Friday, May 7, 2010

Life after Des Moines


After this internship, I had planned on moving to the Omaha/Council Bluffs area. Now that the time has come, I have mixed feelings. It is exciting to be starting a new chapter in my life, and I found a job. I'll be working in Underwriting at FirstComp, a company downtown Omaha, and I start May 17.

On the other hand, it's odd to think that I won't be moving back in with my parents. I think they expected me to come home after graduation, and southwest Iowa is pretty much the opposite of the Chicago suburbs. It's been tough telling high school friends that I won't be home this summer, too.

My boyfriend bought a house in Council Bluffs, so for now that is what I'm focused on. It was a foreclosure, and it's a three bedroom, one and a half bathroom place in a quiet neighborhood with a good view. But it needs a LOT of work- every single wall is being sanded, mudded, and then will be primed and painted. We ripped out the carpet (GROSS) and are getting the original hardwood finished, and had someone measure the bedrooms for carpet. And we're gutting the whole kitchen and starting over. It's a long process, but I think it will be worth it.

Right now, I'm pretty much trying to get through things day by day (sometimes hour by hour) because I get stressed when I think about all the things that need to get done before I can move into the house, and I definitely get freaked out by the prospect of graduating and starting a real-world job. When I combine that with being 8 hours away from my parents and best friends, it gets to be very overwhelming. But when I slow down and focus on how lucky I am to have support and love from family and friends and think about how fortunate I am to have found a career in this economy, my outlook is nothing but positive

My Images of Iowa

I love living in Iowa.
I love my drive to and from work.

I get to see things like this:

are images of Iowa, but not of my actual drive. My camera battery is dead and I can't find my charger. I wanted to post actual pictures from my drive, but these are the next best thing!

I love driving on gravel roads and seeing cows and horses grazing Iowa's green grass, corn and soy beans growing to feed the world, deer jumping over fences and rabbits hopping alongside the road.

I love the wildflowers.
Such vibrant purples and orange. Bright yellow, red and blue.
I also love the prairie grass once covering Iowa entirely.

I love barns and farm houses, old and new.
I love the silos peaking through the tree-tops like the ancient castles in Europe.

I love Iowa's rivers and creeks, lakes and ponds.
I love being IN and ON Iowa's rivers and creeks, lakes and ponds.

I love spending days (all day long) fishing.

Especially here:

Especially with him:

This dragonfly was cool too...

Iowa is such a beautiful place if you just spend some time exploring the back roads and waters. I was glad to spend a semester back home in my darling small town full of the nicest folks (yes that is a VERY "Iowa" term) and surrounded by some of the most peaceful and serene places on Earth.

In fact the word Iowa and the word love look pretty similar, no?
love Iowa
I can see it at least.

I'm looking forward to spending a full summer at home and fully intend to go back to my secret fishing spot, wander through the creek on my grandpa's farm, and canoe. Somewhere. If I don't find my camera charger soon I'll have to buy a new one.

I'm ready to get back out there and take more pictures of the places I love.

--Hannah Schlenker--

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Internship Experience at the DNR

My internship working with the DNR’s Legislative Liaisons (basically a government funded lobbyist) has truly been an education in policy and politics in the real world; while at the same time being a lot of fun and getting to work directly with the legislators that make decisions that affect our lives daily.

My first day on the job was the first day of the legislative session. And with the shortened session, to save money, there was no time to waste, meetings and policy lobbying started immediately. This first week or so I felt uncomfortable at times and out of place as I sat in on committee meetings and meetings with individual legislators.

As session began to roll along I became much more comfortable working with and getting to know legislators and caucus staff; while they may seem to make some unwise decisions there are a lot of neat and fascinating people serving the public.

Some of my tasks included helping track legislation, scheduling meetings, creating bill summaries, and taking notes at meetings. Some of the work was less glamorous (like reading through the 150 page plus government reorganization bill to find the areas that may affect the DNR). But I learned quickly that doing this reading and research was worth it, because provides the information for the fun part: lobbying

The most important thing I gained as part of this internship for me was that it solidified my desire to pursue a career in politics and government work and to continue with law school once my undergrad is done. Working with policy, interest groups, lobbyists, and legislators was extremely interesting and rewarding work. I had been intimidated about a career in government work and if I would be able to understand and comprehend budget and in depth legislation. But in my months working with the DNR and their policy and budget I saw, while still a lot to learn, that it is work I can see myself doing in the future and that it may be hard, it is work I could handle if I dedicated myself.

This experience also taught me how to be effectively work with and communicate with legislators and getting them to realize important information. Being able to sit in and help discuss and decide what different lobbying strategies to use has given me insight I can use in my future as an everyday citizen. I plan on using these skills I developed in the future to speak out to legislators when I find myself having strong opinions on a matter.

This internship experience has been great in teaching me about the political process. Seeing the thousand different ways to kill a bill makes me realize what an accomplishment it is to get more than just ‘feel good’ legislation through. It has also helped me plan for my future career, while being extremely fun and getting to meet and work with some great people. It has been an extremely valuable experience I will not forget.

-Jacob T.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ningbo,China---My Hometown

As a person who is thousand of miles away from home and living in a place that is quite different from where I come from, the concept of a hometown means a lot more to me. Homesickness is not the only theme when I think of the word “hometown”, for me, it also means the roots of my personality and the collection of my memories. So each individual landmark on the map of my hometown can raise one of my precious memories and reflect one aspect of my personality.
The first time I left for the States, after I checked my luggage, got my boarding pass, got through the security check and turned back to wave my hands to parents, I cried. I cried not because of the fear of exploring my life alone, I cried about becoming a real man and taking the responsibility for my own future. Also because of a little bit of sentiment for leaving my parents, my friends and all the things that I was once familiar with. When the airplane took off, I looked out from the window to have the last glance of the view my hometown and got ready to meet all kinds of challenges waiting for me in the States. So the airport let me feel like I am already an adult, I have to be responsible for myself and it is also the place gives me a view of my hometown.

Another location in my hometown, my great-grand father’s tomb, always makes me feel like a child. My great-grand father, a typical industrious Chinese farmer, who devoted all his life to his beloved plum blossoms left us four years ago. My parents and me planted many plum blossom trees around his tomb, and every winter when the plum blossoms are in full bloom, my family will pay our respects to him at the tomb. Every time when I was in front of his tomb and surrounded by the falling plum blossom, it will always remind me the ancient Chinese adage that my great-grand father always told me, which is also engraved on his tombstone: Bitter cold adds keen fragrance to plum blossom. I have to say my great-grand father influenced me a lot in the way to improve my personal strength. And the fragrance of those plum blossom trees is the smell of my hometown for me.

After smelling the town of Ningbo, my tongue is itching. So the grilled squid store is the best place. The grilled squid store is located just a block away from my high school, which serves cheap but tasty grilled squid. Almost everyday after school, I will hang out with my friend there, eating squid and sharing everything interesting that happened that day. The professor went to the restroom with his wireless microphone on; Yao Ming scored 30, the highest score in season at NBA; one of my classmate got a new skating board; guess what will happen to Michael Scofield in the upcoming season of Prison Break. In that short span of an hour, it seems that the taste of the squid is not that important, it’s important that we are free from the school and the parents. The squid store is the taste of my hometown.

Since you are already full now, let take a walk at the Old Bund and have some fresh air there. The Old Bund was the earliest port that opened to the foreign commercial transaction in the Chinese history. It epitomizes the history of Ningbo and keeps the traditional culture of the city well. The Old Bund of Ningbo is located at the joint of three rivers. Bathing in the river breeze and I always lose myself in those riverside historic architectures which have a history of 300 years, injected with new fashion elements. I came up with the idea that I am also a joining of the ancient eastern culture and rituals, the western modern values and the vitality of the younger generation. When you touch the old bricks of the architecture at the Old Bund, at the same time you touch history of the city also the pulse of it.

Everyone has their own map of their hometowns. That is my map of Ningbo, a city where I was born and lived for 18 years.

Evolvement of reporting, evolvement of a student

I took the internship at the Iowa Statehouse to better myself as a reporter. With the internet booming, and print ad sales declining, newspapers and magazines are taking an extreme hit. If you want to be a reporter these days, you're pretty much out of luck if all you can do is write and conduct interviews. This internship was probably the best step I've taken so far towards making myself a better candidate for present day reporting jobs.

The Iowa Statehouse during the Legislative session is constantly filled with people. Reporters, students, professors, legislators, lobbyists and more fill the rotunda every day, with conversation and ideas being exchanged everywhere. This made it very easy for me to meet plenty of Iowans from all over the state and connect with them on a professional level. I was able to improve my communication skills as well as interact with people that are necessary to work with when covering politics.

I also became a reporter that is able to use audio and video to tell a story, something I was unfamiliar with before. Upon starting work there I had dabbled here and there with audio and video recordings, but had next to no real experience in them. I will leave this internship however, decently well versed in both technologies.

My daily activities during session were always filled with both audio and video capturing. I filmed debate in the Senate Chamber, press conferences, bill signings and interviews with Capitol visitors as well as recorded audio of 17 different senators and various breaking news pieces with legislators and guests at the Capitol. All of the media I captured also needed to be edited and publicized, which improved my familiarity with professional public relations and information distribution. My newfound familiarity with these mediums will make me much more marketable in the journalism and communications fields. Publications cannot rely only on writing skills anymore and my ability to do more than one thing will make my career search much easier in the long run.

I've had to become a much more capable job candidate this spring. This to me was the most important part of my internship. It's not just getting the internship that counts. It's what you do with it while you're there. It's always easy to settle for what's easy, but it's important to make sure you aren't selling yourself short by doing so. If I've learned one thing this semester, it's that learning never stops. This internship has made me the most flexible reporter I can possibly be up to this point, and I plan on ensuring that my education in that field continues for a long time.