Running

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It was an extreme week indeed and I may even still be recovering!

at Franklin Park

My week started with a bang (literally!) at the start line of the Boston Athletic Association’s Half Marathon 2012. This would be my second time racing in the event, but my anxiety level mirrored that of last year’s. Even though I’ve acquired running as a huge hobby for a year now, I felt immense pressure to beat my time from last year (2:10). I knew I was faster this year and I knew that running a personal record was possible – but this just made the unknown that much scarier!!

During the summer of 2011, a bunch of my sorority sisters encouraged me to start running, but it wasn’t until the push of my biological sister that really started me going. I had been seeking a new physical outlet ever since I stopped competitively swimming after my senior year of high school; and running in Cambridge, especially along the beautiful Charles River, presented itself as not only an aesthetically pleasing alternative, but also a convenient one! Relative to the streets and atmosphere of Southern California, I feel like there’s a larger running culture here. Cars don’t hesitate to yield to sweaty runners and vehicle passengers often express their support vocally. This was one of the biggest reasons I was so excited to return to campus after a blessed summer of exciting world travels. My training schedule while traveling Europe and South America wasn’t ideal…or even existent haha so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to run right back into the swing of things!

Who just ran a half marathon?? THIS KID.

My prerace goal was to pace 9:30 minutes/mile (compared to my 9:59 pace from last year). Yet during the first 7 miles of the 13.1 mile course, I was beyond elated to realize that I had been pacing around 8:30 because I could finish really under 2 hours if I kept it up! Too bad I died out. The last half of the race, especially the last 5K, was killer. Every stepped seemed so heavy and my iPod couldn’t even pump me up. I finished with an average pace of 9:28, slightly exceeding my goal but also slightly disappointed. Even though I had become an improved amateur runner, I couldn’t decide if I was happy or disappointed … so I ate a bagel.

The Boston Half Marathon is always a great event – everyone there has so much energy and spirit at 6am that you can’t resist smiling even if your eyelids are droopy.

A huge turnout!

It’s always a wonderful opportunity to get off campus, especially if it means investing yourself in the Boston community.¬†As glorified as it sounds, the half marathon always makes me feel part of something greater than myself. Here at Harvard, it’s scarily too easy to become self-consumed – when I say this, I mean that students’ lives effortlessly become so busy and hectic that our calendars have us at 3-6 places in any given moment. So in order for us to feel like we’re not drowning – or maybe even feel like we’re happily drowning in responsibility – we zoom in on our to-do list, leaving little time to envision the bigger picture and all the outcomes of our productivity. Sometimes training for the half marathon felt like picking up a 6th class and I would become so frustrated with myself every time I had a crappy/slow run. But now that the half marathon has happened and passed, it’s awesome to realize that tons of people were working extremely diligently to have such a successful event too and so much money was raised for incredibly altruistic organizations such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Another highlight of the event was that it fell over Columbus day weekend – a 3 day weekend!! I successfully avoided academic work Sunday night by heading over to MIT where some friends cooked up a beyond delicious dinner to regain all those calories burnt earlier in the day! I had also been really good at avoiding academic work the entire weekend so I celebrated Columbus day by catching up on some reading, psets (problem sets), and writing papers. I made it to bed at a decent hour, planning to get a healthy and reasonable 7 hours of REM cycles. Surprisingly, I managed to get 10 hours of sleep – only because my cell phone alarm did not ring! ūüôĀ

I was suppose to wake up at 9:30am for my Perception & Decision Making class from 10-11:30am. Immediately following, I have Spanish between 11:30am-1pm where the first hour would be dedicated to our first (of three) exams. From 1-3pm, I would submit a response paper for my Literature & Medicine Class right before attending the weekly lecture.

My lack of alarm caused me to wake up at 12:30pm, right when my Spanish exam had ended. I still have no idea what happened to my phone because as I angrily jerked it around when I woke up, my phone was turned off. I literally had no idea what to do. After checking my running watch and my everyday watch which¬†concurred¬†that it was definitely 12:30pm, I violently burst into my roommate’s room with the insane hope that it was actually 12:30am or something! I’ve never accidentally missed a class before let alone an exam!! I had even emailed my Perception & Decision Making professor over the weekend to request permission to leave a few minutes early to arrive to my Spanish exam on time! I couldn’t even rush to Spanish and offer to take the exam right then and there because I had to physically submit a paper at 1pm! All these frantic thoughts scattered my brain and I ashamedly admit that I considered quitting on life and just going back to bed to deny that the day existed. I called my sister, who was probably expecting me to wish her a happy birthday, and I quickly explained my complicated predicament in my trembled-on-the-verge-of-tears voice. She told me to just rush to class and deal with things as they came. Pretty simple, but I couldn’t have thought of that myself.

On my sprint to class, I shot my Perception & Decision Making TF (graduate student Teaching Fellow) an email requesting an appointment with him sometime later in the day. I arrived in Spanish during a student presentation and anxiously waited until class ended to approach my teacher. I honestly explained my situation in a string of trembling conjugations and she was super accommodating and told me to come to her office after my last class for the day. After making up the exam, I rushed to my¬†Perception & Decision Making TF’s lab where I simultaneously explained the series of unfortunate events from the morning, fought back my stupid tears, and offered to write thousands of extra papers in order to eradicate all my guilt for missing class. He refused my offer after reassuring me, but also vocalized that nothing along these lines should ever happen again.

As I made my way back home after a long, stressful day of adrenaline and watery eyes, I was super incredulous that I was walking away from what felt like the most climatic battle of a huge war without any wounds. In retelling this story, I still can’t believe the ending. I’m also being overwhelmed by guilt again! I just felt so terrible because my biggest responsibility in life is being a student so having such a traumatic day didn’t only make me feel like a horrendous student, but also an awful person! All my friends keep telling me that I’m being overly dramatic and need to relax, but I’m only finding relaxation by setting alarms on multiple devices.

Happy news that the rest of the week was much more normal! I don’t think I could have handled any more trauma. Heading into this week, it’s a heavy Spanish week as we have a paper due and I have to give 2 presentations (one group and one individual). Vamos!

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Remember back in those elementary/middle school days where you were always so excited for any field trips because the locations were always SO COOL (i.e. local fair, museums, zoos)?? Then you hit high school and the field trip locations may or may not have gotten worse, but there was still excitement because it usually meant less work for the day…

Well, college field trips are the best. You’ve probably heard tons of people say that college is the best and that it’s way better than high school. I have to agree with this statement (even though I LOVED high school) because in college, you really do become your own boss. Therefore, college field trips are basically trips to anywhere you want and the itinerary includes whatever your heart can possibly desire at any given moment.

This is a continuation of my off campus exploration series! Although I’m proud of myself for actually getting off campus more rather than just saying I will, I’m worried that my goal to explore outside my comfort zone is more like a New Year’s resolution which will die out in due time. With this fear in mind, I’m going to soak in every moment I spend off campus.

It’s much easier to get off campus when I’m organizing an event with a group of people so I took advantage of my leadership position as Vice President of Philanthropy on the Panhellenic Council¬†(Panhel) and organized the Fall Philanthropy event in the next town over.

Each semester, Panhel strives to organize a volunteering event that unites the three sororities and fraternities on campus (note that the University does not officially recognize these 6 organizations). I’m hoping to establish consistency and familiarity which will boost number of participants, so during the fall semester, I partnered with Cradles to Crayons and in the spring semester, I plan on concentrating my efforts on Relay for Life. The event at Cradles to Crayons happened last weekend and was pretty successful considering we more than doubled our numbers relative to last year! It was really exciting for me, as the organizer, to see people pumped about the event! We spent a few hours early Saturday morning sorting clothes, cleaning shoes, and creating care packages. It was awesome to die of cuteness over all the adorable baby clothes while simultaneously instantly seeing your impact because the packages we made would be delivered soon to get kids ready for the start of school and the transition of seasons.

Clothes need to be reviewed for quality and then organized into age/size groups before being packaged.

Same rigorous process for shoes!

It was a weekend of early mornings because on Sunday, there was an annual, community Brian Honan 5k walk/run event. I first heard about the Brian Honan race through HCMC (Harvard College Marathon Challenge) as a sophomore and have vowed to participate every year that I can because it’s an AWESOME event!! The course is smooth and slightly hilly and there’s FREE: food, tshirts, and finisher medals! The aspect that most attracts me is how free it is, especially because the Harvard Community Affairs Office prepays slots for Harvard students and employees.

The 5K was on a gorgeously sunny and breezy day. Everyone was in high spirits and the positive energy was resonating all around. I don’t think I could have sported a bigger smile for the rest of the day (despite my sore muscles)!

We were all in Barcelona together this summer!

It’s like they won the Olympics or something… (ps Check out the custom Harvard-Brian Honan free swag!)

The event also had a carnival/fair-like character because there were booths with local businesses as well as street art for your creative juices and a live band performing for your dancing juices. 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though I’ll always consider myself an amateur runner, my habits of running have definitely built a wonderfully unexpected community for me here at Harvard. People are always willing to run with you at extreme hours (i.e. 6am, midnight!) as well as give you advice on mysterious pains. In a sick and twisted yet beautiful way, there’s a uniting aspect of running your body down physically that’s also slightly addicting. One of my long terms goals is running the Boston Marathon and because I won’t be ready for it this spring 2013, I’ll be living vicariously through one of my friends who is fundraising and running it in 7 months! If you’re interested in running (around Boston), you can even check out her running adventures here! She’s running with the support of HCMC who reserves a few slots for Harvard students in the Boston Marathon each year. I always love seeing my peers challenge themselves in ways beyond academia and lucky for me, everyone here seems to push themselves out of their comfort zone frequently.

Although I’m extra-appreciating my time off campus, this does not at all mean that I’m not appreciating my time on campus as well! I can’t believe it’s happening, but junior year is starting off as the best year ever! I know I say that about every year, but it’s been incredible to get back into a nice routine and reconnect with my friends. My profound happiness also stems from my courses – I’ve never been happier with my class schedule.

In one of my more recent blogs from this semester, I listed the 5 classes I’ve enrolled in. Midterm season is lurking – or is already here for some of us! I call it a “season” because once your first midterm hits, more and more keep bombing you until Final Exam Week. Thus, it’s a perfect time to update how classes are going!

Neurobiology Tutorial – Dopamine

Relative to my other classes, we haven’t done too much because it’s half a class each semester, but meets for the entire year so will eventually count as one full semester course by the end of my junior year. Shopping week wasn’t a facade because this class is still riveting! There’s so much enthusiasm from the professor and he seems to effortlessly make topics and tangents connect in the end. My favorite part thus far are the video clips about research experiments we watch because he’s trying to train us to critically watch and listen to these interviews. I use to mindlessly watch and listen and just blindly accept what they’re throwing at me, but now I’m beginning to question the validity of their experiments, data, and interpretation – I feel like a boss! Our first assignment is to read a scientific article and be ready for discussion Monday; hopefully, the critical analytic skills are¬†transferable¬†to fine print.

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 50 – Literature and Medicine

I don’t think I’ve ever had this much reading assigned to me in my life and I don’t think I’ve ever read this much of the assigned reading, haha. I can’t lie and say I’ve read it all – the college way of life and sacrifices has not allowed me to read all of it (yet?). Since this class is more of a GenEd (General Education requirement) for me, I’m honestly not prioritizing it. But when I’m procrastinating from my other assignments, I’m happily reading for this one! This class is stretching me in new ways. I’ve never taken the time to think about the patient’s perspective or the importance of how and why someone chooses to describe pain. Analyzing the (positive and negative)¬†emotions concomitant to being a doctor have kept me intrigued during the weekly 2 hour lectures! Our first submitted assignment was due this week – it was a 2 page response paper and we had the option of performing a close reading of a passage from anything we read or interpret a theme prevalent in many of the works we’ve focused on (analogous to a compare and contrast mini essay).

Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) 145¬†–¬†Neurobiology of Perception and Decision Making

GAH, this has been my favorite class! We meet twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday for an hour and a half each. On Tuesdays, the class splits into 2 and we discuss the assigned scientific articles. Weekly written reports on these articles are submitted, but 4 students each week have the option to present the article to the class rather than submit a written report. I volunteered to present first, which was a little nerve wracking because I had no standards to work off of, but it went very well! It was a pretty casual presentation, with people butting in to ask questions and express their opinions which is exactly what I wanted! Discussion based classes are awesome in theory, but it really only works when students are willing to take risks and participate. The beauty of this class lies in the fact that it’s more of an upper division class and upperclassmen are more willing to voice their thoughts. Then on Thursdays, the professor lectures (we also had 1 guest lecture already!), but still strives to keep the class very interactive. We’ve had tons of 3D image-illusion examples in class and the interesting material is our natural caffeine!!

Mathematics 18 –¬†Multivariable Calculus for Social Sciences

Bleh, so many fixed feelings about this class. I’ve been learning a lot, yes. The concepts I’m learning are not only applicable, but also easily useful in real life, yes. But all these pros are quickly countered by the fact there’s no credit-incentive I’m receiving for this class since it’s entirely an elective for me. There are 3 psets a week and they’re always pretty difficult which means I designate the majority of my homework time to math. I saved the worst con for last: the final for this class is not only on the last day of finals, but it’s also on my 21st birthday! I was hoping to go home earlier than December 21st, but nope, I’ll be embracing the snow and bone chilling cold until then. At least I can rely on the constantly glorious Southern California weather? Help me with more pros here people.

Spanish 61n –¬†The Ethics of Business

Love this class! Two kids who I spent the summer in Peru with are taking this class so it’s great to talk about our experiences and relate class material back to real life, personal experiences! We’ve had a mixture of reading, writing, and movie watching assignments.¬†My teacher is one of those people who would own at Jeopardy¬†because she’s incredibly knowledgeable in all categories of everything. It’s my first Spanish class that isn’t based on grammar, but rather runs like a normal class, just in Spanish. It’s definitely a transition because grammar has always trumped content in lower level Spanish classes, but now it’s flipped!

 

I once was asked in the comments section of my blog how I organize for classes.

I’m a binder person so I’ll designate a binder for each class or split up a binder for multiple classes (typically grouping together classes that happen on the same day so I don’t have to carry too many things on any particular day) using tabs and within those tabs, I’ll divide up class notes, reading notes, section notes, lab notes, etc. depending on the demands of the class. If you look around my room, you’ll probably never guess that I’m super organized with my schoolwork, but I can be very type A about the organization of my school business. I probably get these attributes from my elementary habits when teachers required you to organize in a certain way.

With regards to notes, I like to use different colored pens sparingly and hardly highlight anything. For a few of my premed requirement classes (i.e. organic chemistry and physics), I’ll rewrite my class notes so it’s not obvious that I was semi-dozing off in the early morning lectures. I get all middle-school-girl-giggly when my notes are aesthetically pleasing because for whatever reason, I keep my notes forever. I kept all my notes/assignments from high school and was finally convinced to throw them out right before moving to college.

 

See all the stacks of paper I have on the top of my bookshelf?? That’s the accumulation of my academic-sweat since freshman year of college. These are only the notes I write down, but I take notes with my laptop for certain classes as well! I basically cherish my notes like they’re my chromosome-carrying babies and have this fear that one day I’ll want to know something specific, will remember where I wrote that fact down, but won’t have my pretty, pretty notes to look back through them. This is ridiculous, yes, especially because inventions like the internet and Wikipedia exist, but I can’t help it!

As for studying habits, I’m not much of a re-reader because I personally perceive that task as inefficient and I frown down upon inefficiencies. To trick myself, I’ll read pretty slow the first time around which increases my material absorption and will review my notes to write papers, complete psets (problem sets), and prepare for exams. I discovered that practice problems in preparations for exams have an immensely greater importance because any good exam will test your ability to apply concepts learned in class to varying situations rather than to regurgitate facts.

 

Harvard is academically rigorous – there’s no reason to deny this because we should be proud of it. However, I hope that you can realize that it’s both rigorous and fulfilling in more areas of life than just academia! Next week, I have my first midterms (in math and Spanish), my sorority’s formal, and the Boston Half Marathon! That’s stress in all aspects of my life – academic, social, and physical – and I’m nervous-excited to take on these thrilling obstacles!!

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