Maintaining Long Distance Relationships While in College

By Sydney Barker

Leaving for college is always a very emotional time, no matter how far away you are. It’s a time for leaving behind your life as you once knew it and moving on to the next chapter.

With love from Connecticut, see you soon!

When I left for college, the hardest thing was saying goodbye. Standing in the airport with my bags packed, I knew it would be months before I would see my family and all of my friends from home. Being immersed at school in the excitement and hustle of everyday activities helped, but I still had the aching feeling that something was missing. I missed seeing my friends and family every day, and being so distant from them was a very difficult adjustment. I had to consciously try to keep up with their lives in a way I never had to before, while I was also making new friends and forming relationships in school.

In the three years since I started college, I’ve seen a lot of relationships that were meaningful to me in high school fade away, but the few that persisted are stronger than ever. Every moment we spend together, it’s as if we were never apart. The biggest advice I’d have for individuals trying to maintain their friendships from home is:

  1. Make the effort to reach out as often as possible! (The less you keep up with their lives the further away you will feel.)
  2. Be open about how you feel; don’t ignore the fact that you miss them– embrace it because it means you care.
  3. When you do see them again, make an extra effort to go out and do something new or special, as well as something you’ve done a million times before. (It’s important to maintain your link to the past while also making new memories together.)

Since being in college I have acquired a long-distance boyfriend, who I only get to see two out of twelve months in the year, unfortunately. While we are very much friends first, maintaining a long-distance romantic relationship can be very different and much more difficult than maintaining ties with friends or family. One of the biggest decisions you can make is whether or not you want to put up with the distance, and it is not something you should take lightly. It’s very important to consider not only the other person and how much you love them but also your own needs. A lot of a long-distance relationship is going without, and only you can decide if you think it’s worth it to wait or not. Ask yourself if you can picture yourself with someone else and if you can picture your life without them. Make sure that this is your decision and yours alone; you can’t let your parents, friends or even your partner sway you one way or another. For this to work, you have to truly believe that this is what you want.

Once you have decided to embark on the journey that is a long-distance relationship (romantic or otherwise), it’s important to remember:

  1. Make as much time as physically possible to talk to them. Facetime/call/text as much as you can, hopefully for at least an hour a day. Tell them all the small things that happen to make them feel like they’re with you.
  2. Sometimes the most frustrating thing will be when they’re upset and you can’t hug them to make them feel better; try not to take this frustration out on them and instead focus on comforting them with your words by reminding them how much they’re loved.
  3. Let them go out with their new friends and make plans with other people. Trust is the number one most important thing in your relationship, and if you let jealousy get in the way, they will end up resenting you for holding them back.
  4. Write some letters. I know this sounds ridiculously cheesy, but it’s a way of feeling close to someone that emailing and texting and facetiming just cannot convey. It will mean the world to them, and writing down your thoughts will remind you how much they mean to you.

Whether you stay close with your friends from home or your friendships fade or you meet the love of your life ten minutes from your house or ten thousand miles from your house, remember to be true to yourself. What you want and need is the most important thing and if it is meant to be it will be.

Studying the Food Chain in Italy

by Martina (Mengtian) Zhu

Italy, well known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, is famous for its art and different styles of architecture. Last year, I spent four months in Florence as part of UConn’s Sustainable Food and Environmental Systems program to explore this beautiful city and local customs and experience an unforgettable food adventure.

When we talk about Italy, the foods that come to my mind are pizza and pasta. There are many different kinds of pasta common in Italy; they enjoy spaghetti, but they also cook fusillini, farfalle, pipe rigate, rigatoni, and gnocchi on a regular basis. These pastas are available in the U.S., but we tend not to cook them as often as the Italians do. In addition, rice lovers can’t miss the risotto here. It is not like risotto at most American restaurants: Italian risotto is filled with local mellow cheese, fish, mushrooms and barolo. Meat is also essential in Italy. In Florence, having “Bistecca alla Fiorentina” should be on everybody’s to do list. That is the Florentine steak that comes from Chianina. The ingredients are of a high quality, so Italians use the original recipe to keep its fresh flavor. The meat is frozen for two weeks, then grilled on both sides with charcoal and olive oil until there is no blood. Because the steak is very thick, the middle part is usually raw, but it is definitely soft and flavorful.

There are some food rules in Italy. For instance, there is no chicken pasta dish in Italy, because pasta is the main course rather than a side dish. The typical Italian meal structure usually consists of an appetizer, first course and a second course with a side dish. The first course contains staple food, such as risotto, pasta, gnocchi or polenta. Second course includes different meats and types of fish, like chicken, turkey, sausage, steak, salmon or salt cod. Salad is always considered as side dish. Italians don’t have any special dressings on salad, just olive oil and vinegar. There is no take away coffee in Italy, since Italian people drink freshly brewed espresso in actual espresso cups while sitting down, rather than any latte or venti sized macchiatos. Food is intended to be enjoyed and not mindlessly consumed.

We also participated in community service during the semester. There is a very impressive community garden called Orti Dipinti, which is a sustainable garden. We helped to weed, water and clean, and our group also tried to find a problem in the garden and solve it. When I first walked in, I saw a shelf on the left-hand side, which had a postcard, tea bags, and instructions on how to make a tea bag. The garden is not large, and it was rebuilt from a waste playground. I was surprised that this small garden has so many different types of plants and vegetables in wooden containers. It is possible to pick eggplants and tomato in the city! There are also lots of unique design elements in the garden, like a bottle wall that used recycled waste wine bottles as plants’ containers. Lingering in the garden is a wonderful restorative moment during a busy day.

The program also offered me the opportunity to volunteer at a local restaurant and supermarket, which was the best experience for me to get familiar with this country. I went to La Spada, a restaurant that serves traditional Italian food, and helped to grill steak and place plates. I also went to Sant’Ambrogio market and worked in the seafood section to clean the fish and sell the products. Studying how cook Italian food with the resident chef was impressive. Eleven of us were divided into three groups, and each group created their own menu through research for the final cooking show. The chef, Francesco, made specific recipes for us to memorize and practice. My group made cabbage soup with cannellini as antipesto, pappardelle with white truffle sauce as primo, peposo stew with polenta as secondo, and cream puff balls as dolce. Cabbage soup is a healthy appetizer from a nutritional view since our other courses didn’t have any vegetables. Tuscana is a truffle-growing region, so we could buy the good-quality truffle sauce to make with pappardelle. Peposo stew is a traditional tuscan pepper beef stew, which was invented by the furnace workers who baked the terracotta tiles for the Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo in Florence. Our dessert, cream puff balls, is called bongo fiorentino in Italian, and it was recommended by Francesco. Bongo fiorentino is very popular in Florence. We made the cream puffs first, and dipped them in the chocolate sauce. It was the best dessert I’ve ever had!

Staying in Italy is very different from living in the U.S. I purchased the most fresh fruits and vegetable in the local market everyday, and cooked everyday. The lifestyle in Italy was slow and enjoyable. By comparison, in the U.S., there are more fast food restaurants and takeaway coffee. People focus more on working instead of cooking. Each lifestyle has its own characteristics. I enjoy cooking everyday like Italians, but when I have a lot of work to do, it’s nice to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks since I don’t have time to wait for fresh espresso. I appreciated this study abroad program because I could experience different cultures. For a snapshot of my time in Italy, check out my video!

Changing Career Plans & Adding a Minor: Tracking the Ins and Outs

By: Tessa Marandola

High school is a stressful time, no matter how you spin it. Everything in your life is changing; you are growing up, potentially leaving home, maybe even starting the career of your choice. If you are someone who has decided on college, you now have one more thing to add to your to do list: choose your career. Choose your career?! At the age of 17-18?! Who do these people think you are?! But don’t worry, it does not have to be something you stick with forever. As someone who has changed her mind (again and again), it is definitely not impossible for you to change yours as well!

Many people coming into college believe that pre-professional tracks, such a pre-medical or pre-veterinary, are considered majors, but they are actually considered “paths” or “tracks” and can easily be changed throughout your college career! Tracks are just that, something you need to follow in order to reach a goal. In the case of pre-professional tracks, they are a set of coursework that needs to be completed throughout your undergraduate career in order to move on to your chosen post graduate program. If you decide to change your mind by either removing or adding a graduate program, all you do is either stop or start taking the new courses. Although it may be helpful to talk it through with an advisor, in the end it’s always your decision. Unlike a complete major change, tracks are not added to your transcript or anything, so there is no worry about that. It is a much calmer process than it seems to be, so if you are ever in a spot where something needs to be changed, do not fret!

My freshman year, I came into the college as an animal science major on the pre-veterinary track. I decided relatively quickly that I no longer wanted to be a veterinarian but wanted to pursue a graduate degree in animal science. Because I was not exactly sure about my future career, I decided to keep taking all of the same courses a pre-veterinary student would, just to be sure. After my sophomore year, I realized I did not want to work with animals anymore, but people instead! I am now a pre-medical animal science student (and hopefully will remain so until I graduate) and could not be happier. For me, the tracks had relatively similar coursework, which made things much easier as I switched around, but I found the switches to be extremely easy and not stressful at all and it could be the same for you.

Now onto minors. The university offers many minors and it is so easy to find one you are interested in. I am very interested in psychology so I started my psychology minor my second semester sophomore year, and it was a complete breeze! I met with my advisor to discuss minor requirements and enrolled in some psychology classes to start. My psychology minor requires 15 credits and because minors do not need to be declared until graduation, I am waiting until all of the courses are completed to put this on my transcript. Some of the minors’ coursework can also be used for general education requirements which makes them relatively easy to complete. If you do not realize until later in your academic career what you are interested in, a minor can still be added at any point. The earlier a minor is declared, however, the easier it is to finish on time.

Minors are great way to encompass many interests through coursework. Taking courses you are extremely interested in is helpful both for your happiness and for your resume. Minors demonstrate a well-rounded student more so than just fulfilling the general education requirements. A minor shows your drive to have a deeper understanding of a subject, which is helpful when applying for future jobs or graduate schools.

College is a whole new world and it can be tough for some people, but just know that your career choice is something you can always change. You are not required to stay with something you decided on in high school, so do not feel stuck! If you have any interests that are not directly related to your major, always keep a minor in mind. It is not as difficult to finish as a major but still allows you to take classes you are interested in. Most of all, have fun and just be happy with whatever you decide!

Easy Ways to Stay Healthy at School

by Annie Schindler

College is stressful. It’s stressful on your mind and on your body, and for me, keeping my physical health in check has been very helpful way for me to keep my mental health where it should be. I personally try go to the gym four times a week, try to keep my eating as clean as possible, and try to get as much sleep as I can.  These might all seem like massive lifestyle challenges to some people.  If the thought of going to the gym is dreadful, or you spend too many late nights at the library or just having fun, remember that the key word here is try.  College is a roller coaster in so many ways, but I think that as long as you are always trying your hardest, you are succeeding.

Going to the gym on a regular basis is a big time commitment; I won’t try to sugar coat that, but the effort definitely pays off.  Getting to the gym and using your body feels so good, especially when you spend so much of your time sitting.  Staying in shape not only makes you feel good, but it helps keep your immune system stay strong, which is so important on a college campus where it feels like there is always someone coughing or sneezing.  I personally like going to the gym in-between classes because it is a guaranteed time you will be on campus, and it is a good way to productively pass time between those classes.  Another good way to make sure you get to the gym is to sign up for BodyWise classes or schedule a time to go with friends because it will keep you accountable.

As a student living off-campus, I’m no longer reliant on the dining hall for my food.  This is both a blessing and a curse, a blessing because I’m no longer at the mercy of the dining hall menu, and a curse because I actually have to cook for myself.  This “curse,” however, is also one of the easy ways I stay healthy.  Because I have to buy my own groceries, I can choose to buy healthy ingredients.  Although the dining hall might have healthy options, it’s hard not to see past the mac and cheese staring me in the face.  I also tell myself that it is more worth it for me to buy healthier ingredients, because I know they will fuel me better than unhealthy foods.

Another way that I stay healthy at school, is to separate my work time and my relaxation time.  On my average days, I try to get all of my school work done by 5 PM, so I can focus on myself.  This is when I will go to the gym, clean, hangout with my friends, really just anything that I know will make me happy.  I also try to keep my work outside of my bedroom.  Studies have shown that doing work in bed can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night.  I personally do my work either in my kitchen or in the library, to keep my room as a kind of sanctuary.  Sleep is incredibly important when it comes to college because it not only helps with your immune system, but it also makes you more alert in classes, and in general boosts your mood.

There are so many ways to be healthy in this day and age.  The things I have listed above are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to staying healthy in school. The variety is amazing: weight lifting, running, kickboxing, and yoga; eating a vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free diet; going to sleep early and waking up early or taking small naps throughout the day, the options are endless!  Since there is no clear cut way to stay healthy, it means everyone can find their own path to wellness.

Finding Yourself in College: Riding Teams

by Elaine Wehmhoff

Throughout my college career I have been a student at three different universities, so if there’s anything I’m used to by now, it’s adjusting. I started out at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO and decided to transfer when I came home that Christmas break. Since the deadline for UConn in the Spring had passed, I took a semester at Southern CT State before attending UConn in Fall of 2017. If there was anything I learned from being a student at two large public universities, it is that you need to find yourself in your school otherwise you can feel very, very lost.

Leaving behind the country home roads I grew to master, and the people around me who made me who I am, made me feel lost upon arriving to university. I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I didn’t know anyone around me. Everything constant had suddenly fleeted…except for one thing: me. While everything else is changing in college, the best way to plant your feet can be staying true to yourself. What can you keep the same? Not to say that change is bad, or that you won’t change in school, because you will…but what can you do to bring yourself comfort?

Answering these questions for yourself can make the university feel tenfold smaller. When I was feeling lost  across the country, I knew that one thing still constant was my love for horses and riding. Knowing this, I sought out a riding program at CSU. I immediately signed up and rode once a week, maybe more if I so desired. While everything around me was changing, it felt right to have something that felt natural and felt like a little bit of home. To me, that’s what riding was. Every time I rode, I was given that connection of a horse and rider with which I was familiar and loved. It gave me something that I knew how to focus on, an outlet of sorts. When I was riding, I was able to forget for a moment, about everything that was new, daunting, and on my agenda. It gave me a place to feel at home while I was in a place with many new stressors. While signing up for one thing won’t stop you from missing your parents or pets, it will renew that sense of purpose and belonging that can feel unsteady upon arriving at a new place. When I transferred to UConn, I did the same thing and immediately looked up the riding program and found out they had several teams. I ended up joining the dressage team which as an eventer, I was already into. Now, I look back and can’t believe that a year of travels, adventures, memories, and best friends came simply out of some easy searches. 

(Author on right)

Now your next question might be, what if they don’t have what I am interested in? At Colorado State, they didn’t have an English riding team, so I ended up joining polo and trying something totally new, fun, and exciting. In addition, finding something related to your interests gives you immediate common ground with a whole new group of people. While giving this advice to a fellow student recently, he asked me, “I’m interested in beekeeping, do you think they have that?” I wondered if this would be the one that stumped me; did I have to bite my tongue? Sure enough, we looked it up, and a whole UConntact (club) page was displayed with an informative video on the UConn Beekeeping Club. So there you have it!

Rarefied interests aside, getting involved is seriously very important. Had it not been for my involvement these past years, my mental and physical health would have really suffered as I transitioned from place to place. Getting involved is the best possible way to make the university seem smaller. You develop a schedule, a familiarity with the people and resources for whatever you’re doing, and it really helps having something healthy and positive lining up alongside stressful academic life and classes. While going to large universities like UConn and CSU can make it hard to settle in, they also provide an immense collection of activities, clubs and organizations that appeal to the interests of every student. Even though college is an incredible experience, that will push and pull you in the best of ways, it can be hard and that is the reality of it. It isn’t natural to be absolutely deprived of everything you knew and had overnight; however, that’s what move in day feels like for some. While attending University will challenge and change you for the better, it is important to have a place where you feel “at home” or comfortable so that you have a healthy break from your stressors. While I love learning new things and being involved in my academics at UConn, I am more than just a student. In order to have a healthy balance, you need to restore a little “you” in your life at school, and the only way to do that is to engage yourself. Finishing an exam and heading up to Horsebarn Hill for my weekly lesson balances things out at a pace I can handle, a mix of new and old. Now try it for yourself!

Clubs You Should Know About

By Noah Freeman

As the second consecutive CAHNR ambassador from the UConn Men’s Crew Team, I can’t help but feel that I have big shoes to fill.  My predecessor, “Pistol” Pete Apicella, wrote a blog post about the irresistible draw of the 5am practices, which can be read here: https://collegeambassadors.uconn.edu/2018/04/26/mens-crew/  However, rowing isn’t the only club activity that encompasses the spirit of CAHNR.

While there is a whole list of clubs available on the college website (https://grow.uconn.edu/clubs/), I have found that two I most enjoyed in my time at UConn are not included in this list.  Both are involved in many ways with various CAHNR majors, but are not formally linked to the college.  I feel, therefore, that these clubs deserve more time in the spotlight, and I would like to pay due respect to the UConn Woodsmen team and the UConn Exercise is Medicine club, respectively.

As a rower, I spend a good amount of my winters training with my teammates in the Ratcliffe-Hicks arena, and through that time I was lucky enough to be able to catch the UConn Woodsmen in action.  As a good amount of the Agriculture students have been active in 4-H clubs or simply in chores back home, there is nothing quite as rewarding as seeing some clean log cuts and neatly stacked wood. The Woodsmen excel in a wide array of different athletic feats, and were able to entice enough attention at practice to bring out several members of the UConn Men’s Crew to spectate at the spring invitational. If you are interested in learning more about the Woodsmen team, please check their RSO page here; https://uconnwoodsmen.rso.uconn.edu/

 

Next, the UConn Exercise is Medicine Club (EIM).  In my time at UConn I have been closely involved with EIM as a member, Director of Membership, and Vice President. This club has been incredibly active in the development of new university protocol over the past two years, especially in earning UConn a gold status from the national Exercise is Medicine Council. This standing is earned by instituting campus wide initiatives such as more active daily lifestyles (walking instead of bussing to class, accomplish by the “Everybody Walk!” campaign), as well as including activity levels in the Health Center vital measurements. For any student interested in the health majors offered through CAHNR, EIM provides a great way to get hands on experience in real world policy changes. Check out the EIM UConntact page to find out more about how to get involved! https://uconntact.uconn.edu/organization/uconneim

 

Getting through a Tough Breakup… with Your Major

By Julia Guay

“It’s not you, it’s me. Ok, so maybe it is you. We’re just not right together, I think it’s better this way.” Breakups can be hard, especially when you invested so much in the relationship. I spent the better part of my first two years at UConn putting everything I had into a failing relationship that left me tired, confused, and a bit pessimistic. This relationship was not a romantic one; perhaps more intimate, this relationship was with my major.

I came to UConn without the faintest idea of what I wanted to study or what I wanted as a future career, so I came in as “undecided.” While for some, an undecided major means “I just like so many things, I can’t decide!!!” my sentiments could be better described as “I don’t think I like anything that much that I want to major and/or have a career in it.” I always felt a certain shame about my lack of major. It’s probably the second question you are asked when you first meet someone in college, “Hi, I’m (insert name here), what’s your name?…Nice to meet you! What’s your major?” Everyone seemed to have their whole life planned out and attending a large research university like UConn, most of those plans involved an impressive STEM major and an accompanying humble brag about how hard it is to have that major. My shame was so intense, I avoided asking people what their majors were, knowing they would inevitably ask mine, and I would have to explain how no, I don’t have a major and no, I have no idea what I want to do and no, I am not leaning toward anything. I regularly scanned UConn’s list of majors and nothing ever stood out. I was desperate.

For whatever reason, I seemed to be constantly surrounded by engineering majors. Whether by osmosis or subliminal messaging, engineering entered my radar as a possible major. After a lot of consideration, I eventually decided to pursue a degree in civil engineering. The transition from undecided to civil engineering major was not an easy one. After a fall semester spent constantly doing homework, rejecting social plans, and cutting back my hours at work, I was burnt out. I just did not have the mental stamina to do that again and so my spring semester was disastrous.  Though making it through that spring semester had been a struggle, it ended on a high note when I was hired for a civil engineering internship. I thought that while last semester had been bad, things were getting better. Things would not get better though, until they first became much worse.

Like most jobs, there were aspects of the internship I liked and others I did not, so it did not really help me to determine whether or not this was still the career path I wanted. The experience just left me more confused and less confident in my abilities. Additionally, toward the end of the summer, the actual romantic relationship I was in at the time ended unexpectedly, which further added stress to my life. I struggled through my summer chemistry class, which was just as disastrous as my spring semester. I was sad, confused, and constantly stressed. I reached a breaking point. I looked at the classes I was scheduled to take next semester and finally admitted to myself that I did not have any desire to take them. I realized if something did not change, my next semester would go as poorly as my last and I could not let that happen again. I agonized over what my next move would be. I had put so much work into my civil engineering major. I ignored disapproval from friends and family, hurt friendships, and cut my work hours all in the pursuit of this degree. I felt like I was quitting. Many STEM majors have so-called “weed out” classes and it was frankly embarrassing to think of myself as the person who just could not do it. After some more reflection, I finally decided that I had to break up with my major. I knew it was the right decision when I walked out of my summer chemistry final. Though I was sure I failed that class, I nevertheless felt relief at the thought of being freed from the major that was not right for me and caused me so much stress.

The next challenge, of course, was finding another major. I knew I could no longer pursue engineering but I did not yet know what I wanted to do instead. After agonizing over that decision for some time, I switched into natural resources. I have a family friend who was a natural resources major and really enjoyed her major, so my mom had suggested I try that. I had always had an interest in environmental issues but had never really considered a career in that field. I switched into all the natural resources classes I could get into while keeping one engineering class as a safety net, just in case I decided I did not want to switch after all. After a few days of classes, I realized that I enjoyed my natural resources classes much more than any of the classes I had taken the previous few semesters, especially my Environmental Law class and my Wetland Biology and Conservation class. I soon dropped my final engineering class, the last relic of my past major, and later that semester made it official with my natural resources major. It still took some time to rebuild my confidence and enthusiasm for learning but I can honestly say that I am in a much better place mentally, emotionally, and academically after I split with my previous major. Though I still find aspects of my previous major interesting, I know that I have more passion for my current major.

Reflecting on my college career, I can identify many missteps I have made, but I also know that I am happy with where I am now and if took all that stress to get here, it was worth it. One piece of advice I would give someone in a situation similar to mine is to do your research. Look at options you might not have considered before. UConn has a lot of majors, so it’s easy to overlook some great options. People are a great resource and there are many people who would be happy to talk about their majors. I wish I knew about CAHNR College Ambassadors when I was looking for majors! UConn also has a program called “The Major Experience” where you can connect with students in just about every major to learn more about their major:

Next, be honest with yourself. It is easy to keep your head down and push through your tough classes without ever stopping to reevaluate how you feel. Oftentimes, I have found that classes were made much more difficult when I did not have enough interest in them. If you are taking more classes that you do not enjoy than classes you do enjoy, a change may be necessary! Finally, there can be a lot of emotion surrounding decisions about your major, but you have to use some objectivity. I was concerned about what others would think about my “quitting” and I felt like I had invested so much of myself in my major. Objectively though, I knew I was not happy and needed a change. I have no concrete plans after graduation in May, but I know that because of these experiences I have developed the confidence to persevere through whatever challenges post-grad life may present.

How To Guide: Doodling to Save Your Life

by Chrishima Richards

Doodle is quite a silly word, isn’t it? You can imagine that it connotes free-form movement of a unique kind. To doodle means to scribble absentmindedly, which indeed inspires a sense of calmness when facing an unexciting or even stressful event. This idle transmission of bodily energy into hand-drawn (or digital) imagery during a three-hour long lecture, for example, typically works to pass time and can allay growing insanity. This sounds dramatic; however, it is a sensual method to soothe boredom and induce creativity. Doodling is an art-form that stimulates activity in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain, and allows the pen-holder to unlock a portion of their mind that usually is tucked under the logical, analytical, and linear left cerebral hemisphere. The right side is responsible for the artistic ability that all people harness, but may lack the confidence to unravel on their own.

Historically, presidents and leaders have been caught in idle daze, escaping the moment while scribbling, revealing an unguarded side to them. During moments of national crisis, prominent figures need a temporary escape as well. This article lists several of our U.S. presidents that indulged in a series of geometric/abstract, and playful doodles: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/09/all-the-presidents-doodles/305115/

My belief is that everyone is capable of drawing and producing art regardless of physical or mental disabilities, and natural dexterities. Of course, there are individuals that possess a biological aptitude for creating beautiful artwork; however, meticulous line work and generally skillful drawing skills are proficiencies that anyone can develop through years of repetition and dedication to the craft. It is not always automatic to grasp concepts on the initial trial; practice makes perfect. When describing a task that is near impossible to complete, people often say “I can’t ­­_______ for my life,” to express their inability to perform said task, after realizing the amount of effort it takes or difficulty level. Every prominent piece of art first started out as a doodle that crowded the margin lines of a crisp sheet of eight and a half by eleven notebook paper.

I quite often find myself in an altered state, where my mind wanders to a creative universe outside of the humdrum and mundane reality. I cherish my sloppy sketches that lie in the margins of my notebook pages because they have personality and flavor to them. I love the way the ink absorbs smoothly into the page as I glide the pen in an organic manner, sometimes in a completely demented fashion with no sense of direction; everything flows and incites rebirth with every pen stroke because something new comes alive when I interrupt a line to start a new one. Here are some of my own doodles:

Being a Pre-Med in the College of Ag, Health & Natural Resources

By Kathleen Renna

Believe it or not, the amount of times I am sitting in a pre-med heavy course (organic chemistry, microbiology, you name it) and someone asks me why I have a CAHNR sticker on my laptop is more than I can count. People often assume that if you are considering a career in medicine, you are a PNB, MCB, or really any hard sciences major in CLAS. In reality, yes – those majors set you up for every course you need for medical school. So why on earth would I not just follow the pack?

I think this dilemma comes from a lack of understanding of two critical pieces of information. Firstly, CAHNR stands for the College of Agriculture, ​Health​, and Natural Resources. Allied health sciences (AHS) and its associated majors is a very real plan of study that prepares students for careers in various health professions, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or mental health counseling. You can find out more about these and other potential career options for AHS students on The Major Experience ​website​.

Personally, I am a diagnostic genetic sciences (DGS) major. So, even if people have heard of AHS, they look at me as if I have ten heads when I throw ​that​ doozy of a major out there. DGS is a professional degree program in the AHS department that students apply into their sophomore year. The program sets students up for ​careers​ as lab technologists, genetic counselors, and clinical geneticists, the latter being the one I am pursuing and which requires a medical degree. I decided on clinical genetics because I have always been interested in the genetic basis of disease; however, I have found out over time that I could not spend my whole life working in a lab. I spent a lot of time searching for a career that would meet my needs and stumbled upon clinical genetics. After some careful thought of whether medical school was for me, I decided that it was worth a shot. I enjoy engaging with people and like the fact that this is one of the few professions where you never stop learning because there are always things being discovered, so becoming a physician seemed like the right choice for me. Therefore by choosing to be in CAHNR, I made a choice to take classes more tailored to my individual interests!

Ultimately, I chose DGS because clinical genetics is a specialty I am not likely to encounter in medical school. In fact, doctors don’t typically get involved with clinical genetics until potentially the third or fourth year of ​residency.​ For me, that seemed like a long time (eight or nine years from right now) to wait and see if I was actually content with my career choice. Instead, I chose to pick an undergraduate school that gave me the opportunity to study exactly what I was interested in instead of waiting ten years and spending copious amounts of money on medical school just to find out I didn’t make the right decision. Even though I am only a few weeks into my DGS major, I am really enjoying the concepts that I am learning and am very excited to see what I learn next.

The second critical piece of information that people don’t fully understand is the one that I consider the most important: you can be ANY major and still get into medical school as long as you complete the required coursework for the schools you are applying to. So yes, being a PNB or MCB major is great because you are taking all of the typically required classes and then some, and I commend anyone who chooses to do this because they enjoy this plan of study. However, sometimes I feel as though students choose these majors because they feel as though this is what medical schools want to see rather than taking courses that genuinely spark their interests.

Truth be told, medical schools want to see a diversity of majors and interests. If you are taking only science classes and participating in solely medically-oriented organizations, you are not showing the admissions committee a diversity of interests. And, for your own sake, doesn’t taking all science classes get a little overwhelming or, some would even go as far to say, boring? Some of the most interesting courses that I have taken, like Sociology of Gender and Anglophone Literature, are not directly related to human cells or tissues, but they are intimately connected with the human condition. They sparked my interest in contemporary topics like gender fluidity and race while also providing me with a background that I wholeheartedly believe will make me a better physician.

One of my good friends, who is also pre-med and in CAHNR, works with animals and shows cows in her free time because it is something she has enjoyed doing since she was 5 years old and in FFA. She makes sure that she is accomplishing all of her medical school requirements but also sets aside time for recreational activities that truly make her who she is! Now, I don’t show cows, but that doesn’t mean I only do science. I have always seen the value in volunteering so here at UConn I made it a point to participate in community service days for Special Olympics Connecticut and for a 4-H program at an elementary school in Rockville. These activities have taught me a lot about working with diverse groups of people and how to empathize more with those who don’t share the same background as me. I also work for the cafes here on campus and for a bakery back at home, so I have been able to learn how to communicate effectively with others, especially in high-stress situations. One of the clubs I am involved in on campus has even allowed me the opportunity to volunteer at a homeless shelter, which both humbled and educated me on privilege and what it means to different people. Because of this, I can truly say that some of my most formative experiences, the ones that make a good doctor into a great one, have not been through science-related activities.

Therefore, who’s to say that a student in CAHNR majoring in environmental studies or natural resources is not qualified for medical school, especially as we increasingly recognize the intimate connections between the environment and our health? You should absolutely focus on your academics with a goal in mind, but you should also explore other areas of interest throughout your coursework and extracurricular activities that will help to shape you as a whole person. College is about doing what is most enjoyable for ​you,​ so make the most of it!

Thank you, UConn Men’s Crew

The infamous dirty four cruising at sunrise
The infamous dirty four cruising at sunrise

I’m graduating a week from Saturday, so that means I’ll be seeing one of my last sunrises on Coventry Lake in the next few days. I have spent three out of my four years at UConn on the Men’s Crew team. Joining the ranks of this club sport was the best decision I made during my undergraduate career. After a rocky first semester in college, I decided that I wanted to be part of something bigger and worthwhile, so I decided to try rowing.

Over the years, crew has instilled in me discipline to strive for bigger goals, taught me how to be passionate about what I care about, believe in myself, and introduced me to the people who make me love my Alma Mater.

Crew is pretty intense. It’s a two-season sport, meaning that we have races in both the fall and the spring. To prepare for races, we practice every day at 5:00am. During the off-season, we also practice 3-4 days a week indoors in the wee hours of the morning as well.

Spring break training at Camp Bob Cooper
Spring break training at Camp Bob Cooper

Now, I am not a morning person, but, once you get hooked, crew is almost addicting. The people that stick with crew are athletes that are driven not only by winning medals, but by the kinship and comradery that comes with being part of the team. These athletes can also roll with the punches too because rowing does not come without making sacrifices. While balancing classes, work, and other activities, many athletes do not get the normal eight hours of sleep on a nightly basis that most people are used to. In addition, while some of your non-crew friends are going out two or three days a week, you won’t risk disappointing your teammates, and stay in on weeknights and nights before races. This is not to say we don’t have fun (or that we don’t go out), though.

As soon as we start warming up for practice, teammates are talking and laughing the whole way until we pick up the boat and carry it into the water. Coventry lake blesses UConn Crew with water that is typically calm and glassy; however, the windy, rainy, and snowy mornings are at some point inevitable. At the end of every practice, the team heads to Northwest or South dining halls for team breakfast. We apologize to all UConn students for being the most awake, loquacious people while you’re trying to ignore every single person ever at 7:30 in the morning. For new members of the team, this can be first point when you start to appreciate that being a part of this team is worth it. You realize that the day has hardly started already, and you’ve already accomplished so much.

First place at Fall Metropolitan races
First place at Fall Metropolitan races

As much as rowers compete against other crews, they also compete against themselves. This is very comparable to runners who are constantly trying to get their time down. What’s different about rowing is that each boat has a coxswain, the typically smaller person that steers the boat and motivates his or her teammates to row faster. Last fall, in the Metropolitan races, my boat immediately pulled ahead of four of our competitors right off the starting line. This was extremely exhilarating to me, someone who had never won a medal. Soon we’re more than halfway through the race and in second place. Our coxswain, Christine, bellows that we are inching up on the boat in first place and that only first place receives a medal. Previously oblivious of this fact, a switch turned on in my mind bringing me to a state in which I suddenly could not feel the burning sensation in my muscles. With several powerful strokes, we edged ahead of the boat, winning by a fraction of a second. Together we beat the odds, and I won my first race with most extraordinary group of oarsmen. In this regard, crew has helped me unleash potential in myself that I didn’t know I had. Through the sport and through my teammates, I have found courage in myself to achieve accolades I used to only dream about. This concept materializes not only in my success at rowing competitions, but in the classroom and the laboratory as well.

In this environment, I grew as a person and as a young professional as well. As a student and budding scientist, I know that this culture has been instilled into how I live. When it comes to academics and research, this means studying and getting lab work done late at night. Nonetheless, just like striving to get faster to earn those medals, I became more comfortable with working relentlessly towards academic and scientific goals. I will take this valuable wisdom with me beyond commencement into my next endeavor.

I get the impression that perspective of non-rowers about rowers is that they’re crazy considering the early mornings, the commitment to a club activity, and the intense workouts. Yet, when I see my teammates, my best friends, I see the most dedicated people that I’ve met at UConn. Rowers are people that have found a passion that drives them to want more from themselves and from others. Over time, the sport teaches you discipline and passion that translates to conducting yourself and approaching everything you do with determined conviction.