If you’re anything like me when it comes to packing for an overnight trip, you always end up packing WAY too much and bring things that are only needed in worst case scenarios (which 9 out of 10 times doesn’t happen anyway). And if you’re going on a company retreat, you’re probably wondering what other coworkers are bringing too. To avoid overpacking and to ensure you’re actually bring necessary items for the fall retreat, take a look at what returners from the 18-19 cohort usually bring!
1. An extension cord! Preferably one that is very long, of course. These are great because cellphone cords usually don’t reach the beds (or even in general). With an extension cord, you can use your phone while it’s charging from many feet away or even your laptop in a large room setting! –Jenna P.
2. If you’re someone that doesn’t sleep well in foreign places, bring an extra pillow/blanket to mimic your own bed to make it more comfortable. The extra blanket will also come in handy when we’re in the meeting rooms because it can get chilly!
3. For peace of mind, shower shoes are a must! Your college dorm days may be long over, but retreat centers use shared communal showers and they may not be up to your par of cleanliness.
4. Although we are provided with towels, an extra 1-2 towels might be a good thing to bring, especially if you’re someone that likes to use a separate towel for hair and body. – Katie S.
5. The weather can be very unpredictable at this time of year, so pack warm clothing such as a heavy sweatshirt, a scarf, and thicker socks!
6. A reusable water bottle or if you prefer convenience, pack at least 2 drinks per day. I think we all know that ~not all water tastes the same~ so bring at least 1 water per day and a “fun” drink like a seltzer, soda, etc. – Katie S.
7. When you need to have “me time” during the free time at the end of the day, headphones/earbuds are great so you can decompress without any distractions around you. If you’re a light sleeper, pick up a pack of earplugs at the dollar store, especially since we share lodging with another member.
8. If you’re someone that snacks throughout the day, I highly recommend bringing personal snacks because the last provided meal of the day is dinner and you still might be hungry after that. Just don't bring a snack that requires refrigeration because we don't have access to that!
9. Now would be a good time to use those hotel soaps and shampoo/conditioners that you have stockpiled under your bathroom sink and just toss out whatever remains after the retreat is over! Using these allows you to travel lighter instead of bringing the full-sized products that you have in your shower. – Katie S.
10. Lastly, bring fun things, like a deck of cards, to do during free time! If you know Kevin, he always packs a soccer ball because he loves being able to connect with others over something as simple as kicking a ball around. Regardless of skill level or knowledge of the sport, he finds that it's a consistent way for him to share something he’s passionate about while also serving as an entertaining conduit for conversation!
By Jenna Paiano, CCNYPA*VISTA serving at Cabrini University
As AmeriCorps VISTAs, our role is very simple, but also very complicated: work towards alleviating poverty within our communities. These roles come with plenty of pressure, rules, and of course, assumptions. As VISTAs, it is important that we advocate for ourselves and ensure that our host sites, community partners, students, etc. have a vast understanding of our responsibilities. But, more importantly, they need to know what our responsibilities are not. Here are a few assumptions about the VISTA role, debunked:
FACT: AmeriCorps VISTAs are not interns, students, or full-time salaried staff.
AmeriCorps VISTAs are in a very strange, very unique place in their role. While we are not a full-time staff member, we still work in an office with other full-time staff members. Although some of us take college courses during our VISTA term, others should not view us as a student, student worker, etc. It’s kind of weird, right?
The way I see it (and the way I have tried to explain it to others) is like this: I am not a full-time staff member at X institution; X institution is simply the place that hosts both myself and my project. While we do not hold the full-time staff member title, it is important that we are treated like our work is just as important as theirs. (Because it is.)
FACT: AmeriCorps VISTAs should only do work that is revolved around or surrounding their project.
As a member of this institutional community, you may be pulled into other work assignments, projects, and programming. Sometimes that is okay, especially if it is related to your project’s final goal. But, most of the time, this is simply a distraction from your year of service’s objective. Many times, other co-workers are simply looking for someone to pile their extra work onto. Do not fall into this trap. Be sure to stand your ground and reiterate that you are there to work on your specific project. If you let it happen once, it will happen over and over again.
FACT: Host sites must provide some sort of support to their VISTAs.
This support could be given in a variety of ways. They could offer housing, an on-campus meal plan, a stipend for your rent, professional development, or something else. These will vary depending on the institution and what the institution is able to offer. Due to our fairly low living allowance stipend, this support is extremely important. How could you possibly put your all into your work if you are too worried about making your rent payment next week? If you ever feel like you need more support, reach out to your supervisor. These problems will only be solved if you express that there is a problem at hand.
FACT: VISTA is real work.
If this is one point that you take away from this post, let it be this: the work you are doing is real, it is impactful, and it is beneficial to both you and your community. Through our VISTA year of service, we learn to navigate the “real world” with not only the support from our host site and community partner but from our cohort as well. We learn about volunteer management, community partnerships, higher education, and so much more. This year is an extremely worthwhile year that will help prepare you for your next steps. Be proud of your work!
During the course of your VISTA year, you will more than likely explain your role to your community partners and host site co-workers over 20 times. You will probably get asked to do irrelevant work, and you might feel like you are not making a difference. Sometimes, the hardest part of our projects is to simply take pride in our work and in ourselves. Once you cross over these hurdles, the success stories will flow one after another. Just keep in mind: it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback.
Welcome to the CCNYPA*VISTA Blog, written for VISTAs, by VISTAs!