Pre-Med, The Fair Side

Many of you are likely familiar with the infamous rigor of the pre-med track here at Rutgers. With neurobiology, biochemistry, anatomy, and the dreaded organic chemistry, there is no telling how people manage to survive these dreaded encounters. On top of that, med schools expect to see other activities outside that involve experience in the clinical field, including shadowing, volunteering, building houses in Africa, which almost everybody does, so how in the world are you supposed to distinguish yourself?

I know one thing for sure: complaining about it won’t help. I have adopted a new mantra to make myself stop complaining when things do not go my way because it is an unnecessary waste of time and energy that will not get you anywhere. Although this may seem obvious, when caught in the whirlwind of courses and grades and academia in such a competitive field, it is easy to even forget to brush your teeth in the morning, let alone give advice that should be beneficial. However, as the semester draws to a close, I will take it upon myself to remember internally the advice I set for myself and for others, to not complain and instead find a way around and look for a solution.

One of those potential alternate solutions was, for me, to go to the Career and Internship Mega-Fair, on Thursday, February 2, and Friday, February 3.

Unsurprisingly, this was a formal event, because when people look first to introduce themselves to potential recruiters and employers for big companies looking to hire employees or summer interns, they must look their best. Dressed in a button-down Calvin Klein white shirt, black dress pants, and a three-button blazer that I got as a present from the Raymond shop during my trip to Mumbai last year, I stepped off the bus at Livi and made my way to the Rec Center, also the site of my high school graduation. With my blazer, I was described by my friends who also went there as “straight from the 1970s”. Great way to stand out from the rest of the crowd who was dressed in more traditional business attire, I thought.

I wasn’t looking for any company in particular, but I was there to observe how people network and look for jobs, and overall how they present themselves to the employers to make themselves sound like the perfect fit for the company. There were easily over 1,000 students waiting there, with hundreds waiting in line for the bigger companies like Johnson and Johnson, Google, and GlaxoSmithKline, all geared towards the same goal of expressing their interest and why they are the best fit for the company. Talk about competitive.

Image result for rutgers career fair

 

All of them brought their resumes, two-sided, listing their best accomplishments. If this is starting to sound just like any other typical student trying to get a job after graduation or for the summer, let me emphasize one point: most of the other students I saw there were either finance, marketing, computer science, engineering, or data analysts (whatever that means), none were pre-med. Almost all of them had some idea of what skills they wanted to present to what companies in order to land co-ops or full-time careers, and many of them were even post-bacs or seniors looking for a place to work, but nobody I saw was pursuing a career in the biological sciences. Now I’m not saying there were no pre-med related companies there (Emergency Medical Associates came on that Friday), or that there were not any pre-med students. I am simply stressing how much I felt out-of-place there initially, since everybody was talking about their experience with programming languages like C++ or Java, their summer working for an engineering firm in Colorado or somewhere far away from home, or their summer internships as data analysts, R & D employees, or intensive paid or unpaid co-ops. All of that jargon seemed foreign to me, considering that all I had done during my past summer was shadow a doctor of geriatric medicine and looked for a job in a retail setting (Walgreens, for those of you who haven’t seen my previous post). This type of setting just didn’t seem fitting for pre-meds, even if they said “all majors welcome” on the online and print advertisements.

But worried I was not. Mainly, in addition to an alternate pathway should there ever come a time when I feel pre-med is not for me, I also wanted to learn how to network. Potential new opportunities, as I learned last summer, don’t just come. You have to actively work to get them. I actively approached this fair as a potential to get involved with several companies during the summer, maybe to see the side of career choices that don’t come with clinical experience or to simply see how to communicate with people in a professional manner. I brought a few copies of my resume and proudly put my clinical experiences on them, despite not matching what others had for the companies I was standing in line for. I was determined to at least make a good impression and establish my interest in learning about networking and the company itself.

My first, and most memorable stop, was Johnson and Johnson, one of the few places there that seemed to be of interest to me as a pre-med. When I finally talked to one of the recruiters, I initially told them that I was a pre-med major and looking for a chance to work with Johnson and Johnson, as an R & D. Even if I didn’t know what that meant, I managed to tailor my questions in a professional manner so the recruiter could explain to me all the terms without me seeming like I had no clue. I explained to her I was very interested and thought pharmaceuticals and medical devices was the field for me, which was exactly what Johnson and Johnson embodied, she said to me. I told her about the experiences on my resume as she skimmed over it, as a Teaching Intern and a blogger for the SASHP, telling her I was actively working to make a difference by teaching others, inspiring them, and hoping to do the same with Johnson and Johnson. To my surprise, after I was done, she told me I’d be a perfect fit!

Although I initially made myself sound like I wanted to do a co-op for the summer, I ended up landing a volunteer position at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for the summer before I seriously considered applying, but was thrilled to know that I successfully learned how to network and present myself in the best manner, and have a potential backup plan to continue going and networking at these fairs in case pre-med does not work out for me.

My main point of advice to all you students who are or are not pre-meds is to not be afraid to network. Although I felt out of place there, I ended up making a better impression on other companies than I expected to, probably because of how confident I seemed despite my inner confusion and insecurity. This fair allowed me an opportunity to see what skill sets are required of other majors to land jobs and internships, since as a pre-med, I would naturally find myself trying to develop skills only for the sake of medicine through my shadowing and volunteer activities, and not necessarily have a good understanding of what people of other careers have to do to get their feet in the door.

I told myself that, with this experience, I will never make myself feel like I don’t belong, and will keep an open mind, instead of complaining about how difficult the field I am entering is. Reflecting on my presence at the fair, I was surprised about what skills I possessed and what opportunities that I wasn’t expecting could suddenly become an important asset to my future, and overall, how to be confident and explore other areas other than the traditional routes that most other pre-med students tend to take.

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What I Learned in Boating School is… Failure is Okay.

For many of you, college is the highlight of your lives. It may be better than high school, and you know, you probably discovered yourself here. Or are on the path of discovering yourself here. (I’m the latter).

As I look back at my college career, I’m proud of myself. I had no qualms that I would graduate when I first started, but things got a little hairy as I went further in. No worries, though! If there’s one thing college has taught me, it’s that if you persevere and sometimes, hang on for dear life, you’ll make it through.

Honestly, I didn’t realize that sometimes all you have to really do is just hold on, y’know, like that new Louis Tomlinson and Steve Aoki song. Anyway.

Finals are coming up, and a lot of you may be worried about where you stand. I’m telling you, really telling you, to stop worrying. I know this is easier said than done, but in the bigger scheme of things, these exams are a blip in your life. Your GPA is a blip in your life. This time is a literal blip in your life!

If you find yourself worrying, do this: take a deep breath, and think about the length your life will be, based on probability and averages. Think about what happens if you pass, and what happens if you fail. The most realistic effect: your GPA falls a little, your parents are upset, etc. etc.

Okay, fine, but you’re not dead, right? You still have the brains to solve any problem that comes at you in the future? Yes, it makes life a little harder if you don’t do as well. But I’m also trying to say that the future isn’t impossible if you fail. Everything has a solution. And failing is sometimes okay.

Failure puts things into perspective. We feel that we can’t fail, as if we won’t be able to handle it. But we are a lot more resilient than that. I think we’ve forgotten that.

So I just wanted to remind you all that failing is okay sometimes. It means you tried something, and it didn’t work. It might give you insight as to how you function as a person. It certainly gave me that insight. I realized I had to be myself and stop doing things the way everyone else did them.

So yeah, I love college (this is a very recent understanding, trust me) because I failed a lot. A LOT. And at first, I was ashamed of how much I’ve failed. But I’m not worried anymore. Those failures were just a blip in my career; they’re so small, just like the amount of time that I’ve spent at Rutgers.

So it’s okay to fail if you do.

But.

I’m not giving you the go-ahead to party instead of studying for your finals.

If you have the ability to change your circumstances, like studying as hard as you can just to pass a class, then do it. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but if you can do it, then do it.

Failure shouldn’t be used as an excuse; it’s another tool in your arsenal. And college should help you build an arsenal of strategies to overcome problems with brilliant solutions. It did this for me.

College was wild. I hope it’s wild for all of you too.

And here is where I leave you all.

It was a pleasure writing for you and giving you all advice. I hope it’s helped the lot of you, even a little. As I graduate and just move to another pasture, I know I’ll be ruminating over the lessons I’ve learned here. And I hope I’ve made some lessons at Rutgers easier to learn.

And now, I bid you adieu.

Signing off,

Nida Saeed.

Being a Peer Mentor for the Honors Program

JUST DO IT.

This year was my first time as a Peer Mentor, through SASHP, for a first-year student, who I was paired up with based on similar academic studies and interests. We first met each other at the Peer Mentor/Mentee Summer Kick-Off event last June, which was really just the very beginning of our adventure together. As a Peer Mentor, I received the opportunity to guide my mentee through her first year here at Rutgers, helping her adjust to the transition from high school to a large university and to the many changes. We met at least once a month, and soon enough, we were friends! Here are my top three moments with my mentee, who we’ll call Melodia for this post:

3. The Awkward First Meeting

It’s always super awkward when you meet someone for the first time, isn’t it? Same case for when I had my first, official meeting of the year with Melodia! We met at Busch Campus Center, and even our initial greeting was awkward:

“Hiii!”

“Hiii!”

We walked to some couches in silence and then marched towards Moe’s to get Melodia some food. After we overcame the initial awkwardness, we proceeded to Phase 2: More Awkwardness. Most of this phase consisted of silence…awkward silence, during which we smiled at each other while carefully chewing on food. Phase 3: Some Conversation, began when we both realized that “people usually talk”; therefore, we…TALKED. We conversed about the first week of classes, our already busy schedules, the different classes we were registered for, and how we were liking them and our professors. It was clear that Melodia was sharp, excellent at time management, and adjusting well to the Rutgers environment. Our meeting ended with, “See you soon!” Overall, it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be–not too much blood, sweat, or tears at all! Folks, here’s a lesson I learned from this first meeting: AWKWARD is NORMAL.

2. Session of Connection

For probably our second or third meeting, we decided to talk with each other at the new Starbucks at the Yard across from Scott Hall. This, my friends, was when we truly CONNECTED. By this time, the awkwardness had vanished, and we were already talking to each other with ease. That day, we were discussing how Melodia’s classes were coming along and any challenges she was facing. Somehow, we switched to the wonderful world of art and passionately lectured each other on literature, films, and creativity. Interesting lectures from both sides, I must say. Melodia exclaimed, “We have so much in common!” To that, I responded, “Can you believe that a whole hour has passed by?!” After some more chatting, I finished sipping my cappuccino (with three sugars) and we said, “See you soon!” I made my way to the train station, thinking to myself how awesome the day turned out to be. 

1. Never Say Goodbye

All stories come to an end. All things have an end. But still, “Never Say Goodbye,” as a Hayley Westenra (one of my most favorite singers in this world) song title indicates. Although that song describes a romantic relationship, I can say that it applies to friendships as well. Just last week, I had my last, official meeting with Melodia, this time in three places–we were moving around a lot–including the Livingston Student Center, the Livingston Starbucks, and Sixteen Handles. I congratulated her on finishing an entire year at Rutgers. Freshman year: done. In this meeting, we talked about how Melodia had grown and changed for the better. I told her how I was proud of her for beginning to overcome her fear of sharing her work with others, specifically in a Creative Writing class workshop, during which she bravely listened to her classmates’ critiques and constructive feedback. I also congratulated her on something else…

SHE GOT ACCEPTED TO BE A PEER MENTOR FOR THE HONORS PROGRAM FOR NEXT YEAR!

I was thrilled and so very proud that she chose to apply. It warmed my heart when she said she gave it a shot because I was an inspiration for her, and that she also wanted to help an incoming first-year just as I had helped her. After about an hour, before I hurried off to Tillett to tutor and Melodia crossed the street to the Plaza bus stop, we, of course, agreed to definitely meet up throughout next year, because the end of my official role as a mentor for Melodia didn’t mean the end of my friendship with her. We told each other, “See you soon!”

So folks, if you’re looking for a rewarding experience, choosing to be an Honors Peer Mentor is absolutely the way to go!

Motivation GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

–The Doctor

 

Sweet Release

Friday was the first-ever Interdisciplinary Honors Thesis (IHT) Conference, where seniors who have completed an IHT presented it to faculty and peers. After a year of researching and writing my thesis, I can proudly say that the conference marked the end of a long, long process.

As honor students, you all have the Capstone requirement to fulfill. I’d like to give you 3 big tips to consider as you prepare to complete it, whether you are graduating next year or in a few years.

1. Take the time to look at all the Capstone options.

The Honors Program now offers 5 different options for students to complete this requirement.

Option A: Completion of a senior honors thesis through Departmental Honors within the major department

Option B: Completion of the SAS Interdisciplinary Honors Thesis

Option C: Completion of two graduate level courses in the same department or program; requires prior permission of instructor and approval of department graduate director, and clearance by an Honors Program dean. The student must complete a scholarly report detailing their experience.

Option D: Completion of two graduate level courses offered in professional tracks such as five-year programs of the Graduate School of Education, or the seven-year BA/MD; these courses must be taken in consecutive semesters. The student must complete a scholarly report detailing their experience.

Option E: Completion of a two-semester professional, certificate, or service learning experience, field placement, or internship under the supervision of a sponsoring department or academic unit. Only coursework completed through approved programs run by academic departments and university centers, bureaus, and institutes will be recognized. The total credits earned must be at least 6The student must complete a scholarly report detailing their experience.

Because of the variety of options, looking into all of them will be helpful to ensure you do not get stuck writing a 40-page thesis on a topic you have no interest in.

If you are currently deciding which option to choose, please do not hesitate to visit 35 College Ave to talk to one of the deans about choosing.

2. Start planning and preparing as soon as you can. 

I had been thinking about my thesis since the beginning of Junior year. I studied abroad during the spring semester of Junior year and the deans recommended that I have a rough topic and advisors before I left. While it is possible to change topics at the beginning of senior year, keep in mind that it is a huge endeavor, so the sooner you have an idea, the sooner you can begin researching. That being said, make sure that you choose a topic that you are very interested in pursuing. You will be spending at least a year researching and writing about your topic, and if you begin to hate it halfway through the school year, then the rest of the project will be torturous.

Once again, do not hesitate to chat with the deans about potential topics. Dean Nazario helped me come up with the basis for my thesis. The deans are treasures and are resources in an of themselves, so I encourage you to seek their guidance, especially for help with the Capstone requirement.

3. Create a schedule with certain deadlines.

The first two tips are kind of obvious and can apply to any project or assignment. However, this third one is the most important tip I can give you, in my opinion. What do I mean by this? Before I explain, I want to briefly talk about my thesis process. I started researching late, probably around the middle of the fall semester. I also started writing late. I didn’t have a full draft until the end of March. My procrastination and last-minute everything created quite a bit of stress (although I am happy to say that everything turned out well in the end). I only got stuff done when my advisor (bless her patience with me) gave me a bunch of dates and told me what was due on each of them. For example, at the end of Thanksgiving Break, I owed her an annotated bibliography of the sources I was going to use for the first half of my thesis; on February x I owed her the first half of my paper; at the end of March I needed to email her a final draft.

This scheduling is the reason I completed my thesis and I wish I had set such goals for myself. So I encourage all of you to create a schedule with certain deadlines to help you complete your Capstone on time, organized, and with as little stress as possible.

I hope this helps a bit. If you want to talk more about my personal experience with the thesis, please feel free to leave a comment!

Gotta Use ‘Em All: Getting Rid of Meal Swipes

It’s a problem that all on-campus freshman have faced. Anxiously checking their RU express page to see exactly how many they have left. In-depth discussions about how it’s all part of a con for your money. Leaping over the stack of styrofoam containers from takeout so you can flop onto your bed, clutching your aching, overstuffed stomach as you roll over and try to forget about finals.

Meal swipes. If you’re an on-campus freshman lacking an extraordinary appetite, you’re probably begging to give these away at this point.

For starters, if you will be an incoming freshman in the fall, please take note of this link. Within the first week of school, you can go here and switch to a lower meal plan, even lower than the required meal for freshmen.

Now, for those not savvy enough to know this particular trick, like me my freshman year, here are some practical ways to get rid of meal swipes in your last weeks of school:

  1. Woody’s

The medical school cafeteria is probably one of the more popular options. You can use meal swipes for almost anything from grocery-type items (milk, vegetables) to meals to sweets and ice cream. However, the mistake most people make is that they rush through three or four swipes as quickly as possible. The way to maximize this requires patience. Set aside a few hours outside of the rush, bring the some of the overwhelming amount of work you’ve surely been watching grow over the past few weeks, and prep for some back and forth between your seat and the food area. The limit is every twenty minutes, but if you play your cards right you can be like me in December of my freshman year, walking away from Woody’s 20 meal swipes less and with Christmas gifts for both my brothers and all six of my cousins.

2. Kilmer’s Market, Sbarros, Douglass Cafe, Cook Cafe, Rock Cafe, Red Pine Pizza, Take Out

Good places for meals and food for later. And since several of them are located around centralized areas, you can employ the same method as with Woody’s. The only problem is that if you’re not careful you’ll end up with a fridge of individual slices of pizza, stacks of individual cereal packs, and a significant amount of indigestion (because who can resist that much food sitting in front of them?). Which brings us to suggestion number 3.

3. Befriend upperclassmen

If clubs want to promote events, they offer free food. That’s because most students operate on a low budget. Now’s the time to use that to your advantage. Who could refuse your offer a free meal, be it a swipe into the dining hall, an offer for takeout, or a meal swiped from Sbarros? This is a great way to hang out with older friends, thank mentors for help, or generally socialize.

4. Invite your family

This one is fairly self-explanatory, however, if used in conjunction with number 3, you might run out of guest swipes, so be aware.

What are your favorite ways to get rid of meal swipes? Comment below.

You’ve Got a Friend in Journals

For my post this month, I decided to share with you guys an excerpt from my journal. No, this isn’t because I’ve been procrastinating writing something and I’m short on time. With finals season rapidly approaching and the academic year just about over, I’ve found myself running into a bit of academic difficulty. Of course, this is the HONORS blog, so I might just be making a fool out of myself in front of a bunch of straight A students who will read this and laugh at my ineptitude, but I feel that I ‘m not alone in this situation. College can be a stressful, daunting place, but I feel that if we share our experiences – both the good and the bad – we can find that we have more in common with each other after all.

“Monday, April 3rd, 2017 10:11 p.m.

I just failed my [managerial] accounting exam. I really just don’t have anything to say about it. I really don’t see how anyone could ever learn to live with such a burning, raging anger mixed with an utter hopelessness borne out of doing so poorly on a test. I literally worked myself up, it happened so quickly. We had 80 minutes to do 24 questions. I don’t remember the first 40 minutes, other than skipping the 2nd and 3rd questions, confidently reassuring myself that I would come back to them. Then it was the 40-minute mark all of a sudden, I think I was on like #9 or 10 and it just went downhill from there. I think, at the discouragement from not being able to figure out a few problems, my brain automatically skipped to the conclusion that I was going to fail (which obviously became a self-fulfilling prophecy) and then the mind conversations started and suddenly I was defending my honor in front of my mother and Aunt Fran, yelling at them that they don’t understand the pressure I’m under to please myself, let alone them, with good grades. Do they realize the extra weight of their expectations and everybody else’s that I have to prove and embody. It’s so hard to live up to these great expectations set for me over these past 19 almost 20 years and how I need to one day be able to bear the medical costs of my rapidly aging parents on day and what happens if I can’t do that… and by the time I realized what I was doing and cut off the train of thought, I was sitting there nearly about to burst into tears. I had to quickly calm myself down, like really quickly, only to find myself having to navigate what was all of a sudden an inconceivable obstacle course of accounting terms and formulas. I definitely had another mini distradown, which is my word for a distraction mixed with a breakdown. The contents of the second one elude me but it was definitely in response to just not being able to get a handle on what the heck was going on.

When I don’t know how to do something outside of a test, I either abandon it (because, and for reasons I don’t want to get into here, I was never really taught the virtue of perseverance and I was always able, growing up, to avoid my problems or at least create the illusion that there was no problem), or, if I can’t avoid it, like when I’m studying for a test, I look at the answer key immediately… or I just skip the problem. In the test I am obviously not allowed that luxury, and it quickly upsets me, as we have seen; and I have to busy myself justifying that upsetness to all who would question it and planning for the future in which I flunk out of the business school and asking myself, ‘Trevor, how the heck did you let this happen to yourself? You know you’re better than this, but you can’t even take an accounting exam properly so are you really even that great?’

I struggle with how to deal with this nagging inner demon, who takes advantage of my short attention span and bombards me with negative thinking and just a whole lot of noise when noise is exactly what I don’t need. I’m also really not used to this feeling because tests usually aren’t so difficult for me (except word problem tests which… wait… end the parenthesis for this)… do I just have this problem with word problem tests? Because I was about to say that this extreme difficulty and the accompanying mental anguish only really has ever happened with math tests, and this semester, those tests were the two accounting and two statistics midterms. Wait, so the fact that your weakest subject is math is not a stunning revelation. But is it specifically an issue with word problems? Because I can memorize and follow a formula great, but it you teach me a difficult math concept and flip it and twist it and turn it inside out into a critical thinking word problem? meep meep runaway road runner style.

So we need to start by stimulating the pressure of the test environment and build our testing muscles here. My hand’s tired and OCD wants me to end with this here.”

 

The entry was, for the most part, unedited, but I hope that my stream-of-consciousness writing is not to confusing for the readers. At the end of the entry, I had reached the end of the page, which is where that minor OCD kicked in. Also, please don’t be alarmed that I sometimes reference myself as “we.” I do not suffer from schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, I just refer to myself in the plural so that when I reread my journal entries (or in this case, share them with other people) it accounts for the audience.

Speaking of journal entries, I really recommend that people get journals and write in them whenever they feel the need. They are like a friend that you can pour all your darkest secrets into and not fear them telling everyone. I’m also very scatterbrained, and it usually helps me get most or all of my thoughts onto a canvas, where I can go back and observe what’s happened to me over this crazy life. And, as you guys saw in the last paragraphs of the entry, it even helps me come to some sort of solution to my problems. Anyway, I hope that by sharing my experience of failure, that I’ve helped show people that it happens from time to time, and that it doesn’t just happen to them. Good luck on finals, everyone! I’ll be studying extra hard this time.

Why Not

Why Not? This is the question I asked myself when I came to Rutgers. In middle and high school, I was very shy and I didn’t get involved much, which I now regret. I decided that when I entered college, I was going to say “why not” when I join a club, or think about a club, or go to an event. Now that the semester is almost over, I’m looking back at all that I did this semester and I don’t regret any aspect of my first year (although it would be nice if my GPA was higher).

So for me, the first clubs I joined were RHA and RUPA. During my time at both, I met the most amazing people who are so motivated and so much fun to be around. Through RUPA, I got to volunteer at Winter Wishes, I made origami swans, and did the Day of Dance (I learned a Bollywood dance from an accomplished choreographer). And nfor RHA, I won the presidency for Jameson Hall next year. (Jameson is DRC dorms on Cook/ Douglass which includes Honors housing for SAS) and I get to represent my favorite hall on campus.

In addition, I also joined the First Year Fellowship which is within the Leadership and Experiential Learning Department. I had an amazing experience in this department, and I got to meet even more motivated students as we work on our social change project and learn what it means to be a leader. As part of the FYF, we have to collect 15 points by going to various events which have all been so interesting. Some experiences I had was catapulting mushrooms, minute to win it activities, and got to meet Viral Internet Personal.

And as part of the Honor Program, I got to be an Honors Blogger and Honors Ambassador. These both have been amazing because I get to share my experiences with other people, which have been truly amazing.

Those are the organizations that I have been a part of. But I also went to so many events because I wanted to try everything. I went to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” for free which was amazing (I’m an insane Harry Potter nerd). As part of RHA , I went to Leadership Development Day which was amazing. There I got to learn more about how to be a better leader, and I specifically learned how to incorporate service into our events. I also got to meet Miss Jersey 2016 which was an honor. And the centerpieces were so cute.

Through the SAS Honors Program, I got to go to Museum of Sex, which was definitely something I would never do. The overall experience was so much fun, and I got to bounce on giant boobs which was an experience I thought I would never have. But I had fun that day, which is what was important.

I also got to go to Holi which is hosted by Rutgers Hindu Council and Inspiring South Asian Youth. While I have been to Holi before, I had so much fun with my friends with so many different colors all over face and dancing everywhere.

This is a small list of everything I have done on campus. It has been an amazing year and it went by so fast I believe that college is what you make it. If you make an effort to have fun then it will be the best 4 years of your life (or so everyone says).

Taking a Break

School is stressful: there are constant exams, papers, and projects due, and with the beautiful spring weather it is difficult to concentrate on anything. I’m sure everyone knows this feeling. And so I had no trouble agreeing to take a week off to go on a trip with my family, to Italy nonetheless, as they all had spring break on the same week.

Not gonna lie, the idea of missing a week of school, while taking 19.5 credits, kind of worried me. This is a lot of school work to miss, and I did not want to have to do work throughout vacation. So I made sure to talk to all my professors ahead of time, fill out a self-reported absence form, get some homework out of the way, as well as mentally prepare for cramming that would happen post trip (which in fact, is happening). I only took two notebooks with me on the trip, so I could at least do some HW, but not overdo it. And then, I went on vacation.

Let me tell you, this was exactly the break I needed. Of course, the vacation itself was fun and amazing, but the fact that I was ‘on a break’ with college added even more to it. I think I was able to appreciate it and relax more. Needless to say, I didn’t have to bring those notebooks because once there I did not intend on doing homework. I saw great sights, ate (a lot of) great food, went shopping, hiking, sailing, slept eight hours every night. Essentially, it was as if I ‘recharged’ myself.

Now that I am back, it is back to usual with work and cramming. Truth be told, jet lag is currently my biggest advantage. I woke up at six this morning, feeling like it was one pm, and started to do work. And, since no one is awake yet, there are no distractions and it is easy to concentrate. Now I have a few more hours until I would normally wake up and am able to get more done! I would, without a doubt, urge anyone to take some sort of break every once in a while. You clear your mind and come back refreshed, and we all know weekends are not always enough.

Unpopular Opinion: 13 Reasons Why (I’m Not a Fan)

*SPOILER ALERT*

 

Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Whya 2007 young adult novel that many of us read in middle school or high school, recently became a Netflix-adapted mini-series. Released as 13 episodes thus far, this series focuses on the death of Hanah Baker, and more specifically, on the events and the people that led to her suicide. 13 Reasons Why has already become the most tweeted-about show in its first week of airing, with more than 3.5 million tweets about the series. It has very quickly become Netflix’s most popular series. However, for me, while I completely understand that this show is made for entertainment, and I do applaud how the producers have highlighted many issues that kids, teenagers, and young adults deal with daily, I do have problems with the implications of both the plot and the actual adaptation of the show. Suicide is a very difficult topic to tackle without being reductive, but in my honest opinion, the Netflix adaptation of the topic absolutely did reduce what I believe was the original takeaway of Asher’s novel. With such a wide platform and an incredible amount of resources, Netflix fell short with how they presented this series.

Now, if you like me have both read the book and watched the show, you probably noted a lot of changes between the two. That is, as always, expected when books are adapted into movies or shows. However, when you read the book, and this holds true for any book, you have your own imagery and your own thoughts that, for the most part, stay in your head. Now, when a book is adapted for the purpose of reaching millions of viewers, something changes. You are now forced to watch the story unfold from a specific viewpoint that was created with a specific purpose and message in mind. And of course, you can disagree with what you see on the screen, and still have your own opinion about it, but you inherently allow the new perspective to enter your brain.

The immediate difference between the show and the book, and the one that I think caused me to think that 13 Reasons Why allows people to romanticize mental health and suicide is the time span of the story. In the novel, the entire story takes place basically in one night. Clay receives the tapes and immediately listens to all 13 sides. However, the show spans the story line over weeks, with each side getting its own hour-long episode. This gives the viewer two options: binge-watch all 13 episodes or take the time to get through the show, just as Clay does with the tapes. By allowing for the change in the time span of the story, viewers see Hannah just as much as they see Clay: they get somewhat of a dual narrative, but by doing so, I believe the actual message gets stretched very thin. Now, the viewer focuses on the questions: “Who is most to blame for Hannah’s death” or “Is Hannah telling the truth?” or even “Who wins the lawsuit?” That is not the point. That is so very far from the point. I even found myself wondering about some of those points, even if I already had read the book and had my already-developed opinion of most of the characters. But by creating a long, drawn-out show from Asher’s words, we learn full backstories and personalities of characters that we may have met fleetingly in Asher’s world. Or we think about the characters differently. For instance, in the novel, Jenny Kurtz is the driver who knocks over a stop sign, that causes someone to die. That someone doesn’t really factor in Clay’s life, and thus, in the reader’s life, in the novel. However, on the show, Jenny is Sheri, someone who likes Clay, and the person who dies, Jeff, has a much larger role in the TV show. This makes Clay feel even more like he needs revenge whilst listening to the tapes.

Revenge is not the point. But it becomes the point.

One of the main plots we follow on the show is the one where most of the people on the tapes want to keep Clay from hearing the tapes. We see Justin and his friends trying to bully Clay from talking about it. We see Jessica worrying about if Clay will release the tapes. And we see Clay recording Bryce’s confession, creating an entirely new tape, leaving an opening for another season. And as I have been following the tweets for this show, I can completely see that revenge has become the point for many of the viewers. There are hundreds of tweets expressing how “Jeff Atkins deserved better”, or even less of a point how “hot” Bryce or Jeff is or that viewers wish they had “someone as in love with them as Clay was with Hannah in their lives”. That is not the point. The point is to focus on suicide, on depression, and on mental health. It’s to talk about it and recognize that it is a problem. While this show has definitely spurred the conversation in this direction, how long will we really talk about? Let’s be honest. When we finish the show, will we tweet “I have such a new perspective on this topic. Let me learn more. Let me do something” or will we tweet “Can’t wait for season 2!!!!!!!”

Essentially, my point is that this adaptation of a book that struck me with its point-blank truthfulness failed to capture the truth of suicide on the main screen. Not once was depression even discussed, other that perhaps for all of five seconds in the scene where parents were taught about warning signs of suicide. Changing the way Hannah committed suicide and actually depicting it on screen may have occurred with the purpose of saying “Look at how brutal this is. There is nothing romantic about this. Do you want your mom to have to go through that?” and it is indeed very difficult to watch, but there had to be a better way to be “look-at-me” while still doing something for youth suicide prevention. For teens and even young viewers binge-watching this show, the graphic depiction of the suicide, followed by the continuation of the prior idea of revenge as Clay hands off the tapes to Mr. Porter, the wrong message can be presented. The message becomes: “Look at what everyone else made Hannah do. Look at how many people are to blame for her death”.

That logic is incorrect. None of the people discussed on the tapes forced Hannah to commit suicide. They were definitely a part of why Hannah felt the actions she needed to commit was necessary, but they are not the sole reason. Hannah is the reason Hannah committed suicide. Mental illness is the reason Hannah committed suicide. But mental illness is not discussed. Depression is not discussed. And these things are different for everyone: they look different on everyone. So the point isn’t that Hannah doesn’t seem to fit the traditional mental illness or depression symptoms. Everyone shows their battles in a different way. You cannot look at a person and understand what they are going through. So my problem is absolutely not with how Hannah is depicted. My problem is with how little the producers chose to do with the giant platform they have. The producers knew what audience this show would target. They knew the numbers they would reach, the lives they may have the ability to affect. So why is that they couldn’t put a simple PSA at the end of every episode with resources or information? Why couldn’t they provide links or interviews or any form of awareness and education on the topic of mental health? If their point was to adapt a novel about the reality of suicide, why was it so romanticized?

While I do think this show moves away from actually addressing mental health, depression, and suicide in the way that it should be addressed, I do think it did a terrific job in bringing to light the bullying present in today’s society. I was especially impressed that it did incorporate social media into the plot, which was obviously not prominent in Asher’s novel. Social media is a huge determinant in bullying, in emotional and mental health, and in self-esteem, so I was very glad to see it addressed on such a wide level. It is absolutely pivotal in why so many adolescents battle with depression, with negative self-esteem, with suicidal thoughts, or just a general feeling to be “anywhere but here”. So while the show does provide insight into the cultural world of teens and addresses situations that need to be discussed openly more (such as sexual assault), it trivializes and sensationalizes the main concern, opting to blame only the action’s of others for Hannah’s death, rather than recognizing the complexity of the entirety of one’s mental health.

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My Very First Dance Marathon

Two weeks ago, I got to experience my very first Rutgers Dance Marathon as a member of the Brett Hall team. I had heard a lot of people say it was the highlight of their college experience and that it was something every Rutgers student had to experience, so of course, I was excited. The event itself was nothing like I expected though, it was one of those moments where I saw Rutgers in a whole new light.

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The Unity

The line dance was one of my favorite parts, people came from the basketball courts, the food stations, and the arts and crafts section just to learn a dance. There were some people who were amazing dancers and others who seemed to struggle a lot with some of the most basic steps, but everyone had fun. Here I saw frat brothers, sorority sisters, sports teams, and residence halls all come together in the spirit of giving, and I was amazed by the level of excitement and involvement. It was a shock to me, especially when compared to a lot of high school events where there was always a palpable awkwardness to just let go and dance due to a fear of judgment. At Dance Marathon, no one cared because everyone was there to have fun and of course for the kids (#ftk).

The Pep

I knew a lot of friends who were obligated to do Dance Marathon due to their respective organizations so I was expecting a few reluctant faces or some people not caring and sitting on the ground, but nope — not one person looked like they didn’t want to be there. The football team showed off their rehearsed choreography, the girls swim team showed off their gymnastics, the acapella team showed off their vocals. It was amazing to see the abundance of talent at Rutgers.

This was a level of school spirit I had never witnessed before in my entire life, even at the RU vs Penn State game, I did not see people express so much pride. People took whatever color team they were a part of and took it to a whole new level. Shreya Sethi, another member of the Brett Hall team said, “I liked how committed everyone was to the cause and how they really wanted to be there for the kids.” And people really were committed: they wore tutus, and ribbons and bandanas, (and bananas) and the color war events themselves were creative and brought out the healthy competition in all of us. I personally got to participate in hungry hungry hippos game which was a LOT of fun and probably one of the highlights of my night.

The Emotions

For a lot of people, seeing the families, especially the video towards the end of the night, served as a true reminder of why we had all gathered together for 24 hours and danced so long. Hearing the stories of the families whose lives had been changed for the better due to Embrace Kids, and Rutgers donations made me feel a pride for this college. Nishita Patel, a member of the Brett hall team who also experienced her very first dance Marathon this year said, “My favorite part was the family hour because it allowed us to see how appreciative the families were and how much they loved the event. I will definitely be doing it again next year.”
When the seniors came on to the stage and teared up as they spoke of their experiences with the Dance Marathon I felt myself becoming emotional as well because of how passionate they were about the event and how upset they were that it was their last one as a Rutgers University student.
The most defining moment was at the very end of the closing ceremony, as one by one the numbers were held up, and the exact moment that everyone realized that this year the number was going to surpass 1 million dollars the crowd roared, people started cheering, and screaming, and crying, and as the confetti dispersed through the stadium, my heart beamed with pride, and I realized I have never been prouder to be a Scarlet Knight.