Spring Festival Feast

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Happy Chinese Spring Festival!
This is the year of Rooster, 2017, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. As a native Chinese, spring festival is my favorite time of the year. People usually have winter vacations during this time, and spring festival is the time that families get together and relax. It is just like Christmas here in America.  Although I can’t celebrate with my family this year, the student organization “Bridges the Internationals” has provided me a chance to welcome the Chinese new year.

There were twelve of us here: all girls, some are graduating seniors, some just started the life in Iowa. We are from different parts of world: China, Korea, and America; we have different majors: accounting, business, pre-med, Literature, Engineering… But, we all belong to this big family called “Bridges to Internationals”, which connects international students and local Americans to provide a platform of making friends on campus. This is where we hang out, learn and grow together. I joined this student org when I was a freshman, and now I really enjoy the time with my friends in this community and have had unforgettable memories.

To celebrate the spring festival, it is typical that people will share a big meal together. This time, we got together and made dumplings and other creative dishes. Here is a photo of what we made! Homemade feast by Bridges the Internationals! Can’t wait to eat!


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Spring is here, where to have fun?

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“After the winter, comes the spring; that’s when the blue bird starts to sing.”
— “After the Winter” by Lenka

It’s half way through the spring semester already, and it is midterm time for lots of people. But what are you doing for fun when you are tired of studying? Spring season is a terrific time to think about some outdoor activities. Here at the University of Iowa, we have a large variety of options that we can choose to enjoy the spring.

1. Swimming

Over this spring break, I decided to try swimming for a new type of exercise because I have watched people swimming when I was running on the third floor in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center. It sounds really enjoyable–you don’t get sweaty when swimming and it is a good idea to keep fit. So I grabbed my swimming suit right after school on Friday. I felt super relaxed when I first jumped in to the swimming pool. I am from a city that has lots of lakes and springs formed by underground water, so swimming is something that we do for fun especially in the summer. Swimming in the fitness center here is lots of fun. I definitely recommend you try this out.

2. Play a game at the Hubbard Park or go hiking

Over this past weekend, I participated in the Easter event “Protect-the-Egg tournament” held by the student organization “Bridges to Internationals”. We protected an egg from falling to the ground using only a pair of chopsticks. It was a little bit tricky at the beginning, but as more times we got practiced, we improved a lot. I got to enjoy a moment when I didn’t have to think about tests and pressure but just share a pleasing time with my friends playing a game. It was wonderful! Playing a game is also suggested on the list of “47 things you should do at Iowa”. Maybe this will be your next option to hang out with your friends and meet new people.

In addition, spring is a good time to go hiking, or generally speaking, to go traveling. Here are lots of city parks and camp sites near campus. The one that I went to this spring break was called “Squire Point”. It is located a little bit north of Mayflower Residence Hall. I was shocked by what I have seen there. It was such a unique place–really quiet and a good place to get close to nature. A huge lake is in the park as well as two different walking trials. Spending an afternoon or even a weekend there sounds just awesome! You never experience how amazing life is when you stay home all day!




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New semester is here!

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It is a new beginning of our spring semester here at the University of Iowa!! Hopefully everybody had a wonderful winter break with family and friends. What is your new year’s resolution for 2016? Personally speaking, I plan to fix my mistakes that happened last semester like not being efficient enough for my classes and activities, not staying completely focused during lecture. This year, my goal is to make a difference in life. Here are some tips I learned from last semester.

  1. Study ahead of classes. Having a good preparation has never been a bad idea. Although people including myself think it’s a little bit time consuming, it really is worth the time and effort. Coming to class with questions is much better than just receiving the knowledge taught by professors. This is because there is a motivation inside to drive you to learn new things rather than teachers giving you what should be learned during lecture. The time in a lecture is limited. Reading the material before and after class helps you learn and gain a much better understanding in a limited amount of time.
  2. Attend social events to relax yourself and try new things. This past weekend, I went to a swing dance event at IMU with my other two roommates. I was not confident enough to go at the very beginning. But after my roommates encouraged me, I went. I was glad that I tried it out. Now I know how to do a little bit of swing dancing. It is never too late to try new things. As long as you have the passion, you should do what interests you.
  3. Take group exercise. At the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (CRWC), students can take group exercise classes for free. It is a great opportunity to get fit and stay healthy, and make new friends! Our floor went together for the Zumba dance class on Thursday. Although I was sweaty after the workout, it was a great experience. In addition, doing group exercise gives you a sense of belonging since everybody else is learning the same step as well, so it is easy to build your own confidence.
  4. Have a healthy diet and sleep well. I want to say that the most important thing in order to stay active on campus is to keep a healthy living style. Get enough sleep and eat healthy!
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Carver Clean-up

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Everybody is either picking up the trash and putting it into the garbage bag or rushing to the next dirty spot. Nobody ever stopped to have a rest or even look around. It was like a competition, but there is no loser or winner. Because we are working as a whole group and our goal is to get the stadium cleaned up and the fund raised for Continental Crossings.

Continental Crossings is one of the student organizations that I participate in, whose mission is to build bridges in developing countries of South America to help the people survive the flood season. Where is the money from to make this bridge building happen? It all depends on our students. There is a fund raising group that is designed to hit the goal to collect the money needed from all the sources that they can utilize.

Cleaning the stadium is one way we raise funds. Right after the Men’s Basketball game, although it was already 10:30 in the evening, the group was armed to get this giant stadium done. It was my first time to clean a stadium. I have been to basketball games before but never did I think about how to clean the entire stadium with a group of twenty. The basketball stadium is really steep, which was my first impression of an American basketball stadium. I was even scared to stand up in a row, especially on the top part close to the entrance. But to my surprise, I rushed out to pick up the garbage without thinking about this concern after half of a circle was done. That was actually scary when I looked back. I stood there for a couple seconds to let my breath come through, and moved on. It wouldn’t be scary if I don’t think about it. I couldn’t waste the time on taking a break because we were doing a group work– other people would have to do extra work if I didn’t work hard as I could.

I was stepping on large amount of popcorn that people spilled with a crunchy sound. In the meantime, some coke spilled all over the path as I walked by, even on my shoes. It was awful. It is miserable to see how garbage is left all over after the game. The peanut shells, popcorn and candies, etc. are just sitting where they used to be. Will the leftover popcorn be thrown away if there is a little garbage bin at the end of each row? So the custodians can actually save time of sweeping the floor?

We left the stadium in the middle of the night. The stadium was refreshed and quiet again. Although our group stayed up late, we finished cleaning and it was worth it!

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Final Survival Tips

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Finals week is only two weeks ahead. It sounds a little bit overwhelming. Maybe you want to be ready but don’t know where to start. Here are some tips to help you survive this vital season.

  1. Live a balanced life
    In order to be prepared for finals, you will not only need to get all the terms and definitions ready, but, more importantly, your body needs to get rested each night and to be fed with good food. So it is important to get enough sleep at night and eat a rainbow of foods during the day. Getting some exercise is also good for you!
  1. Be present with what you are doing
  • Pay attention on every lecture, discussion and group work.
  • Stay completely focused when doing homework, reviewing, taking practice tests, etc.
  • Jump into your work right away! Don’t play with cell phones before doing your work. Put them away and try not to think of them.
  1. Keep good studying habits that you have
    The best way to study may vary from person to person. You know how you will study the best. So stick with whatever you are comfortable with because it is your personalized weapon on the final war. One piece of advice that I want to share here is that the classes won’t be a struggle if you put faith and passion on them. Let’s say: “We can do this!” instead of “It’s too hard. We are giving it up.”
  1. Ask other people or web resources for help if you have tried all solutions
  • Go to professors and TAs’ office hours. Don’t be afraid of your professors. They are here to help you. Most professors and TAs are really friendly and are eager to listen my concerns and problems that I have met. The first step is to open their doors with a big smile and say hi.
  • Here are lots of FREE tutoring resources on campus.
    For math, you can go to the mathlab on the 2nd floor of MacLean Hall.
    For Engineering students, there is 3124 Tutoring Center that can handle most of the Engineering classes. (My resources are really limited, sorry)
  • On-line teaching videos or lecture, etc.
    Also, there are tons of tutoring sections in the residents halls. Check out for those resources and utilize them. You will benefit from that.
  1. Choose your study spot wisely
  • Quiet study place: All kinds of libraries. 2nd to 5th floor, Main library are designed quiet study places.
  • Group study area: 1st floor, Main library common rooms; Computer labs, etc.
  1. Relax—Try your best

Take a deep breath, you need to feed your brain with enough oxygen before any testing.

Hope they are helpful!

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Roar through the Halloween

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The kid Captain with Herky

Two kids including the Kid Captain Sean Peck with Herky

About two months after school started, I finally got a chance to watch my first Iowa football game.

It was showering and was expected to stop any minute. But it didn’t actually matter whether it rained hard or not, we were heading to the football game.

We were part of the people waiting in the cold rainy weather before it was even one o’clock. It was kind of crazy I thought, “do we need that much time in advance?” The answer is absolutely yes because you know it is all about football. For Iowans, the wait was definitely worth it! And you know what, we won!

Staring at the really empty stadium, we stood where the players come out for a time until I couldn’t feel my feet. People flew out of that entrance all of a sudden, then there was a pause. This little kid went out. He dressed as the captain football player. And when he walked out, he greeted the first row with a big nice smile. He was like a professional football player, at least he’s going to be. There was one time when Herky came with a skateboard, he let Sean stand on and hugged him. It was such a lovely moment that warmed the whole stadium up.

Go Kid Captains, Go Hawks!

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Big rocks and fish gravel

category icon Posted in Academics, Campus Life

“If you want to fit all the rocks in this glass mug, what will you put in first?”

This is a question asked by Jane Dorman in my first-year seminar. She lifted a empty mug with some rocks in her hand, and said “what are the options to fill this mug with all the rocks that we have?”

“Let’s try to put in the little fish gravel first,” she started putting the clearly blue gravel into the mug until it was half full. I wasn’t really paying attention to it at the beginning because I thought it was just something fun in her class. “Then I am going to put my big rocks in,” she said. The big rocks were put on the bottom of the mug, and there was so much space between all those rocks. Because of the weight, rocks were trying really hard to stay on the top of the edge until some of them started to fall right after she put them in. All those rocks are too anxious to go back to where they were. They couldn’t all fit in that situation when the mug was half filled with little tiny fish gravel.

“Now let’s try to put our big rocks in first.”

Even from the corner of the classroom by the door, I could hear the clear sound when the rocks hit the glass. All the rocks went in this time since there wasn’t fish gravel in their way, but still, there was a large space between rocks. “Then we can pour out gravel into the mug.”

When the fish gravel came in, the color of the mug turns to be clearly blue all of a sudden. The space between rocks were filled with little fish gravel, which was not something that rocks can handle if they come in last. The fish gravel and all of the big rocks perfectly filled the mug.

“This is just like your time management,” she raised the mug with rocks high, “the big rocks are going into the mug first if you want all of the rocks to fit in there.”

I felt refreshed when I finally thought about this rock case. The example was all about the rocks, but what to put in first and next really make a huge difference when all the rocks need to come in. Little fish gravel can and needs to come in after the big rocks in the mug because the rocks are not flexible as the gravel is; also, gravel can be anywhere if there was just a tiny space left.  It is that same to think about the things that we plan to do. Big things are always first priority on the to-do-list. Therefore, when the big part is well done, we have time to work on the other small tasks that are less important. In the end, all the parts can be finished.

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Awesome day — building the dream

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“Yes, we did it! I can’t believe that is true!”

“This is so much fun,” Bailey said, “I am going back to this next time.”

I looked at that piece of wood we just put on the left part of the roof. I felt extremely happy looking at what we have done as Engineering students. I couldn’t even find the exact words to express myself. My heart was going to pop out because we were building a family’s home! We were making a difference! We were helping people make their dreams real, and it really makes me happy and energized.

We started this morning with the 30 degrees and sunshine. Our mission was to help build a home for the Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity. It is a process to build a home for those in need with this charity organization and lots of volunteers. The family will also help in the building process, but most of the designing and coordinating is done by professional trained leaders and volunteers.

My partner Bailey and I picked up our hammers, and they put us right to work. The job for us was to stabalize a long stick on the top of the roof. This kind of job is different from the normal hammer work: we need to lift the wood up to the roof and hammer the nails in at the same time.  That looks crazy to me and I don’t know if I can handle this as a person that never touched a ladder and a hammer before.

Before we actually started to knock the nails into the roof, we measured the distance from the corner of the each stick to the point where they needed to be out really carefully. We knew this was not building sand castles. We were building not only a home, but also the trust of that family. Team spirit has built house, as well as the enthusiasm and excitement to witness their dream coming true. I was a little afraid of the ladder, and the hammer in my pocket when I stood on the top of the ladder helping Bailey hold the other end of the wood in order to knock the nail in.

It was my turn to hammer the nail in now for the other end. I picked up a nail and aimed it on the intersection of the two sticks while Bailey was holding the stick for me. After several times of knocking, the nail was just into the wood little. It was hard. Nevertheless, I never thought about quitting because I knew I was going to knock this tough guy in. That’s what I was there for. This day was so special! I love it!!

Here are we!

Here is our group!

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Happy Homecoming!!

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Congratulations Hawkeyes!
With the joy from the Homecoming football game, I looked back on what I have seen and experience throughout this week. It was a true Homecoming.

The Friday night was my favorite part. First came the parade, and the Chvrches Concert right after that. I could tell everyone was excited to see the Homecoming Parade. At that moment, the whole Iowa City was filled with pleasure, excitement and fun.

My friends and I were waiting right east of the Old Capitol facing the Iowa Avenue. It was literally one of the most famous spots: the density of people can not be expressed by an exact number. Tons of people have already arrived and it was hard for us to find a spot to stand.  Hundreds of people were still heading towards here. Kids holding big plastic bags stood in line in the front waiting for candies. I would say that the Iowa Fight Song was the highlight of the parade. Because that was where our Hawkeye Spirit should belong to.


The Chvrches’ Concert was another highlight of Friday. I felt that I was fully into the music and absolutely loved it. It was a great time to relax from the busy midterm week. Although surrounded with people like a sardine pack, I didn’t even want to move. It was nice and warm here in the crowd because people together as a whole was the biggest defender of the wind. Music was not only functioning as music anymore but also as the pain-killer for people. Forget all those unpleasant things, and let’s have fun at Homecoming.

The old Capitol was a little bit different that night– it was more honorable and sacred by the comparison of the dark night; and the night was special  because of the Homecoming!!


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Fall Getaway

category icon Posted in Campus Life, Events

Talking about weekend, I’m going to tell you what I have experienced.

As an International student who doesn’t have a home here in the United States, I have to stick around the campus area, although I know it is sort of lonely to walk on the streets that are almost empty on the weekends. I keep trying to get outside of campus with a couple friends when they stay for the weekends; nevertheless, the only familiar place to hang out in a different city is the Coral Ridge Mall. Once I went to Christian church further away from where I live. That was the farthest place I have ever been to in Iowa.

What is the life like outside of the campus? I have kept thinking about this question for a long time after I got tired of studying on the weekends.

Until a peaceful Thursday afternoon, in my Bible study group,  our leader Ashley said:

“Come to Fall getaway for this weekend!”

“What is a getaway?”

“That is a chance to be away from the campus and have fun!”

All of a sudden, I felt my heart is filled with energy and so many question marks. It is so attractive to have chance to see what’s outside! Will I see lots of corn? What friends I am going to meet? What kind of the Bible study camp is that? How far way is that place from Iowa City?

I got all the questions answered and met a bunch of awesome friends there.

It was truly fun and energizing. I felt sad for I lost the first Friday night and Saturday sections of Fall getaway! But it is all good when I looked at the part I experienced but not the part that I didn’t get.  By the time I got to the Bible study camp, the camp fire has already been set up. With a whole group of new friends from freshmen to seniors, we sang and talked and laughed while sitting around the fire. It was like a family gathering: everybody was relaxed sitting around the fire and sharing blankets; but it was kind of different from the family gather-together because we understood others in the same age range. So we didn’t have to hide certain secrets. The only and the most important thing was to be our “selves”.

In the morning service on Sunday, which was the last section of the camp, our leader suggested us to bring the spirit of fall getaway back to campus. We can’t be “away” every weekend, and it won’t be that fun if we have it every week. The happiness results from something new.

I would not see what I experienced if I didn’t go on this safari.

I really appreciate it!

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