SJLA Benefit Concert, Virginia Tech Contest, and Math Talk

This past Saturday night was the third annual SJLA Benefit Concert.  This year, it was different for me for a couple of reasons!  First, the junior members of SJLA put on the benefit concert (I am a junior!).  A few of my fellow SJLA students have been working hard these past several weeks to plan the concert (special thanks to Mike, Juliana, and Christa!)  They did a phenomenal job planning the concert and it went so well.  So many people showed up and made generous donations towards the SJLA juniors’ service project.

Besides being good friends with the wonderful students who planned the concert, this year was different for me for another exciting reason… I performed in the concert!  I played the piano and sang “Riptide” by Vance Joy.  I was incredibly nervous, as I have had just a few experiences performing in front of people, but I am happy with how my performance went.  I am so glad I was able to contribute to such a wonderful cause, and I felt humbled to be surrounded by such talent!!

Another interesting event that occurred this weekend was the Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest (VTRMC).  The past few weeks, one of my math professors and several of my fellow math majors have been encouraging people to sign up for the VTRMC, a very challenging math test which lasts 2.5 hours!  Most people go in with the expectation of receiving 0 points, but getting just one question correct will place you in a top percentile of students.  I signed up after being influenced by my professor and classmates.  The test was a very interesting experience, and I plan to take it again next year.  I did not get any of the answers, but I am grateful for the experience and the chance to consider such difficult problems!  Maybe next year I will get an answer 🙂

This Tuesday, I attended a math lecture given by Dr. Jakub Jasinski (a professor in our math department) called Contracting Function and Fixed Point Theorems.  Conveniently, this lecture coincided perfectly with what I am learning in my Chaos and Fractals math class!  The talk was very interesting, and Dr. Jasinski even sent a PDF copy of his slideshow to anyone who was interested.  I know I will be referring back to his slideshow to gain a deeper understanding of the course material in Chaos and Fractals.  His is the third mathematical lecture I have attended so far, and definitely my favorite!  Unfortunately, I have had a class during several other guest lectures, but I am grateful I was able to attend Dr. Jasinski’s talk.

Have a great week!!

– Tori

Fall Break

Welcome back to school!

We had no classes on Monday and Tuesday in honor of fall break, but now we are right back in the swing of things.

My fall break was fun, though I wish it had been just one day longer!  (Oh well – I’ll take what I can get 🙂 )  I was glad to be able to go home to Baltimore and spend time with my family.  My older sister, Alexandra, just graduated this year and now works in Baltimore City at Morgan Stanley.  She lives at home, which I am thankful for because I could spend time with both Alexandra and my parents without leaving the house.  On the other hand, my younger sister, Rebecca, attends school at the University of Maryland.  I only got to see her for about 20 minutes 🙁 But that’s better than nothing!

On Saturday, my sister Alexandra ran a half marathon in the Baltimore Running Festival!  My dad and I drove with her to Baltimore City to support her during the race.  I am so proud of her for completing her first half marathon! She has been working hard to train for the race and she did an incredible job.  (I am impressed by anyone who can even finish the race, to be honest… but she did it in 2:04:09!)  I am so proud of her!  Here is a picture of my dad, Alexandra, and me before the race, as well as a picture of Alexandra minutes before the race started:

IMG_3991 IMG_3983

After the race on Saturday and all day Sunday, I just relaxed at home with my parents and Alexandra and went to church.

Monday, however, was eventful and exciting!! Alexandra took the day off of work and we drove to the University of Maryland together.  We were there briefly, just to say hello to a couple people – most importantly, our sister Rebecca! Here is a picture of the three of us:

12088171_954642561239743_4049410711534454072_n (me, Alexandra, Rebecca)

Then, we continued our journey on the metro.  We took the metro into Washington, DC and spent the afternoon there!  We visited a few monuments within the National Mall: the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.  Here are a few photos I took:

IMG_4011
 WWII memorial

IMG_4014
Washington Memorial as seen from Lincoln memorial

IMG_4016
Lincoln Memorial

After visiting the monuments, we ate dinner at Taqueria Nacional, a delicious taco restaurant, and dessert at Bakehouse right next door.  We got two desserts and shared them – a brownie sundae and a peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich. They were both delicious!

After filling up on wonderful food, we made our way to the next stop, and our reason for spending the day in DC in the first place… the 9:30 Club for Tove Lo’s concert! (Her most popular songs are Habits and Talking Body)  Alexandra and I have been fans of hers for a little over a year and we were so happy to see her perform her songs live! The concert was fantastic; Tove Lo has an incredible voice and we had a great view of the stage.  The venue was relatively small and the concert was standing room only; we decided to go to the balcony area, which turned out to be a great choice!! Here is a picture from where we were:
IMG_4028

It was pretty cool to be able to see both Tove Lo and the entire crowd at the same time; we could really feel the energy in the room.  Alexandra and I had a great time together at the concert, and I am so glad I got to spend the day with her!

Overall, I had a great break. It was wonderful to be home; I love seeing my family, especially my dog… who I cannot leave out! So here is a picture of her from this weekend 🙂

IMG_4084

I was sad to leave home again so soon, but I am glad to be back now! I missed my roommates this weekend and I was so happy to be reunited with them 🙂

Enjoy the rest of your (short) week!

– Tori

Photo Shoot and Love Your Body

This is the last week before Fall Break, and it is flying by… just two more days of classes until break!

I am excited to go home, but I love spending time with the girls in my apartment, and I know I will miss them over the break.  Luckily, I got to spend all weekend with them this past weekend!

On Saturday, our friend Chris generously gave up his whole day to photograph each of us.  Chris is an incredibly talented photographer– he has photographed on-campus events, weddings, and even concerts!! Last year, he photographed We The Kings at Misericordia, and this year he photographed Echosmith at Oneanta.  In addition to having his own photography business, Chris is the executive chair of USPB; thus, he is understandably very busy!  Chris is also an incredible friend – and evidently so, but sacrificing his whole day for us honestly just scratches the surface of how far he would go for his friends.  I am so lucky to have Chris in my life, and the girls in my apartment feel the same way!

Chris originally came over to take professional headshots for each of us.  (It is pretty terrifying that we are starting to need those, I guess we’re getting old 😯 )  I have to say, I have an even further heightened respect for models now… big cameras are SCARY!  After we each got our headshots, we then turned the day into a photoshoot.  It was so much fun to pose together, even though I felt a little silly at times 😆  In some of the photos, it felt like we were taking a family portrait; in others, we felt like we were in a band, taking photos for an album 8) . Chris has the photos we took on his computer, but I had him take a picture of all of us on my phone, so I’ll post that here (at the bottom of the post).  Saturday was so much fun; I am always so thankful when I get to spend time with the best people in my life 🙂

Yesterday, on the second floor of the DeNaples Center, the Jane Kopas Women’s Center hosted a table fair for Love Your Body Day 2015.  They set up several tables around the fireplace area with the intention of promoting self-love and body positivity and educating people.  The first table I visited was “Trash Your Insecurities”, where I wrote an insecurity of mine on a piece of (recycled) scrap paper, then tore it up and threw it in a trash can.  The next table I visited had a board about celebrities who have struggled with body image issues.  One section of the board was dedicated to Taylor Swift (MY FAVORITE), who has struggled with body image issues, and another was dedicated to Demi Lovato, who struggles with an eating disorder.  Knowing that both of them feel or have felt uncomfortable in their own skin definitely makes me think; those are the people that I see as having “perfect” and “ideal” bodies, but they do not view their own bodies that way.  It goes to show how subjective body image is; we can find issues with our bodies regardless of their size or shape, and this just demonstrates how all of our insecurities are fed by our mentality and not our actual “imperfections”.  Some other tables focused on men’s body image issues, eating disorders, and positive self-image.  Another table had adhesive name-badges, except instead of writing their names, people wrote “I love my: _______” and wore it!  I love this concept of self-love and positivity!!
I am so grateful that people are paying attention to such important issues here at the University of Scranton.  The Jane Kopas Women’s Center is always especially great about hosting events which spread awareness about important social matters.  Negative body image is such a pervasive issue in our society, and it cannot be fixed overnight, but bringing attention to it and trying to change our mindset definitely helps.

Have a great fall break!! See below for pictures from Saturday 🙂

– Tori

Chris’s makeshift studio in our apartment
IMG_3948

My beautiful roommates – and Chris, the honorary roommate
IMG_3949

Apartment 5! (L-R: Emily, Natalie, Cait, Jess, Tori (me), Shannon)
IMG_3909-2

How to Handle Busy Weeks

Happy midterm week!! I honestly cannot believe how quickly this semester is going by.  Since it is officially midterm week here at Scranton, I decided to change things up a little bit for this week’s blog post!  This week is my busiest of the semester so far (understandably so – midterms!) but everyone has those busy weeks a couple times per semester! So, having been through four semesters here, I thought I could share some tips that I find useful for (no, not just surviving…) thriving even when things get a little hectic!

  1. Plan Ahead
    Planning ahead and making a schedule is so important.  I love making lists for just about everything – but when it comes to busy weeks, the most important list to make is simply a list of what you need to get done!  Writing down all your tasks and assignments in one place ensures that even if something slips your mind, you will remember it once you look at your list.  Taking it a step further, you can make a schedule of when you plan to complete everything on your list.  Whenever I have a few assignments to work on, I break up my days into sections and allot certain times to each assignment.  If you choose to do this, remember to give yourself breaks in your schedule!  Everyone has a personal preference for how they like to make schedules; some people make schedules down to the minute, whereas others may just work on one assignment until they finish and then move on to the next.  Whatever schedule works for you is the best schedule, but it is definitely important to make one if you have a busy week!
  2. Eat Well
    Another crucial tip for tackling a busy week is to eat well.  This one is tricky, because it is during high-stress times that our bodies start sending us signals to eat lots of sugary sweets and junk food!  However, this is exactly the opposite of what will help us feel our best and function optimally.  Added sugars, excessive salt, and the fats found in overly processed foods make us feel sluggish and tired and make it harder to concentrate.  It is always important to eat healthily and fuel our bodies with  nutritious foods, but it is especially important to do so during times like midterm week.  I encourage you to make realistic personal goals regarding eating healthily through stress.  Even little changes, like choosing vegetables and hummus over potato chips for a snack, will make a huge difference in your alertness and productivity.
    Scranton makes this really easy, too!  The Fresh Food Company (3rd floor DeNaples) always has so many healthy options; my favorites are the fresh fruit, salad bar, soup station, and the vegetarian station.  Another great option is the Mulberry POD (in Montrone); I love the salad bar, and always end up getting the same exact order because I am obsessed with how good it tastes! (Mixed greens, sliced hard-boiled egg, broccoli, chickpeas, diced cucumbers, diced tomatoes, chicken, and Greek feta dressing).  No matter where you eat on campus, there is always a healthy option.
  3. Eat Often
    Similarly, it is important to make sure you eat frequently enough!  I hear so many people say “I’ve been so busy, I just forgot to eat.” ( Okay, first of all…how?)  Not eating often enough is a surefire way to ruin our studying efforts.  Our brains cannot work without food!  Like I mentioned, it is important to take breaks – always take a break to eat a meal.  Even if you are incredibly busy, it is important to give yourself a break and get something to eat.  Eating lunch or dinner does not have to take an hour – the POD is a quick and delicious option for foods from the grill, salad bar, or sandwich station… or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could get sushi from the refrigerated section!
  4. Stay Hydrated
    I cannot even begin to stress how important it is to stay hydrated (again, all the time, but especially during hectic weeks).  It is important to note here that soda, coffee, and energy drinks all actually dehydrate our bodies.  Stay away from these drinks as much as possible, since they will cause not only dehydration but an eventual crash (especially soda, energy drinks, and sugary coffee).  If you do drink any of these beverages, be sure to drink twice their volume in water to replenish the water they cause you to lose.
    Regardless, drink water constantly!  Staying hydrated keeps you awake, alert, and cheerful.  Remember, your brain is 75% water.  Do not let that number drop – drink water!
  5. Sleep
    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a few naps a day does not a night of sleep make.  Getting sleep is not just about how many hours you sleep, it is about the quality of those hours.  College students should ideally be getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night.  I know that this is not always possible, but it is a good goal to have.  My first tip of making a schedule can help you figure out how to get more sleep, but it is also important to realize that not all sleep is equal!  Restful sleep is the key to waking up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.  One simple (though easier said than done) step is to not look at any screens (phone, computer, TV, kindle, etc.) starting an hour before you go to bed.  The artificial light sends signals to your brain that it should be awake; so, looking at a screen right before bed will make it harder to fall asleep.  Something that helps me is to focus on my breathing as I fall asleep; it is much more beneficial than focusing on all the racing thoughts that seem to come at night.  If, when you lay down for bed, your mind starts running all the things you need to get done, try just breathing deeply and counting until you fall asleep.  Finally, like I said, a night of sleep is much better than several short naps.  This, too, is much easier said than done; I am infamous for my nap-taking “ability”.  But, regular naps can seriously disrupt your sleep cycle!  So, if you need a nap, take one for about 20 minutes, but a maximum of 30.   And try to go to bed early!

Good luck with midterms! Remember that everyone studies differently, and it is important to find what works for you.

I hope you try out these tips and that they work well for you! Have a great week 🙂

–  Tori