MK: Disconnecting to Reconnect


Sitting around a dinner table with friends, I started responding to an email. This transgression drew undue attention, and my friend shot his dagger-eyes at me. Pulling his hands in and pushing them out like waves, he said, “disconnect, to reconnect.” While sitting around a dinner table with friends — in a restaurant, nonetheless — feels antiquated in quarantine, the advice has stayed relevant.

Quarantined during a global pandemic, I’m sure that you’ll have no problem finding something to worry about. If you’re anything like me though, you still found plenty of things to worry about in the before-times. This time last month, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to find a restaurant reservation for my graduation in May. How naive! While a lot of those worries pale in comparison to the problems brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, some stressors seem to carry over.

I have always worried about minimizing screen time. Since high school, I have experienced anti-technology, borderline Luddite instincts — instincts whose origin I do not know and could not explain — directed specifically at my phone. Treating screen time reports like challenges, I would always look to decrease my dependency on the fruits of Steve Jobs’ labor. The results used to be palatable, and I understood the direct correlation between my time spent scrolling on twitter and my screentime report. I had control over the screen time and would shut off notifications as needed.

The coronavirus has complicated these weekly challenges. Gone are the days spent in rooms with classmates and professors, taking notes by hand, laptop shut, phone away. The landscape of our academic environment has taken a turn for the digital, and it’s difficult to peel yourself from the very screens that connect you to the outside world you used to inhabit. My work, school, and social life has moved entirely online.

Last spring, I challenged myself to turn off my phone for an uninterrupted hour every day. I remember that each phone-free hour was always refreshing. Whether I felt like I had cleared my head, or practiced productive studying, I learned the value of deliberate disconnection.

As students of communications, we are taught and trained to stay connected with the world at large. While normally push notifications from news, social media, mail, and messaging apps might seem overwhelming, these apps have taken on an increasingly central role in the time of coronavirus.

It’s important though, to distinguish the point at which our connection to the outside world brings us joy or anxiety. There’s no shame in turning off your phone or deleting an app. For now, disconnecting to reconnect doesn’t apply to dinners out with friends. Now, we can disconnect to reconnect with ourselves, with family, with a nice book. I see the irony if you’re reading this on a laptop or phone, but if my writing hasn’t driven you to unplug yet, maybe now’s the time.

MK: A Political Campus

Tours through the College of Communication start in undergraduate affairs, go down to the basement, weave through third-floor studios and second-floor classrooms, and conclude in the first floor lobby. Offering stats and fun-facts, the tour-guides invite parents and prospective students to ask questions. These questions help the ambassadors tailor the tours to visitors’ unique interests, and at the very least they interrupt the monologues that Communication majors all too eagerly perform. In a sea of questions tossed or hurled my way on these tours, one seems to surface before the rest. 

Myself, two other ambassadors, and one prospective family moved together through the college’s four floors for a late spring tour. We made our way downstairs to the first stop on our last leg: the acclaimed Pete Souza wall. The wall holds a dozen framed photographs Souza (‘76) took during his tenure as White House Photographer under President Obama. 

At this point in the semester, my fellow ambassadors and myself had rehearsed our tour-guide routine a charming rapport. We would take turns talking about the photos and always point out our personal favorite from the Obama White House. I pointed to mine and said, “I love this one of him coaching basketball, I feel like I can just smell the gym he’s in.” My fellow ambassadors pointed to their favorites and offered similar explanations. 

Before we could use our famous photojournalist as a segue to advertise the student-run publications on campus, a parent on our tour asked about the political climate on campus, trying to gauge whether or not students were politically active. We answered politely but honestly, hoping to inform not offend since an ambassadorship historically required diplomatic behavior beyond million dollar donations. Explaining that Boston University is an urban campus in the middle of a politically active city, we said that students embrace the opportunities for political engagement that our city and our school offer. 

The question inspired me to consider the changing tides of political activism, the wave that has grown in strength and size over the past four years before it walls in 2020. Throughout my four years in college, I have watched activism evolve, manifesting in protest practices from traditional walk-outs and stand-ins, to the meme scene with “O.K., Boomer” Tik Toks. I admire the transformation of the previously apolitical, people who educated themselves and increased their own political involvement in hopes that they might empower others. 

I’m so grateful to attend a university where student unions and organizations are allowed to band together and push for progress. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities and refrain from staying silent. There are causes that you should care about and they are not hopeless. Our school alone offers nine purely political organizations, but there are dozens of other groups involved with community engagement and student government. With the looming 2020 election, you can help these organizations; utilize your communication skills to educate, inform, and empower as we rush toward the shoreline. 

MK: Taking Courses Outside of Your Major

Here in COM we like to stay in our bubble of communication oriented people. Whether we’re exchanging headlines or memes, it’s pretty easy to get caught talking about the same topics with different people. When things start to get monotonous though, I feel like I always find myself diving into my courses outside of COM. I feel so lucky to go to a school with incredible programs across all colleges, and I can’t stress how important it is to explore courses outside of your major and college. 

Early on in my collegiate career, I remember my advisor confessing his favorite course to me: a Mozart course. Despite his business major, whenever he looked back on his favorite classes in college, the Mozart course always stuck out to him. Ever since we had that meeting, I’ve changed the way I thought about my course selection. Instead of focusing only on courses that could reap more practical, ‘real-world’ skills I tried looking for different courses, ones that piqued my interests outside of my desired career path.

We have our whole lives to learn plenty of practical skills in the workforce, we only get to take college courses during our years in college. Looking back on the past three years, my opinions have started to align closely with my advisor. Some of the most impactful courses I’ve taken, courses that I would deem my favorites, didn’t count for my major and existed outside of our COM bubble.

MK: The Wonders of LinkedIn: The Hunt for an Internship

In high school I had a teacher who always told students, “It’s not the grades you make, it’s the hands you shake.” When it comes to the internship hunt, I’d have to say they’re right. For me though, it’s been the LinkedIn connections I make. In a meeting with a COM Career Advisor this fall, I was encouraged to reach out to alumni who work in the field I’m interested in.

At first, I thought this may seem odd or too forward, but I thought about how I would personally feel if I were an alumni and a student seeking career advice reached out. Even now, when high schoolers ask to talk to me about my experience in college I love speaking with them and giving any tips I can.

With this, I took to the streets of the most productive social media site and did some searching. In my searches, I found people with mutual connections and alumni that had my dream job. I reached out, to a few people and made the most helpful connections. I can’t overstate how much I appreciate the advice they gave and how much I think they have guided me in the right direction during the internship application process.

LinkedIn’s an easy and accessible resource that has given me the opportunity to connect with people who gave me invaluable advice. You can’t expect a response from everyone, and you can’t expect a job offer -- nor should you ask for one. If someone is willing to share their experience and guidance with you, it could help you more than you know -- plus, down the road you’ll always have that relationship if you put yourself out there.