Let Me Tell Ya ‘Bout My Best Friends

Happy Halloween!

With less than six weeks of the semester remaining, I figured it’s time to post about the family structure that’s been keeping me afloat at the University of Iowa: my friends. I talk a lot about the countless resources the university offers, and about how grateful I am for such a supportive home community and family, but my UIowa friends are often the true MVPs.

Coming from a class of about 100 students, making friends wasn’t always easy. In my home town, most of us grew up together, were distantly related, and weren’t exposed to much diversity. The intimate setting of our community fostered a culture where family names carried more influence than individual actions at times. And while most people were kind, the lack of diversity contributed to a sense of identity oppression. A large part of UIowa’s appeal, and most colleges, is the chance to discover, rediscover, and reinvent our individual identities in a setting where cultural variation, diversity, and opportunity abounds.

What has this meant for me?

I’ve found my new home through the individuals I’ve met.

Meet Emily, a journalism and political science major from Minnesota. Emily plays viola, is an avid bike rider, and is a dedicated reporter for the Daily Iowan. Emily is caring, intelligent, has a wicked music taste (excepting ska), and is always down for a good time. My favorite memory with Emily (so far) was when she jokingly told me to slap her with my quesadilla from Panch and I did. Everyone else in the room froze because the tortilla-meets-cheek noise sounded far more brutal than it actually was. We all died laughing.

Meet Katie, a creative writing and journalism major from Maryland. Katie is a talented dancer, focused student, and cautious eater. She has the biggest heart, a beautiful smile, and an almost Canadian-seeming tendency to unnecessarily say “I’m sorry.” My current fave memory with Katie is scheming a sock prank for my neighbor. It was unsuccessful, but that didn’t stop us from having a blast with it.

Meet Nate, a journalism major from Wisconsin. Nate is a skilled writer, an athletic Jimmy John’s delivery boy, and a group father figure. Nate is a “sty” (style) master, a dare-devil, and “not a nerd.” Fave memory thus far would have to be getting Taco Bell after the Hollywood Undead concert in Cedar Rapids. After midterms, the concert, good company, and sketchy food was the perfect form of stress-relief.

Meet Grace, a journalism major from South Korea. Grace is a Lady Ice Hawk, a passionate videographer, and wildly imaginative artist. She’s genuine, hilarious, and has the coolest fashion sense everrrrr. Fave memory so far? Kickin’ it at the tailgates with Grace. Frat tailgates involve meeting a lot of characters, so it’s insanely beneficial to have a chill friend like Grace to experience it all with.

 

Meet Kate, a physical therapy major from Illinois. Kate works hard in the Catlett Dining Hall, juggles a full class schedule, and tells a mean story. She’s literally the most iconic human I’ve met here, in that she’s incredibly beautiful, personable, and witty. My fave memory so far with Kate definitely goes to the evening Kate, Grace, and I spent meeting people on the old site Omegle. Never would I have expected to spend a weekday evening in 2017 on Omegle, chatting up people from across the world with my dorm friends. Hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.

__________________________________

There’s a theory that a person’s personality is the aggregate of the personalities of the seven people they hang out with the most.  If that’s true, I think I’m okay with that. I’m so incredibly blessed to have met and found the friends I have today, whether through classes, events, or simply by living on the same floor. The comfort of having a group to binge watch Stranger Things 2 with, or hit up Ragstock and Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon, or tailgate, or go out on a Friday night with is a huge part of what makes Iowa my home.

To all my friends I didn’t yet introduce: your post is coming! I’ve got too many procrastinated assignments to cover everything right now, so you’ll get your own post soon. 🙂 The important thing to get out this post is that making friends in college is scary. Spooky scary. No matter where you come from, you can never really know who you’ll meet coming to college. So, it’s scary. But, also amazing. Making friends in college is amazing because you meet so many people, from so many places with so many experiences. It’s exciting and fascinating and fun because people you’d probably never have met are suddenly the ones carrying you back to your room after a night out, or showing you their cool music, or stress-eating and cramming with you before a midterm. College sorta forces you to bond with people, and that makes for some really unexpected, yet amazing friendships.

Wishing you all a safe, happy, healthy week. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Finding My Way

I’ve had a lot of incredibly impactful conversations lately, all under the guise of a routine lecture, appointment, or office visit.

It all started with my Public Health Direct Admit Seminar. One class period, two Career Peer Advisers visited to present on creating a resume and inform us of various resources the Pomerantz Center offers. They emphasized the content that should be included in a standard one-page resume. While none of the information in their presentation was unexpected, it suddenly hit me that all the things I did throughout the past five years of my life were no longer resume-worthy. The jobs, summer programs, leadership positions, classes, and volunteering I’ve done to build my resume for college applications are no longer relevant, or noteworthy, as I begin to apply for “real-world” internships and jobs. The two presenters advised students to get involved on campus early so there was content available to put on our adult resumes. As a person who spent a lot of time and effort as a kid building up my resume, it was disheartening to realize that all of my past efforts to get ahead still left me equal to my peers at the start of our college careers. No matter what kind of student or person you may be in high school, college admission sets us all at an equally minimal status. With this in mind, college is also a fresh start and a new opportunity to craft a really heckin’ good resume. 🙂

Later the same day, my other seminar class had a guest presenter tell us about the Fulbright program. She listened to each of our personal aspirations and majors and gave personalized feedback towards programs applicable to our interests. As a journalism and public health student dreaming of working as a health journalist for National Geographic, I didn’t expect there to be a Fulbright program that would be beneficial to me. Surprise, surprise! The Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship is an insanely cool program that is seemingly tailored to my exact interests. Our presenter made it clear that the application for a Fulbright was rigorous and demanding, highly competitive, and required a lot of dedication. By the conclusion of the presentation, I was convinced that my next big goal in life would be to receive the National Geographic Fulbright my senior year at the University of Iowa.

A few days after the resume and Fulbright presentations, I had a routine meeting with one of my academic advisors. We chatted about my personal life and how classes have been so far this semester, before moving on to schedule planning for spring semester. (College moves quickly… I feel like I just moved in and we’re already halfway through the semester!) I told my advisor about my new goal of being a Fulbright scholar, and how it applied to my program of study. She was able to provide a lot of insightful and specific tips on how I should begin developing my resume, from research to student organizations and local volunteering.

Within a week, I attended my first office hours with Professor Daniel-Ulloa, in the College of Public Health. It was intimidating, awkward, uncomfortable, and amazing. We had an incredibly intellectually stimulating conversation about racial privilege, health equity, public health motivations, and how I could be successful as a health journalist covering such sensitive topics. My biggest takeaway was that as a journalist and a person, I should always be uncomfortable. If I’m not uncomfortable, I’m not challenging myself to be a better person.

All of these little events over the past two weeks have added up in a major way. The culmination of realizing my starting point, setting a new goal, and discovering how to begin resulted in some heavy internal reflection and a lot of inspiration. Leaving the behind the certainties of high school was disorienting, but in less than half a semester I’ve already unwittingly stumbled upon my new path. Moving forward, I’m looking to get involved with Community and Behavioral Health research at the College of Public Health, working on maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA, and alloting time to a select student organization as well as pursuing a volunteer position at a local clinic. Cheers to #goals! 🙂

Kate, Katie, Nate, Emily, Grace and I showed our school spirit at a tailgate before the Homecoming game. Go Hawks!
Would I even be a Hawkeye if I didn’t take a picture of the glowy golden old capitol building during the sunrise? I caught this view as I walked home after work one morning.
Cute blurry snap of a Herky Statue and the Pentacrest at night
Ayyy! Squad took advantage of $4 Blaze pizzas Oct. 4th. Pizza is prime for any occasion, and the sale was just a bonus. 😉
I survived midterms! Media Uses and Effects and Principles of Chemistry 1 Exams stressed me out Thursday, but now that they’re over I can relax… until Monday, when I should start studying for the next round of exams.
Messed around with the fish-eye lens on my camera and caught this snap of the sunset at Catlett
Don’t hurt your neck! This is just a fun snap of the backside of the Old Capitol building during Homecoming week. The iconic corn statue and GO HAWKS spelled out in yard flags really says it all.

 

 

Testing, Hiring, Exploring

Wake Me Up When September Ends (in the meme sense) isn’t applicable this year. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer anxiously awaiting the end of a school year or simply because I’m having so much fun, but this semester is flying by. While I’ve had a lot of fun, I’ve also been focusing on my academics, pursuing a job, and discovering new resources on campus.

My first official college exams were last week, in Principles of Chemistry I and Media Uses and Effects. To my high school audience, I want you to know that college exams can be far easier than you ever imagined, and also just as bad as you feared. It all depends on the class, the professor, and the time you spend studying. It’s just something you have to feel out and experience, which is exactly what I did this first round of exams.

Here’s what I found:

  • Chemistry exams take place at 8:45 pm, in a random location on campus assigned based on the first letter of your last name. It doesn’t seem that bad, but taking a test late in the evening at a new location is disorienting and distracting.
  • When professors say to memorize a table from the textbook, they actually mean it.
  • Most exams involve filling in Scantron bubbles, thus a number two pencil is mandatory.
  • There’s a lot of people in the exam room, all in varying degrees of panic and worry. When people finish far earlier or later than you, it’s intimidating. But it also doesn’t mean anything substantial. They may have really known the material, or they may have circled their first guess. It’s a personal pace thing.
  • Unlike high school, peers won’t know or ask your score in most cases. Also, your face value score might not directly reflect your grade. Most large classes utilize a curve or off-the-top grading structure.
  • Getting a great or terrible grade doesn’t mean all that much. Most classes and professors have enough points or opportunities available to regulate a grade that’s extremely high or low. Taking things in stride is important for your mental health.

Moving forward, I plan on utilizing study time a bit more and maybe attending Supplemental Instruction for Chemistry. There’s ample resources for struggling students.

In other news, I landed a job! I decided a couple weeks ago that I will need a source of income on campus, so I turned to HireAHawk. Within a few days of applying, I interviewed with the University Department of Public Safety and was hired as a Night Security Guard. Getting a job was far easier and more streamlined than I had planned. My first shift is Saturday morning, at 2:45 AM. I’m looking forward to getting started and excited to return to a consistent paycheck schedule. College is expensive, folks. No matter how many scholarships a student has, there’s a lot of money that goes into living the college life.

https://uiowa-csm.symplicity.com/students/index.php?s=home

Lastly, I used my first Street Hawk flex meal. The Street Hawk food truck is stationed in various spots on campus throughout the week, offering a fun alternative to dining hall lunch for students. Since arriving, I’ve heard nothing but praise for the Street Hawk food truck. Others told me it was convenient, flexible, and tasty. When I spotted the food truck Tuesday, I decided it was time for me to give it a go. I was not let down. The menu is dynamic and delicious, ordering was efficient, and I was able to get a meal on route to class rather than hiking back to the dining hall in Catlett. I would (10/10) recommend Street Hawk.

Hawkeye’s New Groove

It’s amazing how quickly the University of Iowa became “home” to me. Beside the literal address change and property movement, the sprawling sidewalks of campus and the artful dorms have become my haven. Uprooting was a big transition, no doubt, but I’m settling into my new groove quite well.

In high school, my daily routine was consistent and structured. At the time, it felt like the best thing to ensure that I was operating at my highest capacity. In college, I’m learning a different side of myself. A side that quite literally goes with the flow, and makes decisions on a moment’s notice. One of the biggest mental adjustments to my new routine is the freedom of fluid time management. So far, no two days have been identical. My schedule is up to my own discretion. I go to bed when I feel like sleeping and choose to eat or not eat, study or not study, based on my intuition. If I feel like I can get away with sleeping in and still make it to class on time, or breakfast, or finish my assignments, then I do that. And if something doesn’t work out, I deal with the consequences. Thus far, my intuition hasn’t steered me wrong.

(This might be a terrible system. We’ll find out after my first exams in Media Uses and Effects and Principles of Chemistry I on Thursday.)

The breakdown: Most of my time is spent either in class, in my room, or in the floor lounges in Catlett.

In class, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know various professors and their teaching style. High school teachers have a lot less liberties in the classroom, so it’s interesting to be in a class setting with instructors who are allowed to teach what/how they want and share their personality. Fundamentals of Public Health Professor Daniel-Ulloa incorporates comedy and passion into his lectures, often censoring minimally. Media Uses and Effects Professor Young runs a more rigid lecture, but makes use of crowded seating to encourage guided discussion during brief pauses. Some instructors want to be called a specific title, while others prefer to be referenced colloquially. Some insist on making full use of class time, to the second, while others will finish material early and dismiss class ahead of time. No two instructors are exactly alike. Due to the variety of environments and instructors for each class, I’m forced to pay better attention to the coursework at hand.

Time spent in my room is usually not productive time. Occasionally, I clean. This may mean sweeping, making the bed, doing dishes, putting away laundry, or Clorox wiping all hard surfaces. Because I don’t own a vacuum cleaner, I also spend a strange amount of time lint-rolling my rug. 🙂 More often than not, however, I am watching Netflix or building a playlist. Naps are (admittedly) gaining importance in my life as well.

The floor lounges in Catlett are the ideal place to gather with friends. The window walls lend a gorgeous view of the river and west side of Campus while the chairs and tables offer a space to play card games or complete homework.

When I’m not in one of the afore-mentioned places, I’m generally out with friends exploring campus or running errands. There’s few things I love more than autumn weather and walking around campus in the evenings. The Pentacrest at night is such a stark contrast to the bustling Pentacrest of the day.

I really like the fluidity of my schedule as a college student, but one aspect of college life clashes with this lifestyle: student organizations. I’ve been looking into joining several organizations, but I struggle with remembering the time and locations of the various meetings each week. Sometimes they overlap or conflict, or a tempting offer to eat out at BDubbs comes up at the same time. I hope that I can enforce my own attendance to meetings of interest by writing them into my planner. Something about the permanence of inking an appointment into a planner makes it feel mandatory.

There’s a myriad of methods to managing a student schedule, and to each their own. I expect to make adjustments moving forward, but for now I’m taking it one day at a time and loving it.

This is just one example of the gorgeous views from the floor lounges in Catlett. Gah, so pretty.
Nate, Emily, and I set off on a dog-spotting trek through the ped mall and stopped to enjoy the porch swings
One angle of the College of Public Health Building, located on the west side of the river
Alongside Political Science majors Elijah and Emily, I #feltthebern at Hancher Auditorium
Late night Panchero’s runs are common in college
A view from my seat at the awesome first home game versus Wyoming
We took Nate on his first journey through the natural history museum located in MacBride Hall. Looks like he got a little frisky with Rusty the Giant Sloth. 🙂
I donned a Hawkeye spirit sweater for the chilly game Saturday. It was a blast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unrelated Fun (?) Facts 

 

My favorite discovery about the University of Iowa since move in is the College of Public Health building. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it also has the best study spaces I’ve found across campus. There’s multi-person tables, accessible TVs for group projects, secluded study rooms for privacy, loads of outlets, a video-call area, etc. All of this (^^^) with a stunning view and an open balcony for added cool-ness. I love it. I stumbled across the study space while roaming the building and have since visited often.

When I’m having a rough day or miss home a little extra, I utilize Snapchat’s video call feature to chat with my parents. Showing them how to use Snapchat over the past few months has been, well, an adventure to say the least. Other students may use Skype, Facetime, or other similar apps to contact relatives and friends from far away.

Thanks for reading! Have a great week.

Awko-Taco

**DISCLAIMER** Following is a long post that’s only relatable/beneficial if you’re a socially awkward human bean.

If you’re anything like me, (and, lord, help you if you are) then building stable relationships in a new environment is difficult. A variety of obstacles pave the path to social success. Whether it be social anxiety, introversion, extroversion, awkwardness, shyness, trust issues, or just a general dislike of people, meeting people and making friends can be ROUGH. 🙂

Completely un-helpful ish people always say:

 Just be yourself.

   The more you do it, the easier it’ll get. (“It” meaning public speaking or meeting people.)

It doesn’t hurt to try.

                                                                  Everyone is super nice in college.

                    No one cares in college, we’re all just living our own lives.

If you say this ^^ stuff, you should know that I don’t hold a personal grudge against you. My eyes just slide back inside my head when I hear it. Here’s the thing though, when you have social anxiety you can’t just ‘be yourself.’ For me, in group settings I get really quiet, turn red when any attention is directed to me, and sweat ridiculously. I also shake, in this unhealthy tremor-looking way. I physically can’t be myself until the safety barriers placed by my social anxiety are torn down by the comfort of sharing experiences with someone. Socially anxious me is me being me.

It doesn’t get any easier with practice/repetition. I feel equally crappy whether I’m introducing myself to a single person in the hallway or sharing a presentation in front of professional panel. (Whew, alliteration.) I did Speech in high school, took the required courses, and had countless experiences with public speaking and social interaction. I live through it, but it doesn’t get any easier/less painful each time.

There’s thousands more people on campus then there were even in my town, but that doesn’t mean they’re all nice. Being in the Midwest, most people act generally decent during chance encounters. General decency doesn’t mean they will like you, be your friend, not be judgmental, or not partake in harsh gossip.

For those of you who can relate, throughout high school the appeal of finding others like you was motivation enough to push through to college. I come from a school of <500, and my first class at the University of Iowa contained over 600 students. That’s WILD. My social anxiety screamed, “RUN!” when I moved into my dorm, but my heart soared with the hope of finding my life-long best friends. Years of social conditioning taught me that college would be a magical place, where lifetime bonds were forged and excitement peaked.

(In all honesty, I peaked in first grade. But, uh, that’s a separate story.)

So, what have I discovered since moving in two short weeks ago?

Everyone’s life is on its own time.

Biologically, we mature at different times. Physically, we reach various milestones when conditions are right for our individual selves. And in terms of relationships, we meet the people that change our lives when we expect it least. Though clichéd, and, albeit a tad misleading, that statement holds truth. I’ve always found the best relationships accidentally, stumbling upon them while simply living my life and focusing on being happy on my own. I’m not really sure of the science behind this. Maybe we’re more attractive to others when we give off happy, healthy vibes. Maybe it’s just fate. Maybe, we’re more emotionally receptive to others when we aren’t panicking about looking like/feeling like a loner. Regardless, new relationships are out there, lurking in the most obvious of places. The worst part of all of this (the assertion that best friends are found when you’re not looking) is the application of it. When someone says, “Don’t look now,” I suddenly have to look. Even if I didn’t care about looking or know it’s a bad choice. Reverse psychology at its finest. So, when I say stop looking for a best friend/significant other actively, it makes it that much harder to focus on yourself.

If you’re still socially floundering, here’s a few of my habits to cope with the lonely/anxious road to finding your mental match:

Develop a hobby…. I write and take semi-artsy pictures with my Galaxy S6’s cracked camera. If you can have fun doing it on your own, do it the best you can! Maybe you’ll encounter your future buddy while doing your hobby.

Make a playlist. Or two. Or thirty-six… Spotify Premium is my hero. I might just be more into music than most people, but IMHO there’s nothing quite like a playlist perfectly tailored to a specific mood and vibe. Naming the playlist is half the fun, too. Music is a great social connector and solid conversational topic in nearly any setting. There’s few better ways of getting to know someone than by learning and appreciating their music tastes. Sorting Hat, my catch-all playlist, is linked for your perusal. Vibing Bubbly (my indie happy playlist) is also linked below.   

Clean/organize/take notes… The most socially appealing you is the best you. Destress and declutter, or improve your time management skills and GPA while you’ve got time to kill.

Try new things… And by things, I mean food. Food is also a universal talking point and just a generally great thing. I don’t recommend boredom-eating as a habit, but there are literally hundreds of delicious dives in the Iowa City area. Visiting families will appreciate your foodie-level dining suggestions and you’ll likely discover something you love.

Never settle… Lastly, but most importantly, resist the urge to settle! If someone belittles, annoys, mistreats, or intimidates you, they aren’t worthwhile company. Take care of yourself, and hopefully focusing on personal discovery will expedite the relational discovery process too.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Alternatively, if the whole “Stop looking for friends and they’ll find you” method is too passive or not effective for you, there’s a much more proactive option. If it’s something you’re comfortable with, the University Counseling and Wellness Services are a great resource for students. Follow this link for more information on their services:

https://counseling.uiowa.edu/

P.S. There’s no shame in checking it out! Mental health/being happy on campus is important. Their services are free to students and there’s lots of service options available.

P.S.S. If you see me on campus, don’t hesitate to awkwardly nod or half-wave and cringe. I’ll probably look behind myself to see who you’re waving at then turn crimson and nod back. It’s a thing. 🙂

Transitional Trials

And just like that, we’re college students. Adult-ing. Sort of.

For every overwhelming, anxiety-induced, panicky moment of the transition from high school student to college student, there was an omnipresent aura of excitement, liberation, and opportunity. Two short weeks ago, I had yet to meet another Hawkeye, experience OnIowa, or dine at Catlett. Today, I’m content (to put it lightly) to call the University of Iowa my home. While there will always be a place in my heart for my two Labrador retrievers, loving family, and spacious kitchen in Vinton, there’s just something amazing about creating my own space, choosing my company, and experiencing raw, unsheltered life as an individual.

I’m the proud occupant of a single in the beautiful new dorm Catlett. Though being in a single wasn’t my first choice, I’m learning to appreciate having a space to myself on a campus so full of people. Being social can be taxing, so the ability to unwind and decompress in a private space is an advantageous perk. Beyond the perks, however, is the noticeable lack of a roommate. Sometimes having a roommate can mean having a built-in close friend, an icebreaker, and a reliable resource for safety. Luckily, the other students on my floor have filled this void and accepted me into the fold. You can check out some early pictures of my room below!

With each passing day, I realize new items that would be beneficial to have in the dorms. My current list includes a broom, handheld vacuum, plant, attachable ID case, five subject notebook, printer and accessories, etc. Thankfully, OnIowa’s Target Takeover provided an opportunity to buy some of the things I had forgot during the move. For students that missed the takeover or are unable to travel home, CVS in the Old Capitol Mall is a surprisingly convenient store to find dorm necessities.

The transitional trials of the heart and mind….

In my observation, time has been expressed incredibly weird lately. I’m not sure how others feel, but I feel as if I’ve lived on campus for a short lifetime. The days move quickly, and juggling class schedules with events and personal planning is already chaotic. I can only imagine how things will progress throughout the semester. I have a blast with friends and time flies, but reflecting back on the experiences, they seem eons in the past. Right now, I’m just trying to sort out all the details of college. I ordered textbooks yesterday after a lot of shuffling items around in online carts, and now all my textbooks are on backorder. I also dropped an intimidating class after realizing a slight major adjustment could help me avoid paying extra, having 8 am and 6 pm class, and taking a rigorous math course. Besides being the practical choice, it was a bit of a revelation that this, THIS is college. So, it’s my choice. My education, my career, my choice. I don’t like math so I don’t have to take it. That’s adult-ing, right? J

As much fun as I’ve had the past two weeks, I’m excited to visit home this weekend. Partially to see my family and dogs, and partially to get the other things I need for my dorm. I wasn’t expecting to get homesick, but yet here I am calling my parents every few days for an update and to hear their voices. I think it’s important to realize that being homesick is normal, and it doesn’t equate to being dependent. Whether you visit home every weekend or cut all ties to your family, we’re all in this together as students of the University of Iowa. We’re college students, but that doesn’t mean we stop being kids. Have a great weekend, Hawks!

Not the best quality picture, but luckily there’s some very professional shots circulating from our time forming the block I. 🙂
Odds are, none of us will ever stand on the turf at Kinnick again. I had to commemorate this moment.
Wednesday a friend convinced me to check out Blaze Pizza with her. Not only was it delicious, it was free because it was training day.
I showed up to class three hours early and while waiting discovered I really like the floor pattern in Maclean Hall. 🙂
First day of classes, rain aesthetic!