Monday, March 21, 2011

Lizzie shares what Spring Break in Florence is like!


I’m back from spring break in Florence and I can’t believe my semester is half-way over! Eek. I wanted to keep everyone updated on what I did, because I have a lot of fun stories.

So I started my week in Venice with two of my friends Catherine and Taylor. We stayed in a cute hotel and shared one big room. After taking a train, vapporetto (water taxi), and cab we were exhausted. But we woke up the next morning to find ourselves in the midst of Carnevale, an annual celebration where everyone dresses up. We wore fun and colorful masks for three days straight and saw many intricate costumes that made people look like they were from the 17th century! We took an overpriced gondola ride throughout the city and hit all the major tourist traps for museums and churches. The most exciting thing were the outdoor parties. Literally, a dj station would be set up in the middle of the street and people would just start dancing outside. It felt very extravagant and crazy, but I felt so lucky to have been a part of it.

Then, we went to Madrid and stayed there for the rest of the week. We stayed with a friend who lives there and got to see the city through his eyes. We went to the major museum – El Prado – as well as a really fun zoo/aquarium! My favorite part was the Flamenco performance where we stayed for 4 hours watching, listening, and feeling the music and dance. I missed speaking Spanish, so it was nice to get the rust off and be able to communicate in another country. As much as I loved Spain, Italy is much more relaxed and laid back; it’s such an old, antique-like place and it feels good to be home. ☺

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kristen Checks in from campus!

Hello everybody!

So far, this semester has been going great. My schedule is awesome, I’m loving my classes, and I’m making sure that I stay on top of all my school work so that I don’t get stressed out. I try to keep my days busy so that I can have evenings and weekends to unwind and relax a little bit. So, here’s what a typical week in my life looks like: Every morning I’ll wake up at 8:00AM and get my day started. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I have a 9:00 AM class so I don’t really have time to drag around, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my first class isn’t until 11:00, so I’ll spend a little more time getting ready, and then go grab breakfast with a friend. One class that I’m really enjoying is a Sociology class called Social Problems. As the course title says, we discuss the social problems affecting American society today, and explore the causes of them and think of probable solutions for them. This is a topic that I’ve started to become really interested in, and I’m finding that I feel strongly about a lot of the issues we discuss. It makes me want to be a part of the solution to those problems in the future.

After I’m done with classes for the day, I’ll head to the gym to get in a work out, shower, and then head back to my dorm, where I will do homework or catch up on reading until dinner time. Since I try to do most of my homework during the day, my evenings are mostly spent pretending to do work while really just messing around on facebook or stumbleupon, hanging out with friends, watching movies, or catching up on TV shows.

On Wednesday nights, I release all of my stresses from the week by going to the ‘Sco with some friends. There’s usually good music, and there’s ALWAYS lots of dancing. I don’t even mind staying out late and having to wake up early the next morning because dancing never fails to put me in a great mood that will carry me through the rest of the week.

This semester, I decided to take the Rhythm Tap 101 ExCo. It meets on Sunday afternoons for two hours. I have never done any kind of organized dance but have always wanted to. When I found out that one of my hall mates was going to be teaching the class, I signed up immediately. I love it already. The first couple of weeks were frustrating because I was learning something totally new and I wasn’t good at it instantly. But, I’m learning quickly and I’ve gone from just making noise with my shoes to actually making music. A couple weeks ago, the class learned a new routine, and the rhythm has been echoing in my head ever since. I think that the amazing thing about ExCos is how passionate the instructors can be about what they’re teaching. It’s clear that my instructors genuinely love tap dance and want to spread it to others. If I ever want to practice outside of class, all I have to do is call them, and they’re ready to tap nearly any time of day.

Living in my own little Oberlin world, it’s easy to forget that there’s a world outside of this one. Last semester, I found that I was completely unaware of any major news, mostly because I never opened a newspaper or turned to a news channel. This semester, though, I promised myself I would try to stay updated on what was going on in the world, and Oberlin offers so many opportunities for doing that. There are always all kinds of speakers on campus who talk about major world events, historical events, and societal issues. Whenever I hear of one that I’m interested in, I try to make time to go listen to them. It’s a great way to learn about what’s going on without having to read the newspaper or something. This week, I listened to a talk about the 1960s, and how that decade has influenced social movements of today. And there are so many others! I’m going to try to go to as many as I can this semester because I find many of them fascinating.

So that’s my life so far. I’m excited to see what else Oberlin has to offer me. But more than anything, I’m excited for the warm weather that they promise me is coming, but I’m not sure when…

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wong checks in!

Hey there bloggers!
I cannot believe I’m already a second semester junior. Things have been sort of crazy since I returned from winter term. I thought I would walk you through a typical day in the life of me.
On Mondays, I wake up at 7:30am and head to the gym to do a combination of Insanity and p90x workouts with one of my friends. We workout ‘til about 9:00, then I head home and get ready for class. I have Gender, Sexuality, and the Law at 10:00am. This class is amazing! If you are into politics or the legal system, this is the class for you. It may be my favorite class thus far in my academic career here at Oberlin. From there, I head to my Philosophy of Mind class at 11:00. At noon, I run to DeCafe or Dascomb for some food (this is crucial for the rest of my day to work). As I eat lunch, I attempt to read for one of my classes but end up socializing with whomever wanders through the dining space. Once I’m done refueling, I head home to drop off my books and grab my psychology work. At 2:30pm, I’m ready for my psychology seminar. This is also a wonderfully engaging class. Psychology of Law is a very relaxing class and the material is fascinating. At 4:30, I head back to south studios for dance rehearsal. I’m rehearsing a new routine and have two weeks to get it down so those studios are my second home. I’ll leave South around 6:30pm to grab dinner and head home. By 7:00pm, I’m sitting at my laptop in my living room ready for my LSAT prep class on-line. Class ends around 10:15pm, so I grab a snack and then do any last minute reading I need to do before Tuesday.
…my Mondays are kind of crazy, huh?
I love being busy though and feeling accomplished. I love Oberlin and everything it has to offer me. With such a busy schedule, I really make it a point to take my time when getting from place to place…except when it’s cold haha. I can’t wait for spring season to start. I miss setting, playing, and being with my teammates. We have such a great group and even though we’re constantly busy, we still manage to remain a close-knit team.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lizzie writes in From Italy!!!!

I’m currently sitting in a small trattoria near my house, where I just enjoyed a delicious risotto. This is my life for the spring. I wake up to real Italian coffee for breakfast, have a nice 20-minute walk to my school, go to classes, and then spend the entire afternoon exploring the streets of Florence. Being in Italy is so amazing, and so different from Oberlin and Manhattan, where I grew up. People are truly kind and friendly here. They are patient with Americans, who are just starting to familiarize themselves with the culture and the language, and are happy to have us here in their country. My schoolwork is very simple because professors know that the real lessons learned here are on the streets and outside the classroom.

I live with an 83-year-old woman, Loredana, and have an American roommate Taylor. Even though it’s just the three of us in this big, old, beautiful home, people are constantly coming in and out of the house. Friends, children, and grandchildren spontaneously show up for dinner or just to have a coffee. It’s a great family and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

I’ve done a lot of traveling so far and have plans to do more! I went to Switzerland last weekend. I don’t ski, so instead I just walked through the Alps with a friend and saw the most breathtaking views. I have lots of travel plans within Italy: Venice, Rome, Ferrara, Assisi, Ravenna, Bologna, Sicily…the list goes on.

Speaking different languages is a big passion of mine, and it’s really fun to really know another one well. Florence is a very touristy city, so there are a lot of Americans as well as Italians that speak English, but I definitely seek out those Italians who are willing to help me practice. At the dinner table we have long discussions about religion, politics (everyone hates Berlusconi!), and various philosophical concepts.

I’m working this semester at an elementary school, teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade English. I love being there every week because I get to interact with Italian kids and at the same time feel connected with the true Italian culture. It’s a great experience for me as a teacher as well as a student.

Going abroad is truly an amazing experience and I want to encourage everyone to go abroad if you have the chance! You learn things that you couldn’t possibly in the US because everything is new, everything is scary and yet you figure it out in the end. It would have been easier and safer if I had stayed at Oberlin this semester, but I feel so much stronger and wiser now – like a real adult.

Friday, February 11, 2011

LJ and Meredith share their Winter term with us!

"For winter term Meredith and I went to Costa Rica. We worked on an organic farm in Puriscal. It was mainly a dairy farm, but they also had chickens for eggs and a vegetable garden. In the morning we would pick lemons or oranges and make juice. We spent our time raking, working with animals, gardening, and building. On warm days we would hike to a waterfall and on rainy days we would read in the treehouse or doing ceramics. My favorite animals were the seven puppies that lived on the farm, Meredith's favorite was the baby goats. We left the farm early and travelled around Costa Rica.
Some of our adventures included going on suspension bridges in the cloud forest, visiting volcanos and going to the most beautiful beach. We loved going to the Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw so many animals including, two kinds of monkeys, two kinds of sloths, exotic birds, iguanas and cool insects. We also went on a zip-line tour over the cloud forest which was breath taking! The tour even included a Tarzan swing, a rappel that was 100 feet and the final zip-line was in a superman harness so it felt like flying! The forests were so beautiful it looked like it was right out of Avatar. One of my (Meredith) favorite things about the whole trip is that I got a chance to use all of my spanish with native speakers, who were overall so helpful and so nice.

Overall, our stay in Costa Rica was great, PURA VIDA!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kristen Checks in on winter term!

After a semester of almost constant homesickness, I was ready to be able to spend almost two months back in Atlanta. The first thing I noticed was the weather. When I got off the plane, it was like, sixty degrees, which, compared to Oberlin, is practically summer. It took everything I had not to put on shorts and flip flops.

I spent the first half of my break catching up on sleep, spending time with my family, and hanging out with all of my friends from high school that I’ve missed terribly. And, since I don’t have a TV at school I’ve also caught myself up on the latest seasons of Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, just in time for the new seasons of BOTH to start. But I’m not letting my brain totally rot just yet. There’s this great used book store right by my house, and so I bought like a million books that I probably should read at some point in my life. Classics like The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, and stuff like that. So when my parents are at work and I’m still in bed, I’ll usually do some reading.

For my winter term project, I decided to find an internship here in Atlanta. This semester, I ended up in an Econ class by accident, tried to get out of it because I thought I had absolutely zero interest in econ, decided that I liked the professor and that the class was interesting enough, and actually enjoyed it a lot. So I found an internship that was sort of in the field.

I am interning at Ameriprise Financial for a financial planner there. I was supposed to start last Monday, but it seems like the winter weather is chasing me everywhere. Last week, Atlanta got a whopping six inches of snow, and on top of that, a sheet of ice that covered basically everything, including all the roads. In other words, the whole city was shut down for an entire week, and I mean it. Every single business in the city was closed. We couldn’t have left the house even if we tried because the cars were all stuck in ice in the driveway. So that kept me stuck in the house with my parents and my dog for an entire week, which was no fun. I managed to finish three books, beat Mario Kart and Guitar Hero, and average about 18 hours of sleep a night. It was insane. Luckily, all of the snow and ice melted over the weekend when the sixty degree weather came back, and I was able to start my internship on Monday. I’m basically shadowing this financial planner, meeting with his clients, and watching him invest their money in order for them to reach their personal financial goals for the future. It’s pretty interesting to see, if you’re into that kind of thing, and there’s something kind of exciting about getting to play with other people’s money and (hopefully) watching it pile up.

So that’s basically what I’m doing for the next two weeks until I pack my bags and head back to Oberlin. See y’all then!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chinwe checks in on break!

Hey everyone! I’m writing to you from the University of Florida, in Gainesville. Last year I spent Winter Term at home with my family so I decided to do something way different this year. In case you’re new to the blog, over the summer I went to San Francisco to do research at the University of California. I enjoyed that so much, that I decided to see out another research position for Winter Term, and ta-da! Here I am!
My summer research consisted of working at a lab bench with mice and chemicals, so I decided I would try an alternative form of research. Although I’m a neuroscience major, I’m currently working in a neuropsychology lab. In this lab, I’m doing clinical research, meaning I’m working with people. Elderly people, more specifically.
I was lucky enough to get started right when my lab was beginning a new study, called The Vital Study. The aim of this study is to determine how cognitive training and physical exercise interact to improve the mental function of healthy elders. The physical exercise in this study consists of either walking on a treadmill or riding an exercise bike, depending on the physical ability of the participant. As for cognitive training, the participants will be playing different games on Wii Fit for the Nintendo Wii.
You have no idea how excited I am to be working video games, especially in this way. I love them, but I have zero skill whatsoever. To incorporate video games and science in one project (FOR SCHOOL CREDIT) is just so, so cool. Clinical research is a lot different than lab research, so I’m doing more paperwork and making more phone calls than ever; but, since the study is so video game heavy, I spent just as much time ‘testing’ games. A few days ago, I was instructed to go out, buy an Xbox 360 and play Dance Central until I got good at it (A future study is going to make use of the Xbox 360, Kinect so my supervisors wanted to check it out.).
Another fun aspect of my project is, since we’re working with elderly people the lab decided that it would be more convenient for them to not have to drive to testing sites. Instead, we’ve set up a testing site closer to the general community that our participants will come from. More specifically, the University of Florida has been given a condo in an assisted living community in which to run the study. I actually spend more time there than on campus, which is awesome because it’s so homey and quite opposite from the traditional lab setting.
Other than that, life’s a breeze. A lot of my friends from high school attend the University of Florida so when I’m not working, I’m just hanging out and catching up with people I haven’t been able to see in forever. As much fun as it is, I miss the team and am so excited to see everyone at the end of the month.