My Ecuador Journals: Summing Up My Time in Ecuador

I’m back! And oh boy does it feel good to be home. I really enjoyed my time in Ecuador but after getting food poisoning and catching a cold toward the end of my study abroad program, it sure feels good to be home. For my business minor, there was a two-week course offered through my university that would give me credit for the capstone business minor course. There were no prerequisites so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to go abroad for my first time and also get some college credit while I do it! I’m planning on posting more detailed stories of my time in Ecuador in weeks to come, but for this weekend, I decided to share the journals we had to write as our assignments for the class. They might be boring, they might be interesting. Hopefully you enjoy!

Ecuador journals

QUITO
Everything we experienced in Quito has surpassed my expectations. I expected Quito to be a busy and modern because it is a big city and the capital of Ecuador, but I didn’t expect it to be as fun to explore and beautiful as it is. If you wanted a quiet afternoon to sit in the grass and watch people, you could do that and have a panoramic view of the entire city. If you wanted to go out with friends and have a good time at a bar and sing some karaoke, you could do that too. You could also just wander the streets of downtown Quito and look through all the shops and see all the beautiful architecture that makes Quito so special. Honestly, the food has been the biggest surprise to me too. There has been so much food at every meal and it has all been so unique and delicious too. The food is all so filling too. 
When looking at what makes Ecuador and the United States similar, obviously the currency has been similar and that has been so convenient. There have been a lot of differences. The food has been so good here and the process of each meal has been so different. Meals are so long here and it’s interesting that lunch is the prioritized meal here and that they really value family time at meals too. In the US, I feel like meals are important and valued but not to the same extent that they are in Ecuador. The driving has been so different here too. Being in the bus, there were so many times where I was concerned for people driving or walking around but they all just made it work! It was cool to see how polite all of the people were when driving for the most part too. Even when someone cut someone else off or a person didn’t like what they saw on the road, they would honk quietly and move on with their day. 
Out of everything in Quito, I feel like being at the school had the biggest impact on me. I truly didn’t realize how scary it is to have a bunch of people around you that speak a language I barely understand. I took a decent amount of Spanish in high school but I felt so overwhelmed by how fast the kids spoke Spanish and I couldn’t keep up. It was also amazing to see how happy all of the kids were with their simple life. I was inspired by them for that. They would find reasons to smile and giggle and act goofy in any situation! And when they were playing, it was also so crazy to see how aggressive and rough they were with each other. What truly shocked me was their ability to just get right back up and get back to what they were doing after being knocked to the ground or get knocked in the head with a soccer ball. Now those were some resilient kids. What I really enjoyed about the school was the curiosity of the kids and their desire to communicate with us even if we had our language barrier. The kids would try so hard to find other ways to get answers out of me if I didn’t understand what they asked the first time and it was and I admired their persistence. They were also so curious in what we were doing and I loved it when some of the boys came over and tried to help weed. They were adorable. I hope that what we did at that school helps the teachers and nuns and kids feel good about the place they work and play at. I hope they are able to use that space to grow more food and continue to be super self-sustaining and helpful in the lives of all of those kids. 
Quito was a fun, beautiful city and I feel so lucky to have been able to experience everything we did. Quito will always be special to me now because it is the first city I visited on my first time outside the US.  I hope I get a chance to come back!

Ecuador journals

OTAVALO AND THE NORTHERN HIGHLANDS
Since leaving Quito, the trip has only gotten better. When we went to the Cochasquí Archaeological Park and got to see all of the llamas, I had so much fun. That was such a unique experience and that place was so beautiful. The tour guide mentioned something about the energy of that place I believed in it fully. That park was super cool. I really enjoyed learning about the information that is known about the people that lived there. The whole thing about cutting your hair at the full moon to help it grow longer was fascinating. Their ability to track the stars and understand their environment based on the patterns of the sun, moon, and stars was fascinating.
When we arrived in Otavalo and finally had the opportunity to go to the market, I think that became my favorite part of the trip. While the previous days had all been incredible, I feel like I was able to immerse myself into the culture even more and engage with the locals more which is something I have looked forward to this trip. Bartering was a new and fun way to shop and I was able to use some of the Spanish I know to make some pretty good deals. $15 for a pair of silver earrings just seems insane in the United States, but that was a deal I was able to make while at the market and I thought that was pretty cool. There was a man toward the back of the market that sold jewelry and by the end of our time there, I would say I made a friend at the market. We were his first customers of the day and he even gave us free bracelets for being his first customers. It was really cool to see all of the different things that people had made and how proud they were to display their goods. The work with the jewelry and wool products was especially impressive.
After our time in the market, I really enjoyed going to Nanda Mañachi, Peguche, and the town of Cotocachi. Each stop we made had something so unique to it and I loved the emphasis on tradition. Especially with Peguche, I loved seeing parts of the traditional processes in making the beautiful wool scarves, sweaters, blankets, and tapestries. Other big companies that make wool products may have more perfected wool, but at Peguche, there was clearly so much passion and love for the work and culture which means so much more to me than precision and perfection with creating the wool yarn to begin with. After visiting Peguche, I don’t think I’ve ever actually felt softer wool.
Between Quito and the cities of the Highlands, I feel like I’ve liked Otavalo and the Northern Highlands a little bit more. I did enjoy the modern, big-city feel that Quito had, but I feel like Otavalo and the other smaller cities we visited here expressed so much more culture and tradition which I enjoyed seeing and being a part of. Just thinking about the way that people dressed in Otavalo already was so different from Quito. Most men had long, braided hair and wore some form of a hat. The women all had very long hair and I can’t recall seeing a single woman that wasn’t wearing a skirt. It was all very traditional here and there was clearly so much pride with it too. I liked to see that. Every little town we visited specialized in one thing or the other which was cool too. Like with San Antonio, they specialized in wood carvings and you might be able to find some of that in another city but not to the same extent. In Quito, there was no specialization like that. It was mostly modern, and you could find a variety of things everywhere.

Ecuador journals

BAÑOS
Baños was an incredible little town and I’m glad that it was added to the program. There’s so much to do there and the town itself has so much variety in its geography and it’s in a good location for adventure tourism. Baños is surrounded by volcanoes and mountains so that makes it a prime location for adventurous mountain climbers, mountain biking, and also for hot springs. It has a lot of waterfalls and rivers that create opportunities for whitewater rafting and other water-related activities. Baños is just in a great geographic location and that is part of what allows it to support so much tourism in general but especially the adventure tourism, as I mentioned. Tourism in general definitely has a positive impact on the economy in Baños. It was clear that Baños relies on tourism and the money it brings to the city based on all the souvenir shops and touristy experiences like ziplining, bike tours, and the swings off the mountainsides.
Out of everything we did in Baños, my favorite thing was the zipline because the views were just so beautiful and I enjoyed getting to be around so many other people that were excited to do fun, adventurous things like ziplining. I’ve ziplined before but it was just such a unique experience getting to be strapped in face down and experience the canopy as if we were flying. That hike was not so fun though when we needed to get to the second platform to come back. That was intense. Regardless, the views were great and I really enjoyed the zipline.
In comparison to Otavalo, Baños just had a lot to do and was clearly a town geared toward tourists. From the goods that were sold to the appearance of the shops to the way locals interacted with everyone, Baños was clearly a tourist town. Baños just had so much variety too. There were the Andes and the Amazon rainforest and rivers and waterfalls and hot springs. Otavalo, on the other hand, was more geared toward its own people. The market was more of a tourist attraction but it still appealed to the locals. They were still very involved in the market and the overall culture of the market.
When we visited Rose Success on our drive to Baños, I really enjoyed getting to see the process of growing the roses, picking the roses, and ultimately preparing them for shipment to their various locations. It was interesting to learn about the specific requirements for roses going to specific places. Like for roses going to Russia, the stems need to be quite long. And I was also shocked to see some of the roses that were deemed unfit for export. They looked gorgeous to me! It was cool to see that roses that aren’t selected for export at least make it to the markets and stands throughout Ecuador. That’s a much less wasteful way to run a business, especially a flower business.
Overall, Baños was a fun town to explore and experience. It has so much to offer and I know for a fact that everything we did in Baños will not be forgotten. I’m excited to see what programs in the future have the chance to experience in Baños!

A BUNCH OF SMALL STOPS
Our visit to Rodrigo’s home and the Urbina Estacion was really cool. I liked the art on the walls in that room we were in that displayed each of the volcanoes and big mountains in Ecuador along with the surrounding cities. That really put everything in perspective when looking at the geographical layout of Ecuador. I loved hearing Rodrigo’s stories too. He was such an interesting man and clearly has a lot of experience with the mountains and volcanoes of Ecuador. If he comes out with a book in the near future, that’s something I would be interested in reading so that I can learn even more about his life and support the exciting work he does.
The lava rock dinner following our visit to Rodrigo’s house was so fun and a super unique experience. The hacienda we ate at was gorgeous and it was cool to be in the same building Simón Bolivar once stayed in. Getting to grill my own food was a fun experience. All of the food was so good that night and if I had to pick a favorite part, I would definitely say the flan. It was delicious.
When we went to Riobamba, I was honestly shocked by how nice it ended up being. When we initially drove in, I was honestly quite sketched out by everything we drove past but when I could finally see everything the next day, that opinion changed. The hotel was very nice and had really good strawberry-blackberry juice and the downtown area was actually quite cute. When we visited the Guamote community while in Riobamba, I really enjoyed getting to try and teach English again. The class we had was much more shy than the class that I had at the school outside Quito, but they were so cute and I loved watching them try to follow along when we sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. The guinea pig preparation was honestly rough for me to watch but I was happy to see how humane the process was and I was impressed by how fast the women killed and cleaned the guinea pigs to prepare them for our meal later. When we finally had lunch, I was surprised by the food, honestly. I expected it to be bland and was going into it thinking I wasn’t going to eat very much food at all but I had a decent amount of potatoes and corn. The food was pretty bland but it was fresh and I did enjoy eating it when there was seasoning and hot sauce provided. I even tried a tiny piece of guinea pig but I think after that experience, I probably won’t try guinea pig again. One of the biggest take-aways I had from our experience in that community was that you don’t need much in life to be happy. Living a simple life doesn’t mean you live a sad life. That was quite the opposite in the Guamote community and it’s something I plan to think a lot about and apply to my own life.
The Devil’s Nose train ride was the first train ride I’ve actually ever taken and for my first one, I’d say it was pretty good. I enjoyed the views and was glad that Effy could do some explaining and pointing out for me because the tour guide on the train was extremely difficult to understand. When we arrived at the mountain community, I really enjoyed getting to see the dances. I loved the bright colors and really loved the skirts the women wore. I wish that we had a chance to wear those and dance around in them but the dancing we did was still very fun. Before and after the train ride, it was fun to explore Alausí. It was a cute little town. The food was pretty good and extremely cheap there as well. I spent $6 on a meal for a huge glass of blackberry juice, a bowl of chicken soup, rice, chicken, and a salad. It was a good deal and I’m still so shocked by how cheap food is here. In the US, a meal like that would’ve easily cost about $15.

Ecuador journals

INGAPIRCA AND CUENCA
The Ingapirca ruins were cool to see, especially when looking at the fusion of Cañari and Incan culture and tradition in the way the different structures were built. It was interesting to compare pure Cañari-built structures to pure Incan-built structures and then see how they came together, especially with that one room that was supposedly where the Incan king and Cañari princess stayed. These ruins were more of what I expected to see when we first visited the ruins on our way to Otavalo. It was interesting to see that the moon was another important god to the Incans and Cañaris. That has been something consistent throughout many of the indigenous and ancient communities we’ve learned about during our time here.
Our time in Ingapirca was extremely short but I enjoyed the time we spent both at the hotel and the ruins. Cuenca was another short visit, but I also enjoyed the time we spent there. Cuenca had a very different vibe to it than any other city we visited. It was busy and moving, but the dominance of the Catholic religion definitely played into the tone of the city. I remember Effy telling us that no building can be taller than the Catedral de Cuenca and that goes to show how powerful religion is in that city. I loved getting to go in and see what that cathedral looked like. It was an incredible building and the feeling I got from standing inside it was truly powerful. The beauty of the churches we passed and got to see clearly demonstrate that people in Cuenca care deeply about their religion. From the three baby Jesus parades I saw, I also realized how important community and that sense of religious belief as a community is to people in Cuenca. The fact that mostly everything was also closed on Sunday demonstrated how seriously people in Cuenca follow their religion, once again.
On our way out from Cuenca, stopping at Homero Ortega was a fun and interesting trip. It was cool to learn about the process of making Panama hats and I truly feel confident saying I’ve never seen that many hats in my entire life. There was so much variety in the size, style, and color of each and every hat that came out of that company. I was impressed by the care and quality that went into creating each hat to make sure that something wonderful was made. The quality surely pays off when looking at the customer base that Homero Ortega has, including Princess Diana, Julia Roberts, and Johnny Depp. It was crazy to hear about the one man who paid $40,000 for ten hats and the process that goes into working with clients to create the hats in demand. I just don’t think I’d ever spend $4,000 for a single hat. They were great quality though and they had a bunch of fun, cute hats that might be worth it.
When looking at Ingapirca and Cuenca in comparison to a lot of the other cities we’ve visited, they’ve definitely been more on the indigenous side of things, like Otavalo. There were more businesses that appealed to locals and the traditions of the people there as opposed to tourists. There was a small town feel to both Ingapirca and Cuenca that reminded me of Otavalo, just because neither are truly big tourist towns. Truly though, it’s hard to compare these cities to past cities we’ve been to during our time here because we haven’t had the same amount of time to experience them as we have with cities like Quito and Baños. Ingapirca also just didn’t seem like a very large city and a majority of things in Cuenca were closed due to the fact that it was Sunday while we were there. Regardless, both were great little cities and I enjoyed spending time in both. Hopefully students next year will get to enjoy a more lively Cuenca!

GUAYAQUIL AND SALINAS BEACH
The visits to both chocolate companies were interesting. I enjoyed seeing the process of creating chocolate from the bean fermentation at Guangala to the actual molding and making of chocolate at Tulicorp. At Guangala, I loved seeing how knowledgeable Rafaela and Jimmy were about their work. They were also clearly very passionate about the work they do and I appreciated the sustainable aspect of their business as well. It was very clear that Guangala considers the environmental impacts their work has on the world around them and that sets them apart from other cacao processing companies. There was also a very clear positive relationship between management and the workers. The way that Jimmy and Rafaela both interacted with workers on the patio was very positive and encouraging. It was good to hear that Guangala is set on educating their employees too. From what it sounded like, Guangala makes sure its workers are educated on matters from different diseases cacao plants can get to how to properly harvest cacao pods and prepare them for fermentation. Continuing education is important in all fields but I found it very interesting that Guangala invested so much in it for their workers. It shows that they want high-quality products and employees who know a lot and care a lot about their products.
At Tulicorp, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the company. Everyone working while we were there was focused and working hard but they were clearly enjoying themselves. The conditions were hot and it was somewhat dark in there, but they were completing their tasks and smiling while they did it. That that they enjoy what they do. Happiness at the employee level comes from a strong management team and from what I could tell, Tulicorp was well run and has a fantastic family running it. It was cool to see that there had been four generations of cocoa business owners at Tulicorp. The passion for cocoa ran in the family and it very clearly continued and was displayed in the work we got to see and hear about. Tulicorp had a small business feel, but everyone there knew that they were an important and powerful company that worked with a lot of big names and companies like Trader Joe’s.
At both places, I was surprised by how involved management was with the entire process. It was cool to hear that Jimmy, Rafaela, and people at Tulicorp regularly visit the cacao farms to see the workers and their plants. They are so much more involved than I ever expected them to be and I feel like that helps both Guangala and Tulicorp stand out in Ecuador. In terms of regulations, I was surprised by all the sustainability regulations that both Tulicorp and Guangala held themselves to. To me, the biggest surprise came from the sustainability regulation aspect of the chocolate industry. It’s not something I would have initially considered to be important but it definitely is and it’s great to see such successful chocolate businesses working so hard to take care of the environment. I wasn’t too surprised by the amount of regulations otherwise though. It makes sense for a high-quality product to have a lot of regulations. In order for something delicious and desirable to be produced, there has to be a process that regulates everything from the qualities of pesticides and insecticides that protect the cacao pods all the way to the machinery and maintenance of that machinery that makes the chocolate.

And with the end of that journal comes the end of this extremely long post. I hope some of you are still around to see this, haha. In the weeks to come, I’ll highlight each major stop we made that was reflected by each of my Ecuador journals. I had a lot to say with my journals but there is just so much that we did and covered during my two weeks in Ecuador and I can’t contain it all to one or two blog posts. So if you’re into travel blogs, that’s what this is going to become for a bit. Have a wonderful week everyone! 🙂

Reflecting on 2019

reflecting on 2019
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

This year was quite the year. A lot happened. A lot always happens, but I feel like this year was especially good and also especially sad and hard. With that said, I’m reflecting on 2019 and looking back on the year I had.

January: My family and I rang in the new year from our couch and I got to play a lot of tennis with my dad, sister, and friends that we’ve made at the Ranch Country Club. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play at such a nice facility and have courts year round to play at. Does anyone remember my shrimp project for ecology last school year? That happened in late January too. 🙂

February: I went to a dinner to celebrate my academic achievements for my freshman year. We also celebrated my mom’s birthday. Marty was starting to get pretty sick around this time but he was still a happy, wonderful dog.

March: School was definitely in full swing again and I got to celebrate my sister’s 18th birthday. Her birthday was during the week, so I didn’t get to be home for it, but we celebrated over the weekend. We also had those two big bomb cyclones in March. I got school off twice so of course I remember that! 🙂 My aunt also came to visit during spring break and we had a great time at the Denver Art Museum (at least outside it), touring Regis, and eating at BurgerFi.

April: Boo turned eight in April and I got to watch Allyson at a couple of her high school tennis matches. She was 1 singles so of course I had to be there to be her cheerleader! Allyson also had her senior prom and I had so much fun helping her get ready. She looked beautiful. 🙂

May: Bobo turned two and I finished out my first year of college. Allyson also graduated from high school and my aunt and uncle came to spend some time with us around then. We had a wonderful party for her at the Ranch and it was so good to be around so many friends and family members to celebrate her. We also sent Allyson to Hawaii then!

June: Allyson started working at Build-A-Bear, so I was one proud sister then, haha. We also spent a lot of time at the pool and on the tennis court for leagues, tournaments, and just some good family fun. My grandma also flew back to Georgia in June and my summer classes were in full swing. Woohoooo.

July: Boo rang in July with his big dental surgery. He needed a bunch of teeth extracted so that was his way to celebrate our nation’s independence. In July, I played a lot more tennis and explored Colorado with my family. We went to The Inventing Room, saved a bunny from our window well, and Allyson and I won a couple of tournaments. I also visited one of my best friends from school in California. We had a lot of fun. 🙂

August: We celebrated my dad and aunt’s birthday as well as Marty’s tenth birthday and then shortly after Marty’s birthday, he passed away. 🙁 I still miss him so much. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve struggled more than I thought I would with his loss. Beside that, I started my sophomore year of school and we also made a trip to Farmington to see my grandpa, aunt, and uncle before school started. My family and I also went and saw Anastasia in August and it was a beautiful show.

September: My dad and mom went to New Mexico for my dad’s high school reunion and while that was happening, I was in full study mode already. Organic chemistry and physics were an intense combo! Despite our distance, we also celebrated my uncle’s birthday. 🙂

October: I turned 20! We also celebrated my grandma’s birthday. My family and I went to Phil Collins’ concert when he was in town and I also competed in the Miss Colorado USA pageant.

November: My family and I went to the Denver Art Museum for a project Allyson needed to work on. Early in November, my grandpa passed away too. 🙁 It was tough and still is tough to deal with his death. Over Thanksgiving break, we went to New Mexico for Thanksgiving at my great aunt’s house and we also celebrated my grandpa’s life at his memorial service. My sister and I had the honor of speaking at it. We also visited the Salmon Ruins while in New Mexico. This year, one of the things that I truly took to heart is that family is the most important thing to me. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be without them.

December: The last few days of 2019. We spent Christmas at home this year and it was different, but it was good. We had my great aunt’s famous cheesy potatoes on Christmas morning and that was fun. Different, but fun. We also went to Gaylord, the new hotel/resort out by DIA and saw their ice display. It was really cool. I’ve enjoyed a lot of time with family while I’ve been home since winter break started and I finished strong with my sophomore season at CSU.

So that was my year! I know there are still a couple of days, but I felt like reflecting on 2019 now was a good idea. This year sucked in a lot of ways but it was also an incredible year. There will always be good and there will also always be bad. With every new year, I just remember that and see how I can improve my responses and attitude toward new challenges, obstacles, successes, and downfalls. I hope these last few days, you all spend some time reflecting on 2019 and enjoying the last days of this decade. I’m looking forward to 2020!

I won’t be posting for the next two weeks due to a study abroad I’m doing in Ecuador, so I’ll see you all in the new year when I get back. Have a great week and again, Happy New Year!

Back to School! Getting Ready for Year 2 at CSU

This past Monday, I moved back in at Colorado State University. Classes don’t start for another week but I was granted early move-in by the honors program (thank youuuu) so I could be all settled in in time for me to take part of the peer mentor trainings for freshman seminars that CSU requires through the honors program. Oooooh. Basically, I’m an instructor for a freshman seminar recitation course. Fun! I get to provide a bunch of resources to freshmen in the honors program and help make their transition to college as smooth as possible. I’m supposed to have a partner, but I’m not going to lie, he’s been a lousy one so far so we’ll see how that goes!

Monday was a fun day. Let me tell ya. Monday = move in. I said all my goodbyes to my dad, Marty, Boo, and Bobo and then was in Fort Collins a little after noon. That’s when the unpacking began. My mom and sister made a second trip back to my house to get the rest of my stuff and then all of the magic in my new room truly happened. I’ll have to post a picture of it some time! The unpacking and sorting and decorating really wasn’t complete until around 6 o’clock and my mom, sister, and I had all skipped out on lunch so we were all pretty drained. When finished with my room, we went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner where I ate WAY too much (but also needed it so we’re fine). After dinner, I said goodbye to my mom and sister and was back in my hall. Bed time followed shortly after. I was pooped!

CSU

Tuesday was a big training day for the peer mentor program. There were so many ice breakers and a lot of good information to help us all be the most successful and helpful instructors to our freshmen. Wednesday was the day I actually got to meet my freshmen and I’m so pleased with the group I got. They seem to be a wonderful group of very smart young individuals and I look forward to seeing them become more confident and comfortable with college. 🙂 I don’t know if many other honors programs run things the way that CSU’s honors program does, but I’m blown away by the attention and support that each student receives.

Thursday was my first day to really just do nothing which was kind of nice but also really weird. This was the day that my sister, Allyson, was moving in at Regis University and also the day that most people were moving in on campus here at CSU. It was also Marty’s tenth birthday. I’m still celebrating and I’m still so thankful that my sweet bubba has been such a wonderful part of my life. Anyway…

Thursday morning, not much happened. In the evening though, the big carnival on campus happened! Despite some threatening clouds and the occasional bit of rain, the carnival continued on. My friends and I didn’t do many of the rides (I’m personally just not a fan) but we did try every single ice cream thing (including snow cones) that was available to us. There was also popcorn and I found out I’m not horrible at skee ball. CSU seriously knows how to throw a welcome party, wow. This was a super fun night because I just got to be around so many good people that I love so so so much. I’m excited and thankful to be with the friends I made last year.

Friday, once again, the morning was pretty slow and relaxed. My friend and I went to get our nails done and also had lunch at Torchy’s Tacos which has become one of my favorite places to eat in the whole entire world. The trashy trailer park tacos are the way to go in my opinion. 🙂 10/10 would recommend.

CSU

In the evening on Friday, there were activities at the Lory Student Center and that was my favorite part of this past week. My friends and I got there an hour before anything actually opened so that we could wait in line to stuff little Rams, kinda like what you do at Build-A-Bear Workshop. We successfully stuffed our Rams and then went on to collect so much free food from Spoons (which is a local Fort Collins favorite), Panda Express (a personal favorite haha), as well as That Bagel Place (which I believe is another Fort Collins thing). We made glitter jars and made sand art and really just enjoyed each others company. My friends and I even made it on the Lory Student Center’s Instagram story!

Yesterday, I had my first day of work with a local tennis facility and I really enjoyed getting to play and TEACH the sport I love. The little lobbers (which were the 4-6 year olds) were my favorite. They were just all so adorable and so so so bad at tennis and I loved it! Teaching is a really different side of things that I think I’ll learn to really appreciate.

This past week was exhausting but so much fun at the same time. I’m so excited to be heading into this school year and see where things take me from here. If you’re a fellow Rammie and you’re reading this, good luck here at CSU! 🙂 If you’ve headed back to school already, I hope things got off to a good start for you and if you’re just getting into classes and you’re not from CSU, I still wish you the best of luck. 🙂 We’re all gonna need it. Especially if your name is Ana Horvath and you’re taking a physics and organic chemistry at the same time… Have a good week!

Anastasia Takes on Anastasia and Gets Ready to Go Back to School

Anastasia

Once upon a December, your gal (that’s me) was ordering tickets for a show coming to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. That show was Anastasia, the new Broadway musical based off of the 1997 cartoon Anastasia. I love that movie by the way. I intended to order tickets for Sunday, August 18th (today) but somehow managed to mess up BAD and ordered tickets for last Sunday, the 11th. I didn’t realize that until my family and I were already driving down for the show today at 2 o’clock. I don’t think I’ve EVER messed up that bad in my entire life. My parents keep telling me not to worry but I feel HORRIBLE about the situation. I’m typically not the type of person to make that kind of mistake…

When we arrived at the DCPA, I was already in tears because there goes $400 and great seats to a great show, but fortunately, we were able to snag four tickets at half-price to sit in the balcony and still get to see the show. We ended up going to the 7:30 show instead of the 2 o’clock show and had to spend practically the entire day in Denver waiting, but that’s okay!

My family and I killed time by walking around the Denver Pavilions in addition to the 16th Street Mall, which has gotten SO WEIRD. There’s plenty of excitement along that strip, let me tell ya. One of my friends from school was actually at the 2 o’clock show that my family and I were supposed to be at and we had plans to get gelato after it finished so once her and her family got out, we went and got gelato with them. If you’re looking for good gelato in Denver, Amore Gelato is the place to go. Good flavors and it’s a very cute little shop!

By the time we had chatted and eaten gelato, it was time for my family and I to head back to the theater to actually get into see Anastasia. Our seats weren’t the greatest (in comparison to the seats in the mezzanine that I had originally selected), but we still had a good view of everything and my family and I really enjoyed each other’s company.

The costumes were absolutely gorgeous and the show was just phenomenal. If you have a chance to see it while its on its national tour or even on Broadway, please do. You will not be disappointed. Russian history and culture has always fascinated me and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I might be kind of biased in that my mom’s side of the family comes from that part of the world, haha. The fact that the last Russian grand duchess and I also share names is pretty cool too. 🙂

I hope you all have a fantastic week and remember to double and TRIPLE check the dates and times for tickets you decide to purchase. You do not want to make the same mistake I did. Tomorrow, I head back up to Fort Collins and my summer will officially be coming to an end. Before I know it, I’ll be sitting in my organic chemistry class wishing I was out on the tennis courts again!

This summer has been a great one, and I hope that you all have had great summers too. If you’re moving off to college or helping your kids or friends move off to school, best of luck to you. Have a great week everyone! 🙂 See you next Sunday.

Out of Online Classes!

online classes
Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

As of yesterday, my microeconomics class and my technical writing class are COMPLETE! Woohoo! Online classes are DONE! I still have my physics class to finish at my local community college, but I feels nice to know that my load just got a lot lighter.

Eleven credits this summer may have been to big of a task to handle. I’m a bit worried that I’ll burn myself out for this upcoming fall semester. Considering that I will be taking seventeen credits this fall, I feel nervous about what my work ethic is going to look like. I’m a pretty hard-working person so I think I’ll be able to stay strong but we shall see. Haha, I bet you guys will hear about how all of that goes.

Online classes are extremely helpful for people who can only make those work. Or for me, they’re helpful when you add a business minor to your load and still want to graduate early. Online classes are also cheaper than most classes you can take at a community college or university. Super convenient, let me tell you.

One of the biggest things I struggled with in my online classes was actual dedication to the class. Of course I got all of my work done in a timely manner and to the best of my ability but it was hard to find the motivation. I never met either of my teachers (with the exception of a Skype call to my Econ professor) and I never met any of my peers. I personally really appreciate the personal connection that comes with physically being present in a classroom or lecture hall listening to a professor. I feel that I am more involved and present to learn the material.

Another thing that I hated about my particular online classes were the mandatory, weekly discussions. Every week, there was some topic we were required to discuss with discussion group members. In order to receive credit for our discussions, we had to make a post that fully answered the question or questions, respond to AT LEAST two other classmates posts, and then interact with our peers based on responses we got. I was always really good about posting early in the week but oh my goodness, my peers were not. I would answer everything by Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday and wouldn’t hear back from ANYONE until Saturday. Discussions closed on Sundays and I honestly didn’t want to deal with all of that so late in the week, but I eventually just had to because some people are stupid and some are just big procrastinators. Thanks…

Online proctoring for exams creeps me out too. WOW. The process is overkill. I had to be proctored twice for my Econ exams and both experiences with that were just horrendous. It’s creepy that another person can just hack into your laptop like that. I also didn’t appreciate that I practically had to be glued to my seat the entire two hours I took my Econ midterm and final. What if I was uncomfortable how I was sitting, huh? I also found it unnecessary that the proctor had to see my entire room to understand that I wasn’t cheating. I was even asked to take down a tennis tournament draw I have up on my wall from when I won regionals my junior year of high school. How in the world would they expect me to cheat off of that?!

I understand the point of online proctoring, but as I mentioned earlier, the process and extremes to which these services have gone is a bit extreme. Sometimes I just wish people were honest and trustworthy and then we wouldn’t need these creepy, strange proctoring services. Oh well.

Other than these couple of things I mentioned, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to take a couple of online classes. It has been helpful to my college plans and allowed me to see another side of the academic world.

More importantly though, here’s to a more true start to summer for me! Well, minus physics. But still! Have a good week everyone. 🙂

Summer Classes are KILLING Me

summer classes
Photo by Lacie Slezak

We are now two (maybe, three?) weeks into my summer break and I feel like my online classes and physics class are destroying me. Wow. I may be exaggerating a bit, but maybe I’m not. Anyway, summer classes are tough.

Personally, I decided to take summer classes through Colorado State University’s online courses so that I could get ahead with some of my business minor courses and other classes, since I intend to graduate in the fall of 2021.

Currently, I’m taking an advanced writing class, microeconomics, and algebra-based physics. All of those classes add up to a total of 11 credits. Yay me… My two online courses started literally right after Allyson’s high school graduation which was on May 18th and physics started this past week.

There’s always weekly quizzes and discussions for my online classes which take up a lot of my time, but I understand why the teachers and professors do that. It’s tough to be engaged and dedicated to an online class! For physics, I meet three times a week, for THREE HOURS. And on top of that, my professor hasn’t given us breaks during the days where he lectures for the entire time. I’m gonna need a break at some point. It’s so hard to focus for that long, let me tell ya.

One of the hardest things I’ve noticed about all of these summer classes is time management. If I thought I was good with time management before, this whole summer class thing is REALLY testing that. I’ve decided that Mondays and Tuesdays will be dedicated to my online classes and then whatever other time I have will be dedicated to tennis and other fun summer activities.

I really hope that I don’t regret doing what I’ve done. Summer classes will be crucial to my plan for my undergraduate degree but I also want to have a life and spend time with my family and friends this summer. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all goes! Have a good week everyone. 🙂 See you next weekend.

My First Year of College: A Reflection

first year of college

And just like that, I am done with my first year of college! Wow was that an experience! Here’s what I have to say about my first year at Colorado State University.

It feels like I was just moving into my dorm. At first, living there felt like I was in a hotel but then over time, it began to feel more like my own living space (minus the fact that I shared the room with another person). People were always telling me that it was going to be hard to adjust but I really didn’t find it that difficult. I have always been close with my family and I kept myself busy throughout my time at school so I never really felt “homesick” or worried about my transition into college life and a more independent life.

My first semester, chemistry was rough. I had the worst professor out of the general chem professors offered that semester and had to teach myself a lot of the material. Thank goodness I had a decent high school chemistry teacher. She saved me a lot throughout that class. I squeezed by with a B+ which wasn’t what I had hoped for, but was still incredible considering the amount of work and difficulty of the class.

Second semester, chemistry was tough again but I really enjoyed my honors seminar on dance, my biology class, and my honors section of ecology. I had a wonderful professor for that class and it consisted of only eight other students, considering that it was the first honors section ever offered of that class. My schedule was extremely flexible and I really loved all of the free time I had in the afternoons.

This first year of college, I really learned that if you take time to get stuff done right after class or in between classes, you can allow for more time to do the things you really want to do. The work you put into a class is the results you’ll get out. I studied my butt off this past year and I think that the work I put in really paid off. I’m really proud to say that I made the Dean’s List for both the fall and spring semester (as long as everything went well with my finals this past week!).

Some of my favorite memories include getting cookies from Insomnia Cookies one night with one of my friends, going to get breakfast with my chemistry friends on a snowy Saturday morning, hiking Triangle Mountain with my roommate and one of my other friends, and the countless hours I spent studying and working on chemistry with my chem study group who I am proud to call my good friends. Ram Welcome, dinners with my floor, decorating my friends’ doors for their birthdays, trips to Torchy’s Tacos, and trips back home helped make this school year the memorable and amazing year it has been.

I’m sad to be leaving Alpine Hall 375 but I’m so excited to see what’s next for me at CSU. This next year is going to be tough but so much fun. Organic chemistry, I’m looking at you! Thanks to everyone who helped make my first year of college the magical, fun experience it was. See you in the fall CSU!

Dead Week Part 2: Finishing Freshman Year

dead week

This week is going to be a lot, so for my sake and sanity, I’m gonna keep this one short. Dead Week is here again! This time around I have a dance performance, two different speeches to prepare, a five-page paper to write, a practical to study for, as well as my three final exams to study for. Full plate over here!

This semester has been a wonderful semester and I was fortunate to have so many wonderful professors and lab teacher assistants. The semester had its ups and downs (particularly my chemistry grade) but I’ve pulled through and challenged myself to overcome all the adversity I’ve faced. I’ve made it this far and I only have another two weeks to go so I need to dig down deep, find the strength to finish strong, and get outta here!

My experience in the dorms has been interesting nonetheless and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends on my floor, but I am honestly SO ready to go home for the summer and then live on my own next semester. I’ll get my own space and won’t have to worry about accommodating and bending my schedule to benefit others.

Dead Week really is a lot about finding the mental capacity and strength to finish everything out on a good note and I’m praying that all of my finals and performances and speeches go well. If you’re interested in seeing my dance performance for my honors seminar, leave a comment and maybe I’ll post it in a future post! My honors seminar is about everyday movement and dance and this final dance is a fun project my professor has us doing.

To those of you also dealing with Dead Week this week, you got it! Stay positive and finish strong. Stay organized and allow yourself some time to relax and get away from the books and papers. If you’re interested in reading my blog post about my first experience with Dead Week, I’ll link the post right here. I hope you all have a great week and I’ll see you next Sunday! (Haha, hopefully…)

Spring Break 2019

Just like that, another break goes by. I don’t get it. I’m at school for a week and it feels like five months. I come home for spring break and it feels like three minutes. Time flies when you’re having fun! And it also flies when you’re not worried about chemistry 24/7 (gotta love being a bio major for that one!).

My spring break started last weekend after Colorado was hit by that interesting bomb cyclone. I got two snow days as a result of that one. Haha thanks Colorado State University and a big thank you to my biology professor for postponing our exam this past Thursday!

There was a lot of tennis played and it felt so good to get back on the court again. I had the opportunity to watch my sister win her first match at 1 singles for my old high school too which was really fun. Go Allyson! 🙂 Hitting with my dad was really fun as always, and I had the opportunity to hit with some of the ladies at the country club my family plays out of.

Being with my doggies again for a longer amount of time was also wonderful. And of course, being with my bird was also a lot of fun. All of the the animals in the Horvath household were happy to be with me again.

I also babysat for two of the days during my spring break. Watching a two year old can be exhausting but man is it fun! Being with kids is just so much fun, even if they can be a bit too crazy and too energetic sometimes. It was really nice to make some money this spring break and it was also just really fun to hang out with a super adorable kid. He always makes me smile and I love that family.

By the time my spring break was coming to a close, my aunt from New Mexico came to visit to celebrate my sister’s birthday a bit late and also just to spend some quality time together. It was a bummer that my uncle couldn’t get work off to also come visit, but I know that I’ll get the chance to see both of them again very soon, like in May when Allyson graduates high school. Woohoo!

This past weekend with my aunt was spent eating (we ate SO much food, I’m not even kidding), more tennis, and good company. We went to Denver to get lunch at BurgerFi and I got to try their chili cheese fries which I TOTALLY recommend. My sister also gave us all a tour of Regis University, which is where Allyson has decided to go for college. The campus was super pretty and super cute. I’m happy she decided to go there. We also walked around Denver a little and got to show my aunt the new premium mall that was just built not too far from my house.

Great weekend, great spring break, and just great people. I feel so lucky to be able to have the opportunities and experiences I do and be with all of the people that I am around in my life. Spring break may be over and that does make me sad, knowing that I have to get back to the books now, but summer will be here before we know it! Have a good week everyone! 🙂

Eating Healthy in College

eating healthy in college
Haha, I tried to get a picture of my lunch from Thursday. That was successful and you also get a little blur from my finger. Good job me, good job.

You’ve heard me mention this before: the freshman 15. Plenty of freshmen struggle with their eating habits upon entering college. There’s so much food available ALL the time and they abuse that. And they eat, and eat, and eat, and before you know it, they’ve gained 15 pounds, hence the freshman 15.

If you’ve been reading my blog since I started college at CSU, you will know that I was determined to avoid the freshman 15, and so far I’ve been successful and actually lost about 15 pounds. With a combination of working out and proper eating, I’ve been able to accomplish this goal. Exercise is extremely important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it’s also so so so important to eat right. Here’s what has worked for me:

  1. Drink lots of water. Whenever I go to the dining halls, I typically get water and I do my best to drink at least two full cups of water. Occasionally I will drink some iced tea or lemonade but I really try to stay away from the sweet drinks, especially soda. Water is not only good for your skin and body in general but it helps fill you up a bit so you don’t overeat.
  2. Make your plate colorful. While fried food is super duper good tasting, it’s not so good for your body. In moderation, it’s fine, but if the color of the foods on your plate are all a fried brown, you’re doing something wrong. Add some vegetables or fruit to that plate or add a salad. Your body will thank you. Strive for this with every meal and pay attention to the variety of foods you eat throughout the day.
  3. Leave the dining hall feeling not hungry and not stuffed. The wording on that statement might be a little weird, so I’ll do my best to explain what I mean. With eating from dining halls in college, you definitely don’t want to starve yourself. You shouldn’t starve yourself, period! You want to be balanced with the food you eat. If you’re piling on the food and coming back to a table with multiple full plates, you might want to rethink that. Just think about balance and remember that you can always grab a to-go box if you start to feel full. 🙂
  4. Eat desserts in moderation. At the dining halls at CSU, there’s a place dedicated to desserts and I’m sure that it’s that way with most schools. Seeing the rows of cookies upon cookies and plates of cakes and brownies can be extremely tempting, but remember, eat these in moderation! Desserts also taste AMAZING and sometimes its really hard to only take one serving and limit yourself, but all of that sugar really isn’t that good for you or your teeth. Treat yourself every once in a while but don’t go nuts with the desserts.
  5. Seek nutritional advice through your university. Colorado State University has an “Eat Well” program and they have dietitians and nutritionists willing to help figure out foods that you’ll enjoy that are better for your body. In addition to this, all of the menus for food are available online so I have access to the nutritional facts. I don’t pay too much attention to this, but sometimes it’s a great resource for knowing more about calories (even though I’m not big on calorie counting) and nutritional values in general. Most college dining halls have resources like this and within the dining halls themselves, there’s typically information on all of the foods available so pay attention to these! Use your resources and you’ll be set.

Keep in mind, that these are things that I’ve found helpful and they may work for those of you also eating out of college dining halls, and some of them might not, and that’s ok! Find something that works for you and stick to it. Eating healthy in college is important because it helps set the foundation for eating healthy later in life and it’s important that you give your body the materials it needs to function at its best!

If you’ve got an idea for a blog post or a question for me, feel free to leave a comment on this post or reach out to me on my new “Contact Me!” page which can be accessed in the menu above. I’d be happy to hear from you. I hope you all have a great week! See ya next Sunday. 🙂