A Beginner’s Guide To Reading 3 Epic Poems

epic [ep-ik] adj. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style

A few days I came across a curious thing on Tumblr: a student who was interested in and in possession of three epic poems – The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid – in translation, and who wanted to read them but didn’t know how to approach them in a way that made them easy to understand.

As a classics major in undergrad, I had little trouble understanding what was going on in these epics because I had been exposed to the stories, in varying amounts, and the cultural context of the stories for a number of years already. I can only imagine what it’s like to read these stories with little to no knowledge of the Greco-Roman world or the literature that came from it.

So, after a lot of thinking, I figured the easiest way to explain how to approach these epics was to provide anyone who wants to know how (i.e. anyone who’s reading this) with 1) a brief overview of the background, major characters, and major cultural topics of each epic and with 2) a general outline of the structure(s) of the epics.

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide To Reading 3 Epic Poems”

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What Anonymous Smartphone Apps Say About A Society

While I mostly partake in apps like WhatsGoodly and Yik Yak for the sake of snooping and just overall being nosy, after going from a school where the apps were blocked to a place where students are able to use it freely, I’ve noticed some pretty appalling things about what the things that are posted on these smartphone apps say about the population (mostly the young population) as a whole.

Since these apps are anonymous, it is hard to tell what age group these posts represent, but considering the fact that a university campus dominates most of the town, it can be safe to assume that the people who utilize these apps most are within the 18-22 year old range. The posts can range anywhere from complaints about school to social activism and politics. But what stands out the most is how many people use the apps for negative reasons – to be condescending, to put down others, to criticize social and political groups, the list goes on and on.

Just today, I found out that the occasional posts asking, “Are all sorority girls shallow?” or “Are all sorority girls emotionless?” or “Should all top tier sorority girls be ghosted?” was just a meme – not a legitimate concern by any one person. I spent hours last night trying to convince a guy that sorority girls weren’t actually emotionless only to find out today that it was all just a part of a joke, and a common joke at that.

What kind of person – or groups of people – joke like that?

Regardless of what the character of the majority of the Greek men and women on this campus actually is, in what world is it just OK to make fun of them or perpetuate something so cruel?

It is truly amazing how much you can learn about people in general on an app where anonymity is widespread. Of course, it’s not fair to generalize about the whole campus based on a few people, but the vast majority of people seem to be obsessed with sex, making politically incorrect comments (like ‘BLM is going to start a race war’), talking badly about an individual or group, or the latest trend, Pokemon Go.

Sure, some of the posters could be sarcastic or joking, and sure, freedom of speech exists, but it really shouldn’t extend to apps like these, or speech that is hateful or offensive. Even though we can’t really know who these people are for sure, what we do know is that this is what they think about on a daily basis. Even people you do know could be thinking these things deep down, and only express those things on anonymous apps like these, and you could never know.

I don’t know why this app was created or why it’s still around, but I really wish that it wasn’t. Maybe if it wasn’t around anymore, people would get off their high horses and start treating others much better than they are.

Amazon Prime: A Love/Hate Relationship

About a month or so ago, I found out – to my great surprise – that Amazon offered a Prime account for students, and that account was extended not only to undergraduates, but also to graduate students. It was basically free to sign up, and you get free shipping for six months as long as you’re currently enrolled in school, and then after that you get half off of regular Prime. I was mostly interested because I needed to get textbooks for my summer class ASAP and free two-day shipping was calling my name.

However, what I didn’t realize were two things – one good, one bad.

The bad thing first. Super excited about this whole Prime Student thing, I perused Amazon for the exact books I wanted (good prices, good quality, right edition) but when I went to purchase them, the prices were all wrong. It still was charging me for shipping, and I didn’t understand why. So, I investigated, and it turns out that there’s a catch: you get the free two-day shipping, alright, but only on items that have the distinctive blue mark of Prime approval. Everything else you still pay shipping prices on.

Now, that wouldn’t really be that big of a deal if I weren’t a flat broke graduate student living on her own and wanting to buy new books to read and save a couple of bucks in the process. I’ve always been the kind of girl to choose the bargain, the lowest priced item out there, but Prime doesn’t always give you those things as an option. So you can either opt for the lower priced used book and pay full price on shipping, or you can choose the slightly more expensive book and get free two-day shipping. I’m sure in the long run you’re paying about the same amount of money, but it’s easy to forget to look for the Prime stamp of approval.

The good thing, now. Aside from getting free two-day shipping on textbooks, you get free two-day shipping on every kind of book. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dictionary, a textbook, or something you read for pleasure, if you can find the Prime stamp of approval, then you can get it in two days without paying shipping. It’s a blessing and a curse, because now I want to buy all of the books but I don’t have all of the money. Sure, I could opt to read the books as eBooks and cut out shipping and fussing with Prime stamps altogether, but eBooks cost money, too – often more than a paper copy.

While Amazon Prime Student can be a little frustrating at times, I have loved it so far and will definitely try to get more out of it as I start my new job and start making money again so I can have nice things like new books. I would totally recommend students to get it if they can – it saves a whole lot of money on shipping and if you need something in a pinch… you’ll have it on time.

Email Etiquette

One of the most significant takeaways I have acquired from my four years of college – especially in the last two years where I have spent countless moments emailing my professors and others – is email etiquette.

I’ll be honest: I started off pretty much the same way as everyone else. I had no idea how to properly address others in my emails or how to sign off on them. I didn’t know the difference between formal and informal emails, or when to use which one. But after some extensive online research and some advice from my peers, I realized, incorporated, and developed feelings about a lot of things to do with sending and receiving emails.

When in doubt, write formally

It’s the same idea as when you’re writing a paper for class. With professors, prospective schools, supervisors, or any other superior, use formal speech, not anything informal or anything colloquial unless it’s a close friend. I always begin my emails with ‘Dear [Title] [Last Name]’ and end them with ‘Sincerely, [My Name]’. I have recently moved more into using a less formal ‘Best’ or ‘All the best’ in my salutation, but I’ll address that in the next section.

Mirror the tone that the recipient of your email uses when they respond

While you always want to start off formally, sometimes you will get a response from a professor or other correspondent that is more casual, so in this case you may change your tone to match the mood of their email. For example, if you start off with ‘Dear So-And-So,’ but they respond with just your name, feel free to drop the ‘Dear’ part when you respond. However, it is your discretion. If you’re totally intimidated by your professors and want to keep being formal, by all means, go ahead.

But you really shouldn’t be intimidated by them (especially if they are helping you A Lot and are in your field of interest – one day they may be your colleague!).

Always RESPOND

This is one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when I am emailing someone about something important. Have you ever had a deadline for a paper or a take home exam that needed to be emailed to your professor, but when you do, they never respond to tell you if they received it? Does it leave you lying awake at night in a panic because your whole course grade is at stake? Well, you have two options. One, you could email them again. However, don’t be rude – just kindly inquire about whether or not they received your attachment and don’t email again. Sometimes emails get buried under other emails. Professors are swamped. Or Two, you could visit their office. Same effect, less naggy than a second email.

Professors aren’t the only ones who can suck at responding to emails, though. I recently was emailed about a job interview, and when I responded with my availability for the interview, I never got a response back confirming the date and time. Like the first example, a simple ‘Yes, that date and time work’ or ‘See you then’ could go a long way.

In short: respond to your emails, even if it’s just a boring ‘Ok’ at least the person on the other end won’t be tearing their hair out over not knowing.

I’m sure there are plenty of other email rules out there but I feel like this are the most important ones by far, especially once you get to a point in your college career where you are emailing not only your professors, but future schools and employers too.

22 Things I Learned in 22 Years (and counting)

One month ago, I graduated college. For a lot of people, that was the end. No more school, no more grades, no more late nights spent partying, no more friends within walking distance. Some people got jobs, some moved away, some stayed put. I, of course, had to be different.

While I did lose a lot of the same things my friends did when they graduated, I’ve managed to retain the same routine I’ve had for the past four years – perhaps with a little more rigor, and more at stake, but much more specialized. However, as this month has passed, and as so much has changed for me in what feels like the blink of an eye, I have come to reflect on my life a lot.

Here’s some of those things I’ve been thinking.

  1. Your high school friends are important. Whether you had fifty friends or you had five, reach out every now and then. For the first year of my college career, I muted my high school groupchat because it was constantly going off – but then I realized how much I was missing out on, and recognized how strong the friendship was that it had lasted so long. Even if it’s something as simple as saying hello or going out to eat once a year to catch up, those friendships will live on and you’ll always have someone to talk to whenever your college friends let you down.
  2. Your college friends are important, too. Don’t get me wrong: you should make time for your high school friends, but your college friends are the ones you have to see every day for the next four years (and maybe beyond). Don’t let boys, drama, or feeling left out every now and then get in the way of that. Keep in touch with them after you graduate, too. It can be lonely out there in the real world.
  3. Read a book. No, not your textbook. An actual, interesting-to-you book that you actually want to read. College really took the joy I had for reading way in the beginning, but every summer I have tried to read at least one book for fun (last year’s pick was Dark Places by Gillian Flynn). Not only will you be entertained, but you’ll probably learn something new and maybe even find someone else to talk about it with.
  4. Study something you love. Like, really, truly love. If you’re just majoring in Business or Accounting because you think it’s going to make you a lot of money, you’re doing something wrong. If sitting behind a desk 9 to 5 is your cup of tea, by all means, do it. But it wasn’t mine, so I didn’t even think about that. It’s not about your parents, or your significant other – it’s about you and what you could actually see yourself doing (and enjoying) in ten years. If you hate the classes you’re taking, what makes you think you’re going to like an actual full-blown job version of those classes?
  5. Travel. Both outside of your city and outside of your country. There’s so much to see and to learn from other places, and you just can’t understand it from pictures alone. Whether you just want to sight-see, eat, or dig on an archaeological site (guilty), go and do it as soon as possible. It’ll change your whole perspective on life.
  6. Get out of your comfort zone. As an introvert, my comfort zone was tucked away in bed with my laptop on and headphones in. But at some point, that comfort zone ends and real life begins. It doesn’t have to be anything big – start small, like saying hello to strangers instead of gluing your eyes to your phone, and work your way to being a real adult. It’ll do wonders.
  7. Do something that makes you happy. We all have that one thing we’ve been putting off forever because of X or Y (aka excuses). Been wanting to work out more often, but claim not to have the time? Or want to see a movie or concert but have no one to go with? YOU CAN. There’s always thirty minutes in your day that you can fit a quick workout in – even sitting in front of your TV in the comfort of your own home – and you don’t need anyone to go to the movies with you. Get out of your own way.
  8. Cleaning sucks but someone’s gotta do it. And once you graduate, it won’t be your mom.
  9. When relationships end, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll get over it, I promise. It may take a few weeks or months, but at some point you’re gonna realize that you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. There will be someone else.
  10. Learn to cook. You might need it to survive (and not go totally broke) someday. Luckily, I learned right at the last minute (aka the summer before my senior year) and have really loved doing it ever since. Start small, Google some easy recipes, and keep a fire extinguisher handy… just in case.
  11. Drink more water. I can guarantee you that whatever you’re drinking now is not enough. Humans generally don’t drink enough – eight glasses of water a day. That’s 64 ounces, which is A Lot. It’s hard to consciously drink enough, but there are ways to get you close to the goal. Carry a water bottle around wherever you go, don’t keep any other drinks in your house, etc.
  12. Planners are a godsend. I don’t know how I survived before buying a planner, but somehow I scraped through. Whether you’re in school or out, there’s always going to be a ton of assignments, meetings, appointments, and outings that you’re going to need to remember, and you’re not always going to remember to put them in your phone. Plus, pen to paper note-taking is proven to help with retention.
  13. Get a job. Ok, I know part-time jobs seem like they’re everywhere and nowhere at once, but having a job is kind of like a twisted rite of passage because while you’re getting lots of experience, you’re also probably working somewhere you hate. Don’t worry if it’s not a place you love – the experience you’ll get will be much broader and more valuable than you first think. Plus, you’re getting paid.
  14. Create a resume. Whether or not you’ve ever had a job, when you do get one, start putting them into a resume. Get someone to look at it and edit it a little bit every year. You’ll never know when you’re going to need it, and it looks a lot better in the real world when you have something to show for all you’ve done than nothing at all.
  15. Get to know your professors. Especially if they’re in a field that you’re really interested in and see yourself working in in the future. They can help you A Lot, will give you A Lot, and are probably pretty cool outside of class. Use those office hours. Go to departmental events. Schmooze. How else do you think I got into my dream graduate school and now have a bookcase full of books?
  16. Not everyone you meet is meant to stick around. It’s easy to get attached to people who are nice to you and who you spend time with on a semi-regular basis (i.e. in classes, at weekly parties, in clubs and organizations). However, a lot of those people are probably only nice to you because they are genuinely friendly people, want something, share a particular interest, or all of the above. The year may end and you may never see or talk to them again. And that’s okay. You’ll figure out who your real friends are pretty fast.
  17. Sleep is really, really important. I’ve never been the type to pull all-nighters, not even during finals week. But I know a lot of people who sacrifice their precious sleep schedules for ‘the important things’ like grades and academics. It’s not worth it. If you’re going to skip out on sleep during the week, at least get some good rest in over the weekend and take some naps throughout the week. Your body (and mind) will thank you later.
  18. Don’t forget about your family. We’re all at a point where we claim to be independent and able to take care of ourselves. Whether or not that’s true, don’t forget about your family. They’ve been with you from the very beginning, and they’re always going to be there. Let them help you. Tell them you love them every once in a while.
  19. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. Just pick up the pieces, apologize, and move on. It doesn’t help anyone to hold on to things that went wrong in the past. Things will get better.
  20. Be grateful for what you have. I’ve spent a lot of my time worrying about the things that I don’t have or things that I had that I don’t anymore. And frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s much more productive to think about those things you do have and to be thankful for having them. You have friends, family, your health… It’s okay if you haven’t gotten your own car or if you haven’t found a job yet or don’t know what you want to do after you graduate. It will come in time.
  21. You don’t always have to have it all together. Even the most put-together people fall apart when no one else is around. Nobody is perfect, so you don’t have to be either. Live your life the way you want to – no one is the judge of you, except you. If you have a hard day, spend some time doing something you like. If you’re upset, let it out. If someone hurts you, cry about it. It’s okay to feel weak every now and then.
  22. Don’t be afraid of the future. Leading up to graduation, a lot of my friends were worried about it all ending. But I never felt that way. It still felt like the end of another year, like we would all be back together again in the Fall. It didn’t really hit me that everything was changing until I was moving 600 miles away and living on my own. I broke down completely. But then I realized that I didn’t need to be upset or afraid. It’s not all happening at once. I still speak to my friends, I have a job interview next week, and I started my summer class today. What happens after all of that will come in time, but I don’t have to have it all figured out today. Being an adult is scary, but just take it all one day at a time and it will all work itself out.