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Tuesday
02/14/17

Spring 2017: The Test of my Stress Resources

Posted by bostonki on February 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

4 classes.  One which involves extensive paper writing and classroom shadowing on our own time.  11 hours of paid work every week.  7 or 8 study abroad scholarships to submit by the end of March.  An online Australia orientation, and masses of paperwork to fill out.  Fall 2017 academic and housing planning.  The next three months are promising to be a workout of all the stress coping-resources I’ve gained since the start of freshman year.

I’ve heard it gets worse.  Harder classes, grad school applications, research, actually living in an apartment and being responsible for your own cooking (the audacity), and probably much more that my fellow junior and senior friends can fill in the gaps with.  Point is, it never gets easier.  So now is the time to learn how to healthfully deal with stress.  Some of my favorites I’ve listed below – I’ll let you know at the end of the semester if I actually managed to follow through with them and if they helped keep my stress levels at bay (but so far in week #3, we’re looking good).

1.) UTILIZE THE GYM/FITNESS OPTIONS

UB has athletic facilities in alumni (which I don’t use) but I assume they have the standard treadmills and weights.  They also have a swimming pool and racquetball court (which I find very zen-like on its’ own).  At the Richmond gym, there’s cardio and weights.  The school offers so many different levels of free yoga classes at night.  And outdoor basketball and tennis courts.  And ice skating in the winter.  The campus is also extremely bike-friendly.  The point is, it’s so easy to get active and exercising is associated with lower stress levels, so do it.  Duh.

I mean seriously, it cannot get more zen than this.

2.) Hit up Edgy Veggies

You’ll want to here.  Just not the prepackaged ones unless they’re from Au Bon Pain.  Hit up Edgy Veggies every once in awhile, you’ll be glad you did (psst.. try the Seneca Apple Chicken Salad, please).  I’m also proud of Au Bon Pain’s soup offerings.  At least three different kinds of intense veggie soup and some heartwarming broccoli & cheddar for those that want to at least convince themselves they’re eating healthy.

3.) Get lost in the shelves of Lockwood

I’m the type of person who gets relaxed in the presence of books.  If you’re a fan of musty-smelling books and those on really obscure topics, try traipsing through the aisles of Lockwood.  All five floors are filled with books and it would take days to look through the collection thoroughly.  I could have sworn there was a section about the Walt Disney Company on the fifth floor.  Also, fiction novels like a community library.  And yes, you can check things out.  Pretty much forever as long as no one needs them.

Lockwood’s awesome but does not beat the Beast’s library. *sigh*

4.) Take advantage of tea

If you’re in the Honors College, come take advantage of the consistently free tea, coffee, and hot cocoa in the lounge.  Attend Elevenses if you’ve always wanted to raise your pinky in the air while you sip.  Also, the Health & Wellness Center (is that what it’s called) located by the UB theatre in the Union has a really nice dark lounge with tons of magazines and free tea.  I’ve heard there are massaging chairs and free massages, but I cannot confirm this.

I’m sure there are so many more things available to UB students to help with stress reduction, but my brain cells are fried so I’m going to log off and crack open Eat, Pray, Love.  After, you know, I do my readings for class tomorrow.

Tuesday
02/07/17

The Mid-College Crisis

Posted by bostonki on February 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

It’s a real thing – somewhere around the middle of a student’s sophomore year, they somehow manage to realize how much time has passed them by and how they have less than an opportune amount of time left to prepare themselves for the next step.  A.K.A, the mid-college crisis.  I’m the perfect example.

I spent the first year and a half of college exploring my interests and developing myself personally.  Doing this is inevitable, and it’s safe to assume that the first two years of college is a lot better time to discover yourself than when you’re almost thirty.  The disappointing part is that graduate schools don’t care about how much “self-actualization” or “character development” or “mental illness-overcoming” you’ve done, they care about the academic and community endeavors on that resume.  These are hard things to do when depressed, anxious, and unsure of yourself.  Now that I’ve finally settled into what I think is a major I want to complete and carry on with, I feel immense pressure to get the four-year experience in the five semesters I have left.

Why, even though I already have education-related work experience, the blog, a position in the Honors College, and the studying abroad I’m embarking on this summer, do I feel as if my resume is still flat?  There are so many things left that I want to accomplish before graduation – psychology research, being a teaching assistant, and joining a club, just to name a few.  I imagine I’m not the only one who has already begun to worry about grad school resume-loading.  You are not alone.

So, the question remains.  How can we combat this?  Social psychology’s Comparison Theory states that when we compare ourselves with somebody else who we perceive as inferior to us in whatever way, we feel better about ourselves.  The opposite is true for comparison to others that we feel are superior to us.  While listening to the guy sitting next to you in World Civilizations II claim that he “got all 20’s and 30’s on his tests last semester” makes us feel better about our lackluster resumes, we shouldn’t really go by this principle.  Try being positive.  Trust that you have been working hard and growing in your personal and career endeavors, and that your hard work will pay off.  Trust that you will end up where you’re supposed to be.  Keep up the hard work and try to get involved, but make sure to do so in ways that interest you (I, for, example, am writing this blog).  The benefits will be greater.  Just have faith, and watch your guilty pleasure TV show while binging on a comforting snack every once in a while.

These six people (or is it three?) have faith that you can do it.

 

Monday
01/30/17

Kangaroos and koalas

Posted by bostonki on January 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

It’s crazy to be thinking about summer plans already considering that it’s only the first day of the spring semester.  But here I am, daydreaming away before my first class sucks me in like a tornado.  I did something huge this winter, something that I vowed to do before I graduated college.  I decided to study abroad.  My ideal location was Europe (isn’t that everyone’s dream destination, after all?  The history, the art, the architecture, the food…), but the program I was looking at in Italy fell through.  So I’m going to Australia.

I’ve never left the country except for Canada and a six-hour jaunt in Nassau via a cruise.  The longest plane ride I’ve taken was five hours.  I’ve never seen a snake except behind glass at a zoo.  And I’ve only used the phrase “shrimp on the barbie” to poke fun at a saying that probably isn’t used all that much anyways.  Now my longest plane ride will be twenty hours.  I’ll be an ocean away from everything that’s familiar to me.  I will be around animals that supposedly can kill me with one look.  Needless to say, I’m terrified.  But, I’m also excited beyond belief.  I’ll see koalas and kangaroos in their natural setting.  I’ll get to meet Australian aboriginal folks and learn about their way of life in the Outback.  I’ll get to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, for crying out loud.

Uluru (or Ayers Rock), a sacred site to the local aboriginal peoples.

The Great Barrier Reef.  Just a sampling of the wild diversity found under the clear, warm waters.

A kangaroo and her joey, added for this post’s cuteness factor.

Australia has always been on my bucket list, since I was a little kid and saw Finding Nemo (unfortunately, I don’t think 42 Wallaby Way exists).  It’s a location that seems so remote and otherworldly to Americans, so far away.  And while it is, it won’t be a complete culture shock the way that countries in Africa and Asia may be to us.  I wanted to go someplace that I felt safe and familiar going to, but one that also pushes me to the edge of my comfort zone.  I felt as if Italy did not do that for me, so now I’m packing up my bags to hang with the Aussies for a month.  What a rush.

Monday
01/16/17

What it’s like to work in an anatomy lab

Posted by bostonki on January 16, 2017 in biology, medicine, science

**Proceed with caution.  I won’t get too grotesque, but some details may leave readers with an uncomfortable knot in their stomach.**

Seventy year old organs, preserved in jars behind a locked glass door.  Some are more than organs.  There was a pair of conjoined twins and a multitude of fetuses at various stages of development.  I found out by cleaning off the glass jars once that these lids were not secure, and quickly changed tasks.  The smell of formaldehyde and antisocial coworkers hits you the minute you step through the doors.  All looks innocent upon first glance – just row after row of closed up lab tables, large doors lining one wall, and a roll-down metal door barrier along the other.  It’s only once you study or work here that you realize the large doors lining the wall are coolers to store cadavers and that behind that metal barricade is a complete embalming station and crematorium.

(mmm… brains)

I spent six months of my freshman year working in a gross anatomy lab.  It was extremely fascinating at some times, and utterly intolerable at others.

My coworker always had the ‘tour body’ on hand – the one we would show high schoolers who came through and marveled at it.  It was already completely dissected.  I remember coming here in my senior year of high school and seeing this very body, my class passing around the unattached limbs and marveling at the beautiful structure and complexity of it all.  I remember him peeling back the cadaver’s mesentery and small intestine and showing us the cadaver’s ovaries and fallopian tubes – how small they looked!  Now, I was on the other side of things.  We gave a tour, which thanks to the demanding teacher and obnoxious kids, resulted in them pushing and shoving their way into the restricted crematorium and embalming areas.  I think they were perpetually freaked out after that incident, considering there was an embalming in the process.

We did the famous work of the ancient Egyptians, without the cliché white wrap and with modern instrumentation.  The cadaver is to be placed on a clean table (all of the sudden, horrifying memories of being assigned to clean off a table post-dissection are flooding back).  They are rinsed down and their heads shaven.  A drill (yes, like the DeWalt in your basement) is used to make a small hole through their skull.  We go through the bone.  As the embalming fluid is pushed through the body via the femoral artery, blood exits through this hole (I know, I’m trying to be as least gross as possible), keeping the fluid pressure from getting too high.

I had a relatively high death tolerance.  I could take a group of students through a cadaver, rifle through it’s insides to find the stomach (which is actually quite hard to find when there is no food present, it’s just a thin sac with nothing in it).  I could drill the aforementioned hole and physically help push the embalming fluid into the further reaches of a body.  There were, however, my limitations.  The first time I ever assisted in cremation threw me for a loop.  So did the lab students’ last day in class, where we had to send various cadaver parts to schools around the city and state that requested them.  Or perhaps the week I spent transferring ashes from their metal tins to paper bags in anticipation of a mass burial for those who went unclaimed.  And many more experiences, which I choose to keep private both for the happiness level of this post and my personal reservoirs.

While working in an anatomy lab can be a (sort of) wonderful and educational experience, the death eventually overcame me like the dementors to Harry Potter.  Being employed there for an extended period of time can literally suck some of the happiness and life out of you.  My recommendation?  Stick to taking your fifteen-week required gross anatomy course, and then leave.  Being a student is much better and happier than seeing what goes on behind the scenes.  Trust me, I’ve experienced it both ways.

 

 

Friday
12/30/16

Contemplating winter break and an English PhD

Posted by bostonki on December 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

The exams have been taken, the dorm packed, the suitcase left laying on the floor in my room, the holidays celebrated, and the boredom beginning to kick in.

I always find winter break to be exceptionally painful post-New Year’s.  There’s nothing to be done unless you work part-time (which thank goodness will take up some of my January), and it’s not like there are too many outdoor activities going on in Buffalo.  A large chunk of my break is usually spent complaining about how at any second I could physically die of boredom, and then subsequently tearing through a 300-page novel in two days.

Yesterday, I finished the most delightful mystery/thriller novel (undoubtedly my favorite genre), You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott.  The plot follows elite competitive gymnast Devon, whose parents will do anything to see her realize what they think is her dream of someday reaching the Olympics.  The story is an unsuspiciously normal murder mystery, until the last 100 pages.

I’m not here to discuss the plot, however, but the author herself.  Her style of writing was something that I’ve never really encountered before in a novel.  She splits the pieces of the puzzle up into seemingly unimportant fragments, somehow managing to keep the cast of characters’ emotions and memories amazingly realistic as we travel through the story.  An emotion that a character displayed on page twenty three could come back to haunt us on page two hundred and twenty nine.  I also noticed how her interactions between characters are different.  There is less identification in the conversations as to who’s talking and more action.  The reader feels as if they are watching a conversation play out right before their eyes.  I’m not an English major, nor know much about what these differences could be, but I do know that they are there.

The author has a PhD in English and American Literature from New York University.  Is there something to this extra experience and education that results in the differences I felt reading her novels compared to others?  The change was certainly welcoming.  I may have to read around and figure this out for myself.

Friday
12/02/16

A letter to organic chemistry

Posted by bostonki on December 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

Dear Organic Chemistry,

I wish I could say that we’re breaking up, but I unfortunately missed the resignation deadline last month.

I like science, always have.  But you, you are where I draw the line. So sweet and innocent at first, you slammed into me like a truck around chapter 5.  Now, I’m sitting here trying to work on chapter 10 and contemplating how to explain away a B- or C.

But I don’t need you.  I changed majors.  I don’t care about you anymore, you’re irrelevant to my studies.  What’s one bad grade on a college transcript for a class that isn’t even required?

I keep trying to convince myself that it doesn’t matter, that I had a goal to get a lower grade in a class this semester to ward off my perfectionism.  But that little voice in the back of my brain still buzzes, “Ha, ha, science defeated you.  It weeded you out like a weak baby duckling”.

Pride, maybe that’s the issue.  From “I WILL become a doctor someday” to “Well working in higher education sounds like the bomb.com”, it’s been a rough transition.  And sulfonate esters have not made it easier.

Seriously, if this is biology at it’s roots, I’m not interested.  I’ll focus the majority of my energy for the next two weeks on the classes that make me the type of happy I deserve to be.

After all, it’s just one grade.

And I’m the happiest woman in the world to know that after December 17th, I will never have to look into your eyes again.

Sayonara,

Boston

 

 

Wednesday
11/23/16

That one time I worked Black Friday

Posted by bostonki on November 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

I certainly have plenty of interesting stories to tell from the two years I spent working for a retail giant (“Mom, I want a diarrhea!”  “You mean a diary?”  “Yeah!”), but perhaps my wildest tales come from the three Black Fridays I spent there.  The first two years weren’t terrible.  I manned a cash register in the afternoon and evening for the family folks who nurtured their food baby all night instead of shopping.  Last Christmas, something possessed me to volunteer myself for an overnight shift, 6 PM to 4 AM.  I left the store the next morning vowing to never work another holiday in retail again.

There’s nothing like leaving Thanksgiving dinner before the food is even served, and arriving at work to a line already wrapped halfway around the building.  Inside, it’s a mess.  There are at least 60 employees getting aisle assignments, and only twenty functioning walkie talkies to go around.  Nobody was notified of where any special, big-ticket items in the store had been placed.  And the worst blow of the twenty minutes I had been there – I was in the toy department manning the Lego aisle.

At six o’clock, it was silent.  The 30 employees who were working electronics and toys all stood at the front of their respective aisle and braced themselves.  Within thirty seconds, you could hear the crowd beginning to make their way across the store.  Within a minute, you could see those first guests rounding the corners by the dressing rooms with their carts, running like there was no tomorrow to get their sweet little Mason his $400 BB-8 robot.

The next three hours were a blur.  I couldn’t see across the 6-foot aisle to the electronics desk, I must have answered a flat out “I don’t know where this item is” to a dozen people, and I got yelled at three times by my store manager for standing there not helping anybody because I was too overwhelmed to move.  Walkie talkies were breaking and we had to run around and borrow other employee’s, creating a huge chain of “I gave your walkie to so and so, and one of the ladies in clothing might have it at this point, I really don’t know”.  Our big ticket items were gone within an hour or so, and I made a mental list of items that I might have a temper tantrum if I had to field any more questions about, those darn Shopkins at the top of my list (I will never understand it, it’s literally like the Polly Pockets of FOOD, people).  Energy drinks were chugged and aisles were straightened up every hour and I know I got paid a few dollars more but I’m not entirely sure it was worth it in the end.

target-store-black-fridayApproximately how my workplace looked at opening on Thanksgiving night.

I’m hoping that this holiday season will be much more relaxing considering that I don’t currently work retail, but it gets me thinking as to how I’m going to spend my Black Friday.  I will definitely be staying for the Thanksgiving festivities this year (I want to actually devour some stuffing and cherry pie, instead of pigging out on pepperoni and chicken wing dip appetizers).  While there is a certain rush that can be felt getting half off at Bath & Body Works in the dead of night, is it worth adding to the stress of everyone stuck working it?  And if you are going, please be pleasant.  We don’t want to be there and we certainly don’t want you to be there.  Make their holiday season at work somewhat bearable.

Allow me to end this extremely depressing blog post with an accurate picture of all of us tomorrow.

thanksgiving-day-memes_12

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday
11/16/16

The best things in life come from trees

Posted by bostonki on November 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

The best things in life come from trees.

No, I’m not talking about maple syrup (although that is a close second, and a stack of pancakes sounds really wonderful right about now).  I’m talking about books.

There is something so entirely magical about a page overflowing with words.  With every novel, you get to lose yourself in a world that is separate from your own.  Your sadness and loneliness is forgotten for awhile as you make friends with the characters dancing across the pages.  It is almost as if they’re existing right besides you.  When the plot takes a sharp decline and the character is in trouble, you use your empathy reserves meant for the people actually around you.  You cheer on the main character as they struggle as to make the outcome right.  They become your friend.  And at the end when you finally reach those dreaded last words, you cry.  You cry because there is nothing left to a story so riveting, so fantastic that you’ve read three hundred pages in one sitting.  You cry because you will never get to finish knowing this character.  You cry because it feels like you’re losing another friend.  But worry not, the next book you pick up will do just the same.

us_cover_of_go_set_a_watchman

I am currently in the middle of Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to my favorite American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.  It’s been harder to get into than its’ older sibling (I’m about 130 pages in and the main plot is just starting to unfold) but nevertheless, I’m enjoying the return of now arthritis-ridden Atticus and Scout, who is a sophisticated New York-dweller.

 

Wednesday
11/09/16

It’s been a long year

Posted by bostonki on November 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

Thanks to the most recent American election cycle, 2016 has been a long and excruciating year.  Election coverage dominated news stations, newspapers, and social media.  I’ve avoided Bert’s as much as possible unless the TV’s were off and the pancake line was short.  Lies were told, ridiculous things said, debates heated, the country divided more than I have ever seen in my lifetime, and it finally came to an end last night.  Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.  What will happen next?

As a woman, it’s only natural that I be concerned.  Of course, I did not appreciate the sexist comments and leaked videotape footage that have hit the scene.  I know many LGBT activists who are worried about respect and the stability of their fundamental rights.  The same extends to the Latino and Latina population, as well as the disabled.  While I think it is exceptionally unlikely that any fundamental rights of the above groups will be taken away, it is important to think about how these groups will be viewed and possibly treated differently under a Trump administration.

Will there be unruly protests from people who have supported Clinton?  Will the Republican Party (many of its’ members whom were discontented with Donald Trump’s ideas) become more liberal in nature or undergo an identity crisis?  How will the American economy prosper under a businessman rather than a politician?  Will America really become great again, and in what sense?  These are all questions whose answers will be unfolded in the days and years to come.  All we can do right now is (if you voted for Trump) celebrate, or (if you voted for Clinton) keep in mind that the sun will rise each day and life will go on.

Keeping in mind the times before the election flew completely off the handle, here are some pictures I dug out from the Bernie Sanders rally at Alumni Arena back in March.  We stood in the rain for three hours (and Mike bought a $20 Bernie beanie that he lost the next day) to hear him speak, so naturally we both ended up with terrible colds that dragged on for a month.  We were close enough to see the detailed wrinkle contour on his face though, so it was well worth it.  Man, I miss Bernie.

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Wednesday
11/02/16

I am officially a statistic

Posted by Marketing & Communications on November 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college students change their undergraduate major an average of three times before graduation.  I read that statistic before starting classes freshman year and didn’t believe a word of it.  College students can’t really be that undecided, can they?  Three semesters later, I have become living proof that statistics don’t always lie (unless they are said by candidates who neglect to fact check before a nationally televised debate).

I came in freshman year as a biomedical sciences major, with aspirations to go to medical school a few years down the road.  The pre-med culture, amount of chemistry labs required (four too many), and a particularly… interesting… job at a Gross Anatomy Lab steered me away from that.  Leaning away from professional programs, I changed my major to biological sciences, and tried out biochemistry/molecular biology research.  For the second time, I hit a dead end.  The overall lab experience, not to mention the complicated topics with DNA mismatch repair that my Ph.D mentor was working on, were far too drudge for my personal interests.  I realized that in all honesty, I’d learned all the biology I cared to learn and groaned when I looked at the courses I had left to fulfill.

Take a step back.  Think.  What are you doing when you’re happiest?  What sorts of things do you feel like are important to you personally, that need to be brought to the world?  Is there a passion you’ve had since childhood that you’ve stuffed down or hid for whatever reason?

Starting this spring, I will be majoring in psychology with a hopeful minor in education.  Education has been something near and dear to my heart since my first days of primary school (I can’t even count how many hours I’ve spent playing “teacher” with my grandparents).  I’d love to make a career out of it (but in administration or curriculum development, since my patience is dangerously low with young children).  Psychology resonates with me for more personal reasons.  I would love to learn about cognition, as well as the biology behind how the human brain and mind work, and what happens when its mechanisms falter (mental illness, specifically).

Now for some good, old-fashioned motherly advice.  Don’t listen to anybody but yourself.  You are the only one who knows what your real passions are.  People are going to tell you to stick to a route you hate simply because you have the capabilities to do the coursework and succeed.  They will try and tell you that you’re “too smart” or “not smart enough” for whatever your heart desires.  They will try and talk you out of pursuing a major that they see no possible career path for (a graduate-level degree or special certification solves that problem, folks).  And they will most certainly try and talk you out of it because they forgot what it was like to have a dream of their own.

And that makes me completely okay with being a statistic.