Monday, July 9, 2012

Time For Chemistry!

Our first official day at Vanderbilt has just ended, and let me tell you; what a fast paced day it was.

I started out my day bright and early, ready for breakfast at 8 AM. However, the weather did not begin so bright. In fact, we had just had a big thunder storm that boomed throughout campus last night, and the aftermath of the storm was still apparent through the dark skies surrounding campus.
After my satisfying breakfast (the eggs are not that bad), I, along with 14 other classmates, head to a huge building, where we would be taking our pharmacology class with Dr. Michelle Sulikowski.
Not really knowing what to expect from the teacher, I sat nervously in the front of the room, waiting for her to begin. In all honesty, she was nothing like I expected her to be. She wasn’t the strict, teacher I thought she would be but a jovial woman, full of life and energy. We started off the class, nice and simple with student introductions and 'getting to know' games, like Two Truths and A Lie.
After words, the real stuff would begin – or at least a review about the chemical properties of bonds, organic structures, and functional groups. This was a load of stuff to do in one sitting and I am proud of myself for doing it. However, there were quite a few items that were completely new to me and Hannah, and familiar to everyone else. Although I did feel like Hannah and I had a disadvantage, we still managed to keep up with the class and finished all our work. In addition, chemistry is not my favorite thing in the world; however, Dr. S said we'd only have to do a lot of the chemistry stuff for today and tomorrow, and then the class will be discussion-based. I think this is great, because it will give us a chance to give our own opinions about a wide range of subjects.
After class, we had a fun activity class called an ArĂȘte. The activity changes every week, and this week, I had fencing. Before I came over, I was worried that I would be the only girl since I heard a ton of guys saying they had fencing. My fears were pointless though because when I arrived, there were more girls than boys! Anyway, today we learned the basics of fencing and got to spar with the teacher, which was very fun.
Later that day, we also had a huge activity to do with everyone in VSA. It was originally supposed to be some sort of scavenger hunt, but due to rain, we played a trivia game instead. The whole event lasted about 2 hours, and was a blast. The trivia topics ranged from music to literature to films. We also were in teams; however, our team didn’t make it too far and we only got 8th place out of 13 teams. Nonetheless, group activities like these are great ways to get to know other people better, and ultimately, work as a team.
By the end of the day, we were all pretty tired from our classes and activities, but overall I think it has been a productive day. In all honesty though, this day has gone by so fast, I think I blinked and it was over. I have a feeling the rest of my time here in Nashville will also fly by quickly. Either way, I am really satisfied with what I have accomplished today, and I hope I accomplish just as much (or even more) tomorrow.

The First Day of Class

It's my first full day at VSA, and it's been a very long one. Immediately waking up this morning, I found that my stomach was telling me an urgent message; I was hungry. However, once I picked up my plate, I had this weird feeling that I was already full. So, I took just a few spoonfulls of some hot breakfast. When I started eating on the table with my proctor group, I ate a few bites, and I already felt very full. It must be this heat or what many people would say in the Bay Area, "bipolar weather". The people from the Bay Area have no clue what "bipolar weather" is until they get to Nashville, when it's pouring rain with lightning and thunder out of nowhere to bright sunny skies the next hour.
My proctor group
Right after breakfast around 9 AM, all of the students headed to their classes lead by their T.A. It took a few times back and forth through the different class lines to finally find my Lived Religion group. I was surprised that one student from my proctor group, Christien, is also in my religion class, which is nice, because I almost thought I was the only guy. It really didn't matter anyway if I was the only guy or not in my class, but still, it's always nice to add a little more testoserone to the estrogen in the classroom.

I found my Lived Religion: The Abrahamic Faiths course very insightful and interesting. It seems that everyday we'll be doing something new because we're the class that goes on a lot of field trips. We'll also probably go out of the classroom just so we don't concentrate on the facts of religion but actually embrace and engage what it is like today. This class is not a history class, which I'm indifferent about, because history is a great subject. Still, I really enjoy how this class can be applied to the real world, and honestly, I think this course out of all the other courses at VSA can be applied the most to the real world. This class is mainly about understanding how religious practices affect the way people view others and the world.

In this class, it seems we'll be having a lot of discussions. One main discussion out of the several ones we had today was whether or not the U.S. is a Christian nation. I said it wasn't, but many of the students in our class had some very interesting approaches to answer the question. We all agreed with the fact that the majority of the country is a Christian nation and it is the most well known, so it is used in the media/literature/etc. a lot. I thought to myself the U.S. has "freedom of religion", but do we really? If the majority is pressuring you and looking down upon you, how can you freely practice your religion like the majority? Yes, Chrisitianty may not be publicly defined to the world as a Christian nation, but there is no doubt that Christianity has a great effect on how we think in America. We tended to go on many tangents that were still pretty much on-topic, but I thought it was very interesting how insightful the girls (and Christien) were in this class. There are some truly intelligent people in this program.

Right now we're just setting the grounds and the origins of the three monotheistic faiths, so we're doing a couple of lectures. We (the students) are also giving presentations of one of the three religions to give a little crash course of the backgrounds and main ideas of Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. Soon, we'll be getting into deeper and more specific aspects of these three religions (diet, places to practice faith, dress, etc.).

However, today I did learn a lot of new facts, which are still very interesting to me. I learned that religion is changing greatly in this country, and soon the U.S. will become a minority Protestant country (51%). This goes to show that the media and the things that influence our daily lives need to be changed, because the country is changing and religion is having this effect on people. For example, 31% of Americans were raised Catholics, but now 24% do not describe them as Catholics. I just found everything very interesting.

My Arete class is also very fun, imrpov. I never was in a theater class or anything, so it was really great to get the opportunity to do something different. I love thinking on my feet and coming up with the most random things in an improv session. Overall, the class seems like it's meant to teach us to agree with others and still add on to what they were saying. It helps with listening, creativity, and quick thinking. I really liked it, and I hope everyone else did too; they don't need to be shy!

Well, it was a great day today, and hopefully it just gets better. It's very different out here. Keep reading!

Day 1 At Vanderbilt

I was a little disoriented this morning when I woke to find myself in an unfamiliar room with a complete stranger peeking at me over the top of her laptop. "Good morning," she sang as her fingers stopped their furious typing momentarily. She gave me a gentle smile before returning her attention once more to her computer screen. I lifted myself wearily on my elbows, and through half-dazed eyes took in my surroundings. It took me a while to realize that I was in my dorm; I still can't believe I am finally here. Once I began to realize where I was, I was able to get out of bed and ready myself for the day. I grabbed my toiletries bag from my desk and headed to the bathroom to do my usual morning rituals.  

I am still not used to the bathrooms in the dorms. There are only two stalls and one shower, so one has to be considerate and do whatever they need to as quickly as possible so as to not impede the other girls. It also feels very awkward sharing a bathroom with a complete stranger. I usually tend to do my things quickly and leave whenever I see a girl shuffle into the bathroom to the shower. 

After I got dressed I met my roommate and some other girls outside in the hall and we all went to the cafeteria together. After we ate breakfast, the teacher assistance for our class held up signs for us to help us find them. I lined up behind the people crowding in front of a blond boy holding up a sign for Mystery Writing. 

I found out that my class has about 15 people in it, which is smaller than what I am used to. We gather in a small, conference-like room that has a bunch of tables pushed together to make one large table with chairs surrounding it. Our teacher, a woman named Dr. Jan who is very perky and fun talked to us about the different mystery cliches and told us what we can expect from the class. I was glad to learn that we will be reading some Sir Arthur Conan Doyle works in the class.

After class everyone met in the cafeteria for dinner. I met with my cohort and we chatted briefly. As I was talking to them, I realized how much I missed spending time with them. We barely get to see one another, but when we do it is very enjoyable.

When dinner was over we had a little free time before we went to play trivia with the rest of the VSA students. My proctor group and I all worked together to fill in all the correct answers to the questions and the game made me realize how close we had become in only two days. Already, we know what each other likes and dislikes and everyday we learn something new about each other. I can tell it is going to be a fun next few weeks. 

First Full Day At VSA

Good morning Vanderbilt! My first morning at Vanderbilt was very calm and stress free. Thinking there may be a line for the showers, I woke up 30 minutes early.  However, there was no one in the bathroom. I got ready pretty quickly and then headed down to eat breakfast. All the food here has been pretty good, and there is a lot of variety.

After a good breakfast with my proctor group, we each met with our teacher assistant’s to head over to our classroom. The Pharmacology classroom was not too far away, so I’m thankful I don’t have to walk too much in this heat. Our professor, Michelle Sulikowski, is a professor at Vanderbilt teaching in the biological and chemistry sciences. She also directs the research program here, so we are very lucky to be able to be in a classroom setting with her.  I am glad she is not strict, but rather very kind and willing to help with our needs.

After we got to know the students in the class a little better, Dr. Sulikowski went right into discussing the syllabus of the class. She is the type of teacher who is an expert in her field, so she could go on and on about different things all surrounding the concept of drugs.  From organic chemistry to motivated reasoning, she began to give us an insight of what knowledge we will gain over these next few weeks.

Honestly, I was pretty overwhelmed with all the information, but I expected it. Being taught college curriculum is really different from any high school class. I didn’t understand everything she said, and I know I will be challenged as I study Pharmacology. Our time spent in class today mainly surrounded the topic of chemistry. Dr. Sulikowski is making sure we are all at the same level with general chemistry before we go in depth with the study of how drugs work. There were many things that were new to me in chemistry that I didn’t learn during my sophomore year, but fortunately I caught on pretty easily. With Yessenia by my side, the knowledge of another girl at my table (who by the way took AP Chemistry), and of course our professor, I was able to understand everything. One thing that I found very fun in chemistry was learning how to draw organic structures. I enjoyed changing the Lewis structure to the KeKule structure. I’m beginning to enjoy chemistry, and as I continue to dig deeper into the sciences of drugs, I may be interested to study it in college.

We also began reading a book about the study of drugs, and I found it really interesting. It not only discussed the sciences of drugs but also how it greatly affects our society. I learned that a drug is any substance that is put in your body and changes your bodily condition. Many people know that cocaine is a drug, but many don’t know that drinks with caffeine are also considered drugs. There are many controversies about just the definitions concerning drugs, and I’m excited to put my debate skills into work, as we will also hold debates in our class concerning these topics.

Although this class will be very rigorous, with just a load of information to take in, I am excited to learn much, much more. From watching educational videos, to exploring the research labs here on campus, I can’t wait to bring this information back to my own community.

Of course we had lunch in between two class sessions, and I especially enjoyed choosing from the dessert area. There were endless things to choose from, including: cookies, brownies, rice krispies, tarts, cakes, and even pies. I ended up eating a delicious, strawberry shortcake.

Getting to know my proctor group more!
This was also our first day of ArĂȘte classes. I was put into a dance class, and it was quite fun. We learned two line dances, and throughout this week we will also learn Bollywood and some Latin dances. By the end of this week we will perform in front of everybody. It’s really cool to be able to learn different things and stretch across my own comfort zone. I’m not the greatest dancer, but I really enjoy doing it!

We had a nice American dinner, and then had Trivia Night! We were all split into groups, and my proctor group was called Survivor Sisters! The topics of the rounds ranged from history to music. Honestly, it was pretty challenging and tiring just thinking about each question. Unfortunately, our group didn’t win, but we did our best and learned a lot of facts we didn’t know!
The Survival Sisters!

It has been a long, first full day here at VSA. I am looking forward to a goodnight’s sleep tonight for another busy, but fun day tomorrow!