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.

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.

The Career Fair Isn’t As Intimidating as It Seems

The Career Fair isn’t as intimidating as it seems on paper or the advertisements seen around campus. The Career Fair is held once a semester in the IMU and is where a lot of regional and national companies come and are looking for students to hire. There you can learn about companies and their job or internship opportunities. This past Thursday was my first time attending the fair and it wasn’t that bad.

First, you have to dress appropriately. The suggested dress code is business professional so I wore black dress pants, a green blouse, a black blazer, and black heels. (Pro tip: If you wear heels, stash them in your backpack and change into them once you get there!)

Second, you need to have copies of your resume. A sponsor of the fair offers free printing on site (which is really nice considering that it costs 15 cents to print in color on campus). If you don’t have a spectacular resume or even a resume at all, it’s okay because with a little bit of prior planning you can get help from the Pomerantz career center. The career center has professional and student peer advisers that will look over your resume with formatting and tips to improve it. Optional: a portfolio to hold copies of your resume and any leaflets, business cards, and miscellaneous materials you pick up. A folder will work just fine.

Third, take a deep breath and help yourself to some cookies and ice water at the hospitality center. Remind yourself that you’ve got this.

Lastly, try to talk to all your target companies. Once you’ve completed that, start talking to some companies that you may not have previously considered. All the companies there are more than willing to talk to you about their business and meet you.

As for my own experience, I did not mind the nerves too much. I wandered around and spoke to a handful of companies and Iowa Law. Unfortunately, if you’re not a business or business-related major there is not much in terms of options at the job fair. I used it as an avenue to practice talking to potential employers and handing out my resume. If you happen to be in the same pool, I still highly recommend that you attend and gain an experience from it.

I Pitched A Business Idea @ IdeaStorm

For my Entrepreneurial Finance course, the second Entrepreneurship class I have taken so far, everyone was required to pitch a business idea and then group projects would form around these ideas and run for a portion/most of the semester. Through these groups we would determine feasibility, develop business plans, and present a final presentation. It’s still the beginning of the semester so we just did pitches last week and my idea was ranked high enough that a group was actually formed from it! In the case that I make a million dollars in the future, I won’t tell you my idea just yet.

My idea had grown enough on me that I was willing to sign up to pitch at IdeaStorm. IdeaStorm is a roughly 2 hour event in which students are pitching their business ideas -under 60 seconds- to a panel of judges. There are monetary prizes. I was revved and ready to go.

Unfortunately, my nerves got the best of me once it was my turn.

I’ve never been an atrocious public speaker. I did bits of theatre in high school and a relative calm tends to settle over me before I present. Not today. Today I blundered all over my pitch and psyched myself out. Naturally, I want to beat myself up about it. And I did a little in the moments following my pitch. However, I plan on taking this as a learning experience and using this experience to better my pitch next time. I look forward to it.

Also First Apartment!

While my junior year at Iowa has certainly brought a handful of life adjustments, one of the biggest adjustments has to be moving into my first apartment with two of my friends.

I absolutely love it.

Living in Burge was fun-I spent two years there and wouldn’t trade them for the world-but having my own space is so exciting and freeing. I love my roommates, and one of them was my roommate from last year, but it is so nice to not have to share a room anymore. I get to spread all my stuff out if I want and keep my room as tidy or as messy as I want. It’s an odd sense of freedom.

I think one of the best parts is getting to decide what I want to eat. I don’t have to bend my eating preferences around whatever the dining hall is serving. I don’t have to eat country fried steak and gravy twice a month.  (I no longer get to bask in the greatness that is dining hall chicken strip night but that is beside the point). I get to decide.

Apartment life if pretty glamorous. Its one caveat is that I don’t get to spend a lot of time in it. Between 18 semester hours, working at Burge Front Desk, interning at Loebsack for Congress, my extracurricular commitments, and doing my continuously mounting stack of homework, I often do not spend a significant chunk of the day at home. It’s not a bad time though, I really enjoy being this busy.

With that I leave you with some fun pictures of my bedroom. It’s a little sparse on the wall decorations but I’m happy. *Not pictured are my dual closets, my nightstand, and my comfy chair!