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 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.
There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning with a sore throat and not having your mom there for you to pout to and tell her, “Mom, I have a sore throat.” Then, have her prepare you some honey and lemon to heal you quicker.
Oh wait, there is something worse… Waking up the next day with a fever, a stuffy nose, and a cough and not having anyone to take care of you.
Being sick and alone is something that will push your homesickness button. All you wish for is to be either healthy or to be pampered and pitied by your parents. At least that’s what I wish for. My mom used to take care of me ever so lovingly. She would make me homemade remedies and treat me like a hospital patient. (I was very spoiled, I was the youngest child.)
Now, in college, I take care of myself. I pop Advils and force myself to class in my sick misery. When it all gets too much though, I call my mom and receive her love and pity through the phone. She’ll tell me to do this and that and just with the simple act of hearing her loving voice everything becomes a little bit more bearable.
I have learned that real, ice cold, snowy winter is a hard thing to bear with. It feels eternal, especially when you are sick, but you have to push yourself and find methods that keep you sane, i.e. calling your mom, going to the gym, etc…
Anyways, if you are sick and alone. Take care of yourself. Don’t go out at night. Stay in bed for as long as you can. Avoid going out as much as possible. Drink soup. Drink water. Watch Netflix. You’ll be okay in a matter of time.
Welcome to Iowa City, the city where seasons actually happen.
As a new Iowa resident, I find that I have to repeatedly remind myself that I am not in California anymore. This means that winter is no longer a low of 48°F. My winter attire is no longer a crop top paired with a jacket, jeans and Vans and rain is not my biggest winter enemy.
In Iowa, the winter weather low is negative double digit numbers. Winter attire consists of snow boots, warm pants, a many layers of long sleeved items, scarfs, and gloves.
And my new biggest fear is now: ice. Except my good friend Amadou, an Iowa City life long resident, has taught me a valuable life lesson: ice senses fear. If you are walking gingerly trying not to slip, you will slip. Whereas, if you walk confidently with a proper ice gait, you will not fall. You will conquer the ice. Once you conquer the art of ice-walking, you will feel as if you are Jesus walking on water. You will feel powerful seeing your new found balance while others around you fall. (Maybe its my impeccable ice walking that has prevented me from falling or maybe its just my snow boots with powerful rubber grip.)
Anyways, to all my fellow warm-weather year round people, this post is for you. As a winter beginner, I believe that it is my job to help other future winter rookies survive this cold era. Enjoy my guide!
Mari’s Winter Guide:
Ice senses fear: Walk confidently. Maintain your balance. Don’t drag your feet while walking. Pick up those feet. Knees to chest. Knees to chest. You’re not scared of ice, ice is scared of you!
Layers, layers, baby: Your parents have taught you well, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Especially when it’s cold out. If you get warm, just take a layer off, but if you get cold and don’t have an extra layer to wear: K.O., honey. Winter: 1, You: 0.
Snow may be white, but it’s not pure: Looking out the window the snow may look pacific and pure, but just wait until you are walking to class at 8am and the snow is slamming into your face.
Avoid walking next to the Iowa River at all costs: Wind grazing over cold water and hitting you will feel like hypothermia. I don’t know what hypothermia feels like, but I’m guessing walking next to the Iowa River is it.
Holding that coffee in your hand while walking through the snow is not as cute as Gossip Girl makes it seem: Drink your coffee indoors. You’ll thank yourself when you have your hands in your pockets and not out in the cold holding a cup of coffee.
Don’t wear white shoes: The snow may be white, but slush and mud are everywhere. Those white shoes will end up looking like tail gating shoes by the end of the day.
Remind yourself that spring will come soon… Even if it seems like it’ll be cold forever.
My birthday is on December 14. The official last day of finals. Although many of friends left, I still had a very special birthday. I felt so loved and happy the whole day. This year was amazing and I am so happy to have met so many great people in Iowa and have gotten the chance to celebrate it instead of staying by myself in my dorm and ordering Uber Eats sushi while watching Netflix.
The day started with me walking down to the lobby of Hillcrest to pick up two packages I received, one was a bouquet of flowers from my family and the other was a gift voucher box to go sky diving from my siblings and brother-in-law. Afterwards, I ate one last meal in the dining hall with my friends who were leaving for their homes.
Then, I was alone for a little while and got to pack to go home. After packing, I met up with more friends to get frozen yogurt at YoTopia. (Best frozen yogurt in town! Their coconut milk frozen yogurt is the best!)
After that, I went back to the dorms and my friend and I decided to get my favorite food for dinner: Sushi! We went to Formosa and their eel roll was life changing. I love sushi sooooo much.
Finally, the night ended with my friend getting me a birthday cupcake and the kind workers at Molly’s Cupcake put a candle on my peach cupcake and I got to make a wish. I love Iowa City.
The cold has arrived. If you were not aware, I thrive in warm weather. It is what I am used to. I’ve lived in hot places all my life: Colombia, Brazil, and California. Therefore, winter for me is 40 degrees at most. I have never lived in weather below 40. I’ve never lived in the snow. I’ve only seen the snow two times in my life. Once when I was eight and again last year. It is so cold out. The sun is hardly out. All I want to do is stay inside and sleep. I’m seriously this close to Googling how to perform witch rituals and spells that make the sun and the warmth come back faster. This weather is really getting to me.
As if the cold was not bad enough, finals seasons are approaching and the work load is humongous. I have 5 essays due the week after Thanksgiving break and two of those have to be 5 – 7 pages and unmotivated, little Mari has started none of it.
Furthermore, this gloomy weather has made me keep my “sad, acoustic music” playlist on replay and thus my “off days” have become more frequent. (My sad playlist features a whole lot of Bon Iver and Novo Amor.) Seasonal Depression is a thing, y’all. But mental health is crucial, so here is how I have been attempting to keep my happiness levels up:
Surrounding myself with people: I get all up in my thoughts when I’m alone. I also get really lonely when my roommate isn’t home for long periods of time. After all, I was raised in very tight-knit household, therefore I am used to being surrounded by loving people for long periods of time. Therefore, in order to not feel lonely I try to surround myself with people I enjoy being around. Sometimes I do need alone time as well, so know how to manage that.
Listen to happy music: I have been blasting throwbacks whenever I feel that winter sadness creeping up on me. High School Musical, Camp Rock, Hannah Montana, etc… Those have all been on repeat in my dorm room.
Call your loved ones: Something I really miss is speaking my native language: Spanish. I have yet to find native Spanish speakers. Therefore, I try to call my family every now and then to feel at home and feel the comfort of the Spanish language naturally rolling off my tongue.
Eat comfort food: I can’t tell you how many soft serve ice cream cones and Oreos I have eaten in college. They make me happy, okay? Mental health first, right?
Work out: I have been running in the treadmill lately and I have been feeling that runner’s high that people talk about. It’s real, you do get happy from running. It’s so weird.
Schedule your work: I make to-do list’s to keep track of my work. It just gets me even more stressed if I don’t have homework done. Furthermore, checking off tasks and assignments from that to-do list makes you feel accomplished and motivated.
Go out: It’s extremely cold outside, but I love nature and I love feeling the air on my skin. Therefore, I try to still go out even though I look like a marshmallow wearing 500 layers. I try to avoid staying inside for long periods of time.
Practice positivity: Just be positive, it works. Waking up and putting a smile on your face psychologically makes you feel happy.
Don’t let the cold, gloomy weather get you down! Don’t let midterms and long papers get you down! We can get through this! Spring is just 4 – 6 months away, depending on when it decides to come back. Hopefully it will be back by March, but I heard that sometimes it stays cold all the way until April. Yikes. But positivity! Hopefully, the flowers will starting blooming by March. *fingers crossed*
A short compilation of my first three months at the University of Iowa.
Iowa in the fall is magical. The highlight of my days are walking to class. I put my headphones in, play some nice music and take my time walking. I take in the beauty of campus every day. The warm sun shining despite the cold wind. The birds flying above. The falling leaves. The warm colored trees. The river and how it looks like it might flood when it rains a bit too much. The constant faces that pass me by. The cambuses. The students on their scooters. The beautiful buildings. This campus is magical.
Prior to coming to college I had so many fears and expectations, but looking back on them now makes them seem so silly and petty. Here’s a list of my expectations vs. how they actually played out.
Expectations VS. Reality
#1. I won’t have any friends.
This is just silly. First of all, you will probably live with a roommate once you get to college. This means that you are already forced to have at least one familiar face on campus. Also, at Iowa you will have many occasions to make friends before your first day of class. Such as: Orientation and Iowa Edge. If you come to orientation, which is a requirement, you will be placed into small groups and in these small groups you will have to interact, therefore that is a solid opportunity to meet people and make friends. This is how I made two of my first Iowan friends: Toby and Laura. Another chance I had to make friends before school started was by joining Iowa Edge, a program for minority students. Here is where I made my friend group. I met soooo many good people through Edge. I am so grateful to have participated in it. Definitely look into it if you are a minority student!
#2. I will get lost.
Tip: Go to your classes before the semester starts. Also, you will get lost. It happens. Once you do, just ask someone for help. It’s not that bad. Also, before the semester started I added all the locations where my classes are into “Favorites” on my Maps application so that I could have easy access to them when I was walking to class to avoid getting lost. Life saving!
#3. I’m going to fail sooo many tests.
So far. So good. *knock on wood* But I mean, I’m definitely not acing everything, so that’s different from high school. Just make sure to put a good amount of work. Study every day. Go to office hours. You’ll be fine.
#4. What if my roommate and I hate each other?
You won’t. Well, at least my roommate and I don’t… yet. Kidding. Hopefully. Anyways, if you end up disliking your roommate, all you have to do is request a room switch and BOOM. Solved. That’s what’s so easy about life; everything has a solution.
#5. I’m going to get the Freshman 15.
Can’t give you a definite answer on that yet because so far I’m 4 pounds in. Yikes! But I’ve been hitting the Rec and let’s just say it’s not helping, one, because I am not motivated enough to have a solid routine that I never skip and two, because the food here is kinda, sorta, high key, really good. So…. yeah. I’m screwed. The Street Hawk food truck is delicious. The River Room cafe stir fry is life. The fact that Flex Meals have the option to come with Oreos kills me. Basically, my will to be healthy just isn’t strong enough. I always, always give in to junk food. Sigh.
On a good note, as I mentioned before, the cool thing about life is that the majority of things have solutions. No friends? Sign up for clubs. Say hi. Step out of your comfort zone. Keep your dorm room open. Got lost? Ok. Ask someone for help. Pull up Google Maps. Figure it out yourself. Failed a test? That’s cool. Everyone fails every once in a while. Just study more for the next one. Go to office hours. It’s all going to be fine, it’s not the end of the world. We’re all in it together. Dislike your roommate? Request a roommate change. Gained weight? No problem, just go to the gym.
Life is soooo easy, everything has a solution. So don’t fret the small stuff, you’ll be fine. College is amazing. It’s an experience that many can’t have, so enjoy it. You’ll be scared coming in as a freshman, but once you’re here you’ll never want it to be over. Right now it makes me kind of sad to think that next year many of my friends won’t be within walking distance from me since they will all be living in apartments or way farther away. So once you’re here, soak it all in. Enjoy your roommate. Enjoy how just upstairs are some of your closest friends and down the block in the next residence hall are more friends. Enjoy the fact that when you get to the dining hall many familiar faces are eating as well and serving you food. Enjoy it all. It will fly by. Freshman year is possibly the best year because your whole entire grade is taking over the residence halls, so take advantage of it.
Thinking about how first semester is almost over makes me really sad. It really, really flew by. I love Iowa. I love my Iowan people. I love my friends here. I love everyone. So far, so good. I’m loving it. Life is good. Life is so good out here in the Midwest.
As a student, finding a good study spot is a must. After all, your dorm is filled with distractions that prevent you from properly studying or maybe you just don’t want to disturb your roommate during late night cramming sessions. Therefore, you should make it a priority to find study spots suitable for you. Here are some of mine!
The East West Lounge on the Main Floor of Hillcrest: Since I live in Hillcrest, it is crucial to find a spot to study that’s in my building. This lounge is cozy and the best part is that it is only accessible to Hillcrest residents, so it is usually empty. The only downside is that it is always freezing cold in here! So I always take a blanket with me when I study here. I recommend you find a study spot in your residence hall so that you can leave your phone in your room and then study in that spot. That way you don’t get distracted by those little notifications in your screen.
The Art Building West Library: The scenery. Period. That’s literally the only reason I study here. It is absolutely gorgeous. I write my essays here because something about the beautiful pond inspires me to write. This library is my favorite library on campus.
Java House: My roommate and I go to Java House on Tuesdays and stay there for hours. It has the perfect amount of white noise and an amazing Pumpkin Pie Latte (downside: this latte is kinda, sorta, really overpriced).
Outside the River Room Cafe: Such a beautiful view of the river! They also have the best stir fry ever! So, so good! (And it’s a flex meal!) If I’m not in the mood for stir fry and I’m feeling boujee, then I will go to the ground floor of the IMU and buy some sushi and then study out here. (Not a good study spot for the winter, sigh.)
The Old Capitol Building: I love, love reading on the arms of the Old Capitol building while eating a burger from the Street Hawk food truck. Maybe I should say I loved to read on the arms of the Old Capitol, it is way too cold out now to read a book outside.
Some other spots you should check out:
The law building library
Someone told me there were little cubicles you could go into, but when I went and looked for the cubicles my friend and I noticed that they had personal objects inside of them (pictures, notebooks, books) and then we realized that the cubicles were assigned to law students. Awkward. (Maybe we went to the wrong floor and maybe there are actually cubicles that any one can study in, so don’t take my naïve freshman word for it. Check it out for yourself.)
The engineering building roof terrace
PS. The engineering building has nap pods, so once you’re drained from studying take a power nap in those fancy nap pods (with the massaging chairs and the whispering woman and the spa music) and then get back to the grind once you wake up!
The Voxman music building
Someone told me that it was a really nice building to study in. I have yet to confirm that. Never been, but hey, check it out for me.
The Hawkeye Room at the IMU
They also have a nap room here called the Rest Nest, I may or may not spend all of my time in between classes in that room… Whoops. It is just soooo nice.
The Catlett study rooms
Whenever I eat at Catlett (which is rare, I am forever loyal to the Burge Market Place) I chill in this room before my next class. By chill, I mean watch Netflix, not study. Whoops x2. (Money Heist was so good, let me know any other good shows to watch, please. I have no good excuse to procrastinate my homework now that I have nothing to binge watch.)
My two checked bags || My dad and my brother saying bye at the airport
Hello, hello! If you are an out of state student looking for some packing guidance, look no further. I remember prior to moving into college I searched all around the internet looking for a good packing list. All of them were so long though, who did they think I was? A billionaire? There is no way I was willing to pay the overweight luggage fee or the extra luggage fee. Airlines charge for everything, one checked bag is $25, how ridiculous. Everything is so overpriced. Anyways, if you’re looking for a minimalistic packing list with all the actual essentials that you will need. You have found the place!
In my case, I packed four bags. Two of them were my carry-ons (a duffel bag and a backpack), the other was my checked bag ($25) and the last one was my mom’s checked bag that I filled with my stuff ($25).
Friendly advice: Don’t overpack. Overpacking is the worst. Think about how hard it will be to move out. Pack as minimally as possible.
Back Pack Carry-On:
This bag consists of all the expensive and important objects.
Shoes (2 pairs of day to day sneakers, 1 pair of work out shoes, 1 pair of heels, 1 pair of rain boots, 1 pair of booties, 1 pair of shower shoes/flip flops, 1 pair of Birkenstocks.)
Once you’re in Iowa, buy the other items, such as:
Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, loofah, toothpaste)
Towels (I got 3: one for my body, one for my hair, one for my face)
Sheets and pillow cases
Pillows (I got two, I’m a pillow hugger)
School supplies (Agenda, notebooks, textbooks, pencils, etc…)
Cleaning supplies (Wet wipes)
Snacks! (You’ll get hungry at the most random times of the day, like 3am, trust me you’ll want something to munch on.)
Pads, tampons, etc…
Medicine and first aid kits
Lint roller, tide stick, wrinkle remover spray
I hope this helped someone! Good luck moving out and moving into your new home! 🙂
Note: I’m lucky enough to have had a roommate who lives in Iowa and brought a mini-fridge and a microwave from her house. I’m also very minimalistic, so I’m not into decking out my dorm room and putting fairy lights and pictures everywhere, which is why my packing and shopping list is so tiny, but if you’re into that I recommend buying all of those things in Iowa just so you don’t have to carry so many bags! 🙂
Hello, Iowa City! Boy, never in a million years did I think I would be living in the middle of Iowa. I remember when I was in fifth grade learning the states and their capitals and thinking, “It’d be nice to go to college in Florida or New York. Maybe even Washington.” It never crossed my mind to move to Iowa or anywhere near the midwest. I have nothing against the midwest, I simply love living on the coast. After all, it is what I am used to. All my life I’ve lived by the sea in places such as Colombia, Brazil and California. I am used to warm weather and being by the ocean. Therefore moving to Iowa City is way out of my comfort zone.
Whenever I told anyone in California that I would be going to Iowa for college they would all give me a very blank look and immediately say, “Why Iowa?” If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that question I would have a lot of money saved up for my tuition payments. So, Mariana, why Iowa? Why would a girl living near San Francisco want to go to the middle of nowhere? Well, dear reader, first of all, they have a remarkable writing program, a beautiful campus with a great downtown area and most importantly, the people in the midwest are so, so, so kind! Wow. Seriously. I am in shock. Let me explain.
Prior to coming to Iowa I was influenced by everyone from the west coast that told me that Mid-westerns are rude, close-minded conservatives. Boy was I wrong. People in Iowa are ridiculously nice. It’s insane. Learn from your parents: Don’t pay attention to stereotypes. My first time ever coming to Iowa was for orientation back in June. I went by myself, how terrifying. Vulnerable, little me catching three plane rides to get to Iowa. (My flights were all delayed and cancelled so I had to do a very pointless route. It was a mess. I had to go from California, to North Carolina, to Illinois, back to Iowa.) Anyways, I contacted the orientation staff telling them I might be late and they were very kind and understanding. Next, my roommate picked me up in the airport. She drove from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids and waited for me in Cedar Rapids for around seven hours due to my delayed flight. It was my first time meeting her and she waited for me for seven hours! Seven. Hours. After that we went to check into the hotel that my dad had reserved, but apparently in Iowa you have to be over 21 to check into a hotel. It was 3 AM and my roommate and I were exhausted, but the lady in the lobby let us in even though we were under age. The next day, during orientation, I was lugging around a heavy duffel bag filled with my clothing and some random girl told me that I could keep my bag in her car. Lastly, the day after orientation I had another hotel reservation and I was panicking because I did not know how I would check-in and I kept thinking I would have to be homeless for the night since I was not 21. But then an upcoming freshman I met at orientation turned out to be 21 and he said he would check me into my hotel room. My whole orientation trip was a mess, I was lonely and vulnerable but it was all okay thanks to the kindness of all the Iowans I met along the way. All of those people that helped me out during my orientation trip I have kept contact with and we hung out during my first week in Iowa. To sum it all up, during the three days I spent in Iowa for orientation I felt incredibly welcomed and loved.
Anyways, moving away from home was not as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe because I already had experience living away due to my year abroad, but it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be in my head. (It’s only been like five days since I left my family, so maybe I shouldn’t speak so soon. But so far, so good. Kind of. I had like a minute of homesickness like two hours ago, but now I’m all good.) The bad part was packing, I hate packing. I took two checked bags and two carry-ons. I only took the most basic stuff since I had to fly in, that’s why my room isn’t as luxurious and fashionable as others.
Some of the things that took me by surprise were the weather and the dressing style of people here. It is so humid here. You know when you’re walking outside and you walk by an open door and the air conditioner from the building hits you and it feels like heaven. Yeah, that’s what it feels like walking in Iowa during August. I really miss the dry, hot California weather. I hate humidity. Absolutely hate it. But on the bright side, it is not as humid as Florida. The humidity is bearable, thank goodness.
As for the fashion side, apparently Iowans love staying active or so it seems by how they dress. The majority of girls wear minimal make up, sneakers, sports shorts and a t-shirt during the day. It is so different from California where the majority of the girls wear a full-face of make up, crop tops, skinny jeans or short shorts, and Vans. Therefore, whenever I dress like I’m in California here I get a couple stares. Either way, I like the fashion culture here, I like being comfortable so I’m excited to start chilling in my sports shorts and sneakers.
That’s all for now. I love it here in Iowa City. I’ve only been here for five days and I have already made so many friends and done so many things. I love it here. I did not expect my transition to be so easy-going.
My first day of class is in three days. Wish me luck!