17 December 2009

Scholarships 101: How to Compete for Some Major Dough

As some of you know, I'm the student assistant to the director of national and international scholarships, which means I get to work with scholarships A LOT!  My position is an undergraduate fellowship, which means I actually spend most of my time researching scholarships and related materials for Ball State students. Scholarships are money awards to students for their education that do not have to be repaid.  As such, they're incredibly useful for reducing--and sometime eliminating--your college debts.

Now, our office doesn't handle freshmen scholarships (ie. we don't advice high school seniors on what scholarships to apply for), but in my searches I frequently find some fabulous scholarships for high school and freshmen students.  Normally I just send these to my mother, who works as a high school guidance counselor, but I've realized I can reach a LOT more students via this blog.  And really, more students should be applying for these scholarships-- you'd be surprised how much money you can make.  SO, here's the scoop. . .

First, always, ALWAYS file a FAFSA.  In most cases, you must have one filed to qualify for scholarships (not to mention financial aid). 

To find scholarships, here are some starting points:

If you're applying to Ball State, start with our freshman honors scholarship database.  Also, be sure to check the website of the department you'll be in (for example, if you're studying education, check the Teacher's College web-page).  If you can't find information, just send an email to the department head and ask if any are available.

There are also many online scholarship databases: 

I'm in charge of the database Ball State keeps for its students.  Check it out here (and feel free to complement me on a fabulous job well done!).  :-)  
While you're there, check out our Scholarships Resources and Frequently
Asked Questions

(*****This database/website is primarily for
currently enrolled Ball State students; high school students might have
better luck here, though they should still check the other out!)

 Perhaps you've heard of Fast Web or have joined?   It's a good resource, but I think Dr. Torres' Scholarship Database is better.  For a full list of helpful databases, go to our Scholarship Database List.  Also, search engines like Google or Bing can give you some good ideas.

remember to check your local community for scholarships.  If they are
not immediately apparent, just go to your high school's guidance office
and ask.  


Now you're all scholarship savvy and prepared, but how do you become competitive for scholarships?  Well, to help you prepare for your scholarship application, I've decided to provide you with the information we give to our students! This information will help you with ANY scholarship application for ANY school.

Most scholarships are going to ask you about your. . . 

1.  Academic Achievement

      While this does have to do with your GPA, it also involves whether or not you were involved in a special learning experience (for example, did you take many AP courses in high school?).  When you're evaluating your academic achievement, ask yourself questions like, Did I take the most rigorous coursework my high school offered?  Did I earn an Honors Diploma or the equivalent?  Did I have to overcome any hardships to do well in school?  Did I participate in or do anything extra-ordinary that my peers did not?  Did I study abroad or work with international communities?  Did I join any academic honors societies?  You do not have to answer "Yes" to all of these questions, but they do give you a starting point for filling out an application.

2.  Strong Record of School Involvement and Leadership

      What do you do in your free time?  Maybe you play on a sports team, are a musician, or are active in some clubs?  This section looks at how you're interacting with your peers in non-academic settings and whether or not you've assumed leadership roles.  As a note about leadership, this doesn't need to mean you were elected as your class president (though it could).  You can show leadership in many ways.  Maybe you tutor other students, edit the school's newspaper, or lead a committee.  If you're not sure how you've shown leadership, just ask someone who knows you well.  (Mothers and loved teachers are a great resource!)

3.   Strong Record of Community Involvement and Service

     This is the one that most students stumble on.  I can't say it enough: volunteer! Find something you're interested in and do it!  You can tutor other students, work in an animal shelter, help in a hospital or nursing home, work with the Red Cross, build bird housed for your town's parks. . . .  Really, the list goes on and on!  I was involved in band in high school, so I helped teach beginning music to incoming sixth graders. 

     Here's a HUGE tip for you:  Scholarship committees like to see dedication.  It is better to spend one hour a week for a year volunteering somewhere you feel passionate than to spend 10 hours one week doing something you never return to.  Find something you enjoy and stick with it.  You don't have to spend much time doing it, but consistency and dedication really will win the race. 

4.  Outstanding Letters of Recommendation

     You need someone to verify how awesome you say you are, which means you need to get to know some of the adults around you.  Teachers, religious leaders, coaches, employers. . . all these people work well for letters of recommendation.  Do not, I repeat, do NOT use family members for this.  You need to branch out and ask other people. 

     When you ask for a letter of recommendation, give your letter writer at least a month to write your letter.  Also, follow these tips for success we give to all Ball State students.  

5.  Excellent Writing Skills

     Not a good writer? That's fine, just have your English teacher proofread EVERYTHING you submit.  Are you an excellent writer?  That's fine, just have your English teacher proofread EVERYTHING you submit. Bottom line, HAVE AN EXPERT IN ENGLISH PROOFREAD EVERYTHING YOU SUBMIT!!!!  Encourage them to be critical, honest, and tough.  I literally go through 8 or 9 drafts before I submit any given essay for a scholarship.  Choose your words carefully, be precise, give examples, and take gender-bias out of your writing (ie. choose "firefighters" over "firemen").  Your audience is usually comprised of highly-educated college professors; so let someone who's been in that arena proofread your work.

6.  Drive and Vision for Learning and for your Future, Your Career, Your Contributions to Society or Your Discipline

     Does this mean you know exactly what you want to do with your life? NO!  But you should have passion about something.  Have a vision for how you might conduct your future.  Vague is better than nothing.  Ask yourself, What do I feel passionately about?  How can I see myself contributing to society?  Usually students are already doing something related to their passion or vision, but not always.  Give this one some deep thought, and if you need to, try bouncing ideas off of someone you respect-- a lot of times these people will help you think more critically about yourself.

***For scholarships with an interview, you must also have. . .

7.  Excellent Speaking Skills and Personal Presence; Ability to Think on Your Feet; and a Sense of Humor Helps!

     Practice makes perfect.  Ask your guidance counselor to help you prepare for an interview.  Be sure you have at least one practice interview and get feedback!

8.  Awareness of National and World Issues and Current Events, and Ability to Speak Easily About Them

     Read the newspaper or watch the news EVERYDAY!  This will be enough to prepare you.  I'm fond of online news sources since they're free (and I haven't owned a TV in four years. . . yeah. . .).  I'm a BBC fan, though the New York Times, CNN, or The Economist are all good sources of information.   I also listen to NPR on my radio.  The important thing?  BE AWARE OF WHAT'S GOING ON!!!

08 December 2009

While My Pot Pie is in the Oven. . .

It's Tuesday, my last Tuesday of the semester.  Al-humdullilah.  Seriously.  Tuesdays wear me out.  I have plants class bright and early (8:00 am), which goes until slightly before 11.  Then I work for and hour and a half.  Then I go to engineering, followed by Portuguese, which goes until 5:00 pm.  No breaks.  Then I get to take an hour or so to chill and eat dinner--sometimes the first meal of my day.  Luckily, I got delicious lunch today from Noyer (which boasts scrumptious wraps and a salad bar.  Yum!), so I'm not particularly famished at the moment.  All the same, I have a long night ahead of me: after my current break and delicious pot pie, I have three hours of Geography 121, which take me to about 9:00 pm before I can even begin tackling my vast amounts of homework, most of which is due tomorrow by 5:00pm. So, of course, I'm all set to pull another all-nighter.  Hopefully, with enough caffeine and personal motivation I will finish tomorrow with a beautiful studio project to show for it. (Ok, I'll be honest, it's mostly caffeine.  Maybe all caffeine.  And I'll be lucky if my project is beautiful.)

BUT! Hope is on the horizon!  This is my last Tuesday of the semester!  In exactly one week, I'm finished with fall semester of fourth year.  All I can say now is: Thank Goodness!

30 November 2009

You Can Tell its Crunch Time

I was just looking through some of the other Ball State blogs and I realized most of us haven't posted very much recently.  It occurred to me that the last four weeks of the semester are quite demanding.  While my fellow blogger Mike has some excellent tips for success, even they are not enough to ease this time of the semester. 

For example, my studio final project is due in a week-and-a-half and my engineering construction documents are due the day after that. Now, those two projects consist of a LOT of work!  But then I have projects for my plants class and my geography class.  Not to mention studying for finals, finishing up my Brazil application, and taking care of random stuff that pops up around my house.  Whew!  I'll be amazed if I can get it all done without some major late-nighters. 

I'm not really sure where this blog is going other than in general trying to wrap my mind around what's expected of me in the next few weeks. I expect it to all go by in a blur.

So seriously, just bring on Christmas already!

29 November 2009

Paper and Markers and Pens, Oh My!

The Department of Landscape Architecture does the craziest
thing: once a year we invite a well-known landscape architect to Muncie, cancel
all architecture related classes (including studio- Yippee!), and engage in a
days-long, intensive design “charrette,” which is just a fancy word for group
design done at the speed of lightning.  We call this lovely ordeal "Design Week," and it is both loved and hated by its many participants. 

So, the way Design Week works is the ENTIRE department gets separated into "vertical teams," which means there are students from every year on your team.  For example, the team I was on had two graduate students, a fifth year (who unfortunately didn't show up), two forth years, two third years, and two second years.  After the initial kickoff, the teams assemble in the main atrium of the architecture building and design like its nobody's business while professors, stakeholders, and community members stroll around offering advice and recommendations.  Joining the general hustle and bustle is our guest project leader and keynote speaker, who is generally a prestigious landscape architect from anywhere around the world. 

year we were pleased to have Mr. Fumiaki Takano of Takano Landscape
join us from Japan.  He's a pretty amazing designer.  If you check out his firm's projects, you may come across the Children's Playground in Takino Hillside Park, which is definitely the coolest park I've ever seen-- I can't wait for an opportunity to go see it in person. I also really like his approach to design-- he showed us pictures from his projects and described his design process, which includes HEAVY community involvement, extremely intricate designs using on-site materials, and creating 1:10 scale models in the dirt outside his firm's office just to watch how the sun sets on it.  Basically, the guy is pretty baller.  

The project site is in Muncie; there are a few closed industrial parks in the area that are to be rehabilitated to create a "gateway" into Muncie plus some connections between the greenways in the area.  The problems we were addressing involved how to successfully redevelop a brownfield (in other words, what do you do with land that's been contaminated by decades of industrial waste), how to alter the aesthetic of the area to create a more welcoming atmosphere, and how to protect-- if not enhance-- the ecology and natural environment of the area.  It was actually a really interesting project with a ton of potential, especially to me since my preference is in urban design (whereas I've been laboring through regional design all semester, but more on that some other time).  This semester's design work has been mostly on the computer, so it was such a relief to get back to doing hand drawings and messy concept ideas.  Those are the things that make me really enjoy my major. 

 Design Week Site - Along the White River in some of Muncie's Brownfields

Now for the nitty-gritty; Design Week is incredibly time consuming, tiring, and frustrating.  For starters, it began this year on Sunday at 1:00, and it continued well into the evening (many stayed until 9:00 or later; last year I remember staying until 2 in the morning working on some rooftop design), lasting all day Monday and finally drawing to an end Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving Break.  I admit I did not stay very long on any of the days-- one of the difficulties of vertical teams is that you suddenly find yourself on a design team with people you know nothing about with varying interests and skills.  Normally I would find such a situation exciting and challenging, but this year it was just challenging for me.  From my perspective, the best design contributions came from the second year students (they had probably the strongest designs), but they were a little shy at first (thankfully they got over that).  The challenge for me came from someone who we'll call "The Team Member," and let's just say The Team Member had many good ideas, and it was best if the rest of the group just went along with them.  Since that type of "teamwork" is not my favorite, I ended up not spending very much extra time at Design Week.

So my actual design experience was a bit of a letdown, but I still gained plenty from Design Week.  I have to say that I absolutely applaud whoever decided to bring Mr. Takano to Ball State.  I found his work completely inspiring, I thoroughly enjoyed his lectures, and I learned new ways of tackling design problems during his critiques with our group.  I am especially interested in his community-based design methods, which seem to be what makes him unique among landscape architects.  While most landscape architects base their design in community interests (hopefully), Mr. Takano actually gives community members paper and markers and asks them to help in the preliminary design schemes.  He has community members so involved in every part of the process that they apparently help build and maintain the spaces as volunteers.  They take complete ownership of the space, and that-- I think-- should be every designer's goal.  If absolutely nothing else, I feel like Design Week was worth it because of Mr. Takano's presence. 

I guess we'll just see how next year goes!

12 November 2009

My Cozy [Mouse-Infested] Off-Campus Home

"Oh, God!  Oh, God!  Oh, God!  Oh, God!"

Is what she said. . . Except she said it because she found a dead mouse in her sink. And yes, I am said "she."

Living off campus is full of ups and downs, as is living in the residence halls.   I lived in the Johnson complex for two and a half years in Botsford hall.  Until this year Johnson housed the honors students, so I was in good company.  I permanently moved out of the dorms last winter, unless you count my dorm life in Mexico.  Meh.

Anyway, now I live in a hundred-year-old house off campus.  It's a great living situation for me-- I live with four other people, three guys and another gal.  My landlord is a student my age at Ball State, and since he lives in our house the repairs are done fairly quickly.  He's also super understanding about issues like rent.  His younger sister also lives with us (she's the other gal besides me), and she gets this week's prize for innovation: Needing more storage space for some chili she made for the week, she put it in a beverage container.  It's pretty fabulous.  One of the guys is from China, so he's really interesting to talk to when I can catch him-- which unfortunately isn't often since he seems to spend most of his time on campus.  My last roommate studies landscape architecture and is in most of my classes.  This works great since we end up working together on some of our coursework.  

Landlord and his dog in our backyard, which is HUGE!!! 

Another roommate at a football game-- Go Cards! 

We also have a cat, Lord Watson Bartholomew, and a dog, Sam.  

Lord Watson on our roof; he seems to like it up there. 

I like living off campus much more than I thought I would-- and I went into it thinking I'd love it.  My lifestyle is basically the same as when I lived on-campus, but I get to come home to a home.  I think I took that for granted.  When I come home I see my "family," clean up around the house, play with my pets, and cook food with ingredients I bought.  Especially as one prone to wandering, having a home is priceless.  Don't get me wrong, the residence halls do everything they can to create a "homey" feel, but it's still a dorm.  You're still sharing some sort of space with perhaps 50 other people, and you can't decorate however you want.  (Funny story, my sophomore year I painted my dorm room gold to try to "home-ify" it a little, and while I was largely successful, I still had to pay $200 at the end of the year.)  That said, I still think everyone should do at least one year on-campus.  I'm glad I did.

Now, to make off-campus living worth it, I offer these three tips:

- Live with students, and with at least three people:  Students study, and they are respectful when you need to study. Go for at least three in a dwelling in case there are any disagreements--- I have friends living in twos, so when something goes wrong there's no neutral third-party to mediate the situation.  So to make life easier, go for three.

- Live within walking distance to campus:  If you still want to drive, fine, get a parking permit (I personally don't have one), but it's nice to have the option of biking or walking to campus on nice days or when your car decides to die.  Plus you can save TONS of money in gas expenses if you're not driving everyday. 

- Live with people you wouldn't classify as your best friends:  You hear this all the time as a freshman choosing a roommate, but that's because it's TRUE!  For some reason best friends usually don't do well in living-together situations.  The nice thing about living with good friends or casual friends is that you get the opportunity to develop your friendship while living together; I think it makes it easier somehow.  If you're getting to know each other while living together you can learn to live with them.  And if your friendship doesn't work out, then you can grow to be considerate roommates instead, and there're no hard feelings since you weren't great friends to begin with.

 I lucked out in my house quest in that I landed all these things in my first time off-campus.  From talking to my friends I've learned to value these things quite a bit.  Now that I have my home in Muncie, I want to keep it as long as I'm studying here.

Even if there was a dead mouse in my sink. 



05 November 2009

Studying Abroad. . . Busting out the Portuguese

So, as some of you know, I'm planning to study abroad next semester in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  I'm going through a College of Architecture and Planning program.  The way the program works is this: I receive a grant to help me buy my plane tickets, to cover the cost of housing, and to have a little left over for traveling.  When I get to my host university, I find the coordinating professor and together we set up my coursework, which is all related to sustainability and landscape architecture.  The "catch" is that I have to coordinate nearly all of it myself.  Thankfully, I studied abroad on a similar program last year, so I have an idea of what I need to do.  Right now the most pressing matter is applying to my host university; however, the application is completely in Portuguese.  

My Future Home. . . Kind of. 

So, in order to apply, I need to master enough Portuguese to fill out an application and write a one-paged essay about why I want to study in Brazil.  My coordinating professor here in the States has set up a Portuguese class for the three of us who are going to Brazil this spring, and we've been learning a LOT.  Portuguese is my fourth language, but since my second language is Spanish, I'm learning Portuguese pretty quickly.  Already I can read most Portuguese, or at least guess the meanings of words I don't understand.  I suppose that's good for filling out my application; however, I have trouble when speaking Portuguese-- I mix in tons of Spanish, which sometimes works and sometimes fails miserably.  Writing the application essay is going to be challenging, to say the least.  And I'll have to have my professor proofread it several times before I'll be willing to send it in.  I guess it's all a part of the process.

My other big dilemma is trying to decide which classes I want to take.  I'm 99% positive I want to go on CAPAsia next year, which should be my last semester at Ball State; however, if I do this I may not graduate on time.  I've been putting off some of my core classes, so if I can't get credit for these in the next two semesters I'm stuck here for another year.  My biggest concern is an Engineering 2: Materials class I didn't take last spring (since I was in Mexico).  As of last year the professor was of the opinion that I need to physically be in Muncie to learn the information.  Now, she is the professor and knows much more about the subject than me and therefore is in a much better position to decided whether I could learn the information in an independent study, but still.  The more I hash out the numbers, it looks like the only class that has a good chance keeping me from graduating. And it seems silly to finish all my coursework but one class in the spring of 2011, start working, and a year later take the one class in the spring of 2012. (Did I mention the course is offered only in the spring?) Silly as it sounds though, it may be worth it. 

So that's where we are as far as studying abroad.  Step 1: find a program and funding. Check.  Step 2: Apply for admission and decide on classes.  Working on it.


01 November 2009

Why am I studying Landscape Architecture?

Me: Why am I studying landscape architecture? 

Myself: Because you want to be an architect. 

Me: Well, do I? 

Myself: I don't know, don’t you? 

Me: I don’t know. . . maybe.

Myself: Well, it's a little late for this now, don't you think?

Me: Yeah, I guess you're right.  

This is a conversation I have with myself about once a
semester as I’m panicking about my chosen major, as I did early last week.  What if I want to be a painter?  A musician? 
How about a tornado chaser?  I do
like tornados.

I remember feeling this way a lot when I was a senior in
high school and a freshman in college—which is probably why the feeling stands
out so vividly to me: shouldn’t I be over this by now?  I mean, really, I’m in my fourth year of
school.  I’m graduating next
year.  I feel like these questions should
be answered by now.  But try as I might,
tornados are still cool.  And they always
will be.

The good news is I’ve had these feelings enough that I’ve
developed a system to handle them when they do come.  First, I completely freak out: I investigate
other majors, look into other career options, frantically hypothesize different
career paths with my [unfortunate] friends.  I
make firm commitments to go to the authorities and change my major.  Then I go to sleep.

Perhaps your parents used to tell you to “sleep on it”
before making an important decision? 
This is a GOOD IDEA!  Apply its
principles to your life and you will find you make fewer mistakes.  The next phase of dealing with my cold feet
is to focus on the reasons I decided to study landscape architecture in the
first place.  Last week, I decided to go
through some of my old sketchbooks; do some reminiscing about the days when
everything was fresh and new—you know, young love.  

So that’s how I ended up finding some of my old studio
work.  I thought I’d share some of it
with you.  I hope you enjoy it. (Please note how the drawings get progressively better. . . I'm learning!)

 2nd Year: Interior Perspective of a Proposed Peace Garden

This is the interior to a Peace Garden I designed in my second year.  I pulled some inspiration from Jerusalem's Western Wall.

2nd Year: U Street Urban Plaza

2nd Year: Detail of Fountain in U Street Urban Plaza

2nd Year: Section of Neon Light Sculpture in U Street Urban Plaza

These are images from an urban plaza I designed for the U-Street district in Washington, DC.  I rendered the images with bright colored pencils on my boards-- nearly every surface has some sort of neon lighting (including the entire spindly-thing in the bottom image-- yeah, it would be cooler than anything ever if they built it).  :-)

3rd Year: Community Plan (North of Muncie)

This is the plan for a community I designed my third year.  It's supposed to be located just north of Muncie.  There's an elementary school near the southern-most round-about;  the neighborhood has townhouses, apartments, and single-family homes.  The reddish roads are woonerfs, my favorite kind of street. 

3rd Year: New Rail Station (North of Indianapolis)

3rd Year: New Rail Station (North Side of Indianapolis)

3rd Year: New Rail Station (North Side of Indianapolis) 

This is a project I did my 3rd year for a new rail station for Indianapolis's proposed Greenline project.  I did all of it in Google Sketchup, which is a free download if you want to give it a try yourself!



30 October 2009

Vermont in the Autumn and other Sweet Stuffs

One of the best things about spending time in other places is that you get to meet and befriend people from all over the world.  I now have good friends in places like the Czech Republic, Mexico, Argentina, and Egypt.  I also have many American friends scattered across the US in places like LA, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, New York, and Miami.  The sad thing is being a student with limited resources-- it's difficult to see your friends when they're spread apart like that.  I mean, let's be honest, it's difficult enough to keep in touch with friends from La Porte, my hometown. 

So you can imagine how delightful it was to fly to Vermont this past weekend for Fall Break to see a friend I met last summer in Egypt.  We became good friends as we lived in Egypt.  Both of us were learning Arabic in the same program, though he is at a more advanced level than me.  He would frequently help me understand my Arabic homework, which was pretty amazing considering he had his own to do.  He would also encourage me to use Arabic in public, which was helpful since I am shy about speaking Arabic to native speakers.  Overall, he's good company.

He's a student at Dartmouth, which is in New Hampshire, but his family lives just across the river in Vermont.  Now, I'd never been to New England before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I was extremely fortunate to be going there in the fall; as my plane descended over New Hampshire my heart fluttered-- there were rolling hills completely covered in every autumn color imaginable.  Great swathes of gold, crimson, and burgundy were painted over the landscape.  I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful fall.  As we drove away from the airport I got to see the foliage more intimately.  The forests were set atop craggy mountains and hills with bare stone protruding where it had been cut to make way for the road.  It took my breath away. 

We arrived at Dartmouth in the evening, which also happened to be the beginning of Homecoming ceremonies for the university.  We watched the giant bonfire crackle and fall, I met many of my friend's friends, and we walked around campus.  My friend also insisted on taking me to Vermont, and I'm so glad he did. Vermont is a beautiful state.  He took me to a waterfall in his hometown, to the general store, and we even went to a birthday party for one of his parent's friends (I got to meet a lot of Vermonters there, plus a couple who had graduated from Ball State-- what are the odds?). 

The next day he took me to a local diner for absolutely ginormous pancakes, which completely knocked me out, so we took the rest of the day easy.  I ended up getting some locally-made syrup for my dad and some maple candy for my mom; otherwise we just lounged around and enjoyed the day, which was rainy but still beautiful.  It was a truly lovely Fall Break.

16 October 2009

Why I Chirp (Part II)

So yeah, after a ton of struggle, Ball State ended up being a perfect decision for me. I have perfect class sizes of less than 20 people; sometimes less than 10, which is really nice.  I was able to take a special honors course sequence my freshman year that really challenged me to examine my opinions and develop my thoughts.

One of the bigger reasons I'm glad I came to Ball State is the College of Architecture and Planning.  As a first-year student, CAP freshmen aren't allowed to declare a major-- they spend the first year learning design principles and getting a basic knowledge of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning.  Only after they have a foundation in all three disciplines can they then select a major.  As it turns out, I didn't want to be an architect!  What I really wanted was to be a landscape architect, which is a profession I had literally NEVER heard of before coming to college.  Had I gone to another school, I wouldn't have been exposed to my chosen profession (neither of the two other schools I looked at have landscape architecture). So that worked out quite well.

BUT, probably the biggest reason I'm glad I came to Ball State has been the MANY opportunities I've had to study abroad.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been to Italy, England, Tunisia, Germany, Mexico, and Egypt since coming to college.  All of these trips were academic.  And I'm not finished traveling yet.  This spring, I'm going to Brazil.  Next spring, I'm going on CAPAsia.  I went to Italy, England, Mexico, and (in the future) Brazil and Asia through programs offered through Ball State.  But Ball State helped me get to Tunisia and Egypt without directly offering the program that sent me. 

For all of my travels, I've relied heavily on scholarships and grants to help me finance my trips.  To get this funding, an applicant needs to "shine" in some way over his/her peers.  Ball State has helped me do that.  I'm frequently involved in "immersive learning" situations that give me unique experiences (quick note, "immersive learning" is a buzz-word around campus right now, but the programs are valuable to students, scholarship committees, and employers, not to mention more interesting than traditional classwork.  No matter where you decided to get educated, be sure to work on something "real" before you graduate).  I've had the opportunity in my small classes to really get to know my professors, who then can write me stellar letters of recommendation.  I get personalized, one-on-one attention from a scholarships adviser, who not only helps me find scholarships to apply for, but also proofreads and edits all of my applications.  I have fun leadership opportunities through the Honors College as a peer-mentor, and the MITS and SVS connect me to all kinds of volunteer opportunities around Muncie.  Then, I have highly involved faculty who are constantly creating programs for me to explore and grants to help me do it.  Really, Ball State has given me the resources to set out on any adventure I can come up with.  And my record proves I'm not exaggerating. 


 My 21st Birthday Party in Monterrey, MX

Bungee Jumping in Mexico! Sahara Desert in Tunisia

Climbing Mt. Sinai in Egypt

(Photo: Spencer James)

After watching "A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Globe Theatre; London

Frankfurt, Germany

Playing Frisbee in the Med. Sea; Sperlongia, Italy

Eating grasshoppers in Oaxaca, MX

Horseback Riding in the Med. Sea; Tunisia

Italian Burger King; Rome

Me with my Egyptian conversation partner, Leila; Alexandria, Egypt

Crocodile on your shoulder?; Egypt

(Photo: Spencer James)

Oxford, England

You're a wizzard, Jessi; King's Cross Station, London, England Semana Santa; Mexico City, Mexico

St. Peter's Cathedral; Vatican City

Tecnologico de Monterrey- My university in Monterrey, MX

Had to do it; Salsbury, England    Tunisian Bride at one of her wedding parties; Bizerte, Tunisia

The group in a Tunisian tourist's market; Kairowan, Tunisia

Watching the sun set on Mt. Sinai; Egypt 

(Photo: Spencer James)


See?  Best decision of my life. 

Why I Chirp (Part I)

Deciding which college to choose was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.  I had decided I wanted to study architecture, but I really didn't have much perspective beyond that.  Luckily, I suppose, Indiana has only two schools that offer an architecture major: Ball State and Notre Dame.  Since Notre Dame is known for being highly competitive, I decided to look beyond Indiana for architecture schools, which lead me to applying to the University of Cincinnati also. 

Looking back on the three schools I looked at and applied for when I was a senior in high school, I wish I would have looked further abroad, both in the United States and around the world.  To be honest, I would have likely still come to Ball State (for reasons I'll explain), but I still wonder what might have happened had I realized sooner that I could have gone anywhere in the world. 

I was accepted into Ball State and U.C., but not Notre Dame.  I'll admit I was disappointed.  But, even if I had been accepted into ND, there's absolutely no conceivable way I could have afforded a private education. 

So I had to decide between Ball State and UC.  UC is located in an exciting, urban environment, has a great design school, I could live in comfortable dorms, and had offered me (initially) more scholarship money than Ball State had.  Ball State was a smaller school, which meant I would have a more personalized education, had offered me some scholarship money, had a great design school, and it seemed Ball State had more friendly faculty and students than at UC (something I observed while visiting the two schools. . . Sorry UC!).  The decision was difficult-- the two schools were comparable to each other in many ways with the big differences being cost.  While UC offered me more money, Ball State was less-expensive overall.  At that time, I didn't really have the university preferences regarding class size and school size that I have now. 

I decided to go to UC.  I sent my acceptance letter to Cincinnati and mailed off my refusal to Ball State.  That was that, though I was still very uneasy about paying for out-of-state tuition.  I would need a campus job, and I wouldn't be able to afford many of the things I wanted to do in college (like studying abroad).  Such was life.

Then the unthinkable happened.  The Honors College at Ball State offered me a full ride.  The way Honors scholarships work at Ball State is that if a scholarship is turned down, it goes to the runner-up.  Someone had turned down a scholarship, and I ended up being the runner-up.  So I was in a predicament.  Suddenly Ball State was no longer just about equal with UC to me.  I had the opportunity to go to college for free, which is something very special.

I know many young people think that money should be secondary when choosing a college, but for me it was a primary consideration, especially since the two schools I compared were pretty similar.  With a full-ride, I could work only in the summer, spending the school year focused on my academics.  I could then spend the money I had earned in the summer on things I enjoyed, rather than on tuition.  That meant I could study abroad, which was and is very important to me (if you hadn't already figured that out). 

The more I thought about it, the more Ball State made sense.  After some serious thinking and some frantic conversations with my parents, I decided to change my university to Ball State. 

And it was the best decision of my life.  

11 October 2009

Feast. . . Boy did I ever!

This weekend has been spectacular!  But I'll get to that soon.  First, let me tell you about my week.  It was most definitely not spectacular.  It began with a project deadline.  Now, you may think that with three years of architecture school under my belt, I would be able to manage my time. . . well, you'd be wrong.  I thought my project would take less time that it did, so I started it a bit later than I should have.  Then, much to my dismay, as I was trying to compile my work the morning it was due, something went horribly wrong and I lost a ton of data.  I still have no idea what I did wrong.  I ended up turning it in a day late, which is something I'm definitely not used to doing, and something I prefer not to make a habit of.  The good news is I'm still alive and breathing, alhumdulillah

It was a good reminder that being an Honors Student doesn't necessarily mean you're a perfect student.  I think that sometimes us honors kids get a slightly inflated head about our academic vigor-- pft.  I've shot that one down!  It took a friend to remind me that nearly all of Ball State's most recognized alumni were average students.  So, no shame in turning something in a little late. 

After that, my week gradually improved.  I finally finished the new scholarships database I've been working a few weeks on (Huzzah!).  I'll finally be super efficient at adding new scholarships to the website.  "Yippee!" and other excited sounds!

Anyway, I was very excited for the weekend.  I watched a movie Friday night and generally took it easy.  Saturday was the ASLA's Apple Fest, which one of my housemates went to.  That left the house pretty much empty (I live with four other people, all of whom had something to do on Saturday).  I used the relative peace and tranquility to clean my room and do some homework. It may not sound like much, but it felt good to get some things accomplished.  I also put a delicious pork roast in the crock-pot for dinner.  It didn't take long for its heavenly aroma to fill the house. 

After my housemate returned home, we went to a Haunted Corn Maze in Farmland, IN.  It took us a while to find it, but the trip was well worth it!  The maze was exciting, people were screaming, and the weather had finally cleared up to be less rainy and cold.  Josh and I made our way through the maze, jumping at chainsaws behind us, searching for scary shadows, and suspiciously eying costumed people who would tacitly follow us, making us uneasy.  We eventually made it out of the maze-- alive, no less-- and made our way to the pumpkin patch. 

Josh and I each picked out our pumpkins (mine is bigger!); then at the last second, Josh decided to find one for his cat, Lord Watson Bartholomew.  After some time, we found an appropriately-sized pumpkin for the kitten.  I think he plans to carve it into a cat's face. We'll see.

THEN, to top off the weekend, we went to the Feast of the Hunter's Moon in West Lafayette, IN.  This is a reenactment-type of  festival that occurs every fall.  My parents used to take my younger sister and me nearly every year, but it had been a while since the last time we went.  I was SO EXCITED TO EAT the delicious food!  I ate "veggetables" (noodles with veggies and some spices), sauerkraut stew, pumpkin pie, homemade root beer, dried peas, gingerbread, and a buffalo burger.  Oh man, it was SO GOOD.  I also bought a new hat, and I'm super-stoked my friends here at school have said they like it-- the style dates back to the early 1700s.  I guess some things just don't go out of fashion.  Josh ended up buying some neat things as well, including a pewter mug, "fireglass," and flint.  He's excited to try to light fires without matches.  I'm excited to watch.  ;-)

03 October 2009

Oh, Gee, When did THAT get There?. . . Zombies, too?

Ball State has been full of surprises recently. For example, I was riding my bike the other day, and stumbled across this:


Suprise Fountain!


Perhaps not a big deal, BUT it is a brand-spanking-new waterfall on campus after all.  Seriously, was anyone going to tell me?

And it doesn't stop there-- oh, no!  As I was making my way to the College of Architecture and Planning, I spotted Intervarsity Christian Fellowship having a FLOUR WAR in the north quad (the green space between CAP and Bracken Library).  They had packed flour into pantyhose and tied it shut.  As it turns out, this makes a FABULOUS projectile that leaves lovely white spots all over your victims, as can be seen below.  

Yeah, throwing flour at each other is fun

Check out the soaring flour-bomb in the background!   

He's gonna get me!


So, yeah.  That was kind of a big deal. 

Now Humans Versus Zombies has erupted on campus yet again.   Ball State's Urban Gaming League (which I just learned about) has organized a campus-wide game of Humans Versus Zombies, or HvZ for short ;-).  Here is what the UGL has to say about HvZ:


Humans vs. Zombies is a game of
tag. All players begin as Humans, and a small number are randomly
chosen to be the "Original Zombies." The Original Zombies tag human
players and turn them into Zombies. A Zombie must tag and "feed" on a
human every 48 hours or he starves to death and is out of the game.


If you’re a Human, survive the zombie infestation! This may require you
to make friends and complete "missions" that will be e-mailed to you.
If you’re a Zombie, strengthen the Horde, tag humans, and eat brains!


But how does one tell the difference between a human and a zombie, you ask?  EASY!  Just look for the neon-green bandanas!



Bandanas signify which team you’re on.

    • All players wear BRIGHT NEON GREEN bandanas.
    • All NPCs wear BRIGHT NEON ORANGE bandanas.
    • All Moderators wear WHITE bandanas

  • Human:
    • Wear bandanas tied around their upper arms

    • Must wear their bandana whenever they are outside safe zones, for the duration of the game

    • May remove their bandanas when inside buildings, but must put them back
      on before leaving safe zones

  • Zombies:
    • Wear bandanas on their heads, headband-style

    • May decide not to wear their bandanas outside, but are out of play while the bandana is off

    • If a Zombie is outdoors without their bandana on, they must either:
      • Wait 30 minutes after putting it back on to play again, OR
      • Enter a building, put the bandana back on, and resume play.
      • Wearing or not wearing a bandana does not affect a Zombie's stun status.

Fantastically elaborate, no?  There's a lot more on the website.  Seriously, I love college.  The best part is, TONS of people participate in these things! 

(The game just started late last week, so give me a few days to get some photos or video of some Ball State Zombies in action!)


01 October 2009

Row, Row, Row Your Boat. . .

Many students—and probably residents and parents also—think Muncie
is a boring little town with few things to do. 
I even have a professor who claims Muncie is the “best place to study in
the world because there are no distractions.” 
Muncie is seen as a quiet little town in east-central Indiana, and some
would translate that to mean “BOR-RING.”

While this is true on a certain level since Muncie is by no
means a large city like Chicago or Indianapolis, I’ve found plenty of things to
distract me from my school work, and I discover even more fun things when I’m
feeling creative. 

I started attending Natural Resources Club when I was a
sophomore simply because there seemed to be a handful of people I knew at the
meetings and I rarely wanted to do homework on a Thursday night.  I’m glad I did.  NRC has possibly the most interesting club
activities at Ball State (unless you’re in Fencing Club or whatever group
organizes this--see below--every week). 

Epic Battle in the Quad


Battle Stance


Waiting for some action. . . 


Last year NRC went spelunking in Bloomington, IN, which is
another one of those really cool things everyone should do before they
die.  We had a ton of fun exploring the
caves, spent some time cleaning graffiti, and camped that night next to a
lake.  The whole experience was super fun
and a great change-of-pace from college life.  I think we're planning on taking another spelunking trip this year, possibly in the spring.  The nice thing about spelunking is that it's an all-season sport.  The temperature is always constant, so once you're underground you don't have to worry about weather limitations.  The best part is crawling through the earth and getting SUPER dirty.  :-)




Tight Fit




 We had to crawl like this for about 100 feet


Last weekend I went canoeing and camping with the NRC.  I was surprised at how close the boat launch place was to Ball State; we drove about 10 minutes to get to the canoes.  My friend and I decided to canoe ten miles down the
White River, which was low and lazy.  It
gently carried us and the rest of the club past Mounds State Park and some
beautiful scenery.  We passed one or two
fishermen, and one brilliant guy who was basking in the sun with a book in his
arms.  We had to get out of the boat only once to walk it over some really shallow water, and we got stuck on some rocks for a while, but overall we did a great job (my friend did all of the work, to be honest).  The whole trip took about four hours.  We passed the time by talking and sharing riddles.  It kind of made me think of the scene in The Hobbit

where Bilbo and Gollum are having a riddle-duel. . . except my life was by no means on the line.  


 Row, Row, Row Your Boat




After canoeing, we set up camp on
the river, built a fire, and played Frisbee. 
We had fun making the fire ridiculously huge and warm, although we forgot to bring lawn chairs to sit around the fire.  We ended up sitting on logs, which limited our fuel ever so slightly.  The whole trip was pretty chill, and I felt refreshed (though smokey)
when I returned home.


Check out our HUGE fire! 


Roasting the perfect marshmallow 


Point being, Muncie does have some fun activities to offer its residents.  If you're having trouble finding something exciting to do with your time (be it spare time or homework time), I suggest joining a club that does something you're interested in.  Then just go to their activities and meetings.  You'll be surprised at what you can get yourself into.  Not to mention, you'll likely meet people who are interested in the same things you are who could become some of your best friends. 


27 September 2009

Vaginas, Jumper Cables, and Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

My mother is fond of naming her years and especially her
seasons.  We’ve recently had “The Summer of the Completed Project,” “The
Summer of Relaxation,” and “The Winter of Finishing the Basement.”  Now, in true form of becoming a bit more like
my mother each day, I think I’m naming this semester “The Semester of Personal

To begin that process, I decided it was finally time to go
to the Women’s Center and have my nether-regions examined.  “They” say young ladies should start doing
this when they’re 21, and I completed that last January.  Now, for those who don’t know what it’s like
being a young lady full of Midwestern modesty, the prospect of deliberately
going to a health center in order to spread your legs to a complete stranger is
quite daunting.  I decided to dig my
heels in (no pun intended) and make the phone call.

Much to my surprise, the entire ordeal was quite simple
(though I would still call it an ordeal). 
I went to my appointment, was greeted by the nicest reception I’ve
encountered anywhere, and kindly shown to an examination room.  A friendly young woman then entered and we
went through my medical history.   She
then left so I could change my clothes. (Quick aside—dropping your pants in a
public place like that is both very strange and highly liberating.)  The doctor then entered and talked to me
about what she was going to do, and in general that conversation helped to calm
me down.  She was very kind and had the
gift of making me feel like I knew her in seconds.  She had an almost grandmotherly appeal—except
she then put my heels in stirrups and performed an examination.  I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to
say the rest went well, and I went home happy I had finally overcome one of the
scariest doctor appointments of my life.  To all those ladies out there waiting to take
the plunge for vaginal health, I highly recommend Ball State’s Women’s Center
as a first step.


Last night, in accordance with “The Semester of Personal
Health,” I attended my second meditation class. 
My best friend and I decided it would be beneficial and fun to learn to
meditate, so we joined this course offered through Ball State’s Center for Peace and
Conflict Studies
.  The classes are
taught by George Wolfe, and so far I’ve really enjoyed them.  Anyway, I drove my friend home after class and
we sat in front of her house for a short while just chatting; however, when it
was time to go home, my car wouldn’t start—my battery had died.

Now, my friend and I consider ourselves independent, emancipated
young women (my friend has even been known to plunge her own toilets; yeah,
that’s right), so we figured this was a prime time to flex our womanly muscles
and jump my car.  Susan had jumper cables
and a working car, so we set about our task, highly confident in our innate abilities
to handle any historically masculine task life could set before us. 


Rosie. . . A gal to look up to. . .    Susan and me. . . see the resemblence?

Those feelings lasted about ten seconds.  After a brief discussion, we both realized
that even though we had the necessary components for car-jumping, neither of us
had a CLUE what to do after that.  Slightly
humbled, we called my roommate and asked him to talk us through the
procedure.  The real kicker came when I got
confused and for some reason became convinced that if I clipped the cables on
in the wrong order I would explode the cars and die.  Seeing a highly uncomfortable death in my
immediate future, I chickened out and Susan and I both buckled and asked Josh
to just come and jump my car for us. 

On the plus side, now we DO know how to jump a car, should
the occasion come again.  HA!  Women still rule (even if occasionally we
need the assistance of gentlemen). 


Finally, a word about Ball State football.  Last year, we did quite well, and I didn’t
get to see a single game.  This year, I’ve
seen every game, and we’ve lost every game. 
Cardinal fans, I hereby formally apologize: it’s clearly my fault our
season is going less than well.  I’d like
to say I’ll stop watching, but I just can’t help myself now. 

On the plus side, the Marching Band did something REALLY
COOL during half-time at the last home game: the whole band did “The Dance” to
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”  I kid you
not.   Of course, I couldn’t predict that happening,
so my video only captures the last few seconds of possibly the best half-time
show ever
.  Hopefully they do it again!

(Note: I'm still trying to figure out how to get the video to just "work" on this page, so if you can't see the image, just click the link instead.  Enjoy!)