Finding Myself in Landscape Architecture: Tuning into Myself

By Ely-Anna Becerril

Storyboarding/Presentation Project! Sketched drawings of different areas in Versailles garden. Scanned and laid out on a big poster.

I had everything planned out before I would set foot at UConn. I knew I would work in the environmental science field, measuring water quality in water bodies all over the world and conserving our forests. I was so set on my plans and knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I found absolute comfort in that. It wasn’t too far into my freshman year that I decided to rethink everything and tune in to things I’ve always been drawn to. The environment, of course, but art and storytelling as well.

Growing up, I loved drawing, painting, and writing my own little books. I dream’t I’d be an author someday. However those beloved interests of mine slowly dissipated over the years. I hardly ever painted, drew, or read for fun  anymore. A big factor was that I lacked confidence in my skills, and lacked time to dedicate to creative pursuits; therefore, they were abandoned.

However, my artistic side demanded attention again. I missed my creativity and was sad, ultimately, that my science-filled schedule had no room for art. I desperately wondered if I could ever have a career that involves both of my dearest passions, art and the environment. After hours of researching majors, courses, and careers, one title caught my eye: Landscape Architecture. At first I was terrified of the word architecture, since I never imagined myself as an “architect.” But I discovered this field was a perfect combination of everything I wanted to study: art, beauty, environmental conservation, and science. As a natural resource major, I found myself very pessimistic about the role of humans in this world, considering all the damage we’ve done to the environment. As a result, I wanted to focus solely on the environment for the environment and not for humans. However, I started to realize that we humans play an integral part in conservation, and we need to factor ourselves into the topic if we want to make real change.

Revitalized High Line in NYC

It is possible for us to coexist in harmony with the environment and that is exactly what landscape architecture strives to do. I knew this major would allow me to affect the world and make real change for the environment and for people.  It will give me the opportunity to create meaningful spaces for communities, places that will make people happy and relaxed.

After visiting the tight knit and supportive studio they have, taking classes towards that major, and growing closer with the landscape architecture faculty, not only did I find the perfect major for me, but I also found my little niche in this enormous college. Tuning into my longtime interests has led me to a place that I am so grateful to be in. It feels good to revisit old hobbies that made me happy as a child.

It’s always important to do things that have always made you happy. It’s no wonder that many people base their career choices off of longtime interests or things that have always had a special place in their heart.  I think if you ever find yourself in a career crisis, or re-thinking your major, tune into yourself and remembers the joys of childhood pursuits. Lastly, always set time aside for things you enjoy doing, have confidence in your abilities and give your passions a try.

Recent project/may desk!

Why is Agriculture Education Important?

By Sarah Ammirato

Why is Agricultural Education important?

To answer that question, let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

I went to Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, CT where I was enrolled in the Agriculture Education program. This program, and 8,630 others across the United States focus on teaching students about all aspects of agriculture, food, natural resources and leadership.

An Ag Ed experience is nothing like the traditional high school experience. One of my favorite memories was during peak maple syrup season. It was February and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. That did not stop our class from getting bundled up and heading out into the woods to collect sap and repair lines. We then boiled the sap into syrup, bottled it and enjoyed it over pancakes on the last day of class.

My senior year, we traveled to Yellowstone National Park in Montana/Wyoming over Spring Break. We hiked the Yellowstone Canyon, visited the famous Old Faithful geyser and saw wildlife at every turn. We were immersed in nature in its purest form. It was truly a life changing experience, and I cannot wait to go back there one day.

Moreover, my experience at Wamogo would not have been what it was without my advisors. They are the reason I chose to pursue Agriculture Education.

I decided to continue my agriculture education at the University of Connecticut where my major is Agriculture and Natural Resources. Through the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, I have been given so many hands-on experiences both in and outside of class. Hands-on education remains a large part of the courses I have taken, from halter breaking an Angus heifer to touring local vegetable farms, there is no lack of agricultural experience here. As for leadership opportunities, I serve on the executive board for UConn Block and Bridle and as a College Ambassador, where I have been able to build my skills as a leader.

It is my dream to be a high school Ag teacher, so I can bring my students incredible experiences and give them an appreciation for the agriculture industry.

So back to the question, why is this so important?

To start, everyone relies on agriculture. Food, fiber and natural resources are things we need every day. Agriculture education programs not only teach students how to be farmers, but also train tomorrow’s scientists, nutritionists, teachers and so much more. A combination of classroom instruction and applied agriculture experiences outside of the classroom build the foundation for educated consumers and agriculturists.

Leadership is the final aspect of these programs, and the most universal. Public speaking, job interview techniques, professional skills and knowledge of parliamentary procedure. Students in agriculture education programs have the opportunity to serve as student leaders at the school, district, state and national level. High school students have the opportunity to attend leadership conferences, meet and converse with legislatures at the State Capitol, and achieve awards based on involvement.

So what does it look like in Connecticut? There are twenty high school programs, with about 3,350 students enrolled in agriculture education courses. The student to teacher ratio is one of the lowest in the country at 30:1 across the state. There are four post-secondary schools in the state that offer programs/certifications related to agriculture with undergraduate majors including all areas of agriculture except for education.

The opportunities within these programs, both secondary and post-secondary, are endless. Students who participate in agricultural education programs graduate with the skills necessary to become productive citizens who will succeed in postsecondary education or the workforce.

Why the Pre-Veterinary Track May Not Be for You

By Justyna Cieslik

Do you love animals and want to work with them on a daily basis? Do you  love Animal Planet and enjoy watching celebrity veterinarians do their jobs? Do you want to help animals and make sure they aren’t in pain? Even if you answered “yes” to all of these questions, that just means you sound like every animal-loving student out there. So how do you really know if you want to be a veterinarian? Well, here’s how I, a lifelong animal lover, learned that being a veterinarian may not be the job for me after all.

Like many students in high school with an interest in animals, I considered becoming a veterinarian. I loved working with animals and had a passion for the medical field. I initially thought that by combining my two passions, it only made sense to be a veterinarian. However, like many, I did not do the research and relied simply on Animal Planet to learn about the profession. As senior year hit in high school, I had to make a major decision (literally). What was I going to study at college? What colleges would help me towards my dream job? Who was going to provide better financial aid so that when I take out loans to veterinary school, so I will not have too much debt? All of these questions and their answers are the reason I came to UConn. UConn was going to help me towards my goal by providing good financial aid and having resources that allowed me to work hands-on with animals. I was, however, a little naive about the job itself and all the prerequisites, so I began college will a false sense of hope.

As I met with my advisor at UConn, I came to the realization that the pre-vet track was much harder than I had ever expected. I knew being a vet was not a simple task, as they performed surgeries and were responsible for animals’ lives, but I was unaware of the realities of the preparation involved. When my advisor gave me a list of classes that I had to take in order to be considered for vet schools, and then the list of classes I had to take in order to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Science, I lost my breath. The amount of organic chemistry, the extra math classes, the extra English courses, and all the biology requirements were extremely overwhelming. I came from a high school where I was in the top 10%, so it was not as if I did not know how to work hard, but I felt completely unprepared. On top of all of these course requirements, vet schools also expect you to be engaged in extracurricular activities, and most definitely get you feet wet in the profession through internships or work. I could not comprehend how all of this could be possible in just four years.

Now, I’m not saying all of this to get students who want to be vets afraid of not succeeding. The reason I provide all this information is so that people realize that becoming a vet requires specific rigors, many of which you may not have considered. The work load starts early on and only goes up as you get closer to your goal.

A lot of people also do not realize how many jobs there are in the animal field. Many people think that the only animal-related job is a veterinarian. That is a complete misunderstanding; there are hundreds of career paths you can chose if you want to work with animals. SOME of these jobs include: pet grooming services, veterinary technician, zoo curator, animal trainer, animal behaviorist, animal nutritionist. You could also conduct research, become a professor, run your own farm, doggie daycare, dog kennels, and more.

Some of the things I hope you learn from this are:

  1. Be passionate about what you do.
  2. It’s ok to change your career path.
  3. You can always go to school again.
  4. There are MORE animal related jobs than you think.
  5. Being a vet is not for everyone.

Expanding My Horizons: To UConn and Beyond

By Julia Assard

 Since I was a little kid, I had always wanted to go to UConn. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and almost all of our family friends attended this university. In addition, my dad is employed by the university, so that was always an obvious financial incentive. When applying to colleges as a senior in high school, I considered UConn to be my only serious option and applied to other schools as an afterthought. The day I got my acceptance letter in the mail, I sent in my deposit.

 The only down side of attending UConn for me was that it is only a mere twenty-four minute drive to my house. In addition, from my tiny high school with only 400 students, about fifteen people from each grade go to UConn. While many of my hometown friends were going here, I knew that I wanted to branch out as much as I could. I know people here now that only hang out with people that they went to high school with, and while I love spending time with my old friends, I craved something new. I wanted to be around people that I hadn’t known for the past eleven years. The idea of being in a lecture hall of 500 people I knew nothing about was both scary and exciting for me.

The author (center) with her “new” friends

For my freshman year, I decided to choose a random roommate who is now one of my best friends. On the second day of school, we sat with a random girl in the dining hall who quickly became the third in our trio. While I did have one person from high school that I was close friends with all of freshman year, I made it a goal to try to seek out new people and create new bonds. I wanted to be able to have the “Big Chill Weekend” that my parents and their college friends have every summer in the Cape. Finding new friends in college can be difficult, but I have been lucky enough to find people and make new connections and groups every year that has truly made the phrase, “you can always make a big school feel small,” true to me.

Looking beyond (from the Homer Babbidge Library)

 Choosing a college is a daunting task, but it seemed an obvious choice to me. While I have been lucky in that manner and love the school I chose, it is important for people to go somewhere that challenges them in some way. My challenge was entering a school that was about seventy times larger than my high school and being in a place where I didn’t know every detail  about every person’s life. In addition, my first semester of college I took the dreaded CHEM 1127, CALC 1131, and BIOL 1107. This course load was overwhelming, and my first exams came back with lower scores than I had hoped for. The transition from high school classes to college courses was a shock, and it scared me that I may not be cut out to be a physician assistant as I had always hoped. It took dedication, a lot of studying, and good friends, and now I find excitement in being challenged by upper level courses on the path to my future career.  In order for people to gain new knowledge, they have to do things that are scary and run the risk that it might not work out, but if it is a goal then hard work and perseverance will bring you to where you need to be.

Attending graduate school to become a physician assistant is now within my grasp. In my search for programs, I am now looking for schools much further away from home. While I rarely go home other than for breaks, I still have the comfort of knowing I am close and can always visit my dad at work, of course, if I need anything. The idea of being somewhere far from Bolton, CT is a scary thought but a necessary step to take. Attending a graduate school away from home will provide more independence, experiences and connections with new people.  After three years at UConn,  I am excited to be thinking about the next step.  In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

Tips for Tackling Independence in College

By Lauren Engels

Being a first-year student at UConn is a lot different from being a high school student. You make your own class schedule with classes you want to be taking, you live with peers instead of your parents, and you control what you want to do with your time. The transition to college comes with a great deal of independence that many high school students may not have had before. Here are some tips that I have come up with in order to help new college students use their new independence wisely:

Your time is valuable, be smart with it!

*When you first arrive at school, you will probably have loads of free time on your hands. Use that time to make new friends and join new clubs and organizations on campus! As the semester goes on, your free time will begin to dwindle down and you will need to manage your time. The best way to manage your time is to track when every assignment or exam is due. This could be through a paper planner and calendar, or an online calendar or study app, such as MyStudyLife. Find what works for you and make it a routine to keep it as updated as possible. This allows you to stay on top of your school work and plan for a successful semester.

*Join as many clubs as you want at the beginning of the semester. By mid-semester you should know which clubs you are really interested in and which ones you wouldn’t mind missing to hang out with friends or study. Your time is valuable in college, so if you do not want to be in a club any more or can not find the extra time in your schedule for it, don’t go. Being involved on campus is very important, but be sure not to overcommit yourself to certain activities and prioritize your responsibilities.

Do not get behind on your school work.

*It’s not enough to just write down the exam and assignment due dates, actually be cognizant of them. School work is a lot more manageable and less stressful if you study a little bit everyday instead of trying to cram everything in all before your exam the next day. Go to class, ask questions, and give yourself plenty of study time before an exam in order to do well.

*No one is going to pester you to study; it is up to you to be responsible for your grades. Part of the new independence that you have gained is knowing what your responsibilities are and making them a priority.

Be comfortable being alone.

*A lot of your college experience is going to include your friends. Your friends are important to your happiness and it is important you establish connections with your peers in order for you to truly enjoy college. However, for a good portion of your college experience you will be alone as well. This may be the first time in your life when you are truly alone, but this is important because it allows you know who you are and what is important to you. Get used to every once in a while eating by yourself in the dining hall, or going to the gym or library by yourself. You may need to say no to plans with friends because you personally need to have some time to yourself. Your relationship with yourself is equally as important as your relationship with others, and college is a good time to embrace being alone.

    Have fun!

    *There are so many opportunities for you to have fun on campus, such as joining a sorority or fraternity and playing intramural sports. Make sure you allow yourself to have fun with friends while in college. It is a stress reliever and a good way to develop time maintenance strategies. College is only four years long, so make sure you are having fun and making memories!

    Good luck new first year students. I hope your time at UConn is exciting and memorable!

    Destined to Travel

    by Isabela Blackwell

    Cusco, Peru!

    There are so many feelings that come along with having too many options; you might feel overwhelmed, excited, intimidated or most importantly, that you’ll choose the wrong destination. What if I told you that there was no such thing as a wrong choice? Whether you’re only comfortable traveling a few hours away or you want to go halfway across the world, UConn offers an abundance of travel experiences suitable for all students! Yes, this takes into account your financial worries, preferred duration of travel, foreign language preferences, and personal travel goals. The best part is, you don’t even have to be certain of your study abroad plans upon your arrival to UConn.

    The Education Abroad team offers so many programs that you can learn more about here. I strongly encourage anyone to browse through the options, and attend an Education Abroad 101 session—if there is a will to travel, there’s a way! The opportunities range from UConn faculty-led semester long programs, to service learning trips that last only a few weeks. There are opportunities available for all majors, and course credits can be applied towards electives, minors, or General Education requirements. If thisis something that interests you, make sure to talk to your academic advisor to keep yourself on track for graduation. UConn also provides wonderful opportunities through community outreach that allow students to do alternative breaks and weekend service trips either locally or internationally.

    Machu Picchu, Peru – photo taken by me!

    Last year, I decided to go out on a limb and apply for a UConn MedLife community outreach trip. I had never been out of the country before, but I was looking for something exciting to deepen my college experience and broaden my horizons. I spent about two weeks of my winter break participating in mobile medical clinics in impoverished areas of Lima, Peru. Aside from the clinical experience, I was able to explore Lima, travel to Cusco, and visit one of the amazing wonders of the world—Machu Picchu! As an Allied Health student with a minor in Spanish, this trip suited me perfectly and left me desiring more excursions. Next semester, I will be participating in UConn’s Allied Health/Pre-Med abroad program in Granada, Spain, where I will spend six months taking Spanish classes and completing an internship shadowing physicians at the Hospital de la Inmaculada. I’m so excited to explore a new country, work on my language skills and do some much-needed soul searching.

    Anyone considering taking advantage of these opportunities should check out these 5 scientifically proven health benefits of traveling abroad!

    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!

    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:

    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:

    How do I prepare for Medical School or Dental School?

    Shaun getting involved in extracurricular activities – Husky Hungama

    This is a question that most Pre-Med/Pre-Dental students ask themselves as they make the transition from high school to college to continue their undergraduate studies. As a Pre-Dental student, this was the same question I asked myself when I started my freshman year at UConn. When I first started thinking about dental school, I didn’t know where to begin or who to talk to about my future aspirations.

    The first step is to do research about the field you are interested in to see if it is a potential career path that fits your interests. Most people will tell you to speak with a Pre-Med/Dental advisor first, but from experience, it’s better to read about the field first so you are well-versed about the opportunities available and requirements that need to be met prior to applying to a dental program. For me, I started to research dentistry while I was a senior in high school. Despite spending many hours researching different dental programs, I found that doing this was extremely helpful because it showed me what dental schools were looking for from a well-rounded applicant. After doing some research, I met with not only Pre-Med/Dental advisors, but also spoke with other students who were currently applying to dental programs to hear their advice about what they did to become a well-rounded applicant and what they would do differently if they were to change the way they prepared their application for dental school.

    After taking all of these steps, one of the most important things in this whole process is to shadow a physician or dentist by contacting different medical or dental practices. I believe this is a crucial step because when you are shadowing a physician or dentist in the field, you can see hands on what kind of work they do on a daily basis and what the work entails. For most people, this is a checkpoint because it gives you an idea of what kind of work you may potentially do as a physician or dentist. If you feel passionate about this work and you are certain that this is the career you want to pursue, then every measure you take beyond this point will become easier. When I shadowed different dentists during my winter and summer breaks, I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue in my life. For me, not only did the dental procedures and the work environment of a dentist inspire me greatly, but it was the impact a dentist can have on their patient’s self-esteem that truly touched me.

    After the first two years of undergrad, I began my preparation for the dental admission test (DAT) where I scheduled study sessions for two and half months prior to taking the DAT. This was a very stressful point in my college career because I had to be very disciplined in keeping up with my study schedule so I could perform well on the DAT.  Despite this struggle, I can assure you that creating a tight schedule with breaks included will make this difficult time easier. After taking the DAT, I remember starting to write my personal statement which required a lot of time and effort to write. One thing I would suggest is to start writing your personal statement in advance because it is the one of most important factors of your dental application that admissions committees will review and it is not something that can be written overnight. My personal statement took three months to write and after doing many edits on it, I soon was able to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work by making small changes on it each day.

    Among all of the pre-requisite courses, shadowing hours, extracurricular activities, research, and employment opportunities I had throughout my undergraduate studies, one thing I learned was never to give up. At some point, you will reach a roadblock, by not doing well in a class or feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that you are given. When you reach this point, ask yourself one question, how bad do I want it? If you want something as bad as you want to breathe, I assure you everything will fall in place.