Study Abroad: Not what I expected

Everyone’s experiences are different, some more challenging than others

I flipped through pages of the black spiral notebook I used while in Chile, fingers brushing over hastily scrawled notes written in anticipation of upcoming travels. I tore out randomized papers from the “Cultura Chilena” (Chilean Culture) Spanish class I took while I was there and stashed them in a blue folder to submit to my Spanish adviser at NDSU.

Last Wednesday at 11:30 I walked into her office and plopped down in a chair, ready to explain the class units and review essays and exams so she could determine if it would fulfill the requirements for my minor. After a coursework discussion that took less than five minutes, our conversation wandered to my experiences in Chile.

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Chillin’ in Santiago

When people ask me if studying abroad was the time of my life, I’ve always hesitated.

“It was quite the learning experience!” I respond honestly.

So as I sat in my adviser’s office, staring at a shelf of colorful Spanish textbooks and other resources, I wondered if she would fault me for admitting that studying abroad wasn’t what I expected – it hadn’t been the walk in the park I anticipated. Continue reading

The Final First Ride

Senior year of college marks my final year competing on the NDSU Equestrian Team

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Team captain Becky Prasch and I pose with our Champion and Reserve Champion ribbons at a show last fall

Today I attended my final NDSU homecoming parade as an actual student. If and when I go next year, I’ll be an alum, and I’m A-OK with that. Just over a month into my senior year, I’m beginning to relate with the well-known Captain Jack Sparrow on a sinking ship meme that circulates Facebook every now and then, symbolizing the various stages of your college career. At this point, I’m quite ready to hop off the ship and onto the dock, and set sail to another sea far away from homework and classrooms.

Despite my excitement for graduation, endings don’t happen without a bit of nostalgia. Tomorrow morning I depart for my final first show of the season of my IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) career. For those of you who are new to my blog or the world of collegiate horse showing, IHSA is an association that allows equestrians to compete affordably during college. Universities that host shows provide horses, and we draw horse names at random to determine who to ride. Riders are only allowed to watch the horse warm up before entering the arena to compete. The idea is that all competitors are on a level playing field, and it’s amazing in so many ways. From the adrenaline rush of getting on a new horse for the first time, to the opportunity of being able to ride competitively while attending school.

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Competing at University of Wisconsin River Falls

Tomorrow is the last first time I’ll smush into a van next to my teammates and drive five hours to a horse show. The last first time I’ll step onto a mounting block and get on a horse I’ve never ridden before, taking advice from my coach as she adjusts my stirrups. And the last first time I’ll collect my reins, nudge that horse forward and make an impression on a judge that will hopefully score points for NDSU. Continue reading

Saturday Suggestion: Get up, get going

Seven tips for getting mOTIVATED

My mind wanders as I sit at the kitchen table, alternating between reading ancient Latin American history and scrolling Twitter to ogle all the pictures of the big horse races going on around the country.

One moment I’m glancing through the feats of Hernando Cortes, and the next I’m posting selfies with Songbird to Instagram, hopefully sending good juju her way before her run in today’s Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania. For my readers who don’t know what a graded stake is, I highly encourage you to follow me on Instagram @annises_anecdotes, where I’ll explain it in one of my upcoming posts this week!

Back to today’s blog. While it might sound like scanning Twitter and reading history is a highly unproductive combination, I actually beg to differ. Not only did it help break up the monotony of a topic I only find moderately interesting, but changing the subject actually improved my focus.

Prior to my sitting, reading and scrolling, I woke up, baked pumpkin maple oatmeal for breakfast, washed three loads of dishes, worked out, created a checklist to guide my studying for the weekend, washed up and dove into homework. While a couple of those tasks were actually used as procrastination methods to prolong the time before I charged headlong into battle with my homework, they woke me up and kept me motivated.

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Larry and I taking a study break

As a self-proclaimed morning person who never feels like I have an accomplished day unless I check at least 10 tasks off my list, I’d like to share a few of my tips for waking up earlier and making the most of your day:  Continue reading

Slowing Down

My chance click on a podcast gave me a different outlook on being a “planner”

I listened to the BEST PODCAST the other day. I went to work out after a morning that left me feeling remotely discouraged about what to do with myself after college. I have a strong vision of where I want to be a year or two down the road, but it’s a matter of how to get there that leaves my brain in a jumble of worry and confusion.

It doesn’t help that I’m a planner. I like schedules, and checklists, and organization (except for my bedroom – that will never be organized as long as I live). However life isn’t always that simple. I can’t force anyone to hire me or fit into my agenda, and that often conflicts with my anxiety-driven desire to plan every step in my life.

I generally listen to the Horse Racing Radio Network while I work out. “Jock Talk,” “Trainer Talk,” and the “Equine Forum” are my favorites. The interviews with jockeys, trainers and other professionals in the racing industry are as delicious as listening to a good bedtime story. And I can almost forget that I’m sweating profusely as I tune into audios of champion racehorses battling down the stretch in memorable races. But on this particular day I was feeling something a bit more subdued as I scrolled through my app, and landed on a TED Radio Hour podcast called “Slowing Down.”

Hmm, sounds promising enough. I gave it a tap. Continue reading

Beautiful to the Core

An event I co-founded in 2013 continues to make a difference years later

When I was a senior in high school I had long, wavy brown hair. Then I cut it short the week before starting my freshman year of college. Now a senior at North Dakota State University, my hair is back to the same length it was in high school.

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With the 2016 BTTC speakers, from left to right: Emily Paulson, Dawn Gunderson, Jacky Arness, Bethany Peterson

The other night I introduced an event called “Beautiful to the Core,” which was inaugurated in the spring of 2013 by two of my dear friends, Ama Frederickson, Olivia Bergh and I. The name is a reflection of our mission to empower young women to embrace their inner beauty and channel their drive and determination into goals.

At the time of the first Beautiful to the Core, I had long hair and my future was uncertain. I knew that I would soon be off to college, carrying my hopes of making the NDSU equestrian team and aspirations of pursuing a career in the horse racing industry. I was determined to study abroad, probably in Costa Rica. Continue reading

Back at it… Mastering the grind of chaos

Classes, friends, extracurriculars… crazy y más crazy

As I write this, I’m sitting inside on a beautiful sunny day; 75 degrees with a gentle breeze. Such is life during the school year. After missing the first week of school to stay in Saratoga until Travers Day, I finally feel (sort of) caught up. But I can sense the winds of chaos blowing in as my school activities get rolling and the first exams linger in the not so distant future.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered the grind of college classes, competing on the NDSU hunt seat equestrian team, volunteering with church, 4-H, traveling and finding time in there for family, friends, my horses and keeping up with the latest horse racing industry news… but I can’t say I have. Maybe I’ll catch on by the end of my senior year, just in time to graduate and move on to the next adventure.

However, I have picked up a few “sanity maintenance” tricks over the years that I’d like to share. You might find them helpful, regardless of whether you’re a fellow student, have a professional career or whatever, plus I’ve thrown in a couple fun photos. Not gonna lie, these tips are pretty  obvious and self-explanatory (basically scream generic), but are often overlooked, so I’m sharing them anyway!  Continue reading

Thoughts from a journalist

The complete and utter truth about my experiences as a horse racing journalist

To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do for a career. One thing is certain: I want to work in the horse racing industry. But I also want to travel, speak Spanish, be around horses, continue writing and work with people. If someone could please design a job to capture all of those things in one awesome package, it would be very much appreciated!

I’m grateful that I’ve had so many opportunities within the horse industry to try my hand at a variety of jobs and internships. The majority of them have been communications-related, but each one has taught me a number of different skills and lessons.

One of the most rewarding and challenging jobs I’ve ever done is worked as a journalist.

I cringe every time I see a blog titled “An open letter to ‘whatever blippity blah’…” because it’s so overdone, so I don’t want this to sound like that. However, I would like to lend my readers a bit of insight into the human interaction standpoint of journalism. I’ve met wonderful, sweet, kind, loving and thankful people. I’ve rooted for them, shared their emotions and sometimes even tears – internally more-so than outwardly because I have to remain unbiased. This piece is about my day-to-day work as a journalist at Saratoga Race Course this summer and last.

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Scanning the horizon for my next interviewee. Linzay Marks photo

You see me in the mornings, walking from one end of the racetrack to the other, always on a mission. One second I’m strolling past the clocker stand of the Oklahoma Training Track, on the hunt for a trainer, and the next I’m clear across Union Avenue, standing by the Morning Line Kitchen.

Only a few hours later you’d hardly recognize me. Like the racetrack version of Cinderella (except looking for horse owners, trainers, jockeys, anyone but a prince) I’ve transformed my baseball cap with a  tangled pony tail sticking out the back, jeans and dusty hiking shoes into a dress and curls. “Somebody’s wearing makeup today,” an acquaintance coyly comments as I walk into the paddock. In reality I’m not wearing any more than I put on when I crawled out of bed at 5 a.m., because who has time for that? Maybe I just look a little more awake now. Continue reading

Back from Saratoga

Transitioning from work life to school life (aka real life)

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How could I resist a selfie with the beautiful Songbird?!

I’m still used to waking up early. Six a.m., there are horses to be fed. My alarm goes off, the most annoying ringy-dingy sound I could possibly find on my phone. It reminds me of a circus. Our little hobby farm along the Red River is far from a circus. Saratoga was a little closer, mornings, days and nights never slowing down. Track work in the mornings, races in the afternoons, parties raging through the night (for people who don’t work for The Saratoga Special). Here we’re surrounded by farm fields. Green soybean plants, higher than my hip as far as I can see. A few fields over, corn and wheat.

The nice thing about the level horizon is the sunrises. A vivid pink haze, painted with purple streaks seeped into the morning sky today, reminding me of when you dunk a black tea bag into a steaming cup of water and the steeping spices meld with the liquid until it becomes a rich brown.

Saratoga has made me into a coffee addict. Three years of college and I never once relied on a caffeinated beverage to get me through a long night of writing essays. Continue reading

Working for The Saratoga Special

A typical day working for the coolest paper ever

I’m not used to the ground being so flat anymore. I hardly had time to settle into the groove of being home after returning from Chile before I packed my car full of jeans and dresses and drove east to a place that holds a piece of my heart: Saratoga.

As I drove into town for my second summer as a staff writer with The Saratoga Special, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Time goes so fast – too fast.

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My artsy-fartsy picture of The Special at the Saratoga Springs farmers market

While most of my friends, family and followers were aware I was in New York all summer, not everyone knows what shenanigans I was getting myself into. So here’s a bit of a ‘day in the life.’

The Saratoga Special is a newspaper dedicated to covering the races at Saratoga Race Course. Now in its 16th year, the paper was founded by brothers Sean and Joe Clancy, who grew up in the horse racing industry. Both are award-winning writers and Sean used to be a successful steeplechase jockey (steeplechase is a sport where horses race over fences). Sean, Joe and managing editor (and my boss) Tom Law are all highly respected and have a long history of mentoring interns who’ve come to work for the paper. These young’uns (myself included) wanted to get involved in the racing industry, so The Saratoga Special took them under its mighty wings. Continue reading

New Blogs: Business and Technical Writing

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Watching racehorses train from the roof of the Saratoga grandstands

To the readers of Annise’s Anecdotes, in addition to the usual topics of my blog, including horse racing, travel and my personality-driven anecdotal exposés, you’re going to see several new, career and school-oriented pieces that I will be writing for one of my college classes, Business and Professional Writing.

Even though I’m still at Saratoga Race Course in New York, covering the races for The Saratoga Special newspaper, today I will commence the writing for my class!

First off, I can’t believe I’m about to start my senior year of college. I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around that, especially since I’m currently sitting in the Saratoga press box, about to watch the last race of the day on the final Thursday afternoon I will spend at the track for a long time. After the race runs, I will head down to the winner’s circle to interview the connections of the winning horse, such as the trainer, owner or jockey. Then I’ll head back to the office and write a recap on the race for tomorrow’s paper. Continue reading