Advice to Freshman Self: YOLO-ing to Find Community
February 8th Blog Post: First-Year MRADS Student, Sammie S., reflects on her first semester.
YOLO. You Only Live Once - the “carpe diem” that took the Internet by storm in 2012, and what my advice to my old self boils down to. Faced with high school self, I’d take her by the shoulders and tell her YOLO: not in the sense of only having a heartbeat to accomplish a goal, but so much more in that there’s no point of a heartbeat unless you are living - attending, savoring, listening, examining and exploring the many opportunities and communities at UMich. In other words, take the plunge - and initiative!
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated the first day I stepped onto campus. Numbers ran through my head: 7,290 freshmen moving in. 30,000 undergraduates awaiting the start of classes. 6,500 fellow engineering students. Coming from a high school with a graduating class of 88, the intimidation factor heightened when, attending my first football game at The Big House, I saw on the big screen: “Today’s Attendance: 110,246.”
Luckily, however, I entered as part of the Michigan Research and Discovery Scholars (MRADS) living-learning community. Soon, I was moving into my new home-away-from-home, Mosher-Jordan Hall (“MoJo”). I found myself having coffee chats ranging from scientific research to skateboarding with the head of MRADS, Dr. Adam Simons, and discussing both physics and football with my MRADS peers at MoJo dining hall. Being a part of the MRADS community helped me seek out a research position in Dr. Mario Fabiilli’s Ultrasound Lab, where I’m investigating using focused ultrasound to create novel biomaterials for drug delivery. There, I’m among a community of talented and caring researchers who mentor and inspire me to pursue further research and attend graduate school at Michigan through the SUGS program. From learning to take the first step of asking for help, such friendly and caring communities made me start to feel at home. At the same time, I was proving to myself that I could contribute meaningfully to UMich: I wasn’t “just a number.”
These feelings strengthened when I took “Robotics Mechanisms” with Professor Derrick Yeo. I boldly pitched - and ended up closely collaborating with Prof. Yeo to create - “TeaBot,” a robot that can autonomously brew tea, my favorite drink! I immersed myself into the Robotics community, discussing the major and associated careers with Dr. Jessey Grizzle and rhapsodizing with Prof. Leia Sitrling about medical robotics, including the famous da Vinci Surgical System, and artificial intelligence design. With YOLO as my underlying motivation to explore this new passion, I took things a step farther by joining the Michigan Neuroprosthetics project team.
Today, I co-lead the mechanical sub-team, building the modular fingers of prosthetic arms for pediatric patients. Helping kids in need achieve their cyborg dreams wasn’t a sentence I’d ever thought I’d pen before Michigan Engineering, but adding it to my bucket list cements for me just how much I’d tell 2022-era self to throw planning to the wind.
Seeing how these communities made Michigan cozy despite its size, I joined others. As a pianist through Residential College’s Chamber Music program, I collaborated with other musicians to perform Dring’s Trio for an art gallery opening. With MRun, I joined a 4x400 meter racing team. In Ethics Society, they encouraged me to submit a paper I wrote on governmental intervention during global health crises to the peer-reviewed Undergraduate Journal of Public Health, which accepted it for publication. I never would have done that on my own, but thanks to the encouragement and support of the Society, I now have a refereed journal paper to my name - as a freshman!
When I arrived on campus back in August, I knew not a single Wolverine. Now I have all these different caring communities to lean on and learn from and the associated people in them that I know and care for. While my Michigan ID Card may technically define me by a number - one of 30,000 on campus - it sure doesn’t feel that way. All I’d change is reminding first-semester self to exemplify the idea of YOLO from the very beginning of the chapter of her life at Michigan - taking the initiative to actively embrace UMich’s communities, and, in so doing, myself.
Combating Seasonal Depression and Supporting Mental Well-being
February 22nd Blog Post: First-Year MRADs Student, Winnie Z., speaks on resources to help combat seasonal depression
I had never heard of seasonal depression until I arrived at UMich. Honestly, my first thought when I learned about it was: “Is this real?” I can tell you for a fact that seasonal depression is very real, especially as an out-of-state student who was experiencing the Michigan winter for the first time. When the temperature was below 40 degrees and the day got dark around 6 pm, I was ready to hit the bed at 7 pm and ditch all the assignments I had to do. Furthermore, when the cold crept in and walking outside felt like fighting a battle of willpower against the wind, I was cooped up in my room. Honestly, it took me a hot minute to walk out of my room, but once I did, I fully embraced and enjoyed the cold to its fullest. Seasonal depression is a topic that not many students know about before coming to Michigan. This acclimation to a new environment can affect a student’s overall well-being, whether it's in classes or mental health. In times like these, there are various ways to seek assistance and start to feel more motivated.
One of the many resources on campus is CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services), an organization that provides a multitude of services in order to help and promote students’ mental health. If you had a rough week and need someone to rant to, there is Individual Peer Counseling. Also, they help connect students with professionals who can meet with students regularly. Furthermore, in the Michigan Union on the fourth floor, there is a CAPS Wellness Zone where students can go and destress on massage chairs, or they could enjoy some light therapy for an extra boost of energy.
Besides CAPS, other ways exist to support a student’s mental well-being. Finding an activity or hobby you enjoy for the winter is also great because it helps make the transition from warm to cold weather much easier. Personally, I enjoy scheduling plans and fun activities that I would enjoy doing with my friends, whether it’s huddling together while walking to our favorite Korean restaurant in the cold, taking pictures in the first snow of the semester, or sledding on Palmer field. Multiple activities can help relieve stress and make Michigan winters much more enjoyable.
Additionally, reaching out to your peers or mentors for assistance is always strongly encouraged. Many of them are in the same boat as you or have experienced your struggles before; connecting with them helps you establish solid relationships and is an easy way for you to relieve a lot of the burden that may be on your shoulders.
Navigating and adjusting to college as a first year is challenging; however, your well-being and mental health should always come first. There are multiple ways to seek the support you need and don’t hesitate to reach out. The resources here allow you to succeed and thrive at UMich so take advantage of what will benefit you the most!
Okay, but How?: Building Meaningful Mentorship
March 8th Blog Post: First-Year Student, Sammie S., shares her experience on building meaningful mentorship.
Okay, but how? This question echoed in the nonplussed voices of mine and many Michigan Research and Discovery Scholars (MRADS) when tasked with conducting undergraduate research as a mere first-year student. How do I develop my own research question? How do I conduct research within my given field? How do I present my research findings in a poster? Ultimately, how do I find the why in my research for my future career? In grasping for a response, I reached out to my mentor - Dr. Mario Fabiilli, the principal investigator of my biomedical engineering research lab.
At first, Dr. Fabiilli acts as my teacher, showing me the interloping of his research lab. As he explains to me, the ultimate goal of his lab is to utilize the interaction of focused ultrasound and biomaterials to develop new therapies to address unmet medical needs. Yet, how can I achieve such an ambitious goal? Dr. Fabiilli is there to help me to find such an answer. He shows me first-hand common laboratory techniques, including image processing, emulsion generation, and cell passaging, as well as communication skills, such as R-Studio data analysis and lab write-ups. In doing so, working in his lab provides an immersive and collaborative environment where I become inspired: to learn from experienced researchers, develop skills in experimental design and analysis, and contribute to advancing scientific knowledge in a field with enormous potential for societal impact. The work itself, too, is earth-shattering, as I have learned about the tremendous potential of focused ultrasound not only for drug delivery but also to treat debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s and Essential Tremor.
Beyond being a teacher, Dr. Fabiilli acts as a reliable friend to help with my own personal development. In this way, he helps me answer the big how - do I find the why in my research for my future career? Talking to him about his journey throughout graduate school and through it, becoming a principal investigator, is truly inspirational. Little did he know, Dr. Fabiilli helps me to develop a strong sense of identity and purpose. He aids in clarifying their values, passions, and goals of pursuing graduate school through Michigan Engineering’s SUGS program, much like he did. Even beyond academics, I find myself in conservations outside of the lab, whether that be sharing my love for running and music and listening with him or talking about the recent wins in the hockey and football games.
Far from the iterations of my past self, Dr. Fabiilli contributed to much of how I view research and, in doing so, how I view myself as a researcher. Although, at first, the journey of conducting undergraduate research appears to be daunting, having a mentor like Dr. Mario Fabiilli can make all the difference. Through him, I realize that having a mentor who is willing to be both a teacher and friend helps me to overcome the challenges of undergraduate research and sets me on a path toward success. It is through building a meaningful relationship with my mentor that I now feel equipped to tackle those big how questions that society faces.
How to Stay Relaxed While in College
April 7th Blog Post: Peer Mentor, Prema Immadisetty, shares her tips on relaxing in college.
As a college student, I am always on the lookout for effective stress management techniques to maintain my mental well-being. One day, while browsing through the online resources of the University of Michigan, I stumbled upon an offer by CSG to provide free access to the New York Times Games for UMich students. Upon registration, I gained access to a wide array of puzzles and games, and I found myself engrossed in various puzzles like Sudoku and KenKen, spending more and more time on them. I realized that this experience was almost like a form of meditation, allowing me to focus solely on the puzzle at hand and forget my worries and anxieties. Unbeknownst to me, this small discovery would eventually become an integral part of my daily routine.
Discovering my own personal habits, like doing mini crossword puzzles, has been a game-changer for me when it comes to managing stress and maintaining my mental health during college. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we must be constantly on the go, studying, or socializing to succeed in college. But the truth is, taking time for ourselves is just as important. In fact, research has shown that engaging in leisure activities can reduce stress, improve our mood, and even increase our cognitive function. So, not only do personal habits bring us joy and relaxation, but they can also benefit us in other areas of our lives as well. Finding personal habits that bring us joy and relaxation is key to keeping us happy and healthy during college. Whether it's doing crossword puzzles, going for a walk, or listening to music, taking the time to do something that makes us happy can have a huge impact on our overall well-being.
For me, there was something so satisfying about filling in the squares with the correct letters, and watching the puzzle come to life. It's a small accomplishment that brings a sense of relief and accomplishment. And, let's be real, who doesn't love a little boost of confidence in the midst of college stress? One of the best parts about doing these mini crosswords is that it gives me something to look forward to every day. Whether it's during a study break or before bed, it's a routine that adds a bit of structure to my day. It's a way to take a break from the chaos of college life and focus on something simple and enjoyable. Beyond the stress relief and routine, doing these mini crosswords also stimulates my brain. As a student, it's easy to fall into a pattern of mindless studying and scrolling through social media. But taking a few minutes to exercise my brain with these puzzles helps me feel more engaged and focused. And, of course, taking time for myself and enjoying my own company is crucial for maintaining my mental health. College can be overwhelming, and it's easy to lose sight of the importance of self-care. But something as small as doing a mini crossword puzzle can make a huge difference in my mood and overall well-being.
Doing these mini crosswords has become an unexpected source of stress relief, routine, and mental stimulation for me as a college student. This five-minute activity improved so many aspects in my daily life. It serves as a reminder of the importance of taking time for myself and enjoying my own company amidst the chaos of college life. So, whether you're a student or not, I highly recommend giving these mini crossword puzzles a try - who knows, they might just become a meaningful part of your daily routine too!