Here’s to My Future Self

So now that I am almost done with my second year of college (I can’t believe how time flies), I still don’t know what I want to be when I get older. And hopefully other people can relate to this. So I decided to write a letter to myself to remind myself of the type of person that I want to be in the future. So here it is.

Dear Future Me,

I am 20 years old as I write this. Here is what  I want for the future.

I want a life filled with happiness. This past year has definitely had its ups and downs. There is so much that I wish I could change and so much that I wish I could have done. Focusing on school was hard at times, and I wish I could have had a better GPA. Not knowing what I wanted to do in the future really stressed me out, and I often let that get in the way of my happiness. I want to change that. In the future, I want to be happy and content with my life.

I also want to make a difference. If I could choose any way of life, I would love to just volunteer and be around people. Unfortunately, the reality is that I also need money to pay the bills. So I want a career in which I can help people and make a change. I want to be able to tell other people that they are loved and that they have a purpose in life. I believe that this could help those with depression and mental illness.

I want to be grateful for everything that I have. I think that gratitude is the first step to happiness and success. We have to always remember that we are humble and remember the people in our lives. We have to remember all the people who made us who we are. We have to remember all the teachers who believed in me and my family who will always be there.

I want a life filled with adventure. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling the world or sky diving and eating exotic foods. I want a life that isn’t boring and I want to live each day to the fullest.

I also want to take care of myself. The past two years of college have been difficult. It’s important to remember that you should always talk about how you are feeling. Our emotions are never invalid and they always have a greater purpose. We can’t just shut down our emotions because then we will never remember the happy times. But taking care of myself also means taking care of my body. That means exercising, sleeping, and eating healthy foods. We only have one body that provides us with energy and confidence, so remember to fuel it!

And most of all I want to be authentic and real. I am not perfect nor will I pretend to have all the wisdom in the world. But at the very least, I can own my flaws and not run away from them.

This is my wish for the future.

-Akhila

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My Visit with Congressman Donald Payne Jr.

I recently started working at the Charmil Davis Foundation for Colon Cancer Support and Prevention and we recently took a trip to Newark NJ to visit Congressman Donald Payne Jr. We went to honor his father Congressman Donald M Payne, who was the first black congressman elected into Congress from NJ.

So when I was reading about the late Congressman Donald M Payne, I actually found his story incredible inspirational. Rep. Payne was elected into office in 1988 after losing twice in 1980 and 1986. He was born in Newark, NJ and grew up very poor. Despite all that, he graduated from Barringer High School and Seton Hall University. He was always so humble and always cared about the people around him. This motivated him to serve the people in public. Before his time in Congress, he served as city councilman from Newark and president of YMCA. He served as a teacher and began doing a social work in the neighborhood. After some in time, he ran for the House of Representatives in 1980 and 1986 and lost to the incumbent Democrat. He successfully ran and won in 1988. With his victory, he began the first black man to serve in Congress from NJ. Congressman Donald M Payne served in the House from 1989 until his death 2012.

Last Friday on Feb 2nd, I had an amazing opportunity to meet Congressman Payne’s son, Donald Payne Jr. As mentioned, I went with the Charmil Davis Foundation for Colon Cancer Support and Prevention. We visited Congressman Payne Jr because his late father was a mentor to Charmil Davis and supported her early career in journalism, which is why Congressman Payne Jr supported our foundation. Charmil always told us how important people are to Congressman which is what I found inspirational.

When we visited, Congressman Donald Payne Jr was talking about all of his father’s legacy. I was amazed by how humble he was. Congressman Payne Jr ran and won the special election that immediately followed his father’s passing. I just found that to be incredibly strong. After he talked about his father’s legacy, he talked about politics. What I took away was that it is very important for millennials to get interested in politics. The country is going to be ours, so it is important to always have faith in the government.

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This is Charmil Davis who is the President and Founder of the Charmil Davis Foundation. She was a former White House journalist and is currently battling colon cancer. She is so strong and passionate and she is always talking about what its like to go through therapy and how much cancer patients really suffer. She always tells us (which I took to heart) is that we need to take care of people now and give what we can to help others. I think I will always admire her courage and passion.

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One of our interns is Muslim and she mentioned that fact to Congressman Payne Jr. And as a result, he gave her a copy of the Quran. I thought that was amazing and the fact that he even had a Quran in his office is worth noting. And I thought that the edition looked beautiful.

And these are just group pictures that we took. On the left is with Congressman Payne Jr. and on the right is with a statue of the late Congressman Donald M Payne.

New Year Traditions Explained

ccIt has been three days into the new year and I know we are all so excited for what 2018 will bring! When it comes to New Years Eve, most people, like me, watch the ball drop at Times Square and celebrate with family and friends. So I thought it would be fun to learn more about the meaning behind each holiday tradition.

As mentioned before the ball drop at Times Square is arguably the most well-known history-of-times-square-ball-droptradition in America. Originally I believed that ball drop happened forever. I didn’t give much thought to it and after all it has happened every year, for as long as I can remember. When I realized that the tradition had to have started at some point, I decided to do some research. There were fireworks in New Year celebrations starting in 1904. However, two years later, the city banned fireworks so organizers had came up with a new idea. Thus the tradition of dropping a giant ball was born. Today millions of people gather to countdown the year and watch the ball drop.

Another tradition is the singing of Auld Lang Syne, which occurs right after the ball is dropped. Honestly I didn’t even realize that this was a real song. But Auld Lang Syne has been playing every year since 1929. The title of the song translates to ‘old long since’ or times gone by. It’s about about remembering friends and reminiscing about times spent together. It gives a sweet nostalgic feel for the year that passed and I think the song has a sweet message behind it.

ap071202059813_wide-4f1f36beec11a97384b896a94ac4b4748654e484-s900-c85Another interesting tradition I found is eating black eyed peas on New Years. It’s a Southern tradition that has a very long history. The short story is that the peas were brought to America on the slave trade. Eating the peas symbolizes good fortune but there are many theories as to why. One theory is that Confederates soldiers considered eating black peas as good luck because it meant that there was still food left during the war. Another theory is that African Americans ate them to celebrate freedom after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The last theory is simply that the peas looked like coins and signified wealth, therefore if you eat the peas, that will bring you good fortune.

Even though the next tradition isn’t American, I thought it was different. In Spain and other spanish speaking countries, there is a tradition to eat 12 grapes once the clock strikes 12. The way it works is that you eat one grape at midnight, and then keep eating one grape at every chime of the clock. The 12 grapes are meant to signify 12 months worth of happiness. This task isn’t easy and many people get an adrenaline rush while trying to complete the challenge or just end up laughing. Whether or not you complete the challenge, you start off the first 12 seconds of the new year on a high note.

Other New Years tradition from around the world is reading molten lead (similar to reading tea leaves). You heat up some lead (it can be from a spoon) and place the hot lead into cold water. The shape of the lead will predict the next coming year. In China, the new year is celebrated with fireworks while people in the Philippines wear polka dots. In Denmark people smash plates, while in Colombia people carry suitcases around with them. The New Year is filled with all sorts of traditions.

So Happy New Year everyone. May 2018 be filled with happiness and joy.

Tips on Caffeine Consumption

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As college students, most of us drink caffeine at least once a day in the form of tea or coffee. Most people drink coffee to stay awake in their classes, to stay awake while studying late, or to simply stay awake. I personally love drinking both tea and coffee, although I try to be mindful of the amount of each that I drink. While tea and coffee have various benefits for one’s health, it is important to keep in mind that both tea and coffee should be consumed in moderation. Too much coffee can disturb the sleep cycle which directly correlates to increased depressive symptoms, increased inability to focus, and impaired learning. I believe that all of these outcomes are detrimental to learning and definitely make the college experience feel much worse than it should be. So here are tips and routine habits that I adhere to when I drink tea or coffee.

  1. Try to drink only 1 cup of coffee a day or none at all: I know that as college students we need 48 hours in a day to get all our homework, work shifts and classes. And even 48 hours isn’t even enough time. Even though caffeine is a great way to stay awake to finish all the homework and studying, your body will eventually build up tolerance against caffeine. So if you need to study late one night but drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day, you can’t rely on that cup of coffee since your body already built up a high tolerance. So drink less coffee to keep your caffeine levels low.

  2. Drink a cup of green tea a day: green tea has so many health benefits for you. First of all, it has caffeine in it so if you drink it in the morning, it will definitely wake you up. In addition, green tea is known for increasing your metabolism which can help combat the Freshmen 15. Plus, there are virtually no calories in green tea which makes it the healthier option

  3. Get enough sleep: rather than drink coffee, it is healthier and more effective to get enough sleep. You will be more focused, feel happier, and learn more efficiently. In addition, a person can only drink so much coffee before they collapse. It is important to take care of your body and give it the rest that it deserves.

  4. Add little to no sugar: many coffee stores tend to add refined or artificial sugar to their coffee. However refined sugar is not healthy to the human body. They are full of empty calories and they do not add any nutritional benefits. If you want to add a little bit of sweetness, consider adding some cinnamon.

  5. Drink coffee black: coffee itself does not have many calories. Most of the calories comes from the added milk and sugar. If you can not stand black coffee, try using milk alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk. Most Starbucks across the country have these alternatives, so it is worth trying.

Those are all the tips that I have. I just want to make a disclaimer that I do drink coffee and tea, and I definitely use both of them to stay up late to study. However, I put emphasis on good sleeping habits and taking care of my body. Even though I drink coffee on a daily, I try to drink very little such that one cup of coffee can last me 2-3 days.

So happy coffee drinking and good luck on any remaining exams!

Photo credits: http://www.yourbroadwaygenius.com/get-coffee-theatre-district/

5 Things You Shouldn’t Do in College

As a sophomore, I am well aware that I am not as experienced of a college student as seniors and juniors, but I think I already figured out things you should and shouldn’t do in college.

  1. The first thing you shouldn’t do is watch YouTube or Netflix all day. I think everyday has had those days where they spend all day on their bed binge-watching Netflix. I had days where I have to study and finish homework or I’ll get behind. But then I decide to take a break and then this happens.

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Then I realize 6 hours has passed and I haven’t done any work. One tip can be to watch TV after you finish all your work or spend a well deserved Friday catching up on TV.

 

2) Next, you shouldn’t think you can finish all your math homework in one day.

Since I am a math major, this tip is specifically geared towards math majors, but it honestly applies to any field of study. With math and science specifically, I found that it can be exhausting finishing several problem sets in one day. With humanities (to be fair, I haven’t taken a lot of humanities courses), I found it was hard to finish all my reading if I started it the night before. I just didn’t absorb any of the reading and lost a night of sleep. Half the time I actually finish my work the other half I’m like this …

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3) You shouldn’t overextend yourself

Yes, grades are important, but so is maintaining friends, joining clubs, working, sleeping, maintaining good mental health, etc. From my experience, I wanted to maintain all of them but it didn’t work. I ended up ruining my GPA which I still need to recover from.

Basically what I am saying is to find a balance between everything you want to do. If you are taking 20 credits, it would be a good idea to go easy on clubs and work. If you have 14 credits, then you can go out more or work more etc.

Also remember that your mental health is very important. It’s important to try to keep yourself calm and to be able to handle stress. I can’t stress this fact enough

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This just perfectly captures my point

4) Also you shouldn’t not exercise

Even though this is a double negative, basically I’m saying to always exercise and try not to be lazy about this. Exercise is important to keep a smart mind, keep your body healthy, and help yourself maintain a positive image of yourself.

It’s amazing how much exercise impacts the brain and the improved academic performance that follows. http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n1/box/nrn2298_BX1.html?foxtrotcallback=true

 

5) You shouldn’t keep junk food with you all the time.

Of course it’s okay to eat junk food every once in awhile. But it’s still important to get your fruits and vegetables in. Your body is like a car. If you fill it with proper fuel, then it will run efficiently and smoothly.

In addition, healthier food  may not taste good and may be hard to access (believe me I went to the dining halls), but it’s possible, and you will notice the difference over time.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-health-nutrition-better-grades-story.html

Wanna Get Fit?

So obviously college is a time of new life changes that I was personally ready and not ready for at the same time. I was expecting to not get enough sleep and I was expecting a lot of stress. I was even expecting to eat more unhealthy food than I usually do. But what I wasn’t expecting was how much of a toll this would take on my body. I definitely gained more weight than I wanted to but it was hard to start exercising regularly in the middle of the semester.

I obviously don’t want to gain the freshmen 15 again during my second year. In addition, there are many benefits to exercise that improves productivity and learning. I been using the summer to get fit and try to build up exercise habits that will carry on to next semester. So here a some of the habits that I have been doing over the summer.

  • Waking up early and going to the gym
    • Whenever I go to the gym, I tend to feel a little bit insecure going to the gym because there are always so many guys (and some girls) who know how to use the equipment and knows what they are doing.
    • So I found that going to the gym in the morning (if I don’t have morning classes), is nice because there is not that many people there and I feel less insecure. In addition, I feel great afterword and feel ready to study and take on the day.
  • Doing cardio and weights
    • I used to go only on the elliptical because I was always just focused on losing weight. However going to the elliptical gets really boring especially if there is nothing good on the TV. So I try to do weights to change up my fitness routine.
    • This makes working out more fun and more rewarding afterword.
  • Getting 7 hours of sleep
    • Obviously during college, getting 7 hours of sleep can be difficult. But sleeping honestly helps me stay alert, aware and happy throughout the day.
  • Eating more fruits/vegetables and protein
    • My diet usually consists of cereal for breakfast, rice for lunch and dinner, and some random thing in the kitchen for snack. But lately I have been trying to eat much more vegetables and fruits for all my meals and some protein for energy. And surprisingly I have not been getting hungry. Ever since I started this, I have been feeling very fresh and healthy.
  • Listening to body
    • Your diet is so important to your mental and physical health. It’s important to fuel your body and mind with the right products to live healthy, to be productive and to feel happy.
    • Personally, my body doesn’t digest carbs or gluten very well which is the main reason why I started eating more fruits and vegetables. I also found that when I start eating a lot of junk food, I have been feeling very ‘gross’ the next day. The sugar makes me feel happy in the moment but not overall.
    • So when I am presented with options either at the dining hall, students centers, or stores, I try to remember this when I want to avoid the tempting ice cream and cookies and pizza.

While it’s unrealistic to do everything when the school year begins I definitely want to be healthier and stay fit during next semester. It is important to treat your body right because it can have a major effect on your emotions, your work, and obviously your health. So try to hit the gym every once in awhile and try to makes healthier choices for yourself.

29 Things to do Over the Summer

So buy know we got all our summer plans. Some people are interning, volunteering, and traveling. But there are those days where we have absolutely nothing to do. So here is a list of things to do on those days.

  1. Color in a Coloring Book: This has shown to be very relaxing and can be even fun
  2. Read a new Book: Try getting inspiration somewhere or just to do it for fun
  3. Or reread an old book: So I love rereading Harry Potter books so this is always an option
  4. Catch up with Friends by : It’s great to see old high school friends and just catch up
  5. Going to the Park : You can have a picnic or play with a frisbee or just sit and soak up the sun
  6. Or to a Museum: There are many places that have student discounts
  7. Or New York City: There are many other things that are available in NYC in addition to the museums
  8. Go shopping: It’s always nice to have an updated wardrobe or just browse
  9. Go to Six Flags: Six Flags can be so much fun and definitely takes up an entire day. This is what I do with my friends.
  10. Do some crafts: That can also be therapeutic and relaxing
  11. Try to do Some Writing: Again relaxing and a good way to get your thoughts out
  12. Catch up on Netflix: So while I’m not a Netflix person, it’s nice to just binge watch your favorite show
  13. Sleep: This speaks for itself
  14. Go to the Gym: So a nice way to get rid of the Freshmen 15 (even if you are not a freshmen) or just a way to stay fit
  15. Or Biking: So this could be another adventure
  16. Or Hiking; If there are any hiking trails nearby then why not?
  17. Try Yoga: Yoga is believed to reduce stress and soothe the mind so why not try it
  18. Try Meditation: It can be nice to think absolutely nothing
  19. Get Organized for Next School Year: Organization and planning is always good
  20. Try Cooking: It’s a good skill to have an why not?
  21. Listen to Podcasts: It’s an easy way to learn more about a topic and relax.
  22. Spend Time with Family: It’s hard to see them throughout the year.
  23. Lie in Bed and listen to music: Seems like an easy way to relax
  24. Maybe put on a face pack: It can feel refreshing afterword.
  25. Search for textbooks: If you know your textbooks you might as well by them now
  26. Start reading them: You might as well read/skim the content so you have an idea when classes start.
  27. Start a new habit: Maybe go to the gym in the morning or wake up at 6 am.
  28. Read inspiring blogs: Stay motivated and productive throughout the school year.
  29. Read about the profession you want to go to

There are so many things that we can do over summer. And we have 4 months of summer vacation. So instead of watching youtube all summer, we might as well.

Thank you Mom

Even though Mother’s Day was last Sunday, I wanted to make a blog post to pay tribute to my mom and all other moms out there. My mom, like so many other moms, works so hard each and every day to provide what she can for my brother and I. I try to remember and honor that every single day. So here it goes.


Dear Mom,

Thank you for all the sacrifices you make. I know that I am not the easiest daughter to have, but you have always loved me despite all of my flaws. You gave up all of your dreams of getting an education when I was born and made sure that I got what you never had. It is always a humbling reminder that many women in this world don’t have access to a quality education and that I should work hard for mine. For that, I am truly grateful that I am going to Rutgers and that I have an education.

Thank you for always listening to me. You have showed me what it means to be open-minded, empathetic, and strong.

Thank you for all the skills and lessons you taught me.  Despite all the stress and struggles that you go through, you take each day one at a time, which is what I admire about you. I also admire how you always put your family’s needs before your own. You also showed me that it is better to change that to just say that you will change. You always remind me that if I make a promise or a goal,  I have to work and commit to that goal. The biggest lesson that you taught me is to have my priorities in check, some thing that I am still learning each and every day.

Thank you for supporting my passions. When I wanted to be in the school orchestra, you bought me a violin. When I became interested in photography, you bought me a camera. When I wanted to learn how to sing, you took me to a summer workshop. When I wanted to learn how to dance, you took me to a teacher. You have always supported everything that I wanted to do, but also made sure that I was practical in my endeavors, which is what I admire about you. I will never forget this.

Thank you never giving up on me. I will admit that I get distracted and lose focus a lot when I study. I know that I don’t always instill the utmost confidence in you and I will work on changing that.

And finally thank you for being my mother. Words can’t describe how grateful I am. I love you so much.

Love

Akhila
Even though Mother’s Day is once a year, our moms do so much for us daily, so it is important to be grateful every day. We should honor that every day. So be sure to honor your mother and any other important women in your life today.

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).

7 Things I learned as a Math Major minus all the math

Clearly I’m a math major based on the title of this post and I chose this discipline before I started college (I’m currently a first year). Since I am still a freshmen, I am still learning what it means to be a math major. So I thought I would share what I learned about being a math major at Rutgers. Here are the 7 things that I learned minus all the math.

  1. Wolfram Alpha is my life

I literally rely on Wolfram Alpha, Online Integral Calculator, and even Symbolab to help me finish my homework. And there are so many other online tools to help me with my assignments. I require it on a near daily basis — when I get a Webassign or textbook question wrong and I have no idea what I am doing, it’s helpful to use these tools to figure out how I messed up.

       2. The relief that I get when I get a Webassign question right.

In Webassign (depending on the course and professor), you only get a certain number of tries on a problem and obviously I don’t want to plug in every single answer I get, unless I am confident that I did it right. So when I press the button that says SUBMIT ANSWER, it takes a second to reload the page. That second literally takes forever because I don’t want to do the problem again so when I get it right, I feel so relieved.

        3. Even though I love math, I question my major every single day.

Obviously math is a very hard subject and I often get problems wrong. Often times, when I get too many homework questions, I start wondering how I will do on a test and I question whether math is for me. Then I have to remember that I love math and there is a reason why I chose this major.

        4. I get way too excited and suspicious when the number is a simple integer.

I learned that a problem will never be too easy. I always struggle with a problem and the answer is always something with a million decimal points. So the fact that a problem is so simple with such a simple answer makes me so suspicious.

        5. That people struggle with math.

Whenever I tell people that I am a math major, they either tell me that I must be very smart (which I am not) and that they are so glad that they don’t have to take math in college. Then I would say that math just comes easily to me. Then they would argue with me about how math does not come so easy to them. So for me that fact that math is not easy for everyone always astounds me.

          6. Sometimes I multiply 5×5 and get 10.

I can understand complicated problems but sometimes I can’t do simple addition. I often ask my friends what 5×5 is or what 20+15 is. I can easily do them in my head but those are the questions that I get wrong. And if I don’t have another person around me, then I use my calculator.

         7. That I rely on a curve to get a A in the course.

In high school getting an A wasn’t easy but it was possible. But at Rutgers, the difficulty is on another level. Taking a math class or any STEM class is very difficult and and I literally need the curve to get an A in the class.

I hope you enjoyed learning about my math experiences so far.