Author Archives: Sarah Lee

About Sarah Lee

Hi, I'm Sarah! I am a junior Neuroscience student in GPPA Medicine who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in my life. One day I want to be fluent in Russian and explore Eastern Europe. In my free time, I love running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. I currently live in Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor but my home is in Naperville.

Registration and looking ahead

It’s always just stay, it’s always just stay / Never just go, never just go…

Whenever registration tickets begin, it kind of feels like “happy Hunger Games!” for me and I’m left praying the odds will be ever in my favor. With limited spots and preferred professors/time slots, everyone seems to rush to register for all of the spots that would be most convenient to me. Luckily, this past semester, with more credit hours accumulated, I was able to register pretty early and I was able to craft my schedule more thoughtfully. With this school year winding down, it’s hard not to just look ahead at what’s to come.

There’s a famous quote by Lao Tzu that says, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” I have an unfortunate tendency to live in anywhere but the present. Sometime, of course, it’s debilitating because I unravel things that happened over and over in my head because I’m too caught up on little details to focus on what’s happening now. However, at times it helps me because I’m constantly mentally planning ahead and envisioning what I want to do. I get very excited about imagining what I will be doing a week from today…a month from today…a semester, a year, 10 years…

Just looking ahead to next year though, I am so excited to say that I will be returning to Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor again! I will be living on the third floor this time, which I think may be a little different from my experience on first floor, and I can’t wait to see what it’s like to live in a 8-person cluster for the first time. I am so happy to be rehired and can’t wait to interact with residents again—with more experience this time as well!

In any case, now that my plans are more aligned and I am registered for courses, what’s left for me is to finish off the semester as strongly as possible. I’ve been actually doing a pretty good job keeping up with things (for once!), and I’m excited to see what’s coming!

In case you had trouble registering for classes you want this time, here are some little tips for you in the future that helped me out a lot!:

1) Actually CHECK your registration time

It always surprises me how many people seem to neglect to check their time to register. UIC is usually pretty good about reminding you to check about your registration through email, so always be on the lookout for those reminders. It’s really easy and fast – just log into your my.uic.eduaccount and then click on Registration under the Academics tab. Then LOG THAT DATE into your calendar, whether that means setting a phone reminder, inputting it into Google docs, or writing it on a sticky note. You don’t want to forget and miss out on your best time to register!

2) Plan out your courses in advance!

The scheduling tab on the website will have the next semester class schedules and course code numbers listed early, so it will definitely be to your advantage to figure out what exactly you are taking next semester and making sure the times will work out for you. You don’t want a nasty surprise on your registration day when you realize two or more of your classes have time conflicts, and you have to rearrange your whole course plan for the next few semesters! Write down the different time options for your classes and start with the one that is least flexible and build the rest of your schedule from there. You will have a much easier time of figuring out what class works where! In addition to that, have a contingency plan ready if needed. If the CRN you picked out beforehand ends up full when you register, it’ll be more stressful to scramble to figure out a completely new schedule on the spot. Try to have a few possible course plans mapped out for your next semester so that you might be ready to switch things around. If that proves difficult with the courses you have to take for your major, be sure to make an appointment with your advisor early and ask for assistance!

3) Know your preferences!

Will you be braindead until 10 AM? Then AVOID those 8 AMs and 9 AMs! That can be tough sometimes depending on class availabilities, but try to play to your strengths as much as possible. Some people value being done early in the day over sleeping in – then you might want to end your day at 2 or 3 PM if possible. Some people value having entire days off (I’m always envious of them!) and don’t mind going from 8 AM to 4 PM in order to have an extra day off during the week. In addition, when scheduling your classes, try to think ahead and figure out times that you will probably spend studying or participating in an activity. If you have a 3 hour gap between classes, maybe you’ll head to the gym for a workout or hit the library to get some studying done. Visualize your schedule out for each day so that there are no surprises when the semester begins.

Hopefully that makes registration a little bit more stress-free! In the end, the number one tip is to be as prepared as possible when the time comes again!

We fell in love in stereo / Then he broke my heart in stereo

(Love in Stereo - Sky Ferreira)

Shamrock Shuffling

I turn the music up / I got my records on / I shut the world outside until the lights come on…

Happy Spring, Chicago! At last the seemingly endless winter has ended. It’s terrific to be able to walk outside in just a light jacket or even short sleeves again! I even joined some students who were studying the quad the other day between classes. It was quite a wonderful sight to see after a long, harsh winter that left most of campus empty with people rushing to get indoors all the time. I’m hoping the warmth is here to stay!

With summer approaching fast, I’m excited for many new races to try, and I’m already signed up for a few of them in the summer and the fall, including a color run for the very first time! It’s been on my bucket list for a long time now to do a color run, so I can’t wait to be able to run the Color In Motion 5K in June with a few of my friends. I also tossed my name in for the lottery for a chance to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon…I’m not sure if I’ll get lucky and be selected, but if I actually do get the opportunity to run it, I’d be so excited, although probably quite nervous as well. I remember how tough the Half Marathon was…running twice that distance would be extremely challenging.

To get myself excited and kick off the running season, I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K! The race
was on Sunday, March 30th, the last day of Spring Break, so I found it to be the perfect way to end my week of relaxation before going back to school refreshed. Although it was my second time running the Shamrock Shuffle, it was actuaully my first time ever running an entire race with somebody! One of my best friends Brandon and I ran the entire 5 miles together, and it was a very motivating experience. It was his first race ever, which was pretty amazing since he never an a 5K, which is what most runners start with.
I especially love the Shamrock Shuffle because while it’s more challenging than a 5K, it’s not overly strenuous like a half marathon or 10 mile run that would require weeks and weeks of training. Brandon and I ran in Wave 2, which started around 9 AM. I was hoping that starting later would mean that it might be a bit warmer, but alas that was not the case! Even though the weather is much nicer now, it was still absolutely frigid just a few weeks ago. As someone who feels cold very easily, I was shivering while I was running all the way until mile 4!

(Brandon also laughed at me because at one point I resorted to running with both of my hands tucked across my chest beneath my armpits to keep them warm. I must have looked really silly running like that, but hey, it was really cold! My fingers were FREEZING!)

I’m really proud of both of us. Even though we had anticipated that we would need to walk at some point during the race to recover, we actually never stopped or even slowed down until the finish line! Additionally, I achieved a personal landmark of not listening to music while I ran. That was a definite first for me, since usually I  am crazy reliant on my music to help me get through the tougher times during a run. I think I should try running without music more often, as it really made me focus more on my breathing and made me pay attention to my surroundings. Hopefully, with the upcoming good weather, I’ll have plenty of chances to go jogging outside and explore new running locations!

As we soar walls, every siren is a symphony / And every tear’s a waterfall

Saying goodbye to the yellow umbrella

It’s crazy to think that one of my favorite shows of all time is now over, a journey through television and Netflix that is, for me, 5+ years into the making. Of course I am referring to How I Met Your Mother, the legendary recount of how the hopeless-romantic-architect-professor Ted Mosby will finally meet the titular Mother and conclude his 9 season long story to his poor two children who supposedly have been sitting on the couch the whole time. This particular post will remain largely spoiler-free in case you haven’t had the chance to watch this series (give it a try!) or the finale yet. And word about the finale has been buzzing in editorials and reviews all over the Internet lately, so I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on what the series meant to me.

Yes, after years of waiting for it, Barney Stinson bids us to do, we FINALLY saw how exactly Ted and the mysterious Mother (who still remained unnamed until the finale) meet! Although theories of both joy and sorrow (including even death theories) were flying all over the Internet, I was simply still taken aback that my favorite television series will be concluded. No more sweet bickering and resolutions of the favorite married couple Marshall and Lily; no more legendary plays from the Playbook or cited scripture from the Bro Code from Barney Stinson, who managed to trip his way into love with the Scotch-drinking, gun-weilding Robin Scherbatsky, my favorite headstrong and independent heroine on screen. This show has always been my go-to marathon show whenever I’m sad, happy, or just need some background noise when I’m feeling extra lonely. I’ve watched this show in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. My best friends and I have adopted code names and references stolen from running gags…our lives have been integrated with slap bets, Lemon Laws, “lawyered”, condolence-fives, “single’s stamina”, Blah-Blah, the hot-crazy scale, having “baggage”…the list goes on.

All these little callbacks help make this show so legendary and timeless for me. It has always been very common for me to become extremely emotionally invested in fictional characters in both books and television shows (i.e. see Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad), and the gang from HIMYM have been in my life since my high school years. It’s very hard for me to be satisfied with any kind of finale or definitive ending for them because that would mean accepting that learning and growing with the show is no longer part of my life.

Many people make light of how Ted’s story has taken literally 9 years to tell, but in my opinion that’s not the point. Of course people want to hear the title story – how he MET the mother – but would any of us really want to give up the journey along the way, fraught with lessons and jokes and Bob Saget’s voice? What would the Mother even mean to us if we didn’t learn of all of Ted’s little mis-encounters with love, all of his mistakes (i.e. butterfly tattoo, Mosbious Designs, the re-return), and all of his lessons he’s learned – the most important of which was how to let someone go. Like many fans, I see myself in the characters of this show, which make them all the more relatable and meaningful to us.

All of this being said, if you are a HIMYM fan, it can’t be a secret that the finale was a major gamechanger (*salute*) that, for me, overturned seasons of character development and themes.

I for one will hold these characters dear to my heart for years and years to come. When I enter my 30s, I’ll look to the lessons of Barney and Ted to look for direction. When I suffer some heartbreak and need to forget my own Robin, I’ll look to Ted as well. I’m saying a bittersweet farewell – but I’m sure I’ll pull them up on Netflix again before long.

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 ♪♫♪

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)

Inspiration, move me brightly

♪♫♪ The storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice / His job is to shed light, and not to master

You likely noticed already that I consider music an enormous influence in my life. It’s hard for me to imagine going through a day without listening to my playlists because I rely on music so much to get through the day. Frankly, I’m addicted to my headphones. Whether I’m running laps on the track at the rec, cramming schoolwork at the library, or just walking across the Quad from LCA to BSB, my fingers always compulsively reach for my earbuds to catch even a few minutes of a song. And I don’t listen to the first song on shuffle either – I am very meticulous and picky about the song I listen to at an exact moment, because music plays one of the biggest influences on my mood, demeanor, and emotions at any time.

In my psychology class, we covered memory and its effects on the brain during our last unit. Something we covered was retrieval cues and how the brain uses encoding specificity in order to preserve long term memory and make the process of remembering more smooth and permanent. While there are many songs that I am apathetic towards, I believe that certain songs – especially those that have grown so familiar to me that I am able to anticipate every beat, every dynamic, every rhythm – have encoded themselves so firmly into my memory that they evoke the strongest grip of emotion for me. They remind me of a time, place, or person, and I am taken from wherever I am to that time. Sometimes the experience is too hard for me to handle and I find I have to skip the song even before it starts playing.

I’m sure this all sounds very melodramatic, but music has always been that powerful for me, and that is why it has always been my greatest mechanism of escape and remembrance. It’s why I am constantly making playlist after playlist that are titled with names, locations, dates, or obscure meanings only I could discern. The memory unit in psychology was fascinating to me because it helped me realize how music plays such a profound influence in my everyday life. It astounds me that procedural memory, an aspect of long-term memory, involves actual physical changes in the brain when it is being stored. To me, this signifies that certain songs – and by their associations, certain people and places – have literally changed the structure of my brain because of the impact they have had on my life.

All of these thoughts in class made me happy that I switched to a Neuroscience major. It excites me to be able to explore the dynamic changes in the brain when we undergo powerful emotions and experiences in life.

In contrast to the songs that I skip because they might make me too upset to listen to them, there are also many songs that hold the exact opposite effect for me! I listen to them specifically because they are personally uplifting and improve my mood at the moment. Even if they can be childish or silly, sometimes just hearing them can improve my worst day and motivate me. In case you ever find yourself in need of some uplifting music, check out just a few songs on my uplifting playlist:

  • Peaches by New Heights
  • Slow Me Down by Emmy Rossum
  • Romantic Flight – John Powell
  • Nothing Ever Happens by Rachel Platten
  • Wunderkind by Alanis Morissette
  • Stay Stay Stay by Taylor Swift
  • Olsen Olsen by Sigur Ros
  • Boats and Birds – Gregory and the Hawk
  • Anna Sun – Walk the Moon
  • Daydream by Tycho

If you’re ever feeling down, consider looking up one of these songs! Perhaps they may lift your spirits as they do for me.

You’re back in terrapin, for good or ill again, for good or ill again. ♪♫♪

Terrapin Station - Grateful Dead

Trading Cultures in Chicago

♪♫♪ I was close to a fault line / Heaven knows, you showed up in time / Was it real?

Last Saturday I had the chance to volunteer with the Trade Winds group at UIC at the Illinois Medical District guest house! Trade Winds is a semester program that is run by UIC OIS (Office of International Services) in which domestic students are paired with international students in order to spend time together throughout the semester to learn about each other’s cultures. The program is unique in that it’s mutually beneficial for all participants. International students are able to learn about things to do in Chicago, UIC, and American cultures and traditions. As a domestic student who has grown in the Chicagoland area my whole life, I am able to learn about cultures, traditions, and values from around the world while making friends and connections that really last. This program offers one of the most welcoming and accepting environments I’ve experienced, and any Trade Winds hosted event is always fun and meaningful. Another great thing about Trade Winds is that the partners decide what they want to do based on their similarities. I participated in Trade Winds during the fall semester as well, and my partner and I had a great time bonding over some delicious food in Chicago! It was a great way to try some new restaurants while getting to know someone from another country. I definitely recommend Trade Winds to all of my friends as a way to experience a different culture within the city of Chicago.

Last week I was able to attend the Trade Winds service event for this semester, which involved making care packages for the people who stay at the Illinois Medical District guest house. I initially looked up the address and traveled there by blue line, but to my utter surprise I found myself right in front of Polk Street Residence (PSR)! Despite having visited PSR many times before, I had no idea that there was actually a guest house connected to the residence halls on west campus. It’s a little bit of a maze inside of there because all of the building are connected one way or another, but after we walked through SSR, eventually we found ourselves in the community room of the guest house.

The IMD guest house, for those who are unaware (like I was) is a safe place that provides accommodations for patients and family or friends of patients at Stroger Hospital or Rush University Health Center at an affordable price. This provides people a safe and warm place to stay while they or their loved ones are receiving health care nearby. I had no idea that there was such a wonderful resource available nearby our school! I was excited to volunteer my time to support the people there and hope to do so again in the near future.

There was a great turnout from our Trade Winds group as we all assembled on Saturday to make dozens of care packages for the people who are staying there. While we worked through a makeshift assembly line to fill bags with all kinds of snacks, we talked and laughed over stories and got to know each other. A few of us, including me, helped out by writing several greeting cards to the package recipients that had positive messages to uplift their spirits. In the end, we had dozens of care packages that each had a greeting card, juice, and several bags of snacks inside. It was very fulfilling to know that just a few hours of our time might make somebody’s day in the future a lot brighter just when they need it. Afterward, since we finished much quickly and efficiently than we expected, our group had a great time just relaxing and getting to know one another! Through games of Jenga and UNO, I made some wonderful new friends that I now see around campus all the time.

Thanks to Trade Winds for such a terrific volunteer experience! I can’t wait for our next event!

Is it dark where you are? / Can you count the stars where you are? ♪♫♪

Longest Night - Howie Day

The Phantom Returns!

Masquerade, paper faces on parade / Masquerade, hide your face so the world will never find you

On Valentine’s Day weekend, I got the chance to go see my favorite musical of all time The Phantom of the Opera again! My family can vouch for how insane I am about this musical – I once dragged them all to New York City with me to see it on Broadway! Since middle school, my mom and I have gone to see it each time it has come to Chicago as well. To be honest, I think I have lost track of the number of times I have seen it…I believe that this time was my fourth or my fifth! When I was small and saw the film (with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler), I simply fell in love with the music. I know the film is heavily criticized for its lackluster singing performances, but I personally thought it was beautiful and a lovely rendition. It’s of course a little different from the musical…it’s a movie after all. And it is what first introduced me to the musical and my love of all things Broadway in the first place!

Because my mom was still in Taiwan, I doubted that I would go see it this time – but then my best friend Brandon surprised me with tickets! I was so elated that I would get to see it again. We went the Saturday after Valentine’s Day, so it was a full house! And I was pleasantly surprised because I heard from Brandon that this rendition was especially differently directed than before. I noticed that quickly after the performance began. There were small changes to the way that the music was sung – crescendos at different places with climaxes on different notes while other words that I was used to hear being belted out by the singer were less emphasized. While the dialogue remained the same, I noticed the delivery was markedly different. It really seemed to be a testament to how actors and actresses play such a huge role in the performance. The way a note is sung or a line is spoken can completely change the connotation behind the scene.

I had an amazing time, and because of the little nuanced differences, it was like I was watching the musical for the first time again! And of course, now I’m going to be singing Angel of Music for the next week and a half again…

Masquerade, every face a different shade / Look around, there’s another mask behind you

Looking ahead for Campus Housing

♪♫♪ I love losing myself, talking to myself in the dark / When my body starts to work like a machine, I can feel the pulse of my heavy metal heart…

After being on Campus Housing staff as a Peer Mentor for Courtyard for just over a semester now, I got the chance to be involved in the rehire process. It’s a little strange for me to think that just a year ago, I was applying myself without really knowing what I was getting myself into. Of course I had some conception of what it meant to be a RA or PM from watching my own, but it was very different once I had settled into training and realized all that the job entailed. I have little hesitation about returning again next year, as this by far the most fun job I’ve had. Being on staff makes it so easy to socialize and get to know anyone in the building or on campus, and there’s never a dearth of programs or activities to attend.

I was a little nervous for my own rehire interview at first, but it went very well (just as the older staff had assured me). Once I started talking about my programs, my residents, and thing I had learned throughout the year, it was much easier to relax and just have a conversation about my experiences. I surprised myself by becoming more introspective than reflective during the actual interview than I was when trying to make my rehire portfolio! Creating the portfolio actually turned out to be the more difficult part, as I kept changing my mind between writing a thoughtful paper or making a Powerpoint. I ended up making a Powerpoint in the end, which was just as good because I was able to run through my presentation and talk about my programs, community, and leadership on each slide.

And now comes the waiting! I am so excited to see my assignments for next year – it feels a little like I’m back in high school waiting for my schedule to come out. When I was asked during my interview about which residence hall I might prefer, I realized that I could be happy in any of them. I would love to return to Courtyard, where I live now, because then I would feel like I gathered some  experience this year in how to build community in the cluster-style living. I also love the huge staff that Courtyard has!

Since I lived in Commons West as a freshman, I came in this year not too certain of how living in Courtyard would feel like; but now I would be happy to be assigned in either one. I loved Commons West as a freshman because everyone kept their doors open and it was so effortless to get to know people. My best friends here come from the people met inside the halls of Commons West, and it’s amazing to actually see in action how all the community-building we learn about during staff training lasts well beyond a mere academic year. I would love to return to Commons West for that open-door environment – I might also just be biased because I always think of it as my first home on campus! There’s also a good chance that I might be switched to south campus at JST, which would be wonderful as well since I have never heard a bad word about JST from anyone who lives there! It would take a while to become accustomed to the 10-15 minute walk to east campus for classes (to someone who fears cold like me, that seems like a lot) but I think it wouldn’t be too hard with all the buses and shuttles that run. Beside the nice, new amenities, I would also be able to be in cluster-style living again. Finding out is still about a month away, and I can’t wait! It’ll be wonderful to finally see the list of staff members that I’ll be making memories with next year.

I also got to contribute to the new applicant interviews. I finally had the chance to see from the other persepctive of how the group interview looks. Residents who apply to be a RA or PM go through two stages of interviews which includes a group interview and an individual interview. I was able to be one of the “judges” for the group interview, in which I gave a group of about 8-10 applicants a task to complete and they needed to collaborate to come up with a solution through discussion and dialogue. It was very interesting for me to watch, because I imagine that my interview last year must have looked and sounded very similar. For the most part, everyone was very respectful to each other and listened to all ideas. Sometimes, though, there will be an applicant who tries a little to hard to stand out and talks over other people without saying anything with real substance…definitely not a wise thing to do in group interviews! I was surprised that the housing supervisor even asked my opinion on which applicants stood out to me. I realized that I was potentially picking my own co-workers and staff for next year, and it really made me think about just what I would look for in a RA or PM to work with. I only saw three groups out of many of the groups of applicants, but a few of them really stood out to me. In any case, I wish the best of luck to everyone! It’s always exciting for me to envision my near future, so I keep wondering what my staff might look like next year.

You make my heavy metal heart beat, beat / My heavy metal heart ♪♫♪

(Heavy Metal Heart – Sky Ferreira)

Resisting the lull

♪♫♪ Hey, don’t write yourself off yet, it’s only in your head that you feel left out or looked down on…

As a sophomore looking back on my freshmen year, I would say that the lull between early February and late March was easily the most challenging time period for me last spring semester. And recently it seems like that awful lull is trying to make a reappearance this year as I begin to struggle to stay focused and mentally sharp for all of my classes. When I’m really doubting myself, I think that my ability of a student used to be sharper when I was back in high school when I was somehow able to juggle what seems like a countless APs, clubs, badminton team, and applying to college all at the same time; if high school Sarah was able to do all that back then, what’s wrong with college Sarah that she can’t keep up? And then I beat myself with the irony of how everything I do now bears much heavier significance on my future than it ever did before.

In those times of doubt, I struggle to re-motivate myself and reorient my goals so that I can remain steadfast in my work. I have a few strategies to do so, but I actually find some of my strongest motivation might be a little strange–I find it from the people around me and the people I see or think about. This is from my family, friends, or even just acquaintances I know in passing. I am so easily inspired by many of the people I see day to day in my classes. I see hard workers who voraciously take notes and push themselves day and night to be the best student that they can be in hopes of being a physician, pharmacist, lawyer, engineer, etc, etc…leaving nearly no time at all for themselves because they are always busy with school, or a job, or another activity with duties to take care of. Thinking of them — even though I might not talk to them– inspires me to work harder. It helps that many of my friends are just such amazing, accomplished people. All I have to do is step into the Honors College lounge to see that. I find motivation from thinking about their hard work, and it makes me want to persevere so I can do something I’m proud of as well.

Finally, I think about my family. I think about all that they have given me and how much they believe in me. I am really lucky to have such caring parents who have instilled a strong value in me for learning because it has always driven me to try to do better and better. In the end, I think that it is this strength and gratitude toward them that becomes one of the prime motivating factors for me to resist the lull that comes from being mentally weary from all that goes on around me. Although it seems most prominent around this time of year, the lull seems to be able to reemerge at any other time as well. It’s easy to become overwhelemed with all the thoughts to balance, but I am reassured through my strategies to reorient myself and combat those feelings with motivation.

It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride ♪♫♪

(The Middle – Jimmy Eat World)

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