Category: Living

Living at UIC: res halls (dorms), food, getting around campus.

Why 2012 Will Be Different

I bought a new camera on the last day of 2011!

Fry's Electronics was selling the Sony NEX 5A/B for $379.99, which was a rockin' deal so I went to buy it! The only camera I have is my phone's camera, but I'm interested in getting into the DSLR stuff so here's the next step! As you can see I've been trying to knit and write papers...but that hasn't really fostered much, haha.

For once I spent new year’s eve alone; well, I guess not totally alone because at the last minute I was tweeting with my cousin who came back from Japan and they had no plans for new year’s either so she and her brother came over. My brother was out at Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Chicago so it was kind of fun being the cousin that someone wanted to see (in the family, my brother is the more popular one haha). Anyway, we basically watched Donald Glover’s stand-up, played on my Xbox Kinect, and then went to the PS3 for some quality Little Big Planet and Castle Crashers!

In between we stopped to watch the ball drop, but that wasn’t very interesting. I’m trying to think back on 2011 but it’s really a big blur. I feel like it just contained school, research, and work…because that really was it. There was the occasional “I hate chemistry” but eh. That’s still school related. I guess 2011 won’t be a key year for me, but I think 2012 could be something special.

My dad is turning 60 this month. What an oldie. This is “his” year my mom says, since he was born in the year of the dragon and guess what this year is: the dragon year! I wonder what crazy Chinese auspicious moments will happen. I’m hoping to apply to a summer study abroad program in China to study traditional medicine; the experience would be awesome! If I get it, then I’ll travel to Taiwan too (where my parents are from).

I haven’t made a new year’s resolution list, but I’ll figure it out before school starts. Speaking of which, my classes on blackboard are slowly appearing! I’m taking:

  • BIOS 350 – Microbiology
  • BIOS 351 – Microbiology Lab
  • CHEM 234 – Organic Chemistry II
  • HN 296 – Sport, Fitness and Nutrition
  • HN 307 – Nutrition and Metabolism

I’m sort of excited for these classes, but I’m not entirely sure. I chose to not take any electives this semester since it kind of killed me this past fall semester in terms of my science GPA. The spring semester always feels really long compared to the fall since there’s nothing exciting going on (holidays and such). I guess the Honors College Ball will be something to look forward to.

For the remainder of break, I’m going to visit my grandparents’ place as much as possible, maybe study a little bit or read a book. Their time is nearing short, and I don’t want to regret not spending more time with them.

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of their break! I have so much to do in so little time! SFP, CASL, Research, Classes, RUSH, iiClothing, Scholarship Application, and perhaps selling some old stuff on Amazon if I make good product photos from my new camera! Unfortunately I didn’t submit my paper for the Writing Center Journal because I wasn’t diligent enough on writing it in time…but there will always be more opportunities.

More on South America: Hot Dogs

As far as I can tell, South America is the continent of dogs. I noticed the dogginess of Peru immediately when I arrived in the country.

Peruvian National Hairless dog

People love their dogs down there! In Peru, most of the domestic dogs have outfits. My sister, while living there for six months, noticed this fact. See pictures below, which she took at a Peruvian dog show.

Dog Show!

Dogs seem to be pretty happy in South America-

But I have never seen so many stray dogs as I did in Peru and Chile. These strays roam the streets in gangs or on their own, just trying to make a living.

stray dog playing in the waves

During the day a lot of them are sleeping, crumpled up in a pile of fur, ignoring the flies around them. It is often sad to see them, and in certain cities like Santiago, Chile, the people of the city feed the dogs and take care of them. In other cities, like in Valparaiso, the dogs are more or less left to fend for themselves. I talked to one tourist who was followed by two dogs, which then became three dogs, then four, then five! Finally someone yelled out from a high window to the dogs, telling them to leave him alone. He was thankful!

When roaming around the cities of South America, it was fun to find all the dogs- like in a real-life Where’s Waldo.

dog on a roof!

Peeping dog.

Doggie in the window!


Dirty Diana

My brother has been listening to The Weeknd’s (yes, there is no E) cover of Michael Jackson’s song Dirty Diana lately and it’s been stuck in my head! It’s a pretty good cover, and all of Michael Jackson’s songs are wonderful.

Break has been really awesome! I had Christmas with my family (grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts all together) and we (cousins mainly) played Mafia, Telephone Pictionary, White Elephant, and Xbox (Dance Central 2 FTW). I need to clear my phone up because I don’t have enough memory to take pictures! I’m hoping to have another cousins hang out soon.

I went to Shedd Aquarium last week to see the Jellies exhibit and it was so pretty! I absolutely LOVE aquatic life. If medicine doesn’t work out, I think I’ll probably go on to graduate school and do marine biology. If I can’t save humans, I will save the fish! I asked my friends to take pictures for me since my phone camera was filled already. Good thing he also has 8MP on his phone for good quality! After going to the Shedd, we went to Portillo’s for dinner and then saw Mission Impossible III. The movie had amazing ratings and I can see why! There’s tons of action, humor and as always Tom Cruise. xD

The Jellies exhibit was so cute and beautiful.

The Jellies exhibit was so cute and beautiful.

This guy is pretty tricky to see when you overlook him as coral.

This guy is pretty tricky to see when you overlook him as coral.

This pufferfish was like ten times the size of mine, and mine is pretty big...but nothing compared to this guy! He was probably over 12 inches.

This pufferfish was like ten times the size of mine, and mine is pretty big...but nothing compared to this guy! He was probably over 12 inches.

This was like the stonefish from earlier, but smaller and pink!

This was like the stonefish from earlier, but smaller and pink!

I'm definitely going to have something like this installed in my house one day.

Giant fish tanks are mesmerizing.

It’s kind of scary to know that 2012 is around the corner. I feel like I still need to accomplish more things before then! School is going to start back up in two weeks, which means I better start ordering books and get my schedule together so I know what I’m doing and what I have time for. Eek too much to do. Maybe I should get a New Year’s Resolution going…eh. That never really gets realized at the end of the year. Hehe, but they are fun to make!

Does anyone have a new year’s resolution made yet?

Spray Paint Revival

If I were a color, I would live on a wall in South America.

South American walls

While most of South America is full of vibrant colors, I would specifically settle down on a wall in Valparaiso, Chile, a coastal port city near Santiago.

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

The difference between Valparaiso and most big cities is that the historic, beat up town is being revived through graffiti.  How contradictory.

But artists travel thousands of miles to find a blank wall in this town of hills, boats and colorful houses.  Tourists come to see the murals and graffiti that cover the entire city.  The graffiti is different here than in Chicago and many US cities; it is not a manifestation of territorial disputes or gang play.  Instead, it is a fanciful art, an expression of creativity that has no frame.



My sister and I met a graffiti artist from Ireland who had been walking around Valparaiso for five days.  He himself did not create a piece while he was there, but only observed and admired the works of others.  Interestingly, he is also a student in urban planning.  In his modern-day mind, the advancement of cities and the art of graffiti can tango; he does not see graffiti as an indication of a downtrodden recent past, but as a tool for a hopeful future.  A blooming flower in a crack of concrete, if you will.


my personal favorite- the elephant and its digestive tract

I appreciated this new perspective on an old, underground art form.


Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In the context of my house, the correct phrase is probably more along the lines of “baby, it’s cold inside.” I’m freezing in my house, but at the same time I’m not sure if I’d enjoy the crazy blowing heat in my room at MRH. I don’t really know why they want the heater on while we are gone for winter break because it seems like a waste of resources to me. Then again, I think my RA said the pipes will freeze if we don’t. That wouldn’t be good.

Advertisement FTW

I've been taking the Metra to Chicago for allergy shots, research, writing center and other club meetings so far. I take the 157 bus to send me back to Union Station when I want to go home, and one of those days I decided to plant my sticker in the glass waiting area. I saw a SWAG sticker on the other side, so I figured it'd be okay to put mine on the inside. I wonder how many people have seen it!

Winter break has been pretty good. Our final grades were out by six days after my organic chemistry final, and miraculously I managed to get a B in that class! I got A’s in everything else, and a sad C in cell biology (you probably inferred that from my previous post). My cumulative GPA didn’t plummet as much as I thought it would, but my science GPA is a bit unhealthy. Next semester I’m only going to take sciences so I can bring that up!

I like it when the sushi moves like a train

Sushi Station = <3

Sushi Station is soooo good!

I hung out with one of my friends from junior high who I haven't seen in about a year and we went to Sushi Station! It was so delicious as sushi always is. It was my first time going, which comes to be a surprise to some people. Haha.

Winter Break Accomplishments:

  • Hung out with five people, each on separate days
  • Saw my grandparents and made a date to learn how to make food because I lack cooking and baking skills
  • Started conducting qPCR in research for my second experiment
  • Watched three movies in the theater: The Sitter, The Muppets, and Happy Feet 2!
  • Finished Gears of War 3 on my Xbox…I still need to sign up for Xbox Live
  • Finalized Synapro logo for my past WISE mentor’s husband and currently working on business cards and the website
  • Got a credit card and debit card (TCF isn’t doing much for me, and I need to really start building up credit)

I’m hoping to finish two books this winter break that I bought over the summer (One Day and The Bluest Eye). I’m also going to try and get ahead with Polish so when I take it junior year I won’t freak out as much. I think I’ll look into Spanish too since that can be a vital asset in the medical profession. Hm, I guess I’ll also be moving the clothing company to our own webhost to get more controls.


I went to the mall near my house (Stratford Square) and went to check out the store called "Furry Babies." My brother and I really want baby huskies and I literally squealed when I saw these two in their crib! Too bad my house is crazy messy to own a dog. T-T It also probably doesn't help that I have an allergy towards dogs and cats. Stupid immune system!

Speaking of immune system, my eczema has been crazy on my face lately. I read something on LiveStrong’s website that if you have eczema you should avoid red meats like beef, steak, and pork (high in saturated fats). Apparently they can cause inflammation, and I am NOT a fan of inflammation! I’m scared I’ll get cancer on my face one day. :( I’m going to try and avoid those meats this winter break and focus on just chicken and fish for my “meats.” I hope that helps! I also hope the allergy shots start kicking.

Woo! There’s actually snow outside now. I can’t wait for Christmas!

No Turkey For Thanksgiving? No Problem.

I actually didn’t miss the usual eating turkey ritual for Thanksgiving. Just being around family was something I’m sure most of us can be thankful for.

So SFP has been running out on lecture events for our members and I decided to chip in and invite my cousin to come out and talk about his residency as a Family Medicine doctor at Christ Medical. The crowd was kind of dead but I think he was pretty cool with it. Most of the students at UIC get pretty tired around this time of the semester since finals are coming up and academics are definitely more important than those extra-curriculars…but we all try our best to do what we can. After the SFP lecture, my brother and my other cousin who goes to UIC met with us at Kohan (my brother is lucky enough to go to U of I and get a whole week off for Thanksgiving…but whatever. I get out of school earlier at least)! I think we all got Korean dishes except for my doctor cousin, who got this awesome Ninja Turtle Roll.

Kohan, located on Maxwell Street and conveniently next to my dorm (MRH), has an awesome roll called the Ninja Turtle.

Kohan, located on Maxwell Street and conveniently next to my dorm (MRH), has an awesome roll called the Ninja Turtle.

Awesome? Yes, I think so too. Hmm, it wasn’t too eventful at school this past week (well, I guess having an organic exam and biology quiz could count for being eventful…but let’s put those behind us). I’ve been pretty active with SFP because I started making meetings for HAC (Health Activism Committee) and we’ve been having some great discussions for what we want to do next semester. I’m pretty excited!

I’m not sure how my organic chemistry exam went yet, but I’m happy not knowing until I go back to school to study for finals. I actually did well on that biology quiz, and the one before so I am hoping to do well on the final! As for my other classes, I should really get started on continuing that Asian Studies paper.

Let’s move away from school for a bit though and talk about my recent Black Friday purchase, as well as my recent quick return to the world of Facebook. So before midnight hit, my brother and I looked up some deals that were going on at electronic stores. We came across a beautiful one:

Xbox FTW!

This deal is TOO amazing.

At 11pm we went straight to Fry’s Electronics on Downer’s Grove. To my surprise, there were probably only 50-100 people waiting in line. My brother and I stood in the cold listening to my Zune until midnight hit. The doors did not open. We let it slide for a good twenty minutes before we felt like something was wrong. We asked the people next to us (by this time, there were at least 100+ behind us in line) and of course they would say that the store opened at 5am. It was no wonder that people had tents set up and everything! There was definitely no way I was going to wait in the cold for another five or six hours until the doors opened, so we drove to an Hhgregg nearby.

Hhgregg sold the bundle for $199 so we were really excited, until we found out they only had six bundles and you had to have a ticket to get it. To our dismay, we walked to the Best Buy next door. Of course, Best Buy never has any good deals when it comes to systems…so we just decided we should just buy it online.

When we came out, we stared at the place that we literally have not stepped into in decades: Toys R Us.

“Want to try there?”
“I swear to God. If we get one there, I am never shopping anywhere else for Black Friday.”

We walked in, and almost by fate this girl worker there saw us and asked, “Hi! Are you looking for the Xbox bundle with Kinect? It’s $199!” My brother and I looked at each other, and then back at her: “Yes, actually. We’ll take one!” I think that was the moment I decided Toys R Us is the best place ever. It is probably one of the most overlooked places for items that we’d normally go for an electronics specialty store for. I mean, they even gave us a $10 gift card! The games were buy one get one for five dollars, and an Xbox controller was $30!

Did I mention how awesome the system is? Kinect is so responsive it is seriously incredible. I am so happy right now with it and I am definitely bringing it back to school with me for the two weeks that I’m there (and then FREEDOM!). I got Dance Central 2, Kinect Adventure (free game with bundle), and Gears of War 3. Game on.

It Gets Better

Last year one of my good friends and classmates had the idea of making an “It Gets Better” video on behalf of the UIC community, specifically soliciting the stories of those associated with the College of Medicine, be they physicians, residents or students.  What resulted was something more genuine and better-edited than I ever could have imagined, and something which I am truly proud to have been a part of.

For those who may not know, the “It Gets Better” project was started by columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage early last year in response to a string of LGBT teen suicides, and consists of youtube videos directed towards teens who may be considering suicide due to any number of factors, with sexual orientation being the main focus.  The project spurred an outpouring of support and videos from celebrities, professionals, and random people gay, straight, and anything in between, all to get the message out there to young people in a troubled place, that things do, in fact, get better.  Below is the UIC College of Medicine’s video, which was officially premiered earlier this month:

In the spirit of the video, I thought I’d use this week’s post to speak a little bit about my own experiences, and comment on how positive an experience coming out has been in both my professional and personal life.

Personally, I would say I knew from a young age that something was different. And although I wouldn’t self-identify with the label until much later, I pretty much knew.  God knows the signs were there: dancing to the Spice Girls in the 4th grade talent show, a keen interest in pop music and none whatsoever in sports, I was basically a walking stereotype.  Nevertheless, when confronted with even the prospect of being gay I was petrified, so much so that it took until late in my teens to really start to accept that it was true, even if I didn’t know how to deal with it, or want to openly embrace it.

For the longest time I viewed it as a fault, obsessing over my grades and academic performance in order to compensate for the one thing I knew I couldn’t control that would ultimately disappoint my parents.  Strong academics became the façade that protected me against questions.  Why didn’t I have a girlfriend?  Oh, I was too busy studying.  Why no interest in sports?  I was just the nerdy type and preferred science (this one is still completely true).

Regardless, that plan only worked for so long, and eventually the pent up stress and angst came to critical point.  College had brought new challenges and stressors, and I could no longer function as I once had.  I had initially felt that UIC was too close to home to get that fresh start that people talked about with college, and once I realized this wasn’t the case, was so disappointed with myself for once again creating a lie for myself to live in.

This led to a nasty bout of depression and low self-esteem, the likes of which I’m sure each of those teens was experiencing.  I was just fortunate enough to have made it past those moments (because it was not a one time thing) and get to a point where I was at least able to begin a process of introspection.  It was a dark place, indeed, but the more I was honest with myself, the more accepting I became.

The process of self-examination and reconciliation went on until sophomore year when I decided I’d finally become comfortable enough with myself to begin the slow, perpetually awkward process of coming out.  Anyone who’s been through it knows: you don’t come out once; you come out over and over and over again.  It’s an arduous process, but one that is necessary.

So I started with one close friend, and then expanded to a larger group, then eventually got myself to the point where whenever I was in a social setting I could be comfortable being introduced along with the title “gay.”  It was certainly an evolution, and one that took a good amount of time.  But as comfortable as I became with myself and my friends, I still had extreme resignations about coming out to my parents.  For some reason, they were the ones that I most expected to be un-accepting.

Now this was not completely off-base.  Growing up with the fear of the inevitable (i.e. having to eventually come out) I had long since picked up on their attitudes towards LGBT issues and gay people in general, and from what I had seen, it wasn’t looking good.  My dad, despite having grown up in a very diverse part of Chicago, and not a racist bone in his body, was the polar opposite when it came to “the gays.”  He listened (and still does) to Rush Limbaugh and quoted Fox News on a regular basis, so needless to say, I was less-than optimistic about how he’d react.  And my mom, although not nearly as vocal, was on a similar plain with regards to the subject.

That said, I had strategically come out to my siblings well in advance of telling my parents, knowing that, even if it randomly came to light, and things turned ugly, I would have them on my side.  Lucky for me, that didn’t happen.  Although incredibly uncomfortable, and still-makes-my-stomach-churn awkward, things turned out alright.  When I finally told them my dad was taken aback, while my mother said that she had always known… not from the Spice Girls dance, but rather, the fact that I’d always only had girls for friends growing up.  Go figure.

Point being, as awkward as it may be, it is who I am.  And the experience has shaped me in myriad ways which are hard to completely pin down.  Above all else, the harsh introspection that came with the depression led me to a level of self-assuredness and confidence which continues to mold my decisions and interactions with people to this day.  Furthermore, clinically, it has meant that I am slow to judge; I see patients with the mindset that I will never fully understand their context, though I will do everything I can as a clinician to empathize and understand.  After all, anyone who saw me during my turbulent period was privy only to the façade, and had no idea what was stirring beneath.  In just recognizing this fact with my patients, I feel like I will have done them a service.

And so, to finish this post off, allow me to repeat yet again that IT DOES GET BETTER.  With time come perspective, growth, acceptance, and ultimately the ability to help others who find themselves in a similarly difficult position.

Carry on the Flames

Hey UIC!

Atmosphere is getting tense! Everyone is getting ready for finals, working on term projects, and it truly has become the moment of truth for the semester. Good luck to all the students!

So for this week’s list, here’s some tracks we play on Krome Radio. Check it out, listen, and Rock out!

(Krome Radio is a UIC College Radio Station that plays new, upcoming, as well as unplugged tracks from the past of Asian and American music!)


“Breakups Are So Like Me” by Kim Jang Hoon (ft. Hee Chul from Super Junior)

“Winter Magic” by KARA

“Most Like You” by Thomas-Jack

“Before It Explodes” by Charice & Bruno Mars

“Be My Baby” by Wonder Girls

So follow Krome on twitter to see weekly updates about College Radio!


In addition, last Wednesday our Men’s Basketball Team rocked against Roosevelt!!! The Pavilion flooded with the UIC Colors and they were handing out free Flames Jerseys to the first 500 students. So go if you can, check out any of the UIC games!!!

TOPIC NEXT WEEK: Thanksgiving

ANSWER FROM LAST WEEK: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith from the film Armageddon

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Do you believe in Karma? If so, when will it come most useful?

Spinning class : exercise :: semester at UIC : life

“OK class! Let’s start out slow! Just start peddling! Difficulty level should be at about a 5 out of 10!” yells the already-sweaty-because-this-is-her-third-spinning-class-today woman up front with the microphone.

It’s like the first few weeks of school, when you ease into studying after a crazy and lazy (but short if you have a summer semester) summer break.  You’re not thinking about the big projects, the papers. You’re thinking about how fun it is to learn!

“Now we’re gonna start off with a gradual hill.  We’ll take forty seconds at each level, and go all the way up to 10. It should hurt by the end, but you’re not dying!”

The first few tests and quizzes roll by. The first big assignment hits.  You pull your first all-nighter of the semester. It’s fine!  You can sleep it off the next night, because THINGS ARE UNDER CONTROL.

“Okayyyy, turn it back down to 5 and grab some water, catch your breath.”  The song switches to “You Can’t Hurry Love,” by the Supremes.

A lull in assignments, weekends are spent doing some work, catching up on The Office, baking cookies and attending the neighborhood block party.

“AlRIGHT! Consecutive 30 second sprints! Give it your all!!!”


“Keep it up at level 7, keep peddling those legs, you want it to hurt!” You look at the clock- you’re over half way through the class but you feel like you’re ready for the last five—the slowing down and stretching part.

This is like weeks 9 through 14- constant assignments due, and you’re thinking about how far away winter break seems but how vaguely excited you are for it.

“Keeeeeeeeeeep pushing! C’mon! You OWN it! You can’t improve unless you push yourself!!!” A heavy metal song pumps in the background. You usually hate heavy metal, but you’re actually enjoying the angry “De ner ner ner nerrr” sounds. It’s right for the moment.

Last two weeks of class, and things are not quite coming together yet.

And then there’s the last hill.  The one where you start to feel sick to your stomach.  Where you take the last swig of water in the water bottle, and it turns out to be just one drop.  Your mind is playing tricks on you, saying “you can’t finish” and “I’m dyyyinggg!” And right when you think you’re going to collapse…

You’re DONE!  And you can cool down, go home and eat some home cookin’.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

He's a rockstar.

This past weekend we celebrated my grandpa’s 90th birthday! It’s weird because I thought we celebrated that last year…but I guess not! My grandparents follow the lunar calendar so I tend to get confused when his actual birthday is. Anyway, we took up like three giant round tables at the Red Lantern restaurant with my family (and we still needed more chairs to fit everyone who could come). If it were my actual whole family, we’d probably take up the whole restaurant! Haha. Anyway it was a real blast and I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas to come around so I can see them more.

Now, going back to school…ehhhh. I think taking 18 credit hours was really stupid (and I might be taking 17 credit hours next semester because I don’t think I learned my lesson quite yet). My science classes are not going so hot, especially biology. I thought organic chemistry was going bad and that biology was my forte, but after our third exam I don’t even know what to do. I think it’s my fault for not studying harder, but at the same time I couldn’t concentrate on anything specific with everything that has been going on. Balancing everything is seriously the most useful skill anyone can contain. I think I had it going pretty well throughout most of the semester, but right now there’s only three weeks of school and that means three weeks to get my act together! Cross your fingers that I’ll make it alive and with an okay GPA.

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