Sometimes Home Sucks

Everyone has programs with their home life. I’m no different in that. My home life is a mess right now. The support that I was receiving my entire life at home has now been cut in half.

I don’t think I would be doing as well as I am physically, emotionally, and academically if it wasn’t for my UMBC family, especially since things are so hard at home.

That’s why I love UMBC. It’s a community where you can go up to someone you’ve never met, introduce yourself, and make friends. It’s a community where people help each other.

I know that if I needed to, I could go to Delana Gregg in the Honors College and cry in her office if I needed to. I’m not even a member of the Honors College! I know that I could go to Nancy Young, the Vice President of Student Life, and get some advice.

I know that I could go to many of my professors and tell them that I’m struggling and see what I could do to improve. I know that I could swing by the Shriver Center, Residential Life, Student Life, the Counseling Center, Undergraduate Education, Undergraduate Admissions, anywhere, and get help. Staff and faculty at UMBC want to help others.

Even students want to help each other. I work on a staff of 13 at Susquehanna Hall and when I got the flu this semester, my 1am to 4am, and my 4am to 6am shifts were covered in less than 3 minutes.

I am so grateful to have a home away from home. I’m so grateful to have found a community that supports each other. I really do love UMBC.

The Prom Life

Each semester, Residential Life holds a banquet. This semester Residential Life is going out in a big way. Each semester there is a theme for the banquet, and this semester the theme is prom. The banquet is even going to be at a hotel, instead of just on campus.

There’s even a big competition between all of the hall’s staff to see who can do the best prom proposal. In Susquehanna Hall we participated in this competition as well.

Since there are more desk staffers than RA’s in Susquehanna, some RA’s had to do more than one prom proposal. My RA date is one of them. For the other desk staffer we are going with, he made him cupcakes that said PROM? on them.

Well I work 1am to 6am on Wednesday mornings. So at 5:30 am, my date walked into the desk with pancakes that spelled out Prom?, bacon, and juice. He had to get up at 5am to make me breakfast in the basement of SUS. That’s commitment.

I hope that my date’s prom proposal wins in the competition, but even if he doesn’t, I’ll still know I had the best breakfast out of anyone that morning.

Prom Proposal

Focus on YOU

Its Finals week! Usually, I would be absolutely freaking out and wondering where all the time I need has gone – and that’s what is happening this year. I havn’t had too much time to study, and while I’m doing well in my classes, its been a struggle to make time to get all of my work done. This weekend, it all came to a head, and I just needed a break. I needed to not think about school and about that Computer Science project, Statistics final, lab work, Bioinformatics final…all of that work that just builds up over the last two weeks.

So instead of worrying about all that craziness, I took a nap. I played old-school Mario Kart on a 2002 Nintendo GameCube with my brother. I went to church and went out to breakfast. I cleaned my house so my mom wouldn’t have to (happy Mother’s Day by the way!). I watched Duck Dynasty and Game of Thrones, two of my favorite shows. My brother and I set up a ping-pong net on my dining room table and played FIVE rounds of ping-pong (he won all of them – he’s really good). I even wrote a blog post!

I did get some school work done in between everything, but I practically forced myself to take a break. And I’m so happy I did. When things get overwhelming, sometimes you just need to focus on yourself and find a way to relax. My way of relaxing is to sit around my house and hang out with my family – there are lots of other ways of relaxing, from going to the gym to gardening to simply sleeping all day. Some days you just need to in whatever way works best for you. I did that today, and now I’m rested and prepared for one final week of school (:

Teaching a College Class?

Yes everyone, I get to put on my resume that I teach a college class. Alright, lots of people throughout the United States get to say that they were a teaching assistant at their respective University.

However, I teach in a very different setting from most TA’s at UMBC. I’m a peer facilitator for an Introduction to an Honors University (IHU) section.

An IHU section is attached to a regular academic credit class, but the section is all about how to succeed as a UMBC student. For example, currently I am the peer facilitator for AGNG100Y. That means that my students go to their regular Aging class two times a week, and then we spend an extra hour and 15 minutes every week for every IHU section. For that extra section, students receive an extra credit.

I normally have about 10-15 students in my classes. Each class we go over something different. We talk about finances, advising and credits, diversity and multiculturalism, and how to get involved on campus, to name just a few topics.

I also work with a co-facilitator that is a staff member on campus. We set the syllabus, decide what activities to do, and grade together, and we teach class together.

I think the freshman experience is really important. Your freshman year and what you learn can determine your entire college career. That’s why I’m an IHU peer. However, if you like the Yum Shoppe on campus and free textbooks, that could be a reason to get involved with the program too. You get paid in bookstore money for your work as an IHU Peer.

Plus I get to say that I teach a college class.

From High School to UMBC

Check out my last blog “Going Back to High School” before you read this! Check out Phase 1 of the Apple Project or visit suschange.blogspot.com for more information.

Phase 2 of our project involved the students of the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents (RICA) coming to UMBC for an entire day. RICA is a small school; there are only 30 residential students and 50 day-time students. So the senior class is quite small. There are only about 13 senior students at RICA. So only there were only 8 students who attended the field trip to UMBC.

The students arrived in the morning and were greeted with bagels and fruit for breakfast. While they ate we took them on an in-depth tour around campus. The students then had a series of workshops throughout the day, including an activities fair where some student organizations talked to the RICA students. And of course, we fed them pizza for lunch.

More residents from Susquehanna were able to participate in this day too. They were able to get to know the students, provide them with information, and show them what a day in the life of a 4-year college student is like.

Eight students had a whole day at UMBC where over 25 people planned and helped their day. These kids have normally had pretty negative experiences in life, and they have hardly ever been given anything just out of kindness. To have a whole day devoted to just their understanding of college and to support their future is almost unimaginable to these kids.

I think one of the biggest benefits that I got out of this project was extending my love to RICA to other people at UMBC. I love having people interact with these kids and hearing, “Man I love those kids. We should go back.” There’s no greater music to my ears.

QUADMANIA FESTIVAL!!

Last weekend was such a big deal on campus. We had the Quadmania festival, which is a large festival held for the UMBC and surrounding community. There were carnival rides including bumper cars and the zipper. There were animals to pet and carnival games, with prizes to be won. My student organization hosted ‘Pie-your-friend’, where people were able to pie their friends in the face and then win a certain number of tickets depending on what number was written on the pie plate.

In the evening there were fireworks, and ‘A Great Big World’ performed. ‘Capital Cities’ performed on the next night in the RAC. Last year ‘Macklemore’ performed for the Quadmania festival. Last year I went to see ‘Macklemore’, unfortunately I was unable to go to see any performances this year, but I still had fun at the festival!

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UMBC Asia Night

Tonight, I went to UMBC’s Asia Night. It’s a cultural event contributed to by all the various Asian student organizations on campus. The student org I am a part of, HLSU, went as a group to support our friends performing. It was a lot of fun! The event sold out and unfortunately they had to turn away some students. These cultural events are always very popular on campus. There was lots of food and entertainment such as chines dragons, wushu, and a fashion show.

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Meeting the President (Part II)

I survived! I didn’t collapse in a pile of nerves or fall into one of the lake-sized puddles in Academic Row – I actually shook President Hrabowski’s hand and had a one-on-one conversation with him! It wasn’t about anything special. We talked about what high school I went to (DeMatha Catholic High School, in case anyone was wondering) and how he had talked at DeMatha’s commencement before. I got the feeling that he had this conversation before and I was just filling the role of the excited student, but the overall experience was the same. He is the quite easily the most famous man in the entire university, and I had a normal conversation with him. Its hard to believe.

What really made the day interesting, however, was the event itself. President Hrabowski came to the Honors College to talk to the students and answer their questions. For the majority of the talk, there wasn’t a single faculty member in the room. It was simply the President and his students having a conversation. The conversation itself focused on literature (such as advice on books to read, or favorite poems) and education, such as the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in Michigan, but it was run entirely by the students and their questions. It was an amazing opportunity for the students, myself included, and hopefully was a great experience for President Hrabowski as well.

I’m honestly still in a little bit of a shock. I got to meet the President and lead an event with just him and a group of students yesterday. Its hard to believe, but this is what can happen at UMBC. Opportunities like this are rare, but they certainly can happen at a place like this. I sure hope I can have more such chances to meet him in my next year here.

Meeting the President

In less than one hour, I’m going to meet the President! Not Barack Obama, which would be awesome, but the President of UMBC, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. In some ways, this is even more special than meeting Obama, because I’ve seen Dr. Hrabowski all across campus during my time here. I’ve seen him walking down Academic Row, greeting students. I’ve even been one of those students he’s greeted!

From seeing him walk around, its obvious that he cares about his students. Theres not many school presidents who will take time to say hi to students on the way to their next meeting, but Dr. Hrabowski is a special president. He’s easily the most famous person campus, and he still finds a way to care about everyone that walks by. I’ve heard he even answers his own emails from students!

In case you can’t tell, I’m absolutely freaking out I’m going to meet him. I’m going to escort him to an Honors College Event (I am the Vice President of the Honors College Council, and we have a tradition of inviting Dr. Hrabowski to speak at free hour in April every year). I don’t even know what I am going to say. Seriously, what do you say to one of the most influential people in the world??

I’m sure it will go well, and I’m going to update later today how it went. But right now I’m excited and slightly nervous. Its not every day you get to meet the president.

 

Going Back to High School

Well I’ve posted a lot about the Apple Project that the Susquehanna Hall residential life staff completed for their social change project this semester. So now that we’re finished I figured that I should write about what happened when we completed Phase 1 of the project.

For the first phase of our project the staff of Susquehanna Hall visited the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents (RICA)–a level 5 special education school for children with emotional disturbance disorders that we decided to work with. We went to RICA to help these kids with their dreams of higher education.

We arrived at RICA with a group of 5 UMBC students, a Residential Life Community Director, and lots of information at 9:30 am. After showing everyone around and giving an in-depth tour to the other members of the UMBC community, I was able to introduce everyone to the senior class and some juniors of RICA.

We had a couple different sessions with the kids where we answered questions and talked abut college experience. Then we were able to sit down and eat lunch will all of the kids.

There were three big things that came out of that day:
1. This project required a lot of flexibility. We actually came prepared that day to host many different workshops and we actually didn’t get to conduct any of them. However, we informed the students to our best ability in the time and setting that we were given.

2. These kids needed our help and they got a lot out of that day. So many people are not able to go to college and pursue higher education, but these kids especially are starting farther back from the starting line. Many are in foster care and group homes. Many of those kids were not properly education within their schools and now at 16 and 17 are practically illiterate. Many of these kids have been abused and given a bad hand in life. They were asking us questions that may seem self-explanatory to many of us here at UMBC, but to them it’s all new.

3. It’s amazing how much you can connect with someone in just a couple of hours. I volunteer at RICA each week so I know these kids. However, by the end of the day, everyone else from UMBC were receiving pictures from the kids, getting hugs, and many thank yous.

I love those kids at RICA. They are so brave, so intelligent, and so courageous. I’m glad that we were able to teach them very different things about higher education and portray the message that everyone can receive some kind of higher education and take control of their future.

For more information about Phase II of our project, check out my blog next week, “From High School to UMBC” or suschange.blogspot.com.¬†