Special Trip (Part 1)

If you’re like me, you probably don’t know where to start when you really want to write about one of your greatest trips or adventures. When I became a part of this team, I also didn’t really know what to write about. I’ve been to India countless times in the past and never was it anything more than going to my Auntie’s house, eating, sleeping, going to my other Auntie’s house, eating, sleeping, and then going right back in a few days to my first Auntie’s house to repeat the cycle over and over again until it was time to leave. There was one time, two years ago, when I accidentally dropped and killed my phone from six stories up, but writing about that would only make me relive the trauma of losing my one item of fun in case I got bored!

But my trip from last winter break was full of new and exciting memories that I would love to relive.

What was special about this particular trip was the time in which it took place. Normally, my family and I would spend New Year’s Eve at a party hosted by one of my close family friends. This was the first time in a long while that I was out of the country when the new year started, and it was definitely a worthwhile experience. Also, this time, instead of simply swinging back and forth between my two Aunties’ houses in Pune and Mumbai, we went somewhere different: Delhi, the capital city (hey, that rhymes!) I remember waking up early that morning of January 7, and packing my bags and going down to the streets below to wait for our driver. In the quietness of the dark morning, I noticed for the first time just how peaceful the center of such a heavily-urban area could be. Pune and Mumbai are two of the largest and most urbanized regions in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Silence was the last thing I’d expected when waiting there on the side of that street.

But, there was too much silence…

Where was our driver? He wasn’t pulling up. Our flight was about to leave in an hour and the airport was thirty minutes away! My dad called him and angrily asked him in Hindi where the hell he was. Although the driver said he would be there in a few minutes, my mom was nevertheless getting more impatient. She suggested we take an auto-rickshaw all the way to the airport. To those of you who have not heard of an auto-rickshaw: it’s a three-wheeled, doorless, and usually loud vehicle driven over relatively short distances. It wasn’t ideal to take one all the way to the airport, since it wasn’t designed to hold suitcases or too many personal belongings. At first, my dad and I laughed my mom’s idea off (not literally, of course, since our driver was STILL nowhere to be seen). However, I soon found myself clutching my suitcase tightly against my chest next to my dad while riding down the freeway with the wind and street dust blowing directly in my face, as the comfort of a door between me and the outside was too much to wait for. Thankfully, since there weren’t too many cars, we managed to make it to the airport and passed through security to our gate just as the flight was beginning to board. We had been so worried. It was no wonder my dad didn’t pick up his phone when the driver called us while we were standing in line to board the plane! We thanked my mom for her brilliant suggestion to take the auto-rickshaw.

Once we landed in Delhi, we hired another. more reliable, driver to take us on the three-hour journey to Agra, which housed the main attraction for our visit there: the Taj Mahal! Out of all the years I’d been to India, I had never seen the Taj Mahal. In fact, my family and I weren’t planning on going there for this trip either. Somehow, while we were all planning in the travel agent’s office back in Mumbai, everything just fell into place and instead  of deciding between Hyderabad or Goa, we miraculously agreed to finally go see the world-famous mausoleum! The miracle of the New Year worked its magic! Because so many iconic photos of the front of the Taj Mahal already exist, I thought I’d add my own little variation. I call the photo below “Sunset Pool” because of the reflection the sun gives on the marble floor of the exterior of the mausoleum. The photo was taken shortly after we exited and when the sun was setting. Sorry there are no photos from inside.


As we left the area to go to our hotel, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this really was a special trip. Since I got to see a famous attraction, I got to appreciate all the events and scenery that were unfolding around us, and I felt more confident in my ability to really capture all the important moments in my life, not necessarily from the click of an iPhone camera. I got to see more of India on this particular trip both by visiting a different spot and also by seeing India for what it really was. While visiting family was always a favorite activity of mine on these trips, I asked myself before leaving from America, that I wanted to really “experience” the journey, not just see what I saw before with a passive and shallow mindset. Seeing the Taj Mahal was the first step.

While I did enjoy visiting family and friends, I found that another special part of the trip came about right in Pune, and now, after visiting the Taj Mahal and finishing my second semester of my first year at Rutgers, I can finally appreciate and write about my shadowing experience at the Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital to the best of my ability. As a pre-med student, I naturally try to see the benefits of each of my experiences in a clinical setting, but with these other explorations, either at the Taj Mahal or right here at Rutgers, I can go back and describe these particular experiences with a much more open and profound mindset, very similar to the one I had on this winter break adventure to India.

To Be Continued…





Reflections on Aresty Experience

No matter your career path, research is a good experience to partake in, especially in the sciences. It teaches you how to answer a question, typically involves interesting people, and builds character. That it also looks good on a resume is an added bonus.

For all these reasons, Rutgers has the Aresty Center to pair students with research opportunities around the university. This past academic year, I took part in one of their programs: the Research Assistant Program. As it culminated a few weeks ago in a symposium, I figured I’d reflect on the experience.

To preface this, I was not your normal Aresty Candidate. When I applied, I had a year and a half research internship in high school and another year’s worth of experience in a lab at Rutgers. My lab’s principal investigator (PI) signed up to be a part of Aresty and encouraged the undergraduates in the lab to apply. After looking into the program, I applied for the opportunity for a fellowship and the peer group meetings. Obviously, I was accepted to work in the lab I had been working in for the past year.


Starting in the fall, there was a project proposal to write, a meeting to attend every two weeks, and five hours of research to do every week. I was also doing research for credit, since I work in a biology lab and it’s pretty much impossible to do anything productive in just five hours a week.

In the fall, the peer group discussions focused primarily on putting research in perspective: what’s ethical both in conducting and communicating your research? How do they deem what research is important in terms of funding? How do humanities fit into the spectrum (everyone in my group was in some sort of Biology lab)? These questions led to some interesting discussions, particularly about the last question. As the semester progressed, we also practiced presenting our research. In the spring, we expanded the work on presenting skills while also discussing how to write a good abstract, make figures for posters, and explain very specific research to people outside our respective fields.


This culminated in the Rutgers Research Symposium on April 29 in the Livingston Student Center. There were several hundred students, several hundred posters, and only four hours to see them. The judges consist of professors, alumni, and people from various industries. In other words, after working for a year, you get to stand and talk about what you did for two hours. It’s nice  because there’s a bit of a confidence both from being able to explain something complicated that you did and also because people looking at your poster for the first time will ask questions that may give you a new perspective.

Over the past year, this experience has introduced me to new people, helped me develop a better relationship with my PI, and pushed me into developing a deeper understanding of the projects we work on in the lab. For people with little research experience, seeking more friends who do research, or simply curious about the different kinds of research there are, the Aresty program is great. However, if you are in a lab, choose to independently structure your research time. If you are content with your current ability to communicate research (or have/will be taking Scientific and Technical Writing), then you’re probably better off applying for an Aresty Fellowship, which provides money for your research and still requires you to participate in the symposium (which I highly recommend).

Overall, I found my Aresty experience to be very beneficial to me on all fronts and while applications have closed for most of their programs in the coming year, I highly recommend applying for one of their fellowships in the fall or another of their programs in the coming year. It’s a good way to practice communicating with those within and outside of your field as well as a good way to meet new people.

The End is Near

This is my last month as a sophomore. Yes, I know it’s not very dramatic; I’m not graduating or starting a new chapter of my life or anything of that tear-inducing, life-changing sort. But I am terrified. This designates that I will have finished half of my undergraduate college experience and will have to start preparing for internships, jobs, career choices, and post-undergraduate plans. That’s all extremely scary to me, so rather than thinking about that, I think I’ll just focus on something a little less scary – finals.

We’re in the middle of reading days. And right after that we have finals after finals after finals. Whether that means staying up all night to finish a 15 page paper or trying to figure out whether to tackle Orgo first or Physics or Chemistry, one of the biggest parts of finals is learning how to best prepare for these essential two weeks.


So rather than being like our buddy Spongebob here, here are some tips on how to organize yourself for finals so you’re not staring at a blank word document for five hours straight and calling it “progress”.

  1. Calendar Calendar Calendar.

I cannot emphasize how near and dear I hold Google Calendar to my heart. I have all of my finals color-coded red so I know right away when a final is while final papers, group project submissions, or review sessions are different colors so I can look at it super quickly and know what to expect. I also have a physical desk calendar with important dates on it as well, and that may seem a little excessive, but when I sit down at my desk ready to prop open my laptop and binge-watch Gilmore Girls, my little calendar on my desk menacingly mocks me. So I stop, hide my laptop, and pull out my Management textbook instead.


Sample Google Calendar

2.  Don’t try to tackle everything together.

You will just end up looking like the above picture. Instead, using your newly picked-up organizational skills via your calendar, divide your week and divide your day into sections. Maybe designate the first reading day to studying your hardest subject and figure out your weaknesses in that topic so you can hone in on those areas later. Break up the next day into working on a paper or a project, taking a mid-day break, and then studying from a textbook. Change it up a little so you’re not just staring at a book the whole day, but make sure you have a plan, and more importantly, make sure you stick to that plan.

3. Change up the scenery.


Freshman year, I used to think that if I exiled myself into my dorm’s silent lounge for the entire day, I would be my most productive. Boy, was I wrong. Rather than focusing for hours straight, I would start counting the holes in the ceiling or wonder how many years the carpet had been there. Being in a monotonous room for hours just made me unfocused and desperate to leave, so my mind would always be elsewhere. So I started switching up my study places. First of all, I chose to leave the dorm because it was so close to my bed, to my friends, and to my food: all very tempting distractions. I ended up studying often at Sage Library, the Zimmerli Art Museum, and Starbucks. Starbucks was a clear winner for me because I am someone who cannot study in complete silence; I need a little bit of bustle. And coffee. If you’ve met me, you know my blood is mostly composed of caffeine.

But try out new places, ask your friends for suggestions, and see what kind of environment works best for you. Some people need to be in complete silence when working–for that I recommend finding a library on your campus or even going home for the weekend/week to study. But if you need a little bit of noise, find a coffee store or go to the dining hall. I personally studied for every Physics exam at Livingston Dining Hall, with a calculator in one hand and a burger in the other. No regrets.

4.  If available, take practice tests.


If your professor has given you practice tests or you have quizzes in a class or even if you were able to keep your old exams, I highly recommend going through them. Not only will they help you figure out what to expect, but they will let you hone in on your weak spots so you’ll know how to manage spending your time.

5. Get plenty of rest.

All-nighters are not a study technique. Look up any article or any study done on all-nighters and they will all tell you the same thing: they’re not effective. In fact, your brain retains information best when sleeping. So get sleep, stay hydrated, and don’t hurt your body. If you follow all of the tips above, pulling an all-nighter should not even be an option.

With that, I wish you all the best of luck as we approach the last of our finals. You can do this, I believe in you!brace-yourselves-1gzq5me