Category: Living

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

Halfway done…

And if you stay I would even wait all night / Or until my heart explodes, how long?

We made it everyone! The semester is finally over, and summer is just around the corner. It’s unbelievable to me, but I’m halfway done with college. This isn’t that impressive, especially when I know people graduating 1 or even 2 years early and going on to graduate or professional schools already, but I still feel nervous knowing that half of my time here is an undergrad is done! I made up my mind when I came in that I wanted to take four years and try to do everything I can within them. On my first night after moving in, I made a long bucket list of things that I wanted to do here as an undergrad living in Chicago, like visiting all the museums in the city, going on an Alternate Spring Break/Global Medical Brigades trip, or even kind of crazy things like running the Chicago marathon or singing with a stranger on the El. And now I’m coming to realize that my second year is coming to a close, and my time has been whittled down to half of what it was and I have not made much progress on my list:

Things I Have Finished So Far…

  • Write for an Honors College publication (hooray for the Ampersand!)
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Continue learning Russian
  • Go to a ballet (Joffrey Ballet’s Russian Masters)
  • See a concert at the Pavilion (Paramore!)
  • Hold a tea tasting program

I try hard not to compare myself with others in my head because I know then I would start re-thinking and second-guessing myself on almost everything I do…it would drive me crazy! But when I look at this long list of things I want to do and realize I haven’t even made a dent in it, I realize it’s time to get myself in gear. What’s ahead for me? Just looking to this summer, I will be taking a couple courses and (hopefully if I can get a housing scholarship) living on campus again – so luckily, I’ll still be around in the city! I’m a little anxious about taking organic chem lab, but I’m still wrapping up with this semester, so it’s still a little early to worry about that, right? In any case, I think I’ll take a few weeks to myself and my family to just take a breath and enjoy my time at home. My summer classes don’t start until mid-June, so I have about a month to recharge and prepare myself mentally. My biggest fear right now is that I’ll be burnt out after taking classes over the summer to be recharged for the fall! Looking at the schedule of things, I’ll jump right from finishing my summer courses into RA/PM training and move in, with only a weekend in between; then after two weeks of training, fall semester starts right away!

But there’s a ton of things I want to do this summer – concerts to see, people to hang out with again, and movies to watch, places to explore – it’s hard not to be excited at what’s coming ahead.

Congrats on finishing your finals, everyone. Go get some frozen yogurt, see a movie, go to the beach, just take it easy – you deserve it. Have a wonderful summer!

Til we find our way in the dark and out of harm / You can run away with me anytime you want

(Summertime - My Chemical Romance)

It’s Over!

We did it! We made it through the year! Congratulations on conquering finals and making it out all in one piece. It’s an absolute miracle that we made it through this winter, let alone this entire school year! I hope you’re satisfied with the work that you put in and are looking forward to the future, whether it means more school or the real world!

Take a day or two to relax- we’ve all put in a lot of work this year, but it was worth it!

Instead of just talking very generally about the last 9 months, I made a video for you to incorporate the entirety of my junior year. I hope you enjoy it!

IAMUIC – Junior Year

Where do we go from here?

Remember when I said there could be a win-win, win-lose or lose-lose? As luck would have it, I ended with lose-lose as my option–but there’s a bright side to this.

First, the “negatives”:

  1. I did not receive the Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Taiwan (side note: my mother is there right now and a few days ago when I came out from scribing at Rush around 2am, I received a text from my dad noting that my grandpa passed away. My mother went back earlier than September, the time we usually try to get her to go since tickets are cheaper and we have money saved up to send her, for the reason that he was not doing well health-wise. I think it was a mix of prostate cancer and maybe lung too since he used to smoke way back when. I shed a tear or two, but nothing compared to when my father’s father passed away here a few years ago (revisit that post if you’d like)…maybe because he was closer to me? I don’t know. I miss them both. Anyway, I’m really happy I was able to see him two summers ago when I went to teach English. I haven’t talked to my mom since she’s been there, and I’m nervous to talk to her about my plans for the future since I will most likely not live at home as my family would like for reasons I will say later in this post.)
  2. I did not score where I wanted on my second MCAT. I did improve, but only by a point. But, hey, a point improvement is pretty good! Jumping over 1 point puts ahead of thousands of people, but for where I want to be…I need a drastic jump if I want to still pursue MD/PhD.

I spoke with a pre-health adviser this past Monday and gave her the full load of what has been running around my mind these past few weeks. I decided (and she agreed) that I would apply next cycle and in the meantime restudy for the MCAT. I now plan to have a two-year gap potentially before entering medical school, and I’m totally okay with that. I have four exams this week and two for finals, and don’t get me started with my Capstone paper. While I have some worry about those things, I’m more concerned about life after graduation (as most of my peers may be feeling too!). Fortunately (here come the positives), I have many options in terms of jobs. I can continue working as a scribe in the ER, and I really want to keep the job because I have learned so many things that I cannot imagine ever being exposed to. I also want to continue doing research and learn more analyzing techniques / cell culture stuff so that I can understand the methods being used in the field (and thus interpret the data more accurately when I read scientific papers – I struggle with this still!). And I’m sure if I really wanted to find another job or try at a different field, I could…

But what exactly is it that I want the most right now?

That’s the question that makes me spin in circles. I know what I need to do to achieve what I believe is what I want to do in the future as a physician. And it seems silly that a score could determine my chances, but if I treat this third time taking the MCAT as a preparation for preparing for my USMLE Step 1′s later on in the future (that apparently determine what residencies you get to “choose” to apply and hopefully get – with higher scores being competitive for competitive specialties), then good things will follow – less stress and everything. Hermit crab may be the way to go, and my family thinks it’s the best method for me to ensure success (and some people really live by this method).

Who knows, maybe I can’t handle the two part-time jobs and really have to devote my every being to this test. I don’t know. Dealing with school, extracurricular activities, five part-time jobs and other stuff seemed to go OK for me, so why am I stressing out?

I think the whole “living at home” vs “living around school where my part-time jobs are” is probably causing the most stress. I’ve been living on campus for the past 4 years and it’s been great. Everything is taken cared of. I don’t have to worry about anything besides what time am I coming home and can someone bring me back safely…that’s it! And now…I worry about how I will have to work those 5pm-2am shifts when I am not living on campus, if I qualify for UIC services that I will no longer be able to use assuming it ends when I am not a student. Perhaps if I become an employee in the research lab I could continue some services, maybe even use the gym for once! There’s so much to think about and I still have to talk to my family about it. My dad got kind of angry over the phone when I told him via my brother that I’ve made my decision to study for the MCAT while working two part-time jobs (possibly three…but that’s pending since I need to figure out my living situation and make my MCAT study schedule for the summer). He and my brother think I should just stay at home. “Why are you working? Just quit! Stay at home and study.” Ugh, not a fan of that tone — and sure maybe they can help me find a job in the suburbs…but there’s like nothing for me there.

I feel so connected to UIC and the Chicago community that I don’t know what I would do going back to the suburbs. It’s like even the suburbs are in their own little bubbles (as I term U of I) with ignorance about poverty and disparities. I couldn’t believe how different the city was compared to the suburbs when I first entered, and it made me sad that I grew up thinking that we are all equal when we’re really not.

And so, I’ve made my decision to stay. I’m not sure how I will stay, but I want to stay here and grow whatever it is that is inside of me and a remnant of my UIC education. Whether it was good or bad doesn’t matter. I am ready to move on from the lectures, labs and homework to real-world application. These past few months have been full of crazy surprises, heart and headaches. I feel homesick not for my “home,” but for the innocence left in the life I live that wonders where the light at the end of the tunnel comes, if at all. Is it something we’re just chasing or can we catch up and open a door that releases from all of our nostalgic feelings of what makes us who we are?


Tying up loose ends

To say that this month has been, and the next two weeks are going to be, hectic is an understatement. The amount of stuff I have to do is absolutely crazy. With less than two weeks until graduation, it’s time to tie up loose ends and think about the transition to full adult life.
Honestly, the only caveat of being heavily involved on campus and off campus is the fact that you have very limited time to do homework and very little time to yourself. My average week typically consists of running class to class, doing loads of readings, going to my internship, and organizing activities and partaking in meetings for USG. Sounds like a little, but trust me — when you have many hats to juggle it could be challenging at times! However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve found that being busy makes me happy, and I thoroughly enjoy every activity that I am involved in. I’ve found that the key to being successfully busy is enjoying what you are doing.
At the same time, I’m beginning to think about transition into adulthood. I feel like this moment is the biggest transition I will have in my life. Will it be hard to transition from going to school my whole to working for the rest of my life? This seems to be the biggest question I am asking myself. It’s just mind-blowing that I’m no longer going to be making school my life. In two weeks, no more USG, more UIC, no more homework all night long, no more having a spastic schedule – every aspect of my life will pretty much be different. It’s a bit scary. But more than that, it’s exciting.
So it’s time to just sit down, not worry, and get straight to work. Change is good and the light at the end of the tunnel is near. Time to wrap up the semester!

Food for thought

Snow falls, somehow it doesn’t melt boy when it hits you, why? / All this life I’ve been drowned by confusion…

With the school year winding down, I’m finishing up my last few programs. Last week, I held a program called “Food for Thought” to share some easy tips for eating healthy even as a busy college student. One of the most common complaints I hear (and admittedly partake in at times) from people who live on campus is that there is “nothing to eat in the caf.” That’s of course a hyperbole, but it’s true that a lot of things the cafeteria has to offer are unhealthy – pizza, burgers, fries, grilled cheese…it becomes quite unappetizing after living here for semesters or maybe even years. However, after living here for almost four semesters now, I have come up with a few little tips and tricks for myself to still eat relatively healthy and balanced meals with what is available.

  • Portion control — Use a smaller plate! It helps you control how much you’re eating because there is simply less available for you to eat. It’s a simple way to reduce your portions and prevent overeating, which is tempting in our cafeteria which is an all-you-care-to-eat operation.
  • Eat with your friends! — I find that when I eat with my friends, I tend to socialize more which makes the time pass quicker. Overall I leave the caf after eating less and I’m less tempted to get up for more food when I’m laughing and talking with my friends.
  • Balance is key — your plate should be about 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 carbs (whole grain if possible!). It’s easy to just pick up everything in the entree line without much thought to what you’re consuming, but try to balance your plate out with some salad and vegetables! At breakfast, the cafeteria also offers some delicious mixed fruit.
  • Everything in moderation — Sometimes people who diet decide to impulsively cut out all sugar/carbs/gluten/fat from their diet, but that’s not actually realistic or even healthy. You still want to have a healthy balance of different foods, and instead of completely cutting out unhealthy foods, simply choose to eat them in moderation. A burger, pizza, or cookie now and then is not going to kill you. For me, a tactic that has been helpful before is I consciously decide to eat as healthy as possible from Monday to Friday, but I let myself eat almost anything I’d like on the weekends. That’s usually when I’ll go out with friends, and I’ll enjoy myself without worrying as much about eating as healthy as possible.
  • When you’re done eating…LEAVE! — Don’t linger in the caf! You’ll find yourself going back and getting more food when you’re actually already full and don’t realize it. When you’re done with your plate, consider heading out to class, even if it’s a little bit early.
  • Craving alert — Keep some healthy snacks in your room on hand. You don’t want to be relying on late night food runs or vending machine food when you feel burnt out from studying and have cravings for something sweet or salty.Unfortunately, calories still count during finals week and the middle of the night! Consider granola bars, apples with peanut butter (or any other fruit), popcorn (with very little butter and salt), trail mix, and other healthier alternatives to keep in your room for when you know you’ll want something to munch on as you study.
  • Keep a calorie count — this might be more relevant if you are looking to change your weight, whether that means you’re looking to lose some weight or bulk in muscle. Regardless, it may be a good idea to keep a rough estimate of what you’re eating so you have a mental track of whether you’re over/undereating. There’s a bountiful amount of smartphone apps dedicated for this, but my favorite that I have used before is MyFitnessPal. That one also will deduct calories that you exercise!
  • Water water everywhere — Take advantage of all the water fountains that are installed around the school and keep a water bottle handy in your backpack! One of the easiest ways to immediately decrease your calorie count is to substitute all your drinks for water. Cutting out soda (including diet sodas which are full of aspartame and make you crave more sweets), juices, and other sugary drinks and drinking water will decrease cravings. And of course, it’s much healthier for you overall!
  • ….or tea! — A warm cup of tea is also a very healthy alternative! Green tea contains more caffeine than coffee and is usually healthier because of the tendency to add too much cream or sugar to coffee. Also it’s so delightful to wake up with the smell of a warm cup of tea! If you’re not looking for caffeine, there are plenty of non-caffeinated teas you could find in any grocery store or tea shop!

Making these little changes in my dietary habits has helped me remain health conscious and stay fit. Even little switches have been immensely impactful, like only drinking water and tea, or grabbing a banana instead of a cookie, or keeping a count of calories. Unfortunately for my program, it was little bit of poor planning of me to hold it as the same time as some other popular events going on the same night (namely the Nearly Naked Mile hosted by Commons West – which I heard was fantastic! – and a UIC baseball game). As a result, I didn’t have a very good turnout at all – but I still wanted to some of my ideas with other people!  I hope some of these tips might help your meals be a little bit healthier, especially if you eat in the dining halls frequently.

I’m counting down the days…Good luck studying for finals, everyone!


Say the word and I’ll be gone / I told you I was gonna lose you to the blue

(Waste of Time - MØ)

The End is Near……………..

Not bombarding you with opinions and information today. Instead, I’m sympathizing; with these last few weeks winding down, things sure are getting pretty difficult. Presentations and projects are around every corner, last minute Fall 2014 and graduation plans are being made, and all the while, finals are steadily creeping up on us.

It is so important to take care of yourself so that everything you need to complete can have your absolute best efforts in it. I know it’s easy to tell yourself that it’s almost summer and that you can relax then, but find some time amongst the chaos that is the final days and weeks of school. If you do (without overindulging), I can guarantee your peace of mind and grades will be in a much better state. Here’s how:

Go on a walk in the city.

Get ice cream, frozen yogurt, or any other delicious frozen treat.

Go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Watch a movie.

Read a book (for fun).

Go out for lunch.

Start a blog!

Jog around.

Shop-spring and summer wardrobe time!

(Weather permitting) lay in the grass and look at the clouds.

Go to Starbucks.

Go to Mariano’s and eat something good!

Explore the neighborhoods around UIC.

Get a bike. If you already have one, ride it around town.

Cook something delicious.

Call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time (parent? friend?)

Watch mindless (or not so mindless) television.

Play video games.


Get a message.


Do what makes you happy! Good luck.


As my father says

“If a liar says something 1000 times, it becomes the truth.”

Not sure if my dad got that from a fortune cookie or some Chinese proverb, but today it spoke to me a bit differently when I first heard it a few years ago. I recently went to watch Silencing Stigma: Speaking Out that a ton of awesome organizations came together to present at the JST Events Center to bring awareness to Mental Health and Disability in Asian American communities. I typically don’t go to events like these on my own, but because I joined MHDA (Mental Health and Disability Alliance) this semester, I wanted to come out and support. My reasons before for not doing so in the past (without the relation to the organization) rested on the premise that I didn’t feel that I belonged in the community here. I don’t know why I did not like the idea of hanging out with other Asian Americans. I guess I just preferred to find non-Asian American friends in my circle like I did in high school (had a great variety of people around me of different ethnic cultures). I’m pretty happy the Writing Center is a place of such diversity so it feels more like my high school-esque group.

MHDA Silencing Stigma Event

After the show was over, we took an MHDA group photo for those of us who were able to make it to the Silencing Stigma: Speaking Out event!

But, I digress. After attending the event, I really felt the emotion and could relate to many of the stories told, or at least sympathize. Circa Pintig, the group of actors and actresses that performed (+2 UIC students!), shared their mission and vision at the end, saying that no one is able to share your story except yourself. I thought that was very compelling and speaks greatly to why I even bother to take hours writing these blog posts. I swear, I scrapped 2-3 drafts before writing this one because I wasn’t satisfied with the topics. They were too cliche or overwritten in my opinion. Picking something unique and going with it, making it as personal as possible, is a task that I struggle to do when I write. However, the results are fantastic. I think I alluded to this in a previous post where I talked about “quality writing.

The performance was very beautiful. I hope that I may also assist others in sharing their stories in the future. Sometimes the greatest stories are those that have not been shared, partly because of the fear of shame and embarrassment, or sadness. I remember not being able to talk to many people about my issues in high school that forced me to bottle up everything inside. I think after accepting a certain amount of psychological oppression with negative thoughts, I became them.

The “proverb” I mentioned earlier relates to this. If you keep telling yourself phrases like “I suck. I’m useless. I’m an idiot. Why do I even live? Why does no one like me?”, well, it consumes you and you become unmotivated to do anything (and everyone around you DO notice, so they still continue to stay away from you or get mad at you for feeling that way — its contagious). I catch myself saying these phrases many times a day, and it’s very unhealthy. Most of the time I say it very lightly, and shake it off by trying to insinuate happier phrases like “I CAN DO THIS. STOP SAYING STUPID THINGS, MILIE. I KNOW I CAN DO THIS. JUST SUCK IT UP AND DO IT.” This post-talk after negativity fuels my drive, and I attribute this post-talk to how I deal with my stress each day.

I had a fellow pre-med club member ask me how I appeared stressed, but did not actually feel stressed. I told him I was boggled too. I stated that perhaps it was because I maintained a level that is right below my threshold of an actual crying-stressful-break-out-session. I was insanely stressed out sophomore year (I took like a million classes and organic chemistry was the bane of my existence) to the point that I really wanted to give up. I just wanted to throw everything around and scream as loud as I could. Yell like a baboon. But, I never think about doing those or post-that moment. I just don’t think it’s worth my emotional energy. I mean, being sad is not useful at all. Suffering is not useful. Pain is useful because it tells you something is wrong, but choosing to not do something about that pain is completely stupid and useless, and it’s a choice that many people and even I have chosen during our lives. I also just think about how I have it really good. I actually am in college and millions of people around the world would give anything to be in my shoes. I think about how I have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, toes, feet, legs, etc. I’m so thankful to have those things, and I’m sure many of us take that for granted. Appreciating these things, when I look at the school work I have to accomplish and all kinds of requests by clubs or demands from other aspects of my life, I just kind of take it all and I don’t fight with these demands. I think stressing about it and being annoyed just inhibits my learning and my ability to work. And work…work is probably one of the most important things to me. I learn a lot when I work. When I study, I learn a lot too…but I have to study it many times for it to really stick with me.

So, if you take anything away from this, I just hope that whatever struggle you are struggling with–it’s a real struggle…but also know that you have managed your struggle well and if not, there are many resources to assist you on campus. I think sharing your struggle is really important, but only if you can grow from it. I have struggles, but I don’t worry about them as much as I used to. There’s always someone else out there a lot worse than me, and I hope that I can help as many people as I can who are in that situation.

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.

Subtle Successes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#WaddleItBe?: Making a media event for Shedd Aquarium

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

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

Penguin Chick

Penguin chick Credit ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time…


Penguin More Cupcakes

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