For the first time EVER, a team from UMBC has made it to the Final Four of a Division 1 NCAA tournament!! The men’s soccer team beat Creighton last week in penalty kicks (at Creighton) to move on to the NCAA semifinals. The game was amazing – it ended in a 0-0 tie before penalty kicks, but both teams had chances to score. UMBC managed to hang on, however, and now the soccer team going to Cary, North Carolina to face the University of Virginia.

Before facing Creighton, UMBC beat three other ranked teams in the tournament. In the first round, they beat Wake Forest, also in penalty kicks. The second round game is the one I remember the best, because we beat that school from College Park, at College Park! We won 1-0, and after the game was over, we all stormed the field. So far, that’s been the highlight of this tournament for me. The next weekend, we also beat Louisville, at Louisville, 1-0, behind an early penalty kick.

UMBC's men's soccer team, on their way to the NCAA Final Four!

UMBC’s men’s soccer team, on their way to the NCAA Final Four!

After all this, the season is down to one game. The University of Virginia is one of the top college soccer teams in the nation, but we’ve beaten top teams before. There are many viewing parties throughout campus, and I’m going to watch the game on a big screen at the Commons. If we win and make it to the final, my friend Nick and I are driving five hours to North Carolina to watch the final on Sunday afternoon. I can’t wait to cheer my team on tonight, and hopefully we can bring a trophy back home to UMBC!

A Queen’s Guide to the Season Finale of Fall 2014

It’s study day here at UMBC, which means I was able to find an excellent parking space during peak parking hours because a lot of other commuters stayed home. I am currently in a study room in the library with headphones on to signal to my friends the message, “Do no engage in conversation with me”. I am stressed out, but this I think is good stress because it’s the type of stress that brings motivation and hopefully excellence (even if it doesn’t feel like it right now). I am a tad sleepy but I know that in two weeks I can sleep all I want. So here it is, without further ado, A Queen’s Guide to finals.

How To Get Through Finals:

Step 1: Make a to-do list. Like I put this post on my to do list and now I am to-doing it.

Step 2: Surround yourself with only bad (as in good) friends. Remember that one line from that one Iggy Azalea song, “You should want a bad gal like this”. She’s not lying, you should. These bad (as in good) friends will cheer you up when you’re down and when you see them studying, it makes you want to study too.

Step 3: Stay away from bad (as in bad) friends. These friends will suggest a game of scattergories instead of suggesting you go over that study guide one more time. This friend is bad.

Step 4: Sit down and get comfy. You going be in your study place for a while. Kick off your shoes, bring a blanket.

Step 5: Stay away from distracting websites. Like buzzfeed or…wordpress.

Step 6: Stay strong. I say this daily and it counts the most during finals week. Remember that all of this will be over soon.

That’s all I got. Hope you do well. See ya later!

Stress Free Zone

This is my fifth semester at UMBC, which means my fifth finals season. However, this is the first time that I’ve gone to the stress free zone in the Commons. Strange, huh?

Normally on study day I’m huddled in my room, refusing to talk to anyone and trying to study. However, this is the first year that I’m not living on campus, which means that I’m living in the Student Involvement Center for the next week.

As a side note, I work in Student Life as the Service and Volunteerism Intern so it’s not strange that I’m living in the Student Involvement Center.

As I was walking to the office, I thought I’d stop by the Stress Free Zone for the first time. Although it might seem like an easy event, it’s nice to grab a juice box and some fruit snacks before I go back to studying vigorous.

Therefore, stop by the Stress Free Zone today! Grab something to eat and maybe a coloring book, and then go back to the finals struggle.

My friend just texted me…

My friend just texted me that she is “leaving [her] casa”. This is a common text message I receive from her, and it’s an important one too! Please let me explain to you why. She does not have any data or phone service here in Spain. She strictly uses wifi at her house and in other free places. When we make plans to meet at a certain place and at a certain time, it is important to be at that certain place on time. If no one sticks to the plan, then there is the possibility of confusion, and people getting lost, or something worse. She sends me a text when we have plans to meet to let me know she is leaving her house, and to expect her at a certain time. Once she leaves her house, there will be no way for me to be in contact with her. This is a habit I practice quite often and have only now realized it something I have become accustomed to.

There are many small things I have become accustomed to here in Spain – everything from carrying my own toilet paper around, to texts, to Spanish greetings, to the lifestyle. Most people discuss the culture shock that happens when going abroad, but there is also a kind of culture shock I expect when returning home to the states. I will have to adapt again, but it is a skill that I believe is good not only for my life, but for my career as well.

UMBC Debates

Yesterday, I was able to attend my first debate hosted by the Biology Council of Majors. I am not a part of BioCoM, as they’re known, but I am very interested in what they do. In addition to having meetings for Biology students, one of their most popular events is a B-ethical debate series. They bring in faculty speakers, and sometimes speakers from outside UMBC, to debate interesting topics that have some relation to Biology. They hosted a debate on Euthanasia earlier in this semester, as well as debates on genetic modification and cloning in previous semesters.

However, the debate yesterday was by far the most interesting to me. It considered the question of “Are Humanoids Inevitable in the Universe?” That is, given life on another Earth-like planet, somewhere in the universe, would something with human-like intelligence eventually appear? Two of my favorite professors at UMBC, Dr. Kevin Omland (whose lab I currently work in) and Dr. Stephen Freeland (the Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies program) argued this point, and while there was no clear winner, there were many interesting and thought-provoking points provided by both speakers.

There were over 100 people at the talk, and since I am very interested in these topics of evolution and astrobiology, I was excited that such a large number of people would come and show their interest in this subject. On an even deeper note, this debate series is something unique to college life. Here on campus, we truly do have the unique opportunity to listen to world-class experts, such as Dr. Freeland and Dr. Omland, talk about the subjects they are most passionate about. While this talk may come across as a stuffy academia presentation by two professors, I believe that debates such as these are important because they spread ideas and allow us, as students, to think about these questions. Not everyone has that chance, so I am grateful to have it here at UMBC.

Is it December yet?

“These are the years when you learn what type of person you’ll be for the rest of your life”         -my mama (I think. Some relative. Somebody somewhere ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

I am not the person I was five years ago. For one, I’m *kind of* an adult now and I’m in college. However, when I was 14 (five years ago) I had those two things in my five-year plan. Yes, 14-year-old me had it all figured out. I would be in college with As and Bs and have a car and cool friends and speak fluent spanish and bring all the boys to the yard. (Some of these things are still in development but I still have time. I don’t turn 20 until May). The newest development in my character though is something that old me would have never guessed.

My name is Kiara Alexander and I’ve become a holiday season junkie.

That’s right UMBC. You’re gonna see a girl on campus in a santa suit on November 24th and you’ll think, “who is this fool getting their santa on before December 1st?” and it’ll be me.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to be a holiday shamer. I would shake my head at people who put lights up outside during the month of November. I would like to take this time now to apologize to all those people I judged before. I understand now. You may ask what brought me to this new jolly state-of-mind. Do not worry. I, as usual, have made a list to explain this new character.

Kiara’s gone Krazy: Christmas Edition ;)

  • MichaelBublé
    • I’ve known about Michael but have I known about Michael? Obviously not. Thanks to his angelic voice, I see snow and hot cocoa every time I close my eyes.
  • Starbucks, particularly the one of campus
    • They bust out the red cups. They bring out the peppermint mocha. Everyone is studying harder with the semester coming to a close. The togetherness of it all makes me feel very warm and cozy and festive, just like a caramel brulée (Bublé to make a connection) latte.
  • Target
    • The sunday after halloween Target puts up their wintery holiday signage. How can I not be swayed to follow Target’s holiday schedule when upon entering their store I am greeted with a quirky santa sign.
  • Money
    • This is the first year of my life I’ve had disposable income. I can’t wait to buy cool things for my squad/crew/loved ones. Yay!
  • MichaelBublé
    • He needs to be on here twice. That’s his impact.

So this is who I am now, but I am not ashamed. Here’s a Michael Bublé Christmas playlist for the road:

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

–Your Girl, Kiki

College is Real Life

I’ve heard many times that college is not “real life”. People say that college is completely different from the rest of your life, so treasure it!

Well yes, there may not be another time in my life where I’ll choose to stay up all night after making the bad decision to procrastinate on a paper. Yes, you may not ever choose to eat at the same five place for three times a day for a year again. And yes, you may not ever wear pajamas in public all the time again.

However, the skills applied and learned while in college are very “real life”. Contrary to the portrayal of media, college is much more than just endless studying and partying. Students are changing the world, right now, even if they don’t realize it.

Not only are students participating in internships and jobs that will help them realize what they do for the rest of their life, but students are changing things in the world right now. Maybe there is more of a culture of this at UMBC, but I would like to think that students everywhere are working hard on life skills right now.

That’s really why I love to be at UMBC. Students are not afraid to make change right now. They don’t feel like they need to wait for professors. They don’t feel like they need to join something that has already started. They start programs and initiatives and research on their own.

Being at UMBC is really pretty empowering. You learn what you’d like to do for the rest of your life. You learn soft job skills to be successful. And finally, you learn that you have the power to be an agent of change now.

Here Comes Christmas!

For the last two weekends, my little sister has controlled the single TV at my house. Normally, my brother and I take it over so we can watch sports or action movies (but mostly sports). However, my sister is extremely obsessed with the Hallmark Channel, and especially with the Christmas movies that are a part of the November/December calendar. There is a new movie every Saturday and Sunday night, every weekend until Christmas, and she appears determined to watch them all.

Hallmark Channel isn’t the only sign that winter is quickly coming. There are Christmas commercials out, most of them involving beautiful people driving beautiful cars down snowy roads. Michaels, the crafts superstore, is covered with Christmas decorations and little crafty ornaments. Even Chick-fil-a has returned with its peppermint milkshake!

It tastes like Christmas!

It tastes like Christmas!

Along with all these holiday movies and crafts and milkshakes comes the final few days of school. As I’m sure you have heard, the last month of a college semester is extremely busy and often very challenging. Nearly every class has some form of final project or final exam that synthesizes what you have learned throughout the semester. Keeping on top of everything requires not only a lot of work, but also very good time management. I know that I like to find time to relax and actually enjoy the run up to Christmas, so I have to make sure I have time for myself, in addition to finding time for school.

But, regardless of all the craziness that goes on in the last three weeks of the semester, I’m glad that when its all over I will get a chance to relax with a peppermint milkshake and tolerate my sister as she binge watches Hallmark Channel. I’m looking forward to that.

My Roommate and I

Before coming to college, everyone is worried about who their roommate will be, whether they will be a good match for each other, or whether they will be able to bond or not. However, I was fortunate enough to find a great high school friend who agreed to room with me. Everyone was saying that rooming with a friend would be a problem and that we would start to hate each other. But to be completely honest, I have enjoyed living with the same roommate for the past year and a half. Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our ups and downs. Sure we do; everyone does. But at the end of the day, we know that we are the perfect match for each other.

Contrary to popular belief, my roommate and I have bonded even more than we did in high school. We practically do everything together, whether it be eating, doing homework, or procrastinating. It’s really convenient to have a friend who shares the same interests as me because then we can jam out to the same music and be weird together. Furthermore, it’s easier to do homework, and study for exams, because we help each other with everything.

I know that whenever I need her, she will always be there for me. I know this for a fact because after coming to college, I was having some personal issues and it was hard for me to adjust, but my roommate was there to help me out. I knew that I had a shoulder to cry on, or someone to fall back on. But most importantly, I knew that I had someone that I could rant to, who would actually take the time to understand me and give me advice.

Moreover, we have a relationship where we can communicate even without talking (I know that’s kinda cliche, but trust me, we have our moments)! Furthermore, I trust her a lot; I tell her everything and anything that’s going on in my life and I know that she won’t tell other people, but rather comfort me when I need it.

But what truly makes me happy is when people acknowledge that there are some rare cases where high school buddies can be college roommates without killing each other. For example, the other day, we were at a meeting, and the adviser said “One doesn’t go anywhere without the other!” Now, I know that might sound weird, but it just makes our friendship that much more stronger.

Therefore, I want to take this blog post, to thank her for being part of my life, and always being there for me. I also want to tell her that (even though at times I don’t go outside to get food in the cold) I am always there for her whenever she may need me, and that I will always go out of my way to help her! Lastly, I want to encourage everyone (prospective and current students) to find their one true friend. One can have many friends, but there is only one (or two) person(s) that truly brighten up our lives. It may take some time to come across such a person, but it’s worth the wait.


Scary is Good Sometimes

In just a week I’ll be traveling to Spain by myself to spend Thanksgiving with my best friend while she studies abroad. I can only imagine that she is telling all her friends in Spain that I’m great at traveling and so “hardcore”.

However, what she doesn’t know (but might find out when she reads this blog) is that I’m terrified!! I am a fairly experienced traveler, but this will be my first time going to Europe. It’s my first time traveling completely alone. It’s my first time going to a country where I really don’t speak the language.

I know everything will end up being fine, and chances are I’ll make all my flights, but I’m still nervous. Although my nervousness makes me want to avoid thinking about it and stresses me out, I made a promise to myself when I went to college.

I promised myself that I would do things that I really want to do, that are good for me, and in this case, that I already paid for, even if I’m scared. Maybe I’ll get lost from Penn Station to JFK to make from flight to Madrid. Maybe I’ll get lost trying to find my way around in Seville. Maybe I’ll even miss my flight! I know that this will be a good experience for me though.

I’m so excited to see my best friend for the first time this semester, and even though I’m scared, I’m getting on my train from BWI to start my journey around the world on Nov. 22.

Plus, there’s the whole I already paid for everything factor.

To learn about Carmen’s experiences so far in Spain, check out Academics Aboard–Literally–Part 1 and Academics Aboard–Not Literally–Part 2.