My 9 Months And 3 Positions With Odyssey, Packed Into 1 Piece

My 9 Months And 3 Positions With Odyssey, Packed Into 1 Piece

Odyssey: (noun) a long and wandering, eventful journey.


When I applied online to write for Odyssey, I had no idea what I was getting myself into - and I mean that in the best way possible. I'd seen Odyssey articles floating around social media for years, but I wasn't compelled to apply until one of my service fraternity brothers gushed about her experience with the platform. I wrote for my own benefit on the side, so I figured I could apply to see what it takes to become published. Within a week of applying online through the Odyssey website, I received an email from the then-Editor-in-Chief who singlehandedly led my campus' team. We emailed back and forth about my background, then we established a time for a phone interview. The Editor asked me a series of questions, like what my time management strategies look like, what my writing experiences entailed, ideas for article pitches and so forth - I was invited to join the team!

This all happened on a Monday, and she asked me to produce an article before the following Wednesday, so I had about nine days to settle in and write over 300 words on one of my pitches. But I was so eager that I wrote my first themed article in one night so it could go live in time for Earth Day. Looking back, it definitely wasn't among my strongest pieces because I wasn't yet acclimated with the best formatting protocols, and I hadn't yet found my voice, but it's very endearing to revisit as a reminder of my growth. I like to think I became more relaxed and confident in my writing style over time, and I tried to write about things that were more meaningful to me as the months went on.

Let me pause here to explain Odyssey's structure and dynamic for those unfamiliar and likely having questions at this point in my article. Odyssey is headquartered in New York, but there are hundreds of teams across the nation, mostly based at college campuses with a few general communities in large cities. Each team has at least an Editor-in-Chief, but more established teams also have a President to help oversee smooth processes, bonding, recruitment, maintenance of a positive campus image, etc. Until recently, articles were due every Wednesday night, but the HQ shifted to a rolling, monthly basis. With both systems, each writer would have at least four articles by the end of every month. Our articles are crafted in a singular content management system called "Core," where we draft and format our content. You send your content onto the next step where your local Editor-in-Chief makes minor edits to either move onto the final review or send back for revision. After that's all said and done, content goes to a designated, full-time Content Strategist from New York who repeats what the Editor-in-Chief does. After edits and revisions are made here, content goes live! Every creator is required to share content a certain amount of times to help Odyssey collect revenue. We can view our page counts in Core to see how our articles are progressing.

With that, the thing I admire most about Odyssey is that we can pen to our hearts' desires. It was very empowering to exercise my freedom of speech on a national platform. To date, I have well over 7,000 article views because of the network Odyssey provided for me. Now, I was only featured once, but over 70% of my views to date are organic. With hundreds of writers, the HQ can only feature a certain number of pieces per day in their email newsletter and on their Facebook page, so what you put into your production and advertising is almost always what you get out. I had to do my own self-marketing in niche social media groups to up my views beyond my own personal account shares, but the outpouring of feedback was so encouraging, so I kept on it.

For those considering joining, know that Odyssey's also an extremely flexible commitment because you can carve out a large chunk in your week to write or you can find little spurts of downtime to gradually build a piece, as opposed to coming into a campus office from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. once a week. I almost never missed an article because of this leeway, but the schedule format also meant some weeks weren't as inspired as others. Still, I did my best to produce high-quality content each week, which was a great lesson that trained me to persevere through writer's block and other obstacles. After all, you can't just go to your full-time boss one day and say "Sorry, I can't write the press release today. I'm drawing a blank. Can we scrap it for a new topic?" Yeah, that doesn't happen, and your work will, without a doubt, be tweaked by editors to better it, so this was great exposure to work demands and practices.

Okay, back to the main story now! I was just a Content Creator, or more simply a writer, up until July. At this point in the year, we went from about 15 girls to a tiny number I can count on one hand. We were without a responsive leader to both motivate the remaining writers and edit our content; our team was essentially dead and on the way out. I decided to take matters into my own hands, elevating the inactivity to the HQ level. It was daunting to confront someone senior to me about my own local boss, but HQ applauded me for speaking up and demonstrating leadership. So, the Editor was asked to step down, and HQ began looking for someone to fill the Editor-in-Chief opening. I was encouraged to interview for the position, and I was brought on to lead the team, focusing on team connectivity, team acquisition and a needed push for new, creative content.

Berkeley, my Odyssey mentor and now friend, pushed me each week for six months to reach ambitious goals. We communicated through one-on-one through weekly video chats and email debriefs. With Berkeley's encouragement, we brought on over 30 new people during the fall semester, some of which left, but we went from near extinction to a thriving, top-three team in our division of over 20 communities. We grew so rapidly that we needed to introduce an executive board with a Social Media Manager, a Circulation Manager, a Recruitment Chair and a Community Health Manager. I moved up into the President role while one of our top writers was promoted to take on my role as Editor-in-Chief. It wasn't all rainbows and sunshine, though. These accomplishments were met with challenges. Lauren, my Editor-in-Chief, and I juggled time management across 30 different schedules, enforced standard training and initiated difficult discussions with team members we had to let go. It wasn't easy, but there were so many more positives that made the treads through the mud worthwhile.

In this wondrous Odyssey UIUC big bang, we applied to become an RSO ("registered student organization"), and we kept the momentum going, enthusiastically planning our first external event: a philanthropic pink bake sale to donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. This experience was unique to our Odyssey team, which is why I want to highlight it. We had about three weeks to plan, which involved flyer design, mass printing, and social media advertising. The week of the event was compromised of bags on bags of groceries, poster decoration, one messy kitchen turned upside down with pink power, pink chocolate, and ten plus ladies, and, of course, three hours of persuasive selling on our campus quad. This wasn't an easy accomplishment to execute, but I'll always remember how our team came together for the prep and sales to make this event a success. Moments like this make me sad to leave this experience behind with my graduation, but I know I've set the team and next President on a positive projection.

On that note, I want to thank Odyssey for giving me one of the most pleasant surprises of my college career, especially Lily and Berkeley at the HQ for their dedication and continuous hard work. In following these two great examples, I became a more confident communicator, but I also evolved into a leader with new experience in copyediting, outreach, recruitment, content strategy and much more. And thank you, too, to my team. I picked each of you because you're creative, talented and inspiring young women passionate about making an impact. It's been such a pleasure to see you spread your wings and fly. I'll be a cheerleader from the sidelines, keeping up with the stellar content I've come to love so dearly.

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11 Great Books For People Who Don't Like Reading

If you don't like to read, this is the article for you.

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again, I am no reader. My twin sister, on the other hand, is a huge curly-q bookworm.

I always see her flying through novels for pure pleasure. I'll be honest, the sight of it makes me cringe. My body won't stay still after I get through 20 pages (unless I'm hooked). You can consider me the girl who doesn't finish anything (like Professor Calamitous in Jimmy Neutron...I even have the short stature down).

Maybe my dislike of reading stems from teachers force feeding us excruciatingly boring summer assignments.

1984? Straight up diarrhea

Fahrenheit? Vomit vomit vomit.

Animal Farm? Excruciatingly yuck.

The only thing I enjoyed about Animal Farm was laughing at how awful the movie was. On the other hand, give me a young adult novel, and you can count me in. I guess I have Vikas Turakhia to thank for introducing me to J.D Salinger and provoking my drive to become a better writer--after he made me cry and gave me a B- for a report regarding a book about Polenta. High-School was a time... amiright?

Anyway, even though I am not a big reader, there are still a few books that have stuck with me throughout the years. Here is a list of novels I highly recommend to those who associate reading with chores...this time it won't have to be.

1. Looking for Alaska

"Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps."

2. Eleanor and Park

"Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try."

3. City of Thieves

Written by the writer and producer of Game of Thrones... enough said. Another book that I was forced to read thanks to Vikas Turakhia and one I will never put down.

4. Paper Towns

"Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows. After their all-nighter ends and new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew."

5. Franny and Zooey

"FRANNY came out in The New Yorker in 1955 and was swiftly followed, in 1957 by ZOOEY. Both stories are early, critical entries in a narrative series I'm doing about a family of settlers in twentieth-century New York, the Glasses. It is a long-term project, patently an ambiguous one, and there is a real-enough danger, I suppose that sooner or later I'll bog down, perhaps disappear entirely, in my own methods, locations, and mannerisms. On the whole, though, I'm very hopeful. I love working on these Glass stories, I've been waiting for them most of my life, and I think I have fairly decent, monomaniacal plans to finish them with due care and all-available skill." -Salinger

6. The Catcher in the Rye

"The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain too, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

J.D. Salinger's classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950's and 60's it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read."

7. The Westing Games

"A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger - and a possible murderer - to inherit his vast fortune, one thing's for sure: Sam Westing may be dead... but that won't stop him from playing one last game!"

8. Milk and Honey

"milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look. "

9. Room

"To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world....

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience - and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another."

10. Replica

"Two Girls, Two Stories, One Book"-

11. Mother, Can You Not?

"In Mother, Can You NOT?, Kate Siegel pays tribute to the woman whose helicopter parenting may make your mom look like Mother Teresa. From embarrassing moments (like her mother’s surprise early morning visit, catching Kate in bed with her crush) to outrageous stories (such as the time she moved cross country to be near Kate’s college) to hilarious mantras (“NO STD TEST, YOU WON’T BE GETTING SEXED!”), Mother, Can you NOT? lovingly lampoons the lengths to which our mothers will go to better our lives (even if it feels like they’re ruining them in the process)."
Cover Image Credit: 123RF

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Being In A Pep Band In College Is Just As Good As Being In A Marching Band

There is no difference besides the different activities.


If you were a band geek/nerd in high school and were really into music, you were probably in a marching band. You enjoyed going to football games and playing whenever there was a break in the game. You also probably competed in some sort of band competition that got you a trophy or a score you are still proud of to this day. You made friends with a lot of people in your marching band, and hung out outside of your scheduled marching band practices. In other words, they turned into your own kind of family.

However, when graduation came around and you had chosen your school, you suddenly realized that the school you're going to doesn't have a marching band.

The opportunity of connecting with other band and musically inclined people was over, right?

Completely wrong.

Enter: The Pep Band.

There are many differences between a pep band and a marching band. Pep bands do not march. Marching bands (as said in the first word) do march the majority of the time. Marching bands compete in competitions while pep bands are in the stands at sporting events. Generally speaking, most pep bands perform for basketball games. However, there are select schools, (*cough* Rider University *cough*), that perform at soccer games as well. Many marching bands in college, when football season is over, perform in the stands at basketball games.

But don't be fooled. Just because the marching band does the majority of the things the pep band does, they're still very different.

For one, pep band focuses primarily on music while a marching band is focusing on marching and music. A bit of multitasking that all band people can relate to, but focusing on the music is the best part. There are so many ways to change music and add to it to truly make it shine. Both bands, of course, do that, but the pep band only has that singular job.

A college marching band has its perks, and so does a marching band in high school, but a pep band is not as terrible as a true marcher would think. For one, the pep band at Rider University is run fully by students. The students choose the practice times, and the students decide who is running the band. The students reign over the decision making for music. There are no music directors three times our age telling us what to do. A student-run program provides for all the shots to be called by the students. This includes call time for games and practices, along with deciding what instruments should be bought and how many instruments need to be fixed. A lot goes into a pep band specifically by the students who are running it. This includes the voting of directors, secretaries, treasurers, etc. With an organization fully student-run, it brings a lot of beneficial cards to the table.

The pep band provides some strong leadership that only would've been created if a student in high school or college ran for the section leader of a certain instrument. Leadership skills are created by the students for the students. A much older adult does not have to decide who would be best for the students, the students get to decide who is best for them.

The students had a huge say in their music choice. In the band group chats I am in, we constantly throw out ideas for different songs. When they're chosen it creates so much excitement in the band, which is something not generally found in bands that have their music chosen for them. It creates a more accepting environment for students to voice their music taste and their opinions about certain types of music.

And best of all, the pep band (like marching bands) creates a family. On the first day of the first-ever practice, every student walks in a stranger and comes out as part of a family. One student, Alex, remarked what band meant to him, "Pep band has made me understand how communities of people are built" and, "How people who share comment interests can come together and do something they all find enjoyable as well as structuring it around their lives while keeping up with the other responsibilities of college. I have also learned that it is a very difficult thing to do but the band still thrives regardless."

Another student, Tim, looks back on his experiences as treasurer of the band, "It's a great leadership experience; each of us has our own experience relating to music and we all cooperate to lead this group [pep band] in cheerful performances. We have worked hard to provide the right outlet/ instruments to these musicians, and each member of the executive board is responsible for making this club as enjoyable."

I can personally say that without the band I would feel disconnected. Having a band allowed me to connect with the community around me because I wholeheartedly believe that music is what brings people together. Making music connects everyone a lot more than just listening to music. So although many pep bands can appear small, the sound created is just as strong as a two-hundred member marching band.

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