Arriving to Northern Michigan University
College life. A life I didn’t think I would be prepared for, but one I was jumping into the thick of anyway. My name is AJ Laatsch and I am a new student here at Northern Michigan University. I have just graduated from high school last June and I started school here just a couple months ago in August. I am interested in Art & Design and I have to come here to earn a major for it with a concentration in either Computer Art or Graphic Design. My next semester of classes will help me discover the right direction to take.
One of the biggest changes I encountered after coming here was the separation of myself and home. Obviously, that is to be expected of most, but some live close enough to go home often enough. This isn’t the case for me. I was originally born in Ohio, but I’ve lived in Southeastern Wisconsin for most of my life. My home city can be found about an hour northwest of one of the biggest cities in Wisconsin: Milwaukee. The revelation that I would become a resident of a completely different state because of college was so strange to me. But in the long run, it didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would. Even though I would be away from home and my family most of the time, I haven’t been very homesick or bothered in anyway, so I can say I’ve adapted to living here well. Plus, since I’ve lived in Wisconsin, I know what it is like to get a fair share of snow. Although, it starts a little earlier here and there is much, much more of it. However, it isn’t something I can’t handle.
Like for most families, going to college raises concerns on how it’s going to get paid for. I had received a couple of scholarships from my school to help with payment, along with working at a job and filing for student loans. It was a huge issue for my family because for some time, my parents didn’t think it would be worth paying for since it would take much longer than going to a different school with the same program. Yet, they were supportive of my decision to go and let me after some influencing. Not letting my parents down on their decision is now one of the most important things for me to take care of. Once I signed up for courses and was almost ready to start school, I started looking for an on-campus job right away. My only preference was that I didn’t want to work in dining services just because I don’t like working with food. I started off by finding something simple, something that would keep me busy and pay me well, too. After looking for a while, I found nothing that really interested me until I scrolled upon an NMU Archives job opening. I was interested and decided I should show my interest by applying. It turned out to be a little different than I expected.
The Archives & Me
Some time went by and I had received an email detailing a time and date for an interview. This put me in anxious, but also positive mood. Shortly after the interview, I got an email welcoming me to The Archives and I was overjoyed that my interview went well and I had an on-campus job. That was 3 months ago. I still currently work at The Archives and I’m expecting I’ll work here for the next couple of years if things go well. I have been trained in the digitization of physical information through our various equipment, I have a good sense of how to locate information and I’m currently tasked with building websites for different projects The Archives have in mind.
For the most part, what I do at The Archives isn’t anything that should cause much stress. Timewise, everything at The Archives is managed very well and I can go into work expecting to do something. Plus, its work that I should be able to handle and understand. As I continue to work throughout the days, I continuously improve my skills in one aspect or another at what I do, so I’m getting something out of each day. I am going to work and accomplishing something. That alone tells me I’m doing just fine. However, about a month ago, I started getting assigned to bigger projects. These projects required the creation of a website, and it was entrusted to me to learn how to build these websites and then design them.
At first, I was a little overwhelmed because I had never done this kind of thing before. I didn’t even know that much about computers, let alone building an actual website. But I kept quiet and hoped I would be able to figure it out. As time went on, I tried teaching myself this concept of website creation and it was tough for me to get a grip on it. Once I noticed the material wasn’t sticking in my brain like glue, I started to worry that I wouldn’t be smart enough to get the job done. It really started to get to me. I felt if I was moving along very slowly, and somehow, I formulated this idea in my head that my boss wanted the whole thing done immediately. I felt as if I had no time. This was a problem for me because it started cutting into time that I could use to complete other tasks that I have. This made going to work a little hard for me, but I still did it because I felt like I had a duty to see this through.
What I’ve Learned
It easy enough to say that stress has been my biggest problem since coming to NMU. Although I still stress out every now and then, I’ve come to realize something important. After talking to some people, I’ve discovered that what I expect of myself is highly unrealistic for how much experience I have. I went to work thinking I should be getting a week’s amount of work done in one day. It’s important to have big goals, but those usually don’t come to fruition overnight. They should take a long time because they have to be worked hard for. Put more importance in what is actually achieved that day instead of thinking of all the things you hadn’t. This allows me to concentrate more and to get things done.
Another aspect of work that has assisted me with handling stress is the people I work with. Most of them are fellow students that I can connect with and talk to. For the last three months, I’ve been able to ask them questions and ask for help on various occasions and they have been more than happy to help out. Once, I announced to one of my coworkers that I wasn’t confident in my ability to help create a website and they told me something that put me at ease. It went along the lines of: Don’t think of this job as struggling to put together a website, and instead, think of it as getting paid to learn a very cool skill. Ever since then, I think about this line and it truly helps me stay on the positive side of things.
The Archives has turned out to be a very cool place to me. Its filled with a bunch of cool people and I get to practice making websites and working with computers, which I plan to be working with for my intended major sometime in the future. It has showed me a lot about myself that I once neglected and I’m happy I chose to work here.