Thursday, July 19, 2012

Only 8 More Days

My awesome VSA group. 

I walked into my dorm room to discover that the curtains were drawn. Outside, the night sky flashed brilliant colors of blue. Every now and again, a single streak of lightening would slice across the sky, lighting the entire campus as it did so. I walked over to my bed and planted myself there, listening to the thunder echo through the quiet grounds. I closed my eyes and folded my arms behind my head, thinking. 

When I first arrived here at Vanderbilt Summer Academy, I was not entirely happy. I had met some very nice people and my class was interesting, but I still felt a tinge of loneliness. I wanted nothing more than to return home, back to my friends and family. However, after a few day passed, I began to meet more people, and eventually I met a specific group of people who I meshed with very nicely. I began to sit with them everyday during meals, then we started hanging out at the dorms, and soon we had all become great friends. 

This group of friends I made consisted of three boys and four girls (excluding myself). All of us have dynamic personalities, and we are all from different parts of the country yet we get along so well. We wholeheartedly enjoy each other's presence and we grow closer to each other everyday. Tonight, for example, we all went out for dinner. We signed out for freetime and walked off campus to Paneria, a bread and pasta place. We all ate delicious food as we joked and teased one another. 

Today in class we mostly just worked on our stories. I am writing mine based off of Michael Jackson's song " Smooth Criminal". I spent the entire first week doing research and taking notes on how I want the people in my stories to die. I planned out their deaths, and I created cruel villains and a brave detective, who I made a teenage girl. I did that because I have always wanted to be as intelligent as a detective so I thought it would be interesting to write as story as if I was one. 

It is an interesting experience and I am learning many new things everyday. My only complaint about VSA is not having enough time to myself for studying. I try to set aside some time to work out at the gym or study for some of my classes next year, but they keep us so busy that it is incredibly difficult to do so. 

A Different Kind of Thursday

This morning, I woke up at 6:20 AM in order to head to the Recreation Center again.  I didn't think about going, until the very last minute last night, but I'm glad I put in some exercise today, because for some reason, I feel like I've gained weight at VSA! Perhaps I'm just "eating too good" here, and it's just my imagination--hopefully it is. I'd like to say that when I was in the gym there, I played much better basketball this time, and I feel like that I emulated--if you know this famous break-out star--Jeremy Lin. I also had the chance to play a little bit of beach volleyball! That didn't work out too well, but it was still nice to play around with a volleyball with friends when I haven't since May (the end of Boy's Volleyball Season).

Lived Religion's first hour today was dedicated to difficult reading about prayer in the Jewish and Christian practices.  However, although it was difficult reading, I know that the more I'm challenging myself with these difficult readings, the better that I'm getting at analyzing them. And it's working.

The rest of class time was devoted to three guest speakers: a Methodist reverend, a Catholic priest (and professor at Vanderbilt), and a converted rabbi. They taught and answered our questions about prayer and the body in the Judea-Christian faiths. Although the guest speakers were very informative about their religious practices dealing with prayer and the body, I found that I was getting lectured a little too much. I thought the speakers gave us a little too many history lessons. Now I know they only told us history in order to show why that religion practices the way they do today, but still, the lecturing was just a little too much. I can tell, now, that history is extremely important in Judea-Christian beliefs and practices. Now don't get me wrong; it was a pleasure to have them teach us more about the Judea-Christian practices.  It's just that this day made me realize just how much more beneficial experiencing an actual religious service is compared to simply lectures and readings. Now of course you still need the lecturing and the reading, but actually experiencing a different culture is much more insightful.
The rabbi's morning prayer tallit

We're also now reading this book called An Act of Faith by Eboo Patel. It's about a Muslim American who struggles with his religion and the culture in and around him. I've only just recently begun the reading the book, but more into the book deals with inter-faith, which will be the basis of our course next week. The book is an autobiography, and the book is very easy to get "in to it".

In Arete, we practiced our stage combat scenes for tomorrow's presentation. I'm very excited about this, because I didn't get to watch nor perform last week, because of a site visit to a synagogue. It should be interesting, and I'm definitely going to bring my stage combat skills back home and show them to my friends.

A few friends (Hannah, Alexa, and Elizabeth) and I decided to eat at a sushi place called GoGo Sushi. It was a very interesting sushi place--almost like a fast food restaurant. The sushi was very tasty, and I also got one of my favorite sodas, Ramune! It's a Japanese soda, and the best part about the soda is popping a marble in the drink to start the carbonation--very fascinating and entertaining.

I also had the chance to go to see Ayla Brown, an American Idol Finalist from a few years ago. She was much taller than I thought, but it doesn't matter because she had a beautiful voice. I hope she becomes more well-known soon; she deserves it. She's a very nice and friendly person. This is random but--on the spot--I was forced by one of my friends to do a Simon Cowell impression for Ayla. I guess it wasn't too bad, but I was pretty embarrassed for a while.

Anyway, the rest of the night just zoomed by like it was nothing; now it's curfew. Tomorrow there's going to be a pool party. It should be a great Friday. Good night.

The American Idol Girl

Class was mostly focused on Amphetamines today. We learned how it affects our body and how we become addicted to it. Basically, the drug enters your body and goes to your brain where it blocks the pathways to certain receptors. After it blocks the pathway, it leaves the dopamine (a feel-good chemical) to forever hit the receptors, releasing that feeling of a high.

Silly Pictures Are Always Fun

Although the idea of feeling good for an extended amount of time does sound appealing, the overall effect of this drug is extremely negative. For example, using this drug a couple times can actually permanently lower your dopamine level, making you need methamphetamine all the time. Also, meth can really cause psychological problems and give addicts wild hallucinations and visions. Amphetamines also cause huge hospital problems in our country; in fact 49% of all hospital admissions are because of Amphetamines. Unfortunately, drugs will almost always be a problem in some way, shape, or form.
After class, I went to my glee class where we finally finished the video we are making. I had this little solo and I had to have camera time for about 5 seconds. I really hate any form of camera time, even if it’s just for 5 seconds. Regardless, I am still curious about the final product that will be showcased tomorrow. I hope it’s not too embarrassing…
Once I finished Arete, I head to see a performance by former American Idol participant, Ayla Brown. She was a basketball star who made it to the top 24 in Idol’s 5th season. At first, I wasn’t too excited for the show since I was feeling a little tired; however, her singing was really, really good. She told us all about her experience with American Idol, and didn’t leave anything out. I really enjoyed how down to earth she was and I had a great time for the whole show. Other people also got a chance to sing up stage, which was really funny. Chris also “volunteered” to go up to do his famous Simon Cowell accent, which received a ton of applause. I really had a blast at the performance.

Ayla singin'

One of the proctors!

Me and Ayla!

From Health To Harmony

Humidity was at its best today. After my regular morning routine, which includes breakfast, I walked across campus with my proctor, Tessa. I decided to get my eye checked at the Student Health Clinic, and it turned out just as I thought it would be. The nurse practitioner told me I had a stye in my eye, and it’s usually treated with hot compress. I’m thankful it wasn’t anything too serious, and I hope it’ll be gone within the next few days.

The tie-dye shirts we made!

Playing foosball after meals!
Afterwards, I headed straight to class, and jumped into a movie about amphetamines and other drugs. It was interesting to hear the stories of those who were addicted to drugs, but have now stopped. I learned a lot about how the feel good chemical, dopamine, works. It creates a chain reaction to give you the feeling of pleasure. Unfortunately, meth addicts will never be able to feel pleasure again, because the drug creates a permanent change in your body. During the Vietnam War and World War II, armed forces used amphetamines as stimulants to keep themselves awake for long periods of time. The results of getting no sleep are horrific. Many people go crazy, hallucinate wildly, get paranoia, and enter in a psychotic state. Consumption of meth or amphetamine causes cell death in the frontal cortex of the brain.  Moral of the story is to not take these highly addictive drugs. You don’t want to be added to the 49% of all hospital admissions of meth. It’s just astounding to know that many people still make the decision to become addicted to the most physically damaging drug.

The second session of Pharmacology began with research in the computer lab. I think it is awesome that Macs can either have Apple or PC software. For my part of our final research project, I have been researching the question: Is the use of ADD/ADHD medications more of a placebo effect for both prescribed and non-prescribed college student users? Through much research, I have learned 1 in every 5 college students use this drug as a “study drug”, “academic steroid”, or even as “Ivy League crack.” You would be amazed to know that many non-prescribed students buy it illegally from their prescribed friends, so they can perform better on tests. As part of our project, I plan to branch off the completed studies of University of Pennsylvania, University of Rhode Island, and Lehigh University. Each of these institutions has done a study with ADD/ADHD medications with non-prescribed and/or prescribed college students, using also a placebo. So far our research project is progressing, but we still have much more to do.

We ended class today with a movie about the crisis of meth in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Meth has grown to be a large part of this city, affecting many lives. Those who are addicted may be awake for 5 days without food. Many addicted parents are not capable of taking care of their children; so many kids have to be taken under the care of their grandparents. It’s disheartening to see those traumatized children, knowing their lives are changed forever. Did you know that 12.3 million Americans over the age of 12 use meth? It’s a very scary fact to know. Yessenia and I want to find a way to inform the students at our school about the effects of all the different kinds of drugs. I believe everyone should be informed about the important factors that come along with taking drugs.

I enjoyed our last session of fencing this afternoon. If you watch me, I’ll be the little girl who screams once she gets hit. I’m getting a little better at it, and hopefully everything goes well and safe at the showcase tomorrow! I’m glad I got to step out of my comfort zone, and take a stab at a different sport.
Sushi with my friend, Elizabeth!
I ate a small dinner, because some of my friends planned to go out for sushi for SOFT night. The sushi place was pretty cool, because you got to make your own. It wasn’t too bad, and I enjoyed the company and laughs with my friends. We then went for a quick stop at Ben and Jerry’s. I ordered a delicious frozen latte. With time to spare, we headed to the Rotunda to watch Ayla Brown, an American Idol season 5 finalist. She has an amazing voice, and it was nice to get a chance to listen to her.

Ayla Brown!
I ended this day watching a scary movie with my proctor group. The loud thunder, scary lightning, and rain outside added to the dark mood. More bonding time, more fun! Good night, guys!