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Blog posts by alyssa

La Republica Dominicana

This Spring Break I was given the opportunity to go on a week-long service trip to the Dominican Republic. At first, I didn’t really know what to expect. I have been on seven other service trips through Aquinas and I have had wonderful experiences on each trip. I knew I would take away something from my trip but I never for one second thought it would change my life the way it did. To be immersed in a new culture that is so vibrant and caring is one of the best experiences I have had in my entire life. From the moment we arrived at the airport in Santo Domingo at 1 am to the very last evening at 9 pm where we were crying and saying our goodbyes, I never once disliked any part of this amazing trip. As a group of foreigners, I was in awe of how immediately we were so accepted and welcomed by the Dominicans into their communities and their cultures. Children would come running up to us and when we would drive past their houses to our work sites every day, all the people would wave to us from outside their houses. I have never felt so welcome and accepted in my entire life.

The people were amazing but that didn’t mean the work was easy. We facilitated medical clinics up in the mountains by the Haitian/Dominican border. There were three parts to these clinics: doctor consultations, the pharmacy, and the nutrition clinic. Patients would arrive at the pharmacy for medicine we buy over the counter such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, and prenatal vitamins. I worked in the nutrition clinic where we would weigh the children who were six years old or younger. Based off of their age and gender, we would assess their level of nutrition. If children were severely malnourished, we would ask their parents’ permission to take them to the Sisters of Charity where they would be nourished back to health. This was the hardest part of the trip, taking kids from their parents and then leaving them not knowing if they would be nourished back to good health.

The Dominican Republic changed my life. I applied to go back there this summer and continue to try and help fight malnutrition. I want to make difference.

Bittersweet End is Coming Fast

I cannot believe it, my last semester at Aquinas. Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday that my parents and I made the 6.5 hour drive from Iowa and were moving all my stuff into my dorm room. The last four years have gone by in a whirlwind. There are so many things I have accomplished and have been a part of and in May, my undergraduate journey will be over just like that. Although it may be over, I have memories to last me a lifetime. From the very moment orientation started at the beginning of my freshman year, I made friends with the other girls in my group as well as my two orientation leaders, Lisa and Eric. I was nervous, but by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in the orientation activities such as the casino night, pond reflection, and dance, I was able to make so many friends that I still hang out with on a regular basis as a senior, which is so cool to see. If I wouldn’t have pushed myself to make an effort initially, I feel that my collegiate experience would be much different.

After orientation, I got involved on campus with many clubs and organizations. Aquinas has so many different and diverse clubs that students have the opportunity to be a part of such as Ski and Snowboarding, and Across State Lines. I was a part of Across State Lines and it really helped me experience and get to know the city of Grand Rapids with other out of state students who are/were in a similar situation as mine. I was also a part of the Communication Club where we put on a Thriller Flash Mob and learned about many different realms of Communication. Although I love all my experiences from clubs and organizations, my most vivid and cherish memories come from the seven service learning trips that I have been fortunate to go on through Aquinas.

I have traveled to West Virginia, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Guatemala, Maine, Kentucky, South Dakota and during this Spring Break I will travel to the Dominican Republic. All of these trips have provided so many diverse and enriching experiences and have given me the opportunity to travel across the nation, meet other Aquinas students who I have built strong friendships with and serve those in need. Each trip has touched my heart in such a different way and I am thankful for these experiences that I can take with me wherever I go.

Aquinas has truly been a haven for me these past four years. I am sad to be graduating in May, but I know wherever I go, I will always carry a piece of Aquinas with me. Aquinas will always be a home for me and I know that no matter where I go come May, I will always remember and cherish the amazing times I have had through this college.

Off Campus Livin’

I started the Aquinas school year back in August with as much excitement and anticipation as the three previous years. This year, however, was a little more bittersweet as it is my last year as an undergraduate student at Aquinas. That seems crazy to say out loud! I can still picture my freshman dorm room perfectly and recall my nervousness and giddiness as I set out to my first college class in August 2011. Things are so different for me this year. The thing that has taken the most getting used to is living off campus. Although, I am living only a block away from campus, life has changed dramatically for me in terms of feeling as connected. When you live on campus, everything seems to be right at your fingertips, knowing everyone is a given and you don’t really have to worry too much about cooking for yourself because the Wege Cafeteria is always available to you. I loved living on campus for three years and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in the world. Being off campus has made me realize how truly blessed I was to be on campus and how easy everything was. Now, I am responsible for cooking all my own meals, which if you know me is quite the struggle since my culinary skills are subpar at best, so this means a lot of pizza and mac n’ cheese. I feel that I don’t get to see my friends as often as I did when I lived on campus when a random run-in with a friend would turn into a two hour catch up session over coffee. I definitely don’t resent the fact that I live off campus now but it has made me reflect and realize how much simpler life for me was on campus and how I definitely took a lot of things for granted during those three years.

Although being off campus has presented some difficulties for me thus far, I don’t let it get me down. I am not bitter, rather I am determined to stay as involved on campus as I was before. Whether it is studying for a few hours in the Moose or meeting up with old residents for dinner at Wege, I try very hard to stay connected on campus. Aquinas is such an amazing place that staying connected isn’t that difficult for me, it’s just not as convenient as it was before. Aquinas is my home, whether I physically live on or off the campus makes no difference. I still know that day in and day out I can walk across campus and see many familiar faces that are just as happy to see me as I am them. For me, staying connected is very important and here at Aquinas I have nothing to worry about. Everyone looks out for each other and that is truly amazing. Having my own family here at Aquinas makes all the difference in the world and I wouldn’t feel more at home anywhere else.

New Semester, New Habits

As a junior here at Aquinas, one would think I have mastered the art of time management and balance by this point in my collegiate career. Being involved is what gives me balance for the most part, but I am not going to lie, my time management can always use some tweaking. Serving as an Resident Assistant, Student Ambassador, Sports Editor and having a double major/double minor, it is easy to put off my homework in favor of the more social aspects of college. To say I am a procrastinator would be an understatement. There are people that wait until the night before and there are people that wait until the day of. I fall under the latter.

This semester, however, I have made time management an unofficial New Year’s Resolution. Although we are only in the first week of the semester, I can feel myself already making progress. Instead of putting off assignments until the last minute, I have started sitting down after class and doing at least a half hour of homework. Breaking my work down into smaller work times has already been extremely effective.

I know as a junior I should have my time management to a tee, but I am excited that I am finally making these necessary changes. I am in a better place now than I have been at the start of any semester so far. Bring on 2014!

Home Sweet Home

For most people, college is a place where they escape to for a majority of the year, a place to reside during the week and return home every weekend, a place that is just for learning. Aquinas has been more than a temporary living place to me. Aquinas is more familiar and comfortable to me than my own home in Iowa.  When I came to Aquinas at the beginning of my freshman year I was quite skeptical. I was moving seven hours away to a place that was so foreign to me. I knew absolutely no one.  I was scared at first but I was welcomed instantly by the upperclassmen at Aquinas.

With guidance from my orientation leaders (Eric and Lisa), I was able to step out of my comfort zone during the orientation activities. My involvement with orientation and willingness to participate during those first few days definitely set the tone for my entire college career. As a junior, I have become involved in many areas of campus. I belong to several clubs and organizations; I play intramural sports and am the Sports Editor for The Saint, which is our newspaper on campus. I am also a student ambassador and a Resident Assistant.

Through my on campus activities, I have had the opportunity to meet some really amazing people.  There is a friendly face wherever you go at Aquinas and for me that has been a big part of why this college is a perfect fit for me. I have become so close to so many people at this wonderful place. When I leave and go back to Iowa for academic breaks or for the summer, I feel so sad to be leaving so many people I know and love. Aquinas has become my home over the past two years. I feel a sense of purpose and security being here. Give Aquinas a chance to be your home.

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