Advice for Future Gateway

There’s a lot of things that I could say that I wish I knew before taking the Gateway course for the MiW, however, I thoroughly enjoyed learning them on my own. I don’t think I would have developed this much as a writer if I had some sort of cheat sheet or a guide to “get through” this course.

The only advice I would give to a future Gateway student would be to not be too ambitious with the experiments. I had a couple big ideas in my head of what my experiments were going to turn out to be, and I realized halfway through Experiment 2 that I would not be able to accomplish them. I originally planned to make my third experiment the “biggest one” that would lead into my final project. As the experiments went on and we had less and less time for each one, I ended up making tough decisions on what I was going it do.

I think I made a labyrinth out of a one-room house.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with how it turned out. I just think that I made a few things a little too complicated. In summary, my advice is to make your “most ambitious” experiment the first one and see where it takes you for the next two, and to not make things too complicated. Other than that, the Gateway is your jungle to explore.

some (maybe) good advice

Wow… the day has finally come. After browsing through advice posts from past gateways within the first few weeks of the semester, now, it’s my turn to pass some of that advice onto you. Here it goes:

  • take advantage of the relationships with your teacher and other classmates! It is always acceptable (and actually encouraged) to “bug” them with any questions and roadblocks, but also the milestones, successes, etc. that arise from the work in this class. There is so much knowledge to be shared, and the MiW community is uber supportive, so use it!
  • TIME MANAGEMENT. That is all.
  • in regards to your experiments and final project, make sure you choose an origin/source material that you love. Or at least kinda like and want to revisit. But also, it’s okay if you realize halfway through that you actually hate your origin material and want to change it… you can do that do! Be flexible with this process and realize that the plans you develop for your project are likely to change throughout. Don’t be afraid of this flexibility!
  • Finally, the most important advice that I can share with new gateways is to take risks! Pick experiment genres you would have never dared touch before. Make up new genres (seriously!). Pick projects that matter to you, but again, don’t get discouraged if you complete an experiment and end up hating it! Just move on to the next one and find that motivation. Find the reason “why” you’re doing all this… and let it lead you.

Good luck, have fun, and don’t let yourself get too stressed out! You only get to be a gateway student once! You got this and I can’t wait to see what you all end up creating this semester!

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The Rhetorical Circle


It feels really weird being done with this semester-long journey of a project.

Like, I’m not sure how to comprehend and process this information.

It doesn’t help either that I’m about to graduate in a week and am still denying the reality of having to be an actual adult.

In all actuality, writing this post is really bittersweet; I remember way back in the fall of my sophomore year when I took the gateway class. We were pushed to write in mediums that were alien to us, and we would eventually publish our work onto a website. Which is the exact same thing that I did for this capstone class (with which said website can be found here). It’s really amazing to compare the work I did in the gateway class with this capstone project; it still retains the humor I like to include in any writing, but it feels so much more mature. It really highlights the fact that I learned a lot in that small window of time. Got to love that Greek rhetorical circle of starting and ending at the same point, am I right?

I guess since this is going to be my last blog post, here’s some advice to anyone about to do the capstone class and is looking for guidance:

Do what you love. It’s going to make the project a hell of a lot easier if you do something you are actually passionate about. The trick here, though, is that you have to know you’re passionate about it. Don’t go into it thinking, “Oh, this might be a cool thing to do,” cause I can almost guarantee you that it is not going to turn out in your favor when the work piles on top of you (although you may be one of the lucky few: if you want to take those odds, then go for it). Find something that you would be willing to spend many sleepless nights on, something that you wouldn’t mind researching for hours on end, something you wouldn’t mind working on for more than three entire months. If you can find that, then it will make the class, the project, and the semester an incredibly vivid and amazing experience. I was lucky enough to find a project that I had such a passion for, and it was even better in that I could include my friends in it. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would have changed my project in any other way. It’s something that I’m happy with–both in the end product and the road getting there–even with the inhuman amount of coffee I ingested this semester.

There’s more advice I could give, but I give a fair amount of it on the website, so I’ll incentivize you to check it out that way.

For being a Minor in Writing, I’m surprised at how difficult it is for me to come up with more things to say about this project and the journey it took to get here.

So I don’t think I’ll say much else: just sit back, enjoy, and, as always,

advice from an aspiring writer…

Don’t be afraid to get messy. Those are the first words in my writing notebook and some of the first words T told me when I began this semester. And now I’d like to pass these words of wisdom along to future aspiring writers. For me, this class, and honestly this whole semester, has been all about taking risks. Taking risks with my experiments, with my portfolio, with my writer’s notebook, with myself…I’ve found that I have pushed myself a lot farther and tested my limits quite a bit as a writer, and I am really happy that I did. My notebook is filled with rough drafts of reflections, of poems, of stories, even of drawings and “art” (although it may just look like “A for effort” attempts to the public eye…), and it’s LOADED with scribbles. But I made it a rule to right everything in pen and in markers, in permanent ink. That way, even when I mess up and scratch out whatever it is I was trying to say or do, it’s still there—barely, but visible enough for me to be able to constantly remind myself that writing and creating is a PROCESS. Every product of my thoughts and creations does not have to be the “finished” piece or the most polished it can be right from the start.

I used to be afraid to write for fun or write in my journal when I had random and incohesive thoughts and ideas and rants jumbled in my head. It’s not that I didn’t want to write them down or remember them forever, I was just nervous to include them in my journal without thinking everything through thoroughly, because I wanted my journal and all my writing in general to be well-crafted and coherent. But I started realizing that I was holding myself back. And I ended up not writing at all for the most part.

That’s why this semester I made a deal with myself to let my writing and my journal get messy. The journal itself is slightly tattered and torn and some of the pages are falling out. But I like it because it feels more me and more real than ever. And the idea of not caring has allowed me to express myself in more ways than ever.

So, with that I hope you, too, realize the power of mishaps and carelessness at times, and come to learn yourself that it’s okay to be messy. Don’t be afraid. Be bold!

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Wisdom From a Puerto Rican

This is an announcement to all those who are deciding whether or not to take the minor. I would tell you to take it. Not as much for the writing but more for the people. You will be a part of a community of people all from different backgrounds with different personalities with mostly one thing in common, they chose to take the minor. As a beginning to the minor, you have to go through the gateway and these are my words of wisdom to survive the beginning of the journey.

  • Expect the unexpected – Be prepared to have an assignment dropped on your shoulders at the end of every class. Even if it seems it’s not coming, trust me it is. As a result, have some time set out each week for these assignments regardless of whether they’re coming or not. If you get an assignment then you have the time set up to do it. If you don’t have something then congratulations, go watch Netflix or something.
  • Experiment – The gateway is all about experimenting with your writing. You will be asked to take something old you’ve written and convert it into a variety of things. Don’t be scared to think of crazy or insane ideas to transform it into because, regardless of what it is, they’ll tell you to do it.
  • Don’t go quietly into the night – Make your presence known in the class, don’t sit in the back and stay quiet (no one did this in my class). The gateway and the minor is about creating a community, making friends, and connecting with people so let people know you exist in the class. Don’t be scared to read the daily writing (you’ll know eventually what this is).
  • Enjoy it – Last, but not least, enjoy the gateway to the fullest. If you don’t make any fun out of it then you will be stuck feeling like you’re just striking things to do off a list. Have fun with it and the time will fly by.

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My 2 cents

This class has been instrumental in improving my writing, so here are a few words of wisdom that has made my Gateway Experience amazing and also things I wish I did more.

  1. Workshop, workshop, workshop. The most valuable aspect of this class is the people in it. I learned the most and improved the most from listening to people critique my writing and sharing their own. I know it is daunting to just let people go to town on your writing but I promise it is so valuable.
  2. Don’t be afraid to try new things. I cannot promise you that they will go well or work at all, but there is no way of knowing without trying.
  3. Something that I was not great at was staying focused during the in-class writing prompts. I would keep my pen moving, as T asked for but I never produced anything great. Listening to some of the writing that my classmates put out during this time always made me wish that I took it more seriously because it is a great chance to just write without being graded or judged or limited in any way.
  4. Most importantly, create relationships within your section. The people that I have grown close to this semester have made me a better writer, person, and teammate and I am so grateful.

Go on now, Write!

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Gateway Declassified Writing Survival Guide

As scary as a course on constant writing and human interaction sounds, I have never had more fun in a class in college than I did in the writing 220 gateway course. Judge me, I know it sounds so cliche.

My biggest piece of advice is to take this class in general. Even if it scares you, seems daunting, or isn’t even necessarily a minor you are 100% sure about completing, just do it. It’s worth it.

Once you make the decision to enroll in the course, in my opinion, you’ve done the hardest part. Putting yourself into a place of potential discomfort and vulnerability, you’ve taken a step closer to receiving the maximum benefits from this course.

Ever seen Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide? Here is my version of that, but for the minor in writing.

Tip #1: Talk to your fellow gateway coursers daily and get to know them. T

he class becomes the most beneficial when everyone is willing to say stuff like, “yeah, I honestly think you can do better” or “please write a blog about this because your voice is so awesome to not keep using” (s/o Adrian…please write more you crack me up). Genuine criticism from people who believe you can do better is everything any new writer needs. Honesty, respect, and true collaboration is what makes this class awesome.

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Tip #34 (the TV show goes in weird orders with tips so I’m going to as well):

Meet with your instructor. We had T as our gateway course leader and I found that meeting with her to go over nitpicky details and just to chat about writing as a whole was so beneficial. Make appointments, stop by, go in with pals, etc. Writers should all bond together.

Tip #29: Talk in class.

That sounds so stupid to say, but raise your hand if you’ve taken a class where you sit in silence, praying you and the teacher don’t make eye contact, which guarantees you speak? This class works if everyone talks. You get to know each other’s voices and personalities simply from speaking up and getting your voice out there. (If this is any inclination, one day in class, we heard Steve Carell was on campus one day and as a group, we chose to divide and conquer to find him and snag a stalker pic. This goes with tip #34, get to know your teacher so they’ll be cool with you going to stalk a celeb and, going off of tip #1, get to know your pals so you can all do it together. One of my favorite memories at Michigan).

Tip #50: Write, write, and write some more.

We have writer’s notebooks to use at the beginning of class, or for certain activities, but don’t just use it for that. Write what you see in the world, who you meet, why you’re happy, what your recent obsession is and why. Just write it down if it intrigues you. One day, you’ll thank yourself for jotting it down.

Phew, 50 tips…that’s a lot. But seriously, challenge yourself to try out this class, even if the only thing you get out of it is a new community of writing buddies. I love mine, and can’t wait to keep in touch with them.

To T Hetzel Gateway Course 220 Tue/Thurs 10-11:30– I love you guys. Thanks for making this semester the best it could possibly be!

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Gateway Survival Guide

In eight grade, I was on the morning announcements crew. Every single morning for a whole year, my job was to give words of wisdom. Even though my classmates were probably too tired to listen, or didn’t want advice from someone their own age, I was honored to hold that position and took it seriously.

Here I am, five years later, and I’m gonna take another stab at it.


Dear future gateway students,

I learned a lot about myself over the course of this semester thanks to this class. But, it didn’t just happen over night. I worked for it. I struggled, I was confused, and I was challenged. But, I came out on the other side a better writer. That’s why you’re doing this, right? Well, here are ten tips to help you succeed in the gateway course:

1) Get to know your classmates.

I wish I had done this earlier on in the semester. Now, classes are over and I wish I had more time with the new friends that I made. It’s not like a big lecture where you sit by somebody new every day. You spend a lot of time with your classmates; take advantage of it. Some of them are in the same major as you, and now you have a study buddy. Others are in cool clubs that you now have the plug to get into. And others don’t relate to you at all, but you can still learn so much from them.

2) Meet individually in “office hours” with your instructor.

I definitely did not take advantage of this as much as I should’ve. But, I had some of the most incredible brainstorming sessions when I met individually with T. Having an outsiders perspective opens up the door to so many new possibilities, especially when it’s your instructor. They know what you’re capable of and give you the confidence to do it. Thank you, T.

3) Volunteer for workshop.

Whenever T asked for volunteers for workshop, I avoided eye contact and sipped from my water bottle. “Please don’t look at me, please don’t” I was thinking to myself. Then, I got to my third experiment and was really proud of how far I’ve come. So, when the dreaded question came, I volunteered. There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than your entire class reading your work, and then discussing it right in front of you for 20+ minutes. But, here I am. Still alive to tell the tale. The experiment that I had workshopped turned into my final project. Half because I was passionate about it, but half because hearing feedback from other people inspires you to take it in directions you never thought were possible.

4) Embrace the lack of structure.

I am a planner. I’m the one in my friend group that calls and makes the reservation, plans the surprise party, and gets us to class on time. Structure makes me comfortable. I feel like I can breathe easily. So, when T said that we had three assignments where we could do anything that we wanted, I kinda freaked out. I never thought of myself as a creative person, but that changed. You don’t really have any other choice. Embrace it.

5) Start your e-portfolio early on.

If you’re like me and have never tried to make your own website, this is important. Some people are naturals at this kind of stuff, and then there’s me. I’m so proud of my e-portfolio now, but at first I was very skeptical. If I can do it, you can too. Just start early, get feedback from your classmates, and keep making changes until it’s something that you’re proud of.

6) Try a new genre.

I hate writing poetry. I’ve tried in the past and I just suck at it. At the beginning of the year, I told myself I would write a poem as one of my experiments. Andddddd, I didn’t do it. I chickened out. I wish I hadn’t, though. I tried other new genres, but not the one that made me feel the most vulnerable. I regret it. So, take the risk. Just do it.

7) Take notes.

During class discussion people will talk about stuff that they’ve done in past projects that worked, they’ll mention a good book or poem, and sometimes they’ll recommend really great professors and classes. Write. This. Stuff. Down. There were so many times where I would try to think back and remember these things, but my brain was stuffed with too much other work to remember it.

8) Use your writers notebook outside of class.

I journal every night before bed. Topics range from what I did that day to how much I miss my dog to an in depth description of the delicious sandwich I ate that day. It pretty much covers everything. If you’re not one of those people that journals every day, challenge yourself to start. Try using the writer’s notebook a couple times a week outside of class. Soon, you’ll find yourself drawing on text from your notebook as inspiration for your next experiment. I think it made me a better writer, and it might do the same for you too.

9) Give yourself the credit you deserve.

As fun and rewarding as writing is. It can be hard. Acknowledge it, give yourself a pat on the back, take the compliment. Let yourself feel awesome and talented. It gives you a confidence that shines through in your work. You’ll be better for it.

10) Read through this blog occasionally.

You’ll probably have 15 other people in your class, but don’t forget about all of the other writing minor students that you have access to. If you have some free time, take a minute to go through and read blog posts, comments, etc. You can learn a lot (and maybe even find some inspiration) in the sea of posts. There is another whole gateway class, capstone students, and a huge pool of people in between the two. Some of them might have something to offer.


If you’ve made it to the end of this post, you rock.

Good luck in the gateway! – Jessica Jackowicz


Experimenting with experiments to create an experimentation experiment

Thats a whole lot of experiments…don’t stress, its only three actual experiments. But, it doesn’t have to be!

These experiments challenged me to experiment not only with ideas, but with language, structure, and making choices. Everything that goes into these writing investigations is an experiment.

To sum these little guys up in an image, picture this: You know when you get this immense bust of motivation to clean your room, or bleach the whole house, or redecorate the living room, but then midway through, you realize you’re just too tired and don’t want to finish the mess you’ve just created? That is what these experiments felt like. You get this fabulous idea, crank out a little and then just do not want to finish it at the moment. You’d be lying if you said you have never experienced this feeling before…

This course has challenged me to try new things that are definitely out of my comfort zone; learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. But thats writing, right? Trying new things, trial and error, what have you.

Dear Prospective Minor in Writing Applicants,

I was hesitant to apply to the Minor in Writing because, well, I didn’t really know what it was. It was introduced to me with an email forwarded from an older friend without any real explanation. As I searched the Sweetland Center’s website I understood the structure of the program, but I still had unanswered questions. How much freedom do I have to write what I want? Am I just going to be studying grammar and punctuation all day? What will the classes be like?

I wished I could have seen students’ work, their progression, their struggles. I wished that there was a glimpse into the program other than the descriptions of courses and historical syllabi.

Over the course my time in the Minor in Writing Gateway, I’ve developed an understanding for all of these questions. And so, I wanted to share my experiences to show you, the prospective applicants, my struggles and progression, my missteps and successes.

An accumulation of my experimentation can be found here, in my Gateway ePortfolio.

You’ll see a discovery of my writing process, how I learned to think again. You’ll see the progression of my voice and how I learned to highlight it throughout various genres. You’ll see how I developed a strong sense of different audiences, and how they might react to assorted techniques.

And hopefully, you’ll see how I plan on continuing to experiment and question my ideas from now, until my final Capstone course, and beyond.

Happy reading, prospective students. Send in that application; you won’t regret it.