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November 21, 2010

A Magical Week

This week has been hectic. Like tearing-my-hair-out, why-won't this-stop kind of hectic. But I've been having such a blast that even though my nails have been chewed down to the quick and my sleep schedule has flown out the window, I'm barely noticing a thing. Barely.

Elections for my sorority are coming up, and since I'm running for an executive position, I spent the week scoping out the territory and getting an idea for what that position would be like. I attended the joint meeting of the Inter Fraternity and Panhellenic councils, where everything from increasing membership to the new layout for the Kelvin Smith Library was discussed. I also attended an Exec meeting for my chapter, to see what goes on and what each member's responsibility is. It's now Sunday, a couple hours before chapter and elections start, and I'm frantically trying to pull together a speech that doesn't sound like word vomit and actually makes me sound competent. Wish me luck.

Thursday night I went with some friends (and what seems like 2/3 of Case students) to see the midnight release of the seventh Harry Potter movie. Even though it was crazy and packed, the atmosphere was awesome. The crowd cheered, laughed, and gasped at all the right moments, and the people who came in costume definitely brightened my night. Also, the movie was amazing. I definitely recommend it.

Friday was the culmination of a semester's worth of work, as my sorority put on our philanthropy event, Mr CWRU. We had a great time; the turnout was great (standing room only by the end!), the contestants were all perfect gentlemen, and we raised somewhere around $3,000 for the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center. Since all the alumnae were in town for Mr CWRU, we had a multicultural active-alumnae mixer last night, which was two hours worth of delicious food, music, and old friends. In other words, I got no work done.

Tonight is elections, tomorrow I have a paper and exam, and Tuesday I leave Cleveland for a sunny Thanksgiving in Florida. Although it seems right now like the stress will never end, I'm dreaming of Wednesday and the calm before the storm that will be Finals.

Oh well. I'm loving every minute of it.

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November 15, 2010

Learning on the Fly

Today was a big day for me. Today was one of those days where you reflect and realize how far you’ve come and how much you’ve learned. Today I spent my day starting and working on my real first lab study that I had all to myself(mostly).

I have mentioned it in previous blogs, but in case you are reading in reverse order or just need a refresher, I’ve had the opportunity to do some lab work in Case’s research lab located in University Hospital. I started volunteering there in January of this year, so about 10 months now. At first I was in the lab very sparingly, trying to balance the adjustment to college (yes it takes more than a semester) takes up a lot of your time. With that, I was learning everything about the aspects of being in a lab and doing lab work as I went. Don’t get me wrong, doing chemistry lab in high school is great, but those experiments are set up in a way that they are supposed to work out. In a real research lab, you’re (hopefully) doing novel things that no one has ever tried before. Therefore it requires quite a bit of knowledge of whatever you’re trying to accomplish in order to tell if you’re even doing anything relevant. So yes, coming in as a second semester freshman, you really have no idea what is going on.

Trust me; it’s nearly terrifying, at least for me. The graduate student I’ve been working with trusted me with my measurements and calculations for his work. At first I didn’t really even have that hard of things to do, just weighing things out, pipetting solution or plating samples. Essentially work that any functional person can do. Aside from getting nervous of messing up and spilling something, the hard part was trying to understand the underlying concepts of what I was doing all these things for. This requires a lot of reading, listening and repetition. I don’t think I really grasped the concepts strongly until I stayed a month of my summer at Case to work 30-40 hours a week doing lab work.

Staying that month of the summer was probably one of the better choices I’ve made since coming to Case Western. By doing this I was essentially taking a month out of my summer to work fulltime. Along with that, I lost a month of time to spend with my family and friends back home. Note to parents who have/will have kids that do this: Your son/daughter isn’t doing this because they don’t want to see you (I hope), they are just trying to learn and put themselves in a better position than their peers. Working 40 hours a week in a lab is surprisingly minimally stressful when compared to being enrolled in classes. Once you leave work, you’re done for the night, there is minimal to no work to get accomplished in comparison to the normal homework from taking classes. To list some of the benefits I’ve received, and am still receiving, from staying the summer are:

• I created a poster for my work and received a Case sponsored trip to Austin, Texas to present it at the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Meeting (I wrote a previous blog about this)

• I displayed my poster again and gave an oral presentation to undergrads, graduate students and PHDs about my research at a conference at Case (Yes I was nervous)

• I did sufficient work to be listed as a co-author on a couple research papers that will be coming out hopefully soon

• I’m currently helping the graduate student I work with on a book chapter about a subject related to our work

• Freedom at night time left me time to get motivated into working out again(I lost 30 pounds this summer, yay me!)

• I feel more involved overall with the dynamic of the lab, I am no longer just a volunteering undergrad, I’m me!

Overall it was just a great experience all around.

But anyway, back to the reason that provoked me to write my blog about this subject. Today was the first day that I planned out what I wanted to do with my research direction and how the experiment would be conducted. I won’t get into details, but today’s work involved an 8 hour release study where I got to hang around the lab all day and get work done. I had a little help setting up and starting but an hour in he took the training wheels off and left me to experience it for myself. No longer was I scrambling to learn on the fly, but rather I was executing everything I have learned over the past 10 months. It’s quite the gratifying feeling to know hard work is starting to pay out. I’m not done, it’s a 10 day study, so I will be stopping in every day to take a few samples and analyze. I believe my ability to experience this opportunity has been one of the most profound reasons for enjoying Case. I feel like my major has more direction, and I am more comfortable with the fact that I am going into a field of something I enjoy. I can comfortably say I don’t think I would be doing this as a sophomore at any of the other schools I applied to coming into my freshman year of college.

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November 08, 2010

Club Love

Have you ever gotten free money to do something you love? Or, have you ever asked for money and gotten it from someone besides your parents? Well, if you're a club at Case, the two words "mass-funding" are pretty much like finding a few hundred dollar bills in you pocket. Just yesterday, my club AAA (Asian American Alliance) received the second highest culture club funding of a few thousand dollars to help fund all our activities.

The Undergraduate Student Government spends almost $110,000 every semester to fund "campus events, operating expensive, and off-campus development activities" (http://usg.case.edu/node/12). What that means is that USG gives you money to promote your interests to the rest of campus. The money isn't just something "nice" to have. It helps the clubs shift their focus from making money to sustain their club from better using their money that USG gives them to help benefit the campus. This system is, what I think, a really great way to promote constant club-improvement, and honestly, is what makes Case's organizational community so unique.

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In other news, I filled my shopping cart for next semester's classes and my schedule doesn't look good at all. Monday and Wednesdays, I have classes from 9-4. I don't get a break for lunch until 2PM. Tuesday and Thursdays, I'll be at the hospitals doing clinicals for 7-3. All these morning classes do not look appealing at all for a person who can not stay awake for anything before noon. But anyway, I've never studied so much in my life before until this semester. To think that second semester can only get harder is a scary though. Balancing work, extra-circulars, and being a nurse is going to be really interesting. I'll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

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November 07, 2010

Family Fun and a Wet Weekend

When I talk to prospective students on overnights or curious friends or family, I sometimes get good-natured questions about Case Western that I can't help but find funny.

Questions like "You're Greek? Doesn't all that partying hurt your GPA?" or "Don't you feel nervous walking around campus at night?" or even "Case has a theater program?!" all make me smile and shake my head a little. They do serve as teachable moments; I can always reply by saying "Actually, Greeks at Case have a GPA above the all-campus average" or "I usually feel pretty safe, because campus police is just a phone call away, and Safe Ride is always there if I need it" or "Yep, they just put on The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told". But the best way to show parents or prospective students what CWRU is like is to bring them here and show them...and that's why I love Family Weekend.

This past weekend was Family Weekend at CWRU. Students were encouraged to bring their parents, siblings, and other family members to a number of events sponsored by Greek Life, RHA, and other campus organizations. There was a carnival on Saturday where I volunteered (we handed out pumpkin seeds and punch, and played games at some of the other booths) as well as a football game in the wet, sleety weather that early November has brought to Cleveland. My favorite part of family weekend, though, is when students bring their parents to events that they normally attend on a Saturday night. Enter 30 in 60 and IMPROVment's Alumni show.

For those who are curious, Case does have a theater program. And it's awesome. Every time I see a production at Case, I'm reminded that we're not just an engineering school; we really do have incredible programs in the humanities, too.

The Players Theater Group at CWRU performed 30 in 60 this weekend, a project in which students wrote 30 short plays and bet the audience that they could finish them all in 30 minutes. If the timer runs down and they're not done, the audience would receive their admittance fee back. They finished ours with time to spare - 4 minutes left on the clock. The plays ranged from strikingly funny, to thoughtful, to sweet, and each one of them was vastly entertaining. The audience driven show (the order of the plays was determined by who could shout the number they wanted to see the loudest) kept both the audience and the actors on their toes, and made for a really special performance.

Directly following that was the IMPROVment Alumni show, probably my favorite event during family weekend. For those who don't know or need a refresher, IMPROVment is Case's student improv comedy group; everything they perform each week is totally off the top of their heads and driven by suggestions from the audience. For this show, a number of alumni returned to perform in the Black Box Theater one more time, and they didn't disappoint. The alums returned with some fresh sketch comedy that was hilarious (and, I admit, probably made some of the parents in the audience blush) as well as their own improv talents. The show was a miraculously long two hours, and kneeling on the floor in the packed Black Box was worth every second of it, especially when someone's aunt was serenaded during one of the games.

Family Weekend is only one of the ways that people can get to know Case, but it's certainly a fun one. I think it emphasizes my biggest piece of advice in finding a school that's right for you, though; as much as websites, pamphlets, tours and photos are great, you can't really know how well you'd fit at a school until you've really spent time there. So come to an overnight, stay in Cleveland a while, and have some fun at CWRU while you're at it. Who knows? Maybe you'll feel right at home.

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November 02, 2010

Rock the Vote!

Yes, folks, it's that time again. All the drama, all the excitement, all the people rushing to the polls: Election Day!

Okay, so maybe it's not quite that dramatic. But it certainly is an important time of year. And this weekend, the goings-on in Cleveland definitely reflected the pre-election atmosphere. Some of my friends made it down to Washington, D.C. this Saturday for John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear. In addition to seeing a number of guest speakers, musical performances, and funny signs, students went to show support and to promote the idea of decency to one another, in light of the amount of sensationalist media coverage surrounding the political arena.

Sunday I had an opportunity to see President Obama speak downtown at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center. I took the Cleveland RTA straight there (students at CWRU get an RTA pass as part of tuition, and seriously, I could not live without that thing) and stood in line for around half an hour to see a number of political figures, candidates, and community leaders speak. The crowd may not have been big (CNN, MSNBC, and Fox kindly pointed that out all over the news), but the opportunity to hear from the leaders of our country was one I wouldn't pass up, regardless of ideology. I may not have heard anything that dramatically altered my political perspective, but it was still really cool.

And tonight, the Political Science department is holding an election returns party. All sorts of fun will be had as the drama unfolds. Will Democrats lose the House? The Senate? Will the Libertarian party miraculously comes from behind and upset them all? It's all part of the excitement in an event that will be part social, part educational, and part civic duty. I'm excited.

I'd also like to point out something I think a lot of people overlook; there's absolutely no reason to skip out on voting just because you're at college! CWRU provides transportation for students to the Board of Elections if you're registered to vote in the area, and your state probably has early or absentee voting as well. It's been great to see friends and classmates making use of their right to vote, and I would definitely take advantage of all resources available to participate in the election, no matter where you are or what your political views may be.

May you all have a wonderful Election Day, and here's to hoping that voter turnout is high and that people's voices are heard!

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The Social Life

I've always wanted to be on the "in." I was never part of that group in high school, and I would always be jealous when I saw Facebook photos of events that I wasn't invited to. As I look back, I realized that it wasn't because I was a loner, or because I didn't have friends. Rather, it was because I never took the initiative to make things happen. As social chair, I now have the resources and the obligation to make sure that thing happen.

With that being said, I planned our annual pumpkin carving mixer with Alpha Chi Omega which took place last week. We held it on their front lawn, and it was definitely a site to see: forty or so college kids huddled over pumpkins with scraps of paper and pumpkin flying all over the place. It began with a somewhat traditional paring process. I asked all the brothers to bring ties and toss them into a bag. The girls were then assigned to pick a tie out of the bag and match it with it's owner. After that, it was to the tables to begin carving. I'm sure the event was quite entertaining for the multiple passerbys. Brothers were flinging pieces of excised pumpkin at each other while giving high-fives with hands covered in pumpkin-innards. It turned many heads of those that walked by the AXO house.

Last Friday was date party. Prior to coming to Case, I had no idea what this "date party" business was. It's basically a date with a lot of people. I planned our date party to be held at "7 floors of hell," one of Cleveland's more popular haunted houses. 17 couples went and (from what I've been told) had a wonderful time. Each house was themed differently. It varied from the "mental ward" to the "gas chamber" and in each house, the girl most often clung to the guy in fear. That was probably the best way to break the ice between the dates and, in most cases, worked like a charm. After a plethora of screams and stretched clothing (from the clinging), we all headed over to a local steak n' shake where we enjoyed a nice fast food meal and warming conversation.

It's funny how I run for the position that requires the most "people skill" even though I knew it was the one thing that I lacked. However, after three months and two successful events later, I can safely say that I've slowly, but surely, expanded that comfort bubble of mine so that it can now accommodate more. And to be honest, I think that's what being greek is all about. You expose yourself to so many different people all the time that you grow with every single interaction.

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November 01, 2010

Zombies Hit Case Western!

Yes I said it, zombies. No thankfully not the real variety. Yes, the concept was quite hard for me to grasp at first, I still don’t completely understand. However, a large portion of the Case Western student population spends a week every semester convincing themselves they are indeed “zombies” on the hunt for other “humans” participating in the game. Essentially, students who decide to sign up for this campus-wide game all start as “humans,” which is signified by a bright green band worn around their arm. “Zombies” are other students that have already been tagged by another zombie. Humans can protect themselves from zombies by shooting them with a Nerf gun. The end result is a bunch of students running around in between class chasing and shooting each other on their way across the quad. My impression is the inner child of these students took fun playground games, such as tag, from our childhood and evolved them into a game that is justifiable for college kids.
To answer your question, no I have never participated in “Humans vs. Zombies.” However I do find a lot of enjoyment in watching kids wearing headbands chasing each other around the quad, toting Nerf guns. One thing I have noticed from watching these weeks unfold is that everyone that plays takes it extremely seriously; some students even took a circuits class (one of the more difficult engineering core classes at Case) as an elective, just to learn how to rig their Nerf gun into shooting farther/better. Another interesting thing that I have noticed is that complete strangers meet and interact through this game and they talk and act like they’ve known each other forever. I guess “intense” situations like these create a common ground building friendships. The intelligence of students participating makes for some interesting strategy as well. In buildings like Nord (a common hangout place on the quad between classes), groups will assemble and plan out their courses of action just to get from class to class.
The cool thing about this week long event that takes place every semester is that it is open and free to everyone that wants to play. It can be taken as seriously as you want to. For those that don’t play, it makes for an entertaining show in between classes and throughout the evening on campus. No I don’t think I will ever be convinced into playing. It’s nothing against those that play the game; it’s just that I don’t want to have to run for my life from class to class for an entire week. I do that enough just trying to make it to my classes on time. However, if this interests you, it is something to definitely look forward to when you come to Case Western!

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