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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…..


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.