A window inside life at Augustana College

Dorm room



I thought I’d share with you what our dorm looks like (in Westerlin).

I have to admit that the thought of moving to college kind of scared me sometimes, especially the thought of sharing a room with a stranger. Lucky me, I got the best roommate ever.

And look how cozy we have made it! It’s so relaxing to come home to this dorm after a long and stressful day (I guess we can ignore that fact that right now, the room looks like a total catastrophe, but as we all now; the things you can’t see on social media, doesn’t happen in real life).

Tuva Alicia Stener


Exactly one week from now I will be in Brazil! Maybe I will be walking on the beach or maybe I will be snug in my bed. Either way I will be in Rio de Janeiro getting ready to begin the international portion of my study abroad trip through Augustana!

I will do everything I can to keep this blog updated, but I can’t make any promises. After all, I’ll be in Brazil taking in the beautiful beaches and the amazing culture and the sunshine!

7 hours in Chicago


Last Saturday, the Office of Student Life arranged a trip to Chicago for us students.

Being an international student, this was so exciting, especially since we had never been to Chicago before, nor ever seen a Major League baseball game. The day turned out to be fantastic. I can’t wait to explore Chicago more!

Since I was born in Stockholm (the capital of Sweden) I’m such a city girl. But it wasn’t until I moved away from the city, when I truly realized how much I had loved it. With that in mind, I know this it will probably be the same case here. Even with the tremendous amount of homework and late nights of studying, I know that I will be missing this place a lot when I get home in May. So with that said, let’s enjoy this fantastic year ahead of us!

Tuva Alicia Stener


“College is the best time of your life. When else are your parents going to spend several thousand dollars a year just for you to go to a strange town and get drunk every night?” 

― David Wood

“I imagine that one of the biggest troubles with colleges is there are too many distractions, too much panty-raiding, fraternities, and boola-boola and all of that.”

Malcolm X

“No period of my life has been one of such unmixed happiness as the four years which have been spent within college walls.”

Horatio Alger


There are a lot of quotes out there that a similar to the above.  A lot of people will say “College is the best time in your life! Enjoy it! Don’t stress! You should be having fun!” However, now that I am in to my senior year I am not so sure these statements are true. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed college, but it’s not all fun and games like movies, society, and pop culture make it seem. In fact, I would describe college as the four years that I’ve been the most internally conflicted.

College has torn me apart; not torn me down, but apart. I have struggled with so many decisions in college; decisions where I could see myself as being happy in both outcomes, both choices having similar pros and cons, the choices being fairly opposite of each other.

From day one of college I was conflicted. I came to Augustana intending to be a pre-med or pre-PA major. By the time I actually started classes I was 99% sure that I didn’t want to be a doctor any more. However, I had no idea what I did want to be. During my freshman year I bounced around from history, to psychology, back to pre-med, over to sociology, then prepared for education, before deciding none of those felt right.

Then there was the decision on whether I was going to even come back for spring term at Augustana my first year. By the time Week 10 of winter term rolled around I was exhausted in all senses of the word and I’d had a rough year. I had attended 2 funerals already. I had gotten a D during my first term of college. I was constantly sick. I had no idea how I was paying for college. I had just been diagnosed with a chronic back problem. I didn’t want to be at Augustana anymore. I told my mom I wasn’t returning after spring break and that I would take a medical leave, given my back condition. I was set on it. Then I realized how much I would miss the friends I made. How much I would hate working when my friends were in class. So I returned for spring term and I just kept coming back.

Sophomore year was back to the decision of what to major in. I had determined pre-med was officially out and that I wanted to go with education. Then I got back on campus and decided I definitely did not want to do education, but what else was there? Yes, we have tons of majors, but I could find a reason to rule everything out. Pre-anything? I couldn’t handle the chem classes. Psych? Didn’t love it like I did in high school. Languages? I could barely get through Spanish in high school. Art? I can’t art to save my life. I had an excuse for everything and I was feeling the pressure to declare. I think I was the last person from my peer mentor group to declare a major. However, with the help of my first-year advisor and through taking some awesome classes I finally decided on Political Science and Sociology. The rest of sophomore was pretty easy sailing, thank goodness!

Junior year brought another round of conflict. I was balancing two majors. I wanted to add a minor. Everyone kept asking me “What are you going to do with political science, sociology with a concentration in social welfare, and women and gender studies?” I told them I was going to join the Peace Corps. I was also thinking about going in to student affairs, given my experience as a CA and as part of Residence Hall Association. However, I threw both of those ideas to the curb too. Though I really wanted to join the Peace Corps and knew that there was no better time than after college, I realized that joining the Peace Corps would put me half way around the world from my niece and nephews, that I could be hundreds of miles from the nearest volunteer, that I may not be able to accommodate my medical needs in the ways that I am accustomed to. I also decided that with student affairs I didn’t feel that I could pursue my dream of having a large family and living out in the country in the future. So I spent a lot of time job searching. Most jobs indicated that a Master’s degree was preferred. Did I want a Master’s degree? Maybe. Did I want to pursue it immediately following college? No way! I was burnt out on school. Now I was left with two majors and a minor and no idea where I wanted to work in the future.

Then came my senior inquiry. I was given the opportunity to be part of the pilot program for the new political science senior inquiry process. However, that meant I would need to start winter term of my junior year. That seemed like a huge task. What was a going to write about? What was I passionate about to give a year of my life to researching and writing about? Families? Babies? College life? Politics? I decided on parental leave policies because I am passionate about families and babies and leave policies affect both.

The end of junior year, it’s time to think about graduating. When am I going to graduate? When can I graduate? Can I graduate early? How much money will I save? What am I going to do when I graduate? What summer classes am I going to take? Am I going to take summer classes? How will I pay for them? I decided to take summer classes; it would save me thousands of dollars by allowing me to graduate early. By graduating a term early I would be able to start to work more sooner in order to begin to make progress towards my debt resolution.

And now I’m a senior. I have 1 2/3 terms left of college. How do I spend my nights? Researching jobs. Thinking about what I actually want to do when I graduate versus what society thinks I should do. Do I follow my passion (birth, families, gender issues)? Or do I pursue a paycheck than can cover the tens of thousands of dollars in loans that I’ve taken out? I spend my time calculating a budget. I spend it looking over my calendar, trying to see if I can fit in more hours. My internal thought process is like this,

“Well I don’t have class on Friday this week so I can swing in to the office and let them know I can pick up a shift. But at the same time I really want a few hours to relax. But I’m already working 6-8am and then 2-6pm, so what’s a 10am-1pm shift going to hurt? Oooh, but then I do work 9am-5pm on Saturday, so there goes a couple hours. Then I’m definitely going to want to take a nap. I should also squeeze in a time to do homework. Oh and maybe a time to work out. However, if I spend this time working what will I going to eat? Do I have food ready that I can grab and eat on the go?”

This conversation can go in circles for hours. I don’t know that there’s ever a resolution. Sure I can work 30+ hours a week off campus while going to school full time and spending hours driving from place to place, but is that really the way I want to live. The answer right now is yes. I’ve become so accustomed to this go go go lifestyle that I don’t know what else to do. Then I come home and I worry about a job again. Now the post-grad plan questions come more frequently. “Victoria, you’re graduating early, you must have a plan in mind. What are you going to do?” Well that’s a great question. Where do I start?

With this year by year breakdown it is easy to see that there are struggles in college. Maybe others can play this off with much more ease than myself, but I micro-manage everything. I need to know the answers to every question I have. I need reassurance that I am making the right choice/doing the right thing/pursuing the right option.

The new question is when do I pursue more education? I’ve spent the last 11 years pushing myself to be the best student that I can be. Getting the good grades. Participating in sports. Having a job. Taking the advanced courses and the overloaded terms. I don’t want to do more homework. I want college to be the end of homework for a while. But I also want to go in to work that requires more certifications; certifications that I can’t get at school. I wonder if college really was the right choice for me. If I’m going to be a doula and then perhaps pursue midwifery, was it worth it to spend all that money on a liberal arts education? If I had had these plans 4 years ago when I was in high school could I already be making money, having a job, doing what I’m passionate about? No. I wasn’t passionate about the birth process 4 years ago. So no Victoria, you did need this experience to grow as an individual. To find what you care about, because that happens when you take courses from almost all the departments.

I realize that this is a long post, but it’s one that I’ve been thinking about and drafting in my mind for a while. It’s not meant to scare you, but it’s meant to show you the reality of college. That’s the whole point to the blog, to show what college is really like. I happen to be a realist, or as my mother likes to say a “real pessimist”, but I think I just tell things like they are. I don’t see the world as rainbows and butterflies, there are also thunderstorms and fires, but it’s in the hard moments that we learn the most.

Sputtering Words, Fluttering Birds, Nothing Misheard.

Dear Twitter,

The city of Denver and I seem to like staying up late together.

Tonight were sharing a wonderful tapestry of a conversation.

Tonight, I am told that tomorrow will bring dull conversations about the weather were having.

Tonight,  I begin sketches in my notebook concerning my plot to build an ant farm in the middle of my apartment. The realist in me knows this is a terrible plan and yet the Faustian devil prevails in shattering logic.  I’ve only gotten to the part about leaving crumbs everywhere and not cleaning them up. It’s become less of a stable farm and more of a chaotic free for all.  Regardless, the scenario plays out splendidly in my head. Rancid smells encumber the apartment. The process is largely pointless besides giving my life a clear enemy. Thousands of ants come to my apartment expecting an easy meal. Entitled to it simply because the food and them exist together. I let the ants enjoy their meal for a few days. I study their patterns and object to the impulses raging inside me that scream for me to smash them all with a boot. I choose to forego chemical warfare as I deem it unsatisfactory to the competition of the fittest. Boredom is a beautiful muse as it has allowed the universe to bring us all together in this apartment.  An army of ants in my house I’ll have a task at hand. These hands were not meant to sit idle.

I’ll catch certain ants, ants I deem more important than the rest based upon previous observation. They will have names, I’ve decided on using strictly Aaron Spelling sitcom characters. These ants will be used as a way to break bread with the rest of the colony and show them that perhaps we can coexist.

The conversation between me and myself lulls me out of the lucid daydream I began to exist in.

Nobody is there to tell me it’s a terrible plan.

Nobody is there to tell me they’re all going to laugh at you.

Tonight puts on tomorrow’s clothes. I am sleeping awake, counting red lights like sheep, waiting for the next time I’ll get to talk to myself.





Shakespeare never tweeted a sonnet!


I’m not sure where I heard the phrase, “Shakespeare never tweeted a sonnet,” but it must’ve been my favorite thing yet. I would think the phrase is saying that it’s difficult to picture someone so ancient doing something so modern. Therefore, it’s difficult to picture someone so modern to do something so ancient. I mean what teen will take a selfie nowadays with those disposable cameras our parents used to take with on our field trips? Not a whole bunch. As time progresses, things change. I get that, but the modernism I’m tackling here includes social media and the information we take in on a daily basis. One of the courses I’m currently taking really made me think about this. Seriously, do we actually intake useful information on a daily basis that is important in knowing about the world around us?


From social networks such as Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr, how many hours a day do you spend scrolling? Some users are hardcore and scroll for miles, but there are some that just check if they have notifications and call it a day. I’m aiming at you users with a tab open for each individual social media site you got yourself into. From my news feeds, my friends/followers usually share pop culture related posts; nothing really informative, but entertaining nonetheless. A lot of my friends declare that news are boring and dry and has nothing to do with them. But when the tables turn my friend, pop culture news and that really cute cat video also has nothing to do with you; it simply entertains you. I mean, everyone is free to share what they want, post what they want, and so forth, but be aware of what most things stand for. I don’t know if it’s a generation thing or what, but it’s definitely something.


I’m actually a large hypocrite as I’m a constant tweeter myself, but I’m just exploring this dynamic I see everywhere. How many teens right now actually know about what’s happening with the world? And I mean really happening with the world. Like international affairs and issues being faced by our country. Not a lot. Why is that? Is it because of the advancement in technology that allows us to filter and intake what we want?  I’m not saying you’re a bad person if you decide to read the article about Kim Kardashian over an article about serious politics, but I am saying to ask yourself why that’s the course of events. Saying “oh that’s just boring” isn’t going to cut it. How many of the retweets, reblogs, and revines are you going to have to make to rethink about what you’re learning and not learning online?

Here’s to the start of Week 3

Tomorrow starts Week 3. That means that of the 20 weeks of class I have at Augie this year, I have completed 1/10.

I just looked at my countdown that I have and my official graduation date is 168 days away.

I leave for Brazil in 25 days.

Surprisingly, I’m not feeling that stressed. At least no more than I normally feel. Today my mom asked me what suitcase I am taking to Brazil. I told her I don’t know. Then she asked how I’m getting to the airport. I told her I’m driving. She asked what I’m doing with my car for 5 weeks. I said leaving it at grandma’s or at Joey’s. She said I should leave it at grandma’s and have someone pick me up from grandma’s. I said it will all work out; I still have a month until I leave. She said I have less than a month. For once in my life my mother might actually be more anxious about something than I am.

So far I’ve had a great school year. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes me.

My Life’s Work (at Augie)

I’ve written about my jobs before, both at the Reading/Writing Center and at Special Collections. But I’ve never actually talked much about what I do.

My life’s work (well, my life at Augie, at least) in Special Collections is (hopefully) drawing to an end soon. For two years, three when I graduate at the end of this year, I have been working on John Henry Hauberg’s collection of glass plate negatives.

Who is John Henry Hauberg, you ask, and what are glass plate negatives? John Henry Hauberg was a very interesting man. Born into a family of German immigrants, he became a lawyer, traveled extensively, was involved in the temperance movement in Rock Island County, started the United Sunday School Band and the Black Hawk Hiking Club, was active in the Lutheran Church, did more than I could hope to do in three lifetimes and married Susanne Denkmann, the youngest daughter of Frederick Denkmann, the lumber baron. In 1909, two years before Hauberg married Susanne Denkmann, she and Frederick Denkmann’s six other children gave a gift of $100,000 to Augustana College to fund the construction of a library as a memorial to their parents. That library is now Denkmann Hall, home to Augustana’s world language departments and the Swenson Center. John Henry Hauberg did a lot of things, but he was also an avid, very avid, photographer.

That’s where I and the glass plate negatives come in. Hauberg began taking photographs in 1889, before film and much before digital cameras. How did he do it, then? I’m not too sure of the mechanics, but his negatives were imprinted on glass slides. He also made plenty of lantern slides, the things that old style projectors used. Hauberg made about 4,000 glass negatives and 3,000 lantern slides according to the bio linked above. Special Collections has all of them. They were probably organized at some point, but after various moves into various storage formats, all the glass negatives and lantern slides are now jumbled together in no order whatsoever.

I’ve been working on wrestling those 7,000 or so images into some form of order and labeling them so that, at some point in the future, you can find a specific one if you want to. I can now tell Hauberg’s two children apart in their baby pictures. I can pick his wife out of a crowd. I don’t profess to know half of his very large family, but there are certain members that I can tell on sight. In recent days, I’ve learned to recognize three of Susanne Denkmann’s sisters too.

And while the project has sometimes been frustrating beyond belief, it’s been extremely rewarding. Hauberg stuck his fingers in every part of Quad Cities history he could reach and I wouldn’t know half as much as I do about why Tama, Iowa is important (Google it!) if not for him. And though I’ve had to slog through pictures of single cows and empty fields without the remotest inkling where they’re from, though I’ve had to slog through boxes and boxes of baby pictures (you haven’t met a proud father until you’ve met Hauberg), I’ve also seen beautiful pictures of temples in Mexico, of the good old Mississippi and of Augustana itself.

There’s still a long way to go. I still can’t even say with certainty that I’ll be done at the end of this year. But I hope to be, I really have to be, because I doubt if there are many people on this campus who now know more about Hauberg and his negatives than I do.

SIs, Capstones, Rent, Oh My…


It’s been a while–a long, long while–since I posted, but hey, I have an excuse. I studied abroad in Amsterdam last spring, enjoying the views from my tiny room on a houseboat and riding around the city and its surrounding areas on my trusty purple bicycle. I was home for a month and then it was off to Paris for six weeks, on a research project with Dr. Taddy Kalas. But before I make you too jealous, I’m back, I’m a senior (where on earth did the time go?) and I have ten tons of stuff to do this year.

Yeah, trimesters have their downsides, the main one being that I’m never home at the same time as anyone else for breaks, but the fact remains that I would never have been able to finish two majors and a minor in four years without them. It’s going to take me till spring term and going to take every last credit I have, but I will complete majors in Creative Writing and Sociology and a minor in French.

The thing is, I have to a Senior Inquiry for each of the majors, and (call me crazy) I chose to do a Capstone project for Honors as well. There’s rent to be handled too, and internet/cable to be installed (which has, thankfully, been done now), not to mention water bills, gas bills and electric bills. I’m glad I don’t have a car or else I’d have to pay bills for that too.

Still, it’s been wonderful to be back on Augie’s campus and to just remain in one place for a little while after all the traveling I’ve been doing. I’ve returned to Quidditch and Alpha Psi Omega, the two things I love best on this campus, I’ve gotten back to my jobs which are always challenging but interesting. I’ve gotten back to my professors. I spent those six weeks in Paris with a professor, yes, a professor I like very much, but there are plenty of other professors I’ve grown close to over the three years I’ve spent here. I’ve visited the offices of four professors in the last week, entirely unannounced.  Two of them are my advisors. Two of them are professors I’ve only taken one class with. Conversations with them never lasted under fifteen minutes. And I’ve gotten back to my friends. I’ve had exponentially more hugs in the last week than I had in Amsterdam and Paris combined. That’s only one benefit of seeing everyone again.

Old_Main_AugustanaIf it isn’t clear enough by now, I’m happy to be back. My last year at Augie is going to be busy and fly away faster than any of the three years that preceded it. But it’s going to be a whole lot of fun too.

Wait what….I’m a senior?!?!

Fun fact: I’ve actually spent more time living at Augustana than I have living in my current home in Minnesota. Just before I graduated from high school my mother, brother, and I moved from Ham Lake, MN to Watertown, MN. I spent 2.5 months living in Watertown before moving to Augie. After my freshman year I spent the summer living with an old teacher in high school, which meant I was only in Watertown on the weekends. The summer after my sophomore year I stayed at Augustana to work for the summer. Finally, I spent the past summer living in Rock Island again.

Given all the time that I’ve spent in the Quad Cities I have a hard time accepting that by June this will no longer be my home and I will no longer be in school. I won’t be right across the hall or campus from some of the best friends that I’ve made. I won’t have delicious and reasonably priced local goodies right down the street – Watertown has a population of approximately 5,000 so we don’t have many restaurants around us which means I will definitely miss Whitey’s and La Ranch. I won’t have hours long breaks during the day, which could be a negative or a positive. I probably won’t have the luxury of sleeping in until 10am multiple days in a week.

While there are a lot of things I won’t have when this year is over, there are many more things that I will have. I will have the knowledge gained from two majors and one minor. I will have experience in interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, risk management, and communication. I will have the pride of having completed my degree in less than 4 years. I will have friendships that will cross the country and last forever. I will also have sisters and brothers from COG and APO that span the country and the world. I will have experience with paying bills and rent. I will have memories that will last a lifetime. I will have mentors and professional relationships that will help me advance in whatever path I choose to pursue.

On days when I’m having a hard time dealing with the fact that I am a senior, a leader of the school, the top class, and I want all those things I listed first to stay with me forever, I remind myself of all the positive things I will gain from leaving Augie.

Some of you who are reading this may recognize how I feel right now. Almost every senior that I’ve talked to is at least a little bit in denial about being the oldest on campus. Others may be feeling like this time will never come for you; you’re burdened with work, and homework, and everything else that teens and young adults have going on. However, I can assure you that one day this feeling will come. You will be the big dogs on campus. You will have gained experience in so many types of situations that you can’t even fathom right now. You will be ready to spread your wings.