Wednesday, November 11, 2015

California Science Center Field Trip

Last week, my class went on a field trip to the California Science Center, which is actually just across the street from campus. Even after being here for 3 months, I still hadn't been to any of the museums nearby, so I was really excited to go. I was really excited to come to school in LA because of all the fun things to do around here, but I often find myself getting caught up in the campus bubble. I've barely explored LA, which is sad because that's one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to USC.
Over the next few months, I'm excited to go hiking and explore some other museums, but first, let me talk about this trip ;)

The science center is actually really big, and there are tons of exhibits on everything from the human body to animals to weather systems and different biomes and ecosystems. First, we headed upstairs to the human body exhibit, which was really cool because of all the different visual representations of different body systems. Although it was definitely geared towards younger visitors (my 11 year-old brother would love it!), I still had a good time guessing the heart rates of differently sized animals. The coolest thing I saw was this latex model of our lungs and the alveoli that air travels through. It's so intricate and it's incredible to me that this exists in our bodies.

After this, we went outside to the touch tank and marine biome, which was fun because I absolutely love the ocean and ocean organisms. In bio this semester, we learned about several of the organisms that live in the ocean as we traced the tree of life, and it was so fun to be able to recognize ctenophores and cnidarians with my fellow nerds. I loved how vibrant these starfish and sea urchins looked in the touch tank! We also went downstairs to the aquarium, which was pretty small and shallow, but still cool because you could see the kelp "forests" and eels and little fish.

After the aquarium, we went to this hangar outside to see the space shuttle the Endeavor! This was really special to me because 20 years ago, when my father worked for BF Goodrich in Minnesota, he was part of a team that worked on it. Since we only had two hours, we had to leave at this point, but I had an amazing time getting to know my classmates outside the classroom, and I can't wait to go back.
Sophia, Nate and I by the Endeavor!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Window on Death Row" Event Response

This Thursday, my class had the opportunity to attend an event called "Windows on Death Row" with USC's Vision's and Voices program. The event was a lecture by Sister Helen Prejean on her experience working to abolish the death penalty. She first got involved a couple of decades ago when she became the spiritual advisor to a prisoner on death row, and the inhumanity of the whole process got her interested in fighting to abolish it. Throughout the event, she discussed how prisoners were unfairly given poor lawyers not interested in helping them. I was pretty shocked to find out how there was only one person on death row in Colorado as compared to 750 in California. She also talked a lot about how many prisoners are wrongfully convicted and put on death row in solitary confinement for years on end. Another on of the speakers was actually a former prisoner who spent 20 years on death row and another 8 years embroiled in actually being released from jail after it was determined that he was wrongfully convicted. He talked about how he turned to painting and art to distract him from being all alone and to channel his emotions into something productive. I think that with the death penalty, the punishment is not so much actually being killed (as horrible as that is), but the psychological impacts of being alone in a confined space for years on end with no human contact. Biologically, humans are social creatures, and even introverts thrive on contact with others.

While I appreciate all of Sister Prejean's experience and the work she's doing, I felt that at times, the discourse did was a little too biased toward the problems with the death penalty. I know that I don't know enough about both sides of the debate to have an opinion, but I felt that the information was presented a little unfairly. I felt like they focused a little too much on innocent people sentenced to the death penalty, which has nothing to do with the death penalty in and of itself. Rather, it is a failure of the justice system. It's horrible that innocent people were sentenced to death and had to spend years in prison, but that's because of a justice system built against them. I'm definitely interested to see how this will play out in the 2016 elections in California, since the death penalty was almost abolished in 2012.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thoughts on Code Black

Last week, I had the opportunity to watch Code Black, a medical documentary about the emergency and trauma center at LA Country Memorial Hospital. Years ago,  there was a room in the emergency room called C-Booth, which, to any outsider, looked like total chaos. Whenever a case came in, there were dozens of doctors, nurses, and medical personnel surrounding a patient who was obviously in danger of dying. It looked incredibly chaotic and I couldn't understand how anyone could ever get anything done there. People were yelling at one another to get different medical supplies without saying who should get it, and somehow, everyone got the supplies they needed, and the patient was treated.
I'm a huge Grey's Anatomy fan, and even though I know that it's in no way an accurate portrayal of hospital life, C-booth almost seemed like a Grey's episode. I loved hearing what the surgical residents had to say about their experiences because of how much they loved it. They talked about how great being in the ER made them feel, and how it was so worth it, even with the mountains of paperwork.
I was pretty confused as to why the hospital didn't have adequate technology to manage all the paperwork. Honestly, buying 20 iPads or tablets isn't that expensive, and autofill capabilities would make it a lot faster. Although it's not particularly groundbreaking, simple changes like digitizing paperwork would speed up the process and allow the emergency department to treat patients more effectively. Another thing we talked about in class was biometric fingerprint or retina scanning to log into the computer, instead of having to manually sign in every time.
I definitely enjoyed this documentary overall. It made it seem like the huge mountain of schoolwork I'm putting myself through -- the polyatomic ions in chem and memorizing every animal in the tree of life -- it's all worth it to be able to go out there and make people's lives better. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

More Thoughts on Dreamland

Last week, we finished reading Dreamland, by Sam Quinones. Dreamland is about the opiate epidemic -- the black tar heroin trade, specifically -- that has taken over America during the last two decades. Overall, the book was really interesting to me because of the normality of it all. The heroin trade wasn't some scary back alley transaction in hostile New York City, but rather something seen in suburban side street with middle class high schoolers.
The scary part was that these kids weren't deviants who grew up fighting, surrounded by all kinds of negative influences, and considered unlikely to go to colleges. These were kids who studied hard and got grades, played a sport, tutored on the side, spent time with their friends. Kids like me. (Yes, I know I'm not white, but I too had a middle class upbringing). It was sad to me that the towns with places that were once considered worthy of the name "Dreamland" were now defined by shoplifters at Walmart trading their stolen goods for heroin. Everyone knew someone that was addicted, dead, or was addicted themselves. Kids who had the potential to live real, successful lives were dying from heroin overdoses. This wasn't some weird alternative reality movie. This was real life. The black tar heroin epidemic is not isolated either. The epicenter may be Portsmouth, Ohio, but it's in Portland, Boise, the San Fernando Valley -- almost every big city that isn't already over run by drugs (i.e. New York, cocaine in LA). The business wasn't run by some crazy thugs either. The drug sellers were just honest young men from Nayarit, Mexico looking to make some money to send home to their families. They never used the drugs, possibly because they saw how debilitating addiction would be, and seemed to come from a never ending supply of other honest young men.
The book also focused on the rise of prescription pill abuse, and how doctors would literally set up clinics with the sole purpose of prescribing pain relief opiate pills to make money. One physician in particular, David Proctor, set up several pill mills that took fake medical records and papers, large sums of cash, and sent people home in 5 minutes with hundreds of pills. It was really horrible to me that doctors would use their credentials to hurt people, not help them. Being pre-med, I talk to a lot of people who want to become doctors, and everyone I've talked to says something along the lines of "I like science and I want to help people." Never once have I heard "I want to make a lot of money," or anything along those lines. Believe me- there are easier routes to go if your primary objective is money. I realize (from my vast experience watching Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice) that medical ethics is not black and white, but pill mills are 100% unethical and just plain wrong. Getting people addicted to, and in some cases, ultimately killed by prescription drugs, is a horrible thing.
Overall, I really appreciated how Quinones told the story from multiple angles. This provided a more complete picture of the opiate scene in America, and showed how blame is never easy to assign. It was hard to blame the Nayarit drug dealers, who were just trying to make money for their families. They realized that it was near impossible to succeed doing things the right way (this also frustrates me to no end), and so they played into the system. It's hard assign blame to addicts, because while they made the choice to do drugs in the first place, they were then surrounded by people encouraging them to go down the wrong path. Even when they were trying to get clean, the dealers would come by with "gifts" of free heroin balloons. The police were doing the best they could, but were taking away someone's life and livelihood. Just like everything really important, this is so vastly complicated.
I'm a sucker for happy endings (maybe this is why I have a stuffed Olaf on my bed and cry incessantly when a patient dies on Grey's), so I was glad to see at the end that Portsmouth has become something of a haven for addicts in recovery. I know that it's not going to be all happiness and roses, but it gives me hope for the future.
That's all for now!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Four Year Plan

Hi everyone!

Long time, no post. Now that the second round of midterms is over, I finally have some time to breathe and catch up on things like sleep and this class! Over the last few weeks, I've been thinking about what I want to do over the rest of college, and I have a tentative 4 year plan.
I'm currently a neuroscience major, pre-med, but in trying to build my plan, I've realized that it's just so many units. I wouldn't be able to pursue much else outside my major, which is disappointing because I'm interested in so many things. Even worse, I wouldn't be able to study abroad, which has been my dream in college since watching the Lizzie McGuire movie in elementary school.
(not going to lie, I definitely felt like Lizzie when I was in Rome this summer)
Because of this, i'm contemplating switching to a Health and Human Sciences major with a natural sciences minor to fulfill my pre-med prerequisites, because I want to stay pre-med. I also want to do an education minor because I'm honestly super interested in education, but I don't know too much about it yet, so I'm planning on taking a general education seminar on education next semester as an intro, and i can decide if I want to do the minor from there. My current writing 150 class is on education, and I absolutely love it.
Also, I realized how much I miss Spanish from high school, even though I passed out of our requirement here, so I think I'll take it at a higher level. I want to study abroad in Madrid, so this'll be helpful then. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking.

I know that this will likely change as I go, depending on if I want to stick with Health and Human Science, or pursue either of the minors further. We'll find out, but I'm excited to see how everything turns out :)

xo, Hima

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I have a bit of an obsession with the sky. Whether it is the first timid light of the sun rising in the morning, the unapologetically bright cumulus clouds of midday, or the brilliant gradients in the evening, I love it all. More than once, I have stopped walking on my way to something, just to soak it all in, and more than likely take a photo.

There's something about the horrid LA smog that just makes sunsets so beautiful, like finding the silver (or bright pink) lining. This photo series is just a collection of my favorite pictures from the last 5 weeks. Enjoy!

maybe not the best photo of the sunset, but I love the way the pool glitters in the early evening light. 

VKC - our gorgeous tower, and what I think is the tallest building on campus. This is the view from just outside my dorm, and it's just as stunning every night. 

There is 0 filter on this photo. No brightening, no saturation, nothing. This is literally what the sky looked like on Monday night. Yes, I got up from our table at dinner to take pictures, and no, I am not ashamed. 
These wispy, barely-there clouds are my favorite kinds of clouds because of how the sun lights them up in the sky. 

If this isn't the world's greatest study view, I don't know what is. 

USC, I love you, your gorgeous architecture, and most importantly, your incredible sunsets. I have no doubt that I will literally make an album of these photos at some point. If you're ever amazed by the sky at any time of day, take a picture and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #skygramweekly :)

Until next time, 
xo, Hima

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Exploring LA: The Last Bookstore

Last Friday, my friend Melina invited me to go exploring with some of her friends. Although I've been at USC for a month now, I've only been off campus for something other than walking to CVS twice, so I was more than excited. Led by our fearless leader, we took the metro down a few stops to Grand Central Market, and wandered through. It reminded me of il Mercato Centrale in Florence, with the indoor/outdoor vibe and all the smaller food stalls. I was too busy taking it all in, and forgot to take photos oops.

After walking around some more, we found a small gelato shop, which was honestly the cutest thing ever. The employees were so nice and gracious in allowing us to sample as many flavors as we wanted. Melina and I ended up splitting the yummiest greek yogurt plum jam gelato- the perfect sweet/tart blend of summer.

Sweet tooth satisfied, we walked across the street to the Last Bookstore, the largest independently owned bookstore in LA. For a bibliophile like me, it was an incredible experience. Books, records, and gorgeous book-themed art plastered the walls. There was an author visit happening in the middle of the store, and tons of other people browsing.

Apart from the books, there was a lot of art displayed on the walls, and it was fun to walk around and look at them all. I discovered how much I love art and museums in Florence this summer, and I wish we had more time to peruse each one and compare them to one another 
I loved this bench and table display! Everything about it was so rustic and messy, but put together and industrial at the same time. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun, and I can't wait to explore more of LA and come back here. Apparently there's a section of the store that has thousands of $1 books. Unfortunately, it wasn't open when we were there, but hey- more reason to come back!

This is a little unrelated, but walking around downtown LA, we saw a lot of different kinds of people. Since we were all together in a big group, it was pretty safe, but I definitely wouldn't go out alone. In my freshman seminar right now, we're reading a book on the heroin trade in America. We're exploring it from all angles: the drug traffickers, addicts, and law enforcement, so it's very interesting. If anything, the book has taught me that anyone can be addicted to heroin - not just the typical homeless people that you see on the streets in big cities. As we walked around last week, I wondered if any the people we saw were tied what we had been reading about in class. Just food for thought, I guess :) 
Until next time, 
xo, Hima

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Game Day

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to experience my first ever game day at USC. After going to a high school that wasn't exactly known for sports (we actually had an 18 year homecoming losing streak), I was really excited to experience a USC football game. The game was scheduled for 8 PM, so imagine my surprise when I walked out of my dorm at 8 AM to a slew of tailgaters all over the quad.

I had planned to get my work done during the day, but the game day energy was palpable and incredibly distracting. Even when I sat down to read for my gender studies class, I found myself reading the same text over and over, so I gave up and let myself get sucked into the fun and spirit.

After a quick bookstore run to buy fancy knee socks and a hair bow, I donned my cutest USC gear (believe me, there is endless cute USC gear), and headed out with my floor. Game day was hot, and the endless crowds and grills made it even hotter, but we found a really dedicated fan braving the heat en route to the dining hall, so of course we needed a picture with him. 

Throughout the afternoon, we walked around campus getting hyped for the game and playing carnival games like the bean bag toss. It was so fun to meet people just as excited as I was. Also, flash tattoos are the coolest thing ever, but don't put them on your face because they HURT to scrub off. 

The game itself was super fun. We all walked over to the Coliseum together, led by the USC marching band, and it felt amazing to be a part of something so much bigger than me. The cheering, the chants, the jumping off my chair to catch a t-shirt (I was unsuccessful, but my roommate got one!), and screaming myself hoarse. Pretty sure the fight song is now ingrained in my memory (Shoutout to Noelle for screaming it with me every time!)

Post-game, I was ridiculously tired. By the time we walked back to our dorms, it was past midnight, but I was glad to have experienced my first game. Oh, and it definitely helped that we CRUSHED Arkansas State 55-6 (Cue a "Go beat the Redwolves!"). Can't wait to do it all over again this Saturday!

xo, Hima

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Begin Again

Surprise! I still exist! For a long time though, this little corner of the Internet didn't. I've decided to bring it back though, for a few reasons.

  1. I'm taking a seminar called "All Who Wander Are Not Lost" about building a portfolio for a career in medicine. It's a two unit class, and I thought it would be a fun way to take a smaller class (it's only 15 of us!) my freshman year. Part of the class includes starting a blog to chronicle our first semester in college and reflect on some of the reading we'll be doing. (Hi Dr. Quinn!)
  2. When I blogged regularly in high school, I always thought college bloggers were really cool. Now I can be cool too!? 
  3. I miss documenting my life and reflecting on it regularly. I've tried journalling so many times this year, but nothing beats adding photos and being able to interact with everyone reading on Facebook 
I know it's been a while since blogging has been a part of my life, but I'm ready if you are. I'm ready to watch this begin again. (let me know if you got the reference in the comments!)
So hi! If you're new to this, I'm Hima. I'm 17 years old, and I'm a freshman at the University of Southern California in LA. I blogged a lot in high school, but I stopped during my first semester of senior year to focus on writing my college essays. Then life happened and I got lazy, but I'm back and better than ever (I can only hope). 

It's been a little over two weeks since I arrived on campus for move in day, and oh, what a two weeks it has been. 
August 17th, 2015. 6 AM. My closest friends from high school (including my little brother on my left) came to see me off in the morning. It meant so much to have them all there, and I was definitely emotional as my dad and I pulled away from our curb, waving at my family and closest friends: the people I love most in this world. 

350 miles later, we unstuck ourselves from our seats and began the long and arduous process of unpacking my life. It always amazes me how just when I think I have everything, my mom thinks of something that I actually desperately need. These lovely ladies above are my floormates at USC's very own rose garden! We're the only all girls floor in the building (by chance), and it's honestly been amazing. We call ourselves Beta Kappa Di, so we're a sorority, no big deal. 

My bed! I live in a triple, which is actually two doubles put together, so we have a TON of space. I'm hoping to make a bunting banner to go across the top of the room too. Because our room is so big, is tends to be the social center of our floor - there are always five or six people in here. It's fun to socialize, but I know that if I need to study, I have to go to the library or head outside. 

Every year, President Nikias takes a photo with my residence hall, which is the scholarship dorm. We all know that selfies have replaced autographs in the last decade or so, so I had to snap at least one with the head honcho 

On one of the nights, we had a spirit rally, and it was so much fun! One of the reasons I was so excited to come here was that USC has SO much school spirit, which is definitely my jam. Our first football game is this Saturday, and I know it's going to be amazing standing with so many other people who love USC just as much as I do. 

I'm allergic to cats, so I tell myself I'm not a cat person. But seriously, look at these little kittens and try not to melt into a puddle of joy and happiness. During Welcome Week, I volunteered at a local cat adoption shelter, and it was amazing, as expected. One of my favorite things about volunteering is that there is no loser- everyone wins, and everyone is happy. I've been looking for some service organizations to join on campus, but there are so many it's a little overwhelming. 

(yes, this is off of Snapchat, but hey- check out that filter!)
In my freshman seminar, we did this activity to see who could build the tallest and most aesthetically pleasing tower out of paper and tape, and this is my group's tower. At this point, we had just put third paper prism on top, and we waited with bated breath of see if it would hold. In this activity,  our team leads showcased different kinds of leadership, from uninvolved to friendly and encouraging, and it was easy to see which one worked best. 

This is from ground level, so I'm sure it would have been even more stunning from the 8th floor of a building, but when I walked outside after dinner the other day, the sky was awash with color, and our beautiful tower stood like a beacon of knowledge - it was just so beautiful and surreal. 

I instagrammed this photo last week after the farmers' market (!!), and I think my caption sums up a lot of what I'm still feeling. 
"Today has me realizing what an amazing decision I made by choosing to come to USC. In a little over a week, I've been inspired by the incredible people I've met, bonded with the best floor ever, relearned how to study (lol hi bio) tried a Nike bootcamp that was so hard I thought I was going to die, been to our on-campus farmers' market, and had more fun than I ever imagined possible. Looking forward to this semester and the next four years more than ever. #fighton"

Over the last couple of weeks, I've talked to so many people who blow me away with how nice they are. All the upperclassmen are incredibly kind and always willing to offer advice and tips on how to get involved, manage classes, or make friends. Whenever I talk to someone, I walk away with this warm and fuzzy feeling of belonging. I wasn't so sure about the so called "Trojan Family" when I heard about it, but everything I've experienced here tells me that the Trojan Family is what defines USC, and I feel beyond blessed to be a part of it. 

Until next time, 

xo, Hima
P.S. Congratulations on getting through all of that! I love you a lot for sticking with me :)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Word of the Year

When 2015 rolled around, I knew that I didn't want to have any super concrete resolutions, especially concerning the blog, but when I thought about my goals for this year, one word kept coming back to me. This year, and every year after, I want to be effective in everything I do. I know that I have the habit of taking too much on, and instead of doing a few things well, I do a mediocre job at everything. I want to be effective in 
+my last semester of high school strong
+running a 10K by the end of the semester
+learning to cook
+journaling regularly
+filling my 2015 memory jar with all the awesome things I'll be doing this semester
+blogging regularly
+scheduling posts for when I won't have time to write
+having fun
So as the sun sets on 2014, and rises on 2015, let the games begin! :)

xo, Hima