Life After Undergrad: It never hurts to ask

“You never know until you try” That phrase rings true for many situations in life, jobs, relationships or even something as simple as trying a new place to eat. My mom always told me this whenever I was unsure of myself or a situation– she always says “just ask”. While it seems like something so simple it can somehow seem so daunting too because, how do I ask? It comes down to a confidence thing in a way because if you doubt your voice, you’ll doubt your question.

One day I just decided to go for it and ask– I was at work and my boss had suggested something that just seemed a little counterproductive so, I asked if we could try it another way– and she said yes. It doesn’t always work but I’d say about 70% of the time it does. When you ask a question you force people to think about something in a new way, a way they may not have considered before. Getting people to think is a powerful thing because new ideas and new collaborations mean progress.

Now the key here is to ask with poise and diplomacy; not in a condescending way. When you communicate properly and with respect you get way better results. Remember this acronym,

Always be respectful

Say what you mean

Know what you’re looking for

Life After Undergrad: How I overcame my fear of public speaking

In 2008, my very first college class was at 8am, on a Monday, and my commute was an hour and a half long. That class by the way, was public speaking 101. On the first day of class the professor handed us the list of assignments and dates they were due and there were at least 6 or 7 instances where I’d have to get up and speak to the class. I loathed public speaking and to make it worse, I’d found out I was pregnant a week into the semester. So now not only did I have to get up in front of the room and give a speech now I’d be doing it while pregnant.

I considered dropping the class but by the time I mulled over that choice it was too late to do it. So, instead I opted for trying to get the professor to excuse me– which he didn’t. He told me the whole point of this class was to break students out of their fear of public speaking and at the same time make us self advocates. At the time I was totally over it and wanted no parts, I figured I could do the bare minimum to pass and never look back. What I didn’t know though, was that the skills I took away from that class would serve me for years to come.

When I became a mother I also became an advocate for Ava. Seeing as she was a baby and couldn’t speak everything she needed came from me. At doctors appointments, in school and anywhere else she went I had to speak up and make sure her needs were met. Part of my being able to do that was learning valuable communication skills and not only did these skills serve Ava; they served me too.

When my transcript got sent to the wrong school I had to speak up and get it fixed, when my credits were applied incorrectly I had to speak up and get it fixed and most of all when I felt I was done wrong or disrespected, I had to speak up and get it fixed.

All of these instances would be much tougher had I not learned how to communicate. When I got to City Tech I quickly found my major meant a lot of communicating and a lot of self advocacy. I became regarded for my communication skills in and out of the classroom, which led to multiple opportunities to work on campus. Overall now that I look back that public speaking class was probably the best thing I ever did for myself– even if it was at 8am (LOL). My takeaway here is, challenge yourself, be a little uncomfortable but most of all be a better you!

The Right to Speak Up

“I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet
And I am wordless, but I can’t stay silent”

-Lauren Daigle, “Wordless” on her album How Can It Be

Have you ever been so overcome with emotion that you were completely speechless?

We often put ourselves in others’ shoes, imagining what we would do if we were in their situation; but when it happens to us, somewhere between the realm of the hypothetical and reality, we lose our thoroughly-thought-out, immaculately articulated responses.

There will be times when, frankly, life will shut you up. Something so shocking, painful, or nerve-wracking will leave your lips locked and your tongue tied. Choosing to speak up will not be the easy, automatic thing to do, but you will know that it is the right thing to do.

Two weeks ago, in my blog post The Right to Remain Silent, I talked about how silence can be a constructive form of communication. On the flip side, there are times when keeping quiet hinders more than it helps. It is imperative to know when to break the silence. 

a broken brick wall exposing a partly cloudy sky

Getty Images (Vkyryl)

Speak Up against Injustice

Victims of injustice often have a hard time seeking justice on their own. The stigma, pain, and residual feelings of weakness stifle their attempts, and they remain silent because it seems to be the only reasonable option. This is especially the case for victims of sexual assault, violence, and harassment. Nevertheless, whether you are the victim or you know one personally, speaking up about it might be uncomfortable, but it is the only way to initiate change.

City Tech has taken a stand against crimes of that nature by providing mandatory When Yes Means Yes… Sexual Assault Training for Students and  Title IX Training for Employees. The goal is to make more people aware so that the excuse “I didn’t know” evaporates. Bringing the issue to the light affirms the victims, exposes the perpetrators, warns potential offenders and calls the bystanders to action.

Speak Up about Secret Struggles

If you are anything like me, the worse a problem gets, the less willing you are to tell people about it, especially if it is an internal problem. By internal I mean something going on inside of your mind, a struggle in which you are battling your own thoughts, emotions, or habits.

a man with his arms crossed in a pool of dark ink, refusing to receive help from the many hands reaching out to him

Art by Katherine Choi (NY Times)

To give one example, I am guilty of being too much of a perfectionist at times. If I am running late to school, I would much rather it be due to delays and packed subway cars, rather than my oversleeping or not being able to find my glasses. I end up red-faced and teary-eyed on the train platform, angry at myself for making the same mistake over and over, angry that I did not get to bed early enough so that I could wake up comfortably and early this morning, angry that the reason I stayed up is because it took me hours to complete an assignment that other people could do in just one… Next thing you know I’m angry at myself for being angry and making such a big deal over nothing.

It can be a simple character flaw or a clinically diagnosed disorder, but whatever inner struggles you are facing, I encourage you to speak about it. If you were able to handle things yourself, then you wouldn’t be battling yourself. So what will keeping it to yourself do, except make things worse? Reach out to counselors at school, a trusted friend, a professional, a spiritual leader, family member–any confidant can make all the difference. Sometimes you need to hear a voice other than your own, but first, someone has to hear yours. (Please check out my fellow blogger Samantha’s post on a similar topic, Virtues from Motherhood: Needing Help Will Never Make You Weak.)

Speak Up and Get “Greased”

Have you ever heard the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? This means that if you have a need, you should make it known. As a college student, and especially a transfer student, I have often felt lost in a sea of demands. I have had to fill out dozens of applications, and I did not always know if I was doing so correctly.

It can be very nerve-wracking to have to go to an office and ask questions, especially if you don’t even know where to start, or if the clerks appear to have a bad attitude. Even so, there are countless resources at your disposal, both on and off campus, to help you with whatever you might need (if you are a City Tech student, see our academics site and student services site). And all of those intimidating officers and professors, guess what? They are paid to help you. When I was at NYU and facing plenty of financial conflicts, one particularly helpful bursar officer gave me his card after an appointment, and repeatedly encouraged me to come back and ask more questions because that was why he was there in the first place. So please take my advice; as the song says, “For / no one can fill / those of your needs / that you won’t let show” (“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers).

Speak Up and Be Yourself

one red game chip among dozens of blue game chips

On a lighter note, it’s not always a matter of being in need. It is important to speak up just because you have the natural born right to do so. We are all entitled to have our own opinions and to express them freely (and respectfully).

We live in a time where the lines between fact and opinion are often blurred. Sometimes opinions are given even more importance than facts. People will think you’re crazier for saying “I think Trump makes a good president” rather than “the moon is not real, it’s man-made.”

What’s more, everyone goes around saying “be yourself,” but the fine print under that statement reads, “as long as ‘yourself’ fits into this mold, or is popular, or is politically correct.” You might feel pressured to keep quiet because you are afraid that people will disagree or look down on you. My response, in short, is so what?

As a reserved Christian, my opinion is almost always in the minority, but “minority” does not mean “negligible” or “does not exist.” If you think a certain way and have taken a firm stance on something, no one has the right to silence you.

I encourage you, reader, to do something different today. You can even start small, and work your way up. Raise your hand in class if you don’t understand what the professor just said, rather than nodding absentmindedly. If you think that the person next to you is wearing an awesome shirt, tell him so. Tell your sister that she really hurt your feelings, because she might have been totally oblivious. I dare you to break the silence, because you are most definitely worth hearing.

a microphone pointed at the reader

Shutterstock image

How do you explain hate to a child? – a poem

This weeks blog was originally going to discuss readability and blogging but with the recent events in our nation I was inspired to write a poem. My condolences are extended to all who suffered a loss, who live in fear and most of all for the children who have to grow up in this scary and tragic world we as a society have created.


By: Samantha Pezzolanti

How do you explain hate to a child? Is there really a way?

How do you find the words to explain the violence that takes place everyday?

How do you tell a child who’s innocent and unknowing,

That it’s reality that the TV is showing

Where do you find the words to rationalize the actions of a nation?

That is quick to hate and to judge but short on love and patience

How do you tell a child others can be judged by their race and gender?

Or by their religion, background or for being too chubby or slender

We raise our children to love, accept and share,

But the world around them spews hate, stereotypes and despair

We raise our children to not judge a book by its cover,

And to respect and walk in unity with one another

Yet the TV shows people who are at war with a label

Unfairly prosecuting people and leaving society unstable

So how do you explain hate to a child, how do you make them understand?

That it is not okay to take the life of another man

Or take the life of woman over the color of their skin, religion or ideas

How do you raise a child to not have fears?

Of society, of each other of the people who protect and serve,

No this is not the kind of world our children deserve

We have created a sad world indeed

One that’s chaotic, broken and in need

In need of love in need of community and in need of hope

Societies stability hangs by a rope

So how do you explain hate to a child in times like these?

If you have the answer, share it please.