Posted in College

Finishing Freshman Year

The school year is winding down, and it’s finally starting to feel that way.  The last week was basically THE WEEK for end-of-the-year projects and events, but fortunately there are still a few ways to relax.  My highlights were definitely karaoke and French pastries – unfortunately not at the same time.  And though this weekend has been spent finishing projects and studying for finals, last weekend was an absolute blast at Chiricahua National Monument.  As I’ve been volunteering with Parks in Focus, one of the events I went to was the first of the year’s camping trips, and it was really a perfect weekend.  The kids were actually really well-behaved for a group of ten-year-olds released into a National Wilderness Area.  Sure, there was some complaining on the hikes, but I think by the end of it, the important thing wasn’t that anyone’s legs hurt but that the area is really scenic.  I, for one, would not mind going back and exploring a few more of the trails.  And it didn’t hurt that there was a meteor shower Sunday morning, so a few of us chaperones got up around three to see the stars, and I am always up for stargazing.

Since the year is basically over, I’m going to be taking a small hiatus for most of May (planning to post again on May 27).  That means this is my last post for the academic year of 2017/18, and since it’s my freshman year, here are my Top Five tips/lessons learned.

  1. Go to stuff

It’s not always the most fun, especially for an introvert like me, but it tends to be worth it – particularly if there are professors at the event because they like it when students show up.  And I know this because showing up to events with my dorm’s faculty fellow actually got me a bit of paid work over spring break and a letter of recommendation.  As a college student, these are two very good things.

Performing at the Arabic Talent Show

2. Talk in class

This is one where sometimes I’m good at it and sometimes I’m not.  I’m good at it when I know the answer and less so when I don’t.  But, as my French professor (in a class called French Conversation) said, teachers like students who talk.  It lets them get to know you, and particularly in language classes, it helps you improve (and I should know considering that 21/40 of my credit hours this year have been language classes).

Tripod on head
I don’t know what to say about this.

3. Develop a routine for studying

I do a lot of studying, and I find that it’s much easier to do that when I’m doing it at a set time rather than trying to force myself to do it at random times or especially right before a deadline.  My favorite thing to do is to take Sunday afternoons and just sit at the library Starbucks for a few hours preparing for the week, writing scholarship essays, and occasionally blogging.  In fact, can you guess where I’m writing this from?

Go adventuring too!

4. Eat good food

Before college I’d always heard about the “Freshman 15,” but for me it worked negatively.  A lot of that is probably the amount of walking I do, but another part of it was that I found it a little difficult to figure out where to get my food and when to eat it.   So, for any incoming freshmen, I would recommend stocking up on tasty but healthy snacks and keeping a few in your backpack and at the very least trying to have a set time to eat dinner.  Whether you lose or gain weight, the important thing is to be healthy about it so you aren’t over- or under-eating.

I absolutely love going to The Fix on Monday evenings

5. Remember that no one actually cares what you wear

I’ve always had this thing where I think people are looking at me or questioning my apparel, but the thing is, no one really does.  In my experience, people don’t tend to wear pajamas to class, but you will see people who live in vintage dresses and button down shirts and people who live in gym clothes.  Every Saturday since February, I’ve seen people just walking around in bathing suits as they go to and from the pool.  So, even if I’m not comfortable wearing my swimsuit to the student union, it’s nice to switch from baggy cargo shorts to a sundress and have no one bat an eye.

Karaoke Night (“Holding Out for a Hero” Shrek 2 version)

And that’s about it!  My first year of college has been pretty great, and I’m really looking forward to everything that’s coming in the future – the next time I post will be from Italy!  I’m certainly excited for that, so

Until next time ~

Posted in College

Veteran’s Day and the VLBA

By far one of the most remarkable events of the past two weeks was experiencing some actual November weather.  Although I’ve had a lot of Christmas drinks from Starbucks over the past few weeks while working on end-of-semester projects, it’s stayed about 80 degrees here in Tucson.  On Kitt Peak, however, things are different.  I spent Veteran’s Day weekend enjoying my day off, doing homework, and setting up the Christmas tree, but this weekend was really exciting!

Saturday at 2 pm, we left the university to go up to Kitt Peak Observatory.  Wearing leggings, jeans, and a long-sleeve shirt, I was pretty hot while waiting for the group to assemble, but once we reached Kitt Peak, I added my sweatshirt.  The trip is one the astronomy club does every year to walk on the dish of the VLBA telescope and look at the stars after dark.  The VLBA (Very Large Baseline Array) is a series of ten radio telescopes across the US that uses interferometry to process large amounts of data.  If you include all ten telescopes, it is technically the largest telescope in the world.  The climb up to the dish was a bit harrowing, but it was completely worth it to stand there!

After the dish, we drove up to the astronomers’ lodge for dinner where I ate a Chick-fil-a sandwich that I am proud to say I kept insulated for five hours after I bought it.  After sunset, we drove back down the mountain a bit to the twelve-meter telescope and parked outside to look at the stars.  The drive down to the telescope was remarkable in its own right because the sun had just set, and with the view from the mountains, we could see the remaining colors over the western horizon while the Summer Triangle was already shining overhead (and slightly to the east).  In the distance, we could see to Tucson which looked so much smaller from this distance.

We stayed to watch the stars for a few more hours, while one of the astronomy professors pointed out constellations.  We had a few optical telescopes belonging to the club with which we looked at a fuzzy Andromeda Galaxy, a few nebulae, and some binary stars including Alberio which has two different colored stars – one blue and one yellow.  The Milky Way was clearly visible above us, and there were even some shooting stars thanks to the Leonid Meteor Shower.  Orion was rising as we drove back into Tucson, signaling winter to me, although I had to shed a few layers once we were back in the city.  It was an incredible experience, and I’m really glad I got to see it!

Until next time ~

Posted in Around the US, College, Travel

Pasó Por Aquí

Two weeks later, and I’ve not only seen a lot of Arizona, I’ve also finished another first week of class.  But first, the trip.  Before entering Arizona, we stopped in New Mexico to see El Malpais and El Morro – some of my favorites from the whole trip.  El Morro translates to “The Headland,” which is an apt name for this mesa that dominates the landscape around it.  Since pre-historic times people have seen this cliff face as something awesome and have carved into it.  Walking along the trail, you can see not only petroglyphs, but evidence of Spanish explorers, American soldiers, and New Deal workers who carved the staircase that leads to the top.  The Spanish phrase “pasó por aquí” (passed by here) that is written so many times on this rock is, to me, a mark of how people have always wanted to note their passage through the world, like I am on this blog.

In Arizona, we passed by many other places that have been held in equal esteem for the last few centuries.  From the beautiful Painted Desert that is the entrance to the Petrified Forest to the Grand Canyon and Casa Grande, it’s remarkable to see how generations of people have shaped this land and called it home.  Driving through a state known for its desert, you wouldn’t expect mountains, trees, and fields, but they’re all here under a beautiful Arizona sky.  The names of these places make them seem like they’re from another world (i.e. Montezuma’s Castle, which is neither a castle nor anywhere close to Montezuma’s empire).  However, I really liked this trip for the chance to see how people have lived and thrived in this apparently inhospitable land for so long.  That phrase “pasó por aquí” certainly has a deeper meaning when you can go to Casa Grande.  People made in this huge settlement nearly six centuries ago, and their descendants still live in Arizona today!

And last Monday, I continued my own passage in this place as I moved into my dorm for the three weeks of UAdvantage.  I haven’t unpacked much since I’ll be moving again soon, so this place really just feels temporary.  In fact, by the time I post again, I’ll be packing everything up to move again!

The classes themselves have been a lot of fun this first week, particularly the “field trip” across campus to the Arizona State Museum.  As the first part of the Anthropology class has focused on Native Americans in Arizona, the museum’s primary exhibit was relevant.  As a description can’t really capture how cool this exhibit is to walk through, I would first recommend coming out to visit, but for those who can’t, let me just say that this was a really well-done exhibit.  Not only does it have interactive portions and awesome artifacts, it was also designed with the help and permission of the tribes whom it discusses.  By far my favorite part, however, was the life-size diorama that depicted a scene from a story told to you via recording.

As for my first weekend here, I would deem the Lord of the Rings marathon a rousing success.  I think the remainder of my time in UAdvantage will go just as well as this first week, and I can’t wait for the fall semester to start afterwards.  I’ve kept up with Arabic online, so I’ll be ready for that class when it starts too.  It’s exciting to be starting college so soon, as these summer sessions really haven’t been too different from past summers abroad.  Thinking about staying here is exciting, and I welcome the thought that I too will be able to say I passed by here.