A love letter

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and complete and utter disdain for this winter, here is my open love letter to….SPRING.

Dear Spring,

I love you.  I miss you.  That groundhog is stupid.  Winter is stupid.  Winter in Chicago is stupid.  Please come soon. It snows like 10 inches a week.  It’s like -40 degrees all the time.  My toes are always cold.  I wear 4 layers every day, which means I have more laundry.  I’m crabby.  Everyone is crabby.  I drink so much hot tea to stay constantly warm that I have to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes. I have to warm my car up 15-20 minutes before I leave my house.  Walking through the back porch to get to the basement is like a death sentence.  My face hurts from the air.  When I swing the door open, I get hit on the head with icicles.  Every time I wear my glasses outside, they steam up when I go inside.  My skin is dry. My back hurts from shoveling. I hate when I hit a crack in the sidewalk while shoveling and the shovel gets jammed in my abdomen.  Children are infested with germs.  Children who are infested with germs cough and sneeze on you.  I can’t run outside.  Working out inside is kind of dull.  Going anywhere is a chore.  Going anywhere with children is an even bigger chore.  Do you know how long it takes kids to get their jackets, boots, hats, scarves and gloves on?  A REALLY long time.  It’s a process.  People drive like idiots in the snow.  Every street is an obstacle course of potholes.  There is no where to park on any side street because they’re mostly not plowed.  The money I save by not going out is spent on the food I sit and eat staying in.  Which causes my pants to fit tighter.  I have a constant fear of my space heater blowing up.  And most of all, I find that in winter I complain a lot.  Please come soon.  I’m begging you.

Lauren

 

One day at a time…

♪♫♪ Careful child, light the fuse and get away / ‘Cause happiness throws a shower of sparks…

It’s been a busy week getting accustomed to the regular feel of my schedule for the semester. So far my classes seem to be going alright, although organic chemistry II is definitely no joke. Not that I expected it to be at all, but I’ve been re-doubling my efforts to keep up for the weekly quizzes. Our first exam is already on February 6th, which floors me because on the one hand, it feels like we just started, while at the same time we have already covered so much material already. Every lecture feels a little bit like a marathon, both mentally and for my hand trying to copy my professors’ lightning fast notes. The other day during lecture, my pen actually half exploded as a result of my efforts…ink was leaking everywhere on my page and fingers!

Physics is also going well so far, but I know that’s because we’ve only covered the basic material that I can still recall from high school. The moment we enter unknown topics, I’m going to have to really kick it into gear. As for psychology, it feels a little redundant to study some of the material we’re covering right now because I think I know it pretty well already from taking other science or statistics courses. I’ll be more interested when get into material I haven’t encountered before.

For the first time in a while, I feel rather lost in Russian class! The professor speaks only Russian for the majority of the time, and I don’t think my level is quite high enough to keep up with all the directions and grammar. Most of our class is comprised of native speakers, and I’m pretty jealous that they seem can converse in Russian so easily! It’s been taking me more efforts on my part to translate more material on my own and learn grammar from the textbook, but I still love the language as much as ever.

In the meantime, I’m so excited to celebrate Chinese New Year with my dad! My mom is still in Taiwan at the moment celebrating the holiday with the rest of our family and my brother is in Cleveland for his grad program, so my dad and I will be celebrating on our own this year. I miss them all very much, especially my family in Taiwan. The fact that I just saw them makes me miss them even more. Thank goodness for modern technology that allows for free video chat and international phone calls!

And the recent freezing cold makes me wish I was back in Taiwan too! On these cold winter days, it makes me really thankful that I live on campus and my room is just a few minute’s walk away from my classes. Even if I have to trudge through mushy snow, I know I have it pretty easy compared to those who have to rely on trains and busses to remain on time despite treacherous conditions. Besides, since I have 8 AMs every day (I actually prefer it that way believe it or not!), I have the rare chance to enjoy the peaceful snow-blanketed campus of the early morning before everyone comes bustling in. It’s a strange cathartic feeling to feel the crunch beneath my boots as I tread through the quad, making the first set of footprints leading all the way to SES. So even though it’s been frigid, I feel like I can’t really complain – there are still little beauties all around me that I am thankful for.

So you tell yourself that’s enough for now / Happiness has a violent roar ♪♫♪

(Happiness – The Fray)

What am I doing?!

12 hours.

That’s it. That’s how many credit hours I took this semester.

So why do I feel just as (if not more) stressed out as last semester?

That is by far the least amount of credit hours I have taken on my 6 semesters here. The first semester of my freshman year, I took 14 credit hours and didn’t have many other responsibilities besides academics.

12 credits leaves me with three classes each Tuesday & Thursday. I am hoping to start my internship within the next couple of weeks, so I will be there Mondays and Wednesdays (so excited!)

Regardless of the large amount of time spent not in class, I am still desperate for a break to relax. You’d think I’d have a lot of it, but I feel like I’m always on the go.

I’ve been trying to figure out what is eating up all of my time, or at least what is so time consuming RIGHT NOW………………

…………….I think the biggest thing is currently my returner portfolio. As a resident assistant, peer mentor, or any other Campus Housing student staff member who wishes to return to their position for the following year, we have to put together a portfolio of some sort. This showcases your efforts and successes during the year as well as features your ideas on what you would do differently next year. Having already made a scrapbook portfolio my first year applying to return, I wanted to do something different, so I made a movie. It’s been quite the challenge, but I’m really happy with the “finished” project. I turned it in earlier today and am impatiently awaiting my returner interview where I will show my video.

I’ve also been really busy with just overall more difficult classes than I am used to. I’m taking two 400-level courses, which is the highest I’ve ever had, and they’re pretty tough. It’s nice to be in such challenging classes, but it can, of course, be a little intimidating from time to time. I’m also starting to learn to code (in the absolute simplest form) for my Communications class. This is completely new to me, and I’m really hoping I can keep up with the assignments.

I’ve also been working really hard for my position on the executive board of NRHH- the National Residence Hall Honorary. We are a chapter comprised to the top 1% of student leaders, and the four pillars that we are held up by are leadership, service, recognition, and academics. I take care of the recognition aspect of the chapter, and I have been trying to take on a lot of new initiatives for the position. This can be a lot to do while being an RA, but I really love the chapter and working on the executive board.

NRHH E-board, along with their sister organization, RHA, are hosting a leadership retreat this weekend where we work to further develop younger student leaders’ skills. I will be giving the presentation that I did at CASCHA at this retreat, only with some changes made to fit the Disney theme (my favorite!).

Immediately after the conference (seriously-a half hour later) we are all heading over to the Flames basketball game to watch them play Valpo. I have word that the NRHH e-board as well as the RHA e-board are taking part (maybe even competing) in some sort of game during halftime.

The night before all of this craziness is my grandma’s surprise 90th birthday party. I’m really excited to see her reaction to all of her friends and family in one place for her big day. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll leave you with a picture of me and the new pooch:

Now, about that break…………………………

A handle on this

I recently received an email regarding my Fulbright scholarship status, and I was recommended for a grant! I’m so happy, even though I still don’t know if I actually got the grant yet (but now I know I am so much closer than I was before!). I remember I started working on my application near the end of the summer of last year and thought I’d be done right before school with it, but I was totally wrong! I probably went through at least ten drafts each of my personal statement and statement of grant purpose with many visits to the Writing Center and the amazing Beth Powers (if you haven’t met her yet, you absolutely must!). I worked right up until the due date (October 15), so in total that was a good 3 months of preparation.

I will keep you posted on the final decisions made by the host country, but I probably won’t hear back until late April or May. It’s grueling to wait, but in the meantime I’ve got to focus on studying for this mother-loving MCAT! I am terribly behind in my studies for it secondary to my scribe job, research, tons of quizzes and homework each day for all of my classes (it’s unreal), duties for the clubs I am a part of and my other jobs I dabble in (and I must say I do not regret keeping the Writing Center as part of my daily  routine! Tutoring has been so wonderful.).

Well, you  can see where my time goes, and unfortunately if I want to keep up my grades, MCAT studying will have to suffer a bit again. I know it’s my main priority (everything else for my application is great per the pre-health advisors…just need that nice high score), but I feel compelled to not put it there. It’s like the only thing standing in my way of pursuing an MD/PhD! >:O GRRRR. My parents even told me last semester that I should just take genetics lab only and quit all my jobs so I can spend like 10+ hours studying each day and beast on the MCAT.

But, I can’t torture myself like that. I’ll probably kill myself first (and my mom thinks the opposite–she thinks I’ll kill myself with my scribe job, although hilariously I counter her comment by saying at least I’ll be in the ER when it happens and hopefully they can save me beforehand). I hate giving things up (for obvious reasons, those things make me happy…and MCAT does not make me happy). I should really change my mentality on this test since it’s so important, but with how I am right now I can’t help but be negative at this moment in time.

On the bright side, I got an A on my first Polish test last week and I have been getting perfects on my genetic lab quizzes. Anatomy and physiology is decent…I’m definitely going to cram the week of the exam, which is coming pretty soon! I am also getting my premedical club back into gear with speakers, events and such. I hope I can attend more meetings with the committees that we have, but priority should be MCAT so we’ll see. ><

Research is going well too! My cousin has been shadowing me and improving his pipetting skills. Hopefully once I graduate he can take over my work and carry on the legacy! LOL just kidding (but seriously dude, don’t mess up). No pressure, haha.

I also need to think about starting my Honors Capstone thesis! It’s due at the end of the semester, but I will be presenting at the UIC Student Research Forum in April and need to have an abstract submitted before spring break. It’s totally doable, but again that cuts out of MCAT studying time if I am still aiming for the March 22 date. Something tells me March 22 isn’t going to work out, but for now I am keeping an optimistic tone and striving to take it that day so I can enjoy my spring break and worry about finishing touches on my personal statement.

I can’t believe it’s only the fourth week and so many things are happening and so many things need to be done within a short period of time. This is really what cramming / college is all about! Thank goodness we are adaptable creatures! Appreciation, for sure. Happy February everyone!

Most difficult part of starting the semester?

After seven completed semesters, I think I realized the most difficult part of getting adjusted to a new semester: personal scheduling.

Sure, you have to schedule your classes and get used to going to and locating the classrooms. Yes, you have to buy books and empty your college funds for new classes. However — the hardest part about getting adjusted to a new semester is in fact scheduling your personal life. What time do I have to start waking up? What route should I take so I can avoid heavy traffic? How much time can I workout for before I have to shower and run to my next class? What time should I eat? What time should I start homework at after classes? Can I really fit in all of these classes? These are all of the questions I’m finding myself asking, and then some.

I just landed an internship, so that will take up a good amount of my free time during the week. This means I can drop a class due to the internship credit – but should I? I truly enjoy all of my classes – acting, human nutrition, communication pop culture, religious thought. But with my new addition of the internship, I keep debating internally if I should drop a class. Thinking ahead, as tests start and paper season begins, I’m thinking about all the juggling I’ll have to do. I did this all of my academic career, but I’m graduating in May. I still have to fit in job hunting and career planning next to my daily class schedule, homework, USG, internship, and other social and extracurricular activities. Maybe I should lighten up my load?

I know much of this was a rant…but in a strange way, ranting to a blog helps me make sense of my thought process. It is a blog, right? I’m positive many of you readers have related or can relate in some capacity. I just finished making a weekly planner for the rest of the semester. All of my activities and such have been counted in so that I can be more prepared for the semester load. I’m still debating about whether to drop a class – but I know that either way I can manage any path I take. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m maintaing my cool until then.

Until next time…

Mike

Preschool Practicum

Embarking on my new practcum in a Pre-K classroom has been a much different experience than I had last semester.  Last semester is hard to top.  My cooperating teacher was amazing.  She gave me an office in the classroom almost immediately and began giving me responsibility.  I learned so much from her that towards the half-way mark of my commitment, I was always two steps ahead of her, ready for anything.  She looked at me as her equal.

So, I’m only in the beginning stages of my new practicum and not to say that my new cooperating teachers aren’t great teachers.  But it certainly is a different situation.  I am in a Pre-K blended classroom.  That means the children’s ages range from 3-5 and there are some children with special needs. There are three teachers in the room with 20 children….and then there’s me.  It can get kind of crowded.

My first couple days I tried to observe.  I wanted to learn about these kids from what I observed, not from what the teachers told me.  After observing, I started asking questions about certain students.  Another difference between this semester and last is that this semester I don’t have specific lessons to complete, or children to do assessments with.  It is nice that I don’t have to constantly worry about the next project for my professor and can concentrate on my experience with the kids.

There are a few children who have already stolen my heart.  One child, let’s call her Julie, has Down Syndrome.  For anyone who isn’t familiar with Down Syndrome or individuals who have it, they are very affectionate people.  This little girl was attached to me once I pretended I didn’t know what was going to happen if she turned the handle of a Jack-In-The-Box.  I had a good time with her and ever since then, she sits by me on the carpet, always needing to lean against me. She speaks Spanish so it is a bit hard to communicate, but I try to anyway.  I always get a kick out of how her mother bundles her up to go to school.  Granted, it has been extremely cold.  But she literally looks like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, from A Christmas Story all bundled up.  So stinkin’ cute!

Another child who I feel for is a boy who no one quite understands yet.  I’ll refer to him as Leonard.  He is somewhat new from what the teachers tell me.  He doesn’t speak English, except for when he is repeating something someone else says.  They THINK he is Ukrainian and doesn’t speak English.  However, there could be something going on with this child and he could need special services.  He does get yelled at (which I am not sure I agree with), but that is how he is dealt with at times.  One day, we were trying to get all the kids to do a special project.  We’re only able to do a few kids at a time, so we call a few kids over and all of the other kids have play time.  Nearing the end of the morning, there were a few children that hadn’t had the opportunity to do the project yet.  Yet, time was rolling and the teachers needed to move on to the next thing, which happened to be Gross Motor Time.  Normally, that would mean the kids get to go outside and play, but due to it being so cold, the kids stay in and dance to music.  Right when Leonard was called to my table to do his project, the music came on and you could just see the longing in his eyes to go and dance around.  He got up several times but I had to get him to sit back down and do the project with me.  It killed me that this may have been his favorite part of the day in a classroom that no one understands him and he couldn’t be a part of all the other kids dancing around.  I mean, on one side, there were other kids at the table doing the project.  But the majority of them and the teachers were on the rug having a good time.  Broke my heart.

I realize I am going to have many different experiences and observe many different things.  I am going to want to save every child that needs help.  But it’s difficult to see things in classrooms that I do not necessarily agree with and to be realistic that I can’t reach every child I encounter in my practicum.  I guess I just have to chalk it up to being one step closer to the teacher I am going to be one day, which can’t come soon enough!!

Singing to myself

♪♫♪ Let it go, let it go, I am one with the wind and sky…

Lately it feels like I am one of the few people who still hasn’t seen Frozen…but that doesn’t mean I haven’t listened to the soundtrack already…dozens of times. I pretty much love all Disney music, so it’s frequently what I have playing in the background while I try to get some work done. One of my secret talents is knowing the lyrics to pretty much every classic Disney song.  It’s a little silly that I know the words to almost all of the Frozen songs but I still haven’t seen the movie! (But I hear the sing-along version is being released in theaters…this may be my chance.) Although it’s been out a long time, I’m still trying to avoid spoilers on the Internet, which is a real challenge.

So on the topic of great music and soundtracks, I have a confession: I absolutely love singing. It’s doubtful that many people know this at all, because I could probably count on one hand the number of people who have ever heard me sing outside a middle school choir setting. And there’s good reason for that too, seeing how I have a very weak and pitchy voice. As a result, I only sing when I’m completely alone or with close friends. When I am alone, however,  it’s almost a constant behavior. I don’t just in the shower, I sing while cleaning, laying in bed trying to fall asleep, doing homework…but I’m afraid years of this kind of practice has never improved my voice. When it comes to performing for others, I stick to just playing the piano, where I’m much more confident. I’m so incredibly jealous of singers I hear, especially those with powerhouse voices that sound amazing. I think one of the reasons I adore showtunes so much (I fall in love with musicals easily) is that a lot of the singers belt out their notes so passionately. As childish as it may seem, listening to Let It Go or Defying Gravity makes me feel as if I can sing vicariously through Idina Menzel. If I could really be anything at all in the world, I would choose to be a Broadway actress, hands down.

(But alas, I seem to be lacking in the whole singing, acting, and dancing requirements…so it’s the medical life for me.)

When I was in Japan this past Christmas, my mom, brother, and I had the awesome chance to go karaoke with my aunt and cousin on our last night in Tokyo. It’s crazy how many karaoke places there are in Japan! This is especially true in a large city like Tokyo, where there’s at least a few on every street. The later it gets in the evening, the more popular karaoke becomes; after a certain time, they even have one hour time limits on the rooms! Even though it was around 10 PM and we had an early flight the next morning to Taiwan, my mom treated us all to karaoke that night.

It was such a cool experience! We were all in a small room with just couches and a TV, and we could pick any song we wanted while ordering drinks throughout the hour. It was really typical to my aunt and cousin, Yoshihiro, but my brother and I were excited and kept picking songs on this seemingly magic karaoke machine that had thousands and thousands of Japanese, English, and Chinese songs. My brother Bob shocked us all by being able to sing a great number of Japanese songs! He took Japanese in high school, and so he was able to read the lyrics pretty easily, and he picked many of his favorite songs from anime.

Another confession of mine to share this week: when I was really small, perhaps 3 or 4 years old, I sang to the karaoke of “My Heart Will Go On,” and apparently toddler Sarah was not shy about her voice at all, because my mom loves telling the story of how I stood on a table with a microphone and sang Celine Dion to my parents and all their friends. (While I’m sure I was adorable then, I think a few things have changed haha…) So since then, whenever karaoke is made available, it’s an on-running joke in my family that I should give another fabulous encore of the song. That night, I decided to let loose and finally do it! I sang with my mom and had a fantastic time. I can really see why people in Japan must love karaoke so much—everyone is able to let loose and enjoy themselves in such a warm and fun environment. It doesn’t really matter if you sing well or not since you’re with all of your friends just having a great time! I wish places designated just for karaoke like that were a lot more common here in the states!

Even though I have no desire to sing on a stage, it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it on my own. I’ve never been a big performer, and I’m fine with that. Music keeps me sane and happy, which is all I need.

~~~

Here I stand, in the light of day / Let the storm rage on / The cold never bothered me anyway ♪♫♪

(Let It Go – Idina Menzel)

The craziest of weeks

It’s been one of those weeks, and it came out of nowhere. I don’t know what hit first, but everything has been moving so quickly over the past few days and I can’t seem to slow it down. I thought taking four classes this semester would lighten the load, but I still seem to have a million things to do. I’m glad I’m busy; it’s not like I would have it any other way.

On Monday, we gained a new member to our family. A brand new VERY young puppy came home. I only got to spend Monday with him, but I have plans to see him soon. He is absolutely crazy, playful, loving, and nameless… The parents are still working on naming our new friend. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time.

I’ve had a little bit of a hard time keeping my mind off of the new puppy. He’s just so incredibly cute! I’m so glad I got to be a part of the process this time. I got to hold him the entire car ride home, which was over an hour, not to mention the whole time we stopped at the pet store for toys and food.

 

One day this week my boyfriend and I are heading over to play with him. We bought him two new toys just in case we need to buy his love. I’m pretty sure that isn’t an issue, since he’s the sweetest and friendliest puppy I’ve ever met.

Later in the week, I needed to go through some medical testing for my internship at Rush. I have never gotten the flu shot since I have always been worried about the side effects and have always been convinced that I would get sick after. Flu shots are, of course, necessary when working/volunteering/interning at a hospital, so I had no choice but to get my first ever flu shot at 21 years old. It really wasn’t as bad as I always expected it would be. I realized that millions of people get the vaccine every winter/fall, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t still terrified in the moment. I don’t even think I had any of the side effects from the shot. Within an hour or two, I was back in my bed laying down, saying I was too tired to get up. I’m still not exactly sure whether or not that had anything to do with the flu shot..

I’ve finally had the “first day of school” in every one of my courses at this point. Somehow, my books wound up being totally affordable this semester, which was a huge relief for myself and my wallet. With this stress and excitement comes the expectation that homework and assigned readings are completed. I’ve already been assigned a partner project and have begun submitting online homework a couple times a week. Its crazy how quickly school mode became full swing again. It’s nice to be back in classes (I can’t believe I feel that way.)

Despite all of the hecticness of the week, I managed to have a good one and hope you did, too!

 

I can hear!

For the past week I could not hear out of my left ear. I didn’t have any pain, but it was definitely like someone stuck a cork in it as it was muffled whenever someone spoke. The second day of having it, I was working in the ER and kindly asked the doctor at the end of the shift if they could take a peek at my ear. Turns out it was just a bunch of earwax (sorry if that grosses anyone out)! Relieved it wasn’t as serious as I thought it might have been, I got some over the counter medication at the UIC Pharmacy to see if that would help clear it. Well, four days passed and it didn’t help, so I made an appointment at the Family Medicine Center at UIC and thankfully got an appointment an hour after I walked in (although they didn’t see me until one hour after because they had two patients in front of me, which I totally understand why I have to wait so long since I see it frequently happen in the ER!). They put hydrogen peroxide in my ear and wow did it bubble and fizz! I was totally worried my ear was eroding too, haha! After that, the nurse irrigated it with a syringe and blasted my ear. I don’t think I ever had that much pressure on my ear drums, but whamo I could hear out of my left ear again! XD Now that it’s clear of earwax, everything feels so much more amplified in that ear. I asked about my right ear and how to clean it (avoid q-tips everyone, as tempting as it is) and the doctor told me to use a bulb and squirt warm water like once or twice a year (not once a week or once a month!!!). I guess our ears can take care of themselves, but my ears are tiny so I can see how I’d have more frequent problems!

The doctor also told me that people of Asian descent have dry wax and African Americans and Europeans have wet wax. Isn’t that weird?! I’m taking genetics and it’s really cool how we’re all made up of. We did a lab on mitosis and meiosis, which normally I’m like “ehhhh” but it’s pretty cool how all of our cells divide and die…it’s almost like we’re reborn every few moments (or we die every few moments if you want to think of it that way).

These regulatory mechanisms our bodies use are incredible! In anatomy and physiology, I finally got to see a human face…although I wasn’t expecting the face to be split in half and hanging. They didn’t give us much warning, haha. Anyway, we’re studying the visual and auditory systems, including the mechanisms of how they transmit information to the brain and the anatomy of how it all works! The malleus, incus and stapes bones in our ear are SO TINY! They looked like bug exoskeletons (I received a tiny jar of them as a gift from someone I met in Taiwan and never realized they were bug exoskeletons…at least the bow/ribbon around the jar was cute). Man, there’s so much to know about the body (and scientists have discovered a lot already…but more to understand)….it makes me really excited to pursue an MD/PhD!

I’m doing my best to restudy for the MCAT on top of my part-time jobs and running organizations, but as the test date comes closer and closer I’m starting to think I need to shut everything out for all of February and March! We’ll see how things go…I may or may not have to move the test date, but I badly do not want to. However, being ready for the test is immensely crucial and if it takes me a longer time to study so that I can ensure success, it will definitely be worth it!

I know it’s only the third week of class, but it’ll be final exams in a blink of an eye before you know it! Stay safe and warm UIC! (:

Things are a changing

Hey everyone! It’s great to be back! And no, I am not fibbing. It is actually good to be back, as this is my final semester at UIC. It’s a bit bittersweet, since I’ve spent my entire college career here at the university and have had plenty of great experiences during my time here. Nevertheless, I am excited to be soon starting a new chapter of my life – the real job world.

Despite being my last semester, the past few weeks have been a bit hectic when it comes to organizing and finalizing my schedule. I am still deciding which classes I will keep/remove. I’m also still trying to get into the swing of things and vaccinate myself from the senioritis flu that is lingering around. To be completely honest, I’ve been super stressed these past two weeks. However, this all changed on Thursday.

I just found out I received an internship at the Shedd Aquarium! After a few interviews, I received the call with the offer. I am super stoked that I will be strengthening my communications and public relations skills that I have gained these past four years. Ever since I was a child, I have had an immense love for sea animals and aquatic life. At one point, I even wanted to be a marine biologist! However, after my disinterest in science became apparent as I got older, I nixed that idea. I am extremely happy that I will be able to intern with a world-class institution that I have loved and appreciated since I was a child.

With only four months until graduation, everything seem to be quickly changing. I like it, though. I now believe I am fully ready to rock my last semester, excel at my new internship, and start a brand new chapter in my life.

I am happy all of you will be on this journey with me :)

Until next time…

Mike

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