I’ve learned how to open my eyes to let the emptiness and darkness in and challenge them.
The second we open our eyes in the morning we make a decision: “Will today be a good day or will today be a bad day?” and every second after that we follow that decision until it’s the next morning. Some mornings I wake up and I force myself to smile and I find those days to be the best and most successful days. We make the same decisions about situations we are in: “Will I look at the bright side or will I be stubborn and keep holding onto the past?” Continue reading “Chapter one: Complete”→
Albany doesn’t have my gyro man, the Flushing Meadow’s Corona Park, all my favorite places to escape to and so much of all the things I left behind.
It also does not have a lifetime’s worth of bad memories. It does not remind me of being bullied back in middle school when I would walk past the civil court on Sutphin Boulevard, the place where I got the phone call telling me my grandpa had died, or how my four years of high school felt like it went to waste because my best friend couldn’t make it to graduation on time and sit next to me.
But what Albany does have is the stars when I get home from work late. Every night, on weekdays, I walk through Colonie Center’s parking lot, looking up at the sky on my way home. I learned that if I concentrate on one star, the whole sky lights up. Continue reading “Sky Full of Stars”→
Responsibility is something every on campus student is left with the second their parents leave them and go home for the first time.
Starting out my journey as a freshman, I found myself slightly angry that my parents did not let me stay on campus rather than have to travel back and forth. I would have had more friends because I knew no one starting at the university. I would have been able to go home to New York City here and there, so I would not be completely disconnected, and because it just sounded like fun. Who would not want to live on UAlbany’s amazing campus? I started to question if my parents did not let me off because they felt that I was not responsible enough or if it was because they were not ready to let me go.Continue reading “Responsibility & Reconciling My Chapters”→
Homo-sepians: 3.8 billion years of evolution from the first cell to a highly sophisticated 100 trillion celled eukaryote.
From stepping foot on the moon to organizing and running complex forms of civilization, mankind has made it very far. How? Adaptation. Adaptation is a key word in biology next to natural selection which has helped mankind come to its strongest and most intelligent form: now.
As humans, our bodies can acclimatize to traveling high altitudes, a wide range of temperatures and humidity. We change and adjust in various ways so that we can function and adapt in harsh environments such as pollution, diseases, natural disasters, weight loss, exercise and so much more.
In just a day, our bodies adjust multiple times. In the morning we wake and our heart beat quickens, our eyes adjust to light as we adjust to the, not so warm, temperature of the outside world. We adjust ourselves to the everyday stress of work and school as we make it through the day. Our brain and muscles adjust to rapid thinking and movement. We adjust all day and even in our sleep when we move around to find that comfy position. Adaptation is a big deal.
It has been nine months since I moved. I can say I have adapted by changing so much that if I were to meet the Simonti from high school graduation day I would not believe that we were the same person. And that is super creepy because it was not that long ago.Continue reading “Adaptation”→
Halfway through the lecture, paying full attention when suddenly
Brain: Remember eating gyros after school in the park? Or that time you fed cheerios to all the ducks at the lake? Pay attention. Remember how beautiful and cozy my last room was? Remember in sophomore year when school would end at 5 and I would get home at 8? Do you remember that winter? How heavy it was? Ugh. Pay attention. Remember how you would walk from the bus stop to school to your friend’s house to pick him up and back to school in the morning? Remember how beautiful the mornings were?
“That’s all the time we have for today. Make sure to review your notes before next class”
Welcome to phase 5. I call this a new stage from phase 4 because, unlike 4, the memories don’t hurt anymore. I find myself living life and suddenly a sound, a smell, or just nothing triggers a very vivid memory making me feel like I am back at that moment from my past. From there, I string onto more and more memories that feel so vivid and real. Throughout time I have become more appreciative of these memories instead of putting myself down and wishing I was still at home by doing one thing: Staying engaged.
Throughout my week I keep myself engaged by making plans with friends and family so I always have something to look forward to. I found that this not only keeps me excited for a certain day but it helps me build memories here. In the past month, I’ve been feeling more and more at home with Albany by hanging out with friends and going to places like Thatcher Park, bowling, Northway Mall, Crossings Park or even just exploring campus together. Albany feels more than just school and home now.
When I am waiting around for my plans with family or friends to come around I keep myself engaged in my studies. Everyday there is something to do (even if there isn’t anything- college, right?). Here’s what my highlights for next week look like:
Monday – Finish this blog, Intro to Latin Midterm assignment, Intro to Creative writing reflections, work
Tuesday – Shopping with Mum, Study ahead in Bio, Study ahead in Chem, work
Wednesday – Fill out FAFSA, Study ahead in Bio, Study ahead in Chem
Thursday – Work, Do Bio and Chem end of chapter questions, Friend’s throwing a birthday party
Friday – Bio and Chem online Mastering “study area” practice, read over my lecture notes, work
Saturday – Go to the temple, Piano lessons, go to the library, work
Sunday – Cook, Pick up Mum from work, Dinner at restaurant with family
I found that keeping myself engaged all the time helps me stay 300% focused on school work. Even when I’m away from studying like walking to school or showering I find myself going over vocabulary words and concepts I’ve learned from lectures which helped me bring my grades up significantly. Having higher grades, a much more efficient process, and something to look forward to helps me push away the feeling that I wish I was home because I’m enjoying my time here too.
Apple’s iPhone 3G was released on July 11, 2008. What year is it now? Let that sink in.
Today we are walking around with our mini tablet sized iPhone 6s Plus with all of our friends and family members in our pocket. Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, iMessage, Snapchat and whatever else are tools we would have never imagined back in our caveman Nokia phone days. This generation was quick to go from playing snakes on our flip phones to adding the words twerk, vape, bae and selfie to the Oxford dictionary. Has it hit you now?
Although all these applications are so beyond useful to keep your friends posted on what you are up to, to be updated on what is going on around you at the university or back at home, and to just talk with friends all day (by talk I meant text, no one seems to really talk anymore), it has easily become a jail cell for too many.
Three months ago, I turned my phone off because I felt it over heating in my back pocket. I took out the battery and went out to get groceries with my sister and the whole time at the store I felt empty. It was a really good empty. I didn’t worry about why my best friend was not texting me back all day or how many likes my last IG (Instagram, for all you innocent people out there) picture got or how many people are following me, who was online on messenger, who was hanging out with who on Snapchat, and what my friends were “up to” or “feeling” on Facebook. Instead, I worried about my mum or dad calling or missing an important email – the most essential things. In fact, my sister and I had a really good conversation about a guy she had a crush on in school- something I would have missed if I was busy texting away on my phone.
When I got home and put my battery back into my phone the first thing I did was check to see whether I had received a reply from my best friend and I hadn’t which ruined my mood in less than a second. I felt the value of social media drop almost completely. From the time it took me to get home and turn on my phone, I felt myself become unhappy so quickly. Why is it that I have allowed myself to become so attached to social media that it had the power to shift my mood so greatly in such a little amount of time? Surely this had to be fixed.
It took me almost half an hour to decide what to delete before I decided to delete everything. No, it is definitely not as bad as it sounds, bear with me. I figured that I was too glued to social media and that taking a time off would be the only way to help me stop.
When I was social media free I found myself living differently. I began seeing life through a different lens. I was able to let go of a lot of people because those I thought would keep in touch, did not; and surprisingly, those who I never would have imagined did. I suddenly had all the time I wanted to study and get involved with activities outside of school. I even found myself becoming less tempered and aggravated by the slightest things.
During this period of living as a caveman, I realized that my excuse for being so attached to social media was to hold onto my friends from high school because it felt like my last bit of “home”. As soon as I was able to detach, I found myself making friends here and being able to talk to more people and become more social. I began hanging out with my new friends and going to new places which has helped to make Albany feel a little more like a home.
Now, I’m definitely not saying that social media should be cut off completely. It has its benefits. While being away from my various accounts, I did miss a few important messages from far away family members and events in school that I would have liked to have gone to if I had known about them. I am just saying don’t become obsessed so greatly that your whole state of mind depends on what is happening on your cell phone or on the internet.
When I did feel ready to reactivate, I decided to reactivate only the most important accounts so that I could stay a little more connected. Life without taking pictures every second of everything, “dank memes”, and everyone else’s feelings is definitely not as bad as it sounds, in fact it is so much better because you finally get a chance to live. So take just a moment and be truthful to yourself: Are you being imprisoned by social media?
“If you were a little bit smarter and if you had a little more time on your hands, would you still aspire for this major? If the answer is yes, then it it not a matter of whether or not the major is for you, it it about whether or not you love your major enough to change your habits so that you can be able to succeed in it.”
From all the regret, stress, anger and questioning derived from the four phases of home sickness (See my last post.), I ask myself every second if I am in the right major. Biology is a very prestigious major; not only do you need to understand biology inside out, there’s also chemistry, organic chemistry, countless endless hours of lab classes, calculus, statistics, physics, genetics and other classes that build upon each other in later years of studies. Did I mention the labs? Each of these courses is very challenging on their own and very different from one another but when put together in one semester, you life can, and I can almost guarantee at some point it will, become very chaotic.
When I was at the age of pigtails my parents asked me a very different variation of the question “what do you want to be when you’re older?” They asked what type of doctor I wanted to be.I didn’t exactly mind because growing up I loved biology but I never imagined majoring in biology would be as stressful and challenging as it is.
If you are questioning your major after taking a downhill turn in college ask yourself this: If you were a little bit smarter and if you had a little more time on your hands, would you still aspire for this major? If the answer is yes, then it it not a matter of whether or not the major is for you, it it about whether or not you love your major enough to change your habits so that you can be able to succeed in it. If the answer is no, you probably understand what you have to do. Here are some things I have realized and some things that I am doing differently this semester that have helped me raise my grades significantly in a very short amount of time:
College is a hard transition between keeping high school friends and making new friends. So here’s a rule that makes it easier to know who is worth investing your time into: Those who want to be in your life will make time for you, and those who don’t, don’t care. Whether it is a best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, whomever- no one is always busy and if that is their excuse, drop them. Simple. There is absolutely no time and emotional stress to waste trying to hold onto someone that “doesn’t have time”.
Teachers really are not trying to make your life harder when they recommend that you read the chapters in a textbook. Do all the homework. Yes, homework is important. Go to tutoring and do any other practice problems they post. They want you to succeed. And if your excuse is that there is not enough time, refer back to tip 1. Remember this: “You have time for what you make time for in life”- Bryant McGill. And if you are not willing to make the time, maybe you should reevaluate your major.
The University of Albany has plenty of resources. Use them. UAlbany holds and has countless tutoring sessions and study groups that you can go to weekly or attend a few days before an exam held either by a student that previously took the class or by the professor (Click Here for More Information.). Why wouldn’t you want to attend and know what you should be focusing on for an upcoming exam? So suck up your pride and go to tutoring. Going to tutoring sessions does not mean that you are dumb – in fact, students that are smart ask for help when they need it instead of failing.
Prioritize. Prioritize. P.r.i.o.r.i.t.i.z.e. I can’t stress it enough. Prioritize. Finish the homework that’s due first- first then do what’s due next- next. Start and finish a lengthy project early and so on. Get it done quickly so you have optimal amount of time to study. Yes, unfortunately it’s that simple.
My mum always asks me while I am working if I am actually working. I didn’t understand this question for years until this semester. Am I really reading and focusing on the words on my page or am I staring at my textbook and daydreaming about summer? Am I really writing my essay or do I have all 50 of my social media accounts open and a blank document minimized?
The key to success throughout your academic journey (and actually with anything) is to be truthful with yourself. Ask: “Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing? Did you put in enough time? Is there anything that could have been improved?” and take it heads on from there. No matter how hard the task, it’s all doable depending on you.
Phase One is the part where you are excited about exploring a new place. It is the part where life is numb because you are in a new area and everything is an adventure. It is where you try new hobbies and foods and all the worries about what is lying ahead and what happened prior in life does not matter because everything is in the now.
I moved to Albany from Queens the day after I graduated high school. At first it was very unsettling, mostly because I was not able to have the summer with my friends; so I spent all summer doing things I have never done before like apple picking, fishing, and learning how to swim. I was able to keep myself occupied and distracted. For me, Phase One lasted all summer up until October.
Home Sickness Phase 2: The Crumble
This one hit hard. Phase Two feels like missing the last step on the stairs where, for a second, you think you are going to fall and your heart picks up pace but you end up being just fine. But imagine being stuck in the fall; not being able to catch your breath, not being able to calm your heart or know whether you are going to trip and fall on your face or if you are going to be just fine.
In college, October turned out to be one of the most important months of the first semester for the year. I, unfortunately, learned this the very hard way. For me, up until October, I was able to manage my courses very easily and with the midterms arriving I thought I had everything under control so I began to space out and spend more time with myself. This was probably one of the biggest mistakes of my life so far. October apparently is also the time where courses begin to get more challenging by the day. Lab reports, homework, quizzes, and exams start to appear out of nowhere and before you know it everything begins to crumble like a Nature Valley granola bar.
Home Sickness Phase 3: Denial and Regret- Hell
As much as I hate the word hell, I cannot seem to think of better alternatives for this one. Phase Three happened all throughout November to mid-December, around finals where I tried to recover all the grades I had managed to mess up in just the two weeks I was in Phase 2. Yes, in college every single week is intense and messing up in one week may cost you an arm and a leg.
Phase Two began while I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed during a study break and I ran across a picture of my old friends in front of our high school meeting up for Thanksgiving. I say “Old friends,” because I was not in the same college as them and we did not speak much throughout the semester. It instantly made me feel like I wished I was back at home, because here, I had no friends and my grades were slipping out of my grip which was the only thing I had going for me here.
I started to regret that I agreed with my parents’ decision to move so far from my childhood home, my friends, and everything I had. I began wishing I was home. I thought about how much easier my life would have been. I could have gone to college with my friends. I would have still had my favorite chill spots to escape to, I would have been home.
From November to December things only got worse. I would wake up every morning and instantly begin to shake and become filled with heavy dread from not being able to handle upcoming finals week because I knew that attaining a 100 on my exams would not be enough to fix the damage I had already done. I stopped eating. This one week, all I ate was crackers and later I fell tremendously ill. I stopped sleeping because every muscle of my body was constantly shaking and all I could think about was wanting to be home and how badly I had messed up my grades. But on top of everything, I was in this alone. My family was distant and my friends were gone along with my home and everything in it. I didn’t know where I was anymore.
Phase 4: Drifting
Phase four started right after I finished my last final exam for my first semester and I am still in this chapter. The second I put my pencil down and handed in my scantron, I felt relieved. I was so immensely happy that I had survived the semester and that it was finally over with. It felt like seeing the waiter arrive at the restaurant with your favorite dish. Yes, that amazing. I remember going home and sleeping for two days straight and eating all day the next day.
Currently, I am able to eat and sleep on a schedule with barely much struggle and with the second semester starting, I have kept myself a week ahead of all my course work with no slack time. This part of Phase Four feels like you are on a boat drifting in endless water with no land in sight. It is a constant mix of regret, anger, and numbness which leaves you with a hot temper and no patience. On this boat there is only one goal: finding home.
My home is always crowded and filled with some polite and some rude strangers but many familiar faces. Music is always loud in my house; sometimes it’s Spanish, sometimes it’s something indistinguishable, sometimes it’s whatever’s playing too loudly from the headphones off the dude next to me. The TV is always blaring- somewhere. And if you listen just close enough in the summer, you’ll always hear a basketball bouncing, a horn blowing, and a couple having an argument. My house is known to party a little bit too hard and a lot bit too loud but in my opinion, its endless epicness.
If you were to ask me where my home is, I would say to you that it is New York City.
When I think of home, I think of the Rufus King Park where I spent my childhood trying to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels (I’ve yet to learn by the way.) and how the walk to school would be a killer in the winter snow. I think of the students bullying me in elementary school and teachers not doing anything about it and how I would end up sitting next to my teacher on every school trip because I didn’t have friends. I think of switching schools and being put in the top honors classes where I took classes years ahead my grade level. Jackson Heights; where I bought my first cell phone and the Queens Center Mall where my mum bought me my first skinny jeans (after great debate haha). But the best of it all- I think of Forest Hills high school.
I think of the Carl Sagan Program I was put in for being academically advanced and my freshman year science fair where I won first place. The frustrating crowded (and almost always delayed- sometimes even cancelled) train and bus ride to school. The amazing reputation I was somehow able to build and the endless amount of friends and support I gained. The Flushing Meadows Corona Park where me and my friends would sneak off to after school; after of course, buying endless plateful of gyros, chips and sodas that we wouldn’t be able to finish. And duh, the Unisphere, where almost every Forest Hills High School student is guilty of owning a “My Homies Till the End” picture with their friends. For a short time in my life, everything was perfect. But everything changed when the fire nation attacked.
I’m just kidding.
When visiting various colleges, I fell in love with UAlbany and I didn’t need to think twice about saying yes. What I didn’t realize though, is that my parents were planning to move to Albany altogether to live a “simpler” lifestyle and to keep me at home through my university years. This means that since my family does not live in the city anymore, I don’t get to go back home unless it is for Christmas or New Years.
“The way I see it, my world is on fire because I constantly realize that I’m not on vacation and there is no going back home.”
According to various sites across Google, homesickness, is described as distress caused by being separated from home. I am homesick all of the time; when I go home after class, I am no longer going to a familiar place filled with memories of accomplishments and excitement but rather, I return home to a quiet and mellow place where my years’ worth of accomplishments means nothing- I feel like I’m on vacation all the time.
I love my family, but my sense of home was also rooted in my environment, in smells, sound, tastes and of course, my friends. It is as if I moved to the other side of the world. I would say that I am distressed, but, in my opinion, distressed is an understatement. The way I see it, my world is on fire because I constantly realize that I’m not on vacation and there is no going back home.
Because I don’t live on campus, it’s so much more difficult to make friends and because everything is so far away, I have to be able to drive anywhere I want to go. I have spent my whole first semester struggling to adjust to a music-less, couples arguing-less, transportation not being late-less, and hardest of all, friend-less lifestyle; I struggled so bad I have managed to completely screw up almost every class I took so far which only made my life a lot more complicated that I can handle at the moment.
If I were to explain distress in this situation, I would say it’s like breathing in water; you feel heavy to the core which weighs you down while something on the inside is always burning, making you tense and unable to relax so simple tasks like sleeping and eating becomes so much harder to do (even if its junk food). Homesickness is a million times worse than it sounds.
Being me, I did a quick google search to find that endless college students from all over the globe are facing the same struggles as I am; Homesickness leading to poor grades and variations of thousands of scenarios, some better and worse than mine- almost all of which fail to tell their story of recovery.
My mission is to fix what I have broken my first semester and find an effective cure for homesickness and share the remedy to recovery; my mission is to write my own chapter.
Comments are Welcome!
About the author:
Class of 2019Major: Intended - BiologySpring 2016 Blog Theme: Writing My Own Chapter