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The ALEX Blog

The ALEX Blog

ALEX Abroad: Apples

Friday, May 5, 2017, 2:58am by

Like I said in a previous blog post, one of the biggest challenges of studying and living abroad is feeling homesick. It’s a tricky feeling, mainly because it isn’t a single feeling; homesickness is a culmination of stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and much more. On a regular day, I can handle the majority of these feelings but sometimes there are just a few too many things to worry about and I become a mess, reduced to binge-watching Netflix in my pajamas and eating McNugget share-boxes by myself.

Take this week for instance – having returned from London and my exciting-yet-stressful internship at NME, I had just a single day in my own flat to gather my thoughts and relax. But just as soon as I felt comfortable again, I was on yet another multi-hour train journey to Luton, a small city just above London, to pick up my boyfriend from the airport and help him move into his new place. It seemed simple enough but, since I’m a walking example of Murphy’s Law, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

To begin with, I got on the wrong train. Yup. Despite the giant glowing schedule in the station, and the fact that I was literally the only person on the train, I comfortably sat down and only found a reason to worry when I noticed the train going in the opposite direction. Luckily, I was able to catch the train to London from the next station, but as soon as I felt relieved that I had solved this issue, I realized that I had left my trusty and expensive water bottle on the¬†wrong train. (R.I.P). Things like this happened all day, and when my boyfriend and I arrived at his new place we found out that, due to the bank holiday, his housing payment hadn’t gone through and he couldn’t move in.

So, here I am, three days later, trying to make the best of things in a tiny hotel room living off of takeout and weirdly flavored tap water. “Things could be worse,” I tell myself, in a half-assed attempt at optimism. And it’s true – at least I have a place to stay and food to eat. But when you’re already missing the comforts of home and suddenly¬†everything goes wonky, it’s difficult to feel cheerful.

An English apple from the Luton farmer's market.

An English apple from the Luton farmer’s market.

In times like these, the little Terri in my brain does its best to cheer me up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This is why I find it important to focus on the little things, rather than the big picture. While that may sound counterintuitive, I find it helps me handle things in a fairly stress-free way. For example, despite the fact that every molecule of my body refused to leave the warm room for the smoggy, foggy, chilly outdoors, I did just that and bought a bag of the prettiest and most delicious apples I’ve ever had. Not only was I able to clear my head, but I was also able to eat something that didn’t come in a box, and I enjoyed taking a picture of it. Win-win-win.

As the bag of apples dwindles, so does my optimism, and I know that soon I’ll have to venture out and refuel with more fruit. Living abroad seems glamorous when you first start out. The possibilities for adventure and personal growth are endless, but there are just as many obstacles. Still, while everyone’s situation is different, and some people are more prone to homesickness than others, it’s important to remember that all the bad stuff will pass, and sometimes it’s ok to eat 20 McNuggets in one sitting – because you deserve it.

‚Äď Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Abroad: NME Magazine

Monday, May 1, 2017, 12:29pm by

The first time I found a copy of NME magazine I was 16 and searching for magazines to cut apart as a project for my fashion design course. For some reason, among the piles of Vogue and InStyle, was a glossy copy of NME with the White Stripes on the cover. Needless to say, I was hooked. Flash forward seven years and here I am, working in the NME office alongside some of the coolest journalists in the UK.

An early copy of NME magazine.

One of the first copies of NME magazine.

NME was founded in 1952, and initially covered mainly jazz and blues before branching into rock ‘n’ roll. Before long, however, it had morphed into the pop-culture-saturated weekly issue that many readers are familiar with today. Until quite recently, NME was available for purchase on newsstands, but due to a lack of numbers, the current editor in chief, Mike Williams, decided that NME would make a transition into a weekly free issue, with the focus mainly on the magazine’s website.

During my time at the NME office, my work focused on just that – the website. Each morning, everyone would gather and discuss the news of the day and decide on topics to write about. At first, my contribution to the day-to-day was mainly transcribing the interviews that the journalists had facilitated. It was pretty cool; I got to hear the un-edited version of what celebrities had to say, including Chris Pratt and Pete Wentz. However, I grew bored and was determined to branch out. Our next meeting proved to be more fruitful, and when one of the news editors suggested a piece on insects named after rock stars (inspired by the recent Radiohead-inspired ant) I volunteered my photoshop abilities. A few hours later, the ‘Insects Named After Pop Stars’ article was born, and while it’s not worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, I enjoyed the process.

A recent issue of NME magazine starring David Bowie.

A more recent NME issue.


Having proved that I was eager to be in the office, I was soon given article-writing responsibilities. My first article was on the Scottish band Twin Atlantic, and I later did an editorial on the ‘Friends’ tv show inspired NME merchandise as well as one on Paul McCartney’s interview regarding¬†Sgt.¬†Pepper’s 50th-anniversary reissue.

I barely had a minute to breath, but I loved it. Working at a magazine is fast-paced, stressful, but at the end of the day I felt more productive than I had in ages. At the end of my placement, I was evaluated by the Senior News Editor, Andrew Trendell, who had given me the majority of my assignments throughout the week. I was told that I did well, and offered a longer placement, which I hope to complete this summer.

Working at NME was surreal. It was something that I never imagined possible, even in the days preceding my placement. I had applied on a whim – I never imagined that I would be accepted. Having had this experience, I feel more confident in my abilities and qualifications, and I look forward to everything that the future holds.


Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Opportunities: `Ike Wai Summer Bridge Program in Data Science

Thursday, April 20, 2017, 9:27am by

The `Ike Wai Summer Bridge Program in Data Science is now accepting applicants!

The `Ike Wai Summer Bridge Program is an introductory data science experience where students will learn basic programming and work on data science projects. All fees, tuition, and textbooks during the program are paid for, and participants are awarded a $1,000 stipend. Upon completion, students will earn college credits for Math 140 or Math 205.
To apply, individuals must meet the following requirements: 
-UHH student with no more than 2 semesters at UHH
-Placement into Math 140X or Math 205
-Availability June 21-July 26, 9am – 4pm
-Interest in working with data as an undergraduate at UHH

Visit the EPSCOR page to view the application and further program details.


For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Opportunities: Aspiring Doctors’ Club of Hilo

Monday, April 17, 2017, 12:18pm by

Did you know that there is an Aspiring Doctors Club right here at the University of Hawaii at Hilo?

The Aspiring Doctors Club (ADC) is a key resource for pre-med students as they work toward entering the medical The Aspiring Doctor's Club poses in a classroom.profession. The ADC focuses on the medical school application process, which includes learning about what it’s like to become a doctor (ensuring that it’s the right goal), and doing things that are necessary for matriculation into medical school, like finding a doctor to shadow and polishing up interview skills.

Members of the Aspiring Doctors' Club.

Membrs of the Aspiring Doctors’ Club at work.

The next meeting of the ADC will take place on April 19th in STB 225 at 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm. The next pre-professional event will be on April 30th in STB 118 at 10:00 am.
Members of the Aspiring Doctor's Club pose at an outdoor event.

Members at an event.

“We are having a mock interview/suturing workshop with medical students from
the John A. Burns School of Medicine,” ADC President Kiana Soloria told us. “And our next community service event is at the ¬†Waiakeawaena Elementary school, giving a health presentation to the kindergarten class.”
You can find more about the ADH club on the group’s Facebook page. Dr. Jon Awaya and Dr. Stan Nakanishi are the faculty advisors.
РEmbree Figueroa, ALEX Assessment Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Abroad: Easter in Essex

Monday, April 17, 2017, 8:14am by

When the holidays come around, I find myself feeling especially homesick. So far this spring I’ve missed New Year’s, birthdays, anniversaries, and, this month, Easter. Easter in my household is a big deal, so I was a bit sad that I’d be missing one of my favorite traditions. However, I was thankfully invited to stay with the family of a close friend just a few hours away in Essex. Never having traveled there, and delighted at the prospect of spending Easter with a family, I eagerly accepted.

Braintree village.

Braintree village on a “sunny” day.

My friend lives in Braintree, Essex, just an hour and a half opposite London. The town is small, but it has everything you’d need, including the legendary Nando’s. Everything is in walking distance and the people are friendly. It’s essentially the English equivalent of Kurtistown.

The first thing that struck me was the unexpected beauty of Braintree village. Each toy-like house is painted a pastel color, complete with a garden and fence: it’s like a cartoon. There are rivers, swamps, and dog parks just a few minutes’ walk away, and a local convenience shop where everyone seems to be on a first-name basis.

Ornamental apple blossoms.

Ornamental apple blossoms.

The only thing that stopped me from fully enjoying this picturesque little village was the weather. When I had left Birmingham it was warm – almost hot by British standards – and as a result, I had naively packed light: without my coat. This is a big mistake. The weather in Britain, or rather Europe in general, is unpredictable, and you should never be without a coat and umbrella. Because of this oversight, I’ve spent the majority of my time indoors which I guess is a blessing considering I have an exam to study for…

‚Äď Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Spotlight: Dr. Jesse Eiben and the `Ike Wai Project

Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 4:35am by

No matter where you go, there they are: insects. Insects are found everywhere in the world, from the tallest mountains to the bottom of all fresh bodies of water (not salt water, though, those are different little creatures).
So says Dr. Jesse Eiben, an Assistant Professor in Entomology who specializes in ecology, evolution, pest management, and conservation biology. He, along with other staff and students, are doing great things right here at the University Of Hawaii At Hilo College Of Agriculture, Forestry And Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM).
Students and staff prepare for a day trip to Mauna Kea.

Students and staff prepare for a day trip to Mauna Kea.

UH Hilo has the largest insect collection on the island and the 4th largest in the state. Dr. Eiben, along with students and other staff, have contributed to this collection over the years as part of classes and research projects. Dr. Eiben and colleagues  are now labeling and creating digital records of the collection and identifying and describing insects found in the collection and during research trips that currently do not have names. 1 new species of insect has been discovered by students and is now going through the process of classification.

The team taking a well-deserved rest.

The team taking a well-deserved rest.

UHH also has a collection of live Mauna Kea wolf spiders that are being raised in captivity to describe its life cycle. This spider species can only be found on the top of the mountain and nowhere else in the entire world. UH students and staff collaborate across campus with the insect collection and are currently participating in other projects and developments like the `Ike Wai project, a program that provides insight and data for water quality. The `Ike Wai project is using the insect collection to track locations of clean water dependent insects as a metric of water quality change through time.

You can learn more about Dr. Eiben’s work on the UHH website.
РEmbree Figueroa, ALEX Assessment Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Abroad: Cannock Chase

Saturday, April 8, 2017, 11:19am by

As an English major, one of the things that I look forward to the most is walking in the footsteps of the authors that I admire – this is one of the reasons that I chose England as my study abroad destination. In fact, I make sure to plan all trips with this goal in mind, to make the most of my time here.

The entry path to Cannock Chase, from Hednesford village.

The entry path to Cannock Chase, from Hednesford village.

Yesterday I chose to explore Cannock Chase, one of the UK’s areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which boasts acres of forest perfect for biking, hiking, fishing, and bird watching. Another bonus?¬†Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien frequented the walking paths and is said to have found inspiration for his Ents in the characteristic oak trees of Cannock Chase.

While I didn’t come across any Ents, I was still impressed by the stunning setting, and the wildlife that, to me, is still quite a novelty. All in all, we spotted squirrels, deer, badgers, and a variety of birds, plus the added bonus of dogs as they ran through the park.

A ladybug.

A ladybug rests in the sun.

Living in Birmingham is interesting – it’s a city that doesn’t quite feel like a city. The red-brick architecture coupled with the frequency of gardens gives the city a strangely suburban feeling that has made me feel at home. However, after visiting the true outdoors, I definitely remember what I’ve been missing from home. Granted, there wasn’t a moment in Cannock Chase where the rumble of cars was distant enough to provide complete silence, but it was still close enough to home for me to feel nostalgic.

‚Äď Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.


ALEX Abroad: Homesick or sick at home?

Sunday, April 2, 2017, 12:50pm by

As someone who gets sick quite often, I was pleasantly surprised at my lack of illness during my stay abroad; three months in and not so much as a sneeze. Still, nothing lasts forever and it was only a matter of time before I caught a germ in passing. While having the flu is never fun, I was still lucky enough to show symptoms until after my return from Paris, providing me with the ability to enjoy my week before succumbing to this plague.

Studying – and living – abroad is difficult enough, but in times like these you realize just how difficult it really is to live on your own and truly take care of yourself. There is no one to fetch you food and medicine when you’ve been in bed three days doing nothing but wallowing in pajamas and self-pity and, at some point, you just have to force yourself out of bed, take a shower, and face reality. This is why it’s highly important to¬†plan ahead. Fortunately, I am not speaking from the learning experience of mistakes, but out of the gratitude to past-me for my foresight.

First things first: stock up on medicine. Cold and flu tablets, ibuprofen, cough drops, and tea are all worth their weight in gold when you’re too weak to even change your socks. Tissues are another must-have, as are cans of soup. Canned soup is inexpensive and easy to prepare, and eating when you’re sick is necessary. You can buy all of these things before you even catch a hint of a fever – they do come in handy at other times too, especially if you need bonus-points with your flatmates.

Tulips spotted at Paris' Parc de la Villete.

Tulips spotted at Paris’ Parc de la Villete.

Post-flu products include disinfectant, laundry detergent, and solid foods to get you going again (I recommend sweet potatoes and couscous, which you can make in 5 minutes if you have a bowl and hot water).

No one likes getting sick, but what’s even worse than getting sick is¬†being sick and¬†unprepared. Trust me – your flatmates may think you’re crazy for having an entire cupboard of canned soup, but we both know the truth.

On the bright side, flu season really is beautiful – when you’re well
enough to enjoy it.

‚Äď Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.

ALEX Abroad: Musical Nights in the City of Lights

Saturday, March 25, 2017, 8:47am by

As I near my internship at NME magazine, I’ve begun to justify concert-related expenses as part of my job training. So, naturally, when I heard that Peter Doherty, one of my favorite musicians, was performing at a small venue in Paris, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.

I consider myself unusually lucky; though Paris is a two-hour flight away from Birmingham, I have the good fortune of always having a free place to stay. My boyfriend, a native Parisian, lives and studies there, which means that I get to enjoy the City of Lights without the confusion, pickpocketing, and judgemental French glances. Well…I still get the latter, but just not as often as I would if I were alone.

Musician Pete Doherty performing live.

Pete Doherty – solo artist and frontman of The Libertines and Babyshambles.

The concert took place in the underground nightclub beneath the Palais de Tokyo, a modern/minimalist museum that I hope to revisit. I insisted that we arrive an hour earlier – I don’t see the point of spending money on a concert if I don’t get to¬†see the concert. Three and a half hours later, after queuing, DJ sets, and supporting bands, we were finally front and center, ready to absorb the unique experience of seeing Pete Doherty perform. I’d elaborate on the details, but it was an action-packed night, so long story short: the almost four-hour wait was entirely worth it. He read fan letters that were tossed his way, walked right up to those of us lucky enough to be in the front row, crowd surfed, and – as a last chance bit of flair – tossed his guitar into the crowd (which my boyfriend actually caught, and I will forever be envious of. He had to give it back though).

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower, as viewed from a side street.

When the performance was finished, we walked outside for a bit of fresh air. Unbeknownst to me, we were directly across the Eiffel Tower. Now, you can pretty much¬†see the tower from any point in the city, so after a while you start forgetting it’s there. In fact, on the walk to the Palais de Tokyo I was completely unaware of its proximity. However, late at night when the tower lights up in gold it gets pretty remarkable and hard to ignore; I doubt I’ll ever get tired of seeing it. We walked to the base with the intention of taking the lift to the top (something that I sadly have yet to do) but we were just moments too late, as it had closed for the evening.

Like all cities, Paris has its ups and downs. In the midst of a refugee crisis, it isn’t all romance and glitter. The real Paris is, well,¬†real, and it’s important not to forget the true situation of the city when visiting – or any other city for that matter. Still, it is unique in its beauty and you’ll be hard pressed to find another city that can offer you all your dreams in one evening.

‚Äď Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.




ALEX Abroad: Big Band in Birmingham

Sunday, March 19, 2017, 12:36pm by

Of all the amazing things that England has to offer – and, believe me, there are plenty – the public accessibility to the arts is my favorite. About sixteen years ago, it was decided amongst a wide range of museums in the United Kingdom to offer free admission, not just to students but to all members of the public. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of those locations, and the University of Birmingham itself hosts several museums right on campus, including the Lapworth Museum of Geology and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Not one to let a free experience pass me by, I made it a point to visit each of these institutions. Recently, however, the university has distracted me with their Arts and Sciences Festival. One of the events that caught my eye, a performance by the University Big Band, took place this evening and proved to be a wonderful experience.

Led by guest performer and renowned trumpet player Bobby Shew, the University Big Band played a variety of well-known jazz pieces, including Dizzy Gillespie’s¬†A Night In Tunisia.¬†It was like being taken back in time and place; a jazz quartet performed in the entrance to the venue as guests purchased refreshments and perused the Bramall Music gallery.

Cultural events like this are not unique to Birmingham. What I recommend the most to anyone traveling, regardless of location, is to take advantage of the smaller venues and the more unusual community events. Tourist attractions and monuments are great for crossing off your bucket list, but I always find that the cozier, more spontaneous events are the most memorable and are oftentimes inexpensive, if not free.

As I near the University of Birmingham’s equivalent to mid-terms, I have a feeling that my adventures will be less spontaneous but, as usual, I look forward to whatever is to come.

‚Äď Terri, Social Media & Web Associate

For more ALEX stories, event information, and career resources, visit the ALEX site.