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.
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)!
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!!