Cheers to Senior Year

The past three years have literally flown by. Through this blog, I’ve been able to share a lot of the things I’ve done and experienced, so here’s to another year of doing so. Let’s catch up on my life.

Let’s cover summer. After many applications to various companies in and around Chicago and Washington DC, I didn’t come up with anything. (In fact, I did still end up receiving a ‘we went with another applicant’ email halfway through summer). So, I decided to keep my job at the Burge Front Desk and my internship with Congressman Dave Loebsack’s campaign. However, the front desk job did change: late last spring, I was offered the Lead Desk Clerk position. Due to staying at the desk over the summer, I was able to train and learn from our previous Lead Desk Clerk so I would be able to take over come early August. Being the Lead Desk Clerk means that I continue to do a lot of my regular duties as a desk clerk with supervising the desk, schedule-building, and other extra tasks added on top. I’ve only officially been in the position for a few weeks, but I’m happy about the direction its heading so far.

My position as Campaign Fellow did not change and it has been business as usual. We did get a new campaign manager in early summer, but that still did not change much about the job.

One big event over the summer was taking the June LSAT. As you may or may not know by now, with my major being Ethics & Public Policy, I’ve been aspiring to go to law school. One part of the application process is a standardized test that is called the Law School Admission Test, or the LSAT. The test is comprised of 4 scored sections: 2 logical reasoning, logic games, reading comprehension, and the unscored writing section. The score range is 120-180. And I actually did okay! However, I fell a little short of my goals for the exam so I’ve decided to retake it in September. I’ve increased my study hours (trying to do around 20-24 hours per week. (yes, that is on top of my classes, work schedule, and extracurriculars) and found some study buddies. I don’t think I can pull an Elle Woods, but I can definitely try to get close.

Besides work and LSAT, I finished up the summer by volunteering with OnIowa! again to welcome the class of 2021. The weekend before classes started, I took them through mini-lectures based around the Iowa Challenge and then through activities planned around campus. I had a pretty cool group of students to lead with my co-leader and I really do hope they thrive on campus. (shoutout to you, Group 720! I hope you have a great year).

Summer wasn’t extremely eventful so I’m excited that classes have started up again. Here are the courses I’m taking this semester:

  • Pilates
  • English Grammar
  • Women and Politics in the US
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Calligraphy I: Blackletter Hands.

I am taking my course-load more lax this semester due to wanting the extra time to work on my law school applications and the LSAT. I also only have about 25 credits left to graduate so we’re cruising towards May.

Getting over the Spring Break Lull

Starting from the moment you set foot back on campus in January, all eyes are on Spring Break. Spring Break is this wonderful, week-long break that happens in the middle of March for the University of Iowa. Almost everything you do has spring break in mind. The rec is packed nearly 24/7 with people working on their spring break bods. The library and other study spaces are packed with students studying for midterms (which happens, unfortunately, right before spring break). Then spring break happens. Whether you travel south, overseas, or elsewhere, you do eventually have to come back.

And how do you recover from that taste of sun, fun, and freedom?

I’ll tell you it’s hard. Personally, I was able to go overseas during Spring Break and visit family and some sights (and also skip town a couple days early). But coming back was awful. I arrived back at Chicago O’Hare on the Friday before school resumed. I planned to head back to Iowa City on Sunday afternoon, which only gave me just over 24 hours at home. I still had a couple homework assignments due that some professors had sprung just before the break and was trying to work my way through jetlag. Coupled with the jetlag, coming back to school was kind of awful. I wanted to still be on vacation or at least laying out at home with my mom. I have been mostly motivated by the fact that after spring break, there’s only about 7 weeks left of school. Or 6 weeks left until finals. I guess I really have no answer in terms of how to come back from spring break besides the great words of Shia LaBeouf and Nike: JUST DO IT.

 

 

How to prepare for Iowa’s climate

Being from the Midwest makes you think that you’re prepared for anything related to the weather. But, I assure you, you’re not. Iowa has a high unpredictability about the weather. Take Valentine’s Day 2017 for instance. It was beautiful outside. The type of beautiful that is a 45-degree weather day after weeks of bitter cold. The type where you feel pretty comfortable in a thick pullover or a quarter-zip. It makes someone think that the next day will be equally as beautiful and you won’t give much thought to grabbing a jacket before you run out of your apartment at 7:30 in the morning to rush to work. That didn’t happen to me or anything.

So, I want to talk about how to prepare for Iowa’s climate. It takes some getting used to and there’s a trial and error process: meaning you will probably spend a couple days here and there either freezing your butt off or sweating your butt off.

My tip is to have a variety of clothing with you throughout the year. I know it’s hard for some people because the dorms only have limited closet space depending on whether you’re in a single, double, or triple, but it will only help you in the long run. I also know that some people like to take their non-season related clothes back home and rotate out. That’s fine but it won’t help you with dealing with the variability of the weather. In the fall, I always like to at least have a windbreaker and sweaters with me. The transition from the heat of summer to the crispness of fall happens fast and often before there’s even been a month of classes. It’s good to be prepared—especially if you can’t find a time to get your colder weather clothes back to campus.

Having a variety of clothes also helps you with changing weather throughout the day. I’m talking about layers. Layers are everything. If you wear a scarf and a big sweater during the cold morning, you can peel if off to your short sleeve. Especially in the late spring when the weather doesn’t want to make up its mind.

It all really comes down to having options on hand and being able to gauge how your body will react to changing weather. Don’t freeze (or sweat) too much out there.

What Made Iowa Right For Me

I don’t regret my choice in picking Iowa over a school in Milwaukee. To summarize, the reasons I chose Iowa can come down to:

  • It was far enough away from home to miss home.
  • A wide variety of majors. (I knew I wasn’t a thousand percent sure about my major and wow, was I right)
  • It was big with a small feel. Iowa has ~30,000 people on campus. I definitely did not want something smaller than my high school—which held about 1,500 people per class.
  • A different mindset

Being away from home can feel liberating and also awful at the same time. Being from the Chicagoland area, Iowa is far enough away but close enough to spend less than half a day driving home. It gave me the opportunity to miss home and also make the trip back in case homesickness hit me. Also, before you know it, it’ll be weird calling home ‘home’ or you’ll catch yourself saying “I’m going home” when you actually mean your dorm.

While the other school would have been closer to home, it was not what I wanted. Iowa carries a wide variety of majors and as a person who is very aware how likely I was to change my first major, I needed the options.

When you first come to Iowa, it will seem really big at first. There’s like a thousand students packed into Burge; the dining hall line can literally go all the way out the side entrance during lunch rush; and there’s a million faces you’ve never seen before. But that feeling goes away pretty quickly (well all of it goes away except that long lunch line. There’s no beating it unless you find some way to book it after class and be the first one there) and you start to recognize people in your clubs, classes, and daily walks to class. Even the unfamiliar faces start to feel familiar. I also feel that once I got more involved and started to know a chunk of campus, I felt like I almost knew at least half or more of campus (because someone always knows another someone, and down the line).

At Iowa, there are people coming from different backgrounds—mostly rooted in socio-cultural differences. There are people like myself, who come from big suburban high schools and towns that were a short trip from a big city like Chicago, and there are people who come from smaller towns that have less people than my high school class did. I like that Iowa brings together these different people and more often than not, you have something to learn from them and their differing perspective.

If I could do it all again, I think I would still pick Iowa.

Classes at the Rec: Aqua Zumba

First a little background:  you get access to a ton of daily group exercise classes with your membership to the CRWC. All you have to do is show up. There’s no signup or waitlist or anything of that nature. (I would advise to getting there a little early as some classes (like yoga) can fill up pretty fast and not leave much room). The CRWC lists all of their classes at https://recserv.uiowa.edu/ and their respective dates and times. I’ve only been to Yoga and Aqua Zumba but hopefully I’ll be able to gain the confidence to try one of the more intensive classes.

I don’t know about you, but I have never been the biggest fan of Zumba. It’s definitely something my mom is more into than I am. In an effort to be more physically fit, my roommate and I went to try out Aqua Zumba. Aqua Zumba takes place in the recreation pool—the pool with the lazy river and hot tub—on the far right edge of the pool, next to the climbing wall.

The instructor is an older woman who is a really nice instructor. She stays out of the pool and leads through the dances. She is very energetic and has great facial expressions. Personally, I really enjoy Aqua Zumba. It’s not an exercise that you ‘feel’ in the moment or immediately after. But depending on the dance moves that the instructor does, you will see the exercise elements of the moves.

Some thoughts on Finals Week

You will hear this a million times and maybe one day you might actually do it: study a few weeks in advance for finals.

I definitely made a mistake this semester by not doing that. I allowed myself to get overwhelmed by the homework and projects I had due over thanksgiving break and wasn’t entirely thinking ahead towards finals.

And now I’m suffering.

And just a little bit and that’s mostly due to my finals schedule.

I have four finals this semester: two on Monday morning, one Tuesday, and one Friday.

The two on Monday are back to back at 7:30 am and then at 10am.

In terms of studying strategy, I try to dedicate a day or a good bundle of hours towards one subject, taking a few breaks throughout. If possible—and as one of the last ditch strategies—I try to space out some studying throughout the last week of class and start making study guides for myself. These guides tend to be rewriting some of my notes and paying special attention to some of the key aspects of the information.

Overall, I think there are multiple ways to beat finals and you’ll derive your own method to conquering yours. Just try not to stress too much: continue to try to get a full night’s sleep, eat well, and exercise when you can.

That Group Project (and how to Survive)

You know the one I’m talking about.

The one where somehow you ended up doing the majority of the work and it seems like your fellow group members don’t care.

The type that inspires memes like “I want my group members at my funeral to let me down one last time.”

That group project.

We’ve all been there. But for whatever reason, I was really struck by this one.

In one of my classes this semester we were assigned two group projects over the course of the semester. They would make up the bulk of our grade besides the exams and low weight homework assignments.

If you don’t know it already, Google Drive will be your best friend for any and all group projects. It allows for real time collaboration and should eliminate most of the need to meet with your group out of class.

The first group project was a slight headache. Some members neglected to show up to the meetings and were full of excuses. Not the greatest first impression but things come up in life. Taking that into account, there is still the expectation that your work gets done. Unfairly, I had a hand in completing a majority of this first project. I can’t help that a type A tendency hits me when I participate in a group project: I want timeliness, good work, and overall cooperation. For whatever reason, I was willing to let it slide.

Looking back, I’m starting to think that perhaps that was one of my initial mistakes with this group. It should be noted here that I did remedy my feelings a little bit by talking directly to my group members that similar behavior would not fly with the next project. Additionally I talked to my professor after class the last period before thanksgiving break (and before our second project would be due). I discussed with my group members—and later my professor—that we would try to get the project done earlier (it was, after all, due the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we would shoot to have it completed by the Monday before) and divvy up the parts so everyone only has a small part to do.

The true stomach-dropping-on-a-rollercoaster-feeling didn’t occur until the Sunday after Thanksgiving break about our second group project. I had completed my part by the previous Monday and had urged my peers throughout the week to complete their portions. Come Sunday night, only two other members had completed their portions of the project—leaving a majority of our project undone. If you’re anything like me, you’ll know this is where the sick, nervous feeling starts to set in. I was wildly upset. I sent an email to my professor, explaining the situation and how we would not meet the deadline. I then spent a portion of the night and the next day, working on the missing parts of the project. It wasn’t perfect and might have been had my group members pulled their own weight. But I’m not upset anymore because I learned how to deal with it.

Here are my tips for dealing with bad group members:

  1. Do stay in contact with them. Do the extra nagging to keep them on task. Yes, you’re not anyone’s mom but at least it will serve as your proof that you made an attempt.
  2. Do use google drive. It keeps record of who worked on what and when and can also serve as your proof come peer evaluations.
  3. Do talk to your professor. My professor has been incredibly understanding and helpful in this situation and how to go about rectifying it. In a situation where you may feel powerless, there is someone to help you out.
  4. Do your work: don’t contribute to a lacking group and look out for yourself. Good work ethic is not a hard skill to master and will contribute to life later on.
  5. Rest easy; Karma and peer evaluations are a thing and will help in righting the world.

Meeting Martin O’Malley

My love of all things political continued the day of the Iowa-Wisconsin game (we lost but that is beside the point). I skipped the game to head out to Des Moines for my internship with Congressman Dave Loebsack’s campaign. I drove out with the finance director of the campaign and helped set up the event in downtown Des Moines. (Fun fact: I’ve also never been to Des Moines before. I do plan to visit some friends who go to Drake but it looked gorgeous). It was somewhat well attended. Our surprise guest was Governor Martin O’Malley, who previously was running for the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. He talked to us about getting out the vote and continuing to support our local Democrats like Dave Loebsack. (final fun fact: Congressman Loebsack is currently the only Democratic congressman from Iowa).

I’ll leave you with this great picture of Governor O’Malley and I:

Governor O'Malley & I!
Governor O’Malley & I!

WIB takes Madison!

Within the past year, I’ve talked a lot about the student organizations I am a part of. Each of them have added unique experiences and interesting people that I definitely would not have met or experienced had I not participated. Last October, through No Labels, I went to Manchester, New Hampshire for a political forum. This year, I spent two days in Madison, Wisconsin touring businesses with Women in Business.

Women in Business is a Tippie student organization comprised of high achieving women who are looking to navigate the workforce, network, and learn about bettering ourselves. We have close to two hundred members and have biweekly meetings. Every year Women in Business takes two professional trips: one in the fall (a further away, usually out of state), and one in the spring (closer, think Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, etc). The trips are always partially subsidized through membership dues, fundraising, and the funds that WIB has applied for. I have never previously attended a trip however Madison sounded like it would be really fun.

And it really was.

Going to Madison with WIB: $35
Experience of Going to Madison with WIB: priceless

Our trip started at 5:30AM on a Thursday. The 40 some girls to be attending were to arrive at the MacBride Hall bus stop by 5:30 to board our charter bus. I won’t lie, it was a little hard to get up for. Many of us brought a pillow and blankets to crash on the bus. I kind of nodded off a bit, but was wide awake by 7AM to eat our breakfast of Hyvee muffins and flip through the snap filters of the towns we went through. We had to get dressed and ready on the bus as we would not be going to our hotel until the evening. We arrived in Verona, a few miles outside Madison, to visit Epic’s campus. And their campus was indeed epic.

One of Epic's hallways: lit up to look like the galaxy
One of Epic’s hallways: lit up to look like the galaxy

Think of a Facebook or Google-esque campus in the middle of the Wisconsin prairie and you’re thinking of Epic. It’s made up of about five buildings—all individual themed—and entirely walkable. Epic makes the healthcare system that a lot of doctor offices and hospitals are using for patient records, MyChart, etc. The campus and company culture is very cool (and a casual dress code) and made it harder for any other company to follow up.

They even have a slide! Dress clothes make you go faster. (I may or may not have almost slid into the wall, three feet away from the end)
They even have a slide! Dress clothes make you go faster. (I may or may not have almost slid into the wall, three feet away from the end)

The next company was CUNA mutual, an insurance company. They showed up a bit of their building, a video about the history of CUNA, and held two panels for us. The first panel was comprised of recent graduates and how they transitioned into the workforce after college. The second panel comprised of slightly older women, but they talked about work/life balance and their experiences as women in the workforce (and particularly male dominated workplaces). The panels provided a lot of really great insight.

Our next and final company of the day was in fact the hotel we stayed at: The Edgewater. It recently reopened in 2014 after a historical remodeling. The hotel has been on the edge of Madison since the 1940s. The GM/COO of the Edgewater took us on a tour of a ballroom, diner, lobby, and a closed off section of the diner. We weren’t able to see any of the conference rooms as they were all completely booked out. We then heard from the GM/COO, the special events director, and the assistance special events director: all women, and all hardworking women with different backgrounds. They talked about how they came to the Edgewater and the events that had been put on there.

The Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota
The Edgewater Hotel on Lake Mendota

Once that finished, we were all released to check into our rooms and get settled before dinner. I elected to walk around downtown Madison with a few of the other girls and stare in awe at the beautiful (and expansive) capitol building.

Madison's capitol building!
Madison’s capitol building!

The girls and I later met up with the rest of the WIB girls at Ian’s Pizza, owned by the same company that owns Iowa City’s Mesa, to have dinner with UW-Madison’s WIB group. We got to meet a bunch of their girls over pizza and talk about our different schools and WIB experiences. After that, I hung out with a couple other girls and the Exec that attended the trip in one of their rooms and got to bond with a lot of the other girls who I haven’t really gotten the chance to know. I definitely formed some new bonds within WIB during the Madison trip.

Friday was not as early but still relatively early: 8AM bus time. The day started off at Alliant Energy and talking about sustainability. Alliant has installed electric car chargers and solar panels to power their building and they electricity they sell. With the installation of car chargers, they have seen a 1/3 increase in electric car purchases in their employees.

For lunch and the final companies, the group split into two: one group going to ETC lighting (theatre lighting) and the other going to visit with BMO Harris representatives. I was a part of the BMO group and we had lunch with three of their employees at the Madison club. They talked about BMO in Madison and a bit about their Chicago buildings and experiences.

Once that was over, our group went to go pick up the ETC group before heading back to Iowa City. On our way back, we passed five Madison Badger busses that carried their football players, coming to play us the following day. We did heckle them a little bit by knocking on the windows and flashing Iowa blankets and t-shirts. They seemed excited to be recognized until they saw the Iowa blankets. I don’t think I’ve ever seen smiles drop so fast.

Iowa Startup Games

A couple weeks ago I spent an entire weekend with ~40 other people to build businesses within a weekend. This is a program put on by JPEC to get ideas flowing and giving students a crash course on how to take your business idea from an idea to perhaps an actually feasible concept. Startup Games was definitely a really interesting experience and I highly recommend that everyone partake—even if you’re not a business or entrepreneurship-related major/minor/certificate.

It started Friday night: we all piled in S401 of Tippie, munched on free food (and jeeze, there was a lot of it over the weekend), and went over the schedule for the weekend. Friday night would start with quick tips on how to pitch and some suggestions on how to make your pitch standout by attaching a story behind it. We then moved onto actually pitching ideas. Everyone was encouraged to pitch but not required. After pitches, we would vote on all the ideas then the top voted 11 ideas would be left for everyone else to form teams around. I pitched an idea that I came up with 10 minutes before pitching started. I did make it to the final filtering but did not gather enough people to make a team (I gained one other person. We could have built around the idea but that would have been a lot more work for two people instead of say, four.). So my one other person and I moved to join another two person team to help with Elastic Language.

 

#grouppic
#grouppic

Elastic Language is the idea of creating a web based application for critical languages, such Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Indian languages; because a lot of these languages do not have programs on Duolingo or are badly rated on Rosetta Stone.

Saturday started with a free breakfast (like I said, there’s a lot of free food involved) and socializing with some of the other groups before the day started. Saturday was dedicated to Customer Discovery: going out and seeing if what we perceived as a problem was actually a problem. We conducted online surveys to reach our farther friends and strangers and did in person interviews at the library. After collecting all this information, groups would either a) push on with their ideas or b) pivot and work their idea at a different angle or come up with another idea. We collected a lot of good information and pushed on with our project. Lunch came with free Pancheros burritos and hearing from all the groups on how their ideas were progressing. People announced their pivots, their successes in customer discovery, or the splintering of their groups and having to join new ones. The afternoon was then dedicated to experimentation: making mock ups of what our product would look like and going out to see what people thought. (aka I spent 6 hours planted in a chair, staring at photoshop, and helping build our mockup). Dinner was then served and we talked about the layout of Sunday: finishing up our presentations and finalizing our final pitches. Sunday afternoon would consist of travelling to Kinnick and performing our final pitches for a panel of judges to hopefully win some prize money. After dinner, my group worked late into the night (11PM when they kicked us out of the rooms), pulling our mockup together.

Sunday went by quickly: we put together our powerpoint over breakfast while I put the final touches on our mockup with another group member. After a couple of intstructions, we were all directed to find a way to Kinnick’s press box where lunch would be served and final pitches pitch.

We didn’t win first place. Or second. Or third. We did, however, win judge’s choice for best presentation and our team won $250 dollars (~$75 between the 4 of us). It was a really fun experience overall—full of free food, people I may have never met, and learning to work with a group of strangers and learning to capitalize on each other’s strengths. 10/10 would recommend to everyone.