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.