Thanksgiving Break and Other Breaks

Friendsgiving in Iowa City

I have a love hate relationship with Thanksgiving break. Yes, it’s amazing, a week of no school finally. But, on the other hand, it’s such a harsh reminder that winter break is creeping up on us. Winter break was torturous last year. A month of no school felt like forever.

The good thing about breaks in high school was that your friends were still in the same city and within driving distance. The dreadful thing about breaks in college is that all your friends are spread out in the country and around the world. Therefore, you’re all alone in your state wishing you could be back with your friends.

And don’t even get me started on summer. Summer was deadly. It was way too long. It was three and a half months of no interaction with my Iowa people. I may be one of the minorities in saying that breaks in college are a little bit too long.

Don’t get me wrong. I miss my family and I love them with all my heart. I value the time that I spend with them, but college just seems to be zooming too fast and it hurts. I wish time would slow down a bit, yet it only seems to slow down when I’m in breaks and not when I’m at Iowa.

My Favorite Class This Semester

This semester I’m enrolled in a class called, “Introduction to Media Production.” The class is long, from 5pm to 7:30pm. Yet, the time somehow seems to fly by. Most likely because I love the class.

Each week we delve into a new production learning experience. One week we learn about a newscast, the next how to produce a music video, then how to use Premiere Pro. All of which are things that interest me.

It feels good to have found something that truly interests me and makes me excited to go to class.

Since the class is only once a week and almost three hours long, everyone in the class is very close to one another and it takes me back to high school.

My favorite classes in college so far have been the longer ones that occur only once or twice a week, like the rhetoric class I took or the two-and-a-half-hour art class I’m currently enrolled in along with this media production class.

After all, it’s nice to make this huge college feel small by taking classes where you have time to learn everyone’s name and connect with them one on one.

Sign-ups for classes are coming next week and my advice for everyone is to sign up for the classes that take a big chunk of time. Those are the classes where you are bound to make friends and form connections.

I feel that the 50-minute discussion classes are not long enough to make strong connections and friendships. That’s why I recommend you sign up for the long classes. Plus, the upside is that they occur less frequently in the week.

Good luck getting the schedule you want!

Our music video class where the professor brought in guitars and drums!

Why it’s okay to withdraw from a class

When I was a first-year at Iowa I found out what getting a “W” in a class meant. (For those who don’t know, it means that you withdrew from a class after the deadline to drop.)

Every time someone explained it to me or talked about it, it came with a negative connotation, as if withdrawing from a class was a sign of weakness and lack of perseverance. I told myself that I would never withdraw from a class… until I took an astronomy class as a gen-ed.

Boy, how naïve was I to think that withdrawing from a class was a sign of weakness? I had to muster so much courage to go to my academic advisor to tell her about my struggles with the class.

It was not necessarily that I was doing bad in the class because I wasn’t. I had an A in my lab portion, a B in my lecture portion and I got above average in the first exam. The thing was that I wasn’t achieving my fullest potential and I wasn’t learning in that class. I felt lost and unmotivated because I did not understand what was going on. The professor lost me in the first half of the semester and there was no catching up in the second half. Therefore, I had no other choice but to withdraw. No matter how much I read the textbook, did the homework and re-read the lectures, nothing was sticking in my brain.

I knew that I had more potential and that I could do better in a different class. Therefore, I did some reflecting and decided that withdrawing was the best option.

After all, in a different class, I could pursue an A and boost my GPA instead of letting fate decide my grade for my astronomy class. It would have been hard to even get a B at the rate that my brain was understanding the content.

Hopefully, next year I can sign up for the class that I have scheduled. A TILE style science with a lab gen-ed. TILE style classes are small and student-centered. It will be a better teaching approach for my non-STEM wired brain.

And remember, getting a W is a part of the college experience that most of us don’t want yet might have to experience. Getting a W is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and the ability to self-reflect.

One last piece of advice: It’s better to have a W in your transcript than a low grade, so when in doubt W it out. (Just not too much. Maybe once every other year at most.)

Organization Tips for College Students

Hi everyone! Happy October!

I had a crazy week last week and calling it crazy is a positive way of saying ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE, GUT-WRENCHING week. I had so many presentations and midterms, it was insane… Bad, bad week, but its a new month and a new week so we’re onto new and better things!

I wanted to make a post for organization tips since many of my friends struggle with staying organized school-wise. These tips are what keep my grades looking pretty and what keep me sane.

  • A Physical Calendar
        • Immediately after the first day of classes, I pull out my calendar and different color pens and fill in the important dates from each syllabi I receive. I fill in dates for tests, essays, quizzes, etc. Along with that I also write the percentage that each test is so it stresses me out (in a good way) or so it puts that assignment in perspective. Say that week I have a presentation worth 2% and a paper worth 20%. That week I will focus most of my attention on the paper and the rest on my presentation. Putting important dates along with their weight on my calendar has saved me!
  • Post-It’s with Grading Scales
      • Whenever I’m working on an assignment I like to know how much it is worth so I can work extra hard to make it perfect or so I don’t stress as much because I know that doing bad on it won’t be the end of the world. I like putting boxes next to these assignments because it is SO satisfying to check off the boxes!
  • A Planner
          • Pretty self-explanatory. You get your homework, you write it down. It comes with monthly calendars as well. I can’t live an academic year without a planner. I discovered the power of planner in middle school and have not lived a school year without one since.
  • A Weekly Post-It
      • My stack of pink Post-It’s are reserved as my Weekly Post-It’s. Every week I take one of these and divide it into seven different sections, each section represents a day. In each section I write what I have to accomplish in that day. Big nerd moves.
  • iPhone Notes
      • I’m the most list obsessed person you will ever meet in the world. Whenever I get overwhelmed I’ll pull out my iPhone’s Notes app and write a list of everything I have to do and rank it from which one I have to finish first and which one is due later. Then, beside it I will write what day I will focus on what assignments in order to stay on top of everything.
  • iPhone Calendar
      • The University of Iowa loves making students’ lives easier. That’s why they allow us to link our academic calendars to iPhone calendars. So, if you didn’t know that you could do that, now you know. It’s life changing. In my iPhone calendar I have my school calendar in orange and my meetings in blue.
  • A Desktop of Syllabi
      • Another necessity I discovered freshman year of college that I will use for the rest of my academic life. I download all the pdf versions of my syllabus and put them all into one desktop on my laptop. Then I scroll through it as each week passes. Having this lets me know what to expect from each class and what important dates are coming up. I also keep my digital sticky notes on that desktop. Life. Changing.

I hope these tips help some of you! Let me know some of your tips!

Student Orgs & Making Friends

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re all doing as good as I am. I have had such a great week despite all the homework I have had to do and still have to do!

I had two interviews this week for positions in the Daily Iowan, the University’s student run newspaper, and SCOPE Productions, the student org that brings bands to campus for Homecoming and more!

Last year I got involved and still am involved in KRUI, the University’s radio station (tune into Music with Mari every Thursday from 1-2pm) and every now and then I stopped by ALMA (Association of Latinos Moving Ahead). This year I can’t attend ALMA meetings because they are during one of my classes.

Anyways, back to the two student orgs I had interviews for… I got positions in both of them which is why my week is absolutely made! I also saw a really tiny puppy on my way to getting sushi with my freshman year roommate, so that was also a highlight of my day!

I’m excited to join these student orgs because joining clubs is a great way to make friends. One of the down sides of going to a big university is that making friends and seeing them is difficult. It’s rare to run into friends on your way to class. After all, all the streets are filled with a gazillion students. So sometimes the campus can feel a little lonely.

As I freshman I thought that the only way I would make friends would be if I rushed (and going Greek is pricey!), but I’m here to tell you that that is not the only way to make friends! Get involved! My first step in getting involved was by joining Iowa Edge before I even arrived on campus. Through Iowa Edge I have made all the friends that I needed. I met my sophomore year roommate through Iowa Edge, I met my boyfriend through a friend I met in Iowa Edge, all my study buddies: Iowa Edge. The great part is that once you make a friend, they have friends and then their friends become your friends and the campus starts feeling smaller.

So to everyone who is feeling a little lonely in campus and feels like they’ll never find their people. You will! Just get involved and step outside your comfort zone! I met a friend a few days ago because she held the door open for me, I thanked her, we both were walking the same direction and we just started a conversation. It’s all about stepping outside your shell! Going to a big school is great because you will never run out of people to meet! Take advantage of it!

#1 George’s Gyros Fan

Life is so good in Iowa City. My classes this year are a bit more difficult. I’m taking 3 classes for my major and 2 gen eds. (Yep, I finally decided on my major! Hip, hip, hooray!)

My hardest class right now is my astronomy class and some aspects of my classes for my major are difficult as well, but other than that I’m satisfied with my classes this semester. I have two classes that are my creative outlets: Elements of Art and Intro to Media Production. The other classes are serious, lecture heavy classes.

All summer I have been dying to come back to Iowa City for one reason: the gyros downtown. It is a hidden gem that was introduced to me by four close friends of mine. It is a blue and white food cart with white letters outlined in red that spell “George’s Best Gyros.” When you go somewhere to eat and see “Best” in the name you usually question it, but I can 100% confirm that George’s Gyros definitely are the best gyros in Iowa City. For all of you who want to try them out, George’s comes out every Friday and Saturday from 10pm – 2am and each gyro is $7. The gyros come with pita bread, onions, tomatoes, meat and gyro sauce!

After discovering George’s freshman year, I started walking 20 minutes in my pajamas from Hillcrest to the Ped Mall with my roommate just to get a $7 gyro from them. It was the highlight of our weekends. Then we would go back to Hillcrest before their flex meal location closed and got M&M ice cream bars as our dessert.

Before I left for my home in the summer, I asked my friend to take me to George’s as my last meal before he dropped me off in the Greyhound bus stop. My friend is an Iowa City native and he had never heard of George’s. Needless to say, he’s also a big fan now. You’re welcome, Alfredo!

All summer I told my friends how much I was craving gyros to the point that whenever I would go to a restaurant that had gyro in its menu I would order it, but sadly nothing compares to an Iowa City gyro.

Then, finally I got back to Iowa City and had a gyro with my new roommate. After that, I asked my boyfriend to take me to get gyros as our first date back together. Then, my friend said she wanted to try them so I took her and we each had two. I could go for another five gyros right about now too.

PS. My dad is coming to Iowa City for the first time in October and he has heard me rave about George’s so much that he always tells me how much he can’t wait to try them. I’m so excited to introduce him to George’s!

PPS. Fun fact: There’s a grilled cheese stand next to George’s called Marco’s Grilled Cheese and my friends and I always debate about which stand is better and it’s definitely George’s, but you’ll have to try for yourself to decide. (But if you’re more of a Marco’s type of person we might have an issue.) (I’m kidding, Marco’s is delicious! And they’re also cheaper by $2, so that’s definitely a perk! I also could go really for a grilled cheese right now…)

Back to Campus (FINALLY!)

I am so happy to be back on campus! Although summer was great, I could not wait to come back to Iowa and see all of my best friends again. If some of you guys did not know, I am living in the dorms again with my best friend, Jessica, as a sophomore.

Since I live in California it’s cheaper for me to fly into Chicago. Therefore, my travel time is overly long. I have to fly into Chicago and then I take a four hour long bus ride through Greyhound (not sponsored). After a long day of traveling, I arrived to campus alone with a HUGE bag of clothes from home, a heavy duffel bag and a big backpack.

My roommate from freshman year lives in Iowa, so she kept my bedding, dorm accessories, and other college necessities over the summer. After picking up my storage items from my past roommate, my boyfriend met me to help me move in to Catlett, the godsend of the Iowa dorms. I finally set up my room with the help of my roommate and boyfriend but some things about Catlett felt a little off after calling Hillcrest home for a year.


It got to the point that after two nights of Catlett’s dining hall food, my roommate and I walked across the river from Catlett all the way to Hillcrest in 13 minutes RIGHT BEFORE IT CLOSED just to eat in a dining hall that would feel a little more homey. Sure there’s a lot of perks to living in Catlett like the in house gym and singular showers (thank god), but it’s going to take some time to make it feel like home. I can’t wait for all of the memories that this year brings with it!

Top Five Places to Eat in Iowa City

Iowa City is filled with a multitude of restaurants, coffee shops, and dessert places. Here are five of my favorite places to go to downtown!


First semester my friend and I went to YoTopia on a Tuesday and they gave us a punch card and told us that Tuesdays were double the punches on the card. (Once you get ten stamps you get a free froyo). So my friend and I made it our mission to get a free froyo. Every now and then whenever we craved froyo we went to YoTopia. This last week of freshman year I received my free froyo! They have affordable $4 flat rate cups and their flavors and toppings are delicious, especially their gummy candies!


There is nothing I love more in this world than sushi. Therefore, I explored all the options that Iowa City had for sushi and I can confidently tell you that this is the best one. Take my word for it. It’s clean, elegant, and as affordable as sushi can get.

Java House

Their chai latte’s are delicious and the atmosphere is so peaceful. Their playlists are relaxing. I come here with my roommate to do homework and I also come here with friends to drink coffee and play chess.

Blaze Pizza

My friend took me here for Pi Day since they had a deal and it was delicious! You get to make your own pizza, you choose everything from the sauce to your toppings! It was my first time seeing something like it.

Molly’s Cupcakes

My friend took me here for my birthday to get a cupcake since I didn’t get a cake. The staff here was so kind, they got me a candle and sang Happy Birthday. The cupcakes are delicious and their decorations are beautiful. They have swings as seats!

These are only five of the many options available at Iowa City! They have everything and anything you could want within walking distance. From Thai Food, Mexican Food to Jamba Juice and McDonalds. It’s all right in Iowa City!

My Next Semester Plans

Best part of warm Iowa City is how everyone goes out to hammock and chill outside.

Hello everyone! Long time no see! Spring is here! The snow has melted! Happy me is back!

I can’t believe freshman year is almost over, it genuinely flew by! It was filled with ups and downs. All in all, I can genuinely say I am so happy with my decision to come to Iowa and get out of my comfort zone and study in a state that I had never been to. Although all my friends cannot believe I went from California to Iowa, I have no regrets. I have met some of the most sweet, caring and loving people here. I am honestly so sad that summer break in Iowa is so long. It goes from early May to late August that’s almost 4 months of break. Anyone else would be super excited about this, but I am distraught. I wish break was shorter so I could come back to Iowa City quicker and see my friends faster.

The thing I am going to miss most about freshman year is the fact that all my friends won’t be all together anymore. The majority of my friends have signed their leases for apartments and will not be living on campus anymore.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had to withdraw from studying abroad and thus had to find late housing, which means I will be living in the dorms again with my best friend as a roommate. I am not upset about it, except for the fact that I wish I was living on the East side instead of the west side. Other than that, I love living on campus. (PS. I will definitely be studying abroad in the future!)

As for my schedule, since I was an open major throughout my entire freshman year, I finished all of my Gen Eds (except for three) throughout these first semesters. Therefore, my schedule for next year is more relaxed and filled with courses that I actually want to take, i.e. art classes, video-making courses, media classes, etc.

I hope summer takes a while to come because I am having the time of my life!

The Truth About Being An Open Major

The struggle of not knowing what to do with your life is real.

Prior to college I had no idea what I wanted to study. Therefore, I took a gap year in Brazil to “find myself.” I did not discover what I wanted to study, but I did have the time of my life. Now that I am a freshman in college, this confusion has gotten ten times more confusing.

Over the course of my first year I have already changed my major two times. I went from undecided to communications and from communications to pre-business. After declaring pre-business I had to withdraw my acceptance to study abroad next semester because the program was aimed at communication students.

Now that I am a pre-business major I am questioning if that is really what I want to do. I am not interested in finance or business topics at all. The problem is that the things that I am passionate make below average income or require PhDs and quite frankly I do not have the time or the money to pursue a PhD.

So far I have debated between being a teacher, a psychologist, a business major, a communications major, and an international relations major. I also considered engineering for a while.

My advice to prospective college students is to know what you want to do before you apply to college because if you are an open major your first year will consist in taking general education (GE) courses and after you are done with those usually within your first few semesters you will have to declare a major. In my case, I finished all my GEs within my first year and I have to know what I want to do before next year so I do not get off track from graduating in four years.

I have no clue what I want to do still, but hopefully I will find out before I have to sign up for my sophomore year classes. (I probably won’t know what to do, but it’ll be okay.) So, if you’re still in high school, try to find yourself and your calling because its scary not knowing what your major is and seeing everyone else kinda, sorta having their life together.