Silver Isn’t Silver, Empowerment Through Lab Goggles, and Other Lessons From Research

For six weeks of this summer, I am conducting nanoscience research in Belmont’s Physics lab through the SURFs (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program. As a Biology major, I came into this fellowship knowing next to nothing about physics. However, after my research advisor handed me a substantially thick stack of physics literature and nanoscience journals to read, and now that we are officially halfway into the research experience, I can now say that I have learned a few things about nanoscience and the research experience in general.¬†Here are some of them:

  1. If going to the mountains is a method through which I realize I am so small and God is so infinitely magnificent, then reading scientific papers is a method through which I realize my brain is laughingly small and the knowledge in the world is so infinitely vast. Guys, I can read through a paper three times and still not know entirely what the authors are talking about. There is such an immense wealth of information packed into just a few pages of reading material that it can be hard to register all of it sometimes. What even are silicon-based metal-oxide-semiconductor¬†electronic systems? Integrated optical devices?? Still not entirely sure….ask me again in a few weeks and maybe I’ll be able to tell you.
  2. Sonicating (cleaning) microscope slides is a very loud and obnoxious process.
  3. Carry your phone with you, because if you don’t, you will never know what time it is. No clocks or windows here.
  4. Silver nanoparticles don’t look silver. We use glass microscope slides to create these nanoparticles. The sodium ions naturally found in the glass leave and are substituted by silver ions surrounding the glass (we expose the glass to silver ions by immersing it into a piping hot liquid bath of silver and sodium nitrates). Once the ion exchange occurs, we heat the slides at around 500¬ļC for one or two hours so the silver ions in the glass clump together, thereby forming silver nanoparticles. The nanoparticles do not look silver, though – they look more golden-orange to me.
  5. You can only listen to an album so many times. I have exhausted Hillsong’s Wonder and Houndmouth’s Little Neon Limelight,¬†but as many times as I listen to Lorde’s Melodrama, it never gets old.

  6. I can’t hold my breath for that long…but I¬†can¬†hold it long enough to change out the slides in the IR machine. Carbon dioxide interrupts readings.
  7. You will never ever ever be able to escape IR. Think you can leave behind infrared spectroscopy after Organic Chemistry? Think again. I thought it was possible (out of all the things we learned in OChem, IR was the topic that I liked the least), but I was unfortunately mistaken. In the physics lab, we run IR on our samples every day.
  8. My memory isn’t as good as I think it is, so I’m very thankful for lab notebooks where I can specify all of the procedures and protocols we follow.
  9. Time is plentiful, but that’s only a good thing if you know how to use it. There’s a lot of waiting around for things to happen in our lab, so learning how to utilize time efficiently has become crucial.
  10. All it takes is a pair of latex gloves and some lab goggles to feel like you can conquer the world.

Happy Friday!

Samantha

Spring Break ’17 (Puerto Pe√Īasco, Mexico)

Hello friends! Wow, what a hectic week it has been. Life has finally slowed down enough for me to share all that went down on¬†my ISL (International Service Learning) trip¬†to Mexico. I cannot emphasize how much I treasure¬†everyone’s¬†support, encouragement, and prayers. They mean the world to me and this trip would not have been possible without them!

***

March 4, 2017

On Saturday evening, after an exhausting day of air travel and layovers, I along with ten other Belmont science majors arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. We gathered our things, boarded a 14-passenger van, and began the drive to Puerto Pe√Īasco, Mexico.

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It took three hours to get to the US/Mexico border and another three hours to arrive at our final destination. We arrived at night and were excited to see our house for the week was really cute, plus it was located right by the beach. (Fun fact: the house we stayed in is the house of the man who founded ISL Рhow cool is that?)

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the view from the house

March 5, 2017

On Sunday, we had our recreation day. A great portion¬†of it was spent in the van driving to Pinacate Biosphere. There we learned about the area’s¬†natural¬†wildlife and got to take a mini hike outside. From there, we took a very very¬†very bumpy drive to one of the volcanic craters in the area. It was massive, and it was awesome. We didn’t spend much time there though because it was extremely windy, to the point where it was kind of hard to walk straight. We got back in the van and drove the 2 hours back to the city. We¬†visited a local area and went shopping and got dinner.

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March 6, 2017

Our second full day in Mexico was the true start of learning about why we were there. We spent the morning in medical training and orientation. We refreshed our skills on taking blood pressure, listening to heart sounds and breathing, and checking out the eyes/ears/nose/throat. For many of us, it was also our first time learning how to check blood glucose levels.

In the afternoon, our Belmont group split up into groups of 3-4 and began doing house visits. The job of each group consisted of walking¬†from door to door in this residential community and take people’s health information and history. More importantly, we were there to promote the clinic we would be hosting later on in the week. It amazed me how people were so willing to give us strangers their medical information.¬†The people were overall very friendly, and some even invited us into their homes.

Luckily for us, the language barrier was not too much of an issue. The forms we filled out had Spanish translations to any questions we had to ask the local residents. And like every other group, we had an awesome translator, Ruben, who stayed with us the whole time. One of our group members, Crystal, was also fluent in Spanish, which made our job even easier.

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house visits were fun with this dream team

After house visits,¬†we returned¬†to the house and sorted through vitamins, school supplies, medicines, and other donations in preparation for the community clinic. To end the day, we got tacos at a local taco place (some of the best tacos I’ve ever eaten) and churros at a churro stand.

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March 7, 2017

On this day, we did more house visits. It was awesome getting to know different people and their families. There was one sweet lady who invited us into her home and offered us fresh tortillas. Her family also had a cute dog that kept biting Christopher’s and I’s scrubs:

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After our lunch break, we visited one of the public hospitals.¬†We were so lucky in that we got to see a surgery: the removal of a Fallopian tube cyst.¬†This was my first time seeing a live surgery, and it was the greatest experience.¬†We observed and took in all that we could (with Today’s Top Radio Hits playing in the background).¬†The anesthesiologist in the operating room was great; he was very instructive, guiding us step by step through what he was doing. He even let a few of us administer¬†the patient’s IV drugs.

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March 8, 2017

On Wednesday, we started the day by visiting a men’s drug/alcohol rehab center.¬†We stuck with our same groups from house visits and made mini¬†stations for patients to come to. These visits were some of the most enjoyable, I’d say. The people we assessed were all very nice and talkative. A few of them also spoke English, alleviating the language barrier for awhile.

We spent the second day doing our last round of house visits. These visits throughout the week were our best view into the lives of the local people. It was definitely a humbling experience. We saw that many people had houses that were not sustainable in the long-term. These houses had mosaic-like walls, patched up with various sizes of plywood, sheetrock, and cardboard. Despite what we in the US might term poor living conditions, some of the people in these houses were genuinely happy and loved the life as they had it.

March 9, 2017

The 9th was our first day of the community clinic! It was quite fulfilling seeing people¬†from our house visits waiting in line to receive care. Our group’s job was to check the patient’s vitals and to assess the patient before he/she was seen by the doctor.

Clinic ended at lunchtime. We had a free day for the rest of the day, so we went to the beach and got dinner at this place called Get Wrecked, a really tourist-y restaurant right by the beach that we¬†had had our eyes set on since Day 1. The hashtag #getwrecked became a recurrent joke throughout our trip and is also featured on all of our group’s Instagram posts;)

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laying out on the beach after a long day of clinic

March 10, 2017

This was our second day of community clinic. We had a lot of fun this day, because after clinic, there was a pi√Īata party with cake and ice cream for all of the kiddos we met on our house visits and the clinic. It was amusing to see some kids arrive right when our clinic opened at 8:30, then sit and wait patiently until 12, when we had the party.

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this is Victoria, the cutest 1-year old with a deep fascination with stethoscopes

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After we wrapped up the clinic, our group hit the town one last time before our return to the States. We made a quick stop at¬†the Tequila Factory (the legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, so…) before going shopping at a different shopping area. I got a fun¬†mug to remind me of all of the fun we had on our trip (thank you, airport security, for dropping my backpack and subsequently breaking my mug. To¬†be repurposed into a pot for some succulents…)

To end the night, our group went on a sunset cruise. We headed out on a boat for two hours and got to see the most beautiful sunset. What made the trip even more special was seeing dolphins swimming literally less than 5 feet from our boat. It was the best way to spend our last night in Mexico!

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March 11, 2017

On Saturday, we said our goodbyes to Puerto Pe√Īasco. We left our house at 7:30 and drove back up to Phoenix. We all made it to the airport on time and said our goodbyes before heading off our separate ways.

A fun story: my friend Marcie and I had the same flight back to Nashville (yay!). But our connecting flight through Salt Lake City got delayed by ~3 hours (boo) so we had to reschedule flights. We weren’t able to leave Phoenix until 12:50am, 11 hours after we were originally supposed to leave. We ended up getting back to Nashville at 11am the next day. What made it all the more annoying was that they¬†left my luggage in Phoenix. Luckily, they delivered¬†that to me at 11pm. What a journey this was.

***

I am so appreciative of this Spring Break. As I’ve never been on a mission trip before, this was¬†a great chance to use what we’ve been blessed with to bless others.

I no longer take simple amenities for granted: clean, potable water; smooth, paved roads; immediate access to basic health necessities; flushable toilet paper; fresh fruits/vegetables that are safe to eat.

I have a renewed fascination with languages and the intrinsic uniqueness and beauty found in each one.

I also view healthcare in a new way. Did you know that in Mexico (or at least the area we were in), the doctor gets paid no matter what, even if he does not show up? On the day we visited the public hospital, there was a surgery supposedly scheduled in the morning which was ultimately rescheduled simply because the surgeon decided not to show up.

I have a deepened appreciation for the qualities of empathy and concern that physicians ought to display. While the community clinic was definitely beneficial overall, it was astounding to witness the way our doctor treated some of the cases we presented to him. He was there to get the job done, with not much regard for the patient’s feelings. Thus, when he told our patient that “you have severe hypertension, you will die, and at this point there is pretty much nothing you can do about it,” I was slightly taken aback.

I am reminded of how crucial it is to stay openminded. Despite these stark contrasts I noticed between Mexico’s healthcare system and ours, sometimes people just do things differently than we do, and sometimes that is okay. But more importantly, if we are unwilling to view things from a different perspective, we are missing out. Positive or negative, there is always something to gain from different perspectives and new outlooks.

Every moment on this medical mission trip was a blessing, but the trip¬†would not have been what it was if it weren’t for the people I got to experience it with. I had the pleasure of serving and learning alongside¬†ten outstanding individuals. They were all acquaintances at most in the beginning, but now we all share a new special connection as friends. These people taught me a lot about what it looks like to serve on your¬†knees, putting others above yourself.

The joy and laughter each of them brought to the group was contagious. In loving on Puerto Pe√Īasco, they¬†made the love of God so tangible and so evident, and that was pretty cool.

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About January ’17

What a great start to a new year! If I can say anything, I can say that January has been the busiest, most hectic, at points most stressful, month I have had in a very long time. It has been a season of growth and¬†intentionality which has kept life exciting. Without further ado, here’s some of these exciting things:

  • Back to school:¬†I¬†kicked off¬†the new semester at Belmont. This spring, I’m taking 17 credit hours composed of¬†science, music, and Honors courses. I can genuinely say that I love all of them. That doesn’t happen often, so I am rejoicing in the fact that I wake up every morning¬†actually excited to learn new things.

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  • An internship:¬†On top of classes, I took on an internship at church! I heard about the opportunity back in December right before Christmas.¬†I knew immediately it was something I wanted to get involved in despite my class schedule; but I also knew that if there’s any good time to try something new, it’s now! College is the time to¬†experience new things, and what better new thing than a position within my church? I entered the internship with high expectations, and it has not disappointed me yet. I’ve been able to grow close to so many exceptional individuals, and I’ve already gotten¬†the chance to complete some fun projects:

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  • 21 Days of Prayer: I’m not going to lie: in the past I haven’t been one to attend church events outside of the usual Sunday morning service, but I loved having the opportunity to attend nightly prayer and worship services at church as a part of 21 Days of Prayer! There’s so much power in a group of individuals gathering to talk to God. I can’t wait to see how God continues to move!
  • Delivery:¬†I was in the debut of an original musical! Not as an actress, obviously, but as a violinist in the band. This was¬†another one of those¬†things that was just too good to pass up. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to share the stage with some pretty incredible musicians, and I’m seriously hoping we’ll get to perform it again soon!
  • Hand lettering: My lettering has unfortunately been put on the back burner, but I’m excited to be getting more stuff out soon. Meanwhile,¬†feel free to check out some of my stuff on¬†Instagram.

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So January has been busy and tiring, but in the best and most fulfilling way possible. I have loved getting to cultivate new relationships with people who I have gotten to just do life with.

It’s only a few days into February but I already know it’s going to be the same as January, if not even more packed with exciting things. I can’t wait to share them with you!

 

Have a lovely February!

About 2016: Faithfulness

Happy New Year’s Eve! Once again, it’s that time where we all get to pause and reflect on the year that has passed. For me, it seems like time itself is only accelerating and leaving me scrambling behind in the dust, but while this year feels like the quickest year yet, I nevertheless gained infinite amounts of valuable insight and knowledge about myself, others, and the world.

I’ll get right to it: above all,¬†2016 was the year I learned all about God’s¬†faithfulness. And let me just say, there is nothing¬†more¬†constant, tangible, beautiful, or true. While this year was filled with highs¬†and lows, the one thing that remained unquestionably steadfast was my Jesus.

I learned that God is a faithful Provider. He has provided me with another wonderful year at Belmont University where I’ve gotten to dive deeper into my studies of science and music.¬†He has blessed me with a new church family in The Move Church¬†along with the countless opportunities I’ve received¬†to serve there. He’s kindled¬†a passion inside of me for hand lettering. He’s provided for me financially through work in Belmont’s Admissions office as well as hand lettering commissions on the side.¬†And of course, God has continued to provide¬†me with uplifting and life-giving friends that I get to surround myself with and whom I can count on whenever I need them.

I learned that God is a faithful Friend even in my darkest circumstances. God was consistently¬†present¬†in life’s¬†overwhelming situations. From me¬†floundering¬†in my coursework, even to when I was panic-ridden because of¬†the time my car went mysteriously missing, He was there. God¬†was equally present in the small everyday¬†battles I waged¬†as a college student, whether they were against¬†loneliness, sadness, or anxiety.

Perhaps most importantly, I learned that God is faithful in His promises. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says He knows the plans He has for me. They are good plans that will give me a hope and a future. I continue to find comfort in this truth and and realize that although they are programmed into my nature, I need to let go of my worry and uncertainty. Though I am in a weird stage of life saturated heavily with ambiguity, I can have peace in my confidence that this stage of my life is only but a stepping stone to a greater plan known solely to God.

I was never truly able to say I had directly experienced God’s faithfulness in a way that shook me to my core, but after this year I can gratefully say that I have. It’s an attribute of God that has become so dear¬†to my heart, and I anxiously await the year to come where I will¬†find God’s faithfulness all the more evident.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that your 2017 is filled with friends, fun, laughter, and above all, amazement at God’s unwavering faithfulness!


Year

Crash Course: How to Make a Print

In the midst of the busyness and stress that comes with Finals Week, it’s important to take breaks and rest from studying every once in awhile. And what better way to do that than make a fun lettered print? I personally believe lettering is therapeutic and is a constructive way to spend your down time. And if you’re struggling to find good Christmas presents for someone, these are great gifts because they’re customizable and, more importantly, hand-made by you:))

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This post describes the broad process I generally follow in drawing out this print. I am by no means an expert, so you should take my instructions with a grain of salt!

How I Letter

Choose a quote:¬†Do you have a favorite Bible verse or saying? Then letter it! Try to keep the quote at around ten words in length. That way, your print will look cleaner and planning the layout of the print will also be much easier. But if you are feeling ambitious and want to letter something longer, go for it! For this print, I chose a quote I stumbled upon on Pinterest that reads “Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.”

Plan the layout: Now that you have chosen your quote, it’s time to plan out the format of the print. I typically start by thinking of any words I want to emphasize. I want to emphasize the words or phrases that mean the most¬†to me; for¬†my¬†print, I wanted to draw attention to¬†blessed, curious, and adventures.

On to the layout! This is the part I have the most fun with because there is an endless combination of ways you can arrange your words. Grab some scratch paper and start¬†sketching. Play around with fonts and word size. I like to make more “important” words cursive and larger while making minor words smaller and in print. If you’re feeling fancy, incorporate a banner to draw the eye to a word or phrase.¬†Of course, the most important thing to keep in mind is that flexibility is key and that there are no such things as mistakes. There is no wrong way to do things in the planning stage.

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the final sketch, drawn on some old guitar tabs

In these pictures, hopefully you can see the evolution of my ideas. I knew I wanted to put “curious” in a banner, so that was set from the start. After tweaking¬†the shape of the banner, adding in¬†the arrow, and changing¬†up the arrangement of a few¬†words, I was finally happy with my sketch.

So once you have an idea you are satisfied with, transfer it to your “real” paper.¬†From this point on, I make sure I have all the materials I need: some good paper (I use Canson’s 100lb/260g Bristol smooth paper and cut it down to¬†8″x10″), a non-mechanical pencil (I find they’re easier to erase later on), a ruler for measuring and drawing guide lines, and a really good eraser. The eraser is definitely an important component because if you’re anything like me, you will be doing a lot of erasing.

Sketch it out: I normally start this process by drawing out some guidelines. If anything, I draw lines to divide the paper into half vertically and horizontally. For this print, I drew a lot more lines since so many different things were going on.

After drawing the guidelines, start adding in elements. I usually start in the middle and work upward/downward to ensure the print is centered vertically.

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The above is a rough sketch of what I wanted the print to look like. The general placement¬†of everything was¬†on the page, and every time I reach¬†this point on any print, I¬†breathe a sigh of relief because from this point on, it’s generally smooth sailing! I might do some light erasing to fix some fine details, and I definitely trace over things once or twice so I can solidify the shape of everything.

So once I did my fine editing, my paper looked something like this:

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Trace over with pen or marker: Trace over the pencil with a pen or marker. I used the Tombow Fudenosuke hard-tip calligraphy pen which I like because rather than having to retrace over strokes to make them thicker, I can make thin or thick strokes just by adding or taking away pressure. Use a calligraphy pen if you want, or you can definitely use a Crayola marker and get the same results! The important thing to be mindful of here is keeping your strokes as even as possible.

Erase all the pencil marks once you’re done tracing to finish up the print!

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My final product:

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I hope this was a helpful read, and I would love to see what your print looks like if you decide to make one yourself!

Purpose

It’s been a good day. Despite the gloomy weather and the threatening gray clouds hanging low in the sky, I have had a good day. And now sitting here mentally preparing for finals week ahead, I had a mini revelatory moment, one of those times when a series of past moments culminates into a beautiful realization. So even though it’s nearing midnight, my mind is awake, and I must write.

Colony House is one of my favorite bands. After hearing them open for Ben Rector in August, I was hooked. I streamed their music constantly on Spotify, looping their albums over and over again. I immediately preordered their newest album, Only the Lonely. Since it was a preorder, songs from the album have gradually been released and added to my music library over the course of the past few months. Today, I was ecstatic to find that Colony House’s newest song “This Beautiful Life” was released. I dropped everything, gave the song my fullest attention, and listened. It was a beautiful song. The opening words spoke to me right away:

“What in the world are we doing here? What is the meaning of it all?”

And then later in the song:

“Maybe I’m a part of something that’s bigger than me, like I’m a page in a book in a library.”

These lyrics brought me back to the very beginning of my college experience. As an incoming freshman, I didn’t know what to expect out of college, but if anything, I expected that since there were going to be upwards of a thousand new students joining me in the start of this new experience, that making friends would be easy. And it was. I made a few close friends pretty quickly…the thing was, they were all music majors. Don’t get me wrong – I love my music friends, and I am a music minor myself after all. But I came into college as a Biology major, and while I started college with many acquaintances in the science department, I could not truly call them my friends. The same went for the Honors college; I knew everyone, but none of my relationships held any substance. Needless to say, I quickly felt out of place. I felt like no matter where I was, I didn’t fit in. Sooner or later, I began doubting my choices. I questioned my choice of friend groups and eventually even my choice in my university.

This inward tension surfaced during a Bible study I was a member of. This study was composed of a Commercial Voice major, three or four Musical Theare majors, and a Commercial Percussion major, so they wouldn’t understand, but I threw the question out to them anyway. “What the heck am I doing here?” I asked. I was distraught, lost, and confused. “We’ll pray for you,” they said. And I am confident that they did, but I never heard an answer from God.

My purpose on this Earth was something I struggled to discover, and it still is today. Even now, I have no idea what I was put on this Earth to do career-wise. It’s tough attending a university where students are predominantly music majors. I imagine a lot of them have been dreaming of making it big in the music industry ever since they were little kids, and now they’re at one of the greatest schools in the industry to pursue what they love.

I admire that so much. To have that drive and dedication, to be able to pour your heart into your dream. Where can I find that? And until then, what am I supposed to do with myself? It wasn’t until earlier this month that I was reminded of my purpose. On November 4th, we had our annual Presidential Scholars reception. I got to eat scones and drink coffee with my fellow scholars as well as some significant people at Belmont: my mentor Dr. Paula Gill who is the VP of Institutional Effectiveness, our Provost, and even President Dr. Fisher himself, among others. We all chatted for awhile until it was time for a speech given by one of these significant people (and of course, I can’t remember his name…) The speaker talked to us about many things, but the one topic he discussed that resonated with me was our purpose. I can still hear him loud and clear when he said,

We have been blessed so we can bless others.

The speaker’s words hit home for me. I realized then that I was placed at Belmont intentionally, I was chosen, and I was blessed with more than I could ever need so that every day, I can go out and bless others. This doesn’t just apply to me; each and every person was placed in the setting and circumstance they are in by God because that is where they are best equipped to bless others.

So what in the world am I doing here? What is the meaning of it all? From my lost freshman self to the Presidential Scholars reception to me today jamming out to Colony House, I have learned that we have been placed where we are to bless others. It doesn’t matter if it’s through the seemingly mundane, everyday tasks like holding the door open for the person behind you or through pursuing your passions and dreams by making it big in the music industry. In blessing others with God’s hope and love, we are pursuing a cause dealing with eternity and fulfilling our most important purpose.

I’m definitely a part of something that’s bigger than me, like a page in a book in a library.

“And inside my heart there’s a dying part that’s always searching, ’cause I know that there’s a place where I belong.”

Listen to “This Beautiful Life” here:

About November ’16

How is November already over?! It feels like just yesterday I was getting ready for the start of sophomore year. Now it’s December and we’re less than a¬†week away from the end of the semester, which means finals are just around the corner…..oh no. Anyway, I honestly didn’t think much happened this past month, but looking back, November was a lot more eventful than I thought! For the start of a new monthly installment on WHATSUPWITHCHU, here are the highlights of a pretty great month:

  • My 20th birthday– I got to start off my November by turning twenty!¬†On the down side, on my birthday I woke up feeling pretty sick¬†and spent literally the whole day in bed. But on the bright side, the day before my birthday was spent in fellowship with¬†my family. I got a Keurig as a gift which has been nothing but¬†a lifesaver over and over again. I also got a ukulele! It’s such a fun instrument because it’s easy to learn and its sound never fails to put me in a good mood.
  • Talking with the White House– It’s not every day you get to sit in on a conference call with the White House. Thanks to my presidential mentor, I got the opportunity¬†to listen in on a conversation about affordable healthcare options for university students as part of a¬†Get Covered America initiative. We were hoping we would hear from President Obama himself,¬†but we didn’t because he was busy (and what’s more, this was only a few days after the presidential election)
  • Church– We’re getting artsy¬†at church! My friends and I are the official decorators of the kid’s ministry chalk wall. We’ll be going every few weeks to redo it. The first time around was tough, but I know it will only get easier and we’ll only get better!

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  • Love Does–¬†I’m not exaggerating when I say this book has changed my life. Bob Goff’s wittiness and pursuit for a life fully lived changed the way I view life, God, and the world. If you haven’t read Love Does yet, I highly suggest doing so!
  • Thanksgiving break–¬†I went back home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. At the start of break, my brother and I hiked to the Jump Off. On Thanksgiving Day, our family feasted on¬†an insane amount of American food, and ate an even insaner amount of Chinese food the next night. Basically, Thanksgiving break was great.
  • Celebrating things–¬†I finished the month by taking my Organic Chemistry lab final and going to our Honors College’s Christmas party. The Christmas party was fun for obvious reasons, and the lab final was surprisingly fun because we had it at Pancake Pantry.

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(And yes, the pancakes were as good as they look.)

I hope your November was as great as mine was, and wishing you the best going into this month!