Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
New experiences can be pretty unsettling, and downright scary. Being a college freshman going into their first ever semester at a huge university and trying to navigate your way through school, while making the grade, making new friends, and maintaining close family ties can be pretty frightening for any young adult fresh out of high school. It certainly was for me upon stepping into my first college classroom for my first-ever lecture, along with all the other obstacles that came along with the new 'uni life' I had to get accustomed to.
As someone who graduated from high school with honors and a pretty solid work ethic, keeping up with my GPA while in college wasn't as big of a concern with me as fitting in socially somewhere was to be honest. I knew my grades would be taken care of, but what would happen to my (nonexistent) social life now that I was here on a campus of about 20,000 students with the challenge and task of finding enriching people to be around?
UT Dallas is a very peaceful campus, the student body is overall very well behaved and you hardly ever hear anyone causing a scene or making a ruckus, which I think is wonderful. Coming from an inner city high school, the new surroundings I'm subjected to are just great. The only downfall- and after talking to many students who also agree, is that making friends can sometimes be difficult with how studious and shy the student body tends to be. With everyone focused in class on the professor and the lecture, meeting people in your own classes becomes a little difficult as well (unless you just happen to be a very outgoing person).
For many students, clubs and organizations are a fun extracurricular activity that fosters their interests and allows for them to be around peers who also enjoy the same things and share similar interests. With UT Dallas home to about 200 student clubs and organizations (and growing) it's safe to say that there is a club out there on campus for just about everyone and every interest. If anything, it might be difficult just choosing which clubs to stick with and commit to seeing as there are so many wonderful ones available.
As for me, my loyalty has gone to UT Dallas' Japanese Student Association. I initially went to their first general meeting in order to see what this club had to offer and to connect with my Japanese roots, and found myself in very good, welcoming company. Not only were the members and officers of JSA very friendly and warm people overall, they also display wonderful organizational skills and the entire club has a very 'family' oriented feeling to it as opposed to some of the larger and more impersonal clubs on campus.
The Japanese Student Association aims to introduce Japanese culture to UT Dallas and promote awareness of Japanese heritage, they regularly put on performances, attend volunteering events, participate in fund raising, and do many fun, social activities together to foster a bond between its members and much much more.
They will continue to have me as a loyal member and I plan on sticking with this organization until I graduate and would highly recommend that other students pay JSA a visit when they have weekly general meetings. If anything, I would also highly recommend that any student who is not a part of at least one school organization should make an effort to be, in order to enrich themselves.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Privacy isn’t one of the things I thought I would discover when I came to college. It’s not something one thinks of in the typical college experience. Being from a family of six, privacy never was a common occurrence in my house. So, when I looked into coming to the University of Texas at Dallas, I was extremely surprised to learn that there were private bedrooms in the freshman suite.
All the other colleges I’d looked into had pretty terrible freshman housing. A freshman dorm room was a cramped little space with two beds shoved in the corners for a couple of poor freshman to cram into with all of their belongings. You also had to provide your own furniture, providing you could fit it in.
When I saw the UT Dallas dorm, I was sort of shocked and asked the person giving the tour if this was the set-up in all the dorms. The tour-guide was a little embarrassed, but he answered, “I know it isn’t the best set-up now, but when you’re a junior and a senior, you can move into the suites.”
Hearing that, I sarcastically thought, “Oh yes, don’t worry about the small rooms darling. It will only be for half of your undergraduate experience, so it is no big deal.” I liked other universities I visited, but the rooming was unacceptable. When I told my dad about the freshman dorms at UT Dallas, he was sold even before I was. “You have to go there!” he exclaimed. “You’re going to love the privacy.” And, sure enough, my dad was right.
It is so convenient to have my own space here in college. The fully furnished room gives me my own dresser, my own desk and chair and my own closet space. I love it. I can have my blinds open and closed when I want because no one is there to complain about it being too light or dark. I don’t have to share my desk or dresser space. In my bedroom, it is all about what I want and when I want it. I have autonomy, and that is something the freshman college experience should be all about.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Anyone who exercises regularly at a university gym knows the phenomenon: At the beginning of the year, a swarm of enterprising young fitness buffs flock to the fitness center only to drop like flies in a matter of weeks. So it wasn’t unexpected when I found myself having to strategically choose the times I spent at the gym these past couple of weeks. Thankfully, I seem to have found my niche; it turns out that college students don’t typically wake up at 7 in the morning.
I may have avoided the crowds, but the odd thing is that those crowds haven’t disappeared. Perhaps kids these days finally understand the value of good exercise. Maybe we’ve reached some sort of generational turning point. It’s only a few years until we reach an uber-fit utopia!
I think this surge of gym rats at UT Dallas is really the result of something I’ve discussed before on this blog. We are witnessing a school on the rise. Over the past five years, the university’s student body has grown by more than 5,000 students—a whopping 34%! On top of that, the number of top-tier students has skyrocketed, with 88 National Merit Finalists beginning to study at UT Dallas this year alone. When you put it perspective, it makes sense that the gym feels a bit crowded.
In some ways, this growth is inconvenient. Not only is the gym crowded, but busy faculty advisors are swamped with students, and the university has been scrambling in some instances to find room for the amount of classes it needs to host. Overall, these facts could give the impression that the school has bitten off more than it can chew.
I couldn’t disagree more with that sentiment. It would be easy for UT Dallas to kick up its feet and let the status quo maintain itself. As it stands, the university is a pretty great place to be. The hard-working professors, advisors, and employees of UT Dallas want more, though. They want this school to truly grow as a community and as an institute of higher learning.
Take, for instance, the Supplemental Instruction program. Started just one year ago, the program has already grown to provide study sessions and services to over a dozen historically difficult classes. I may be biased (I’m a Supplemental Instruction Leader myself), but I see SI as an emblem of what UT Dallas stands for. It stands for looking forward, for seeing what the future can be instead of what the present is.
When I see the flock of new students on campus, when I see the oncoming swarm, I smile because I know that it means we’re doing something right.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Welcome Back UT Dallas Students!
I spent the majority of my summer working here at UT Dallas, and while I love my job, I got really tired of looking at a half empty campus. It is so wonderful to see all your lovely faces now that the semester has started, and I’m sure many of you are trying to find ways to get involved. Though there are a variety of things to do and get involved with at UT Dallas, many of you might wonder where you should start.
Well, I would highly recommend that you start by creating an OrgSync account at: www.utdallas.edu/orgsync/login. On OrgSync, you will find plenty of information about all the registered student organizations on campus. Many organizations have also posted pictures, videos and details of events. If you like what you see, send the organization’s president and/or advisor an e-mail to get in contact with them to find out how you can join.
Many students ignore this wonderful resource, especially in their freshmen year, but I suggest you take advantage of it and see what more you can learn. After all the excitement of Welcome Week, there will still be plenty of events on campus. The question is: How will you know and where will you find it? Well, OrgSync has a list of events happening on campus sorted by date so you don’t miss out on any of the fun.
If you still come to find that you need help searching for or contacting an organization, or on how to get involved, or even using OrgSync then stop by the SOF office (2.416C) located in the Student Engagement Suite (2.4) in the SU across from the Galaxy rooms and talk to either Vinni (that’s me!) or my wonderful co-worker Garrett! We love for people to stop by and talk to us, so come over just to say “Hello!” We look forward to meeting you all and helping you get involved on campus!
Let’s begin the year with a Whoosh!
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I’ll admit it: I had it easy during my freshman year of college. I had a meal plan. That meant two meals a day at a dining hall I rather liked, and I didn’t have to cook myself a single meal. As my parents said at the time, it was a sweet gig.
Many freshmen at UTD will find themselves in a similar position. This year, though, I’ll be living in an apartment. This time, I’ll have to cook my own meals. It’s a bit of a scary thought. As much as I excel at academics, and as much as I know about staying fit, I’m not what you would call a natural born chef.
Fortunately, I had the whole summer to dwell on the problem of staying fed during the school year, and I came up with a simple solution: Stock up on Ramen!
Not really. As someone with a family history of every chronic disease under the sun, I know that daily exercise alone won’t save me from illnesses like diabetes and cardiac disorders. Stuffing down a ton of easy-to-make junk food down my throat simply won’t do. Instead, I needed a real, serious solution.
It turns out that I can explain that solution in just one word: Practice. Practice, practice, practice. Since I returned home for the summer, I’ve been cooking all manner of dishes, from cream-filled cannolis to chicken fried rice. It started a bit rough, but now I know that even if I can’t quite match the versatility of an experienced cook, I’ll be eating much more than cereal and potato chips come the fall semester.
The summer is quickly fading away, but anyone who’s leaving home for the coming school year should do the same. Start cooking now. Have someone help you, if necessary. My mom stood by me as I cooked many a dinner this summer, but I wouldn’t have been able to start without that initial supervision. Maybe I would’ve ruined the recipe. Maybe I would’ve undercooked the food. With as many disaster scenarios as there are, I was glad to have a little help.
That brings me to yet another recommendation. It goes against every fiber of my being, as I love a good rare steak, but when you’re learning to cook, err on the side of overcooking. The reasoning is easy to follow. If you overcook your food, it might taste a bit bland or feel chewy. Worst-case scenario, it’ll be somewhat burnt. Either outcome is unpleasant, but it’s survivable.
Compare that to undercooking. The second time I tried cooking fried rice, I didn’t let the chicken cook for long enough. For the rest of the day, I was in agony. That was a good outcome compared to what could have happened. I could’ve gotten food poisoning.
Fortunately, both lessons found in this blog can be summed up in one tidy phrase: Don’t cook too little. Just keep cooking and you can’t go wrong.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
It's a phrase I heard a million times before arriving at UTD. "Watch out for the Freshman Fifteen." "Make sure you eat right, or you'll get the Freshman Fifteen."
In case you were wondering: No, I did not get the Freshman Fifteen. I gained some weight--around 5 lbs--but that added weight came intentionally, and it came mostly as muscle.
If anything, it was easier to keep weight off during the school year. It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true.
First, UT Dallas has a pretty great gym. There are machines that can exercise almost any part of your body, and you can always find something open for use. During the busiest parts of the day, your first choice may be taken, but something is usually better than nothing when it comes to exercise.
Second, and more importantly, my busy schedule at UT Dallasforced me to structure my week around a series of routines. I went to class at a certain time every day. I found a regular time to eat in between those classes. And every morning, before I started any of that, I rolled out of bed, laced up my running shoes, and jogged over to the gym.
A lot of my friends could hardly believe how early I got up to exercise. (I think some still don't.) For me, though, hopping onto an exercise bike or treadmill is just part of my day. It's a habit, and just as bad habits are the hardest to break, good habits are the easiest to keep.
I’m pretty sure that’s why teachers always insisted that we students take notes and the like in high school, but even if you went to college without those skills, there’s no time like the present to pivot toward a more healthy routine. All it takes is a loud alarm clock and a solid amount of determination. I won’t lie. Those first weeks are the hardest, and it’s easy to weasel out of a work out. "I have too much homework." "I'm so tired now. I just don’t want to overexert." Those excuses will weigh heavily in the beginning, but they fade away. After a while, exercise is just something you do. I know that’s how it worked for me.
In fact, I started writing this at 9 AM, right after a half-hour workout. It's not as easy when I can choose to sleep in till noon every day, but the habits I developed at UT Dallas are staying with me even through the summer.