“Not all who wander are lost”

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

While some have been quietly cursing the chilly weather as it comes and goes in early March, I’ve been recalling the cold, a more bitter cold, as part of a lifelong memory my mind has been returning too frequently in recent weeks.

Allow me to be a bit nostalgic with this post…

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about where I was a year ago. At this time last year, I was studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. This was, hands down, one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life and worth recalling. “Not all who wander are lost” is a Tolkien quote and one of my favorites.

Often feeling a bit buried this semester in work, classes, and post-graduate prep, I’ve longed for those days of strolling down an unfamiliar street, with no real destination in mind, but completely absorbed in everything new around me.

I made a point to blog many of these experiences to revisit in later years when maybe the cold weather won’t be enough to bring Russia to the forefront of my mind.

You can check it out at http://www.petersburgblog.wordpress.com

My few videos and photos can only offer hints of something you really need to experience firsthand.

I have to stop and ponder how it is that a whole year has passed between now and then. That experience has seemed such a part me that it’s hard for me to think of it is as a time in my life that’s now a year old. Studying abroad really has given me that greater appreciation and understanding of a world outside my own that I think you can’t duplicate in a two-week Euro-trip.

I think of the most significant reasons I have been dwelling on that semester in Russia is because as I prepare to graduate in May, I more frequently recall the most memorable experiences I’ve enjoyed while at Mason and my semester abroad is most certainly near the top of the list. Despite the fact that during my semester abroad I was thousands of miles, an ocean, and a couple continents away from the university, I definitely consider it among my many great “Mason experiences.” It was an opportunity created for me at Mason and just one of many ways the university has helped to stretch and shape myself during my four years as an undergraduate.

It’s hard for me to compare it to other universities since I’ve only attended one, but Mason’s Center for Global Education (CGE) was huge in helping me to identify the right study abroad program and assisting me in applying and preparing for the semester away.

The first time I visited the office I knew I wanted to go abroad somewhere–it was a goal I had set for myself before entering Mason my freshman year–but Mason’s CGE made it possible for me to get to the destination I wanted to go. After studying the Russian language for three semesters, St. Petersburg was my ideal global locale and I was able to get there. I’d definitely encourage any prospective Masonite to make a semester abroad a priority or at least schedule a visit with the CGE office and be open to hearing about what a program might offer you. I can guarantee you won’t regret it if you do.

Proudest Twitter moment of my life

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

I didn’t see a video in any recent post from the recent Mason basketball game against in-state, CAA rival VCU. This is something you absolutely have to see.

Since this is a blog for and by students, I thought this amateur (and most likely student filmed) video would be the best first look at this amazing moment:

The impassioned filmmaker had his stats right. Mason trailed by 2 with 3.8 seconds left and Sherrod Wright was able to heave a 30-foot prayer to win it at the buzzer. A huge win for the Patriots!

If you’re an avid Sportscenter watcher like I am, you might have seen this highlight on the Top 10 plays. Here’s a link to a more polished look at the buzzer beater play from four camera angles.

If you did see the highlight on Sportscenter, you also might have heard my name. Turns out that the most thrilling Mason game of the year led to the proudest Twitter moment of recent memory.

Let me explain.

Following the game, I Tweeted with the hashtag #SCTop10, urging the Sportscenter anchors to include the game highlight in their Top 10 broadcast.

Here’s the tweet I sent:

@agsylvain Sherrod Wright GW 3!! #MasonMBB beats #VCU 62-61! How about some #SCtop10 love for a mid-major thriller!

Not only did the highlight make the Top 10 plays but I got a shout out from Neil Everett on the broadcast who read my tweet. Pretty awesome.

If you’re not on Twitter yet, do it.

Besides reveling in Mason basketball glory, I have been intensely occupied this spring with my last semester of classes and twice weekly internship at USA TODAY.

Last week was an especially good one since I also made the front page of USA TODAY!

Mine is the article at the bottom of the page about restored cinemas. It was a fun one to research and write.

Here’s a link to the story online if you want to give it a quick read. It’s a short clip. http://www.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2012-02-17-movie-theater-revivals_ST_U.htm

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I got to share the front page with Jeremey Lin!

The internship has been great. I count it as one among many great opportunities I’ve been blessed to be a part of while a student at Mason. It’s going to be tough to leave this place in a couple months.

Winter Break: Palm trees to frost heaves

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

When I travel home to NH for the winter holidays (that tends to include Thanksgiving and depending on the year, Halloween) I prepare for cold temperatures, snow and a majority of time spent indoors. This break, however, I had the opportunity to escape the cold just after Christmas and spend the week of New Year’s in Puerto Rico.

My anticipation for this trip reached a climax when I was able, for the first time, to include a bathing suit in my suitcase of clothes to travel home with me this winter.

Before I left I did have the opportunity to spend time with my family during Christmas. This was a particularly momentous occasion for my nephew Oliver, who celebrated his first-ever Christmas holiday.

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Cute little guy, isn’t he? I think you’ll find that when you’re away at college, especially if you’re a far-away out-of-stater like myself,¬† that the holidays take on new meaning for you. It’s definitely something I’ve noticed since I started at Mason. I always look forward to coming home and seeing family I’ve missed, eating home-cooked food, and just relaxing for awhile.

After Christmas, a bit of back and forth travel to visit family and friends, and then it was time for me to head for the sunny sands of Puerto Rico. I was looking forward to this trip for more than just the tropical weather since I would be visiting a friend of mine who lives in San Juan and staying with him and his family. He’s actually a former student at Mason who I had met last year when I was a junior at Mason. When he had decided to move back to Puerto Rico, we had talked about me visiting and this summer I bought a plane ticket and made that happen.

After a hectic day of air travel which took me from Boston to Philadelphia to Charlotte to San Juan, I made it to Puerto Rico late last Wednesday, tired but excited for the week ahead.

One of the first full days we spent exploring Old San Juan and El Morro, the fortress that sits on the city port. Here’s a look at the wall that stretches around the limits of Old San Juan. Apparently, these walls have been formidable protection for the city over many years.

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Another day was spent on a catamaran, swimming and snorkeling on two off shore islands. This was definitely one of the highlights of the week for me. It’s hard to perfectly capture in a photo but the water was the clearest and bluest I had seen.

While snorkeling I saw a manta ray, and lots of tropical fish in the reefs along the shore. Unfortunately, it was the cloudiest day I spent in Puerto Rico but we didn’t really see any rain at all and I still managed a bit of a tan so I’d total it a success!

On the last day we visited El Yunque national rainforest. In addition to being the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system, it contains the most distinct plant species in any forest system in the Western hemisphere. It also contains a litany of “buena vistas” and awe-inspiring features like this waterfall.

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After our visit to El Yunque, we enjoyed a delicious finale dinner with my friend’s family at a seaside seafood restaurant. I have always been partial to New England seafood but this dinner was fantastic. A mix of fresh lobster, clam, conch, scallops and other fish in a butter garlic sauce poured over hot rice. Just the dinner alone would be worth a return trip!

After dinner we pulled an “all-nighter” watching Iowa caucus coverage since my flight was leaving at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. As tired as I was during the latter part of my flight, I was actually happy that the early flight gave me the opportunity to watch the news coverage since the results were so close, Romney winning the Iowa caucus by a mere 8 votes. As a news guy, I find the primary race and political circus around it rather thrilling. Sorry if you don’t.

As it turns out, the primary season is following me to NH where my home state is set to hold it’s primary on Tuesday, January 10. Being home now, I’m a bit bummed that I’m not out covering town hall meetings and events. Hopefully by next primary season or maybe by the 2012 election I’ll have that opportunity!

For the remainder of my break I will be relaxing with family, fighting the biting cold that was all too eager to greet me when I returned home. As of January 23, 2012, I will be a second semester senior, taking my last run of courses as a college student at Mason. Where did the time go?

Happy New Year everybody!

……..

Just one semester left…

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

To start things off, I feel it my responsibility to pass along big administrative news that was announced this week.

Mason announced its new president: Angel Cabrera. Cabrera will take over the helm at the university following current President Alan Merten’s June retirement.

Connect2Mason (the student media website I work for) was there to cover the announcement and following press conference.

We’re still learning about Angel Cabrera, but from what we’ve gathered so far he’s the former president of a global management school in AZ and he tweets!

If you’re interested, here’s video of the announcement from the Connect2Mason YouTube account:

In other news, I hit a personal milestone this week.

With the completion of three final papers and one final test this week, I am officially a second semester senior at Mason. Really hard to believe. After high school, I didn’t think four years could ever go by so fast, but they do.

Instead of allowing myself to become overly sentimental, I’m looking forward to a long winter break (a big college perk!). I fly home to New Hampshire tonight and will be on break until January 22, when the second semester starts.

As much as I do love heading home for the extended break, it is always bittersweet having to say goodbye to people you’re used to seeing everyday and now won’t see for over a month. Those people will be friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

I have to say goodbye to my girlfriend today. Before I left though, she gave me her Christmas gift which was too impressive and original not to share…

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I am a pipe smoker. It’s a hobby I’ve enjoyed for the past couple of years. Recently I’ve decided I want to start crafting my own pipes out of briar wood and in order to accommodate an expanding collection I’ve expressed a desire to own a pipe rack, to hold and display them all.

So, for Christmas, my girlfriend decided she would make me a pipe rack. She used some of her Dad’s tools and woodworking knowledge to make this beauty.

It holds 11 pipes with a felted drawer space. Definitely the best Christmas gift I’ve gotten in a long time. No slight to any of the other great gift-givers in my life.

One day I would love to become a self-sustained pipe artisan and make my living drinking coffee and making pipes in a workshop, and taking long breaks to read all the novels I want to read but haven’t. For now, it’s a very enjoyable hobby.

I wish all you prospective Masonites a Happy Holiday season!

Escape to D.C.

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

As I anxiously contemplated the final papers and tests that would confront me over the next couple weeks, I decided to take a time-out and head to D.C. Saturday afternoon for some mindless leisure.

I had been wanting to visit the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial since it was officially completed in August. The site of the memorial is along the tidal basin on what I suppose is the west side of the National Mall, within eye-shot of the Jefferson memorial.

Exploring the new MLK memorial gave me the opportunity to walk around and explore this side of the National Mall, beyond the Washington monument and away from the Smithsonian buildings, which I don’t get around to doing very often.

I read in the Washington Post recently (I can’t remember where) that the MLK memorial is one of many projects being conceived to bring more attention to that side of the Mall.

I really liked the conceptual design of the monument which was tied to King’s words “out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” The statue you see to the left is the “stone of hope” figuratively pulled forward from a mountain in the background, unseen in this picture. Behind the statue is also a wall extending to either side with famous quotes and saying attributed to the civil rights leader.

Apparently, the monument is the first dedicated to a black man that exists on the Mall.

Before making it over to the memorial, I stopped and watched a pick-up street hockey game on Pennsylvania Ave., not far from the White House. I’ve actually seen these guys before. I asked one of the players seated on the curb what the league was all about and he said they meet every week and directed me to a Google group they use to communicate.

It definitely looked like a lot of fun. Only drawback is without the side and endboards, there’s a good amount of puck chasing going on.

This has got to be a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the city for these men, who presumably spend their weeks working in the city, or close by. After college, I’d love to find an adult sports league to be a part of.

Also during my walk, I took a shot of the most photographed edifice in the district. That’s right, what would a trip to the National Mall be without at least one favorable glance in the direction of the Washington monument. Pretty as she is, I swear the monument leans slightly left since the unprecedented August earthquake that hit D.C. What do you think? Maybe my mind is just playing tricks…

Megabussin’

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

Megabussin’…that was what I did all day Monday on my way home to NH for Thanksgiving. If you’re an out-of-state student, without a car, and you love your family, you may be forced to make similar tough decisions when it comes to holiday travel. Because, as I’ve learned, flights get pretty expensive, especially around Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the worst holiday for travel. I think this is especially true if you’re a student. The break is relatively short (5 days, add a day or two depending on when you have classes) which means limited flexibility on when you can come and go, which means little to know options for choosing the cheapest/best flight, if there is one.

While you can try and convince your parents to throw down a few hundred dollars on a flight (good luck, kid), I’d recommend a few other options based purely on personal experience.

  • You can book early. This never works for me but the semester schedule is always posted at least a semester in advance. I’m sure a few months earlier booking could mean a hundred dollar discount on your flight.
  • Carpool! Befriend someone from your area if you haven’t already. Ask them if they have a car and how they are getting home, they might be looking for someone to share the ride and the gas money with!
  • Take a bus! Some go with the train but in my experience trains are almost as expensive as planes and not much faster than buses. I’d go with the bus. I’ve done Megabus several times and give it my recommendation.
  • Stick around! Some students (and their families) bawk at the idea of not being home for Thanksgiving but the reality of is this–Christmas break is just two weeks away which means another flight or another ride home. Plus, with finals right around the corner it might be preferable to spend some quiet time on campus and go to a local friend’s place for turkey dinner.

Bus services like Megabus offer fares to cities like NYC and Boston for as little as $1 (most likely $10-$15). Those prices do go up depending on if its middle of the week or weekend and if its a holiday. Even Thanksgiving week, however, you’ll find the fare prices much easier to digest than anything flying out of the airport.

Plus…they’ve got free wifi! (which you can depend on maybe half the time, but hey)

What I usually do is take an evening bus (leaving around 7pm from D.C.) to Boston, which arrives around 6 a.m. If you’re a light sleeper this might not work for you but I’ve always been able to sleep fairly well on the bus and then wake up home at my destination! This way, I don’t lose a day traveling and I don’t have to spend money on lunch at the rest stop.

This is true for all methods of travel but one key piece of advice I can offer is make sure to give yourself plenty of time getting to the bus station for your departure. In D.C. they have changed the bus location several times so check the website and your reservation before you leave.

And remember, the reward is strong motivation, even during times of hectic travel.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Russell Brand’s message to Mason

by Adam, a Patriot Blogger

Russell Brand.

Are you a Russell Brand fan? Well Russell Brand recently released a YouTube video to the Mason community informing us he has some excitement planned for his stand-up comedy show, scheduled for tonight, Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Patriot Center, on the Mason campus.

The video message is delivered with typical, Brand-style hilarity. Enjoy

I have several friends who bought their tickets to the show well in advance. I, unfortunately, have not. I heard murmers that there might still be a few tickets left though so if I’m not too late that will be today’s mission.

Mason Basketball.

The Patriot Center, where Russell Brand is slated to perform, is also the venue where Mason men’s basketball takes to the court.

Friday Mason played their first game of the season with a raucous crowd of students and community members in attendance. Despite some struggles typical for a young team with a lot of new pieces, Mason fought hard in the game and seemed to feed off the crowd’s energy. Senior forward Ryan Pearson had a huge second half and helped keep Mason within striking distance late in the game.

Forty minutes wasn’t enough and the game went into overtime. In the extra period Mason kept up the pressure and wouldn’t be denied, winning 92-90 in their ninth straight season opening win. A remarkable statistic. Truthfully, I’m a bit spoiled. In my four years at Mason, the team has only lost a handful of home games so wins can be easy to take for granted. The excitement of this overtime game, however, on opening night in a packed house, was definitely an event I’ll remember. The women’s team opened up the evening with the first game in a season-opening doubleheader.

Here’s great video of the whole day and evening of basketball action, courtesy of Connect2Mason’s Jake McLernon.

Fall is definitely a fun time of year at Mason with the kick-off to the basketball season and performances like Russell Brand on the docket.