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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.

Monday
02/13/17

The Definition of Free

Posted by caaponte on February 13, 2017 in Futuristic Thinking, University Life

It makes no difference what I am being offered. If it is free, I will take it.

Chocolate?

The end piece of a loaf of bread?

With a price tag of FREE, it looks like it also has my name on it.

We hate standing in lines, yet we have no problem doing so when it will get us something for FREE. Imagine that. You don’t have to take a $5 bill out of your pocket in exchange for a sandwich. Instead, you can donate time out of your life in order to get that sandwich. Isn’t it the same?

Maybe it’s just the sense of satisfaction you get when you didn’t technically have to pay for the sandwich. Duke professor Dan Ariely writes, “People appear to act as if zero pricing of a good not only decreases its cost but also adds to its benefits.” He states that getting something for free “gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.”

Sound familiar? Or are you still wearing the t-shirt that says “Johnny Rockets” or “Kenmore High School” to all your most prestigious events? If you’re like me, you have t-shirts, pamphlets, bobbleheads, highlighters, pens, and pins from events you don’t even remember. “First 100 people get a free workbook!” Without even knowing what’s in the workbook, I’m running to be the first 100. I mean, I still have lanyards from college visits that remain untouched (Let me know if you need a lanyard).

I believe college students are extremely financially conscious. We have to be. When your full-time job is school, the money earned on the side must be spent sparingly and wisely. For some reason, a sandwich can taste so much better knowing that it was “free.” But, then I get to thinking about the big picture. Sure I’d prefer to spend less on lunch, but that tendency overlooks the value of the final product. Whether it’s a t-shirt from a blood drive, a dress from a discounted clothing store, or a haircut, we often disregard the resources used, the time taken to make the product, and the education to provide the service provided.

In a nation that is one of the top contenders in countries that donate to those in need, I question how often we stop to think how “free” or “discounted” a product really is. Personally, I know the times I have stopped to consider this are too few. And who pays the price for my lack of consideration? I can’t give you a specific name but I can tell you that it is not free.

Monday
02/13/17

The Buffalo Experience

Posted by caaponte on February 13, 2017 in Buffalo

I remember feeling guilty so guilty as I approached my first Thursday concert at Canalside. Less than 30 minutes away, every Thursday, was a free concert. Going into my sophomore year, I thought I at least had a pretty good idea of what it was like to live in Buffalo but apparently I was all wrong.

First off, if you’re planning on going to a chain restaurant for dinner, think again. Buffalo is home to a number of unique, diverse places to go out and eat. Buffalo gets the idea that it isn’t just about the food..but it is also about the experience as a whole.

 

If you’re looking to try a new burger..try Grover’s.

 

If you’re looking to go out and watch the game…head to the 716.

 

If you’re a cheese-fanatic…bring your friends to Chef’s.

 

If it’s the time of the week for tacos…La Casa Azul will be the place to go.

 

If you’re looking for quality breakfast and a nice cup of coffee…check out Sophia’s.

 

If you need your fill of chocolate…The Chocolate Bar is here to satisfy your craving.

 

If you can’t find parking for the Sabres game…park at the casino nearby (for free I should add).

 

If spring has begun and you’re still feeling the freshman fifteen as you’re about to finish your junior year…go online to see the free classes Canalside offers throughout the week (Zumba included).

 

AND if you have never been…one of the 7 wonders of the World is practically right around the corner and across the Peace Bridge. Even in the winter, as I have included, Niagara Falls is absolutely beautiful.

 

So for those of you who were like me and lived on campus, I advise you to spend one night every week/month/semester trying something new at a place unique to Buffalo. That way, upon graduation, you can honestly say you have truly experienced Buffalo (and four of its winters).

Thursday
02/09/17

In the Midst of the Best Four Years of my Life (maybe)

Posted by caaponte on February 9, 2017 in Futuristic Thinking, Junior Year, University Life

Today I saw my friend post pictures from her Accepted Students Day. But this wasn’t your ordinary Accepted Students Day. She was accepted into UB’s School of Dental Medicine this past December and today, her and many others celebrated their achievement.

And then I got to thinking about upcoming deadlines. This will be my year to apply to dental school and it feels like just yesterday I was asking where the Student Union was.

Time is FLYING here at UB and it is crazy to me to think that next year at this time I will (hopefully) be sitting with my acceptance to my top choice dental school. But that story is not limited to me…where will YOU be a year from now? Putting into consideration how much can happen over the course of a year, I think it’s refreshing to imagine the possibilities a year can bring.

Whether you are looking forward to who you’ll meet, what new food you’ll try (foodie alert), or how far you learn you can go without your car running out of gas (proceed with caution on that one)… I sincerely hope you are enjoying how you are creating your experience at UB.

University Life is a love-hate relationship. There are some things I get very frustrated over but then there are others that I find myself missing over semester breaks. They say college will be the best four years of your life. Despite the fact I find myself reaching for a coffee more often than I know I should, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially considering these past three years have given me much more than I have expected.

I have met incredible people that have made me laugh, cry, and do some weird combination of the two. I was accepted into a fellowship that paid for me to work in a hospital during the week and had me flying over the Andes mountains on the weekends. I have increased my Spanish fluency to communicate with my relatives and I even bought a GoPro to give me an excuse to continue being a little more adventurous. I would not be doing the past three years at UB justice if I didn’t include all the negatives. We would be here all day if I told you how many dishes I’ve burnt, how many times I’ve lost my UB ID Card, or how I managed to get summer program applications in on the last day and paid for shipping in quarters. If you see me in the hall, I’d be happy to tell you about the time I went on and on about these “Cascaras de Niagara” as I explained to my Chilean friends the beauty of the Niagara Falls. At this point, I should probably mention that “waterfall” translates to cascaDAs…not cascaRas…..While I thought I was telling them about the 7th World Wonder, the Niagara Falls, they thought I was an overly proud American talking about some sort of Niagara Peel.

 

As we begin spring semester, I guess I am just curious to see what more university life will bring. Whatever it is, I am ready for the best years of my life to continue.

Wednesday
02/01/17

What Does it Mean to be American?

Posted by caaponte on February 1, 2017 in Future of the United States, Junior Year

The recent election has me questioning a lot of things. But the one question I keep asking myself is, “What does it mean to be American?”

This past winter break, I met a couple from Belgium and we started comparing life in Belgium to life in the United States. I asked for their perception of Americans and they confessed that they believed all Americans were blonde, blue-eyed, and lazy. Standing there before them as a brown-eyed, brunette (who is not lazy if I do say so myself), it became my personal mission to prove that every American is not the same. Yes – we have blondes and people with blue eyes. But, to couple those who are a bit lazier than others, we also have an entrepreneurial spirit that has driven us to be the first to travel to the moon.

They inquired further and asked what a typical dish in the United States would be. To that, I did not have a definitive answer. “Quite frankly, it depends on where you go.” The United States is flooded with such a wide range of cultures and aside from pizza (THANK YOU ITALY), there is no dish that I could guarantee every household serves.

Although that may be frustrating to incoming foreigners, I think it is a beautiful thing. Where else in the world can you turn to the person to your right, ask where their family immigrated from, and expect a response different from the person to your left. I hope in the upcoming years we continue to appreciate these differences in order to better understand each other’s perspective.

So, to answer my own question of what does it mean to be American…I still do not know. As a melting pot of ideas and customs from all over the world, what does that mean for the United States? How did we get the stereotype of lazy when my parents work long hours to make ends meet and when students work during the semester to finance their education? Was it our reality TV personalities that gave them this idea or was it the impression that we sit around eating McDonald’s all day? Maybe we are seen as lazy because the increasing percentage of first-generation college students are not highlighted in the media. Maybe that means that the voice of the media has a louder voice than we had predicted. If we care how we are seen by others, how can we modify what we display in order to ensure our strengths are highlighted rather than just our weaknesses?

I feel as though it is difficult to gain an understanding of other ways of life from inside the borders of the US and so I am a big fan of traveling to other countries. When I return, I’m often told to “act more American.’ But, again, what does that even mean? Traveling outside of the US is not me running away from problems in my own country. Rather, I am searching to see how similar problems are solved differently. I believe that as we teach others to solve their individual issues, there is also a lot to learn from them as well.

 

Mr. President – In the upcoming years, I hope that what it means to be American becomes more defined because I would like to know what is expected of me as a United States citizen.