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)



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.


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.


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.

The Process ™ (patent pending)

Sometimes Writer’s Block (and yes, those words do deserve Capital Letters) happens and sometimes Writer’s Block happens while you’re trying to write a blog post. In case I’m not being totally clear, sometimes that person who is suffering from Writer’s Block while trying to write a blog post is me. So I thought I would take this time to discuss my writing process in a most likely futile attempt to become inspired to write something less meta. If you are reading this with your eyes, I have failed. So without further ado, here is what I lovingly and hatefully refer to as The Process (note: This Process is applicable to both academic papers, blog posts, and anything in between):  

Step 1: Brainstorm an Idea

Sometimes you have ideas and sometimes you write them on a Post-it note at 4 AM after shaking yourself out of the dream that had given you this glorious idea. In a tired haze of regret over having gone to sleep at 3 AM and with enough frantic energy to get you out of bed, you search for a Post-it note in the post-apocalyptic wasteland you dare to call a “desk” and you jot down whatever brilliant idea the dream goblins had given you. And sometimes you wake up at 10 AM and read that Post-it note and that Post-it note says sometimes along of the lines of “EGGS AREN’T REAL” or “TIME IS FAKE!!!!!” or “If he could’ve he would’ve but he didn’t so he can’t,” the last of which actually being a succinct analysis of Satan’s rationale against the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God in Book 6 of Paradise Lost so sometimes things work out in the end.

Step 2: Do Literally Anything But the Thing You are Supposed to Be Doing

There is this thing that I do that I like to call Productive Procrastination (another thing I like to do, apparently, is to arbitrarily capitalize Certain words When i want to assign Them Significance). Productive Procrastination is defined as “the act of doing literally anything but the thing you are supposed to be doing.” I got an entire semester’s worth of homework done while I was trying to avoid writing an 8-page paper. Some examples of Productive Procrastination include:

  • Cleaning your room
  • Doing your dishes
  • Taking out the trash
  • Taking a shower
  • Redecorating
  • Deep cleaning your entire house
  • Doing this week’s psych homework
  • Doing next week’s psych homework
  • Doing the entire semester’s psych homework
  • Making a Spotify playlist with the music that you will write this epic A+++++ paper to
  • Repainting your mother’s bathroom
  • Taking a nap

And so it goes.

Step 3: Stare at Your Empty Document for Five Ten Fifteen Twenty Minutes

Feel the deadline come closer and closer until your anxiety compels you to write something, anything, before it’s too late.


Step 4: Write. Just write. Just get it over with. You know you’re going to write another draft anyway.

Step 5: Think “Hey, this actually isn’t so bad! Why did I wait so long to start this? Why did I go all the way back home to repaint the bathroom???”

Step 6: Realize that it is just as bad as you think. Oh god, why is this happening to me? Dear God, why?

somewhere along the way, this became a Buzzfeed article

Step 7: Scream.

you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain

Step 8: Finish your draft!

It’s terrible. It’s a garbage paper and you are a garbage person. This paper is a sin against both Nature and the English Language, but it exists and, frankly, that’s all it needs to do.

Your thoughts just need to exist somewhere on paper. They could be good thoughts or bad thoughts or right thoughts or wrong thoughts, but you can’t really tell what kind of thoughts they are until you see them.

Step 9: Write It Again

And then when you see them, you can decide what to do from there. No piece of writing exists perfectly the first time. Or the second. Maybe the third. Maybe.

What I’m trying to say is that if you’ve got a paper to write or a blog post or a story or something, honestly the hardest part is just starting.

So just write and write and write and write and somewhere along the way, you’re going to find something you like buried in the mess of your ideas.

So, yeah, anyway this is how I write papers. It’s a miracle I can get anything done. If anything I hope that this shows you that there’s actually no wrong way to write a paper as long as you actually write the paper.

How to Plan for a Productive Summer

As finals and the end of the semester approach slowly but surely (or entirely too fast in some people’s opinion), I am beginning to plan out my summer and the details of all of the tasks I must complete before the beginning of my senior year. The list is daunting, to say the least:

  1. Study for and take the GREs and obtain a somewhat respectable score.
  2. Plan out and submit a curriculum for the Exploring English Literature FIGS section I was chosen to teach next semester.
  3. Research the English Literature PhD programs at various schools, with a particular focus on the specific research work of the professors at these schools.
  4. Research and read for source documents that will be relevant in the writing of my thesis, closely read the novels I plan on analyzing in my thesis, and begin to outline and draft the project.
  5. Research Fulbright ETA programs in various Spanish-speaking countries and around the world, work on the Fulbright Student ETA application.

Hopefully NOT a representation of how I will feel this summer..

Phew! Even though it only takes up five bullet points, it’s a lot to cram into one summer. Additionally, I will be working full-time (groceries aren’t going to buy themselves…), volunteering with a New Brunswick summer camp program, and I also have several important family events to attend, including my sister’s high school graduation. And of course, I would like to *try* to enjoy myself at least a little, as it is my final summer before I graduate from undergrad.

In order to alleviate some of my stress when I look at the list, I’ve broken my summer in month-long chunks to help me better manage my time. For example, after the semester ends to the second week of June, I will be focusing on my GREs. I will take the exam in the second week of June, and will hopefully be pleased with my score so that I can focus on everything else. Next, from about the second week of June to the end of that month, my focus will primarily be on planning my curriculum for FIGS. The written plan for my class is due at the end of June, and getting both the GRE and FIGS out of the way will open up the rest of my summer for the other items on the list. Breaking things down like this in terms of time really helps me to feel less anxious about the longer list of everything that must be completed by the first day of class next September.

Another thing I have learned can be extremely helpful is creating an actual written plan on how I am going to spend my hours. I’ve been putting this into practice this semester to find time to study for my GREs. Every week, after I get my work schedule, I sit down with my google calendar and enter the hours I will have to spend at work. My classes and the major due dates for papers and exams are already programmed in, so once my work schedule is in for the week, I add two to four blocks of time (depending on their length) specifically meant for studying for the GRE. In this way, I can better hold myself accountable to actually get some practice problems and vocabulary flashcards in, instead of just saying that I will do it in my free time. I plan on continuing this practice throughout the summer, and I recommend it if you also have major projects going on. Another great thing about this plan is that your free time is genuinely free. Because you have spent your scheduled time doing all of the major things you need to get done, you don’t feel as though there are important tasks looming over you when you are just trying to enjoy yourself at the beach, at a barbeque, or whenever you are just trying to enjoy the fact that you are not in the middle of an annoyingly busy semester.

The four months off in between the two semesters can be so valuable if they are managed correctly. I hope my summer productivity tips helps you figure out how to get big things done this summer, whether you have an internship, summer classes, or several important projects!

Fingers crossed that I’ll be able to spend at least a little bit of time here!



To Hold a Heart….Literally

Over spring break, I got the opportunity to visit Rowan University of Osteopathic Medicine, one of the top medical schools in Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey. I am very interested in the school and, after talking to the Dean at Rowan and one of the school ambassadors, I arranged to drive down to Stratford, NJ and check out the school. I met up with both the Dean and the student ambassadors at Rutgers events (now you know the importance of those HPO emails and premed events).  Luckily I had chosen a special day to go visit the school. The student ambassador I was touring with had cadaver lab that day!

After changing into a pair of scrubs (I was already seeing myself as a doctor lol), we went into the lab full of 20-30 cadavers. Most people don’t know that these bodies are donated for the scientific cause by people who have passed away. It is because of their incredible and generous donations that medical school students are able to study with real life human bodies (synthetic bodies are getting very popular nowadays; I definitely recommend that you all look into the technology behind them). Usually, I think most people would be fainting or vomiting because of the smell, but I was completely fine. I guess that’s a good trait for an aspiring doctor.

“Scrubs” is one of my favorite shows lol

That day, the medical students were studying the muscles and nerves in the arm and hands. It was very fascinating stuff. My student ambassador even allowed me to cut through some flesh to see how it really feels like. The first thing the students have to do is remove all the fat and tissue that surrounds the nerves, muscles, and other parts of interest.

Then out of the blue, my student ambassador tells me, “Hey Saad, wanna hold a heart?”. When he placed that organ in my hand, the first thing I thought was that it looks nothing like a heart! But seriously, it was amazing to feel and grasp (the cardiovascular surgeon within me was coming out). Looking at the four chambers, the superior and inferior vena cava, the pulmonary arteries, and the aorta was incredible. Gen Bio 2 was really helpful here!

Afterwards, he showed me some other organs, including the lungs. Out of this experience, my interest and curiosity for the human body increased ten fold. One of the first things we learn in Gen Bio is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The human body is so amazing and so incredible because all our organ systems work together to keep us functioning and alive. It is a wonderful and beautiful interconnected system.

My visit to Rowan included meeting professors, students, and the Dean. I loved the small campus and family-like community. It was a great experience to learn so much and witness so many new things. To all you premeds out there, I highly recommend you take many opportunities in your college career to learn about medicine and explore your interests first before you commit your life to medicine.

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.”