Studying Abroad (Hopefully)

My host family from Brazil and me in Rio de Janeiro.

As my first year of college begins to come to a close and as all my friends have started signing their leases for their apartments or finding roommates for their new dorms next year, I have found no housing for myself in Iowa City. Instead, I have started running a lot of errands with the study abroad office in the Old Capitol Mall.

My e-mail is filled with messages exchanged between my academic advisor and me, my UI study abroad advisor and me, my financial aid advisor and me, and my study abroad program advisor and me. It is such a hectic mess, but hopefully it will all tie up together.

I decided to study abroad for my fall semester of sophomore year because of many reasons:

  1. I studied abroad in high school and it was life changing. I took a gap year between my junior and senior year and was an exchange student in Brazil for a year. I lived with a host family and learned Portuguese and it changed my life.
  2. I would’ve loved to study abroad in the spring since it means that I get to be in Iowa while it’s warm and while the football games are going on, but the fall courses offered abroad were the ones that lined up with my major the most.
  3. I chose to study abroad in Italy because I promised myself that before I died I would learn five languages, the only languages that I am missing so far is French and Italian. So, Italian here I come!
  4. My friend studied abroad in college in her fall semester of sophomore year and she said that it is better to study abroad earlier than later, so here I am following her advice.

I really hope that I can study abroad. The University of Iowa offers so many amazing study abroad programs and they have their system set up so that if you study abroad the financial aid that you receive in Iowa also applies for your program!

So far I am in the tiring phase of applying and running errands, but in the end, it will all pay off and I will (hopefully, knock on wood) be studying my booty off in Italy!

PS. Big shout out to all the kind advisors at the University of Iowa.

First Semester vs. Second Semester of College

Well, now that my first month of second semester is drawing to a close, you could say I’m a professional college student. (Just kidding.) But I would classify myself as a pretty reliable source to get advice from. After all, I did survive first semester of college and persevered through onto another semester. Here’s what you can look out for in terms of first semester and second semester.


In your first semester you will be a newbie, therefore every place you turn you will see new things that you haven’t seen before. You won’t know how to work the bus or Bongo (the bus app). You might even take the wrong bus sometimes and end up in Mayflower even though you live on the West side (aka something I did). You may also be overwhelmed with people saying “West side” or “East side”, but soon enough you’ll learn that the west side is the best side. You’ll get lost going to classes and you will still be getting comfortable making friends. You’ll feel like you’ll never make friends, but trust me you will. The workload will seem like too much to handle at times, but you’ll survive. Before you know it, you’ll blink and you’ll be home with your family for the holidays wishing the days would pass by faster so you could go back to Iowa.

Second semester

In your second semester, you’ll be a pro. You’ll know how to use Bongo and you know that the Hawkeye Interdorm DOES NOT go from Rienow to the east side, but from Rienow through a big random loop back in the west side and then back to the east side. You’ll also know where everything is and won’t be using Google Maps to find buildings anymore. You’ll know which places have the best food (Burge burritos forever). You’ll know to avoid Catlett at peak lunch hours because of how overwhelming it gets. You’ll know how to manage your time (kind of.) You’ll have found your people. You’ll be closer to your roommate. And you will be sad knowing that the Spring semester somehow seems shorter than the Fall semester, meaning that your time in Iowa is limited and summer seems to be creeping up a little too fast. Soon enough you’ll find yourself thinking: Man, I wish summer was over so I was back in Iowa for my sophomore year.


The first semester flies by and even though it’s only the end of the second semester it feels like it’s flying by even faster. Four years is starting to seem like it’s not enough.

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!