Saturday, December 29, 2012

New York City and New Year's Resolutions.

This Sunday, I'm taking a train downstate to visit my friend who recently moved to Astoria, Queens, to celebrate New Year's in the city that never sleeps. I love traveling to New York; I visited this summer and did a post on it, and often visited as a kid for cross country races at van Cortlandt park, as well as baseball excursions with my family, Broadway shows, etc. But I've never been able to visit in the winter, and I've DEFINITELY never been to Times Sq. on New Year's Eve. Needless to say, it'll be an experience.

My train leaves midday Sunday, and my return train leaves at 7.15 in the morning on the first. This is pretty early, but due to all the skiing I've been doing this break, I'm used to early mornings, and I'm sure at that point I'll just want to get home and sleep in my own bed, anyway.

New Year's, as many of us know, is more than the festivities. It's also a time for people to make resolutions, and for all of their friends to make fun of them for their resolutions. Resolutions are a bit of a joke... but I've decided to make a few anyway. Cause, why not?

They are as follows:

1. Eating Healthy - This one is SO overdone, and I know it. My problem is that I use my vegetarianism as an excuse to not pay attention to what I eat, and I've realized while skiing this break that my diet last semester will NOT cut it this coming semester; especially since I'll be participating in the Wilderness Instructor Training Program on top of all the skiing I plan to do at Jay and Smugg's. So, less fries and more... real food.

2. 4.0 GPA - I don't mean to talk about grades, cause we all know it's kinda lame to mope/boast about a letter on a piece of paper. But this has been a goal of mine every semester since I've been at school, and I'm feeling like this will be the semester I finally do it! But we shall see...

3. More "me" time - I like to be really involved at school, and I really enjoy the classes I take as well as the extracurriculars in which I'm involved. That being said, sometimes my sanity pays the price of my involvement, and my goal is to  give myself enough time in the week to decompress and do things that I like to do, just for fun.

Whew, there they are! Maybe I'll update y'all on my progress during the semester, but we'll see how this goes :p

I'll be sure to post pictures post-New Years day (probably sleeping all day on the first, along with much of the rest of world), and I'm sure there will be stories to tell from my adventure!

In the mean time, here's a little something to get y'all ready for the New Year's festivities:

Thanks for reading! And Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Home = skiing.

My dad, sister and I.
Being back home means a lot of things for a lot of different people. Good food, family, holiday parties, awkward relatives, etc. On top of those things, being back home over the winter break in my family always means early mornings and skiing all day, almost every day. Growing up, my siblings and I were all ski racers, and my dad a coach, so winter break meant training. Even now that none of us is any longer racing, we still get up early to be the first ones to the mountain, if for no other reason than we have no idea what we'd do otherwise.

Eh, maybe that's not totally true. My brother, who made the switch from racing to freestyle this past season (although he decidedly made the switch years ago), is now participating in a New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) freeride program at Gore Mountain. So he needs to be up there at 8.30 every morning, and the rest of us.. we follow for the snow.

And this is Nick.
 In any case, my family is a skiing family, so that's mostly what I've been up to the past week or so. A little bit of watching movies, a little reading, a little awkward, and lots of skiing. My plans for the rest of break: a little more of the same, and then a trip to New York to visit a friend who recently moved to Queens!

Thanks for reading! And have a happy break.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spring Semester Class Schedule

It's taken me a while to do this post because, until recently, I wasn't exactly sure what my class schedule would be. But now, here we are, and my classes for the spring are as follows:

BI-153-F: Intro to Cell Biology and Genetics. Lecture MWF 8:30-9:35, Lab Thursday 1:30-4:30.

This is the second of two intro courses required for the Biology major.

EC-325-A: Economics of Health Care. Lecture MWF 9:45-10:50.

This class doesn't count for any of my majors or LSR's, so I'm taking it just for fun.

CH-117-C: Organic Chemistry I. Lecture 11:00-12:05, Lab Wednesday 1:30-4:30.

A cognate course required for the Biology major.

BI-205-A: Biological Communications. Lecture TTh 9:45-11:20

A communications course required for the Biology major.

Definitely a lighter course load than this past semester. I'm looking forward to some interesting classes!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Anthropology and Biology Double-Major.

If you're the type of person who plans to enter college majoring in LolIHaveNoIdeaWhatI'mStudying-omics, you're not alone. I confidently began my academic career at SMC at least eleven different kinds of undecided, and since then have only decided on like, four of those indecisions.

Now, after that syntactically confusing and grammatically questionable introduction, I'd like to write frankly about my decision to double major, as well as my choice in majors. So this is a story all about how my major got flip-turned upside down, so I'd like to take a minute just sit right there, I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bell--

Wait, what was I talking about again? Right, majors. Back to that.


About me: As I've mentioned before, I did a year abroad in Poland after I graduated from high school in 2010. While I was abroad, I became aware of a new-found interest in language and culture, and may have watched too many seasons of Bones and began to think I was an Anthropologist. Because when I signed up for my first semester of classes at SMC, Intro to Cultural Anthropology was the first one I chose. And while in class, I realized I liked it a lot. And then I took another class, and still liked it. And this semester, I took another class, realized it was really hard, almost gave up, thought about dropping it, persevered, and then realized that I still liked Anthropology.

About the major: The classes I've taken so far are Intro to Cultural Anthropology, a topics course called Native Americans in Popular Culture, and an interdisciplinary course called Gender and International Development. The Anthro major I'm referring to is technically the Anthro tack of the Sociology/Anthropology major at SMC. What this means is that you take classes in both disciplines, and then choose a track. I've yet to take a Sociology class (three are required for the Anthro track), so I probably shouldn't say that I've already chosen the Anthro track. But I have, so I will.

Also required for the Anthro track is an international experience. This can mean study abroad, an extended service trip abroad, or otherwise. I've yet to complete my abroad experience, but I'm thinking I'll fulfill it with an extended service trip if I'm accepted next year. Until recently, I thought I would study abroad, but am now reconsidering. More on that later ;)

So all in all, for the Anthro track of the Sociology/Anthropology major, you need: 
1. Six anthro courses (including intro).
2. Three soc courses. 
3. An international experience. 

Thus far, I've had a great time in my courses, and really positive interactions with the faculty. If you're thinking about Anthro or Soc, definitely try out one of the intro courses! If you don't love it, it still counts for an LSR.

Cool things associated with the major: The faculty in the Soc/Anthro department are impressive. In the last year, Profs. Delaney and Kusserow have both taken sabbaticals in order to do field work, so they really bring the field into the class room, which is both a challenge and exciting.


I wrote a little about my bio class at the beginning of the semester, but I think this is a great opportunity to develop what it really means to be a bio major, as well as why I decided on it.

In the field.
About me: Freshman year, I decided I was done with science and math and other things that require labs and early classes. But as the year went on I thought more and more about what I might potentially do after undergrad, and climate change research entered my head as a possibility. Being the passionate and slightly impulsive individual that I am, I declared a Bio major within a week, and signed up for Bio and Chem courses for the fall (this past) semester.

Since then, it's been quite a challenge for me. Having not taken any labs or sciences since my senior year of high school (two years ago), I found myself lost and feeling behind for most of the semester. It was challenging, and I wont say that I handled the stress gracefully, but I made it through with support from friends and family, and am ready to attack my second semester of Biology.

About the major: There are several concentrations you can take in the bio major. A lot of my friends are doing a pre-med program, which means they'll leave with a bio major, but they'll also have taken all the courses necessary to be able to apply to medical school. I intend to follow the Environmental track, but there are also tracks for Cellular and Molecular, as well as Biology Education and "generalist". There are also joint programs for Physical Therapy with UVM, and for Pharmacy with Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. You can read all about the program requirements for the Biology major here, or if you read on I'll break it down for you as best I can.

For any bio major, the main requirements are as follows:

1. 10 bio courses, with two intro courses (Ecology and Evolution, and Cell and Genetic), as well as Communications in the Biological Sciences, and Senior Seminar all required.
2. For the remaining six courses, (five of which must include labs), at least one must be from each of the following areas: Molecular/Cellular, Organismal, and Population (so one could choose 1, 1, and 4, or 2, 2, and 2, or 3, 1, and 2, etc.). 
3. Three cognate courses in chemistry (Gen Chem I, Orgo I, and either Orgo II or Gen Chem II, although some people take all four because it's more attractive for graduate/medical school).
4. Two cognate courses in Math (from the following: Elements of Calc, Calc I, Calc II, or Stats).
5. OPTIONAL: College Physics I and II or General Physics I and II.

Cool things associated with the major: In my bio lab this semester, we did a semester long research project for which we collected our own data, did qualitative and quantitative analysis, and presented our findings at the end of the semester. We performed our research in the sandplain forest at Camp Johnson, on the effects of prescribed burns on the ecosystem. Basically, scientists have found that burning this forest (and others) helps regulate certain plant populations so that the whole ecosystem can thrive and not be run out by invasive species. So we examined data in areas that had already burned, and areas that hadn't burned, and assessed the impact of the burn. It was difficult at times, but overall rewarding, and I think it's cool that an intro course offers that opportunity to students.

So, there you have it! A quick glimpse at my chosen fields of study. And as I said, just follow the links if you'd like to read more about the Bio or Anthro majors. Or if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Course Overload: A Reflection.

This past semester has just ended, and I must say it's bittersweet. Bitter for more reasons than I can list, but sweet for at least one reason: this semester was pretty hard. 

 This is my head at the end of finals. This is the link for the above picture of my exploding brain.
I took five classes in the fall, and this isn't common practice in the SMC curriculum. Since we use a 4-4 model (four, four-credit classes per semester = 16 credits per semester), the college doesn't typically allow students to take a fifth four-credit course (there are 2-credit classes that they'll allow you to take, though). But if you meet the GPA requirement and get permission from the Assistant Dean of Students, they allow exceptions. I pursued that option this semester, and based on my experiences, it's worth reflecting on.

One question might be: would I recommend it to students who have the opportunity to pursue this? Yes and no. For me, it was a *good* option this semester, because I had just declared a double major and had some catching up to do, as well as taking some LSR's. That being said, it's been a really hard semester for me. I even attempted to drop one of the classes mid-semester, but changed my mind and continued. The issue is that it's quite a course load, and since so many students here are heavily involved on campus outside of academics, it take a toll. If it weren't for my support system and my professors, I would have struggled a lot more than I did.

Also, science courses. Not to debate whether science majors are harder than others or not (cause that's no fun), they do require labs, which are an extra three hours per week per course. So if you take five classes with two labs, you're taking seven classes with 21 hours of in-class time per week. To put that in perspective, there is a general rule that four classes should be a full-time job, where you're putting 10 hours of work into each class each week (3 in class, 7 outside), for four classes. For five classes with two labs, that's 56 hours total. If you count labs as another class (which is not unwarranted), that's 70 hours. So, for the sake of a round number, lets say that I had a 60 hour per week course load this semester, which is a lot when combined with the typical SMC student extracurricular load.

So if you're considering taking five classes, just know it's a commitment  I learned that the hard way for sure, and I personally think I wont need to do it again. But I did learn quite a bit about time management, and the dangers of wearing yourself too thin.

So, happy end of the semester! Hopefully it will be a relaxing break for all :)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chloe Schwenke Comes to SMC.

Hey all!

As I mentioned recently, we had a pretty cool speaker come to campus tonight. Chloe Schwenke, a self-identified trans woman as well as Senior Advisor to USAID, came to SMC tonight to talk about her role as the first advisor on LGBT policy, and about LGBT issues in Africa. It was a really great  talk, and some of us from Common Ground were fortunate enough to have dinner and conversation with her after.

Thanks for reading!