May

02

Final Thoughts

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I can’t believe it’s the end of the year! In the past, the weeks between spring and summer break stretched out endlessly, but now it feels like time just slipped through my fingers. It’s incredible to think that I was still in high school one year ago, and didn’t have any of the friends I’ve made this year. These last two weeks are a strange time, because while I’m exhausted and stressed out about finals, I’m also really sad about leaving my friends behind for three months. I’ve experienced more in this year than I have any other year of my life, and I wanted to share with you some of the biggest takeaways of the year, as well as some advice about what to do between now and the fall.

1. Making Friends is Not As Hard As You Think It Is
About an hour after my parents dropped me off, I was sitting in Burge eating dinner by myself, feeling extremely awkward because I didn’t know anyone and looking around it felt like everyone had already found a group of friends. After about five minutes, however, something amazing happened. A girl came up to me and asked me if I wanted to sit with her and her friends. I hung out with them for a couple days, and while we weren’t able to stay in touch I definitely appreciated having people to talk to in a new and scary environment. Especially during that first week, everyone is willing to talk to everyone, so even if you’re an introvert it’s really easy to make friends. I said it in my first post and I’ll say it again: leave the door open! People are always roaming around the hallways during that first week of school, peering into open doors and asking people to hang out. I don’t even need to give you much advice in this department because as long as you show up, you will eventually find your own people.

2. There aren’t Enough Hours in a Day
When tens of thousands of people who are passionate about their education get together, it tends to produce a beautifully diverse ecosystem. There are so many performances, lectures, and meetings to attend, and because school doesn’t run from 8-3 it’s impossible to coordinate these things so that everyone can attend. I really pushed myself to experience new things this year, and I never regretted it. I participated in a business competition, went to a gaming and animation conference, attended talks on international diplomacy, listened to multiple music performances and so much more. While none of these events have convinced me to change my major or make any other drastic move, they’ve been entertaining and informative, and they usually come with free food as well.

3. Don’t Give Up After a Few Failures
I applied to twenty to thirty different companies before landing an internship in late March. Half of them never got back to me, and half of them either rejected me or I chose not to pursue any further. The first interview I did was mediocre at best, and my resume has been through at least five different drafts. The business side of your field is going to take time to get used to, but if you give up after one career fair then you’ll never get where you need to go. Ask people for advice on your resume and cover letter. Go to every networking event you can attend, and seek help from as many people with experience as you can. In short, you’re not going to get everything right on your first shot, but when it comes to academic s and career stuff, you don’t really have a choice about whether you want to figure it out, it’s just a matter of when you do, and sooner is much better than later.

4. A Change in Plan Can be a Good Thing
Your mind should change about something after a year of college. Make a list of opinions you held that have changed since your senior year of high school. I plan on doing this some time after finals, but I already know that I haven’t changed enough of my views. I think a part of this is due to humans being creatures of habit, and as a result we tend to stick to people who share our opinions and keep to a similar daily routine. A year ago, I had a very grandiose idea of the intellectual debates that would take place in college, and while that idea has since been flattened, I believe that I still have a chance to revive it next year if I take a political science class and attend more events that encourage debate, as well as ask people about their opinions more

As of today, the University of Iowa’s class of 2021 has officially been decided! If you’re a part of that list of people, congratulations! You are only months away from embarking on one of the most exciting journeys of your life. Things are probably happening way too fast for you right now, and you may be feeling simultaneously nostalgic and itching to get out. Here are some things I feel that every high school senior should do before starting college.

1. Read
In high school, I always had a book that I was currently reading for fun. Nowadays, the only books I consume that aren’t titled something along the lines of “Linear Algebra and its Applications” are audiobooks in between walking to classes. Even if you don’t read as much as I did in high school, the next three months of summer are an opportunity to read that you won’t have again for a very long time. This summer I’m working forty hours a week, and as a result will probably be lucky to finish one book the entire summer. So, go to your local library, even if you haven’t done so in years, or spend the day perusing novels at a book store. Fall in love with reading the way you used to as a kid, and I guarantee you that you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.

2. Figure out what you want to do in the fall
If you Google “University of Iowa pick one,” a website will pop up that lists all of the organizations you can join. Pick out a few that interest you ahead of time so that you have an idea of what you want to commit to, because once school rolls around the emails for interest meetings can be overwhelming. It’s important to pick a few clubs and stick to them as opposed to scattering out your attendance between a variety of clubs, because showing up is the best way to increase your chances at leadership roles. Additionally, try to find a mix of academic, philanthropic, and fun clubs. Dance Marathon for me was a combination of the last two, and WiSE, WiCS, and ACM gave me a greater appreciation for my major. It’s never too early to get involved, and with a whole summer ahead of you, it couldn’t hurt to go to the “pick one” website and look at your options.

3. Write a letter to yourself
I remember reading my eighth grade and freshman year letter to myself and cringing at how awful I was. I’m probably going to do that three years from now, and I can’t wait. It’s easy to forget who your​ past self was, and great to rediscover them again, despite how annoying they might have been. Reading my letters last year made me proud of who I had become, and encouraged me to re-evaluate my goals for the next four years. I focused on very objective goals in the past, so I told myself that I would focus more on balance and broadening my views in college. For the most part, I think I have, and I hope that when I read my letter right before graduating college, I’ll be grateful that I kept this in mind throughout my college years.

That’s all for now. It’s crazy to me that this is my last blog post, and I’d just like to thank the admissions team for giving me this opportunity, as well as everyone who took the time to read my posts. I hope that, if you’re a future Hawkeye reading this post right now, you will come to love the University of Iowa just as much as I do, because this school has genuinely made my freshman year of college the best year of my life.

All the best,
Mina

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Apr

18

Finals Part II: The Redemption

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Tomorrow will be my last midterm, which means that, after tomorrow, it will officially be finals season. I did okay on my finals last semester, but this semester “okay” isn’t good enough. Here are some tips to do finals right this time, from someone who has learned from her mistakes.

1. Amplectamini Certamine
This phrase is Latin for “embrace the struggle,” something that was often repeated in my high school Latin class. The reason for this is that Latin is a really hard subject, but it’s also one that has been practiced for thousands of years. It isn’t hard to find translations of the Aeneid or Metamorphoses on the internet, and it might save you an hour each night. But, the week before an exam, it starts to occur to you that it’s impossible to memorize a hundred lines of Latin, along with every case, use, and literary device attached to each word. Even if you do manage to pull off a B on the test, what was the point? You won’t be able to look at the text and be able to translate it, something that is a really cool skill. I know it’s hard to see when you’re stressing out over four or five subjects at once, but what good does it do to cram isolated bits of information into your head for one test? At some point, the knowledge you were supposed to have gathered over the course of the semester will come in handy in the next level of the course. And even if it doesn’t, if you’re cutting corners in a gen Ed whose contents you’ll never revisit again, you won’t have gained anything from all of that time you spent in class, which is a shame.

2. Early Bird Gets the Worm
I think I started studying in advance for finals last semester, but I definitely could have done more. When you think about it, the time between your last midterm and finals is going to be at least three weeks, which is ample time to study. Also, if you start studying in advanced then your favorite study spots, like the main library and the Blank Honors Center, won’t be packed with people, which can improve the quality of your studying. The good thing about second semester finals is that, unlike first semester, the weather is gorgeous, so take advantage of the Pentacrest lawn and other outdoor spots as prime studying locations. Just remember to wear a hat or sunglasses because after a few hours the heat can start to get to you, and studying on the brink of insanity isn’t much better than not studying at all.

3. Put in a Steady Effort
A couple weeks ago, I had a paper, two midterms, and a lab due on the same day. In order to get all of it done, I pulled an all-nighter, fueling myself with energy drinks and coffee. I cannot emphasize enough how terrible of an idea this is. Not only did I have heartburn and a stomach ache all day, but, by trying to accomplish everything at once, I ended up performing below expectations on all of my work. Sometimes deadlines will unexpectedly pop up, shifting your priorities when you needed it the least, which is why you always have to be prepared. If I were to do it over again, I would have spread out my workload so that I did a little of everything each day, instead of going weeks without touching my paper and then spending nine hours in the library two days before it was due in an attempt to make all of my revisions. I’ve also found that my sentences always sound great at 3am, and math problems seem obvious enough, but come the next morning everything seems to fall apart. So, in summation, spend time on every subject every day, even if some deadlines are more immediate than others. It will break the cycle of panicked studying right before the exam, and solidifying the information in your brain every day will engrain it into your memory better than at, say, two in the morning on the day of the test.

That’s all the advice I have for now. Good luck, Hawkeyes, and remember, keep calm and study on!
-Mina

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Apr

11

Spotlight On: EPX Studio Animation and Studio Conference

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As a curious person, I often go to events that may not be directly related to my career goals, but nonetheless enrich my life in some form or the other. Last weekend, I went to the EPX Studio Gaming and Animation Conference, an experience that opened my eyes to the world of anime, video games, and so much more. The conference featured the creators of Oscar award winning animations, as well animators for The Simpsons, The Powerpuff Girls, and the Amazon series Lost in Oz. While I didn’t decide to become an artist after attending the conference, it was really cool to immerse myself in a community where everyone is passionate about the same things. I also gained a much greater appreciation for the work that goes into making video games and animated TV and movies, as someone who never plays video games and only watches cartoons if I’m hanging out with my friends in the basement lounge (well, I guess that happens a lot). One of the coolest talks, however, didn’t come from an animator, but from Jack Wall, a musician who composed soundtracks for various video games including Myst III and the Call of Duty: Black Ops series. Listening to his life story, from being a civil engineering student to joining a band to his work now, was fascinating. I like hearing about life stories that don’t have a direct course, ones where the person may not always know what they’re doing but end up landing on their feet anyway. It’s very motivational to hear about the lengths people go to get their foot in the door, which is really what every student is trying to do in their respective fields. 
Not to mention, Art Building West and the Visual Art Building are two of the most hidden gems on campus for non-art majors. I stumbled across them the night before the conference, and man, are they beautiful, not just on the outside but on the inside as well. It was basically like getting a free pass into an art museum. Also, if you want to change up your study spot on campus, then sit on the chairs underneath Art Building West that look out onto the pond. In my one year of being here, there are very few views that can top that.
So, long story short: you may think that your first weekend of spring weather would be better spent going to a darty (day party),but maybe it would be better off enriching your mind. And sure, you probably have a lot of homework to do, but you’ll almost always have a lot of homework to do, and it wouldn’t hurt to take a break for an hour or two to learn about not only the details of a certain subject, but about a community that surrounds it as well, something that you can’t experience by reading a textbook.

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Mar

28

Know Where You’re Going

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A lot of spring breaks are taking place this week, and, as a result, a lot of college tours. There are a lot of places you probably want to check out, but only so much time to see everything. So, if you’re an explorer like myself and would rather do things yourself instead of (or in addition to) taking a tour, here are some places to check out, east to west, so that you can get a better understanding of what life at Iowa is like.

Hancher

Hancher Auditorium

Hancher Auditorium

Hancher Auditorium is where most major performances take place. Tickets for students are usually only $10, which is super cheap considering that some of these performances would usually be $70+ in Chicago or New York. Some performances are even free, like the Leslie Odom Jr performance I went to last night, and a jazz performance by Trombone Shorty I saw at the beginning of the year. You definitely should put a performance at Hancher on your college bucket list.

East side residence/dining halls 

These comprise of Currier, Stanley, Daum, and Burge. Burge is also where the east side dining hall is at. While you’re at it, check out the Pomerantz Career Center and the Blank Honors Center, the former being the place that helps you with jobs/internships and the latter being home to the Honors Program.

Pentacrest

Pentacrest

Pentacrest

This is where a majority of your classes will be, and you really can’t avoid running into it. The Pentacrest consists of Schaeffer, Maclean, MacBride, and Jessup Hall, and is located right in the middle of the east side of campus. Even on the west side, you can’t miss the giant gold dome in the very center of it all.

IMU

The IMU isn’t a place I can categorize better than saying that it’s where a bunch of stuff happens. Dance Marathon is here, a lot of informational meetings for clubs are there, and the Hawk Shop is there for all of your spirit wear needs. It also has an art museum in it that’s worth checking out.

Library

The Main Library is an awesome place to study, and it is very likely that one of your TAs will hold their office hours there. Also, if you ever have to do a presentation for a class, I would highly recommend going to the One Button Studio on the first floor, where you can record your presentation or just get some practice saying it out loud in a room where no one can hear you. However, if you do decide to go here, keep in mind that as the floors go up, it gets quieter and quieter, to the point where it’s dead silent on the fifth floor.

CRWC

CRWC Rock Wall

Campus Wellness Recreation Center

The main recreation center is an amazing facility and has just about everything you could think of that you would need to work out. However, it might be worth your while to also check out some of the smaller rec centers, like Fitness East and the fitness loft at the Field House, because the main rec center is a bit of a walk from most dorms, which can be all the more reason to dissuade yourself from working out on a cold day.

West side residence/dining halls  

These comprise of Hillcrest, Peterson, Rienow, Stanley, and Slater. The dining hall for west side dorms is in Hillcrest.

Kinnick/Carver

Kinnick Stadium

Kinnick Stadium

This is a little ways out so I wouldn’t recommend walking all the way over if you start from the east side, but if you’re in the area then it might be cool to see the football stadium. Carver Hawkeye Arena is also in this vicinity and hosts a variety of athletic competitions like basketball, volleyball, and wrestling.

Additionally, here is a list of places to check out based on your interests:

  • Varsity Athlete- Gerdin Learning Center
  • Honors Program-Blank Honors Center
  • Internships/Jobs- Pomerantz Career Center
  • English/Creative Writing- Dey House, Prairie Lights Cafe, English Philosophy Building, Special Collections (3rd floor of Main Library)
  • Math/Statistics/Informatics/Computer Science- Maclean Hall
  • Physics/Astronomy- Van Allen
  • Engineering- Seamans Center
  • Education- Lindquist Center
  • Journalism/Communications- Adler School of Journalism and Samuel L Becker School of Communications (by the Main Library)
  • Music- Voxman Music Building
  • Classics/Social Sciences- Schaeffer Hall
  • Natural History- Museum of Natural History in MacBride Hall (free!)
  • Dance- Halsey Hall
  • Chemistry/Biology/Drama/Art- respective department buildings

That’s all for now. For those of you on break, stay safe and have fun. And for the rest of you, let’s just make it through the final stretch in one piece.

-Mina

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Mar

08

Thoughts on Spring Break

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Hello, Hawkeyes. I am currently in the Daum basement, along with another fifty people, because there’s a tornado warning. I am also sick right now, so I’m not in the best mood. But do you know what does make me happy? Spring break! In t-4 days I’ll be back in Hinsdale, and despite how sad I’ll feel about parting with my friends, I really need a break. And if coming home is even more stressful for you, then you can stay in the dorms free of charge, which is a nice bonus. I remember how during my senior year a lot of people in my grade went on road trips, but I personally can’t wait to just sleep in my own bed and drink herbal tea whenever I want. However, if being home for a week will put you at risk for dying from boredom, here’s a list of dos and do nots to keep yourself entertained and productive:

Go golfing
Do: Go outside and play whatever sport you enjoy, or take a long walk and read a book under a tree.
Don’t: Spend all day indoors if the weather is nice. Iowa’s weather is extremely finicky, so take advantage of a good day while it lasts. For all you know, you could be coming back to a heat wave or a snowstorm in a week, and at any rate will have to spend hours inside of a classroom, so you might as well break out the spike ball nets or the golf clubs and soak in the sunshine.

Study for your midterms
Do: Use break as an opportunity to catch up on your classes and prepare for round two of midterms.
Don’t: Go overboard and work two months into the future. There’s only so much information you can retain, and it’s better to come back relaxed and focused than stressed out over things that are too far away to be worried about. Come up with a hard and fast rule if you have to, like, “I am only allowed to work for three hours today, and then I have to spend the rest of the day enjoying life. On the other hand, don’t do absolutely nothing if you have a test coming up right after break like I do, because after a week off you’ll probably forget a lot and be even more stressed out when you come back.

Inform Yourself
Do: Read up on all the world news you missed. Whenever I’m at home, I spend about half an hour during breakfast reading articles because I have the time. I really think that this is important to do because being in college sometimes feels like living in a bubble in the sense that there’s so much to do around you that it’s easy to forget the bigger picture.
Don’t: Vague tweet/Facebook post about all of the garbage you just realized was going on, and then politicize everyone’s social media sites with stuff that is neither informative nor arguable. Also, don’t just focus on what’s going on in this country or take all of your information from one source. This sounds pretty obvious, but your Facebook news feed and iPhone reader’s digest curates news to suit your tastes, so I usually have to go out of my way to seek out news organizations from other countries and of different political leanings.

Visit your friends
Do: Try and connect with friends whose breaks coincide with your own.
Don’t: Go out of your way to see them if it’s only out of a sense of obligation. Spend some time with your family for once, or just focus on you. Most colleges get out for summer break in a couple months anyway, so if you don’t want to drive an hour to visit your friend who is still at school and won’t be able to hang out for long because he/she still has homework anyway, then that’s completely fine. Remember, spring break is about you, so do whatever is necessary (within reason) to unwind and refresh yourself for the final stretch.

Keep up with the Group Chat
Do: post funny memes and pictures of your pets, because while I personally couldn’t care less about what your pet looks like, other people seem to love it. I do, however, enjoy funny stories and anecdotes about people’s weird families and hometowns because it reminds me of their personalities and makes me laugh.
Don’t: Start a contentious debate. When you’re talking to people over social media in general, things can come off harsher than intended, and when you have to wait a week to see each other again, it will get awkward if you get into a fight with someone in your squad’s GroupMe. Literally post the words “let’s just agree to disagree” and hold off on talking about it until you see them in person again, or at the very least direct message them instead of making everyone else in the group uncomfortable.

So, whether you’re traveling abroad or road tripping with friends or just staying in the dorms and chilling out, have a fantastic spring break, and make good decisions!

-Mina

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Feb

28

Academics, Careers, and How They Overlap

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The past couple weekends have been crazy for me. I went to MinneWIC, a conference for women in computing, two weeks ago, and UICC, the University of Iowa’s computing conference, last weekend. Both conferences were really eye-opening for me. There are a lot of different paths you can take with computer science, but most people I know fall into one of two categories: people who want to become an academic and people who want to work for a tech company. A couple weeks ago, I fell 100% into the latter category. Going to school for another decade felt like a waste of time, and I would much rather be involved in a start up that could be the next Facebook than in a classroom teaching undergraduates the fundamentals of computer science. While my views haven’t completely flipped since then, going to MinneWIC dramatically changed my opinion on doing research. Seeing all of the different projects that women in my field are working on exposed me to all the cool things you can do with technology, from creating programs to understand humor to using health care data analytics to save lives. I always thought that I should only focus on getting internships to succeed in my field, but now I think that I should do some research over the school year as well.

I know, for most of you this isn’t the most riveting stuff to read about, but the point of this post isn’t to convince all of you to become computer science majors. By the time you get to college, your homework isn’t limited to classroom assignments, but also involves carving out a career path as well. What I’ve learned over the past semester and a half is that it’s not going to kill you to consider options that are outside of your plan. In fact, college might be your only shot to do so, even if you think you have everything figured out. I think I used to be held back by fear, and that’s why I wouldn’t consider other possibilities. The thought of changing my major still terrifies me, since there are only so many spots in my schedule to take classes and I want to graduate in four years. But here’s the thing. You don’t have to throw away everything you’ve worked towards just because you see something that you might also enjoy. For example, I saw a project at MinneWIC that combined physics with computer science to create an animation of robots that mimicked the movements of particles. When you think about it, all innovation stems from a combination of interests, whether it be a company like SpaceX to a novel about a boy who discovers that he’s a wizard on his eleventh birthday. But how do you decide if pursuing an interest is worth your time? My approach is to think of yourself as a five year old. If there was something that you really wanted to try as a kid, you wouldn’t have been worried about if it could go on your resume, right? It wouldn’t have mattered if there were other things that you could have been doing to get ahead in another field, would it? By approaching my career possibilities with childlike curiosity, I have found a lot of intersections between computer science and other fields that I hadn’t even considered before college. Of course, there are restrictions to this philosophy, since college students still have grades to worry about, but I’ve found that I can always make time for one thing if I cut back on something else for a few days. It’s easy to fall into a monotonous cycle in college just like in high school, but by making the time to go to a conference or attend a lecture, not only will you keep life interesting but you’ll be inspired to work harder as well. So, as we count down the days to Spring Break, keep in mind that your life is not just about greeting through these next couple weeks. There’s still time to seize an opportunity that can better your life for good.
-Mina

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Feb

20

Deciding Where to Live

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You may have already decided on housing by now, but by this time last year I didn’t even know where I was going to college, and I was very lucky to have been placed in a dorm I liked given that I applied for housing in June. Also, it’s important to think about your options for next year, which can be overwhelming to take in, so I’ve compiled a list of what are, in my humble opinion, the benefits and downfalls of each living situation.  To be clear, freshmen don’t get to pick the Residence Hall, but do get to pick the living learning community they live in.  However, from sophomore year onwards you can pick your dorm, so I’ve included some information about each dorm so you know for next year as well.

University Apartments
Pros: It’s a smoother transition into apartment life as opposed to off-campus housing, and if you have multiple groups of friends who want to live together it might be easier to get rooms together (but keep in mind that you can “shop and swap” rooms with other students after your first year).
Cons: University apartments are significantly more expensive than the dorms, and living in an apartment is no small task. It’s also a lottery to get into so there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the apartment or room that you want.

Cattlet Residence Hall
Pros: It’s going to have its own dining hall, fitness center, and kitchen! Since this is a brand new dorm, everything will presumably be extra nice, and it’s pretty connected to major hubs on campus, being right in between the East and West side of campus.
Cons: It will probably be the most expensive dorm since it’s so new.

Daum Residence Hall
Pros: It’s connected to the dining Hall and the Blank Honors Center. I love living in Daum because I’ve met all of by best friends here, and it’s easy for all of us to hang out in the basement. There are also a lot of cool Honors events that happen during the week, although I presume that every living learning community has some version of this (more on that later).
Cons: Daum is limited to freshmen in the Honors program.

Mayflower Residence Hall
Pros: It has its own kitchen, and it’s right next to the boat house and pretty close to Hancher, the main auditorium.
Cons: Mayflower is on the far east side of campus, and there isn’t a dining hall in it. This would be one of my last choices just because it’s so far from the rest of campus, but there is a shuttle specifically for Mayflower.

Hillcrest/Peterson/Slater Residence Hall
Pros: Generally known as nice residence halls, and in close proximity to the main rec center and the library. These halls are also the closest distance to Kinnick and Carver Stadium, the learning center for athletes, and the hospital for those of you who want to do volunteer work.
Cons: It will be a little bit of a walk to most of your classes. Also a little bit more expensive than some other dorms.

Currier/Stanley/Burge
Pros: All of these options will be very close to your classes. They’re on the cheaper side as far as dorms go, and they’re right by all of the places that are connected to/near Daum. Plus, Currier has its own (small) rec center.
Cons: These are all older dorms, so they’re not as nice as some of the other ones.

Off-Campus Housing
Pros: You can find cheaper rates than University housing, and if you have an off-campus job than it could be very convenient. There are also shuttle buses that will take you to campus throughout the day in most cases.
Cons: It’s a lot of responsibility. The nice thing about dorms is that you never have to think about cleaning a toilet or doing the dishes, but you have to work all of that out with your roommates with an apartment, which can be a lot to take on when you have a busy schedule. Also, beware of sketchy landlords. Send your contract in to student legal services before signing, because you don’t want to run the risk of missing something in the fine print.

That’s all I have for now. On a side note, I mentioned living learning communities, or LLC’s earlier, and those are basically floors of halls where everyone has similar interests, like Honors or film or the environment. There supposed to put on events from time to time, but I think the important thing to keep in mind with that are the types of people you like to be with. I like living in honors because there’s a blend of STEM and humanities majors, and there are dedicated and similarly ambitious people in it.
-Mina

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Feb

06

How to Dance for 24 Continuous Hours

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Step 1: Prepare Yourself
First and foremost, let me make this clear: DANCE MARATHON DAY IS NOT LEG DAY!!  It is 1am as I am writing this, and my legs are already killing me due to my workout yesterday afternoon.  To give you some perspective, I still have eighteen hours of this to go.  The Friday of Dance Marathon should be spent in relaxation, despite how pumped up you may be for the big event.  Also, fanny packs.  You get them at freshmen orientation, so there’s no excuse for not bringing one.  Finding a place to keep your water bottle, cell phone, and whatever else you need while on the dance floor is a lot easier when you have a little pouch in front of you.  Finally, eat before you go.  Dinner is not served until midnight.  And while I don’t necessarily recommend this strategy, overeating is partly how I managed to stay awake, since the pain in my stomach prevented me from falling asleep.  Just remember, no caffeine!  And I don’t just mean during the event.  Drinking caffeine beforehand will lead to a crash eventually, making it even harder to get through the night/morning/afternoon.
Step 2: Do Stuff that isn’t Dancing
You didn’t actually think that you had to dance for twenty four hours, did you?  I, for example, am writing this article, which distracts me from the pain in my legs.  There’s a ton of stuff you can do when you aren’t dancing, like laser tag, crafts, and sumo wrestling.  There are also hourly speeches given by the families of the patients, which keep me motivated to make it to the next hour.  This sounds pretty obvious, but if you can find something that will keep you going, you will keep going.  It’s also easier to find that motivation if you set the schedule as your phone background.  This schedule includes events like the “man pageant,” (which my morale captain won), performances by jugglers and dance groups, and the kiddo graduation, where those who hit the five-year mark this year for being cancer-free are recognized.  And, of course, the power hour, as in the second-to-last hour of the event where everyone makes their way to the main lounge and dances their very hardest.  This is everyone’s favorite part and definitely not optional.  Other than that, you can always lean against a wall and try not to die, or find other creative ways to rest your legs while technically not sitting.  I’ll admit, I ended up spending more time doing that more than I actually spent dancing.
Step 3: Look at the Light
There is a candle hanging up at the back of the dance floor.  Below it is a quilt with the names of all of the kiddos who are dancing in our hearts forever.  Whenever you feel tired, whenever you feel like giving up and collapsing on the floor, just remember who you’re doing this for.  Cancer doesn’t give these kids a rest for even a day, and the pain you feel now is less than a millionth of what it feels like to have pediatric cancer.  This is what you’re up against.  One day, thousands of experimental treatments and millions of dollars into the future, we will be able to call cancer a thing of the past.  But that isn’t something guaranteed or something we can take for granted.  This year, Dance Marathon raised $2,572,130.23 all FTK (for the kids). This money doesn’t automatically show up from wealthy donors.  It has to come from the long hours of canning, the letters written to relatives, and the innovative ways that YOU come up with to raise money (this year, someone put a green toilet on her neighbors’ lawn and made them pay money to get it off).  And, after all of that, you have to stay awake and on your feet for twenty four consecutive hours.  You may be wondering what putting yourself through this can possibly do for them, so I’ll tell you what it does. It gives the kids a chance to party, which is nice considering that many of them spend their lives in a hospital.  It lets them know that you care enough to dance for twenty four hours for them.  It provides them with a stage to share their stories every hour, and those stories will undoubtedly change your life.  So, if and when you decide to join Dance Marathon, this is all you really need to know: every cent counts.  You may want to pass up the opportunity to go canning because it’s freezing and you have better things to do on a Saturday night.  You don’t.  You may think that, five hundred dollars later, you’re done for the year and you can sit back and relax.  You can’t.  Because even though we raised over two and a half million dollars, we technically still didn’t reach our goal.  That goal isn’t a random number, it’s calculated specifically to meet the needs of the families that are helped by Dance Marathon, the number of which increases every year.  We still have a lot to be proud of, but we still have a long way to go before we eradicate cancer, and that change starts with you.
-Mina
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Jan

26

Second Semester: the Redemption

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Here’s the thing. In high school, my classes for the most part stayed the same throughout the year, with the exception of a couple of electives. After a few awkward months of figuring things out, I finally got into the rhythm of things by second semester, and my grades always improved. But now, all of my classes change come January, which means that, just when I think that I’m getting the hang of things, I’m back to square one. Not to mention, all of the distractions from first semester are still here. So how do you prevent yourself from making the same mistakes again? Here’s what I came up with.

Eliminate Distractions
So, I’m a hypocrite because I’m writing this while watching The Legend of Korra with my friends, but my excuse is that my GPA doesn’t rely on my posts. By the time you’re eighteen, you’ve probably figured out the whole studying thing, which is exactly why I didn’t think that work ethic would be a big problem for me in college. I was wrong. It’s so easy to tell yourself that you work hard enough when it looks like everyone else around you is having fun. But, unlike high school, not everyone in your immediate circle of friends has schedules that are similar to yours. Every night that you have a test the next morning, someone else will have just finished theirs and will want to unwind. It’s not that no one works in college, it’s just that there will be some people who don’t have work when you do, so it’s important to have a set number of goals you want to accomplish for the day. Also, there are people who you’ll never see work in college, even in the Honors dorm. Don’t be those people. Even if you do manage to get by in your classes, either you or your parents paid a lot of money for you to be here, and you owe it to whoever is funding your education, especially if it’s yourself, to get the most out of it. I think that some people have the mentality that when you pay for college, you’re really paying for “the college experience,” which entails doing whatever you want without real-world consequences. Or maybe they’re too lazy to justify their laziness. Either way, as someone who has never had that mentality I can only suppose that my way of looking at things is better because it makes be genuinely excited about the future as opposed to containing all of my happiness in four years.

Maintain a Practical Schedule
Something that I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of last semester was the freedom you have to attend whatever lecture you want. For example, there is a 9:30am and a 10:30am section of my physics class, so if I’m feeling tired I can sleep in but if I want to get it out of the way and be more productive in the middle of the day, then I can go to the 9:30 class. Similarly, if there’s a TA session for another class during my 11:00am discrete structures lecture, then I can always attend the 5:00pm. Moving around your schedule doesn’t have to be limited to classes either. If your TA’s office hours don’t fit with your schedule, you can always find a different TA who teaches the same class to help. In fact, there’s nothing stopping you from attending a different lecture if you don’t find your teacher to be helpful, unless you’re being graded on attendance. The point is, you can make your schedule work for you without sacrificing the quality of your education or the balance of your life.

Repetition and Confidence
The bulk of the grades for most classes rely on midterm exams and the final. I’ve heard of classes where the final was worth 40%, and most of my classes have tests worth between 50-75%. That means that it’s really easy to get behind and really bad to have a lot of test-taking anxiety. The solution for me lies in repetition. Even if something seems relatively straightforward, I run through it in my head in class for as long as I can without losing the next thing that the professor is about to say, and then I practice the problems with the same concepts after class so that I cement the process into my brain. The point is to make these problems feel like routine. Even if you were really stressed out during a test, you wouldn’t forget how to tie your shoes, would you? Also, don’t schedule a three-hour chunk of time to catch up on a subject. Not only does it wear you out, but from experience I’ve found that I retain the material better if I go over it everyday for shorter periods of time as opposed to once for a long period of time. Other than that, just remember that you worked too hard to let your nerves get in the way of your future. No matter how stressed out I am, I always hit a point during a test where it feels like a burst of adrenaline is shooting through me as I realize, “This is it, Mina. This is your golden opportunity to show the world how great you can be.” Even if you aren’t as prepared as you thought you were, have some confidence in yourself. You’ve made it this far, after all, so you must not be doing too bad. As long as you show the initiative, your hard work will pay off in one way or another. So roll up your sleeves, Hawkeyes. We have four more months of this to get through, and it will be a lot easier if we spend that time in the library instead of in front of the television.

-Mina

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Jan

19

The Case for 2016

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Everyone said that 2016 was a terrible year, and while that may be true for our country’s morale, 2016 for current college freshmen was a big deal. We graduated high school and started college, the most exciting transition for most of us so far. It feels kind of strange to feel so good about a year that was generally perceived as terrible, but I can’t help but think that the cynicism casted on 2016 is superficial. We had some bad politics, big deal. There were too many good things about 2016 for us to forget, and if we lose them with the new year then I feel that we are only setting ourselves up for an even worse year. Here are the things from 2016 that I want to carry over into 2017.
1. The spotlight on identity
The attention given to our identities has had mixed results. Yes, there seemed to be more bigotry in 2016 than in recent years past, but there has also been more attention given to the complex intersections and divides between race, sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. I’ve seen multiple rallies on campus regarding identity, and a common thread I’ve noticed between them is people of all creeds coming to these events. It just goes to show that students of various backgrounds, whether affected by an issue or not, made the effort in 2016 to understand the impact that identity has had on their peers’ lives. As a minority, I’ve always felt that Iowa has been very inclusive, both through the events hosted by the Center for Diversity and Enrichment and through the mutually positive interactions I’ve had with my peers. Even if you aren’t a minority, the Iowa City Foreign relations council hosts monthly events that often deal with ethnicity and race, and there are speakers that come to the university to discuss similar topics as well. Continuing this trend in 2017 is something I find important in breaking down the emotional barriers that were built up in the previous year, and, from experience, I can say that the events that bring us together on these issues have been genuinely fun.

2. The challenging of ideas on college campuses
There has been a lot of criticism over safe spaces, trigger warnings, and other institutions that seek to protect students from unwanted speech, some of which has been good while others have been self-defeating. The problem with a lot of the “bad” conversations is that they tend to focus on the words themselves without any analysis of the many different things that they mean. Priding one’s self on being strictly “pro” or “anti” pc liberalism is counterproductive. Instead of lumping the critics and the supporters into one public enemy, try forming opinions on the individual actions you see on campus. There are protests, rallies, and trigger warnings at the University of Iowa, and there are conversations about controversial issues in our classrooms. Which ones are effective, and which ones aren’t? Beyond that, why do some situations enrage people, as ineffective as they are? Humanities courses are typically where these subjects come up, and while I only took one humanities course last semester, I’ve read a lot of articles about censorship on college campuses. There seems to be a real problem, and being in college makes what’s at stake feel pressing. If we truly value the spirit of debate, something I find unique to academia, then we should focus more on changing the systems in place as opposed to beating the other side into submission. Doing the latter only strengthens the legitimacy of the concern that students are far too sheltered from unwanted opinions.

3. The Enthusiasm for politics
Every time I check Facebook, I find an article that makes me think about a new political perspective. Even after the election, I still witness political discussions on campus, although the presence of politically-affiliated organizations is more limited. Our politics may be messy, but at least we can’t be accused of being apathetic to it. We are all apathetic to individual issues, however, and cling to issues that are looked over by the people we disagree with. I’m going to take 2017 as a challenge to show people I disagree with my point of view without sounding elitist or accusatory. Something I’ve learned from 2016 is that, even if someone has an opinion that enrages you, if you trace the source of their own anger down to its roots you’ll find a rage that is justified in its own right. That’s not to say that every choice of words is justified, but I hope that having empathy will help me make points without the inflammatory, circular arguments that arise from assumptions about someone’s privilege or knowledge on the subject.

In short, the new year doesn’t mean a completely clean slate, and that’s a good thing. It’s hard to ignore all of the evidence suggesting that we had a lot of things to be proud of in 2016, and hopefully we’ve learned from the things that we weren’t so proud of. I recognize that it’s easy to forget about how we fit into the big picture when stressed out about classes and dealing with the day-to-day issues of life, but there are always little reminders from time to time that keep me aware
of the impact that I’m making on others. So, the next time you feel isolated and insignificant to what’s happening in our world, remember that there’s a lot of things in your own environment that you can change, and that those decisions will determine how awesome 2017 will be for you more than anything else.

-Mina

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