hopes set on getting my Scuba Diving Certification this was a necessity for me. 
The most unfortunate news that I was given by the doctors during my visit was that I had an Acute Lung Disease. I remember thinking to myself how can this be? What does this even mean? Will this affect my ambitions to discover a new species? Will this hinder me from diving to the great depths of the unknown? Is this something really serious? To answer all the above questions, I am limited on the depth of diving that I can excel to, but if I descend deeper than the amount of air that my lungs can hold I will have serious problems develop.  This disease is defined as the decrease in the total volume of air that the lungs are able to hold. Often, this is due to a decrease in the elasticity of the lungs themselves or caused by a problem related to the expansion of the chest wall during inhalation.  This disease may have limited my diving time underneath the water and the depth that I can swim to, but it cannot take the passion of my love for the ocean away. If anything, I am still able to snorkel and scuba dive a few times each month. The doctors suggested that I acquired this disease due to the second-hand smoke that I was introduced to as a child. Regardless, after all these tests it was determined that I could still attend my research project off the little island in the Bahamas. Of course, this was the best news that I was given that week! 
 
Headed to our First Dive (I am on the left with pink tank top); San Salvador, Bahamas 05.2005
I voyaged to the small research island of San Salvador, Bahamas with a few of my other classmates. We had a week of diving, scientific talks from a few researchers on the island, and learning more about the environment that we were in. The first few days of the trip concentrated on diving in both the day and the night, which small pick up trucks placed us and our gear in the back as we ventured to the other side of the island for some great scuba diving! I was able to partake in all of the diving here in the shallower areas of the reefs. I snorkeled a great bit when my classmates were finalizing their last exercise to obtain their certification. I cannot quite describe to you the feeling that overcame my body when I knew that I could not finish my scuba diving certification. 

Girl Researchers (I am on the far left); San Salvador, Bahamas 05.2005
I did not think that it was capable to feel this much disappointment and frustration at once. I can honestly say this was one of the worst times that I felt unconfident about myself and my purpose in life. Alas, the uncomfortable emotions passed and soon I realized that life has much more to offer me. This was just one of the more significant obstacles that I will face in this lifetime.  That night I slept few hours because I was thinking about my future as a Marine Biologist and the goals that I needed to succeed to get reach my full potential in this field. The next morning I was awoken by the news that my scuba diving instructor/ professor wanted to give me my scuba diving certification. He made me promise that I would continue diving, but I would not push my limits too much when I was submerged underwater. I still have the urge to scuba dive into the deep mysterious crevices in the ocean, but I tend to let that feeling pass. For now, I will keep diving to the shallower depths and continue snorkeling my heart out!
 
Last Photo Taken of Trip (I am on the bottom with light blue shirt); San Salvador, Bahamas 05.2005
 
The remaining of days on the island was spent with the locals. My classmates and I were presented with the chance to teach 7th, 8th, and 9th graders on how to snorkel in the local bay next to their school. I have included an article in the next post which describes this event and serves as a clear representation of my past when I first professionally started working in the marine world.