Subtle Successes

It’s sad to say that Spring Break 2014- the highly anticipated week off of school-has come to a close. The good news is we’ve survived the first week back. A week of perpetual Mondays rivaled only by the week after winter break. That’s ok, though. At least for me. My break was incredibly satisfactory and I don’t feel like I wasted a moment of it.

Here’s why this past week may have been my most satisfying spring break to date, despite the weather:

Started watching House of Cards. Really, though, this show is awesome. One of my residents has been talking about this show forever, and my boyfriend and I have been looking for a show to watch together. It really holds our interest, and since it’s a Netflix Original, you can watch episode after episode after episode. Whether or not that is a good thing is to be determined. If you’re looking for a show to get in to (and if you have Netflix), check it out.

Cooked dinner. A lot. I love cooking and baking, and this break provided me with a great opportunity to do some of that. Since I don’t get a chance to cook while away at school, it was nice to use my kitchen at home and cook so much.

Played with my puppy. My dog has an unbelievable amount of energy, which can be pretty scary at times. He’s always so happy and  playful, and when I am at school, I don’t get to see him growing up. It was really nice to be at home for over a week with him and get to play, practice going on walks, take naps, and do whatever puppies do.

Got new sunglasses. This is pretty exciting for me; new sunglasses are always great. It’s a pretty effective technique for trying to beat the winter blues, since spring never seems to actually be coming. My sunglasses have me hopeful, though.

Completely redid my room. This was definitely the highlight of spring break. Not only did I throw away old things that I didn’t need anymore- I also got rid of furniture that wasn’t even being used. My room has so much more space and is completely clutter-free. It makes me even more excited for summer and being back in my room for a few months.

Won a gift card to the bookstore. I completed the survey that the UIC Student Centers emailed out since I feel like I am always using one of the offices or in the cafeteria. I was randomly selected to win a $20 gift card to the bookstore! I’m so excited for this! Can’t wait to pick out some new UIC gear.

Went out to eat at Red Lobster. I haven’t been here in probably 10+ years. We sort of went on a whim, which was a great choice. I couldn’t even believe how good the food was, and we were just about the only people in the restaurant-pretty awesome. If you haven’t had the cheddar biscuits there, that is something that needs to happen.

Went running. Although it wasn’t incredibly often, my boyfriend and I went running. The first time we went running around the neighborhood, and then the next, we went to our town’s pavilion and ran on the track. It was actually really nice to get up at 7am and do this, but we had to stop. I really need better running shoes. That is happening as soon as possible so we can get back to it.

Didn’t do my homework. Don’t get me wrong-my plan was to get my homework done early in the week so I wouldn’t have to stress out about it. As usual, I wound up not doing it until much much later in the week. This was probably the best decision ever. I had a lot of time off of obligations and got to relax and enjoy the break. I didn’t even worry very much about my homework at that time. Instead, I took my time working on it later in the week when nothing was going on.

Drank a ton of coffee. My parents’ Keurig is pretty dangerous. I can’t stop using it! My mom buys really really good coffee flavors, so I’ve had at least a cup every day.  I’ve found myself becoming pretty dependent on the cup of coffee a day now and definitely miss the ease of that machine.

Didn’t stress out. This pretty much also falls into the homework part. I really put off most things until later in the week, which didn’t bother me. I didn’t think about things that give me anxiety or get me upset. Instead, I focused on doing things I’ve been neglecting (like cleaning my room) and thought a lot less about the other things. The break was much needed.

Visited my old internship. I stopped by the office I spent my summer at to see everybody. It was so nice to visit and catch up. I learned so much during my time there and made some great connections. Always great to see them.

Figured out my classes. My second to last time I am picking classes is this week! How exciting. It’s scary because I have to make sure I’m taking all of the exact right classes because there is no room to mess that up. I’m excited for a new semester and for starting my senior year of college (can’t believe it’s almost here…)

Spent time with my family. Always great. Got to spend a lot of time, which was great, since I’m always missing them when I’m at school.

Reevaluated things. Actually took my advice to consider if I am happy with where I’m at and if I am heading towards my eventual goals. This is still a work in progress, but time will certainly help to figure things out.

How did you enjoy your spring break? Let me know in the comments!

Quality Writing

To produce quality writing, you need to mess up A LOT. Draft after draft, scrap after scrap. The second component of quality writing is evaluation and review. Sometimes we don’t realize our mistakes, and that’s where your lovely friend, the peer reviewer, comes into play. While some may say getting over 100 people to look at your essay is a bit much, I actually don’t think it’s a bad idea. Besides, a larger sample size produces more accurate results. The issue with having 100 people look over your essay is what, out of all of those responses, will you listen to?

Another note, I would not consider my blog posts as “quality writing”. This is a medium to share what I feel in the moment that may transcend into the future, but for the most part are just whimsical musings that you can take or leave alone. Edits are made here and there, but this is as raw as my writing can get! The beauty of expressing yourself in a medium such as a blog is that you’re exposed to anything on the internet. Whether it be love, hatred, disgust, wonder or ambivalence–there’s some affect that results (and no, I did not make a typo, although I suppose it could work either way if you think about it).

Why the interest in talking about quality writing today? Well, I have been stuck on my medical school personal statement for a long time. My very first draft was a total disaster (of course, when writing it, I thought it was so amazing and beautiful). After having my first pre-health appointment discussing it, I was totally crushed and cried afterwards! No, the pre-health advisor wasn’t mean or anything, but it comes off as this on face value. The fact of the matter is that the pre-health advisor is there to guide you on what is ideal and steer you away from the common mistakes that people make on the personal statement or other parts of the application. Thank goodness I’ve improved my GPA (especially science) for the past 2 years…not sure how you’d fix that in a jiffy…but luckily writing is a malleable form that anyone can improve on.

The second draft I attempted was completely different from the first draft. I steered far away from anything that could be said in other parts of my application (experiences, extra-curricular activities, good GPA, etc). I focused more on my intent to pursue medicine, touching on my experience living with eczema and volunteering to teach health education with my pre-medical club. I had a lot of help from an MD/PhD student here at UIC (she’s so awesome and very encouraging) who spent a whole day helping me hammer out ideas for my personal statement. It was super fun! And that draft was nice…but I wrote it this past summer’s cycle and reading it again now gives me a nice feeling, but not the feeling that I want to feel when I read it.

What do you feel when you read something amazing? I recall listening to personal statements being read during high school at the beginning of senior year, and the best ones I felt were the ones that made me tear up inside (happy and sad tears at the same time). They made me feel like I was lifted from one place to another (a better place). However, complete separation of whatever struggle mentioned in the essay never appealed to me. And, I think that’s my issue with my current draft of the essay. I don’t touch on what I want to say about eczema and how it has affected me as person, my schoolwork or how I continually deal with it. And then, the strength that I gained from realizing these issues and applying this towards why I want to be a physician…it’s not totally there (and such little space to say so and build up that wonderful argument), but I’m going to try and hammer it out at least 10 more drafts before school ends at the Writing Center and possibly a few professors who know me well to see what they think…the drafts I had to write for my personal statement in my Fulbright application were incredible. I really think I went through over 15 drafts of that essay and multiple visits to the Writing Center (and I work there! xD). But wow, every time I read those essays to myself, I get chills. I just can’t believe I wrote something so amazing and it lasts. It really lasts. The feeling.

There’s no secret to quality writing (or really anything for that matter in this world). I think if you work hard at something, you’ll achieve greatness in all aspects of your life. Of course, the support system needs to be there. I can’t imagine doing well in a school that lacks resources or doesn’t care to see me become successful. All in all, put your best effort in, evaluate as you go, and you’ll know where and who you want to be.

Happy April! Sure doesn’t feel like it with the weather and all, but hey, I’m never surprised. Love Chicago! <3

#WaddleItBe?: Making a media event for Shedd Aquarium

About a month ago, I received a new project at my internship for the Shedd Aquarium: Brainstorm for a media event/campaign to announce the gender of a recently hatched penguin chick and create awareness about penguin breeding season. I was beyond excited – who doesn’t love penguin chicks? Also, this was a chance for me to get great public relations experience and learn more while making this campaign. So right away, I started drafting up some ideas.

To give you a little background, Shedd’s adorable rockhopper penguin chick, pictured below, hatched in June 2013. Genders in rockhopper penguins are typically not easily distinguishable compared to us humans. It takes genetic testing to determine the gender of a penguin chick. After a recent check-up, Shedd vets were able to determine the gender of the chick.

Penguin Chick

Penguin chick Credit ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

After doing some research, I presented my idea to Shedd’s public relations team and the agency it works with: Have Shedd host a gender reveal party-esque media event in which we have a grand reveal for the chick’s gender. I was able to work with the PR team to assist in planning all activities for this project. In addition to drafting media advisory’s and assuring that our penguin experts were available to help with this event, the team worked with More Cupcakes to make a special penguin cupcake that would be given to local media in support of the event.

This project really allowed me to put my UIC communication and management courses and previous internship skills to the test. I assisted the PR team with drafting a media advisory and a pitch targeted towards radio stations, using my writing skills I learn from my communication classes. I helped draft a project timeline, using my management skills from my business courses. I also was able to contact my former internship place, Clear Channel Media + Entertainment, to coordinate a cupcake drop-off for the morning show hosts. I have been truly grateful for the communication classes and previous internships I have had that helped me understand the public relations and media world better. It made this project much easier to draft considering the knowledge I have gained.

For a good month, the rest of Shedd’s public relations team and I continued to implement the project plans we drafted and assured that we had a really nice, entertaining, and news-worthy event. After much work, we certainly got it!

The morning of the event, Shedd’s public relation’s team dropped off our delicious penguin More Cupcakes to local news outlets. Also, I dropped them off at Clear Channel Media + Entertainment for the radio hosts to enjoy. Things were coming together!

On Monday, March 24 we held our #WaddleItBe gender reveal party media event in front of Shedd’s penguin habitat. NBC, Fox News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the RedEye all came out to cover the event. We had our penguin caretakers talk about the current penguin breeding season, how to determine a gender in penguin chicks, and finally, reveal the gender of the chick. After cutting into a More Cupcakes penguin-decorated cake, the pink inner-filling revealed that the penguin chick is a girl! It was really nice to see all the media and Shedd guest onlookers get excited to hear the reveal and enjoy their penguin cupcakes. It was really the cherry on top of a great project to see that firsthand

Cutting the penguin cake! Credit ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

To make this whole project even better, we have seen even more national and local media pick-up of the gender reveal party. It’s pretty crazy to think that something that started off as a small idea became so huge in the end. It has truly been an amazing experience to be part of my first big Shedd project and to see the team be so successful with our end results. This project not only made me feel successful and grateful for the knowledge and experiences I have had that led me to this, but also grateful for the current internship I have at Shedd Aquarium. I know that because of this experience I will be even better equipped for my current post-graduate job search.

Until next time…

Mike

Penguin More Cupcakes

Free from oil dependency…

Why is it that no one seems to care as much about the environment than they do other issues when the devastation to our earth is irreversible, massive extinctions of eco-systems are occurring due to our warming planet, and we’re polluting our waters with oil, over and over again? 

There was an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last Saturday when a vessel collided with a barge that was carrying millions of gallons of toxic fuel, unleashing almost 200,000 gallons of oil into Galveston Bay.  There have already been thousands of birds reportedly drenched in oil.

That’s not all.  There was another oil spill.  But this time, much closer to home.  In Whiting, Indiana, the BP refinery reported oil spilling into Lake Michigan.  SPILLING INTO LAKE MICHIGAN.  Where we get our drinking water.  They apparently “don’t know how much oil has spilled,”  but Mike Beslow, the EPA’s emergency response coordinator says there APPEARED to be no negative affects on Lake Michigan.  I don’t know.  Do you believe that?

This is getting out of hand.  Actually, it’s been out of hand.

As big as these oil spills are, they don’t even scratch the surface of the problem.

We need change.  We, ourselves, need to change.

Have you heard of the TESLA car company?  Tesla is the first company to make completely electric cars that require no gas.  Why wouldn’t everyone want that if it means it will protect our earth from catastrophic devastation?  Here is the blog posted by TESLA on the issue of Chris Christie banning the sale of TESLA in the state of New Jersey: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/defending-innovation-and-consumer-choice-new-jersey

This past Saturday was Earth Hour (http://www.earthhour.org/) .  Millions of people across the world shut off their lights for one hour to raise awareness for our planet in need.  It’s always celebrated at Pie-eyed Pizzeria. Here are some photos of previous years.  Everyone needs to start caring more about our planet.  There are people in power who make a lot of money keeping us dependent on oil and are trying to keep companies like TESLA at bay.  It’s time we all step up and do something about it.  Please check out these websites:

http://www.earthhour.org/join-the-hour

http://audubon.org

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/25/refinery-operations-bp-whiting-idUSL1N0MM0RQ20140325

www.earthjustice.org

 

 

The luckiest race of the year

♪♫♪ Here we are, bending feet / In the dark before dreamless sleep…

Exactly one year ago, my dad and I started our tradition of running 5Ks together. My dad, who runs the newspaper Chicago Chinese News, is one of the hardest workers I know who barely makes enough time to sleep. When I started my fitness craze (now a lifestyle) the summer before college, I started pestering him more to exercise and eat healthy. Even though I worked out and played a few sports in high school, I didn’t really start paying attention to staying in shape until then. I started to drag my dad to the YMCA more often, and I personally started to push myself in running. After I ran my first 5K race, the 2012 Turkey Trot in Naperville, I persuaded my dad to sign up for the St. Patrick’s Day run in 2013 with me. Although the first run was hard, I was really proud that he relentlessly kept going and finished! At that time, it was only my second race I had ever run too, and we were both surprised by the frigid cold morning air. It was a much bigger challenge than just running inside on the track! Regardless, Naperville 5Ks are really fun and easy since the course is set in downtown Naperville in familiar terrain. There are no real surprises for me to worry about and I can just enjoy the run. Following our first run, we then ran the Chinatown 5K last July which took place, of course, in Chinatown Chicago. It was quite the opposite experience since the weather was so hot! Yet we still both finished with better times – plus the opening Lion Dance was pretty exciting to watch!

This year, I was once again able to convince my dad to sign up for the Naperville St. Paddy’s Day 5K with me. I find that running 5Ks may well be the best motivator to make my dad carve out 30 minutes to an hour a day for some form of exercise so he will at least try to be ready for them. When I live at school all the time, it’s harder for me to just grab the car keys and say, “Come on, we’re going to the gym!” But still, I try to keep my dad motivated since it helps me stay healthy as well! Since I go to the rec center almost every day, it’s easy for me to remember to send him a reminder text or call to exercise as well. The length of 5K races also work out very nicely – not too long so that it becomes too exhausting, but long enough to be a challenge.

We ran the exact same course for the same race this year, so I think we were both more confident and prepared this time (aside from the fact that I was still freezing cold! I’m just too spoiled from the nice indoor track we have at UIC). In fact, we both beat our personal records for 5Ks! I haven’t run a 5K in what feels like a long time. The last race I ran was actually way back in November (the Perfect 10 10K at Navy Pier) and then before that I ran a half marathon. I meant to take a little time off of running races in order to just work out without training, but I realized that I actually really missed the adrenaline that can only come from race days. After taking a few months off, it felt nice to ease back into things by running a 5K this time! I’ve been working out pretty frequently by running 40+ minutes, so the 5K felt alright to me, and I tried to expend more energy to run a faster time. I was surprised to find that my time was 24:50, which was a good 30 seconds lower than my best 5K time before! My dad also beat his time last year by over 5 minutes as well, so I’m so proud of him for keeping up with an exercise regimen even with his crazy busy work schedule.

It might be ironic since my family has never celebrated St. Patrick’s Day before, but now my dad and I may have a reason. Hopefully we’ll continue this tradition for years to come and keep signing up for races together.

…Abacus haunting me / Abacus watching me ♪♫♪

Quitting

I didn’t plan on writing about this, but I don’t think this thought will stop consuming me until I acknowledge it…

I’ve been thinking- what does it mean to “quit”? What are the implications? Who is at loss when this term is used? What does it all mean? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word quit is defined as “to leave; to stop working; to stop doing.” The dictionary also frequently mentions the word free as one of the alternative definitions to the term. The definition I just mentioned (and especially the word free!) are by no means negative. The first part seems incredibly neutral, and free definitely sounds positive and uplifting.

In that case, why does the word “quit” have such a negative connotation? Why does the action of leaving or walking away or moving on need to be referred to as quitting?

When you stop doing something, there is usually some reason behind it, and that reason generally comes from a place of self-reflection. Thinking about the fact that whatever you are doing or whatever is going on is no longer (or never was) beneficial to you. I’m not speaking specifically about any one thing. I just feel like this goes along with one of my previous posts about making sure you are truly happy with where you are at. Why should you continue to do something that hinders your happiness or makes you change who you are or just isn’t right for you? You shouldn’t.

And just because something was once all you ever wanted or something you thoroughly enjoyed, that isn’t to say you are making a mistake by not feeling the same way anymore and wanting to move on to something else. That means you were able to recognize that you are growing as an individual and your life is constantly changing. Stopping doing something almost always opens more doors for the future. Other opportunities arise that may not have been accessible to you before. Oftentimes, quitting isn’t quitting at all. It’s moving on at a time that is right for you. Just because you were no longer able to see something to the end doesn’t mean you are immature or lazy or whatever else you would anticipate someone to say. It means you know your limits.

All this talk doesn’t mean I think we should just float around, picking things up and abandoning them along the way, haphazardly moving through our lives. Instead, I think you should find what matters to you in the current moment of your life, run with it, and give it your all. Use your passion. Make it count and make a difference. If at some point you no longer feel it’s right (or if you notice a change in your mental/physical/emotional health and can clearly identify the cause), consider what it means to move beyond the experience or opportunity or whatever it may be. Don’t make a quick decision, though- think long and hard. Give it another day…week…whatever it takes. When the answer is 100% clear to you one way or another, act accordingly.

Obviously there are still things we need to do that we can’t just walk away from, but for the things in life on which you have a choice, utilize that ability. Make the most of it so that you don’t look back and wonder why you put yourself through something that wasn’t worth it to you at any point. Make sure you are happy.

So even if someone else may look at what you are doing as quitting, know in your head and heart that that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because when you can make an informed, mature decision, you’ll know that you didn’t act irrationally and made the choice that made you happiest.

Enjoy the last few days of break…

As happy as a Chinese girl learning Polish can be

Let’s break this past week down, shall we?

  1. Second exam of anatomy and physiology is over.
  2. Round two of MCAT is over.
  3. Submission of abstracts for RARE and SRF are sent.
  4. Spring break is here (although I am making up my hours missed in the research lab and scribing effectively).

I’m not sure what to feel at the moment, whether I should be relieved or freaking out. I won’t find out about my MCAT score for another month, and even if I felt it went OK, I don’t want to give my hopes up like last year. I did surprisingly well on the anatomy and physiology exam, even though the whole time I was going blank on less than half of the questions and I was worried I was going to miss over 10 questions! Phew. I still have to wait on my lab exam, but hopefully I didn’t miss too many. I’m preparing for my research presentation at the UIC Student Research Forum as well as Recognition for Achievement, Research and Excellence in the Kinesiology and Nutrition department (although I am technically part of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, but I guess my minor in human nutrition counts). Need to prep that poster up! I was also nominated to go to Posters Under the Dome where a select few undergraduates can present their research in Springfield, Illinois. I’m excited to sign up and go, but I would have to reschedule my final exam in BIOS 221 if I do since I’d be gone the whole day. I need to think about it a little more…

There’s technically only a little over a month until I graduate. It’s crazy how fast four years past! I still feel like I just got here, haha. Well, I won’t get mushy here yet. Perhaps closer to the end of the semester I will. I’m waiting to hear back from the Fulbright committee in Taiwan if I have been offered a scholarship. I probably won’t hear back until the end of April, the same time that I will hear back about my MCAT score! It’ll either be a yay-yay, yay-nay, or nay-nay day. I’ll keep you posted on the exact details.

On another note, I’ve been having a wonderful time learning Polish again. I can’t explain how much of a relief it is to go from reviewing kinetic and thermodynamic control of organic molecules for the MCAT to running through the layers of vessels and remembering the differences between large and small arteries or veins…and then peeking at my calendar for my list of to do’s with “oh man I still have Polish homework”, but then feel the rush of actually doing the homework and listening to the CDs that come with the textbook and end up saying “OK, one more time because I really want to know what they’re saying…” to inadvertently being all giddy when good grammar clicks in my head. It’s so fulfilling, and my advice to those who’ve always wanted to learn another language and have not had the chance to, it’s never too late! Never in a million years would I think that I would learn another language such as Polish. Spanish was an easy choice for most to choose, and while I will most likely have to learn it in the future, I didn’t have to learn Polish by any means. I already fulfilled my language credit with Mandarin (it’s a shame they do not have upper level language courses beyond 104 or 112!), but I was without the experience of learning an entirely foreign, new language. And how could I leave college without that experience?

I think about what it means to have a liberal arts education, and while it may or may not prepare one for the world ahead, it at least does its best to do so. I know many who pursue a liberal arts education do not find their career coming right out of college. Why? Well, it’s hard to translate philosophy, English or another humanities major into terms that employers can understand (employers, feel free to butt in with your own opinion on the issue). Apparently, and this is what I have gleaned from my peers, two things come into mind for the typical student pursuing liberal arts major: teaching and law. It boggles me, but after considering what we do in those classes, it makes total sense.

What is the skill that we are exercising in these classes? Critical thinking is the main one, and the second is reading and writing. Anything else? When I think about my “liberal arts education”, it’s a lot of the former with a vast amount of memorization of scientific facts and concepts. Do we learn to apply it here in college? I’ll be honest; I don’t think so. Until I met the MCAT, I did not understand what “application” really meant. The crash course with Kaplan helped, and my extra reading with the Berkeley Review assisted in formulating this idea, but in my actual classes? I can’t recall a time. Perhaps this is one of the cons of public education and the reason most private universities are labeled as “top universities”. The approaches are different. Here, we memorize like there’s no tomorrow and we cram like there’s no tomorrow. Over there (some magical place in a private institution), they read, apply and synthesize information. In other words, those students think much differently on many levels compared to how most students here think. And maybe this different idea of thinking is distinctly evident in the job market post-college.

Sometimes I feel very “one path-ed” in my way of approaching problems, and that’s not going to make me stand out once I’m out there in the real world. Of course, I’m thankful for being insane and forcing myself into as many uncomfortable situations as possible to see how I would do and react (so that the next time it ever happened, I would know what to do or at least have a mediator). So, for the time being, I’ll be all right. For my peers and those still in school? I want to explore more options for them. Once you’re out of school, it’s very difficult to decide to change everything you ever knew about yourself and your goals, but it’s such a common blockade for people to go through because they didn’t understand while they were in college at the time what they wanted to do.

Or rather, they had their life all planned out. They’d go to school, get a job right away or get into graduate school and then get married, have kids and life a happy life with a nice standard of living than the one you were born into. And then, maybe senior year of college of post-college things instantly changed. You had to pay for your own rent, worry about paying off your college debt, budget for food and/or adjusting your resume and cover letters for every job opening you saw online. Shamed and did not want to ask for help, a hole was dug and anxiety built up. It’s crazy how typical this scenario is, and I wonder what the equivalent of this is like in other countries. I remember I was listening to my Mandarin language instructor here at UIC discuss what education is like in Germany. Apparently this is how it works: anyone can attend any class they want. For the class that they actually want to count towards credit, they take the exams accordingly and pass or fail them. It is not atypical to be an undergraduate student for eight years. EIGHT YEARS! I think FAFSA is available for a maximum of 5-6 years or something like that. I don’t know what I would do without governmental aid in paying for my education. I probably wouldn’t even go to college because it’s too expensive.

Have I gained more than what I have lost? I definitely think so. I suppose I can thank my uneventful high school experience as playing a role in most of what actions I took in college. I did sports, played instruments and studied, but it didn’t help me discover myself or challenge me as college did. While the quality of education was immensely different, there were pros and cons to all methods. In the end, college really is what you make of it, and if I was a freshman I’d probably do exactly what I did coming in. As for those who are past this stage and off to search for the next chapter in their lives with no clue where to go, perhaps they would want to return to school and do something different. The cons of going back to school may seem to outweigh the pros at first glance, but I personally think going back to school would open many doors and networks that were unavailable during a time that one is unattached to a university or academic resource. Then again, not sure what Master’s degrees can do for some people who may actually want to get PhD’s and they just don’t know it. There’s a lot of researching to do, but go with your gut and roll with the punches because this is life and we’re in it together.

Enjoy your spring break, UIC! One more month until summer (and that usually means really great weather!). I’m pretty psyched.

Making Good Use of Spring Break

Like most students, every break I tend to sleep until noon and then start my short day after. Breaks certainly haven’t been the most productive times for me. But hey…after 10 long weeks of school, I deserve to sleep in and do nothing…right? Eh..maybe. But nevertheless, this break I simply cannot afford to “do nothing.” I have to get to work!

I’m really looking forward to break not because I’ll be on a beach or because I can forget all the worries of the world…but rather I can actually catch up on everything that I need to do right now. Catch up with family, school readings, student government work, personal errands, and etc. etc. I’m also trying to squeeze in some ME time too, perhaps hang in the city for a day, go out with friends, and read a book or two, and watch plenty of movies. SO much to do…so little time.

The other reason why I’m taking this spring break more serious with time is because theoretically, this could be my last break ever. I am hoping to land a job soon after I graduate. If I am lucky and able to do so, I’m not going to have much time to get all of my little things done once I am working full time. Once break is over, everything is going come at me fast and furiously. About a month countdown until graduation! Now is the time to get down to work.

Phew…I’m getting all excited just thinking about all of the stuff I need and want to do. But tell me – what do you plan on doing during spring break?

Until next time…

Mike

 

 

Never a dull moment

Busy, busy, busy.  That’s my life.  I don’t know if this semester is easier or I am used to having very little (and I mean VERY little) free time. It’s hard to believe this week is my last week of practicum.  I’ve been looking forward to this for EVER! But when we were on a bus coming back from our field trip, I told a couple of the students it was my last week, they got pretty upset.  The rest of the ride they just laid their heads on me.  Although, they could have been exhausted from me dragging them all around the Kohl Children’s Museum all day.  (I’ll go with they were sad because I’m leaving). On the upside, when practicum is over, I can work out every morning!!!

This week is also when Lollapalooza tickets go on sale.  Already? I’m still paying off LAST years Lolla tickets!!!  As much as I love the whole 3-day experience, I don’t think I can afford it this year.  Also, I’m not that into the headliners that have been announced.

I like Kings of Leon, but I’ve seen them multiple times already and I’m not sure that they have come out with a ton of new stuff recently, either.

Lollapalooza 2013

I’d see Eminem but it’s definitely not something I’ll be upset about missing.

Arctic Monkeys, they’re ok.

Skrillex….yea…I don’t really listen to techno or dubstep or whatever kind of music he makes.

Moving on…St. Pattys was fun! I had a blast with my cousin and my boyfriend.  We went to The Kerryman, Glascotts, and OF COURSE Pie-eyed Pizzeria!
Lastly, this week my favorite little guy in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD is turning 3!!!! I can’t believe it! I started nannying him when he was just 4-5 months old.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAM!! I love you stinker!

 

In defense of the English major

♪♫♪ Caught by the light, aware but asleep…

As a science major and pre-med student, something I hear often from my peers who are taking the same challenging courses as me is the remark that English majors will never know the difficulty of upper level biology, organic chemistry, or physics courses. During physics class the other day I heard a student remark, “It must be really nice to be an English major—you read some stuff and write some essays the night before they’re due for an A.”

That struck a nerve with me. I know several people who are majoring in English, and it is neither less challenging nor less important than any other subject. It bothers me that some students are so quick to criticize other disciplines of study because it seems easier than their own. A student’s goals are his or her own concern, so attacking someone’s education by dismissing it as easy or useless seems like a vindictive way to feel superior to someone else. Everyone is on a different path, so comparing yourself to others really helps no one.

There are a lot of aspects to the English major that I feel go largely unrecognized. On a surface level, it may seem easy to simplify the work level into reading books and writing papers, but what English majors are really able to accomplish is so much more impressive. A year ago as a freshman, I strongly considered double majoring in Biology and English, but my major choices have changed since then as I keep trying to trip my way to a major I’m most comfortable with. However, I still have a strong love for literature and writing that I defend most ardently.

First of all, I think the most impressive aspect of an English major is that nearly everything you are graded upon is done so subjectively. Unlike biology, chemistry, physics, or other science courses that use practice of formulas or other concepts, there is absolutely no way you could memorize or “practice-problem” your way to a good grade. Of course grammar and mechanics are important to use correctly, but those are just the nuts and bolts that anyone could learn. You have to whole-heartedly put your thoughts out for judgment by a new professor or TA for every class without knowing the values or ideals of whoever will be reading and grading your work. Moreover, these graders have probably read thousands of essays and analyses on the same topics with years and years of experience on the novel, poem, or play you are examining. In order to receive a good grade, the English student must somehow discern an original thought, support it, and put it on paper in ink. Their ideas are completely put out, open for judgment. There is no clear-cut right or wrong answer, which makes grading so much more difficult to predict. As someone who took ENGL 241 (English Literature I, Beginnings through Milton) last year, I know how nerve-wracking it was the first time turning in a pivotal essay and not really knowing what to expect for a grade. Was my writing style acceptable? Were my ideas and analysis developed, or were they too elementary?

These papers are a direct reflection of your thinking. While I have heard students say, “It’s just BS-ing some ideas about what this imagery and tone mean in this story.” But to demean this kind of writing as trite “BS” is drastically undermining what writers are doing. It’s extremely impressive to be able to write something that takes a stance that you may or may not even agree with. It may be even very obviously wrong and lacks proper support, but the amazing thing about English majors is that they will be able to effectively formulate a coherent argument on paper to make you believe it. This skill is incredibly important for everyday interactions – to be able to analyze someone’s argument without immediately refuting it. You are able to consider another side and truly understand someone’s viewpoint instead of just listening to come up with a counterpoint to argue with.

Another incredibly awesome part of studying English is that everything you do, see, hear, study, and experience is relevant. Whether it is directly literary or not, anything can be applied to the human condition and the world around us. Does that sound easy and generalized? Maybe, but it’s also so interesting to see something completely unexpected and unrelated somehow tied back into an essay. English majors are able to take the information from ridiculous places and relate it back to the topic that they are studying. Suddenly, the study of the momentum a car hitting a truck feels from physics could be worked into a paper on Shelley’s Frankenstein, or maybe the ancient Egyptian perspectives of beauty could somehow be brought up in a paper on Jane Austen…the possibilities are endless. Everything an English major student can be relevant. There’s no sheet of relevant formulas to memorize, no reagents or product patterns to commit to memory, and no definite A-Z definition of what might be important or not. These students have memorized information from their other courses to the extent that they are able to incorporate it into their everyday thoughts, interpretations, and writing in a seamless manner. That is probably the most impressive thing about the English major itself – that even though you can never memorize your way to an A, the heart of your writing is based on a much deeper level of memorization that you’ve relied on all your life.

Finally, the English major is a pursuit of passion. A student who chooses to major in English is doing so because they want to, not for the money. This may not be as true for many science, math, or engineering fields where many students are trying to secure a good job after graduation. When you walk into an English class, you’ll find a diverse group of people from all kinds of backgrounds with different interpretations of the content of the course. In this way, every single English class that is taught will always be a little different than any other. Each individual of the class will frame their experience into what they are learning.  In the end, that’s what I believe makes majoring in English the real challenge. It’s the experience of incorporating your experiences in the world around you into your writing in order to make it more convincing.

…In the memory it’s deeper, survived by a name ♪♫♪

(Caught By The Light – The Boxer Rebellion)

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