Without home, six weeks

I remember conducting group work at the Writing Center and one student told me he wished the university worked harder to make him feel less home sick, especially for the first year of college. I thought back to my first year and didn’t even bother with thinking about home when I was busy exploring the city and diligently studying for my classes (that was quite an enjoyable year). It was sophomore year and beyond that I really wanted to be home as much as possible. I remember I used to go home almost every weekend; my roommate would go too! Yet, for more than one month now, I have not been home (neither has she). I am terribly homesick, and I know the full extent of what the student was talking about.

Sometimes we’re just so focused with school that we forget about family, or not that we forget them but we trust that they’re okay and do our best with the situation at hand. It’s when you start to get those texts from your mom, then your dad, then your brother that you start to feel inclined to go home because they miss you and you miss them. Even though I suspected this semester to be like this, I didn’t anticipate how little time I had for myself and school work. My job at Rush has been wonderful, but it eats up a lot of time that could have been used to get me those A’s that I wanted on those midterm exams. Now, I’m scrambling and buckling down to study (of course, how can that happen when the holidays are nearing and all I want to do is relax?).

Well, I shouldn’t complain. There are people working on Thanksgiving and Christmas, weekends and weeknights that want to be home too. I don’t even know how much they depend on this lifestyle to sustain their living expenses, but it’s what needs to be done to stay alive. There are people around the world who probably would trade places in a heartbeat with anyone in this university. So, be thankful for what you have and know that you are in a better place, no matter how tough you perceive your struggles to be.

Also, if you haven’t started your Super Saiyan studying mode yet, PLEASE DO! Next week is basically pre-finals week for me (paper due, presentation to prepare for, two exams and another paper). My actual finals week isn’t too bad, just two exams (but I’m sure anatomy and physiology and nutrition during the life cycle will be tough so I’ll need to go hard core!).

Man, one more semester to go and then I’m going to graduate! It’s going to be great. :D

The Power of Education

It’s pretty common to dislike your homework, but you should like your major work, right? Well, if there’s one thing that I’ve disliked across my academic career, like many others, is research. Why did I go to a research-based school? Because I knew understanding the theory behind communication would be vital to actually doing communication work in my career.
I have already completed my own communication research last Fall. This year, I had to take my last research class in order to complete my communication program. The seminar’s theme is monsters in the media. To sum it up in the simplest way possible, the course explores how monsters in film and other media are used as symbolism to talk about deeper, social and political issues in the real world. Before taking the course, the topic seemed to be a bit silly. But now that I am pretty much done with the semester, I now understand the importance of using allegory to communicate larger issue alerts to the public. In fact, I now look at horror movies and television shows in an entirely different manner — just last week, instead of watching “The Seed of Chucky” as a simple-horror film, I was ale to understand the deeper social implications the film had. The course has made me look at media as an even more powerful tool then what I thought before.
As a result of this appreciation, I’ve actually found myself enjoying critical research. Instead of dreading my research paper this year, I’ve actually found myself excited to write it as well as doing research for it. I’m writing my paper on how pop music uses its platform and monster imagery to create awareness for social change. It’s a pretty interesting paper, as I talk about how something as simple as Lady GaGa singing “Born This Way” means much more for LGBT rights and gender neutral equality. The entire process of researching and writing is fun — did I just say that? That’s the power of education!
As a result of me beginning to like my school work, I realized that I’ve actually learned a lot about the greater world from my education at UIC. I can honestly say when I graduate in May I will be a very educated adult ready for to apply my theoretical understanding to a great job. I have been thankful for this education.
Until next time…


The Ugly Sweater Run

Everyone has an ugly Christmas sweater, right?  Wrong.  A few months back, my cousin and I decided to do the Ugly Sweater 5k.  We had an elaborate plan to make ugly sweatshirts and tutus.  We went to Michaels crafts one day and bought things that would be easy to put on a sweatshirt (felt stickers, little pom poms, etc.) and got to work!

After we glued random pieces of Christmas-themed felt, pom poms, little presents, a big Santa clause that was WAY too much work to put together, little bows, Christmas lights, and some wise men, we used glitter glue to put out names on the back of the sweatshirts.

It took a really long time for the glue to dry, so we moved on to the tutus.  My cousin bought red, green and white tulle fabric.

We used all of this tulle and tied it around a ribbon to make the tutu.  We both had Christmas socks and black leggings to throw into the outfit.  The only thing we had left to do was run the race (and by run, I mean mostly walk).

This is before the race in the garage at Soldier Field, where you can really see our sweatshirts glow!

We had PLANNED to start running a few weeks ahead of time so we could actually run the race without dying.  (Yes, I am that out of shape).  But that didn’t end up happening, so we decided that we could walk most of it.  We ASSUMED most people would be walking because it wasn’t a really serious race and more about having fun.  Anyways, as we were getting in line at the starting point, we realized we were a part of the first wave.  In my mind, the sooner we started, the sooner we could finish and can go get food and drinks!  They told us that runners would be on the left and walkers would be on the right.  Well, apparently everyone was running so….we did too.  Until, about a 1/2 mile in, I thought I pulled something from not stretching enough and she was having chest pains from breathing in the cold air.  I tell ya, we may have had the best costumes, but we were not prepared for exercise AT ALL.

In the end, we did it!

I think I am going to do the Ugly Sweater 5K every year!! It was a great way to kick off the holiday season.

Perfect day for a perfect 10

Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father / Run for your children, your sisters and your brothers… ♪♫♪

On Saturday, November 9th, I ran the Chicago’s Perfect 10 race at Navy Pier! I ran the 10K (6.2 miles) race, which took place at 7:30 AM. The 10-mile race, which was an extension of the 10K course, started shortly after at 7:45 AM. This was only the third annual Chicago Perfect 10 at Navy Pier, and it was run by the Gateway for Cancer Research, which is a nonprofit organization that funds cancer research, including new drug investigations, combination therapies, and alternative medicine studies. I was happy that my entry fee was going toward a good cause, and before the race started, one of the race organizers, who is a cancer survivor herself, thanked all of the racers for participating that day.

I had signed up for the race kind of a on a whim, so I was pretty proud of my results! I finished in 52:47 (with 8:31 pace), which was faster than I expected. That typically happens though — I’ve noticed that adrenaline really gets to me on race days and I usually with better times than I anticipate. I came in 4th place in my division (girls 15-19) and 149th overall out of about 1,500 people.

I’ve been completely occupied with my courses and work the past couple weeks, so unfortunately I hadn’t really designated a lot of time to train. These days I just try to make enough time to fit a good workout in every day! After being a Peer Mentor for a few months, one thing I have definitely instilled in myself is how to be relentless with my time management. (Though sometimes even after all of my planning, it seems like there still aren’t enough hours in the day.)

Navy Pier was lovely at 6 AM! I arrived just as the sun was rising, so I was able to watch it from the pier. Then I played the usual waiting game / pre-race pump up by ambling from different sponsor tents to another. After a few races, I’ve learned that it’s pretty routine. There’s always the typical GNC/Road Runner Sports/Skechers booths, dozens of runners stretching in one corner, and somebody blasting “Livin’ On A Prayer” or “Firework” in the background. I was happy that it all took place indoors though, because it was still frigid outdoors! I was glad I chose to wear my longsleeve shirt to run that day, even though I typically only wear short sleeves because I sweat easily.

The race course was beautiful as well — after running through the Pier, we looped by Lake Michigan and eventually entered Grant Park. It was wonderful being able to sightsee while I ran, and the course itself was not too difficult — only at one point did I have some trouble running on some grassy patches (I’m always nervous that I’ll roll my ankle). Also the wind was treacherous at some points, which was to be expected so close to the lake. I’m not used to running in really cold temperatures, but I luckily warmed up pretty quickly. I was most tired between miles four and five, but I distracted myself with my upbeat running music. I also have this ridiculously competitive obsession with trying to pass people during races for some reason; even though I know I’m exhausted, I don’t like being passed by runners behind me! I suppose it’s a good motivating factor, though, because I always redouble my efforts no matter how strenuous so that I can keep up with those around me.

I look a little wild-eyed in this picture because I was trying to keep my eyes open in the crazy sun!

Overall it was a pretty fun race, and I would definitely do it again. Running is something I hope to continue for a long time to come. I’m not signed up for my next race just yet, but it may be a St. Patrick’s Day 5K or the Shamrock Shuffle!

The dog days are over, the dog days are done / Can you hear the horses? ‘Cause here they come ♪♫♪

(Dog Days Are Over,  Florence + The Machine)


A balancing act

It has become beyond evident to me that I am drowning in to-do lists. Between assignments and responsibilities, I have been struggling to find the time to sleep or do any other vital functions of life, for that matter. Thankfully, days off school are rapidly approaching. I don’t think I have ever been more excited for a little break from the insanity.

Last year, I found myself credit hours away from completing my English major but with about a million and a half elective hours left to take. My advisor suggested picking up a minor or a double major, ideas my parents had been bringing up since I started school (needless to say, I didn’t listen to them). I looked through the list of majors and minors offered and decided on a double minor — Communication & Managerial Skills. The required classes looked manageable (no pun intended), and I felt like the minors were very much in line with my career goal of becoming a public relations professional. And just like that, I signed up for both Communication & Management courses for the fall 2013 semester.

I knew these classes would be a lot different from English courses, which are nearly all I’ve pretty much managed to take the entirety of my college career (English gen eds, English major classes, etc.) With these new classes came entirely new coursework taught by drastically different professors and lecturers. Perhaps one of the biggest things I have had to adjust to is the professors’ teaching styles, which are all incredibly different from those of the English department. Instead of writing papers, something that I feel comes naturally, I have found myself answering questions posed by professors or written at the end of a chapter. Fiction novels have been replaced by textbooks with glossaries and indexes. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy every minute of it, but this semester has been a challenge that has taken me some time to rise up to.

Studying was a fairly new concept to me (at least in my college career). I’ve had to find time to fit this in to my daily routine, or at least weekly…

I’ve felt so out of touch with the literary world, and I’m dying to sit for hours and read books. Not the kind with definitions and exercises on the sides of the page. But I find myself saying that things like this have to be put on hold.

It seems like we are always trying to look ahead to the next time we will have free time, the week we don’t have any exams, or, just like I mentioned earlier, an upcoming break. But I don’t think it’s ever really going to get any easier. There will always be something that needs to be done. There will always be the tinge of guilt when I want to lay down and watch a movie instead of getting started on a project or doing my laundry. I think we just need to learn to live with this stress instead of always trying to diminish it. This crazy, incredible, exhausting first semester of junior year has taught me just that. That isn’t to say that important tasks should be ignored or put off-simply prioritized. As a wise old Dove chocolate wrapper once told me, “Take a moment for yourself today.”

I can either always try to get everything done and never have time for myself, or I can pick and choose my battles and enjoy my dwindling time here. I think it’s safe to say we both know my choice.

Regrets made and conquered

I have many friends who tell me they wish they can start over their college career, starting with freshman year and up. They wish they didn’t socialize as much or tried harder in their classes since they have to “pay back” now for their past mistakes. But I see who they are now and they are so much more motivated than they were before. It’s true; it would have been nice to have that motivation from the start — but would you have learned anything from college? What are we here for if we are without these “failed” experiences? Sure, I could have rushed and gotten the heck out of here in two years if I wanted to. I could have saved $60,000 and have less debt than I do now (I’m sure other people have it worse). Sure, my parents say I shouldn’t pursue such a difficult path of medicine or work 10 million part-time jobs, but I’m happy when I do so. It’s not at all easy for me (it’s a ton of stress actually), but I see this path as a route for my personal growth in being able to make interpersonal relationships with others and finding the bigger meanings in life that drive us to do what it is that we do.

Red-Orange Tint on Sears Tower and UIC

I was waiting for the UIC Intracampus bus to get to my job at Rush and thought this was so pretty! The sun was shining and reflecting back the city's skyline. Can't wait for us all to get covered in snow (we already had a glimpse of that but not enough...I better get boots soon).

My evaluation of this semester is interesting. I know it’s not over, but I can predict at this point how things will turn out. I’m pretty good at guessing my future responses when someone asks me what I would do if such and such happened, and here are some things I’ve learned about myself.

  1. I’m stubborn. I’ve always been stubborn, but this type of stubborn is like irrational stubborn. I will literally refuse to put myself before others when asked for help. I just can’t stand saying no to someone. I know I’ve gotten better with this over the years from getting taken advantaged of so many times, but man it still eats me up inside knowing that someone needs my help specifically! Why am I always the go-to person?
  2. I consciously recognize I have way too much on my plate. But I subconsciously know that I can handle it, which is why I have not quit anything this semester. I’ll lose some sleep, but luckily I’m still young and can handle it. I know once I graduate I’m going on a crazy health-freak mode with a regiment of exercise and good dieting (gotta work those cooking skills in).
  3. I love my family so much. I hate thinking about the awful relationship I had with my parents in the past. My relationship with my brother has always been good too, but it’s different now that we’re older and have to worry about finding jobs and being on our own feet. I’m glad I prepared myself for that and have a job post-graduation (unless they fire me, haha…)…but for those who have not had any work experience during college, I can’t imagine how they will find a job with just a degree (and hopefully a good GPA but who knows). Remember, getting a degree does NOT guarantee you will have a job straight out of college (or rather, a job that you actually want to pursue). So, if that’s all you think about, maybe change your plans because there’s more to college than that diploma!
  4. I’m easily annoyed (but I won’t show it). The beauty of being tolerable is that you won’t ever have a problem with someone. The problem with that is the whole “internalizing” your emotions that’ll give me a peptic ulcer somehow (heh, I hope not, totally false information here). Whoever started the Asian stereotype of labeling us as “quiet” or “pushovers,” you have no idea of the rage we can bring. Give one of us a voice and we’ll use it. But, not many people think about our opinions (feel free to chime in your opinion) or consider them, so what’s the point. I’m just babbling here.

The more I’ve been working at the ER, I notice how much more of a doctor I sound and act. It’s kind of awesome, and I’m looking forward to the learning process in this upcoming year (and the next 12 years). I don’t care how long it takes (just please make it possible for me to have food on the table and stable shelter with privacy. I need those few days off with Pandora playing my favorite songs and emails to reply to asking how people are, haha).

As Ariana Grande once said (and something I said as a youngin’ too), in 10 years now, all of this won’t even matter to you. Let the little things (the past mainly) go, and focus on your bright future ahead.

At home stress remedies

So it’s that time of year — final projects, research papers, exams and STRESS. But if you just breathe and get to work, things will be alright. Today, I’m going to share with you all my personal habits and likings that relieve my stress. Take a look below — I hope these help!

Aromatherapy – So if you live in any of the residence halls, then please move to the next suggestion. If you’re a commuter student, then this is for you! Nothing relives my stress like some aromatherapy. I like to light a scented candle on those nights where stress or anxiety is at an all-time high. There’s something to be said about the aromas of a scented candle and the beauty of the light during a book’s worth of readings. I also like to burn scented oils in my room whenever I need a moment of relaxation. The oils help promote relaxation and peace. Aromatherapy, overall, is the closest thing you can get to therapy itself!

Tea – It’s always a great feeling having a cup of hot tea whenever I’m feeling stressed out. My favorites that help promote relaxation are any brand of green or chamomile tea and Yogi brand Kava Stress Relief Tea. All of these drinks help me take a moment out of my busy day to enjoy myself. The magic of tea is euphoric.

Sweats – If you don’t have access or dough to any of the above, then just slip into something comfortable. There’s something behind the mentality of being in your shirt and jeans at home after a long say. Slip into something different and more comfortable when you get home, like sweatpants and plain T-shirt. Not only will it remove you from the state of mind of being at school or work, but you’ll be comfy as well!

Let me know what your stress relievers are below!

Until next time…


Giving thanks

This week, I am giving thanks early.  For all the times I complain saying, “We don’t have any water pressure!,” or, “There isn’t anything good to eat,” or “I wish I had a job that paid more,” I really do have a lot to be thankful for.

I am thankful for the food I have, the showers I can take and the job that I have.

I am thankful for the opportunity that I can go to school.  Not many people have the time, energy or money to be able to continue their education like I have.  I’d be sooooo thankful if Obama forgave student loans, though!!

I am thankful for my family. I know I can always count on them to make me laugh, make me mad and most importantly, support me.

I am thankful for my boyfriend.  He is amazing and I don’t know what I would do without him in my life.   

I am thankful for my organizational skills.  Without them, I’d be lost.

I am thankful for the money I have in my pocket.  It may not be much, but at least it’s something.

I am thankful for hand sanitizer.  Believe me.  Spend one day in a school and you’ll be thankful for hand sanitizer, too.

I am thankful for the success of my brother’s restaurant, Pie-Eyed Pizzeria.  They have come such a long way.  They’ve had ups and downs and still continue to be more successful every year.

I am thankful for scarves.  I like scarves a lot.  They keep my neck warm.

I am thankful for the teachers in my life that have mentored me and allowed me to learn so much from them.  I was very lucky to be placed at Mary Lyon school for practicum this semester, and even luckier to have the cooperating teacher that I had.

Last, but certainly not least…


Sunday studying…

Got the radio on, my old blue jeans / And I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve ♪♫♪

My current state-of-being: secluded in the corner of Caribou Coffee, huddled over my laptop and textbooks while binge-drinking vanilla tea latte. I’m quietly singing to the Alanis Morissette and Avril Lavigne songs that keep playing over the café speakers, but I should probably stop since the barista keeps giving me odd looks. Today is a peaceful Sunday, even though as always, I’m barely keeping up with plenty of work to get done. The weekend is always too short, and this semester is just flying by. I can’t believe I just registered for spring courses. At the moment I’m just relieved to take a break from my treacherous organic chemistry homework to make my very first blog post ever!

My name is Sarah and I am currently a sophomore Biochemistry major and Russian minor, which I am often told is an odd combination. But I studied abroad in Russia in high school and fell in love with the language, so I’ve kept up with it ever since. It’s my hope to study there again sometime in the next three years. I am “one of those crazy pre-med students” and a member of GPPA medicine. It’s an incredible honor to be a part of that program, and one of the big lessons I take away from it is to never let myself settle for complacency, in classes or otherwise. I try to consistently challenge myself and take risks, even if it leads to a rather hectic lifestyle with long days and late night.

After a long day, I decompress by making all types of hot tea, tinkering on the piano, and reading for fun, especially young adult books from my childhood. I have awful eyesight and somehow I went from being farsighted as a toddler to being extremely nearsighted now. My go-to series to watch on Netflix is How I Met Your Mother but my all-time favorite shows are probably Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. Whenever I get a chance to head home in Naperville, I like to relax by baking with my mom, going to the movies with my brother, or cheering on the Chicago Bulls with my dad. I own over 30 scarves and always have trouble picking the right one every morning. It seems like the weather is getting colder every day and I’m dreading the frigid days ahead because I get cold very easily.

I love music and couldn’t live without it. One of my favorite things to do is to craft playlists for specific people, occasions, or memories. I have all kinds of artists and genres in my iTunes library. While I listen to instrumental or piano music when I study, I indulge in Taylor Swift and radio music, especially when I workout. I try really hard to carve out an hour a day to go to the gym, and my workouts usually consist of running, Pilates, and some casual lifting. I like to challenge myself by signing up for various races throughout the year. My longest one yet was the Chicago Half Marathon this past September, and I actually just finished the Chicago Perfect 10 (10K) yesterday morning at Navy Pier! Stay tuned for my next blog post coming soon about that experience.

Well, it’s time for me to get back to the books – I have plenty of cell bio reading to get caught up on before a quiz tomorrow as well as work to get done for my job. I work as a Peer Mentor in Courtyard residence hall for Campus Housing, and I’m currently planning a tea-tasting program. I’m super excited because I absolutely love tea and can’t wait to share it with my residents! In the meantime, though, I’m keeping to my corner in Caribou with my books…although I think it may be time for another latte…

I’ll be strong, I’ll be wrong, but life goes on / I’m just a girl trying to find a place in this world ♪♫♪

(A Place In This World – Taylor Swift)

“I Have Been Changed for Good”

After an incredibly stressful weekend followed by a busy school week, it was so nice to have Wicked to look forward to. Campus Housing’s Residence Hall Association (RHA) took us to see the play on the 7th. Besides having the obvious excitement of going to see this play, I was thrilled for my boyfriend to finally see the musical since it was something he had never experienced, despite my obsession. This was my third time seeing it, and I can’t imagine not having ever seen the play at some point. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see the musical as many times as I have, and every time see it, I find myself repeatedly getting the chills.

My boyfriend and me before the play started.

This time around was my first time seeing the musical as an adult. The two other times I saw Wicked, I was in elementary/middle school. I used to understand the entire play, but it wasn’t until the third time around that I truly understood one of its main messages.

At one point, the two main characters sing a song, “For Good,” where they say that they’ve come into one another’s lives for a reason and that they have been changed because they know each other. The two girls met at their “boarding school,” which more or less resembles that of a college residence hall. This idea of being changed for good resonated with me for quite some time. In the instance of the play, the two are singing the song to one another, but I feel as though the many people I’ve met at UIC and in Campus Housing have changed me for the better. The past 2-1/2 years have been a great maturing experience for me as both as student at UIC and a student leader in Campus Housing. When I thought about the song after the play, I was so surprised to think about all of the people who I have communicated with or worked with in one way or another. Somehow, because I knew each and every one of those people, I, too, have been changed. I have become a better person and a much more mature one thanks to these interactions with other students and faculty at UIC.

I also connected this back to myself as an RA. My hope is that every day, I am helping my residents in one way or another and and am hopefully changing them for the better as well. A big part of college is the connections you make and the friendships that grow out of little interactions. The play exemplifies just that — the way that these mundane interactions can grow into serious friendships that last beyond school. I can only hope that you find yourself making these similar connections in your day-to-day UIC lives as well.

The Playbill from the show!

After this great night of enjoyment, it’s back to schoolwork and RA duties for the weekend. Have a good week — talk to you soon! Go see Wicked if you have a chance — it’ll change your life!

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