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Tuesday
05/02/17

It’s Never Just a Checklist

Posted by caaponte on May 2, 2017 in Futuristic Thinking, Junior Year, Reflection

I just finished my Pre-Health Committee Interview and my biggest hope is that I really helped my interviewer understand that I spent my time at UB making sure I would be anything but a student checking off things from her checklist. The road to professional school is often looked at like a checklist but it is far from that.

We do so much on and off campus as undergraduate students in order to find where we best stick. As one Anatomy professor says, “the things that make us wonderful as often what negatively impacts us.” Getting so involved and remaining busy can also be the reason why a student may fall behind in their studies.

How do you find a balance? How do you sleep enough, eat right, work out, socialize, do your homework, get a 4.0, and still have time to call your mom? I apologize but this is not a guide on how to do all of that….because I am still looking for the answer.

There is so much pressure on students to be these people with superpowers and with the ability to manage all of these tasks in order to get to the next level of their education. Where do these high standards even come from? What about those who went through to the next level without the pressure to do so much – were they not good enough doctors? We are human beings are always looking for the next best thing and for ways to improve and thus we set the standards higher and higher.

But, the road to your next goal is not a checklist and I hope that I am far from that. There are too many diverting paths and curveballs thrown at you along the way for it to be anything like going down the list to check off each one. I feel that my time at UB has facilitated the exploration of me as a person and as a student. I hope to take that and bring it with me wherever I go because I never want to stop learning.

All in all, I think my interview went well. I hope he had great things to say about our interview and I hope I was able to describe myself and my future goals effectively. It turns out, it harder than I thought to talk about yourself. BUT – I don’t want to jinx myself and so this story is to be continued…..

Saturday
04/29/17

Refrain from using the word ‘Coddled’

Posted by caaponte on April 29, 2017 in Future of the United States, Futuristic Thinking, Junior Year

So I read this article about a student from Fordham University complaining about the free state tuition to students who qualify. She complains on ‘The Odyssey’ about students who are being ‘coddled’ and further encourages those students to get a job instead of expecting their tuition to be paid for. She continues to complain about the outrageous difference between her student loans and those of a state at a state university. Understanding that she had the option to go to a state university instead of drowning herself in student debt, she claims that she decided against that option because state schools just “aren’t for [her].”

Those are her major points and so here are mine:

Freedom of Speech Alert

 

  1. As a student of a state university, what is so bad about our system? I am a competitive candidate for professional schools and am accepted into internships and research programs where I work alongside students from private schools. Your experience is what you make of it.
  2. I am confused as to how she felt that every student given tuition coverage must be coddled. After working in Buffalo public schools helping to fill out their FAFSA and TAP forms, I can assure you that coddled is not the word they deserve to be called. Many of the students don’t consider themselves to be smart enough to pursue an education in the first place. With many under the poverty line, of course, they feel like their pursuit of a college education (if they possess the confidence in the first place) would be a burden on their family.
  3. Many of these students DO already work while in high school. They come from families where they will be the first to attend college. The expectations are often as high as they set for themselves.
  4. We are investing in the future of New York State. The program needs to feed back into itself and require students to maintain a certain GPA, work in NY for a certain amount of time after graduation, serve as a mentor for new students in the program, and maybe deduct some of their pay (for a specified amount of time) once they’ve established themselves in order to pay for more students to obtain free tuition. It is all a cycle and it is important to look at the big picture. However, if something is simply given, it is not valued as much. And so setting standards as I have listed above would give an encouraging push without making the student feel as though obtaining a higher education is out of their scope.

 

We are more than what is on the syllabus. So let people have the chance to figure out exactly what that means for them.

Thursday
04/20/17

Suggestions for Vegas

Posted by caaponte on April 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

As a predental student, my life essentially revolves around school and studying and resume building but as of recently I have been trying to do things more to build myself as a person and not just what “looks good” written in black and white. So I hope that my blog mirrors that and is not just about school. Because although important, we are more than what is on the syllabus right?

At the end of the semester, my family is going to Las Vegas. (About as far away from a academic-related blog I could go, am I right?) My father’s girlfriend has tons of family from there so I am looking forward to meeting them and exploring Vegas for the first time. They have a dental school there I’d also like to check out (quick academic-related addition) and of course exercise my right as a newly 21-year-old in the United States of America.

Any restaurants/ foods/ places I should visit/try? With a newly purchased GoPro, I am looking for just about any excuse to use it. In my free time, I edit videos and add music and effects to remember each trip in a different way than just through photos. Photos can say 1000 words but I think videos can leave you without words. Far greater of an effect.

We leave a week after the semester ends and so I will spend that time looking up where we should go but I will love to be surrounded by the mountains once again (missing the Andes Mountains in Chile always). Hikes will be planned, the Hoover Dam will be visited, shows will be watched, money will be gained in the casinos (hopefully), and of course, I would love to share a “Cheers” with my dad.

Tuesday
04/11/17

Beyond my Backyard

Posted by caaponte on April 11, 2017 in Going Abroad, Junior Year, Reflection

According to recent studies, 33 percent of students surveyed reported feeling so depressed that they had trouble going about their daily routine. 33 percent. For those 6 million of American college students, that means a daily internal struggle with the already existing demands of university life.

Did I pick the right major?

Am I smart enough for this?

And where is this light at the end of the tunnel everyone keeps talking about?

After months of reflection, I learned that help could be found outside of your comfort zone. Where may that be? Not in your backyard, but abroad.

 

The overwhelming anxiety college students experience can be paralyzing and lead them to deficits in their academic and personal lives. After struggling with depression, anxiety, and the confusion that coincides with finding your sense of self, I want to emphasize the impact travel has on the journey of self-discovery.

  • Excitement: Instead of approaching these changes with unease and angst, travelers are open and willing to accept things that deviate from their standard routine. Your adventures are new, fun and exciting, and leave students feeling eager to tackle the obstacles that life brings.
  • Expansion: Traveling allows the mind to expand and see the world from a completely different angle. When we become accustomed to a certain way of living, our minds tend become closed off to many of life’s possibilities. And think about the muscle memory involved – Your brain gets stronger and faster when you’re speaking another language.
  • Flexibility: No matter how rigid a plan may be, life always has an edge of unpredictability. For travelers, this means they need to allow a large margin for sudden changes in their schedule.
  • Perspective: We all tend to imagine that our problems are most important. That is, until we see first hand the sufferings of others. When we see others copeing with similar or worse situations, we gain insight that our problems are not as daunting as we had originally perceived. Because traveling helps put life into perspective, it also has the beneficial byproduct of decreasing the anxiety, stress, and depression involved in changes of everyday life.
  • Teamwork: Traveling with another person, or even a group, builds team synergy and brings everyone closer together by sharing new experiences simultaneously.

Bringing what I learned back to the university setting, I felt empowered to continue learning. Not just in the classroom, but also about myself. 96% of study abroad alumni, including myself, attribute the increase in self-confidence to their experience outside of their comfort zone. Going abroad was my breath of fresh air and reconnected me to who I am today and who I hope to be ten years from now.

The sky is the limit for the life of a college student. But each student needs their own push to look outside of the box and explore outside of their comfort zone.

So, tell me. Where to next?

Thursday
03/30/17

Is it Summer Yet?

Posted by caaponte on March 30, 2017 in Futuristic Thinking, Junior Year, Mental Health

I find myself having a hard time focusing because I keep thinking about the glorious light at the end of the tunnel that is summer vacation. Three months to spend how I please. Now, I know I will not be able to enjoy it if I do not do well for the next 8 weeks BUT that doesn’t mean I can’t daydream of what life will be like when I can walk outside and see that thing called the sun.

I think it’s good to keep that light at the end of the tunnel in mind because it keeps you motivated and reminds you why you are in college in the first place. Always striving for a better life, a career that will allow you to fund your backpacking trips, and making your mom proud…right?

If you’re anything like me, you have a list of things you want to do as soon as you have more time. On June 1st, applications for dental school open and I plan to get mine out ASAP so that I can relax as I play the waiting game and wait, wait, wait to hear back from the schools I chose to apply to.

Life doesn’t ever necessarily get easier, even during summer vacation. But I think as humans we inherently look where we believe the grass is greener. For me, it’s a time when I’m not taking 22 credits and I am instead cooking with my mom while listening to Andrea Bocelli.

By now it’s evident that none of my thoughts are transitioning well. But what else can you expect from a college student midway through the semester? Don’t worry about me. I just had a nice cup of coffee. Focusing on what is important here – Study hard, enjoy it later.

Sunday
03/26/17

The Teammate That Throws You Under the Bus

Posted by caaponte on March 26, 2017 in University Life

Let me set the stage for you the best I can without giving out too much information.

I worked on a research project this past summer with a student from another university and this past weekend we presented our work. We had some fallouts over the summer but our relationship was very “brother-sister” like. Sometimes he made me feel like I was inadequate…sometimes he made me cry from laughing…and other times he saved us from when I got us lost. When you’re abroad with someone, you learn a lot about each other. You have to be there to fill in the gaps where they need you. And that’s exactly what we did.

Fast forward to last week – he texted me a few days beforehand to make sure I had printed out our manuscript so that I could go over it with the judges. “Wear something nice to impress the judges. See you soon!” All from a good place. We are both competitive (the route of our earlier disputes) and we both wanted to win the poster competition. I spent the next couple days nervously going through our manuscript, past literature, and things I felt the judges might ask us.

Fast forward to the day before our presentation – I was the last of our cohort to arrive to Boston where the conference was held. He had arrived earlier that morning and had taken a nap while waiting for me to arrive. I go to his hotel room, so excited to see him after all this time, and we catch up quickly before I notice he started to brush off what I was saying to instead read over our manuscript. Okay, work time. I can pick up social cues. So I pull out mine and start going over what I wanted to make sure we highlighted in our presentation.

Beep. Ring. Zzzzzz. His phone keeps going off.

First of all – who leaves their phone on like that when they’re not by themselves. I looked at him (in efforts to get moving on what we would be presenting in less than 12 hours) and said, “What sections did you want to present? I’m comfortable with any section.” He looked up at me (and at this point I see he is looking over the Introduction) and said, “I don’t know. I have to go over this first. It’s been a looooong time since I’ve looked at this.” And to that – I’m left annoyed that someone would make sure I have it together when they are napping and taking their time to go over it.

Fast forward to 10 minutes before our presentation – I’m freaking out. Nerves have a weird way of creeping up on me and I went blank on everything I had reviewed.

Fast forward to Judge #1 – Breathe Christina, just breathe. I remembered what my mentors from CSTEP had told me before. You are the expert of your research project. No one knows it better than you do.

Fast forward to when I regained my confidence – Got a question? I have an answer. I was able to answer the judges thrown at me from the judges with ease all thanks to the preparation I had put in. Now, we didn’t win the poster competition (although how cool would that have been?) but I did feel as though I accomplished something great. After what was a rough last semester, I finally regained my confidence and felt a lot less of “Am I cut out for this?” and more of “I am ready for whatever you can throw at me.”

Fast forward to right now – I am on a plane back to my hometown of Rochester, NY and I am enjoying my window seat. I complimented my research partner on his delivery of the biological mechanisms after the awkward silence following our first presentation. I think my nervousness made him more nervous. But we’re a team, right? And I pulled it together for what I thought was a successful presentation. I just wish he said something…anything…so I could hear SOME feedback. As a team, neither of us is better than the other. Because if I fall, so does he and vise versa. So if he could do a little less talking about how stressful it is at an Ivy League school and how tired he is and how much work he has to do – I would feel more respected as his teammate.

Fast forward to the future – the student and I remained in touch post-abroad but as for where we go in the future…I’m not so sure. I hope to always remain in contact but now I feel as though we have lost that “I’ll be there to build you up when you’re down”-type relationship. He’s not better than me and I’m not better than him. We were teammates as far as I am concerned. Just because I do not go to an Ivy League school, does not mean that I was not accepted into the same summer program as he was. Anyways, onto the next project….my time at UB isn’t over just yet.

Wednesday
03/08/17

Up All Night

Posted by caaponte on March 8, 2017 in Junior Year, Mental Health

We have all been in the situation where we have an exam coming up, feel completely unprepared, and then take it upon ourselves to pull an all-nighter. Are there any benefits to this? From personal experience, I see no benefit in terms of the grade you get on the exam you stayed up all night for.

Sleep scientists can agree that at night there are fewer distractions and students have an easier time controlling their environment. Well, except for the bell on South Campus that rings every hour. At least I think I heard it every hour..? Maybe I was too busy studying weeks worth of material in one night to notice.

According to researchers here at UB, people who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night are more likely to develop conditions that precede Types 2 diabetes than those who sleep for longer. A sleepless night can lead to short-term euphoria and impaired decision-making ability.

BUT IF YOU DO PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER

Research suggests doing some “sleep-banking” beforehand. The night of –  Be sure to drink caffeine routinely throughout the night, take a 90-100 minute nap after you complete your task, work in bright light, and be sure to get to bed early that night.

And now I sound like I’m preaching….

NOT my intention. I was just doing some research and figured I would also share it with you.

With that said, I am going to go to bed. Goodnight.

Monday
03/06/17

The Power of Communication

Posted by caaponte on March 6, 2017 in Future of the United States

For those of you who were there to watch Trevor Noah this past Saturday, you’ll know what I’m talking about. UB brought us a man who could combine his comedy with light brushes of politics and appreciation for diversity. He touched upon the power of communication. The more you learn of other languages, the more you learn how powerful words can be. The idea resonated with me and kept me thinking.

Noah talked about the fear he sees in Americans when they speak. No one wants to say the wrong thing. As a result, we often keep things bundled inside. Yet, negative thoughts are just as bad as having them said them out loud. Or are they?

We whisper words like “black” in order to “not seem racist.” What did Noah advise for us to do? He said, “in order to not seem racist, just don’t be racist. If you’re not racist, you will not have to worry about others thinking you’re racist.”

He proceeded on to discuss the power of the “n” word here in the United States. He recognizes the word as “to give” and it brings him back to childhood memories with his mother and cousin. He questioned why we have given the word so much value and urged us to question how it had gained so much power. We use it to degrade and to hurt. However, eliminating the word all together does not solve the problem of racism. Quite frankly, if it was not that word, there would be another word ready in substitution to ensure it continues to cause harm.

I suppose what I am getting at here is how powerful communication can be. You can “like” a picture, avoid eye contact, nod while listening, say “mhm,” and they all offer a response without using a single word. Aside from nonverbal forms of communication, we have been given a multitude of words to choose from to tell our stories. I find myself telling stories I have heard from my grandmother only to explain afterward that it is funnier said in Spanish. How can something be funnier in Spanish? Sit down and let me tell you it and you will hear the difference.

You don’t have to speak another language to see the power of language. But the next time you choose to speak, consider where the conversation will head. Many times we only have our word, and that can open a door or permanently close it.

Friday
02/24/17

Two Songs and Two Songs Only

Posted by caaponte on February 24, 2017 in Junior Year, Reflection

You’ve got two songs and that’s it.

If you could listen to 2 songs as you laid on your death bed, what would they be? I bet you’re thinking that it’s a ridiculous question and you’re partially right. But if you’re actually taking the time to think about what sweet sounds you’d want to hear, by now you have probably reached the point where you have realized how difficult it is.

Would you want to hear something that reminds you of when you were 5 on a road trip to your grandparents or the song you’d listen to while warming up for the big sectional finals in high school basketball? Is there a song that relaxes you or do you have a favorite song that you get ready to every morning that you couldn’t go without?

After asking my friends, it doesn’t seem like people usually choose a song based on the memory that it couples with. But, I do think your choice says a lot about you. For me, I would like to listen to “Island in the Sun” by Weezer and “A Wonderful World” by Israel ‘Iz.’  Why? Something about those two songs that put a smile on my face every time they come on. But…this isn’t a post about me. It is about YOU.

Music is universal and can reach out to us in ways we could have never imagined. It can make you feel motivated and discouraged and enlightened all at the same time. So, for the moments where you get to listen to your last two songs of choice…would would they be?

Wednesday
02/15/17

Carrying on Family Tradition

Posted by caaponte on February 15, 2017 in Family, Futuristic Thinking

For my grandfather, happiness was found in having the family all together. He and my Abuela spent their entire lives building not just a house, but a home. With the recent passing of my Abuelo, I worry how we will uphold tradition… and if we will at all.

I’m the youngest grandchild and so I almost feel as though I am obligated to continue what he worked his whole life to instill in all of us. Whether it was with a pot of rice, a salami and cheese tray, an ice cream cake, zucchini bread, pollo asado, or a pig roast, they had the power to bring people from all over together.

Walking into their living room, you would see the family dancing salsa and merengue. Going outside, you could pick cherries from their many cherry trees and pick grapes right from the vine. Their home embodied the fairytale-like home you read about in storybooks as a child.

I was born in Rochester, as was my father. As the second generation, I wonder if my kids will be able to understand what it means to be Puerto Rican. The fiestas and asados are fewer and farther in between and as that tradition dwindles, I feel as though I am doing the future generations of my family an injustice if I don’t work harder to carry on Puerto Rican traditions. It is not just the food (although it is delicious), nor is it just the music (although it will certainly get you on your feet). Being Puerto Rican is a combination of rich history, romantic Spanish language, a positive disposition, and an understanding that special occasions are meant to be spent gathered in a circle with family. BUT – Just because you may not share the same last name, does not mean you are not family. I would be here all day if I shared with you all the friends and neighbors my grandparents welcomed into their home.

In efforts to celebrate his life, I hope to continue spreading his message to work hard but to always make sure to set aside time to spend with mi familia. His legacy and his strength will live on.