Monday, February 13, 2017

Please Welcome Special Guest Josue Gil

How to Survive Freshman Year of College: Embrace Your Fears

I graduated from Coachella Valley High School in 2015 and I am currently a student at the University of California, Berkeley. I know that many of you are about to start college, or at least thinking about college since it’s not that far away, so I will share some of my experiences as a college freshmen.

I started out with a summer program called Summer Bridge, which many UC’s offer. It is a program to help you transition to college with preparatory classes. I really recommend going if you have the chance; it is a great experience, and it definitely helped prepare me for the difficulty of the classes in the fall.

I remember taking a math class during Summer Bridge that covered everything up to trigonometry. During that class I realized that I learned math, not in a wrong way, but in a very simplistic manner. The tests are more difficult, and your score is a measure of how well you know the material compared to your classmates. I especially remember a speaker who was talking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in Berkeley. He explained that most of the students here where at the top of their high school classes, so it was hard to be special when everyone here is just as smart as you or smarter. I know that it was not his intention to scare people, but to bring them to reality. As I listened though, I couldn’t help become even more intimidated by the classes coming up in the fall and spring.
After Summer Bridge, fall semester started and I realized that all my classes felt the same as the math class that I took in the summer. Each class seemed to push you to think in a more complex way about topics. For math, that meant learning formal definitions and proofs. I think that AP classes did help me; however, the classes I took went a step higher. If I had not taken AP classes it would have been a much harder transition. After finishing my fall semester it was time to take classes where the material was unknown to me. I had to take a physics class and the second half of my calculus class. I became intimidated while looking at the grade curves for those classes because grades where spread out evenly, with half the class getting B’s or lower. I also realized that others had already taken physics and calculus in high school while I still needed to take an actual physics class. So knowing very little physics and feeling extremely nervous, I prepared for spring semester.
I can honestly say that Physics is one of the hardest classes that I have ever taken. I learned so much, even though there are some concepts that I still don’t really understand. I also got an excellent grade. A question you may be asking is: how? Even though the tempting answer would be that it was all thanks to my intelligence, I really think it was because of my positive attitude. I told myself that this was what I had signed up for; this was why I was here. Of course, this didn’t make the class any less difficult, but once I overcame my initial intimidation, I never looked back.

I also discovered that when I embraced the challenge that the class provided, I felt an even greater passion for that subject. So when I would get tired of working through problem after problem, I would take a break and start again. When I felt that I was not capable of solving a problem, I would go to my professor, or to someone else, for support. The key to stop being afraid of the difficult problems is to talk to others about the material.

There will be times when a test defeats you. I didn’t do well on one of my midterms and the low test score felt very demoralizing. When this happens you should not be discouraged because it happens to everyone. My professors have told me that it even happens to them. I revised it and promised myself to study harder and find the mistakes in my studying for the final.

Ironically, Physics, the class that intimidated me the most, the subject I felt least prepared for, has become one of the subjects I am most attracted to. I originally intended to major in Chemistry, but after taking a class I decided that it was not for me. Now I am deciding between Physics and Math (maybe both).

I actually had a very similar experience to that of my very good friend Hector Marin. In his blog he mentions how his class was taken by surprise with Schrodinger’s wave equation. During my sophomore year of high school I went to a summer school program at UC Irvine where I encountered that same equation. I did feel frightened, but then I realized that there was something more, a feeling of excitement. There was this feeling of curiosity, I had no idea what the equation meant, but I wanted to figure it out.

The most important thing is to embrace your passions, whether it is solving math problems, like me, or something completely different. It can be very easy to get caught up with getting straight A’s or a high GPA, but sometimes this causes you to miss the best moments in life, or to forget to enjoy the class you are taking. Remember that an obstacle, like a class or test, is just a small step in your journey. I did not get straight A’s my freshmen year of college, but I came close and I enjoyed the challenge that my classes provided.

Josue Gil was born in Mexico, Puebla, but raised in the Coachella Valley. He is currently a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley and an aspiring physicist and mathematician.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Please Welcome Guadalupe "Pita" Saldivar

Wannabe Wizard 
by Guadalupe “Pita” Saldivar

- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001
         You got that right, Weasley. Couldn’t have said it better myself.  There is no one more qualified than me to attest to the necessity of choosing priorities. This was a lesson I learned the hard way and here are my credentials. In high school, especially during my senior year, I let far too many things slip through my fingers because I had not put them on the top of my to-do list.

         Being preoccupied is a crime that I cannot plea innocent of. I am guilty of taking on more than I could chew. In my high school career I took on a total of eight AP classes and participated in just as many extracurricular activities. There were rarely days when I was able to leave right after school. Instead I bounced from review sessions to club meetings and then to working on the yearbook. This was a difficult lesson for me to learn but in an attempt to be a time lord wizard, I took on more mischief than I could manage. We don’t all have the luxury of a time-turner allowing us to be in two places at once like Hermione, so I had to learn how to prioritize all these different responsibilities and where to best dedicate my time.

         There were times when, like Hermione, I prioritized my work over my basic necessities such as sleep or pumpkin juice breaks. Im sure many can relate when I say that it’s difficult to fight off a sleeping curse when you come home at nine oclock and still have an endless list of assignments to worry about. I had to choose between prioritizing sleep or homework. I could not do my homework and allow myself to fall asleep, or the alternative, which was to plow through my work in a state of delirium and show up to school the next day feeling like a vat of living death. This vicious cycle continued daily.

Was it worth it? Of course, but looking back, I can see where I could have made better choices.

Getting involved in your school, community, and other organizations helps develop interests outside of the everyday academic requirements. It is important to build connections with others that share similar interests and it is also helpful in broadening your own. I truly love all that I’ve done. All these activities and volunteering opportunities I have been involved in have been enriching experiences. I see my exhaustion is proof that I am living life to the fullest and taking advantage of every opportunity I have. These opportunities can help you develop as a leader and strengthen your skill sets. I am proud of my involvement in my activities of interest and the dedication to my work, they are an important part of what makes me, me.

         As a high school senior, I had to deal with the ramifications of not prioritizing certain things to ensure a bright future. It was tough enough trying to complete current assignments and surviving eminent deadlines in high school, that anything college related often got locked away into the Room of Requirement. Sometimes deadlines for applications and scholarships got placed on the back burner and I dealt with them last minute, if ever at all. This posed a serious problem because there is no flexibility when it comes to college deadlines: there are no extensions or second chances. I recall many conversations that began with, Did you do this? Have you applied for this? Did you finish that?”  Id wince and reply, No I didn’t. I wanted to, but just didn’t have time.” Its times like these when Neville’s remberall could have really come in handy.

          Instead of incorporating college deadlines into my high school to-do list, I often saw these college deadlines as a future problem which I did not want to face at the moment because I was preoccupied with present due dates. In actuality, college due dates were one of the most important things to do and should have taken priority over current issues because they would be the ones that would determine my future, and I sometimes let them fly by on a broomstick. Missing these deadlines can hold serious consequences. If you miss an application deadline, there is no way you are going to that college, or if you miss the FAFSA deadline you are not going to get financial aid. I learned some hard lessons in realizing the importance of getting things done right away and not leaving things till the last minute.

         Enemies of the clock beware; there is a fine line between procrastinating and prioritizing other responsibilities. It is sometimes easier in the moment to put things off and claim that they are not currently important. Doing this will come back to haunt you like Moaning Myrtle. The only way to avoid the constant nagging of your conscience is to live life with the mentality that there is no time like the present, carpe diem, no day but today. The only way I can survive my Hungarian Horntail of responsibilities is to take things one day at a time and never put off for tomorrow what can be done today. And the only way to do that is with a realistic to-do list of priorities.

Never let anything prevent you from achieving your goals. In the end, there is no single magical solution. Learning to prioritize is not just about making to-do lists; it’s about knowing what to move to the top of that list and knowing what to move down, what to add and what to obliviate. So write your own prophecy, seek greatness, and catch that golden snitch.

Due to her wit, creativity, and passion for learning Guadalupe “Pita” Saldivar is an honorary member of Ravenclaw House. All her hard work paid off as she graduated from CVHS this past June ranked third in her class. Pita is currently studying as an Undeclared-Humanities Major at UCLA and checks her mailbox regularly for her Hogwarts letter to arrive. Likewise, she encourages all of you to reach for the stars and never give up on your dreams.