A Simple Hack to Improve Your College Experience: Get Involved!

Brite with her two Collegiate Health Service Corps site volunteers, Radha (middle) and Mehak (right).
Brite with her two Collegiate Health Service Corps site volunteers, Radha (middle) and Mehak (right).

College is the land of opportunity. Although everyone who attends has the same goal of walking away with a degree, academics are only a small portion of the experience. There are over 300 student-run extracurriculars you can choose from, including Undergraduate Philosophy Society, 3D Printing Club, and even UConn Kendo, a Japanese sport that uses bamboo swords to spar. It’s not difficult to discover new interests and find your own niche.

I began my college career trying out different activities. For me, getting involved with Community Outreach has been a very life-changing experience. It is a student-run volunteer organization that coordinates various programs to work with local underserved populations. Some are one-time or weekend service events, while others are semester-long programs that fall under one of the three categories: youth development and education, health, and language learning and literacy. I am currently a site leader for Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC) and Windham Hospital Volunteer Program. Out of the two, CHSC has impacted me the most. Every semester, teams of three are assigned to specific local populations to teach health topics to, where each team has the freedom to design their own lesson plans and incorporate interactive activities.

Back in fall 2016 when Windham Hospital spelled Brite's name wrong and she had to wear it for two weeks.
Back in fall 2016 when Windham Hospital spelled Brite’s name wrong and she had to wear it for two weeks.

Last fall, I was assigned to Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic where the population was primarily homeless. Now, I work with tree farmers at Prides Corner Farms in Lebanon. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that allows volunteers to become more socially aware by interacting with populations that they are not usually exposed to. Before I joined Community Outreach, I was involved in many scientific research labs and pursuing a lab research career. Now that I have found my passion in community-based volunteering, I want to continue a similar line of work in the future, collaborating closely with communities to establish and improve preventative healthcare measures. Next year I will be serving as CHSC’s program director, where I am motivated by the possibility of improving the program and creating more meaningful experiences for everyone involved – just as it has done for me in the past.

Volunteering as a part of my college experience helped me discover a new passion – this is why extracurriculars are so crucial to your college experience. After graduation, there will be less opportunities to explore potential passions and careers. Start completing your college experience now and literally change your life!

Tips to a Fulfilling Summer

Mindy reading a book while overlooking the quad.
Mindy reading a book while overlooking the quad.

With summer rapidly approaching everyone cannot wait for the school year to end and the relaxing to begin. However, having a fulfilling summer is key when looking back on it once the school year restarts. There is no greater sense of accomplishment when you are cooped up in your dorm room, then to know there isn’t anything else you wish you had done this past summer.

Here are some tips for how to have a fulfilling summer:


Read a good book: Being in college a lot of the books we read are in the form of a textbook or based on something we are not interested in at all. A book that you actually enjoy can help stimulate imagination and create focus and concentration. Often time in the summer people are either constantly doing activities or not doing anything at all. It is important to keep your brain working, so why not do it with a book you like. Books related to your passion or field of study can also help you recreate or improve yourself in various aspects. For example, you could be inspired to do one act of kindness a day or discover a new interest of yours within your field of study.


Mindy trying a new drawing style that her roommate showed her.
Mindy trying a new drawing style that her roommate showed her.

Channel a new artistic skill: With three “free” months in the summer there is a lot of time to try out new skills. Channel your inner creative ways and pick up a new artistic skill. You can use this skill when you are back at school to relieve stress and relax.


Listen to podcasts or documentaries: College may be out for a few months, however you should try and gain some knowledge while on this academic break. Believe it or not, most classes pull real world examples from documentaries or similar outlets. So, watching these ahead of time can give you prior knowledge. You can also watch them for fun, learning interesting facts in areas you have never heard about. Netflix has a plethora of documentaries spanning multiple disciplines.


TED Talk: influential and informative videos from expert speakers

Netflix: there are a lot of highly regarded documentaries on Netflix


Mindy and her boyfriend kayaking around Barlett Island in Bar Harbor, ME.
Mindy and her boyfriend kayaking around Barlett Island in Bar Harbor, ME.

Research scholarships you can apply for in the fall: While in school there is always constant assignments being given and events popping up. People often run out of time or do not have much time to research scholarships. Scholarships are essential for students who want to lessen their loan debt. Most of the time winter break is the time people set aside to search for such things. However, there are a number of scholarships due not only in the summer but also in the fall.


Spend time outdoors: For most of spring semester, especially this year, it has been cold and windy. Our blissful sunny days are followed by snow and cold temperatures. As we head into summer break it is important to soak up the sun and spend all the time we missed, from being cooped up in our dorms, outside. Learning a new outdoors hobby can help facilitate the desire to be outside. Hobbies like gardening, swimming, running, or even relaxing will fulfill your summer.


These 5 things were just a few tips of many to help you have a fulfilling summer! I hope that you get the most out of this time off and enjoy the warm weather.

Floods and Massive Landslides in Peru

Recent landslide in Peru
Recent landslide in Peru (“Flooding in Peru.” AvaxNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.)

During the month of March, prolonged rainfall has caused severe river flooding, landslides and mud flows across Peru. Around 150,000 homes, including a lot of people’s businesses have been flooded. Approximately 1,250 schools and 340 health centers have suffered some type of damage. 24 of Peru’s 25 regions have reported damage, the most affected regions are: Lima, Piura, Lambayeque, Ica, Arequipa, Huancavelica, Ancash and Loreto.

As of March 25th, 2017, there have been reported the death of 90 people, about 40 people are injured and more than 15 people missing, cause of this climate phenomenon named “El Niño Costero.” As of right now more than 120.000 people have either lost their family, businesses or friends, the number keeps increasing due to the continuous floods and landslides which is making people move to other parts of Peru.

Aside from people losing their homes, massive landslides and floods are causing the loss of water.

Police trying to move people to a safer place
Police trying to move people to a safer place (“Flooding in Peru.” AvaxNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.)

Many Peruvians do not have access to water, some have to buy water from other people and the prices are very high. Unfortunately, many people do not have the money and resources to buy water. The loss of water is not only happening in the poorest regions of Peru, many of the districts of the capital have reported that they do not have access to water, some temporarily and others for a very long period of time.

Currently, Peru has been declared in state of emergency and the situation over there is not getting any better. Many companies have been helping people find shelters and places where they can stay and be helped but the number of affected people keeps increasing. There have been a few fundraisers here in the U.S. and even at UConn to help the victims of this chaotic situation.  Recently, the Peruvian Student Association here at UConn along with the famous Peruvian restaurant Cora Cora and The Beta Lota Chapter of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Incorporated had a fundraiser to help raise funds for the many people affected by the floods. Many of these people organizing fundraisers at UConn are shocked with what’s happening over there, especially the ones that still have relatives or friends because they fear for the people they love, other people are compassionate and want to help those in need.

Me, sophomore year, holding the Peruvian flag.
Me, sophomore year, holding the Peruvian flag.

Even though I now live in the United States, I never forget where I came from. I still have family and friends over there and for me it’s very important that people are aware of what’s happening so they can get involved and help, any help is valuable because the situation over there is getting worse. Seeing families losing their homes, their relatives and their little businesses is very sad, especially when it all happens so suddenly.

If you want to get more involved and help those in need, there have been a lot of websites that work with organizations in Peru where you can donate money. If you want to learn more about it or donate, click on the links below:





Tips for Picking the Perfect College Pet!

Danny in front of fishThere’s no argument that the number one thing all college kids absolutely love is animals. There’s nothing like flock of students who sprint to pet a newly discovered dog on campus. Often students think about getting a pet of their own for companionship and stress relief. In some cases, these decisions turn into great human-pet relationships while in others a complete disaster. Having cared for and owned practically every available pet in the book here’s some advice on getting a new companion during your college career.

Firstly, you should note that the on-campus housing limits you to nothing besides a fish tank less than 30 gallons total per room (10 gallons per person). Off campus housing is much more ideal for keeping pets.  Be sure to check with your landlord for their pet policies and if there are extra required costs before getting a new companion.

Fish: A+ College Rating

My 10 Gallon "UConn" Fish Tank.
My 10 Gallon “UConn” Fish Tank.

I always like to start with fish because they’re one of my favorites groups of animals and often underrated. Not only are there a wide variety of species, colors, and temperaments but many are relatively easy to care for. One of the greatest things about fish is that they are always inside an aquarium. Unlike other animals, like snakes, fish generally stay inside the tank and you won’t have to worry about one frolicking through your dorm or apartment building if they get out!

Fish are an ideal choice of pet in college and a great stress reliever. Watching fish tanks has been proven to lower stress levels and relax people with anxiety. Entire fish tanks can be set up for under $100 and require low maintenance. Small 10 gallon kits are available at local pet stores and are great for easy to keep bettas, tetras, guppies, and other small freshwater community fish. If you are more interested in saltwater fish be sure to do your research as they require different setup techniques, daily maintenance, equipment and are generally much more expensive.

Fish are allowed in UConn college dorms and can be easily transported back home during the summer and winter break with a few secure buckets. Fish, like bettas, are generally very hardy and can go full weeks without feed or negative health effects. Myself and many other fish hobbyists have left fish over spring and winter break without issues. Daily feeding, addition of water to account for evaporation, algae scraping, and checking temperature parameters are the general maintenance. If you want a low maintenance pet that can be beautiful, active, and a fun addition to your dorm room- fish may be right for you!

Rodents (rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, etc): A- College Rating

Generally small and easy to keep- most rodents can make great college pets. Enclosures are generally cheap along with bedding, feed, and the initial cost of the animal. For dorms hamsters, gerbils, or mice are your best bet. They can be easily kept in a 10-gallon tank, generally don’t smell, and require only short daily care (feeding, water, cleaning). Rabbits, rats, and guinea pigs need larger enclosures but are also great choices and are generally very personable. Do your research as species like gerbils and guinea pigs are social animals and prefer being kept with multiple individuals (of the same sex so you don’t get tons of babies). Members of this group also have teeth that never stop growing throughout their lives- so provide plenty of chew toys to prevent dental problems. These animals may require vet visits and spaying.

Chinchillas are also included in this group. They can make great pets but are generally harder to keep as they require daily dust bathing to keep their coat in good condition. They also don’t love being handled and are more expensive.

I have gerbils and rabbits currently and they are great college companions! They are very easy to drop off at a friend’s house for short term leave care.

Hagrid, my Enchi Ball Python.
Hagrid, my Enchi Ball Python.

Reptiles and amphibians (snakes, lizards, frogs, etc): B+ College Rating

Reptiles and amphibians can be great pets. One of the easiest pets to care for in this group are snakes. With 2 ball pythons, a Kenya sand boa, and a western hognose snake I can attest to their ease and benefits of ownership. Snakes (depending on age, size, and species) only have to be fed once every 5 days to 2 weeks! You may have to deal with frozen mice and rats but the low frequency of feeding gives you plenty of wiggle room if you must leave for a few days. Snakes also don’t gain much from human interaction- they can get used to being handled and are usually docile but don’t require daily stimulation like other animals. They enjoy being curled up under their log on a heating pad. Do a quick YouTube search and you can find easy cheap setups for all species in this group. With these species, you generally want to watch humidity and temperature levels- please look up safe parameters before purchase.

Frogs, lizards, and salamanders are also good choices. These require more regular daily feeding but may be much more fun to watch than snakes. Geckos and bearded dragons (in the right enclosure and proper care) are great college companions. If you’re more adventurous you may venture into a living dart frog & plant setup. Frogs and salamanders should not be handled regularly.

Turtles and tortoises are also included in this group. I don’t suggest them as the best choice for college students as tortoises require very large enclosures and more involved lighting and feeding requirements. Aquatic turtles release lots of waste into their tanks and require constant cleaning.

Be wary of salmonella in this group. Wash hands before and after handling!

Birds (parrots, finches, budgies, quail etc):  C- College Rating

I’m going to make this one quick. Birds are my favorite animals. That being said, I understand that parrot species require a tremendous commitment of time, energy, and money. They require regular vet visits which adds up quickly in costs for us broke college kids. They are also generally noisy and messy which makes them less than ideal for communal living. Many species can live extremely long (up to 80 years) which means they’ll be around a large portion of your life. They also have extremely high attention needs- comparable to that of a young child. Budgies (parakeets) may work well as they are small, cheaper, generally hardy, and don’t live quite as long. Finches and button quail may be a better choice if you really want a bird in college but these species dislike being handled. My advice would be wait to get a parrot until after college!

Dogs and Cats: C- College Rating

You can compare my view of keeping dogs and cats in college to my stance on keeping parrots. They are a BIG commitment. Most dog breeds require very frequent stimulation such as walks and play time. Both cats and dogs need specific vaccines, regular vet visits, and spay or neuter surgeries. These costs along with their initial purchase costs, upkeep (feed, treats, toys, litter, etc) are way too much for the average college student to be responsible for. Only buy an animal if you know for sure you can financially support and keep it healthy in great living conditions. Apartments often make you pay extra to keep dogs and cats on their properties. You also must worry about finding caretakers for dogs and cats even if you are just gone for a day. Obviously, these animals make fantastic companions and can improve mental health and stability. I know people who have cats and dogs successfully in college – but I would advise against it at this stage in our life.

Juanita, my Mexican Red Knee Tarantula.
Juanita, my Mexican Red Knee Tarantula.

Other (ferrets, sugar gliders, tarantulas, scorpions): A+ to F College Rating

 A wide variety of species can be placed in this other section. From the easiest of all pets, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which can go months without food and are virtually indestructible, to the hardest to keep marmosets (small primates) which should not be kept as pets at all.

Ferrets, sugar gliders, or a hedgehog may make a great college companion instead of a dog or cat. Please do research before purchasing. Sugar gliders require very specific feeding and care rituals. All three should be brought to a vet regularly and are not good choices for first time pet owners.

If you are not the squeamish type- tarantulas and scorpions make unique, interesting, easy to care for pets. I have 4 tarantulas currently. They can be kept in small containers, only have to be fed a couple times a week (crickets and other live bugs), and are generally very hardy. These invertebrates are often only sold at reptile expos.

If you are a livestock or horse person just go visit the barns on campus and get involved with animal science groups!

Travel Tips for College Students

Performing an annual exam on a jaguar with the veterinary medical team from my Honduras spring break trip.
Performing an annual exam on a jaguar with the veterinary medical team from my Honduras spring break trip.

Many college students are advised to travel at some point during their undergraduate career. Whether it be a study abroad program, a community service trip, or a vacation with close friends, I believe that traveling in any capacity can broaden your perspective and teach you things that you may not get the chance to experience during your time at school. At an age when many of us don’t have our lives quite figured out yet, the experiences I’ve had traveling have provided me opportunities to gain confidence and independence, learn self-reflection, and ultimately be more aware of what is going on in the world around me. Unfortunately, travel is sometimes difficult for students due to limited budgets, busy schedules, or other circumstances, but it is definitely still possible! Here are some tips and advice about traveling as a student that I’ve picked up in my travels thus far:


  1. Take advantage of study abroad programs and educational opportunities abroad.

I urge any student to look into what their school’s study abroad programs have to offer. These trips are designed for students and are many times more cost effective or easier to schedule while you’re going to school. If a whole semester is difficult to commit to for scheduling or money reasons, consider programs that run during school breaks. Last May I went on a 3 week study abroad trip to South Africa and it was cheaper than going for a semester as well as allowing me to work around the classes that I’m required to take. In addition to college-run programs, there are plenty of reputable third party organizations that run trips geared towards students. Consider trips that may be helpful in advancing your career or education as well. For spring break this semester I went on an alternative break trip to Roatán, Honduras through an organization called World Vets. Being a pre-veterinary student, I was able to volunteer under the supervision of a veterinarian at a wildlife rehabilitation facility to gain skills and experiences with exotic animals that I would not have had the chance to otherwise. This semester I also took a shorter and more inexpensive trip with my sorority to a leadership conference in Nashville, TN where we got to work on our networking, leadership, and professional development skills. Trips like these are more structured and can provide opportunities that a student may not be able to participate in on their own.

Performing an annual exam on a jaguar with the veterinary medical team from my Honduras spring break trip.
Performing an annual exam on a jaguar with the veterinary medical team from my Honduras spring break trip.
  1. Plan ahead in order to save money and time.

If you’re on a budget, research options for the different aspects of your trip ahead of time. This gives you ample opportunity to explore all of the options and see what would work the best for you. Booking flights or hotels early is often cheaper than waiting until the last minute. Also try looking into alternatives to popular destinations that may be cheaper or traveling domestically instead of internationally. In addition, alternative break volunteer trips are a great way to not only travel on a budget but give back to the community. Ultimately, planning ahead will definitely ensure you’re prepared, but don’t be afraid to be spontaneous and flexible with some parts of your trip!

  1. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and keep an open mind.

When you’re at home or school you’re generally in your comfort zone, but travel is an opportunity to try new things and gain a broader perspective. Trying new foods, new activities, or meeting new people on your trip can be exciting and help you discover things about yourself. Traveling with friends is also really fun, but I’ve had an amazing time on trips where I didn’t know anyone and was forced to meet new people from many different places. The cultural differences you encounter on your trip may surprise you, but being exposed to different ways of life other than my own has pushed me to be more open minded.

  1. Commemorate your experiences!
Attending a leadership conference in Nashville, TN with my sorority.
Attending a leadership conference in Nashville, TN with my sorority.

After your travels you’ll likely have memories that you’ll want to cherish. Many people bring home souvenirs, which I would definitely recommend, but my favorite way to remember my travels is to take lots of pictures and to keep a travel journal. Pictures are a great visual representation of your trip that you can also share with others. Journaling, on the other hand, gives you a chance to personally reflect and have a record of your experience from your own perspective that you can refer back to.

Some of the best memories I have from college are from my travels, and I would encourage any student to step outside of their comfort zone and explore what the world has to offer.

Starting College in a Living Learning Community

To some, the first few days of college are overwhelming and lonely because they struggle to find common ground with the people around them. However, if you’re lucky enough to come into UConn in a Living Learning Community (LLC) such as the Women in Math, Science, and Engineering (WiMSE) learning community, then that adjustment is really already made for you. Living Learning Communities are groups of students that live together based on a common application into that program. For example, there’s WiMSE, Business Connections, Engineering, Innovations, Scholars, EcoHouse, and many more.

WiMSE is a group of women in STEM disciplines. I have lived in the community for two years in various residence halls.  First WiMSE was located in the Watson building of the Alumni residence area, and it has since moved to the NextGeneration Connecticut residence hall.  The group of girls has changed from year to year, but I am still particularly close with the now sophomores of WiMSE. The best part of WiMSE is the mutual understanding between everyone. We all are familiar with the very challenging classes that accompany a STEM major, and find fellowship in the stress of attempting to be accepted into graduate school. WiMSE has given me my best friend, a wonderful position in undergraduate research, many personal and professional connections, as well as a happy place to call home. To anyone coming into college or feeling lost, a living learning community is really the way to go.

Amidst the confusion and stress of change during my first semester freshman year, WiMSE was where I was most comfortable. As I grew out of my comfort zone, WiMSE became a familiar, welcoming place where I knew I could always find others who felt the same way as I did. That sense of unity is something only found in the commonalities of living in the same learning community. Thanks to WiMSE, I am happy, grounded and successful at UConn. Living learning communities are UConn’s hidden gems!

WiMSE 2015 posing at the Learning Community Kick Off!
WiMSE 2015 posing at the Learning Community Kick Off!

Meeting New People in a Stress Relieving Environment

SHAMEE RANG Showcase at Rutgers University
SHAMEE RANG Showcase at Rutgers University

Like most incoming freshmen students, finding a hobby or passion in college is always a struggle in the beginning. Trying to balance your schedule, choosing the required classes, and finding time to study or exercise can be very stressful. As a commuting freshman, it was hard to find a place on campus to let myself go and do something I loved, especially when I did not know anyone coming to UConn. College can make or break you, as preparation for making life choices and becoming independent. For me, my first year in college was tough because I struggled to find an efficient method to study for classes such as Biology 1107, while seeking a place to de-stress. Despite struggling to excel in school during my freshman year, eventually I figured out how to balance my schoolwork, working three jobs at one point, and making time to hang out with friends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy because I was always stressed about school. Luckily, I took a chance last semester and went to the Fall Involvement Fair, and found an Asian Fusion Acapella group with members who encouraged me to try out for their team.


Husky Hungama Christmas Party
Husky Hungama Christmas Party

When I tried out and was selected for the Acapella team called Husky Hungama, initially I was concerned about whether or not I would be committed. But looking back on it now, it was one of greatest decisions I made. I found a place where I could be myself and pursue my passion to sing. Joining Husky Hungama not only helped me improve as a singer, but gave me a chance to be in a safe place where I met wonderful and caring people who shared a similar passion for singing. Among all of the stress of studying for exams, applying for jobs, and trying to stay healthy, being a part of a particular group lets you forget about the stressors in your life, even if it’s temporary. Being a part of this team allowed me to join a family of brothers and sisters because at the end of the day, these people were not just friends, but family. Meeting new people is the best feeling because at the end of your college career these will be “your people,” who will pick you up when you fall and support you while you succeed! College is an experience. You will fail numerous times and the stress you accumulate will make it seem as if the world is coming to an end. But don’t fret! Stress is a common aspect of life and there is no way around it. But there are always ways to cope with stress. Taking the time to go to involvement fairs every semester and attending various general body meetings for different organizations are little things that you can do to find your happy place. UConn is a diverse and open community that has a place for everyone. I am proud to say Husky Hungama is my happy place.

The Transition Nobody Warns You About

When I was in high school, I always had this preconceived idea of what college is supposed to look like, and how it is supposed to be the best four years of your life. That’s why I eagerly applied to schools all outside of New York, with the hopes of meeting new people, discovering myself, achieving success, and being independent. Now as I am halfway through the second semester of my sophomore year, I can proudly say I have accomplished these dreams of mine, but it did not come as easily as I thought it would or should.

Brittany with members of her sorority helping new girls go through Panhellenic recruitment for Fall 2016.
Brittany with members of her sorority helping new girls go through Panhellenic recruitment for Fall 2016.

Before I left for college, I spent 18 years of my life living in the same town as my entire family; this includes my mom’s twelve brothers and sisters and all of my fifty something cousins (yeah I know crazy right?). I was used to seeing my family almost every day, hanging out with my friends who I have known since we were in diapers, and spending much of my free time going to the mall, the beach, the city, or other places where I was constantly surrounded by other people and loud noises. I had received all A’s in my classes while managing to work five days a week and participating in various clubs and extracurricular activities. I thought I really had my life together, and I was expecting to be able to just continue what I was doing in college with ease.

Nobody ever warned me how difficult the transition from high school into college can be for some people. I walked into UConn without knowing anyone, and I remember how scared and lonely I felt those first few weeks. I remember looking at my home friends’ social media accounts and seeing them post pictures of themselves with their new friends at their new schools looking like they were having the time of their lives; I was thinking to myself that maybe going away isn’t right for me, and I started to consider transferring back home. No amount of work in high school could have prepared me for the workload one receives in college. On top of having a hard time making friends and meeting new people, I was running on four hours of sleep every night trying to study and finish all of my homework and labs, and I was mentally and physically exhausted. My heart ached for home and for my friends and family, and a home cooked meal (unlimited swipes for the dining hall gets old fast).

Brittany and fellow members from College Ambassadors attending the Dean's house for a taco dinner party.
Brittany and fellow members from College Ambassadors attending the Dean’s house for a taco dinner party.

The night before registration was due, my roommate convinced me to sign up for Panhellenic recruitment. Although I was a little unsure of whether Greek life was right for me, I figured I had nothing to lose and that it was a way for me to meet new people. Joining Greek life and becoming involved on campus was easily the best decision I have ever made. Although it took some time, I began to meet new people and form friendships that will last me a life time. As a result of joining Greek life, I met people with similar majors and interests as mine who encouraged me to branch out and become involved in other organizations on campus such as PAPCA and College Ambassadors. As for the workload, I learned study habits that worked for me from trial and error and from my FYE class and ways to efficiently manage my time. As time went on I started to feel adjusted and that I belonged at UConn.

Although there are still days now where I miss home, I could not imagine what my life would be like if I had decided to leave UConn. The transition into college can be extremely overwhelming and nerve wracking. My advice to everyone is just remember that most people feel the exact same way you do even if they are not expressing it and that it takes time to adjust to a new life with different people and places. In the end everything always works out, and if I never stayed at UConn I would never have discovered my home away from home.

The Leap to Adulthood: Tips to Being Successful

Tulsi's roommates and friends celebrating Friendsgiving
Tulsi’s roommates and friends celebrating Friendsgiving

Often we think of turning 21 as the big step to adulthood, however, there is a key element which is vital to becoming an adult: being able to take care of yourself. Freshman year it is typical that people move into a one room dorm with a meal plan. However, at some point, there are no options for dorms and no pre-made food there for you to eat whenever you want. That is the true leap to adulthood, when you move into an apartment and have to cook and clean for yourself.

Taking care of yourself seems pretty straight forward, you’ve been doing it all your life. But what about when it’s just you, a student with minimal income and no time for anything except studying and Netflix? As one of the many students who has taken this step, here are some things that I’ve learned in my first year living in an apartment:

  1. Food Budget: With a part-time job only providing a small income, it is EXTREMELY important to budget. I plan out my dinners weekly so I can have efficient shopping trips and keep myself from buying extra food. It is also important to factor in other costs such as buying coffees or going out to eat, as it can add up pretty fast.
  2. Cleaning Schedule: Living with roommates can be difficult, but sharing an apartment with multiple people can be even more frustrating. It is important to set up a schedule for cleaning everything from pots and pans to taking out the trash. You should remember that people grew up with different habits, so you should all be on the same page about how to keep things tidy.
  3. Enjoy yourself! Having my own room in college for the first time has reminded me of how great it is to hang out alone. Me time is always a good idea, it gives you time to de-stress and enjoy your hobbies. As usual, its important to manage your time between school work and you time.
  4. Stay social. Living in an apartment is cozy and can lead to becoming anti-social after discovering how great it is to have your own space. Make sure to still get out there and see people, whether its cooking with your roommates or going out to a basketball game with friends. I can say that I have learned so much from my roommates this year, its been great learning about their cultures and experiencing their food.
  5. Make it your own. Have fun decorating your apartment! I spent a lot of time on Pinterest finding things I wanted to make. DIY is the cheapest option when on a budget, as well as yard sales if you’re looking for furniture. Make your apartment an expression of who you are and enjoy doing it with by making things with friends and family.

Living in an apartment is a lot of responsibility, but being able to take care of yourself and your space is an important milestone in your life. Finding your own tricks like I have are a great way to manage the responsibilities while enjoying your life.

Tulsi's room
Tulsi’s room

My First FNCE: Learning about the Field of Nutrition and Dietetics

Me and my nutrition friends pose for a photo at FNCE 2016.
Me and my nutrition friends pose for a photo at FNCE 2016.

In the Fall of 2016, I began my journey to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) in the Coordinated Program in Dietetics. It was a busy semester—a full course-load plus my introduction to supervised clinical practice in a long-term care facility. As the semester kicked into gear with exams and projects, I—like many students—put all my focus into simply studying and getting good grades.

In October, all of the students in my program were encouraged to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Boston. It was a treat that the conference that draws nutrition professionals from across the country was going to be held so close to UConn. As the conference approached, we all worried about the time taken out of our studies. When were we going to study for that microbiology exam? When is that lab report going to get done?

On the first day of the conference, I watched the President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics speak.  She spoke of how far the field of dietetics has come since its advent, and the importance of the work that dietitians do.  It struck me how proud I was to be entering a field dedicated to helping people become healthier in diverse ways—whether counseling a diabetes patient in the hospital, encouraging children to try new fruits and vegetables, or helping people eat healthfully on a budget. At this moment I decided to leave my studies behind and to learn as much as I could in one short weekend. After all, I was surrounded by the experts.

Emily FNCE badge
My ‘official’ FNCE name badge – I was very excited to be representing UConn!

I spent the next two days going to sessions with my classmates and on my own.  I learned about designing nutrition interventions that teach people how to eat healthier by teaching them how to cook, and current issues related to food insecurity and hunger. I became familiar with how food allergies are handled in schools, some of the barriers to safety, and how policies that protect children with food allergies were developed.  I also went to a session on low-FODMAP diets and how to use them to help patients with digestive issues. Though I did take away some content and familiarity with certain nutrition topics, what will likely stay with me longer was the inspiration I gained from the speakers. These dietitians—mostly women—were extremely accomplished; they had PhDs, they were professors and researchers, and they held sway in the policy-making arena.  These people took their nutrition knowledge and ran with it. I saw a world of possibilities opening up in front of me as I realized that there is no one “right” career path.

In addition to the sessions, there was a huge expo hall filled with all kinds of food and health vendors. We picked up everything—nutrition education materials, free aprons, tote bags with avocados on them, and lots and lots of food samples.  I was able to bond with my fellow dietetics students going from booth to booth eating and picking up free stuff. Nutrition majors won’t lie to you—we’re at least partially here for the food.

Aside from the fun I had and the free food I picked up, I left FNCE with something really important: inspiration.  As a student, it’s easy to get wrapped up in coursework, get obsessed with your grades, and lose sight of your goals. The reality is that school is a lot more fun when you are excited about what you are working towards. I would encourage all students to grasp any opportunities they have to interact with their future fields, build their leadership skills, or explore their career interests. Being an undergraduate is about a lot more than just taking classes—open your eyes, explore your interests, and learn for the sake of learning.  You’ll get it all done, I promise.