Category: Academics

Academics: majors and classes at UIC.

Planning your FREE spring break staycation

Spring break is around the corner!  If you are like me and short on cash, a staycation is in your future!  That does not mean you can’t have the spring break experience because you aren’t soaking up the sun in Los Cabos!  My boyfriend and I are actually planning some FREE spring break activities in the city!  Here are a few things we came across

 Monday Night:

The ComedySportz Theatre
929 W. Belmont

“The Chaser” – 9:30 p.m.


The Chaser is a totally free standup open mic where the prize is a chance to perform in next week’s professional set.  It a great place to go if you or someone you know loves the limelight and being on stage!



Shedd Aquarium

1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
(312) 939-2438


Illinois residents can enjoy free general admission. This includes the Waters of the World, Amazon Rising and the Caribbean Reef. Packages including Wild Reef, Polar Play Zone and Abbott Oceanarium are available to Illinois residents at a discounted rate!


Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 N. Clark St.

(312) 742-2000


I live in Lincoln Park and I actually go to the zoo a lot during the summer time, but it holds some significance for my boyfriend and me.  Right by the zoo is a conservatory and a nature boardwalk.  On a pleasant day, it is a very nice stroll.

Side Note:  Lincoln Park Zoo has a new male African Lion that moved into the exhibit in August!  His name is Sahar!


Next week:  I will finish off the rest of your FREE Spring Break Staycation!  

Stay strong in your studies peeps!  Spring Break is just around the corner! Does anyone currently have any cool plans?

Already halfway through the semester?

Hello UIC!

It seems like the semester has just begun and now we are practically halfway through it! The spring semester always goes by quicker than the fall semester! I hope all of you are spending your time wisely and accomplishing the things you want to accomplish. For me, it literally feels like every week flies by. I find myself coming back from classes, eating, then jumping right into studying and/or sending a bunch of emails. This semester is one of my hardest of the few semesters I have been at UIC. I am taking 18 credit hours, including two tough science courses.

Time management is one of the most important life skills to master. Some of us have mastered this by the time we get to college, while some have to take the time in college to master this skill. It took me a while to master this skill. One way I learned to balance was to get more involved at UIC and I learned effective studying habits.

I’m going to keep this blog post short, but I wish the best for all of you taking any of the admissions tests whether, it be the MCAT, GMAT, GRE, DAT, etc! Study hard! It will pay off!

It’s a freak-out moment

It’s March. Can you believe it? I sure can’t. Do you know what March entails? Absolute insanity! I have recently been very jittery and can’t sleep, constantly feeling happy and sad, nervous and hyper–like a hummingbird! I can’t tell if it’s my hormones, the caffeine from the pain reliever or me just being me in a new situation. Whatever it is, I don’t like it at all.

It’s happening so fast. Time! I wish I could stop it. I need so much of it but how can we do all of the things we want to in a day, a month, a year or four? Maybe this is why people choose to stay longer than four years so they can do more, but at the same time they can do more by pursuing higher education sooner, too! Ahh, there is a flurry of things going through my head.

The most obvious that comes up is going to Clemente High School soon! I finalized the schedule with my committee members and we’re all set and ready to go! I wish I could go for every single day, but I am planning on taking my MCAT on the first day of spring break. I was even considering cancelling it, applying to medical the following year, just so I could be with my peers! But they strongly preferred that I did not cancel it and so here I am, freaking out about everything. I have much faith in their presentation skills, but it’s almost like watching your baby grow up (not that I have one, although my turtle Chompy counts in some respects)…you just want to be there throughout the whole process! Ah, I must keep focus though. The MCAT is around the corner and I need to get at least a 30+. Is it out of reach? Perhaps…I’ve been taking two full-length practice tests each week and trying to study as much as I can for the MCAT on other days. It sucks that I have two other exams to study for before my MCAT, as well as receiving allergy shots and going to research twice a week for 6 hours each. Maybe I should ask my PI if I can just come in once until my MCAT is over…or maybe I’ll have to cancel it and really just apply next year!

Ah, no no. I need to be confident. No more “we’ll see” or “if it happens it happens.” You decide your own fate and you get there if you believe it and actually do it. Being passive about these things will never get me anywhere.

So, here’s to all of you MCAT-takers + super pre-meds who do everything and deserve all the best!

Time gets away

Have you ever had a lot of free time when you were able to relax, sleep in, watch movies and lounge around?  Well, I had that last weekend.  It was nice…except for one major part.  I didn’t really have free time. I had so much work to do that I didn’t realize I had to do. When Monday came, I almost lost my mind.

Let me explain in more detail.  I had a pretty rough week (See: Stuck between a rock and a hard place).  I was SO ready for the weekend and excited to spend some time with my guy.  I had some days off of work approaching and was ready to let loose!

On Friday, I had the day off.  I woke up early and ran a couple errands, had lunch with my cousin and picked up my guy from work in the afternoon.  The Hawks were playing that night and we were going to go somewhere and watch it (which I don’t get to do much anymore).  We went out and he started not feeling well.  So, no big deal.  I figured I could just watch the game at home.  Except for the fact that when we got home, all hell broke loose.  He became so ill, so quickly.  I ended up missing the rest of the game.  I felt so bad for him, though.  We think it was food poisoning.  Anyway, so that night was pretty awful.  I spend the next day catching up on the sleep I missed the night before.

We watched some movies.  Slept.  Ate a little bit.  He didn’t eat much because he was still so sick…and I didn’t eat because, well, I had lost my appetite from WATCHING him being sick.  Relaxing was so nice that the days started blending in together.  I didn’t have to go to work until Tuesday, so I had no worries.

No worries, that is, until Monday when I realized….”OH MY GOD….WHAT HAVE I DONE?”  I quickly came back from my fantasyland of pajamas all day and catching up on movies, that I almost started crying when I realized had how much work I had to do for school. Ya know? The OTHER full-time job that I have! I wasted so much time doing nothing!! And on top of THAT…I had observation hours to complete on Tuesday and Wednesday through Friday, I would have to kids ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT.

I tried not to get too flustered because my guy was still sick and I wanted to be there for him.  But man, I really made things harder for myself in the long run.

So, what did I do?  I did as much as I could on Monday.  Tuesday, I did some of my observation hours, went to the library and spent 4 1/2 hours doing homework.  If that gives you an idea of how much I had to do, after those 4 1/2 hours, I still wasn’t done.  Then I went to pick up the boys from the second family I nanny.  After I was done there, I went to class.  After class, I went back to the house of the first family I nanny to spend a couple nights while the parents are away.

I didn’t exactly time manage very well.  But I did get through the week without losing my sanity AND my guy started getting better! Next time, I need to make sure I don’t lose sight of the things I have to do.  Man! It really stinks being an adult sometimes!

Trying to transition to the professional world

So last week I did a lot of “spring cleaning” of my Internet footprint.  This past week I added a lot of things to my Internet reputation to put myself out there to potential employers.

First, I create a LinkedIn account. 

I’m not sure why I have been so resistant to LinkedIn.  I think mainly it is because I did not know the first thing about being part of a social network geared toward the professional world.   Once I created an account, I was immediately connected to former co-workers from Campus Housing and Student Development Services.  I even was able to connect with  former supervisors and professors.  Looking at the profile of my former co-workers helped me to begin to create a profile that spoke to the duties I had in other jobs, as well as how to tell people the type of employment I am currently looking for.


Secondly, I began to network

As well as connecting to former supervisors online, I also began to connect with former supervisors in other ways. I regularly have lunch with my former mentor from the Cook County Juvenile Probation Office, I recently had a nice run-in with a former supervisor and I have been in e-mail correspondence with another former supervisor.  In every “how to find employment” type article I have read in the past few weeks, all mention the importance of networking.  I must say that “social networking” is a lot easier for me than “professional networking.”  It feels awkward for me to talk about the skills I have instead of what I ate for lunch.  Sometimes I feel a little narcissistic!  Hopefully I will get use to it.

Third, I spruced up my résumés

I know the importance of having different résumés when applying for different forms of employment.  However, I would send in the appropriate one along with a customized cover letter without thinking twice about it.  Because I have been networking more, I have been able to show my résumés to people who are currently in the career field I am interested in.  I have been given some great advice about things I should highlight in my résumés.  Now, when I send in a job application, I try and tweak my résumé just a little bit to appeal more to the specific job I am applying for.




Not going to lie, looking for employment has been difficult, but as my mother always says, “Nothing is going to change if you change nothing.”  So strengthening my professional reputation is my attempt to change.  What struggles do you find when looking for employment?  What has worked for you in the past?

Losing sleep and feeling the restlessness

In order to succeed, there must be sacrifices. It is unfortunate, but that’s how the world works most of the time (for those who are lucky…well, lucky you!). I have never pulled an all-night for college (nor do I plan on that), but I’ve begun to average 3-6 hours of sleep each night just to study for the MCAT and finish homework or studying for my UIC classes. It’s tiring, and my eyes are becoming like that of a panda’s.

So my grades for biochemistry and homeostasis came out….if you recall I had both of those exams on the same day! I had a couple of other students in the same position as me, but I think they put in more time for homeostasis than biochemistry, whereas I did the opposite with the assumption that studying for the 4-credit hour class would be better than studying for a 3-credit hour…

But I should have probably studied more for the 3-credit hour because my grade was quite poor (most of the energy I had in me that whole week was biochemistry), and even though I did review the few first weeks of the material before the rest for homeostasis, it obviously wasn’t enough. I think the overconfidence prior had been superseded by the fact that the sample exam the instructors posted online was incredibly easy (I answered every question correctly), but when it came time for the test it was completely nonidentical. While the content may have been the same, the questions and answered were worded so obscurely that I almost didn’t have time to finish the test! It was almost as bad as MCAT questions (but the MCAT people don’t want to trick you as much as you think, whereas this class definitely wanted to make sure you were paying meticulous attention to every detail). The instructors even said to not worry about the test because “If you came to class every day and took notes, you’ll be fine! It’s not a hard test.” Can you believe the average was 66.9/102? I personally would not be proud of a score like that. I only scored a few points above average and I’m probably at a C right now.

On the bright side, biochemistry rocked! I got 10 points above the average so I’m probably at an A or super incredibly high B! I’m very happy I did well, so all of my work probably shows the correlation between amount of studying and actual performance on a test.

I’m curious about how people are studying in these kinds of situations. My roommate’s boyfriend had three exams last year on the same day (a Friday) just one after the other: biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and genetics. Talk about STRESS! Thank god he’s naturally smart but of course he still had to study a great deal. Thankfully, the most I have ever had to deal with was two exams in a day in any circumstance (be it during the year or during finals week). Exam piling is so unrealistic.

Well, there’s a month until spring break at least! Before that happens, I will have taken my first genetics exam and my second biochemistry exam (in addition, I will be with HAC presenting health presentations to nearby high schools, yay!). I hope to improve my homeostasis grade by infinity for the second exam that is post-spring break.

March and April are always the most intense months of the semester, so gear up that hyperlearning switch in your brain because you’ll need it! Even though we might have to lose a few hours of sleep, you can use the weekend to recover (it’s been proven that this does help a lot) and take micro-naps in between the day if possible. Some people may rely on caffeine or smoking, but I just eat a banana in the morning to get me awake and ready for the day! Of course, the afternoon classes tend to make me sleepy…but that’s why we have to push ourselves to keep our eyes open, our ears alert and ready.

What’s for lunch?

So this week I had a random thought in my head…what do students at UIC do for lunch?

With about 85 percent of the campus being commuter students, obviously everyone has to eat at some point during the day. Many students flock to the Inner Circle right around noon to eat Subway or Wendy’s. But does’t that get pricey?

I try my best to pack my lunch from home everyday. Each week I go to the grocery store to purchase food that I can easily assemble. With a full schedule of 18 credit hours, an internship and USG, I need food that is quick to assemble and eat. Typically, I’ll make myself a nice sized salad, a piece of fruit, yogurt, a fruit drink, some type of protein and a small sugary snack. During really tough weeks, I’ll pack myself a Healthy Choice frozen dinner, which are typically healthier due to the fact that food is steamed. Not only does packing my own lunch save me tons of money, but it also allows me to have healthier and balanced meals.

Once a week I’ll treat myself to some commercial food. I like to switch it up each week. From Jimmy John’s to Fontano’s for a sub or Taylor Made Pizza for a breaded steak sandwich. I usually try to avoid the Inner Circle.

So I’m curious, what does everyone do for lunch? Any lunch packing tips?

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Have you ever been torn on something? Whether it’s regarding a relationship, a job, or something as easy as, “I want pizza for dinner but I really should eat the food I have,” or “I really want to watch ‘Walking Dead’ but ‘Shameless’ is on at the same time.” Either way, I’m sure you have had some situation that wasn’t easy.  Part of you feels one way and part of you feels another. Maybe you do what your brain tells you instead of what your heart tells you. Or maybe you do what your heart tells you and ignore what your brain says.  I am in one of those predicaments right now.

Well, what do you do? Do you stay or do you go? Where do your loyalties lie? Do you put yourself first or do you stick it out for the time being in hopes that it will get better soon? I have always…ALWAYS been one to put others before me. I call it my “tragic flaw.” In literature, Oedipus was arrogant and Hamlet was indecisive. Who cares, right? No one is perfect. EXCEPT for the fact that those flaws are what led these otherwise “noble characters” to their eventual downfall. That’s me…right now. Is my loyalty going to bring me to my eventual downfall? How can loyalty be a flaw, you say? I guess it’s unique to my situation.

I’ve been dealing with some issues with one of my jobs the last couple months. It’s been rough.  2013 came and kicked me down right away!  I have stuck it out because I thought it was the right thing to do. I THINK I still think it’s the right thing to do. The other parties involved expressed their “fear of me leaving” due to the changes. So I stayed. Why? Well, because they are good people.  I love the kids and quite frankly, life isn’t fair. Things happen that aren’t controllable.  So, the last few months, I have taken it day by day and rolled with the punches. What are these punches, you ask? Well, less money for starters. But it gets more complex from there. I have taken on other things to compensate.  I’m just tired of working so hard…for so little. And by no means do I think I am the only one that has money problems or job issues. The answer (if there is one) to this predicament/decision is based on so much of who I am as a person. Which is why it’s so troubling.

There have been good days and bad. That’s true for everyone’s job, though. Working in child care isn’t easy. I’ve definitely learned that over and over the last couple years. So, this is where I am at right now…(the rock) I need to look out for myself and put ME first. A friend gave me her advice and said, “You HAVE to put yourself first. You’re not going to get anywhere if you constantly think of everyone else.”  Part of me feels that is true. However, another part of me (the hard place) is yelling, “STOP BEING SUCH A BABY AND SUCK IT UP! Life throws lemons at you, make lemonade!” I just don’t want to get walked all over if there is somewhere else I could be happier and allow me to do the things financially that I need to do.

When I back up from the situation and look at the big picture, it seems like just a bump in the road. My mom said, “This isn’t going to be like this forever.” She’s right. It’s not. In about a year, I’ll probably be student teaching somewhere. And then I’ll hopefully get a job with an ACTUAL salary.

Through the fog…I will get through this. I will do certain things that will prepare me for anything.  As for now, I just have to continue doing what I am doing.

Need a resume booster? Join Unite for Sight!

Hello UIC! My name is Amruta Bhatt and I am a sophomore studying neuroscience/pre-medicine. While I love to be involved on campus and succeed academically, I also enjoy spending my time volunteering and getting to interact with new people every day! Additionally, as cheesy as it sounds, I want to be an inspiration not only for myself but also for those around me. I have an amazing older sister who is currently in medical school and I truly don’t know where I would be without her. I have followed her footsteps, but I hope to create my own path someday. I want to become a doctor because I am motivated by my experiences and interactions with others that who shaped my life, which has in turn helped me choose the medical field as my aspired path.


Hope the semester is running smoothly! I know I’ve had my fair share of busy and balance! I wanted to take the time to talk about an organization that many of you may be interested in joining! An organization I am currently vice president of, Unite for Sight (UFS), works to improve eye health and eradicate preventable blindness. Our UIC chapter mainly focuses on fundraising and raising awareness towards this cause. Every month, we work towards a fundraising goal. For the month of February, we held a few bake sales.

Diana Yin, our new UFS president, has been doing an outstanding job of meeting our monthly fundraising goals. We are so close to meeting our February fundraising goal — we are halfway there! Our last fundraising event for the month of February will be from 8 to 11:45 a.m. Tuesday in Burnham Hall. Be sure to stop by and ask what we’re all about! Oh, and feel free to donate to an amazing cause and enjoy some yummy treats as well! :-)

If interested in joining Unite for Sight, please feel free to email Diana Yin at!

Intensive studying, commence!

I’ve finally picked out my date for the MCAT. I knew everyone was telling me to hurry up and pick it, “Otherwise, you’ll have to go to Indiana!!!” But for a few months now my mentality was, “If I’m not ready, then I shouldn’t take it…” I was scared that if I picked a date and wasn’t ready for it, then it’d be a waste of money to cancel.

But then I thought about how my attitude towards MCAT studying was currently, and even though I have been keeping up with the readings and attending classes with Kaplan, I was behind in a few assignments and had my focus more towards my UIC classes (especially since I had two exams last week!). Well, that’s all gotta change. After finally taking a full-length test, I was amazed that I went up 7 points higher than my diagnostic score. Can you believe that? It’s only been one month with Kaplan! Seeing such big improvement really made me happy and I’m a lot more motivated and confident now than ever!

Here is the new priority list (not that I had written one out before which I should have):

  1. MCAT studying
  2. Other studying (includes biochemistry, homeostasis and genetics)
  3. Research (qPCR qPCR qPCR!!!)
  4. Health Activism Committee (we’re going to Clemente High School right before spring break and hopefully in April too!)
  5. Getting my medical school application together! (:

So, I hope all of you have your own priority list. I might have to make a poster out of mine (not that I have time though…so maybe I’ll just write it down on a post-it note repeatedly all over my walls…). I’ve decided to get rid of my Facebook app on my phone, my Twitter app too…and all of my game apps. I threw in all of my educational apps on my home screen so I can quickly use them. No more socializing via phone or computer! I need to pour all of my energy and heart into studying for this test. It’s a hermit/recluse time for the next few months!

I wish anyone who is taking a standardized test this year the best of luck! WE CAN DO THIS!!! :D

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