It’s so cold!

Is anyone else as freezing as I am?! When is it going to warm up?

I officially have the winter blues and am absolutely over this. Walking to BSB twice a day from my room is getting really old really fast, and I’ve been staying inside the building for entire days at a time when I don’t have class. The weekends have been filled with wasting time and feeling my cabin fever get worse and worse. I don’t know about you, but I need to do something about this before I go crazy…I need to be more productive so that when the time actually comes for us to go outside and enjoy the weather, I can. Here are my goals/ideas for making the most out of being stuck inside:

-read books (not just textbooks…good books, too!)

-redecorate your room by moving furniture around/add small accents

-go through your closet and look for clothes to donate

-craft! There’s nothing like a good old DIY

-watch a new tv series or movie genre

-make Valentines for your friends/family

-plan spring/summer trips or vacations

-learn a new instrument

-get completely caught up with your homework and studying

-get ahead on your studying ;)

-deep clean/spring clean your room in the winter!

-drink tea or hot chocolate or coffee- and lots of it! At some point later in the year, these hot drinks will sound gross.

-work out in your room! There are lots of household spaces and items that are great for a workout.

-try on your bathing suit

-cook/bake new recipes and try them out on me!

-learn to do something productive with your computer

-apply for jobs/internships online

-enjoy a nap under a nice, warm blanket

Stay warm! Until next week…

Too many meetings, exams and quizzes

Normally, I’d look forward to my weekends. For one, I wouldn’t have to work. Two, I could catch up on studying and homework that I badly need to do for each of my classes and MCAT. And three, I can effectively plan for the future during this time (like if I need to plan an event for my pre-medical club, etc).

Well, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to enjoy the weekends, especially this month. I mean, it should have been worst last semester when I started the ER scribe job (those 5pm-2am shifts were definitely something to get used to and I can’t afford to do those at this time), but after hording almost all of the weekend 9am-6pm shifts just to meet my minimum of 8 shifts per month…I’m kind of toast with managing my time to fit every need that I hold. I have only been able to go to research once a week for only like 4-6 hours…barely going to my campus housing job as I am doing only as needed basis (they’re so amazing with flexibility, thank you Campus Housing)…I consistently go tutor and work at the desk at the Writing Center, which has provided me relief and stress at times (the stress comes from me lolly-gagging during my few moments of free time with colleagues when I could spend it locked up in a cubicle studying for MCAT and my other classes)…and here I am trying to blog so that I can rant and still stay sane throughout all of this.

Well, looks like my break will truly come post-MCAT. I took a practice test this past Sunday and I told myself if I get the same score or lower than what I did on the real thing, I’d move my test to April or May. Well, to my surprise I scored 4 points higher than what I got on the real thing…so I decided to keep the date! I can’t tell if I scored high because I took the test before (it was one time and in May or June 2013…and I only went over the test once) or if my brain was actually thinking in the correct manner to help me score well. Perhaps it was both that contributed…but we’ll see how I do on my next practice test! It definitely gave me a HUGE boost of confidence and showed me what areas I desperately need to improve on (physics and chemistry…math is not my thing). So, instead of studying a different subject each day like I was doing, I’m just cramming all the physics and general chemistry topics this week and the next and then hopefully  once I hit biology and organic chemistry it’ll be easier (verbal is a crapshoot so I’m not even going to bother even though it was my lowest score on the real thing…but only by one point compared to the other subjects…).

Ah, well I am hoping for the best. It’s difficult to study for the MCAT when you’ve got to attend a gazillion, million meetings and study for anatomy and physiology or Polish (if only I was a native speaker I could sleep through the class…but I’m totally not!!!). I have weekly quizzes for anatomy and physiology and 2 quizzes a week for genetics lab. Let me tell you, they’re easy, but super annoying to study for! I don’t mind doing all the homework and quizzes, but with the MCAT looming over my head and all this pressure of needing to be in a million places at once has got me in pieces.

Luckily, my brain and heart are still keeping me alive, one day at a time. That is really the key to keeping your sanity. When I open my Google calendar and see my schedule, it makes me want to bang my head against the table. But instead of moving around stuff and pushing things back even more like I normally do in my scary panic mode of trying to make things work out, I just use the time I would normally spend panicking with actually doing what I planned! Whether it’s studying, attending meetings or writing this blog…the work gets done efficiently with this pressure.

Too bad my skin isn’t cooperating very well, especially around my eyes…but I’ll save that for another time because all I want to do is sleep and dream MCAT success at this point (but I have an exam in anatomy and physiology looming so I better dream about that too).

And this cold weather isn’t helping the mood…ah well what do you expect? Struggles are here for a purpose and you just got to keep moving forward.

Best,

Milie

Great schedule gap fillers!

Throughout my entire undergraduate career, I have learned the true value of time. This means maximizing every free second throughout the day. Many times, undergraduates have gaps in their schedules. What do you do during this time? Here are a few of my favorite things to do on campus to take advantage of your schedule gaps!

Power work out: So you have an hour-and-a-half gap – who says you can’t workout during that time? Lately I have added in quick power workouts during my gap. I go to the Student Recreation Facility to get a 30-minute cardio session and a 15-minute abdominal workout, followed by a warm shower to get clean and ready for my next class. Sure, this requires a bit of a hassle with extra bags and limited time, but you will feel rejuvenated and healthier after a quick workout.

Eat at a random restaurant: I always love spending one afternoon a week at a restaurant around campus. I usually try to eat at different places each time because there are so many options around UIC! Go out with a friend, or even by yourself, to a new restaurant whenever you have an afternoon break. New restaurants equal new experiences, which then equals new conversation pieces and cultural/social benefits.

Explore new parts of campus: After eight semesters of being at UIC, you think that I would have visited every part of campus. Wrong! Every now and then, I like to take a walk with a friend around campus, exploring unfamiliar buildings and lounges throughout campus. It’s always refreshing finding a new spot on campus — they usually make for great secret study spots!

Just sit and relax: Forget Facebook, BuzzFeed and your textbooks. Sometimes it’s just nice to just find a spot to sit and simply relax. Let go of any other worry in the world and just sit and let your mind wander on about what is going on around you. Or carry a book around that you can read during an hour break or so. No matter what you desire, make some time to step away from the hustle and bustle of school and focus on reenergizing yourself within.

What are some of your favorite things to do during breaks? Let me know below!

Until next time…
Mike

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)

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