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Thursday
10/26/17

Being a Teaching Assistant

Posted by caaponte on October 26, 2017 in Fall Semester, Future of the United States, Senior Year, University Life

During my freshman year, if you asked me if I would ever be a TA – my response would be:

Absolutely not

Why? Well because, why would I add additional responsibilities to my own responsibilities that I am working to balance.

Fast forward to my senior year – choosing to be a TA is single-handedly one of – if not the best – decision I have made to date. Why? Because it is not an added responsibility. It is a humble reminder of how far we have all come in our undergraduate careers and how much more room we have to grow. I am supposed to be teaching them, but I never realized that they would also be teaching me. They each arrived to UB with a history of trauma, disappointment, some form of loss, and often with the idea that AP Biology would make the transition easy. Their stories have inspired me to continue moving forward even when I feel as though I have too much on my plate. In fact, hearing them confident enough to share my story makes me feel as though a support group during your fall semester of freshmen year is absolutely crucial.

I lead my own lab but I assist in another with one of my best friends. We try to create a judge-free environment because we remember how intimidating it was sitting amongst 28 others in Evolutionary Biology. Students don’t yet realize that they don’t need to ask permission to use the restroom and refrain from participating in lab because they aren’t yet confident in their answers.

As their TA, I hope to assist them in the transition to university life. I’ve lived it. I understand it. Every semester has had its ups and downs and I’m not afraid to share that with my students. I share with them how I tackled more difficult topics. I hope that my stories have inspired them to reach their potentials and to want more from their education.

The undergraduate degree is more than just academic growth. Toward the end of the semester, I will ask them to reflect on their undergraduate experience and hope to find that the highs and lows have only promoted personal growth.

In the meantime, I continue to revamp the way I run my lab. There is no perfect way to monitor or teach a group of 28 students from all different backgrounds, but I will continue trying my best. I hope others can follow my lead and choose to TA a class. I hope that they get as much out of the experience as I have and see the value in instructing the next generation of STEM students. It helps you visualize that this field is much larger than just you. When you plan to meet with a student, the exam you have the next day can wait until after you help the freshman sitting before you transition to university life.

Tuesday
10/10/17

AmeriCorps Here She Comes

Posted by caaponte on October 10, 2017 in Reflection, Senior Year

Amidst the semester, it is so important to have a support group. While you’re finding your own path, it’s a beautiful thing to have someone working alongside you while they find theirs.

That being said – today my best friend is leaving for a year to work with AmeriCorps. She is older than I am and is ready to take the next step in helping others the best way she can. Her work to assist in emergency relief will bring smiles to many and her charisma will certainly lift a burden off of those who need it the most. To recognize how blessed you are and how much you have to give – is one of the most admirable qualities a person can have. And I call her my best friend.

Selfishly, I would love to have her here with me in Buffalo. But I know that I should look at the big picture. What is the big picture? People are placed strategically in our lives – at least that is what I believe – and she was here when I needed her and now its time for her to be there for others that need her.

Take a long, hard look at your friend circle. You pick out a social worker named Emily, a future Physical Trainer named Mardi, a future engineer named Zack, a future doctor named Shawn, and a future dentist in yourself. At some point we will all take a turn that we feel is best for our personal and professional development. It is the most bittersweet thing I’ve ever known. Our time here at UB has a time limit but the memories we have made here do not have to.

Moral of the story – Good luck Emily! Buffalo will miss you so much. We cannot wait to hear about the difference you have made.

Tuesday
09/26/17

90 in September

Posted by caaponte on September 26, 2017 in Fall Semester, Reflection, Senior Year

I will not be complaining about this one. It’s incredible and extremely relaxing that it is so beautiful out in Buffalo. Not a cloud in the sky and I even got myself some tan lines. I’m not the girl that gets excited for fall festivities by any means so I am absorbing every bit of sunshine that I can.

Homework outside, games outside, Bills tailgates in the blazing sun, running outside…I am not ready to give it up.

It brings about a completely different element when you can actually get work done while enjoying the sunshine. The sun makes people happy and you can see it everywhere on campus.

Wherever I end up next year and whether there are more cloudy days than sunny days – Buffalo has taught me to appreciate the little things and take advantage of the sunshine when I can.

Thursday
09/21/17

How Do You Decompress?

Posted by caaponte on September 21, 2017 in Fall Semester, Mental Health, Reflection, Senior Year

We get so focused on managing our “To-Do” list that we forget to do fun and simple things. I remember being asked, “what do you do for fun?” and I did not have an answer.

What do you mean?

“I have 3 homework assignments due this week, an exam tomorrow, a group project with a group that can never find a time to meet, my friend’s birthday is tomorrow, and I should probably go grocery shopping before I starve. So what exactly do you mean I need to make time for fun.”

With a little less sass, that was my response. But after reflecting on how living a life SO focused on my surroundings – I see that the end result is far from what I had anticipated. When I did not take time for myself to decompose and do things that I enjoyed doing on my own, my academics and personal life took a heavy toll.

There’s no perfect formula with how to manage your time. If you find one – let me know. You’ll probably make millions. But if there is any advice I can give underclassmen (or anyone for that matter), it is to find balance. Otherwise, you will wear yourself out.

Choose a monotonous activity that decompresses you. Our brains are not designed to work hard from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep. So BE KIND to your hard-working, mental machine.

Tuesday
09/19/17

Help Me Talk about Me

Posted by caaponte on September 19, 2017 in Fall Semester, Senior Year

During interview prep, I quickly realized how difficult it is to talk about myself. Anyone else with the same problem? Sure, I can give you a number of bullet points that include things I enjoy and things I rather avoid for the rest of my life – but say, “Tell me about yourself” and I have trouble translating those bullet points into a blurb about Christina.

This isn’t just a skill I would like to have during college when interviews for dental school and scholarships are more frequent. In every conversation I have with someone new, I want to be able to tell them a little about myself before releasing the sassy sarcasm.

Off to Career Services I go to meet with one of the counselors. Talking in front of the mirror does not compare to having a counselor comment on the amount of “um’s” I use and the mannerisms I may want to put an end to. Things you don’t even realize you do – you are able to see for the first time. You look at the screen and watch yourself answer the interviewer’s questions and think….”Who is that?

After meeting with my career counselor, I realized I had been approaching the common questions all wrong.

 

Tell me about yourself.

Why do you want to be a dentist?

What do you believe is your biggest weakness?

She told me ways to dig myself out of a question if I get too buried in, how to compose myself if I feel worried about a prior question, and most importantly – she made sure I understood that the interview begins the moment I approach the building.

Here we go!

Friday
09/01/17

It’s My Turn.

Posted by caaponte on September 1, 2017 in Fall Semester, Futuristic Thinking, Senior Year

Entering my fourth year, I realize that in many aspects – it is my turn to organize, implement, and promote what I have been taught these past three years at UB.

It’s my turn to direct freshmen through the maze that the university refers to as the Hochstetter and Cooke Complex.

It’s my turn to lead meetings for the Pre-Dental Association.

It’s my turn to TA Evolutionary Biology Lab.

It’s my turn to sign THE Bull.

It’s my turn to make plans with my group of friends for our last spring break (Bahamas, here we come).

It’s my turn to direct students to the best places to eat on and off campus.

It’s my turn to run a Bills tailgate.

It’s my turn to see one of my closest friends open as a DJ for Fall Fest (Shoutout to Frank Pierce).

It’s my turn to apply to dental school.It’s my turn to set an example for how to make the most out of your time at UB.

It’s my turn to set an example for how to make the most out of your time at UB.

As I reach for more coffee than usual, I will be finagling my way through my last year at UB all while helping those around me make it to their senior year successfully.

Raise your coffee/ tea/ beverage of choice in the air and cheers to the beginning of a semester full of possibilities!