Friday, July 15, 2011

My First Month

Alright, so I'm really really awful at this whole blog thing. You wouldn't want to read about my first couple of weeks in Illinois though. I had a post that I had started writing during my first week here, but that even got too difficult and depressing to write. And plus, having to finish writing that icky post deterred me from wanting to post anything. To sum things up, I had a really hard first two to three weeks. My flight into Champaign was long (to keep things short), but I couldn't have been more excited to get here. I very quickly learned that I was not as tough and independent and brave as I had thought.

To start off with, the place I'm currently staying in is really out in the middle of nowhere. It's a really nice place (huge, gym, swimming pool, my own bathroom, furnished, free internet/cable), but far from everything. From this Google map, you can see the campus (shaded tan), which is made up of two towns, Champaign and Urbana. I live where that arrow is, in a really small town (pop: ~7000), known as Savoy. And you can see how far out it is from everything. It's so far out of the way, that the apartment complex has their own shuttle system to take students to campus and back. I have a Walmart nearby, but not much else. Even the bus will only come once every hour. If I go running in any direction, I would be running alongside cornfields. That makes going running pretty interesting, but super inconvenient if I want to go anywhere!

I found that when I was on campus and working, I was really happy and excited to be there. I loved it all. The campus is gorgeous; beautiful landscape and amazing architecture. I loved that I was learning science again, and especially that I was applying all the aspects of biology from the field I really enjoy, metabolism. A very pleasant surprise was the first day I arrived to research, I found a door with my name on it!  I thought, "Wow, this is really happening" and "I guess this means I'm one of the big kids now." I even get my own desk. It was all really unexpected, but it made me feel welcomed and belonged. This was everything I had wanted the whole year I was off and more!

However, once I came back to my apartment at the end of each day all those positive feelings I had left and loneliness, fear, and stress set in.
  • Of everything, I missed the comfort of having family and friends around. I miss the noise and "hooplah" (as bf would say it). I miss having dinner with my family. I miss having plans with friends at the end of the week to look forward to.
  • I'm normally someone who loves to venture out and explore (hence why I thought the idea of moving here wouldn't be so bad), but being somewhere so new and different made me scared. And not only was I tense about my safety, but strangely I also feared being judged. This might be silly. I have never lived somewhere where I was a minority, but being here suddenly made me very aware of how different I am. What didn't help was when I asked the airport employee here regarding how early I should arrive before my flights (for the sake of flying back home), she replied that I should arrive 2 hours prior to INTERNATIONAL flights. Am I wrong for feeling offended? For the next two weeks, I felt so self conscious of this and found myself in small acts of proving my American-ness.
  • Stress came in two parts. First of all, I was subletting for the summer (and so glad I made this decision), so I had to find a permanent place to live by the end of July. But places around here are very much geared to leasing to students who start school towards the end of August, so this really limited my options. The first few places I went to take a look at were awful, ugly dumps and I was so scared I wouldn't find a place that I would want to come back to at the end of a long day. Had the apartments in Irvine and Newport changed my perspectives on apartments? I was freaking out and pulled in quite a lot of help, until I finally found a place. I'm moving in next week! The second part of my stress came from my advisor suggesting I take a Biochemistry class over the summer. I have the advantage that it was one of my favorite classes I took at UCI, but its not like I did well in the class and I would have already missed 4 classes (totaling 6 hours of lecture). I didn't want to let my advisor down, so I had a ton of catching up to do before the midterm the following week.
Sean has been the world's most amazing boyfriend this whole time. Every other day that I sat at my desk crying. A couple of times I seriously wanted to give up and move home. I really believe that I was at the lowest I have ever been in my whole life. I had become the depressed grad student I feared I would become. I couldn't give Sean enough credit for comforting me. He told me not to worry about proving myself of anything. He gave up so many hours in between working on his med school applications to help me catch up before my midterm. He would even bring his laptop to the kitchen during dinner time, so that I could "eat" with his family and see his pup.

I think things started to get better towards the end of the third week. I found a place to live, completed my midterm (successfully!), got more acquainted with the lab, did more exploring, and was counting the days that I could go without shedding tears. I am really happy to say, that although I still miss California, things are getting a little easier. I wished I had friends and getting places were easier, but both Sean and I are just glad I'm no longer depressed. I can't wait for Sean to get here and explore with me. I'm looking forward to making our new apartment cozy. And I'm hopeful of getting a better hang of things in lab and meeting potential new friends. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Going Away Party

So this post is only a week late, no big deal... I really have to get better at this blog thing.

Last weekend, I held a going away party. I was wavering about having it for the longest time, but momma really encouraged me to have it. I told her I would only have it if I got to do the entire party planning. I'm so SO glad I did it and got to plan it my way. Seeing a lot of my friends for one last time was great and I had so much fun deciding on the menu and prepping the food.

On the menu: Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw, Pesto Pizza, Clam and Shrimp Linguine, Bacon-Broccoli Salad, Spinach-Artichoke Dip, Hummus, Pita Chips, Veggie Platter, Fruit Platter, and Raspberry Cheesecake Bites. 

 I didn't know I would be receiving gifts, but what can I say, I have pretty sweet friends! This adorable apron is from Tiffany and Christine. How did they know I've been wanting to get myself an apron? Most definitely packed that! Dorothy got me one of those reed diffuser things that I can't wait to use to make my new place smell amazing. Viv and Kim got me pomegranate liquer, which sounds really yummy, but I was not able to pack. Carol got me flowers!
Group picture! Somehow it feels awkward to force everyone into one room to take a picture like this together, but it was important to momma and I'll probably really appreciate this picture in a couple of years. This was only some of the earlier guests too! 

I made these really fun photo props for everyone to play with and have an excuse to take fun pictures. It definitely worked! Love it!

I am so glad I did this. Having this party made me realize how lucky I am to have such incredible friends. While I went to school at UCI, I felt pretty disconnected from these friends and felt like maybe we grew apart. And I had so much fun at UCI meeting new people that I did a pretty bad job staying in touch with a lot of people from home. But I moved home for nearly a year and it's like I never even left. I am still included in outings and such, and they even took time out of their busy lives to hang out with me at this little shindig! I am hoping this time around (and because I'm even farther away), I can do a better job of being a friend and this blog will keep those interested updated with my whereabouts. 

PS: PLEASE visit me in Illinois friends!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why I love my oatmeal

When people find out that I like Nutrition and want to study Nutrition, they automatically assume I want to be a Nutritionist. They will proceed to ask me how they can lose weight or the dreaded "D" word, diet. I know at one point and even occasionally, I am unhappy about how I'm eating or unhappy about how I look, but I truly believe nutrition is about balance and the best weight loss is gradual and requires changing the way food is viewed. Nutritionist are experts on advising people on how to eat, have R.D. licences, and went to school + internship + passing board exam. I definitely am not an expert. I just really enjoy nutrition/health topics. So naturally it would make me feel uncomfortable to answer these types of question.

Maybe in another post I will explain what it is about nutrition that I'm so interested in or what exactly it is that makes me so interested in nutrition. But for today, I would like to share my love for OATMEAL!

Most mornings when I'm not super lazy and have all the ingredients I need, I will pull out my awesome non-stick sauce pan to make my oatmeal. I turn on the heat to medium-low and add my ingredients in the following order. I will turn the heat down to low and wait for all the warm, sticky goodness to come together, which really should only take about 5-10 minutes for the whole process. 

Kristy's Oatmeal:
(one serving)
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup 1% or nonfat milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 ripe banana
1 tbsp ground flax meal

  • Because Old Fashioned oats are whole grain, it is packed with a whole bunch of soluble fibers, therefore digesting a whole lot slower and keeping you full a whole lot longer. This make oatmeal one of my top two appetite controlling food. 
  • I would love to go into the really cool science behind this, but to keep things simple, it is thought that these same fibers help lower LDL (the "bad" cholesterol). 
  • And again with fiber being digested so slowly, glucose levels in the blood. This is awesome for those who may be dealing with Type 2 diabetes. 
  • Oats are a really good source of a whole bunch of  micro-nutrient (zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron, etc). 
  • Oats are super cheap! Great for students and others on a budget.
  • Super fast and super easy to make! Yea, it may not be quite as fast as skipping breakfast all together or grabbing a breakfast bar on the way out the door, but its nutritional properties definitely makes the 5 minutes totally worth it. 
  • It's fun to eat. You can change it up each day or each week just by changing up the toppings. A few ideas would be nuts, nut butters, fresh or frozen fruits, shaved coconuts, etc.
    • Once upon a time, I despised oatmeal. And then studying abroad happened. The hotel they put us in in Santiago, Chile served us pastries, eggs loaded with cheese, and ham. Luckily they also had some fresh fruits and oatmeal. When I found out all these amazing things about oatmeal and how to make it my own by adding my favorite toppings, I had to give it another try. At first, I was literally forcing myself to eat the stuff. It took a bit of time, but slowly it became something that I craved in the morning, just imagining its warmth and the combination of toppings. 
I hope this post at least inspires you to make yourself a bowl of oatmeal tomorrow morning! I'll be back to show you soon the madness that is my room in the midst of packing. It's just 11 days away until the big move!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hoot Hoot

For a couple of months now, I've been on this owl kick. Like naturally just attracted to almost anything owl (rings, shirts, etc). Double points if its an owl with reading glasses. I think it has to do with my thought process that owls are usually linked to have traits of keenness and wisdom and everything I'd want to be as a scholar (Owl from Winnie the Pooh anyone?) So obviously this picture is an easy win. Coffee and owl in one picture! Those eyes... so creatively adorable. I want this picture hanging in the kitchen of my new apartment!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My current wallpaper

Just had to share! (This is actually my google homepage wallpaper.) I am so excited that my new school has a VS Pink collegiate line. I will definitely be looking to buy a couple of things to show off my pride for U of I. 

I am SO excited to say that I will soon be a Fighting Illini!

Yay! New Blog!

I am so excited to finally start my own blog. Something that has been on my project list for some time now. And I'll just say it... I'm currently in need of projects right now.

Since graduating from UC Irvine and moving back home to the Bay Area, I have been super busy with studying for the GREs, researching schools, emailing and calling countless schools and faculty, applying, writing my personal statements, and interviewing. I am very happy to say now that I will be attending University of Illinois, but this also means I have two months left of absolutely NOTHING to do. A normal person would be very thrilled with lounging around pointlessly all day, but I cannot stand this AT ALL.

I am hoping I can keep up with this blog, post a hodge podge of things I find interesting, and update on what will hopefully be my exciting life in Illinois. This will be a good place for all my friends and family from home to stay connected with me and see how I'm doing.

And a teensy secret, but I have this huge fear of allowing others to read what I write. This mainly has to do with school papers and such, but definitely a problem I can't have if I'm going to be the big, bad scientist publishing a bajillion papers I want to be. I want this blog to be a way for me to let go of that fear even if it isn't the same type of writing.

Let's hope I'm interesting enough to continue reading and maybe I'll even attract non-family/friend readers. Who know!