Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Barcelona, Spain

Oh hey there blog, my old friend. It’s been a while. I’ve been focused on other things in 2019, but after an amazing trip to Spain for both work and vacation, I decided it was time to dust things off and share. Never mind that its three months after the trip took place… hey, its been a full season for me!

Every two years or so, my organization holds a World Staff Conference (WSC), bringing together staff from all of our 15 offices that are located around the world. Our most recent WSC was this year in late August in Barcelona, Spain! For this trip, I also brought along my mom for a vacation after the conference was done. As usual with my travel journals I have split up my blog posts in a way that made most sense to this particular trip. Enjoy! 

Catch up on my other posts about this trip here:
Girona, Catalonia, Spain
Pals and Calella de Palafrugell, Catalonia, Spain
Palau de la Musica and the Arc de Triomf
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
Montjuic and the Olympic Park
Gothic Quarter and the Mercat de la Boqueria
Doors of Spain
Park Güell
Montserrat

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For my first post, I just want to share a little about the trip overall and my work conference, which also gives me the opportunity to share some of my “random” photos, meaning those that don’t really fall into their own specific post 🙂

Overall, we loved Barcelona! It was a great location for a conference, which went really well. With so many colleagues around the world that I connect with frequently over email, I always love reconnecting with everyone all together in-person. The opportunity to regroup and refocus is extremely important for us, as is just getting to know each other better and enjoy each other’s company. In the Communications Department we are working on a really fun campaign for our 40th anniversary in 2020, so we also brought along some friends from our creative agency so they could meet more of our staff and get a closer look at what USW is all about. This included my friend Jodi, who is a consultant for the agency. I first met Jodi when I worked for Kansas Pork right out of college and am so happy that we have been able to reconnect recently. Jodi also joined my Mom and I for a few days of vacation.

A few thoughts and memories about our overall experience…

  • Leading up to the trip, I don’t think anyone I spoke to had anything bad to say about their own experiences in Barcelona. From things we read online there was some concern about pick-pocketing, theft, etc. We witnessed the aftermath of someone realizing they had been pick-pocketed once and there was one time that we felt a little uneasy while we were sitting for a long time waiting for an outdoor show, but overall we followed all of the standard safety tips and tricks, and felt really safe.
  • Neither my Mom or I speak Spanish, just a few common phrases here and there, but we did not have any trouble overall with the language barrier.
  • For the conference we were obviously at a hotel, but for the vacation part of the trip we booked rental through VRBO, and other than an early morning that involved me yelling at the washer and dryer that we couldn’t figure out… we were so happy with our choice! I did a lot of research on location and rental options and chose an adorable little studio apartment that was very central to a lot of what we wanted to visit, including the La Sagrada Familia, which was just two blocks away. In my opinion, VRBO and AirBnb is the way to go, at least in Europe. It was very affordable for what we got and just gave us the space to spread out and relax a bit more than a standard hotel allows.
  • Barcelona was very walk-able (granted we really like to walk) and really easy to navigate. At first I used a paper map of the city that I snagged from my conference hotel and then just used Google Maps on my phone once I go the general idea of the city’s layout. Before leaving I had done my research on using the city’s Metro but we never ended up feeling like we needed it. There are also taxis on virtually EVERY corner, so whenever we were in a time crunch or tired of walking we hopped in one for pretty cheap.
  • This might be an unpopular opinion, or maybe I just didn’t go to the right places (I promise we mostly ate at non-tourist trap places), but I was a little underwhelmed by the food, especially how excited I was for all the tapas. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still probably give it a B+ overall, but I felt like our choices quickly became repetitive and I only had 3 or 4 meals that I was still thinking about well after the fact.
  • I think we were there at a good time of year. The weather was great and we felt like the crowds weren’t too bad most of the time.
  • I had read quite a bit about the fact that before the Summer Olympics came to Barcelona in 1992, the city wasn’t a huge tourist destination. But then afterward it became one of the top European destinations and there has been influxes of anti-tourism movements over the years. Obviously I can’t speak to a local’s perspective of the impact of tourism but I thought Barcelona was a very clean and friendly city that is very proud of its history and culture. I loved learning that because of Barcelona’s unique location, the area’s specific micro-culture, including religion, food, architecture and more, is the result of a variety of influences from other parts Western Europe and North Africa.
  • This last comment will be very specific to my mom and I, but last year around this same time we were on a family vacation to Italy where we were hopping from city to city every 1 to 3 days. For OBVIOUS reasons, staying in one city for 11 days creates a much different experience because we had more time to relax and really get to know Barcelona. I don’t know that either of us would say that we prefer one experience over the other, because they were both amazing trips and different in other ways besides timing. For me, I think it just made me appreciate both experiences a bit more… and definitely makes me want to go back to Italy and take more time on some of my favorite parts of that trip.
Pro tip: Surround yourself with people in your work life that also make stellar friends.

This was our best meal! Ciudad Condal came highly recommended by many so we decided to let the waiter to bring out what he thought was best for the group. I definitely tried some strange things that I wasn’t a fan of but this was such a fun evening together.

Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s main strip through the city. A lot of my research told me to just avoid it since it is tourist central, but we actually really enjoyed it.

So many of the streets in Barcelona are split down the middle with a center island, which definitely helps with foot traffic congestion. Most of the restaurants on those type of streets actually have the majority of their seating out on these islands which I really enjoyed because it made people watching super easy.


Since the conference had people coming in from all parts of the world, some of us arrived a day or so earlier than others. For those early arrivals, we had the opportunity to take a half-day trip out of the city to the Jean Leon Winery where we learned about its history, experienced Spanish wine country and of course did a tasting!

At the main building they had a small plot that featured a different type of grape in each row and we were allowed to go through and pick and eat them. As a wine lover and an ag kid, it was fun to compare each one with what I know the final product to taste like and apply some of what I learned in a class in college about viticulture.

This indoor, food court of sorts, El Nacional, was just two blocks from where we stayed for the conference. We went here with a large group for lunch one day, but thought it was so pretty that we returned later for a snack and more time to just walk around.


“Pan con tomate” is frequently served with meals here or included as an appetizer on the menu, which I was a big fan of. However, this was the one and only time that it was served to us not prepped and ready to eat. So of course I was THAT TOURIST that did it wrong… I started slicing up one of the tomatoes (with a butter knife haha) so I could eat pieces of it with the bread, but the waiter quickly came over and kind of scolded me before he explained that you cut the tomato in half and then squeeze and scrape the tomato across the bread, and finish with drizzling oil and salt over the top. Lesson learned, be better than me friends 🙂

I try to visit local markets in every country I travel to, and after visiting an amazing flower market in Thailand, I’ve tried to visit markets with flowers if I can find one. (Note: in case you are new or somehow don’t know this about me — my family has owned a flower shop for 30+ years.) So for this trip I did some research and really thought I found one with flowers, but instead it was just a really large flower shop that was a block away from the actual market. Regardless, my mom loved it, and it was both fun and slightly embarrassing to watch her observe the differences to floral arrangements in the United States and then proceed to take pictures of everything when we really probably weren’t supposed to.

 

I didn’t include any of the photos because they all were pretty dark, but my mom and I also spent a few hours at the Aquarium Barcelona. It was on our last afternoon and we were pretty tired and decided that a visit there would be a bit more relaxed than some of our other options. It might seem like a super typical tourist thing to do or more for families with small children, but we really enjoyed it. It has the only Oceanarium and the largest collection Mediterranean sea life in Europe. It also randomly has a penguin exhibit which I made my Mom sit and watch with me for way longer than a 28 year old should probably want to 🙂

Ok, that’s it for my random intro post, though I am sure as I work my way through the rest of my planned post I am going to think of other notes to add to this post about our overall trip. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part One of a fun day trip we took out of the city and up the Costa Brava.

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And just for fun here are some of my other past Travel Journal posts:

Italy -Six Day Self-Guided Hike, Rome, Venice, Florence and More
Nashville, Tennessee – Girls Weekend
London, England
Estes Park, Colorado
Thailand and the Philippines
Tumon Bay, Guam
New York City – Girls Weekend
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Antigua, Guatemala

Agriculture, Career/Professional, Photography

North Dakota Spring Wheat Tour

Last week I took a break from my normal office views and headed to North Dakota for the annual hard red spring wheat and durum quality tour. Every year around this time, folks from around the wheat industry (millers, traders, farmers, researchers, government officials and media) spend three days driving different routes around the state surveying this year’s crop and estimating the yield. There is a similar tour for winter wheat in Kansas that I went to back in 2015, but this was the first time I was able to join the tour in North Dakota. You can read the summary I wrote about the tour here.

Considering I’ve spent quite a few of my weekends this summer inside at work preparing to launch our new website, getting to spend a week in my jeans and boots, walking through wheat fields and enjoying being away from the city was EXACTLY what I needed.

By far, the highlight of the trip was visiting two of my favorite farmers, David and Aileen Clough, who hosted lunch on their farm for some of the cars on the tour. David spent twelve years serving on the North Dakota Wheat Commission and was one its representatives on the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Board of Directors (my organization). Aileen traveled to most of USW’s events with David, so I’ve gotten to know them during my time here. David recently retired off of the board earlier this summer so I was so excited for the chance to see them again and visit their farm. David and Aileen are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met and just another reason why I personally think working for farmers is one of the most rewarding jobs there is.

I had only been to North Dakota one other time, and when I did, I spent most of my time in conference rooms in Fargo. One of the perks of going on a work trip like this is that you really get a chance to see a lot of the state. One evening during our stay in Bismarck, we had some time to explore Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and enjoy some beautiful views.

And of course, I couldn’t visit North Dakota at this time of year with my camera and NOT request that we stop so I could take some pictures of the sunflowers. They just make me so happy!

Thanks for a great week North Dakota!

Career/Professional

So I Launched a Website!

This website was brought you by Peet’s Coffee, countless Post-it Notes and a dozen or so Google Drive spreadsheets.

But in all seriousness, after 9 months I am so excited to finally share this finished project!

This project was by far my biggest responsibility so far as a communications professional. I knew what level of quality I wanted the finished project to be, but I knew there was going to be A LOT of learning and figuring it out as I went. It put my super detail-oriented skills to good use, but is also challenged me in so many ways. It pushed me to better think through how I lead and communicate with others, and how I think strategically. I’m sure my Mom and my best friends now know way more about website development than they ever truly cared to know, and I love them for patiently allowing me to ramble on about the ups and down of the project.

There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls (my all-time favorite show ) in season 5 where Lorelai is so consumed with renovating her inn that she wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night to leave herself voicemails with reminders for her to-do lists. I wasn’t quite at that level, but I did live and breath this project for so long that I did start to dream about it at night and at this point the details I could recite from memory to you is a tad bit embarrassing.

In all honesty, it was also therapeutic. There’s nothing like being able to throw yourself into a big project to help you work through some heartache. And for that, I am thankful for the timing of this project.

My biggest hope is that the farmers I work for are as proud to call this website their own — as I am to work for them. U.S. wheat farmers are going through a lot of uncertainty right now, but they still show up to work everyday because they believe in the quality and value of their product. I should add that while I was the leader for this project, I certainly didn’t do it all on my own. I love what I do for a living and a large part of that is the people I work with. They hustle hard everyday and I am so thankful for the work they put in to help me successfully see this project through till the end.

If you have made it through to the end of this post, this is really all my way of telling you that if you follow me on Instagram stories, you won’t have to see pictures of my desk on the weekends any more.

If you are interested, I’d love for you to check out the website at www.uswheat.org.

But if you find an error, keep it to yourself for a few days. Let me in live peace (and denial) for just a little while longer. 🙂

Career/Professional

Third Work Anniversary and 10 Things I’ve Learned

I moved to the Washington D.C. area three years ago this week and as of today, I have been working for U.S. Wheat Associates for three years.

Woah. I know it’s super cliche to say, but some days it feels like I just arrived and other days I feel like I’ve been here much longer.

This experience has become a dream and a goal that I didn’t realize I had until the moment I saw the job announcement in a Facebook group (hey Julia!) But as I’ve shared many times before, a few hours later I was on the phone with parents telling them about this job and big move that I suddenly felt so strongly needed to be mine. And, EXACTLY two months later I was walking into the office for my first day on the job.

I laugh now, because I quickly realized that I didn’t quite understand what my job all entailed and what the organization did.  The phrase “fake it till you make it” became my real motto. Those first couple of months were harder than any class I ever took but that feeling I had when I first learned about the job continued to stay with me, and remains with me today. I know that my place in the work force and in the agriculture industry is working on behalf of farmers, and using my words and skills to help them do their job.

In three years, this job has taken me to three countries (and Guam) and on many, many domestic trips. I’ve learned about how complex wheat is and met people from around the world who depend on and prefer the high quality wheat that U.S. wheat farmers grow. I’ve learned about crop production, wheat breeding, international markets, transportation, the immense variety of end products that are made from wheat, export market promotion and how it all affects each other. And I’ve learned about the many areas of trade policy that affect wheat exports, including negotiations and barriers. All that said, there is still so much more to learn, but that part excites me. Most important to me though, is the farmers I’ve met over the past three years. I know these people, I’ve visited their farms and met their families. I respect their hard work and seen how they strive to improve their business and their product. They are humble — both when they make mistakes and when they should be proud of their progress. They care about their communities and the world around them. Personally, its important to me to feel like I have a sense of purpose when I am going to and work each day. And these farmers give me that purpose.

As a young professional, there are certainly ups and downs to figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t, what you want your career to look like and how to get there. Trust me, I am far from having it all together, but I have been lucky to have so many mentors and others who support my career. If we were having coffee together, there is a lot more that I could share about what I’ve learned so far, but since we’re not, here are 10 general pieces of advice I’d like to share:

  1. Ask questions. Sure, some questions are indeed, dumb. But what’s worse is not asking the question at all. Not only does it prevent you from learning, but it prevents others from improving as bosses and leaders, and sets a bad precedent for effective communication.
  2. Don’t work through lunch. Sometimes it is inevitable, but it is important to step away, give your brain a break and your legs a stretch. Make it a habit. (This one is really tough for me!)
  3.  Practice grace. You will make mistakes. Big embarrassing mistakes. And others will disappoint you with their mistakes. I think the only way to get past mistakes is to take a deep breath, own it and determine how to not make the mistake again. In others, identify why you respect them and consider what factors may have led to the mistake. Then give yourself and them, a dose of grace. Life will go on, I promise.
  4. Invest in good shoes. Nobody has time for sore feet, but at 5’2″ I can attest that there is such a thing as comfy heels. But I also know that I shouldn’t wear them if I need to hike it a longer distance. Figure out what works for your style and invest in it. You’ll save your wallet and your feet in the long run. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.
  5. Learn how to write professional emails. Even if you don’t like to write or consider yourself a poor writer, there is no excuse for poorly written emails, no matter what your job is. Yes, people do notice. Luckily, there are many resources out there and asking your boss or superiors for help improving those skills will show them initiative, which is always a good thing.
  6. Don’t shy away from what makes you uncomfortable. No, I am not suggesting anything that is unsafe or negative. What I mean is that pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone helps us grow our skills and our minds. So listen to the argument that you don’t agree with, don’t pass on a task because you don’t know how to do it and don’t back down if you feel strongly about an idea or decision. Staying where you are comfortable does no favors to your career or those you represent or work for.
  7. Find people who will go to bat for you. When I hear from others complaining about their superiors or something in their work place, I am reminded of how thankful I am to know that I have people in my corner. Good bosses and colleagues alike, understand that in order to see productivity and results in the work place, they need to respect your values and support your goals and needs. They will go to bat for you if necessary.
  8. Become a life-long learner. Read, discuss, participate. Seek out opportunities to learn something new or improve your skills. Everyone is replaceable and most industries are constantly changing at a quick pace, so if your job doesn’t spark curiosity and a desire to become better, you might want to fix that or move on, because otherwise you’ll get left behind.
  9. Create a space that fuels your creativity and work flow. I am a strong believer in the importance of having and maintaining a work space that is positive, and aligns with your style, responsibilities, comfort and needs. I think this is crucial for productivity, focus and overall health. If you are spending 40+ hours a week in this space, why should it be anything less?
  10. Not every season is exciting, and that’s OK. I know there are a lot of studies and facts out there about how young professionals today are not staying in one place nearly as long as the generations who came before them. Sometimes the latter will call it lazy or having no sense of loyalty, while many of the young professionals themselves either grow bored or eager to see what else is out there. I think from time to time, both views are wrong and right. However, I think the root is that my generation is used to having more options, has been pushed to “exceed expectations” and like I mentioned for myself above, need to feel like their work has a sense of purpose. So, when a job rolls into a season that is lacking in someway, it is easy to think that it is time to jump ship. I’m not saying that you should completely ignore that feeling, but just sit on it a while and maybe spend that time determining if this season is just cyclical or if there is something you can do to improve it. Yes, I love my job overall, but its not realistic for someone to say that they love it every single day.

Thanks for the adventure so far wheat family.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Anna

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I have a love-hate relationship social media (can I say that if social media is a part of my job?). But one of the reasons I love it is that it allows me to keep up with people that I otherwise would completely lose contact with. My next guest is a great example of that. I met Anna in high school through FFA, because we competed against each other in almost everything and by our senior year we became friends. We both ended up going to out of state schools for college, and over the years we’ve kept up with each others lives and transitions into careers. Anna is such a kind person, hard working and so incredibly talented. In high school, she definitely pushed me to be better and now as young professionals, I am happy to see her dedication and love for the agriculture industry.

I hope you enjoy hearing her story as much as I enjoyed catching up on it!

– Amanda

Name: Anna Smith
Age: 26
Hometown: Willamina, Oregon
College: Cornell University
Degree(s): BS Applied Economics & Management, Animal Science, 2013 // working towards MS/MBA at Purdue University
Current Location: Batavia, New York
Current Job: Loan Officer at Farm Credit East, ACA

Background Story:
I grew up on a small ranch outside of Willamina, OR. Like most farm kids, I grew up working on the farm and showing livestock in 4-H and FFA. During high school, I was heavily involved in FFA, which afforded me the opportunity to travel to the National FFA Convention several times. It was at the convention my senior year of high school when I happened to stop at the Cornell booth in the college fair. Had it not been for that chance encounter I would have never considered going to college on the other side of the country. That set me on the path I’m on today, now working as a farm loan officer in rural western New York.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I never considered anything outside of agriculture, but I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to be in the industry. So I applied at several of the big ag schools and ended up choosing Cornell. Previous to my aforementioned stop at the Cornell booth at a college fair, I had barely even heard of the school. Cornell’s Dyson business school is in the College of Ag, but I found that only a handful of my classmates had similar interests to me. After a semester I started taking dairy classes and really became engaged in that. I ended up doing both the business and animal science majors which combined really nicely.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Cornell has an amazing Greek life. I was a member of Alpha Zeta, which at Cornell is an actual co-ed fraternity that is primarily ag students. I also was active in Collegiate FFA and the Dairy Fellows program. My senior year I was on the National Dairy Challenge team and spent a lot of time training for that. I interned at Farm Credit East one summer, which is how I ended up in my current role.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
Sometimes the distance would get to me. My parents were amazing and would send me care packages (and still do) but that’s never quite the same. But at the same time, being away from home in a completely different environment is one of the best growth experiences you can have. And if I could do it over again, I would have spent time even further away and studied abroad!

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Do more than the minimum. Take all the cool/fun/challenging classes that you can, not because you need them but because when else in your life can you do that? Travel if you can and get to know the area around where you are going to school.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I started at Farm Credit five days after graduation and had a portfolio of loans on the first day. That was pretty intimidating, being 22 and having responsibility to make loan decisions and manage those relationships. But farmers are incredible people and immediately I felt welcomed into my new role and new environment. Today I have a $120 million loan portfolio of mainly row crops, fruit and agribusiness. It’s not easy, especially when times are tough in ag, but it’s an incredibly rewarding job. You get to see businesses start, grow and transform and see into the inner workings of very successful farms.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Learning to network was huge. I won’t claim to be great at it, but I genuinely enjoy a good cocktail hour.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I am lucky to have two close friends nearby, so they are my work-life balance. One has a flock of sheep and when I need to get out of an office rut I go over there and just help with whatever needs to be done. I work a lot, but I try to never let that get in the way of people.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I didn’t know many people in the area when I moved to WNY so I started right away getting involved. I’m on the county Farm Bureau board and also volunteer at one of the FFA chapters helping students prepare for their speaking contests and such.

I working toward my MS and MBA through Purdue’s Center for Food and Agribusiness. That program is primarily online and I’m about 25% through. I have a fantastic group of classmates that make you forget that the program is almost all online whenever we get together.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I love my half hour drive to the office. It gives me time to drink my coffee and mentally prepare for the day.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I’m counting my car as a second workspace. I spend about half my time meeting with clients at their farms, so I drive around the countryside a ton. Some weeks I live on coffee and sausage egg McMuffins. Its gotten to the point where my friends and coworkers save coupons for them to give to me.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
FREE FOOD

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Thanks for taking the time to be a guest on my blog Anna! I could have sworn that I had a picture of us saved somewhere from state convention our senior year, but instead I found this from National FFA Convention in college (2010 I think?). I’ve loved keeping up with you and your success over the years!

Career/Professional

My Office Space + New Standing Desk

Today’s post certainly isn’t Pinterest worthy, but considering how much time I spend in my office, I wanted to share about how I make the space work for me.

I believe SO strongly about the importance of having and maintaining a work space that is not only a positive environment, but one that aligns with your style, responsibilities, comfort and needs. I think this crucial for productivity, focus and just overall health.

Recently, we had an ergonomic specialist visit our office and do evaluations on everyone’s work space and habits. Her trained eye was able to see little ways that we might be putting unnecessary strain on our bodies, that can really affect us over time. After each evaluation, she gave us customized recommendations on tools we could add to our work space to help make improvements. She also provided us with some resources on some stretches and light movements that we should incorporate into our day. Based on her recommendations, I got screen glare protectors (my office gets tons of natural light, which I do love despite the hindrance), a new chair that specifically has arms that can rotate in more so my arms don’t have to work as hard to hold themselves up on their own, and a foot rest, so I can sit at the right height for my screens while still using the backrest properly without my legs dangling or resting on the chair legs.

And though it wasn’t specifically recommended, I also got an adjustable table top standing desk! I had actually been researching and pricing one out to purchase on my own prior to the ergonomic specialist’s visit. I have never been able to sit still well and I could tell that overtime, sitting 8 hours a day, 5 days a week was really starting to affect my overall comfort. Our office ordered the Varidesk brand, and I have nothing but great things to say about it so far. It has significantly helped with energy, especially in the afternoons when I just need to move around, and I’ve found, specifically to my job, that when I am reading and editing text for a long period of time it really helps with my focus. I also think it has been a great tool for collaborating with other employees. Instead of having someone standing right over your shoulder to discuss something on the screen (which I personally hate), you can push your chair off to the side and instead stand and work side by side with that person. I am so thankful that my employer brought in the specialist and gave us the opportunity to make improvements.

With all of these changes, I also took the opportunity to rearrange and reorganize my office, and add a bit to my decor. The main change was rotating my screens so that I can see my door at all times, instead of having my back to it. Our elevator and lobby are right outside my office, so it really bothered me that I always was turning around to the frequent sounds, and since I have my headphones in a lot, people were always startling me because I didn’t hear them walk into my office.

Before

So here is a quick look of my office setup before the changes (I took these back in December right before my standing desk arrived, hence the Christmas tree).

After

And here it is the After! I obviously still need to do some more cleaning and organizing on my shelf, and I have a few more ideas to add eventually, but for now this is where I am at. I also need to change out the rest of my winter decor over to spring. You can’t see it well from any of these angles, but there is plenty of room underneath my desk for two small tubs that store my seasonal decor, as well as my space heater… which runs year-round.

Because I rotated my screens, I also had to flop the location of my guest chairs with my bookshelf, which honestly I prefer much better because with the set up before, the area where the chairs sat was narrow and hard to get into. That also meant that I moved my gallery wall, which was fine because I wanted to add a few things to it anyway 🙂 The K-State pillow used to sit behind my back in my desk chair, but the new foot rest fixed that problem!

I have to laugh at the fact that I was finally able to find a place and purpose for that bulletin board. I have had it since about the 4th or 5th grade, and it moved with me from two houses in Oregon to 3 houses/apartments in Kansas to here in Virginia. When I moved apartments again here in Virginia, I decided I didn’t want to use it in my new place. I actually tried to give it away a few times, and almost just took it to Goodwill, but it ended up propped up behind my office door — until NOW!

My shelf still needs a bit more work, but this is an improvement from before.

My favorite part of my office though, is this piece that my Mom made for me. Each of those photos are from the wheat farm that my Great-Uncle Hal grew up on in Sherman County, which is just a few counties over from where I grew up in Eastern Oregon. I grew up seeing those photos on the wall in my Uncle Hal and Aunt Diane’s house, so I love seeing them on my wall now in an office where I work for wheat farmers. Below the pictures is a portion of Paul Harvey’s famous “So God Made a Farmer” speech.

Like I said, there is nothing too Pinterest-worthy here, but these changes better align with my functional needs and further create a space that motivates me, feeds my creativity and just makes me happy.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Jade

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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This next guest has been on my wish list of people to feature for a while now, but I’ve been trying my best to feature people from a wide variety of colleges, jobs and areas of study, so when people like Jade fall into the two categories that I know the most people in — K-State grads and people who studied agriculture communications/journalism —  I feel like I need to at least try to spread them out.

But those people also tend to be some of my most eager participants 🙂 so here we are. Jade’s story is such a fun one to feature. I met Jade while we were students at K-State, though I don’t know if I can quite pinpoint when I first met her. We both studied agriculture communications, lived at neighboring women’s scholarship houses, were both ambassadors for the College of Ag and we had quite a few mutual friends. Overall though, most of memories with her go back to when we were both taking “ag mag,” which is a production class for our college bi-annual magazine. I was the lead editorial designer and she was the lead photo editor so we spent a lot of hours in the lab together. Jade is a self-starter and betters herself by plunging right in and learning along the way. She is sincere, driven by her faith and so incredibly creative. Personally, I think Jade and I have similar personalities in a lot of ways, which might be she’s one of my favorite “creatives” to look to for inspiration.

I did a mini-portrait session with her for my college graduation, and I guarantee you that if I am back in that part of the country when I need professional photos done in the future, she will be my first choice! I hope you enjoy reading a bit of Jade’s story!

– Amanda

(headshot photo by La Brisa Photography)

Name: Jade Comstock
Age: 29
Hometown: Fall River, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Salina, KS
Current Job: Missionary for Christian Challenge Salina & Photographer/Owner of Jade Creates
Background Story: I grew up in a family of five on a small horse farm in Southeast Kansas. I grew up loving being outside and loving agriculture.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I was heavily involved in FFA in high school, so that meant we traveled to Manhattan a lot for events and I fell in love! I originally majored in Ag Education, but soon figured out it wasn’t for me. I loved to College of Agriculture and didn’t want to leave, so Ag Communications was an easy switch that ended up being perfect for me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
My first few years I lived in the Alpha of Clovia Scholarship house. I also loved being a part of Ag Ambassadors. But the most impactful was being a part of Christian Challenge my senior year.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I can look back and say I was way too focused on friendships and relationships and school was very secondary to that. It even led me to leave K-State for a while to get away. While I love the people I met and grew with, I do wish I would have focused a little more on classes!

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be open to anything! This is a scary time of life, but you never know where the next year will take you. Have fun with your friends and be open to new opportunities! Also… take a fun class. Wine tasting was one of my favorite classes and I actually learned things that I still use today!

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
It’s been a little crazy! I moved to Salina to do photography full time. After a year of doing that, I knew I needed to be doing more. I started a job with a non-profit here in town where I was able to mentor and work with eight high school girls. I loved it so much! Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to join Christian Challenge Staff in Salina. The organization made a big impact on me in college, and I really felt like this is where God was leading me, so I made the switch. While all of that was going on, I was continuing to build my photography business and have started to branch into baking for events!

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being an Ag Comm grad has helped me so much! I was able to get ahead with my photography by knowing how to market myself well and use social media to my advantage.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
The not so fun side of running a small business… taxes and such! I still feel a little clueless on this stuff, but am learning every year.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
A good old fashioned planner is my best friend! But outside of that, I love using social media to market myself and my business. (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) I use wordpress to run my blog. I have an awesome app called Pocketsuite that keeps all of my contacts, contracts, calendars, billing and more all together. And.. back on the not fun taxes and such..Quickbooks Self-Employed helps me keep my business and personal finances separate. I really could go on and on… I love apps and technology. There are so many that help me run my business!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
As you can probably tell… I love doing lots and lots of things. This is a strength as I get to do lots of different things and really experience life. BUT sometimes I get my plate overloaded and I get stretched too thin and drive myself a little crazy.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
People! My jobs all revolve around people. Getting to make a difference in peoples lives helps me see that it’s worth doing and I can keep going.  And, obviously, my faith. Above all trusting in God to lead me and give me peace and keep me going

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Again, putting God first helps me stay focused. But outside of that, i am working on being healthier, so working out daily has really helped energize me. I love getting outside and traveling. Seeing new places is very exciting and pushes me to be more creative in my work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Probably having a business that hasn’t flopped!

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I am currently single and living with my dogs. This past summer I got my first house, so I have spent a lot of time trying to channel my inner Joanna Gaines and make it look pretty. I also love love love baking. Getting to do that for my coworkers and students is so much fun.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
I have recently rebranded my business. I am looking to expand outside of photography. I want to offer baked goods and just more creative insights to people.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Coffee and Jesus. Every morning. 🙂

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I need music. It keeps me creative and focused!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Hmm… maybe a baker in a big city… or an adventure wedding photographer… or an interior designer. I could go on and on.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
The people. They are awesome. I miss them so much. Oh and of course Taco Lucha. Gimmie all them tacos.

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Graduation – May 2013

Thanks for being my guest today Jade! I love to see how you are growing personally and professionally since college, and I am excited to follow along and see how you expand your brand! Good luck!

For quick reference, I listed all of the ways you can connect with Jade’s business online. I would definitely recommend checking out her Instagram, it’s so pretty!

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest