Tuesday, December 7, 2021

How We Decided to Send Our Only Son Off to College Far Away from Home during the Pandemic: Part 1

 Biljana D. Obradović

We began preparing for my only son’s college in his eleventh grade. His high school, Benjamin Franklin, the best public high school in the state of Louisiana, was great in letting us know how to do it. There were all kinds of sessions for parents and visits by different colleges from all around the country and the world. Since I am an immigrant, originally from Europe, we thought about his going abroad, maybe to Trinity College, or to American colleges in Paris or Rome. Some of my son’s friends were thinking of going to Canada. As we travel overseas each year and spend a substantial time during our summer breaks in “the old country,” I knew right away that I would not be OK with our son living overseas on his own for college. There would be too many unknowns.  If I needed to get to him, I could not, and what if he got sick? I just was not prepared for that. He could go for a semester abroad during his undergraduate years, but even though he had never been away from us for more than a few days, I knew that he should go anywhere he wanted to in the US. We are not from New Orleans originally, not even from the South (my husband is from Pennsylvania), so we’d let him go anywhere he wanted to…well, sort of. He, on his own, opted not to even look at schools in California and the West for his undergraduate studies, but would keep that area in mind possibly for his graduate study.

But, to get back to how our son made his college choices….Either our son, my husband or I went to these school college events. We took detailed notes that we shared with each other and our son when we could, when we were not busy teaching Creative Writing and English classes at two different universities in New Orleans. We’re both poets. So it was rather a surprise that, out of the blue, our son got interested in filmmaking, on his own, in eighth grade at the private school we sent him to from K-8th grade. He began to make short stop motion movies with his Legos. He was always creative—not much of a surprise. But making movies?

Why not? We suggested that he could try to get into the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. He prepared a film for the audition on his own and got in, but was on the waiting list, so he had to wait a year. He made another and got in his sophomore year, then spent three years going to both high schools. He knew what he wanted to study in college his junior year. He was always interested in History and Geography, and loved flags…Also both of his grandfathers were diplomats, and his paternal grandmother is an immigrant like me. So, he decided that he would double major in Filmmaking and International/Global Affairs. So now that that was settled, we needed to find colleges that had both of those as majors and/or minors.

The World Wide Web is too wide. We weren’t sure where to look. So, in October 2019, of my son’s junior year I bought a great book on colleges in the US: The Complete Book of Colleges, 2020 Edition: The Mega-Guide to 1,359 Colleges and Universities (College Admissions Guides) published by the Princeton Review. It was very useful, but didn’t have the majors separated….So, I also borrowed a book from the local library which showed universities by the majors. So you could look at Filmmaking and it showed all the colleges in the US (and some overseas) that had the major. Not every university called each major the same thing, so sometimes it was Global Studies, sometimes something else, like International Affairs, but often it was the same thing or similar…We picked a bunch of colleges that had both majors, and that we knew by reputation; after all both my husband and I are college professors. Then we looked at each one in the other book, the one I had bought, and we began comparing, and then on their websites. Some of the universities had come to my son’s school campuses—both of his schools had college visiting them, so he had talked to people from some of the schools we were looking at already. The city also had a big college fair and I went to check it out, got a lot of handouts, lots of information.

Things were progressing smoothly… When my son and I visited my mother-in-law for Easter that year in Philadelphia, my son’s first cousin showed him around the campus of the University of Pennsylvania where she and her two siblings were at college. We had visited some other schools in the past on our own. So we decided to visit the colleges in Louisiana first, right at the start of the school year. There was only one possible school our son would be interested just two hours away by car from us (he could come home on weekends!), and it would practically be free tuition as our son would qualify for the in-state funding for colleges—

Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). But, it was in a smaller city, and the opportunities for filmmaking and for being exposed to world views at the school just didn’t seem to be there…So that was another reason for our son to go elsewhere. Most of his classmates from the private school days were going to LSU. He had wanted to go there when he was four, but definitely not anymore. He was never interested in sports…  

We decided during the winter break that our son and I would go to visit my friends in Indiana at the end of February 2020, so we could look at some colleges in the Midwest. We booked our flights. But in January, something unexpected happened. There was a virus called Corona Virus spreading like wild fire all around the world. A few cases had already been detected in the US. I looked for facial cloth masks on the internet and found a package of three black ones that arrived just in time for us to get on the plane for Chicago. Nowhere else could you find masks for sale. No one except for the two of us had masks on the plane or at the airport. Everyone looked at us like we were total weirdos.

We had been to Europe in summer of 2019, first to the “home country” and then to the South of France and then to Paris following the steps of the Impressionist painters.  After we returned, our son got very sick. He had a very high fever for nine days that would not go away and he also a rash on his body. The epidemiologist at the Children’s Hospital looking at his lung X-ray told us he had dots on his lungs. Our son was being attacked by some unidentifiable bacteria. It was a scary time. Everywhere we had gone to in France, there were mostly Asians wearing masks over their faces and gloves on their hands. Did they know something we did not? Once our son recovered and the dots disappeared from his lungs, I wasn’t going to chance anything, so we put on those new, black masks, just in case. When our friends picked us up from the airport, they were shocked to see us wearing the masks, not realizing that mask-wearing would soon become part of our everyday lives. We toured the universities and were the only ones wearing masks at each school. We visited ten universities there.

Those were the last ones we would visit due to COVID restrictions, but we did not know that at the time. We had to do virtual tours from then on as COVID spread drastically. One could not travel anywhere…But we managed and made up our minds eventually. We never visited the school our son would eventually attend before he made up his mind to go there. In fact, we had not flown anywhere (not to Europe, that’s for sure), until he and I got a plane to New York City in August 2021 for him to begin his college on Long Island in person, now vaccinated, but still wearing a mask. We took AMTRAC in June to NYC for his orientation, and to leave seven bags with an old friend from the American school I went to in Greece who lived close by. What are friends for during difficult times then to help each other…Even though I had not seen him in twenty years, he picked us up with his truck, loaded the bags, kept them for two months, and when we came in August helped us move my son into his dorm. Amazing!

All was well…except that Hurricane Ida had other ideas. She appearing suddenly while my son and I were busy moving him in. My husband stayed home.  Ida hit New Orleans on August 29th, 2021, sixteen years to the day of Katrina which had destroyed the first floor of our house and everything in it (including all of our two-year old son’s baby toys), so that we could not live there for a year. I didn’t know what to do. I was in a hotel room by myself when PTSD hit me. Would we lose our house again? Would we lose our jobs? How will we pay for our son’s college then? I was stranded. I could not go back to New Orleans. The airport was closed The power was out.…Who knows how long it would take before I could go back. I immediately called my Indiana friends, and they said to come stay with them. I rebooked my flight and flew to Chicago. I found out from my husband that our house was OK, except for a few living-room leaks, and shingles off the roof, the bent fence. He saved our furniture, rugs, floors, by being there…But the city was not OK and would take a while for things to be OK again. But the levees held this time. We did not get flooded this time.

I suddenly realized we had made the right decision for our son. He was safe (even though two days later Ida flooded basements of three friends in New York and New Jersey, who had kindly offered for me to stay with them, including the friend who had kept my son’s bags). My husband endured 90 degrees heat for a week. I was in Indiana for eight days before I could fly home to the piles of debris in front of our house...

In the meantime, at Midway airport, my friends greeted me wearing masks. Ah, what irony! 

On a train in Chicago on the way to visit Northwestern, February 2020, wearing ,masks

My son’s suitcases for college piled up on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance to his dorm.

Safe with my friends in Indiana walking by Lake Michigan.

Dr. Biljana D. Obradović, a Serbian-American poet, translator, critic, Professor of English, who was recently Head of the English Department at Xavier University of Louisiana, who has a Ph.D. In English from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from VCU in Richmond, VA, has published four collections of poems, most recently Incognito (Cincinnati: WordTech Press, January 2017), two translations of collections of poems—into English from Serbian (Bratislav Milanović; Zvonko Karanović, Sleepwalkers on a Picnic, Dialogos Press, 2020), five into Serbian from English (John Gery, Stanley Kunitz, Patrizia de Rachewiltz, Bruce Weigl, and Niyi Osundare), and two anthologies of poems, the most recent co-edited with Dubravka Djurić, Cat Painter: An Anthology of Contemporary Serbian Poetry (New Orleans: Dialogos Press, Oct. 2016). She has also edited a collection of essays by Philip Dacey, Heavenly Muse: Essays on Poetry (Lavender Ink, 2020). An issue of Atlanta Review, Summer 2021 was devoted to Serbian poetry that she co-edited with Dubravka Djurić and mostly translated herself. She is currently working on a new collection of her own poems and a new translation of selected poems by Dubravka Djurić.

Monday, October 18, 2021

HOFSTRA Strong - With "Pride & Purpose!"

February 2020, After accepting a Departmental Scholarship, I started as a Graduate student bright-eyed & bushy-tailed eager to take on the world! I had enrolled as a Graduate student in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong aspiration to complete my master's degree in Education with a focus on College Student Development! Finding myself in NYC weekly attending classes touring various museums with my class after years at home dedicated to my 3 under 3 who now suddenly were teens and my aging mother well it was like being born again! I found myself saying to myself, "Hey, I remember you!" I had not been out & about and in and out of NYC as much since my days attending The Fashion Institute of Technology! So, when the Pandemic hit home and all were under a Shut-in and classes moved online I, like the rest of the world was met with an overwhelming sensation of anxiety. All of the self-doubt and concern about funding my return to school and performing technologically on the road ahead suddenly came flooding back. Now, I was met with a choice...I could opt to play it safe and put my dreams aside and give in to the anxiety crippling our Nation and the World or I could stand up and choose to come out of this stronger! The words of my mother rang through my ears: "Where there is Will, there is a way!" And so with zero to little Zoom experience, I forged ahead to continue my studies and remotely participate in Hofstra's "Museum as Educator'' class. Today, almost one year later I have continued to choose to take on various challenges big and small where needed to support this mindset and the Hofstra community at large. One such way I contributed was as that of, "Hofstra Health Ambassador'' - "a group of peer educators deployed across Hofstra to help inform the campus community about the new protocols and to encourage compliance." To Continue the spirit and momentum of this path to which I felt perhaps I was being divinely led I took one class per semester to find myself next seeking opportunities to observe in Student Affairs. It was the very Brave & Welcoming of none other than our very own Branka :)  Director of the Parent & Family programs that chose to safely and within protocol virtually take on a student observation during a Pandemic!! Well, they say that "everything happens for a reason," and I am not so sure about that but I am sure that if one remains open to the path presenting itself and if kindness is shared all things are possible. Today, I am writing to you as a Graduate Assistant in the Parent & Family program!! I am realizing my dreams and offering my servitude to the greater good. Challenging & Supporting Students and their families at this time of sensitive transition. Most of all, as a mother, and like my Grandmother, and mother before me, I am walking through this most challenging of times determined to come out of this stronger. As Life continues to shift I pray that I may remain open to the possibilities, And as Grandma Mountain once said, may I continue to choose to walk through the challenges, not around them. And I might add...And with "Pride & Purpose" and always Hofstra strong! Go Pride!


 A HUGE shout out to Vice President Houston Dougharty & Parent & Family Program Director Branka Kristic as well as Dr. Genevieve Weber and Dr. Seirup &  Dr.O'malley for investing in & supporting my endeavors & dreams!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Dear Young Mom

Dear Young Mom,

Right now it probably seems like not a moment goes by without a tug on your sleeve; a nose that needs to be wiped; a fight that needs to be broken up; or a constant chorus of “Look, Mom.” There are also probably those moments when you want to lock yourself in the bathroom, turn on the faucet and the fan (to add a cushion of noise) and just scream at the top of your lungs. Or maybe you want to let loose a tirade of expletives. You just want to release the frustration and exhaustion that can overwhelm you. I know. I’ve been there too…

One of the sagest observations I ever heard about parenting is that the “days are long, but the years are short.”* It’s so true—but I don’t know if I ever fully appreciated that fact when my kids were young, when I was in the trenches, in the middle of it all and so worn down that a quiet house seemed like a miracle, rather than a depressing reality…

Motherhood is a job no one in her right mind would ever apply for, if it was a classified ad (or a LinkedIn post—I’m showing my age)… Long hours (sometimes all night, if there’s a case of croup or an ear infection). No vacation. No training before you’re thrown right into the job. You’ll be expected to fulfill such disparate duties as chef; chauffeur; laundress; therapist; nurse; referee; baker; cleaning lady; the list goes on and on… Your heart will break a million times over big and small things. In fact, if you do your job well, heartbreak is guaranteed—when you say goodbye to your child and send him or her off into the world. Imagine a job where your most important task is to train your best employees to leave and be successful elsewhere. That’s parenting. Those little babies who tugged on your sleeve and wiped their drippy noses on your shirt; jumped on the furniture after being told a gazillion times not to do it; colored on the walls (in non-washable crayons); left sticky fingerprints everywhere will leave the nest in the blink of an eye to meet the future that stretches out before them. And it should be that way, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

When they do go out into that big, brave world, they might seem very far away. They might not need you anymore and then…well then you’ll be left wishing—just wishing—that you could have that commotion back for one more day.  You’ll miss that whirl of small children playing way too rough, messing up the couch cushions, tugging on your sleeve… You’ll wish that you could hear that chorus of, “Look, Mom!” just a few more times. You’ll swear that instead of getting frustrated because you have work or laundry or dinner to prepare—if you could have that moment back again,  you’d kneel down and look, really look, at that scribbled masterpiece; the tower of blocks; the cool looking rock that must be a piece of the moon that somehow found its way to your backyard. But, as a young mom you don’t have to wish for that—it’s right there. You’re still feeling the tug on your sleeve, the endless loop of, “Look, Mom!” You still have the chance to kneel down and give your full attention to your small child. Do it.

All too soon, that little child will grow up and stop asking you to look. In fact, if your teen catches you glancing over a shoulder, he or she will immediately snatch her phone out of view or snap his laptop closed. Instead of details about school and friends, you’ll hear, “Can I take the car?” You won’t be the center of his or her world anymore and you’ll be relegated to further and further outside orbits, until he or she goes away to college and your house is quiet. (Even if you have younger kids, one leaving changes the dynamics—and believe me, it’s quieter.) And one day, you may send a text asking when you can call to catch up for a few minutes and get back, “I’m busy. I’ll call you when I can.” And then…your phone will stay silent.

So, mothers of young children—especially loud, rambunctious boys who leave your living room looking like a tornado hit it or a Toys ‘R’ Us exploded; who play ball in the house and jump on the sofa; who tug on your sleeve and say, “Look, Mom!” more times than you thought possible—relish it. Revel in the noise, the chaos—the fullness of it—because it is ephemeral. Blink, and it’s oh so quiet…

Much Love,


Monday, March 15, 2021

Staying Together


Staying Together

              My freshman year of college ended a lot differently than I had expected. On March 8, 2020, I got an email around 10pm saying that I wouldn’t have classes leading up to Spring break. I think myself and a lot of my peers saw this coming. The Coronavirus had just been detected in Washington state. 

              The coronavirus had been sitting in the back of my head for quite some time at this point. The office I worked at on campus had been the main hub for all talk Covid-19. Everyday I worked I heard all about Covid, the new updates, and what Hofstra was planning to do. I couldn’t escape the topic even if I tried.

              Once home, my family and I realized how boring it is to be stuck in the house all day everyday. Not only that, but my step family (who we didn’t live with at the time) was an hour away so we didn’t see them much. Masks were just becoming a thing and social distancing was starting to arise. There were a lot of unknowns and we didn’t want to risk anything. 

              Soon after we decided to hunker down, I began planning fun events for my whole family to partake in. These events happened once a week, where we all got together for dinner and whatever I had planned. Our first dinner was called “Family Costume Party.” I used the website Evite to create a fun invitation and then sent it out to everyone in the family. 

              There was only one rule. You couldn’t buy anything for a costume. Whatever you wanted to dress up as, you had to do it yourself. And let me tell ya, I was not disappointed with the outcome. My parents dressed up as Forrest Gump and Jenny, my sister as Squidward, my other sister as Elder Price from the musical The Book of Mormon, and myself as that crazy girl from the movie Finding Nemo. It was awesome.

              Some other events we had were “Family Quiz Night”, “Lord of the Rings”, “Tiger King Dinner”, and a “Tour of Italy.” For my sister’s birthday, we had a The Office themed birthday party. Everyone dressed up as their favorite character from The Office and added their own special touches. 

 I captured pictures from all of them to create a photo album at the end of the year. Looking back on them now, I don’t see a family in the middle of a pandemic, I see my family, all together, having fun.

Hannah Rowe '23
Undergraduate Assistant

Thursday, February 25, 2021

What I Wish I Knew Before I Moved Off-Campus


It is about that time of year when juniors and seniors start to make plans whether they will live in the residence halls or move off-campus in a house with their friends next school year. I lived in the towers for 4 years and for my first year of grad school, I decided to move off-campus with a group of friends in a house nearby. I learned so many lessons from this experience that I would love to share with anyone who’s student is thinking about living off-campus.

What I wish I knew before I moved off-campus:

  1. Students who live in off-campus housing no matter how close to campus are considered commuter students! This means your student has access to another office with resources, clubs and activities to participate in. The Office of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach is located on the second floor of the Student Center. 
  2. Make sure your student knows their housemates. It is so important to really know who your student is going to be living with. Sometimes even a group of friends don’t truly know each other until they are sharing all of the same space all the time. With this, especially if living with friends, make sure your student is ready to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations about money, space, cleanliness, etc.
  3. Carefully review the rental agreement/lease with a trusted adult. This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Whether it is a parent, uncle, Hofstra staff member, etc. please encourage your student to review the rental document with someone who has prior knowledge and can help understand what exactly they are signing and what they are responsible for. 
  4. Take pictures of everything before you move in and after you move out. Especially in houses off-campus where college students usually reside, there may be holes, paint chips and other issues that were not caused by your student. Make sure your student takes pictures of everything inside and outside to avoid responsibility and to ensure you can get your security deposit back at the end of the lease.
  5. Many off-campus leases will begin June 1. If your student plans to come home for the summer, they are responsible for the rent for their room throughout the summer even if they are not living in it from the date that their lease begins. Certain places do have options of subletting for periods of time, but this is specific to each landlord and is usually included in the rental information.
  6. Decide who will have the utilities in their name. Many off-campus houses do not include utilities. If this is the case, a student will need to take responsibility for putting the utility in their name (ex. Electricity, Gas, Water, Wifi, etc.) and collect the monthly payment from the house mates. I recommend establishing a way to collect the money like Venmo, Zelle or Cashapp where there is electronic proof that this was paid as well as a way to track what was being paid by writing it in the description. It is also important to make sure that the utilities are turned on to start when your lease begins, certain apartment complexes have fees associated with this.
  7. Request a copy of the lease and monthly receipts from the landlord. Encourage your student to keep all documents both physically and electronically for any and all payments and documents in case there is ever an issue, they will have the documentation to defend themselves as needed.
  8. Have a house meeting when everyone moves in. This is extremely important for setting boundaries, expectations for spaces and cleaning up. It all may seem like common sense, but it is very important to set expectations and be on the same page, even if a student is moving in with their best friends. 
  9. Know “the basics” before living off campus. It is extremely important for students to have a basic understanding of how to fix certain things around the house like a clogged toilet or shower drain, and also what numbers to call if there is a water leak or the smell of gas. Please note that off-campus students don’t have access to services of our Public Safety in their houses and need to call 911 for any emergencies off campus.
  10. As much as your student thinks they’re going to cook everyday, they most likely won’t have time. With classes, internships, part-time jobs and clubs, it can be hard to cook every meal and find time to meal prep for the next day. There is always an option for the Commuter Meal Plan which is typically around $500 per semester. I highly recommend this to any busy student who spends a lot of time on campus.
  11. Label all of your food. If your student doesn’t want anyone else eating their food, encourage them to put their name on it. Some students are completely okay with sharing their food and some are not. My house had a different color sticker for each person. If there was no sticker, that was for anyone to take! I also recommend taking a trip to Costco or BJs to buy things in bulk like condiments where everyone can use it since you don’t want or need 5 different ketchups and mayos taking up space.
  12. Make a schedule for taking out the trash and recycling (both out of the house and also to and from the road for pickup.) You may think 18-22 year-olds don’t need a schedule to remember to take out the trash. After the first few weeks of classes when everyone is busy with their own schedules, the trash piles up quickly and I learned this the hard way. For my housemates and I, a weekly schedule was the best way to hold everyone accountable and also to be sure the trash is always taken out.

Hofstra is here for you and your student. In off-campus housing, there are no RAs to help solve roommate conflicts or RDs to report a plumbing problem to. However, there is ALWAYS someone at Hofstra that is willing to help your student. More information about the Office of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach can be found here and as always, Parent and Family Programs is here to help however we can!

Kayla Rozanski

Graduate Assistant for Parent and Family Programs

Class of '19, '21

Friday, February 5, 2021

Cooking With Hofstra Pride

Hofstra's Parent Council is creating a custom cookbook, Cooking With Hofstra Pride, featuring favorite recipes from Hofstra family - parents, students, friends, family members, faculty and staff. These cookbooks will be professionally published and are sure to be a treasured keepsake for us all. Money raised will be used for the Hofstra Student Emergency Assistance Fund and other Hofstra student and family programs. Our aim is to make the cookbooks available for purchase for the Commencement, Family Orientation and Family Weekend 2021.

Please submit one of your favorite recipes so you can be represented in our cookbook. Recipes from many Hofstra families, students, faculty, alumni and friends will ensure that our cookbook is a success. We are using Morris Press Cookbook’s website to easily submit recipes online at typensave.com. Please note that, below the recipe, you will be able to add a dedication or a message of encouragement for your Hofstra student or a loved one, such as “To our son Sam in memory of all his Lord of the Rings parties and requisite feasts.”
We anticipate a great demand for our cookbooks, and we want to be certain to order enough. 
By submitting a recipe you are not obliged to buy any cookbooks but you need to complete the reservation and consent form below to give us permission to publish your recipe. Cookbooks will be available for $25 each. If you order 2 or more cookbooks, you will receive a discount. 

There are two easy steps you need to complete by March 15, 2021:

  1. Submit your recipe online:
    1. Go to https://www.typensave.com/ and click ‘Login’ on the top right. Log in only when you are ready to enter the entire recipe. Once you log out, you will not be able to make changes. See Recipe Writing Tips below.
    2. Enter the User Name: HofstraPC
    3. Enter the password: simmer472 and click ‘Submit.’
    4. Enter your full name and click ‘Continue.’
    5. Click ‘Add Recipes’ to begin adding your recipe.

****** Please Note You Cannot Edit Recipe Once You Have Logged Out. ******

If you do not want to enter recipes in the online form, our committee can enter them for you; just email us at parents@hofstra.edu and complete the acknowledgement form below.

  1. Complete the reservation and consent form at the link here. You will be able to let us know how many cookbooks you plan to order. Please complete even if you don't plan to order cookbooks as we cannot publish your recipe without your signature.

Recipe Writing Tips:

  • When adding recipes, review the “Tips” and use standard abbreviations.
  • Only enter 1 ingredient per ingredient line.
  • List ingredients in order of use in the ingredients list and directions.
  • Include container sizes, e.g., (16-oz.) pkg., (24-oz.) can.
  • Write directions in paragraph form, not in steps.
  • Use names of ingredients in the directions, e.g., “Combine flour and sugar.”  DO NOT use statements like, “Combine first three ingredients.”
  • Include temperatures and cooking, chilling, baking, and/or freezing times.
  • You may add a dedication or a message in “Recipe Notes” field but the text cannot exceed 375 characters (4 lines).

 If you have questions, please email parents@hofstra.edu.