Guest Post: Everything Will Be OK

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. They have been going through a rough time and want to share their experiences and contribute to the discussion of mood disorders and their prevalence, without having the spotlight on them. 

I was dating someone at the time, and he made me happier than I had ever been. But my low self-esteem and my tendency towards self-deprecation and negativity took a toll on him and our relationship. Anytime something went wrong, I blamed myself to the point of making myself cry. I told him, repeatedly, to break up with me because I felt so unable to solve anything. I was rarely able to pull myself out of my self-destructive spirals long enough to focus on fixing our problems together.

We broke up. The bags under my eyes started getting worse because I was unable to stay asleep for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time. When I went home for winter break, my parents noticed that I wasn’t sleeping well at night and put me on house arrest in the hopes that I could better relax. I wasn’t allowed to go out for more than 5 hours, and I wasn’t allowed to use any electronics after 11PM. They meant well, but the lack of distraction just left me stuck in my own thoughts, in this endless loop of I’m not good enough. I don’t try hard enough. I don’t care enough. I’m not good enough. I grew distant from my friends, not only because of the enforced lack of communication, but because I didn’t have the energy to reach out, nor the energy to follow through with plans. I knew my moods were affecting my interpersonal relationships, but instead of motivating me to make contact, they just made me feel even more guilty and upset. I lost all interest in my hobbies; I lost all interest in the club I had previously worked so hard to save. Some days, when it was sunny out, I would get these bursts of excitement and I would become hopeful that I was over it–today is the day I go outside–but after an hour I would feel the energy slowly draining out of me and I would lie back down on my bed and curl up and go to sleep.

It was worst when the weather was bad. I don’t remember the day, but I remember I was coming back from class and I had gotten off the bus because I’d started crying. I didn’t want people asking me if I was okay because I didn’t want to be a burden. In a moment of clarity, walking in the bitter cold and the rain, I became self-aware enough to recognize, however dimly, that I was showing signs of depression and that I should seek help.

I remember how useless I felt as I was unlocking my phone. I cried harder as soon as CAPS picked up. I felt defeated. I felt like I had lost. How could I have let my emotions ruin me like this? I told the woman on the phone that I needed to make an appointment, as soon as possible. I hoped with all my heart she could understand me because I didn’t know if I would be able to repeat myself without falling apart completely. Clearly, she had experience talking to inconsolable, hysterical people because she scheduled me for that Thursday and gave me a number to call in case I needed to talk to someone after-hours.

I cried my way through my first few sessions. The counselor asked about everything that hurt; everything I didn’t want to talk about: my ex, my inadequacy, my guilt, my regret, my denial about wanting to get back together. But he helped me find the willpower to push through the sadness long enough to get into my distraction methods. Coping was extremely doable, once I stopped drowning (literally and figuratively) in my tears. I started keeping a dysfunctional thought record, to write down anything that made me feel like getting back into bed, and once I had symbolically transferred the thought from my mind I found it easier to move on from them. I made a slow return to the things I loved, but this time, I pushed myself to get lost in the activity. Over time, the feeling of dread associated with doing anything changed to a feeling of anticipation; I chased the catharsis. Nearly five months later, I go to CAPS to have someone to talk to, because the unconditional support offered by my counselor has been the most important tool in my arsenal against my depression. And as cliché as it is, time really does heal all wounds.

Obviously, I still have bad days. Just last Thursday I missed an entire day of classes and didn’t go to lab because I was crying that morning, but the best way to overcome negativity is by not dwelling on it. So I’ll seek out my roommate, or text a friend, or go to the gym, or read a book. But almost no one knows I’m seeing a therapist, as I still have not gained the confidence to believe that others won’t think less of me. As an Asian-American, it’s even harder to admit to my parents or my peers that I’ve changed or that I’ve been seeking help–partially due to the taboo against mental illness & treatment in Asian cultures, but primarily because it’s in such stark contrast to the lively, confident, driven person that most people knew me to be. I know I never considered myself a sad person, nor did I know I even had the potential to be depressed, until this year. But if this experience has taught me anything, it’s that falling into depression is easier than you think. Getting out is the tricky part. By fighting it, I am happier. I find more joy in and appreciation for the little things in life. I’ve gained more confidence in myself because it is proof of my strength–proof that I am, in fact, good enough–and one day soon, I’ll be able to wean myself off therapy.

One of my closest friends, and the first person I told about going to CAPS, attached a quote to a cup of my favorite drink from Starbucks. It’s a little cheesy, but beautiful in its simplicity as an oft-unstated truth:

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Documentary Review: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

Perhaps it is because I am currently taking a class on documentary filmmaking, but I have never been so interested in watching documentaries as I am this semester. To continue the trend I started last month with my review of 13TH, I would like to recommend a second, equally important documentary. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry tells the story of the beginnings of second-wave feminism, a history I would know little about if I were not a Women and Gender Studies minor. The history of the feminist movement in the United States is often overlooked, without any explanation, in high school history classes. Speaking for myself, I would have loved to learn about important political figures involved in the movement, including Kate Millet, Muriel Fox Linda Burnham, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and a number of other strong women that are featured in the film. All of these women were important activists throughout the period, and are still fighting for women’s human rights and equality.

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The movie covers the wide range of activism throughout that time period, beginning with the formation of NOW (National Organization of Women), to the more radical and outrageous actions of groups such as W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!). Even with my own strong background knowledge about the movement, I could not help but learn from the histories the women shared. Hearing personal stories about rallies, protests, and organized groups from all across the spectrum of the fight for women’s liberation was enlightening. My favorite aspect of the film is the ways in which they use the older, archival footage along with the new interviews, showing how the women have changed and developed over time. It puts an active face to all of the women we see in photographs of the protests surrounding the era.

Another aspect of the film I really enjoyed is its acknowledgment of the issues that arose as the movement grew. The attempts to create an intersectional movement encompassing women of all races, socio-economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations often failed, and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry doesn’t try to hide it. The women are aware of the difficulties that they faced and sometimes created themselves, when expanding their movement. Only by acknowledging the past errors with intersectional feminism can we remedy them as we progress with today’s feminist movement.

Overall, I was inspired by the film. In the current political climate, it important to continue the fight for reproductive rights and true equality and against the normalization of sexual violence. However, we cannot move forward with progress unless we take a step back and recognize the incredible efforts of the women who came before, paving the way with activism that, though sometimes was extremely radical, helped us to achieve the position we are in today. I recommend She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry to anyone that ever wished they could learn more about the history of the women’s movement, or even just the current state of women in society today. The movie made me laugh and made me cry at other parts, and it is a really great way to begin to explore the rich history of feminism.

Six Classes I Think Everyone Should Take

After having been in school for a while, I can tell you this: there are certain classes I’ve taken that have changed my understanding of a wide variety of things.

I think this is why the core curriculum honestly exists. It fills in the gaps of your knowledge about specific things and helps you link together seemingly disparate phenomena or ideas. That is the basis of creativity, of groundbreaking research, inventions, etc.!

I never, ever understood why people would say things in school like, “Why are we learning this? It’s not going to help us in the future.” (Sometimes, though, I can honestly understand their point of views).

But, buddy.

That depends on what you want to get out of your future.

Some people are after the money, and that’s fine if that’s your thing. But I know what I’m after. And I know that a lot of you in the SAS Honors Program are after the same sort of thing: to be either a master or well-regarded in your field.

So to open up your mind, I suggest a few classes that I’ve taken here at Rutgers that honestly changed my outlook on things. Sometimes, you end up finding a career in a class you thought was completely unrelated. Sometimes, it makes you a healthier person. Sometimes, it’s just plain fun.

1. Physics

Oh, I can already hear the groans! I had to take this back when I was still a pre-med student, but I really don’t regret it. I made a lot of great friends in this class, but besides that, I learned about the concepts that govern our universe and learned about some concepts that don’t apply in the reality we exist in. Does it not make sense to understand the basics of the world we live in? I honestly think it does. You might think you’ll never need physics, but physics can be applied to everything from chemistry to fashion (density of a fabric may be responsible for how a fabric hangs on someone’s frame, etc). Learn about how the world you operate in works.

2. Sociology/Psychology

Both of these are an understanding of human nature and the bureaucracy or structure of that human nature works. This is just another way to understand the world we live in. This time, you’re learning how people operate here and, if you extrapolate,  you can learn how to operate to get ahead.

3. An Ethics Course

I was speaking to someone the other day–Tyler Farnsworth, our Assistant Director of Honors Media–about the importance of ethics. He told me how we all think we know the difference between right and wrong. I’m not going to lie; I thought I knew it pretty well. Then he said that that the ethical conundrums he was presented with were very difficult to answer. The right thing was very difficult or the line was very blurred. An ethics class will help you think about that difference between right and wrong, and where you stand morally. This is useful to know going into your career into the future.

4. A History Course

The usefulness of a history course has almost no bounds. This is where you get to learn what leaders and people in the past did when they were up against problems that were difficult to solve. It’s also a practical understanding of how people react to specific things. A history course provides examples for the principles you learn in sociology and psychology. It also gives you ideas for how to solve your own problems in the future. Life will never be a smooth boat ride; you’re going to hit rough waters at some point. Wouldn’t it be useful to know how to react to the water that’s about to come up and swallow your boat whole? I certainly think so!

5. Exercise Physiology and Exercise Physiology Lab

You know, we all learn that we should eat healthily and exercise. But we’re not always taught how to do it well. Our high school classes may have taught us a little, but health, as a class, is unfortunately never taken too seriously. Taking a class specifically about health is ideal.

I learned a lot about how the body uses energy and what systems of the body interact with what. This I mostly learned in class. I also learned when to eat what kinds of foods if I wanted to gain muscle or become toned or honestly just be healthy.

What was most useful for me was the lab. I learned how to perform tests to find out how fit I was and learned how I could improve my body that way.

These two classes made me start exercising a lot more. And I realized that I really enjoy working out.

6. Last but not least: An Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar

I honestly love the idea of an interdisciplinary class, but I didn’t realize how much I would love it until I took Politics of Art and Poetry with Dean Nazario and Paul Blaney this past semester. I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life and learned so much about an intersection between two disparate fields. I also made a lot of great friends.

We did group projects, skits, readings aloud, and went on many field trips. The class had a very discussion-heavy focus. That’s where ideas are born: out of discussions.

 

It’s classes like all of these that help you make all those connections. It’s classes like these that make you think. There’s a lot of things you can do on this planet. There’s absolutely no way that everything has been invented or discovered. What if you were the person that discovered the next big thing? And what if it was a class like one of these that got you there?

I guess we’ll all find out on the Internet when you write a book, be a guest on a talk show, or just create something better than the Internet. Who knows?

English to Java?

I’m in Greece trying to tell my great aunt that I enjoy her hospitality, but my Greek’s a little rusty and I don’t know how to exactly articulate my thoughts.

Maybe, in broken Greek, I’ll indicate that her house looks beautiful or that her food tastes great, but none of these sentiments convey the same message as enjoying her cooking.

Oddly enough, writing a computer program in the Java language presents a similar dilemma. Much like communicating in a foreign language, I know what I want the program to do. Let’s say I want it to multiply two polynomials. Before writing the code in Java, the thought How do I go about telling the computer to do perform this operation in some lines of code in Java? will haunt me for hours, sometimes even days, before I attempt to write anything.

Much like attempting to convey a thought or feeling in Greek, I know exactly what I want to say in my native tongue, English, but the slightest slip-up in my words could result in something different from what I intended. If I write an inaccurate line of Java code, I could be instructing the program to subtract polynomials instead of multiplying them.

Writing my own programs reminds me of how challenging going from one language to another is, as well as the subtleties involved.

Just when I’ve thought that I wrote all my lines of code in a way that makes the program do what I want it to do, a test run frustratingly indicates that something is still off, or that there is a “bug” lurking somewhere: the code keeps running infinitely, the wrong equation may come out, or it may simply crash. A line-by-line search of the problem, which could be anything from a syntax error to misspelling a word, the error was simple, will typically reveal a simple error.

The same thing happens when I try to express myself in Greek.  Sometimes I’ll say something in a way that sounds sarcastic when I don’t mean it to or vice versa. Or just one letter can send a person to the table (trapezi) instead of to the bank (trapeza).

Even though communicating in different languages can have trying or amusing results, every blunder opens up my mind a bit more.

Noreen’s Top 10 List of Books I Wanted to Read Over Break but Didn’t

In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Demons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes–if it isn’t destroyed first.

I always have such ambitious plans going into breaks and honestly they’re not even really that ambitious.

As an English major, I read a lot of stuff and while I went into break wanting to read more stuff, I quickly realized that my brain wanted a break, rejecting any attempt to open a book that was written pre-1950 or had received some kind of literary award. Instead, my soul desired mindless entertainment and to consume internet garbage. It was spring break. I deserved this.

“But, Noreen” cry the people who know me in real life, “All you do is consume internet garbage.”

Fools! Never underestimate the amount of internet garbage I can welcome into my life, especially when I had one week of unlimited free time (which, now that I say it, isn’t really unlimited at all).

I spent the majority of my break sitting around my house watching TV shows on my laptop, having brief, yet intense moments of panic as I searched for a summer job, and being a general useless blob. I regret nothing.

So anyway, here is, in no particular order, my top ten list of books I wanted to read over break but didn’t:

1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.”

I like Greek mythology. I like LGBT themes. I find the ongoing debate over whether or not Achilles and Patroclus were lovers both fascinating and kind of hilarious.

2. The Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany or Any book from the Harry Potter Series

“It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.”

You’ll have to pry my at-times-illogical-desire to hold on to the Harry Potter series out of my cold dead hands.

3. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.”

I’ve heard good things about this book and got it for free like a year ago and by God do I love things that are free.

4. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by  Douglas Adams

“The story so far:

In the beginning the Universe was created.

This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”

I read this quote somewhere I can’t remember and it hit every single one of my sense of humor bones and I decided I needed to read this series. This was five years ago.

5. Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children–two boys and two girls–succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete.”

In my last blog post I talked about how I started to actually feel like I was growing older because I no longer like stuff I used to like when I was a kid. Well The Mysterious Benedict Society is a thing I used to like when I was a kid and I read a few pages of it and it looks like it holds up. I sure hope it holds up.

6. His Dark Materials series  by Philip Pullman

“In an epic trilogy, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to a world parallel to our own, but with a mysterious slant all its own. Demons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes–if it isn’t destroyed first. “

So apparently the movie adaptation of this was terrible, an insult to the original series, and a blight upon this world as all book-to-movie adaptations tend to be, but I watched it and I enjoyed it. To be fair it came out when I was nine and nine year old me had terrible taste in everything. I’ve heard good things about the series though from Actual AdultsTM so I’m hoping this holds up too.

7. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

“Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore.” 

I’ve read this before, but I wanted to read it again.If you like not knowing whether or not the narrator is time traveling or has PTSD, then this is the book for you. I love Kurt Vonnegut.

8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A storm is coming…

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.”

I read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett so I know I like this guy’s style, I like the premise, and there’s a TV adaptation of it coming out at some point so I thought that I’d finally read it. Nope.

9. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

“Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. ” – Goodreads 

I got this as a Christmas present and at the moment it has been sitting on my desk in my dorm room as decoration since then. Oops.

10. Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?” – Melissa de la Cruz 

Okay so I actually did go outside a couple times during break, you know, once the streets were no longer covered in snow and I ended up at the library, which I would say is typical me if I hadn’t just written 500+ words about how I didn’t read anything over break. I saw this, thought it was cool, realized I’d never actually seen a book with a Filipino protagonist, then put it on this list.

 

Anyway, I hope you take a page out of my book (hehehehe, I’m so funny) and add some of these books to your to-read list but, unlike me, actually read them.

 

 

Making Time for Reading

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my first semester, it is that college is really hectic. Every day you have to get up, eat, run to catch the bus, and attend class. Then after studying and doing homework, it feels like you have no energy to do anything else! Last semester, I got caught up in that busy lifestyle, and I lost track of something that is really important to me–reading.

Although school may get really busy at times, and it might be hard to find time for fun, I have learned that it is really possible to make time for a hobby like reading! Here are some of the techniques that I have started using to incorporate reading into my daily schedule:

  1. Read an e-Book

Today, there are so many phone apps such as Nook, Kindle, or iBooks that make it really easy to take books with you wherever you go. I use these apps to add some reading into my day, either while I am either waiting for a class to start, waiting for a friend at the dining hall, or even while I am on the bus! Using a phone app means that there is a book waiting for you and it is literally a tap away. It is easy to use, and makes reading more convenient for the busy student and eager reader.

  1. When you make an agenda, add in reading time

As I make a list of all the tasks that I want to tackle for the day, I also make sure to include “Reading time” as one of them. Whether it be 10 mins, 30 mins or an hour, I make sure to remind myself to read each day so I don’t fall behind on my reading goals. Writing it down as a part of a daily schedule means that every time you look at your task list, you are reminded that reading is a part of your daily goals!

  1. Choose shorter books

During the semester, I choose short and exciting reads (mostly YA books). These books grab your attention very quickly and are usually very fast-paced, making it easier for you to stay interested in the book even while your head might be thinking about other things. Personally, I have noticed that if I try to start reading a long and dense book during the semester, I usually do not finish it. Sometimes I would forget what took place, or sometimes I would lose my emotional attachment to the characters and then have no motivation to continue reading the book. Also, reading shorter books means that you finish them more quickly. The more books I finish reading, the more motivated I get to read more!

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A hefty book like the Hamilton biography might be harder to read during school since it is so long and dense. A smaller book like Throne of Glass is a quick read and captures interest quickly!

 

I hope these tips are helpful for anyone who wants to incorporate a little more reading in their daily lives. At school, it is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of homework, exams, and extracurriculars, but it is always worthwhile to add in some “me-time” for something relaxing and fun!

Economical Entertainment: Cheap things to do as a Student

So this spring break I’ve been taking advantage of a lot of student discounts. However, I think the best deal I got was at RU Cinema. I got to see MoonlightLogan, and Get Out all on the same day for just $17. So I thought I’d list here some of the available cheap versions of entertainment available to Rutgers students.

  1. RU Cinema

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This is a really good deal, particularly if you bring your own snacks. It’s $5 per movie before 6 and $7 after 6, which is insane when considering how much tickets at a normal movie theater cost. Now granted, they only show 2-3 movies at a time, so you’re limited to what they have, but they’re mostly the good or popular movies, so it’ll satisfy most people.

2. Zimmerli Art Museum

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This is a great art gallery and admission is free! There’s always Art After Hours the first Tuesday of every month. My personal favorite is when, during the last reading day before finals, they stay open all night so you can study in the Art exhibits. It’s always really empty and is a really good change of scenery.

3. Performance Groups

Be it the many choirs on campus, dance groups, or theater companies, there’s always some sort of performance going on on campus. Not all are free, but a lot have free tickets available through the Honors Program if you keep your eye on the newsletter.

3. Honors Program Trips

People should really check the newsletters because there seems to be boundless opportunities for free entertainment, be it tickets to the symphony, trips to museums in NYC, or film screenings around campus.

4. RUPA Events

One of my favorite memories from my freshman year is of a friend and I going to a Mystery Dinner Theater run by RUPA. One person at every table was assigned a role and they had everyone go around introducing their character. When they go to the last table, they asked the character to stand up and this six foot guy just shouted back at the host, “I can’t stand, I’m Teddy Roosevelt,” leading to an uproar of laughter from everyone else in the room while his friend explained this was the other President Roosevelt. Outside of that they have a bunch of events every week ranging from quiz nights to broadway shows, it’s just a matter of signing up quickly enough to get a seat.

3. Rutgers Radio Stations

Available from Rutgers Radio and the Core both online and free, my favorite combination. They also provide a really diverse set of programming

4. The Library

I’m kind of mad at myself for not realizing this sooner, but you can borrow DVDs from the library. Not a lot, but as the kind of person who spent three months out of their childhood watching Rear Window every night, it’s nice to have access to them without having to pay for them on Amazon. Not to mention the number of films and plays that are available to stream from the libraries website. It’s useful for some classes and it’s just fun to see what they have if I can’t find it anywhere online that doesn’t cost money/is legal.

5. Cheap transportation

Now if you want to do something in NYC outside of a planned group trip, there are discount bus tickets available for $17(for reference a typical round trip train ticket from New Brunswick costs $28). If you’re going regularly, it’s probably better to get the monthly pass from NJ Transit, but I went to the Met Opera for the first time last week (in the cheap $27 seats on the top floor) and that was a real money saver.

Amsterdam: Cycling Capital of the World

Sitting home during Spring Break, scrolling through my Instagram feed, all I saw was sand, sun, and piña coladas. It seemed like every single person I knew was in Cancun. And while yes, I was having massive FOMO, especially when looking outside my window to the massive pile-up of snow, there are so many other places to consider when planning Spring Break. I went to Amsterdam last summer, and it was a city that I immediately fell in love with. Rich with history, delicious food, and beautiful views, it is a great destination for Spring Break or honestly any time of the year when you have a a week to yourself. I especially wanted to highlight the cycling history of this city, so I hope you all learn something new today and add Amsterdam to your travel bucket list.

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When I first stepped into Amsterdam, I was scared for my life. Robbers? Criminals? Poisonous water? No. Not even close. I was terrified because of the bikers. Amsterdam is an extremely bicycling-friendly city, and there are more bikers than drivers, and at that time, it felt like more bikers than pedestrians as well. When crossing the street, I wasn’t worried about cars or buses; I was worried about getting hit by a biker. However, I quickly realized that Amsterdam had set up a great traffic system for bikers, drivers, and pedestrians to get to the same place, and my fears were alleviated.

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So how did Amsterdam become the cycling capital of the world? Well, it began with a need for change. At the start of the 20th century, with a growing economy in the post-war era, more and more people began to buy cars. However, with the growing traffic from the increase of cars in the densely populated neighborhoods of Amsterdam, traffic accidents became rampant. In 1971, more than 3,000 people were killed by cars, with 450 of them being children. These accidents led to protests for change.

Now, today there are about 250 miles of bicycle paths criss-crossing Amsterdam. Here are some more numbers about Amsterdam’s biking use:

Number of bikes 881,000
Number of kilometres cycled by Amsterdammers each day 2 million km
Percentage of Amsterdammers that cycle daily 58% older than 12
Number of pedal boats/canal bikes 120
Total length of cycle paths and bike lanes (Amsterdam Bicycle Network) 767km
Dedicated cycle paths 513km
Two-way cycle paths 275km
One-way cycle paths 236km
Bicycle shops 140
Bicycle parking spots around Amsterdam Central Station 10,000
Secured bicycle parking garages 25 (including 8 free bicycle garages)
Number of bicycle racks 200,000–225,000
Number of bicycle hire businesses 29

Biking is a huge part of life not only for Amsterdam, but for the entirety of the Netherlands itself. Trips from Amsterdam to Delft, Rotterdam, or the Hague can be taken just on two wheels alone. My parents did it when they were my age when they visited the Netherlands and it was really cool for me to bike the same paths my parents did decades ago.

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Overall, this city is extremely unique in the way they have made cars their guests. It is an experience like no other and it is so beautiful to just be able to bike from one end of the city to another, on the side of the beautiful canals, taking in the fresh air. Amsterdam was one of my favorite places I have traveled to and I highly recommend it for you to consider when planning your next trip.

 

When You’re Bored

Who lives to breathe with no activity? AYE, AYE, CAPTAIN!

This spring break, I am Spongebob: singing “indoors” without the enthusiasm that our favorite yellow sponge has when he belts it.

Stella the Winter Storm, why did you have to ruin my plans of holding a get together/party before my birthday? That’s what I’m repeating like a mantra as I write this post, wishing very much that I were with friends right now, not that I’m not having a lot of fun writing this. 😉 But come on, I was so excited! Now I’m stuck indoors, sitting with an Abe coin, a Lays sour cream and onion chip, and a sad-looking piece of tissue paper. (Not really.)

But hey, all you people, there’s still a lot to do when you’re inside, and instead of wishing you could celebrate your birthday with your friends, you could do any or all of the following:

Idea #1: PLAN A DIFFERENT WAY TO CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY OR HANG OUT WITH FRIENDS

I’m very lucky and grateful that I have so many caring friends. My best friend, alias Krabby Patty, or Patty for short, is calling me over for a sleepover instead! She realizes my pain and empathizes with my frustration over Mother Nature. We’ve planned to bake cake, cupcakes (NUTELLA STUFFED ONES), and cookies; watch films (I’m trying to persuade her to watch Imitation Game together, even though I’ve watched it at least five times…I’ve lost count); engage in conversations (so many people now forget that that’s a source of entertainment, besides technology); and sleep (barely). The morning when we wake up will be my birthday! Patty has already caused me to cry tears of gratitude when she proposed that we make pancakes in the morning. I simply love Krabby Patty, and I can’t wait to have the evening, night, and morning of my life with her!

Idea #2: DO YOUR HOMEWORK, FOR PETE’S SAKE!

I actually don’t know who Pete is, sorry, but I do know that I have an avalanche load of homework. I wish I were a witch and could make my stress, homework, problems, homework, grades, and more homework disappear with a simple, Evanesco! spell, but unfortunately, I haven’t gone to Hogwarts. Yet. I am a mere Muggle who looks like the flattering picture of Squidward (above) when I finish my 20-pg single-spaced research paper at 5 a.m. (true story). THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD START all the other assignments you may have for this week, so that on the last day of break, you can just enjoy it and not worry about looking like Squidward.

Idea #3: Write!

My Creative Writing Fiction professor believes that writer’s block is a bunch of blarney. “Why isn’t there anything called a doctor’s block or a lawyer’s block?!” he said to me once. So I’m going to use being snowed in to my advantage: I’m going to start writing poetry and short stories! In a perfect world, I’d be writing a little every day, but it’s hard to make time and to manage my time effectively. But here’s a tip for you writers out there: If you’re finding it difficult to sit down and write every day, then just set out FIFTEEN minutes of your time, and start that pen/pencil/keyboard/typewriter going! Warning: Don’t be surprised if you only come up with an extravagantly decorated “THE”.

So, all of the residents of Bikini Bottom–I MEANT RUTGERS–it’s okay if you’re stuck inside seemingly with nothing to do, because there’s always something to do! Of course, there’s a lot more than the above three ideas, but hope those three get the creative juices flowing! 🙂

Start Watching…Or Sleep

Spring break is finally here, sort of. With the snowstorm coming Tuesday, I figured why not sit down and talk about some of the TV shows that many others talk about, but that I personally never got the chance to watch due to exams, homework, family, friends, or just the conscience in my inner mind telling me to “get off that lazy couch and save the world”.  Many of these shows got good ratings, but growing up, I was mainly interested in watching the storylines of the characters and the overall setting more than the critical acclaim, since I don’t believe that all shows that gain good box office ratings may necessarily keep me captivated, personally. Other than TV shows, my other option is to sleep, but I don’t think I need to dedicate a whole post to that, since most of you are probably aware of where that would lead, and I most likely won’t be awake long enough to write it.

Anyway, academics and pre-med life aside, here are 4 of the shows that I need to continue, or start watching, before I have my genetics and neurobiology textbook in front of my eyes again (lord, help us). There will not be any major spoilers for those who still haven’t watched these shows.

 

  1. Game Of Thrones

 

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As I mentioned in my earlier post on the Fun Reads of 2016, I finished the first book of this medieval fantasy series last summer, and started watching the show before school started. This show, not surprisingly, delivers in its ability to keep audiences captivated with compelling storylines, plot twists, conspiracies, and romance. However, I often find myself watching over 4 episodes at a time, with no desire to sleep or time for anything other than the Starks and Lannisters, so I had to keep it under control for the duration of the semester. Hopefully, with Spring Break and the snowstorm, I can finally see what happens after (insert spoiler here) dies and (insert spoiler here) develops a relationship with (spoiler), if the power and electricity supply are still intact. Most of you probably saw this one coming, as Game of Thrones currently has 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s good news, right? If tomatoes are rotten, is that good?

 

2. The Big Bang Theory

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What’s up, CBS fans? This show appeals both to my scientific and comedic sides. In the vast world of astrophysics and engineering and the unknown dimensions of the cosmos, there lies a group of socially awkward scientists who have Ph.Ds from prestigious institutions and know how to develop inventions and gadgets that go beyond the expectations of society and the US government, but don’t have the basic skills to talk to or approach women, even in normal conversations. As the series progresses, things get more drama and relationship-oriented, but watching the first episode this past semester just made me wonder how the guys ended up where they are now, through all the laughter and antics they went through during seasons 1-6. I have been watching the newer episodes, but I plan to go back and see just how Howard and Bernadette met, or how Raj got over his selective mutism with women and didn’t have to be drunk anymore when talking to them. Hopefully, I don’t get too hooked on to the scientific “facts” that are taught to the audience, and apply them to my own physics class I plan to take next semester, and I also hope neither do the engineering majors.

 

3. Breaking Bad

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Just when I thought I had seen enough of Bromine and Barium…

I guarantee that 99% of everyone on campus, and in society, knows the name Walter White. This show about a terminally ill chemistry teacher who develops a drug-dealing partnership with one of his fellow students to financially support himself and his family has no doubt been called “one of the greatest shows of all time”. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to crack open Netflix and enjoy the adventures that lie within this 2008-2013 AMC series, not even the first episode. Even my statistics professor said he and his wife were “glued to the television” when watching this show, which just poured salt on the wound of what I have missed out on. However, I fear not, for this show will be one of the most viewed by me while I still have the time, before I myself have to go back to teaching chemistry every week.

4. Malcolm in the Middle

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Oh, the nostalgia that many must feel! I started watching this in middle school, and now that I am legally a full grown adult, I can go back and watch some episodes with a better understanding of the comedy and social aspects that this show contains. Malcolm is a teenager with a genius level IQ who constantly faces hilarious situations as a result of his dysunctional family, consisting of his bully & dimwit brother Reese, the eldest and outcast Francis, and the little (not so little anymore) manipulative and artistically gifted Dewey. Lois, the mother, and Hal, the cowardly yet intelligent and improvisational father, never failed to give me good laughs the first time I watched this show, and I have no doubt they will do it again when I watch some of the episodes over again this break. Minor Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t seen it yet: The family doesn’t stop there. More are always coming, but are not always welcome.

Those are all my top priority shows that I hope to watch, but there are definitely more good ones I’ve heard about and would like to start watching, but only after I course through the struggles of the Seven Kingdoms, learn about the difference between a boson and a fermion particle, see how far the meth teacher makes it before the inevitable, and finally, wonder how a mother who yells so much could still have her voice fully intact.

 

Happy Spring Break, and enjoy it, because the next wave of exams is coming over us like Winter in the Seven Kingdoms (Game of Thrones reference, for those who don’t understand).