Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

My guest blog for Jered on Live Declared.

Live Declared

Ever thought about traveling abroad after high school? Sometimes it’s nice to get a new and fresh perspective on life. I love to hear from my readers and to share their successes. Jennifer is one of them. I follow Jennifer’s blog Turning the Tide partly because I traveled abroad in Ireland myself when I was a freshman in college and love reading her stories and checking out the beautiful scenic pictures. I also read it because it’s exciting  seeing high school and college students finding their passions and doing something with them.  So without further ado…

Lessons from Travels Abroad

Author’s note: Last week fellow Blogger Jered Blanchard asked me over email if I would like to do a guest blog for him about my experiences traveling overseas during my post-secondary education. I was happy to hear from him and said yes right away. I enjoy seeing what Jered’s up to on…

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Just Another Day in Dublin

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Did school really start last Monday?

University College Dublin is foreign to me. There are a few things I’m still adjusting to–the campus layout, getting comfortable with the library, finding the best places to eat. I find that most days I feel lonely because I don’t have my friends from back home to hang out with. I wouldn’t mind even sitting in the library and not talking; just being with friends is what counts. I also feel continuously aware of my international student status–look, newbie alert! So far my classes seem stimulating and challenging. The scariest part of school is that I am attempting to pass six upper division classes and get credit on my home campus. This requires a new sort of studying: going through a reading list and selecting what I think is the most beneficial. The “research focus” is such a wonderful idea, in my mind, as it encourages self-initiative. In the U.S., professors guide their students through the course every step of the way in terms of exactly what they’ll teach (the good ones, anyway). Lecturers and professors abroad give suggested further reading lists to their students and expect that the students will prepare themselves. I guess it’s sort of a mixed bag; you get more independence in Ireland but that means that you have to come up with a study strategy, and fast.

It’s OK. Besides the Newman Building, where I have all my classes, I spend the rest of my time in the library. T_T

I signed up for the Belfast Trip today with an international society so that’s making progress, I guess. Time to make friends and put myself out there.

TODAY’S LOWLIGHTS:

-Missed UC Irvine. No microwaves in the common dining areas? Come on.

-The bitter cold almost strangled me when I cycled home.

-Felt some anxiety and frustration about school and living away from the States.

TODAY’S HIGHLIGHTS:

-Sat in between two friendly Irish girls in my Millennium Development Goals class.

-Visa Debit Card came in the mail.

-Did a decent amount of studying and sat with my friend Sangeeta for a few minutes.

-Made Angie’s Clam Chowder recipe! (Minus the clams, but now I know where to buy them). Shrimp made a perfect substitute–I chopped the ingredients, put them into the soup pot and prayed that it would turn out. Fifteen minutes later the soup was thicker, the potatoes cooked well and the cream I put in made it look delicious! Simple, filling soup, and the smell was fantastic. Trying new recipes is so fun. Cooking is art, and when you make something new it is rewarding. Do browse Angie’s WordPress Blog! She writes memoirs from her life and the recipes she creates from her own garden tie in well. Seems effortless, but I know she takes time to work on her Blog. 🙂 Also, her food photography is better than mine!

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Goodnight! As always, thanks for reading.

Ashton Kutcher Was Right

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful, and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you.”
–Ashton Kutcher

On August 11, 2013 Ashton Kutcher delivered a powerful speech at the Teen Choice Awards, though I’m not positive that every screaming teenage girl in the audience heard him. I’ve admired Ashton for a while now, and I was even more impressed with him after I watched his speech online. It’s been a month since he gave the speech, and I can’t seem to get the above quote out of my head. This morning I re-watched his speech and noted how composed and serious he was when he said the words. He sounded sincere and paused for the applause after the first sentence, and by the end of it he punctuated the words in a near yell. His simple quote is an affirmation of the things I stand for.

Being really smart brings to mind my wish that everyone desired education. Our growing world has ample opportunities for us to learn: public, private and online colleges and universities, the Internet, work, print and online books and even apps. We have access to these devices and institutions at flexible costs for many budgets–there is no excuse not to use them.

Being thoughtful is easy. Show people you care by spending time with them, keeping your commitments and expressing your gratitude often.

Being generous doesn’t have to mean becoming a philanthropist and showering your friends with expensive gifts. Give what you can. If you have a little time to help a friend on a Saturday night, go do it. Even better, don’t expect a pat on the back when you do the favor. Generous people are more likely to have the acts reciprocated than those who aren’t. Also, studies show that they are the happiest people and tend to be less lonely.

What’s the crap, then? The crap is being vain and believing you always come first. The crap is caring about your appearance more than caring about what you think and why you think it. The crap is saying that you have learned everything there is to know–this is impossible, as each day is a new day and with that brings fresh learning. How do we avoid the crap? My advice is stick to the three things Ashton talked about. You’ll be fine.

It is my hope that the kids who nominated him learned something that night. Thanks for reading–I’ve included the video of Ashton’s speech here.

On Moral Agency and Assertiveness

For some reason, I’ve hesitated to write about anything spiritual on my Blog, the biggest reason being my personal development. I find that sometimes I have a hard time expressing my emotions or opinions in writing. I like to hide myself, my take, on a subject through humor or memoirs. It hasn’t been easy comparing myself against other writers who seem to take charge and say “THIS is how I feel, and I want you to know why.”

But now I am finally ready to get real for once and talk about something dear to my heart, without comparing myself to anyone else.

I speak of moral agency in terms of my being a Latter-Day Saint (Mormon). The quotes I have included come from teachings of the church doctrine, which I support. I’ve been a member all my life and have discovered the church’s truthfulness for myself. That being said, I hope I can enlighten you and share my own experiences on the topic.

Moral agency is really two things in one. It is our freedom to make decisions, and it is the power we have to choose good over evil. Let me break it down further.

Many of life’s decisions are simple. For example, last night I planned to wake up early this morning so I could be productive today. I ended up waking to the alarm and going back to sleep, and did not get moving until around 11 AM. Thus, I faced consequences beyond my control which led me to run errands late in the day and feel like I had wasted valuable time. There are, of course, larger decisions we can make. I try to live my life as Christlike as possible, and it means that I make some sacrifices. I do not drink, smoke or participate in activities that would drive away the spirit. I am not saying that I haven’t been tempted or that the high standards I set for myself are a terrible burden on me. Living this way is, in fact, a blessing because I know if I were to give in and break my trust with God that I would not be nearly as happy.

Along with agency, we are also given trials in this life. They are for our benefit. The trials test our agency. I especially like this quote, given by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion, which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain…. to exercise faith is the trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good.

–Richard G. Scott

Once again I see that we weren’t sent here as perfect beings. Instead, it is up to us to work on our perfection so that we can live and become like Him. Both Elder Todd D. Christofferson and Robert D. Hales’ talks go into detail about the greatest example of moral agency: Jesus Christ.

I believe that much of the Lord’s power is attributable to the fact that He never wavered in that determination. He had a clear, consistent direction. Whatever the Father desired, Jesus chose to do.

–Elder Todd D. Christofferson

I have seen many blessings come from moral agency. I am responsible for my actions and if I mess up I can fix it. I also don’t worry about disappointing anyone but myself. Real power and accomplishment come from making wise choices. If we persevere and choose the right, all things are possible.

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Daily Prompt: Smell You Later| Grandma’s House

Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TRANSPORTED.

One smell I can’t seem to get out of my mind is the smell of my grandma Jolee’s house. You could smell it as soon as you got out of the car. It was a combination of rain, of Jovan perfume, of her. Before I started college I got to visit her at least twice a year. Over the macaroni, chicken and lasagna dinners she cooked I remember her asking me how school was going and what I saw in my future. I watched her fast and steady hands knit away on her latest project, usually a gift for someone in the family. Gran has wisdom and a special way of letting people know how important they are. As I got older we talked about life and love and loss. She understood me when I was just getting back on my feet. This smell makes me think of the many family get togethers at her place: Christmas songs at her piano with the cousins, playing croquet, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and singing ‘Let It Be’ in the front yard for my grandpa who passed away last year. A transport back in time to these memories was never sweeter.

The view behind Gran's house.
The view behind Gran’s house.
Stopped by to see Gran before I started college.
Stopped by to see Gran before I started college.

The Magic Paddleboard

It’s time I got back into writing mode. To my followers reading this, thanks for sticking with me. To new readers, thanks for taking time to look at my Blog.

Last quarter I had the pleasure of interviewing Jerry Katz for my narrative writing class. Our final project required us to write a lengthy narrative (12-19 pages) and become storytellers. Over a period of several weeks I got to know Jerry, a man who lives life “actively.” He surfs, hang glides, rides bikes and gives tours at the LA Arboretum. He’s lived in Southern California all his life. While I was deciding on an appropriate angle for the story, he invited me out to one of his beginner stand up paddle boarding (sup) tours at OEX Sunset Beach. He helps the owner of the place run a Meetup group.

His friends pay $10 for board rental and then he teaches them for free.

On May 11 I went out for my first paddle boarding lesson. My friend Jazmin came too. Jerry wanted me to write about it in my piece, so the night before I prepared mentally for potential difficulties–I’d leave the reporter’s notebook and the camera behind. I hoped my short-term memory would carry me through. It was all in the details, details, details.

I felt so free out on the water. I sped ahead and was the leader of the group at one point. And I had plenty of time to think about how I was living. Clearly, I needed to try new things more often. Didn’t know I’d really like doing any particular sport, and here I was getting a “high” off of stand up paddling! We were paddle boarding in Huntington Harbor, so we weren’t out in open ocean water. The water was still, except for the Duffys and other boats passing through. Kayakers came in packs.

Jerry’s instructions were clear and I remembered most of what he said. I kept track of easy landmarks–a boat, a shoal marker, the Pacific Coast Highway bridge. The feel of the board was odd at first, but once I started paddling in smooth strokes I didn’t think so much about it.

Two hours later we made it back to the shore.

Was it really over?

For that day, yes.

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But I came back to see Jerry in July. Paddle boarding didn’t feel weird at all this time–I hopped on and enjoyed touring with about 20 other people, including my friends Linda and Diana.

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The realization that I had fallen in love with paddle boarding right from the start led me to learn how to cook, knit and crochet. I also like spending as much time as I can outdoors. I went on a short hike with my dad and braved the snow, wind and the rain. Now I bike ride for fun.

In my next post I am going to share my narrative piece about Jerry. I recently submitted the piece for an online literary magazine that features writers from my school. Longform writing is getting more popular these days, and WordPress is a great and easy place to post.

Jerry is just an awesome guy. He treats people well. I thank him for helping me work on my storytelling skills and opening my eyes to the wonderful world of paddle boarding.

Getting Wiser

They say never write for free. But I’m doing my stretching right now and sometimes you have to get your voice out there, be brave. The words you select and the words you leave out tell readers a lot about you–meaning manifests in surprising ways. Experimenting is necessary.

I really haven’t been myself for the longest time, it feels like…I haven’t been getting enough sleep at night, I’ve been having nightmares during the few hours of sleep I do get, I want the pain to release me from its tight grip. I don’t understand why I act the way I do sometimes.

The other day the exhausted me was more than a little disgusted at my piss-poor planning for that week. I tried to do all nighters, I tried to keep my commitments. I failed my own expectations and it hurt my pride. I had so many assignments due that day, too many people to meet up with. I had a “what the hell are you doing with your life” talk with myself while I waited for my next class. Did I know? I had an inkling. In the end, everything miraculously worked out after a couple of prayers and my brilliant plan to chain myself to a desk at the library so I could write a rough draft essay before it was due that night.

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I’ve learned a lot these past couple weeks. I realize more than ever that friends will come and go. Friendship is something you can’t force on anyone. They have to put in the same amount of effort that you do or it is meaningless. Memories seem to come out, they scream at you. At the same time, you smile at hilarious moments and remember the insights with clarity. And sure, it hurts, especially when you lose a friend and say to yourself that it’s time to walk away! What do you do when someone stops caring? You might just blow them off.

I made a new friend this week. She showed me kindness without expecting anything in return. She showed up unannounced. It’s so easy being around her and I see her glowing around the people she cares about. An opportunity to grow closer is here at my feet. It’s arrived when I need it most and I think I want to take it.

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Part of my positive outlook on life comes from my family (the Jopsons). I see again and again that I have wonderful examples of people who put others first, resolve problems with diplomacy and not through harsh words, the integrity they possess to get something done. Money is not the most important thing to them. They are sometimes too humble. The values they place first in life–keeping in touch and strengthening relationships inside and outside the family, education through schooling and showing kindness to people for the sake of kindness alone are what they’re about.

I am Jennifer Tennant Jopson. I am more assertive, I am learning to tell people what I need without feeling guilty. I can say no. I am free. To do what I want to–I shape my life based on my passions and the little things, too. I knit, I crochet. I do amateur photography when I remember to bring my camera along and I like working out because it makes me feel good. On Saturdays I enjoy reading Rolling Stone in bed. I take the time to work on my talents, making up for the years I thought no one cared anyway and would it matter much at all. I will go to the beach this summer and stand up paddle board with a friend of mine. I sing for myself and I sing to God. This is what I do.

Sometimes, There’s That One Great Week

I’m back on WordPress. Never thought I would miss it so much.

I just wanted to write a note about how special this week is. Winter quarter is officially over, I took my last final today. It was for Chinese (I’m a second year student without a background in the language) and it went well. There were a couple questions that relied heavily on cultural intuition that stumped me, but it didn’t ruin my day. I recognized almost every character on the test so I consider it an accomplishment.

This finals week was my most relaxing yet. I studied plenty, polished up a final essay and played (aka watch movies and listen to music that I can sing along with). I even caught up with National Geographic and read some eye-opening articles about de-extinction. I almost felt guilty it floated by so slowly with that little pain…

Coming home, I thought about all the opportunities I have in front of me. I can still change my path if I want to, it’s not too late. I get to do what I want over Spring Break, and that freedom is one of the best things about the college experience.

My roommate and I went tanning poolside later in the afternoon. I still have a lot of work to do in order to see a difference in skin tone!

I also read some Moby Dick–it is one of the books that I thought was dreadfully tedious when we had to read part of it in high school, but now I realize I’m ready for it. Must be mature enough now. Or maybe the book simply found me. 🙂 I can now put the book into popular context and I really appreciate the quality of the writing.

As always, thanks for reading. You know who you are.

–Jennifer

Daily Prompt: Far From Normal| Ragtime, Berries and More

Many of us think of our lives as boringly normal, while others live the high life. Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.

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  1. I get a kick out of Ragtime music, especially artists like Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll
  2. Morton…I can’t get enough! The light piano, the playful mood and the ballads all speak to me. I listen to it while I’m doing homework or when I lose inspiration.
  3. I’m obsessed with my planner, to the point where sometimes I’ll think of something else that I need to do the next day and so I’ll jump out of bed in the middle of the night just to write in it.
  4. I tend to dress like a tomboy. While I have my own “style”, it typically doesn’t involve lots of accessories, dresses with heels or boots with leggings. It’s been hard to make the transition from baggy, comfortable shirts and work out shorts to anything remotely fashionable.
  5. I like eating blueberries, blackberries and almost any kind of berry raw, but I can’t stand the thought of eating them baked in something. Whenever I’m close to a blueberry muffin, I want to throw up.
  6. I am extremely ticklish. This trait works against me. A person can pretend to tickle me, being 4 inches away from actually tickling me, and I’ll start laughing. Sad, I know.
  7. I could almost live without a phone. As it is, I don’t have texting and people don’t call me all that much. I guess I don’t feel the need to talk to someone all the time, I’m fine with going on with my day alone and I’ve lived so far. There are more important things in life than my phone.
  8. I enjoy playing cribbage and get pretty competitive when I play. I don’t think that most kids my age play the game, but I find it interesting.

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