UPenn Graduation: Just call me Master

Just over 5 years ago, I graduated from that Southern Part of Heaven, that priceless gem, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In a sea of Carolina blue, I wildly waved my tye-dyed mortar board in hopes to catch the attention of my family across Kenan Stadium. I was 21, gainfully employed, with the world at my fingertips.

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Fast-forward to yesterday, May 19, 2014. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. The trash trucks were moving and shaking, because Monday is trash pickup day in my neighborhood. Luckily, I didn’t need their rumbling to act as an alarm. I could hardly sleep as it was. I get the same way when there’s a big trip in my future, or when I have someone visiting…. It was the day I was graduating from Penn and, after 2 years of toiling over projects and papers and field work and research… I was readier than I ever could have imagined. A few tweaks to the basic black graduation cap purchased from Penn, and VOILA! Let’s do this.

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My dear friend Samantha and I suited up (robed up?) and headed towards what might be the most inspiring graduation procession I could fathom. Penn has this incredible tradition called the procession of degree candidates, or simply the procession. Graduates from every school, program, and corner of campus gather together in their robes to saunter through campus which is surrounded by onlookers, faculty, staff, and Penn community members, many of whom come out every year, who are cheering, congratulating, and celebrating right along with us. As the MPH program is rather small, we were placed right next to the med students. 

IMG_9888I’m not a doctor…. but I get the feeling this won’t be the last time I’ll be marching alongside them in my career.

Arguably the most touching aspect of the procession is passing through the tunnel of flags held by Penn alumni from days of yore. As you pass, each and every one looks you in the eye, shouting out congratulations, clapping, and welcoming you to the fold.

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Quakers dating back to the Class of 1944 acted as the ultimate welcome wagon, before we rushed over to Franklin Field for the top show in town. But before we got there, we passed on other living Legend.

IMG_9893See what I did there?

John Legend, biggest man on campus (at least for the day), was our commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Music degree. After calming down a bit after spotting John, we waltzed onto the field (ashamed to say this was my first time, where’s your school spirit, JP?!)

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It was a packed house, with robes of all colors representing students in the fields of medicine, design, law, social work, and engineering, as well as undergrads, business school kids…. goodness, the list could go on seemingly forever.

The speeches were incredible. President Amy Gutmann spoke of the soundtrack to our Penn experience, complete with a performance of Gangam Style, because she’s a boss like that.

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John Legend explained to us that they key to happiness is opening your mind and your heart to love… How when you truly care about something, you want to lead. Apathy is no longer cool (I’m not sure it ever was…) And I won’t pretend that we didn’t get a little serenade…. it pays to have 9-time Grammy winners as alums.

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And before I knew it, it was time to turn my tassel, as I’d officially joined the ranks of Penn Alumni myself. Of course, that doesn’t account for the jog I had to make to my own, smaller graduation ceremony, specifically of the Public Health department.

There were a few speakers…. Oh, and I was one of them.

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There was no serenade on my end, but a discussion of absolute truths, the world changers among our group, and, of course, Law and Order: SVU.

I promise, it made sense at the time.

And then, just as swiftly as it began, my time as a graduate student at Penn ended. I was surrounded by beloved friends and family, laughter (and a few tears…. I am a sensitive Sally), and then my folks and I scurried off for some steak, potatoes, and sparkling wine. I can’t think of a better send off into the world of adulthood (again).

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You might be wondering, “What’s next, Jordan?” Well, we’ll keep that a little mysterious. But let’s just say it’ll involve gainful employment, a lot more opportunities for blogging, plenty of adventures…. and it’ll all be in Philly.

I’m sticking around my fair city of brotherly love, and can’t wait to see what it’s got in store now that I’ll be rocking that steady income and that 9-5ish.

Stay tuned, because your girl’s back.

 

 

Free(food) Isn’t Free

At UNC, it was Pokey Sticks, pizza, hush puppies, and Bojangles.

I’m cool with that.

And, with age, comes maturity, right?

Like a really mature cheese.

A Swiss gruyere, perhaps?

Or a very mature… Whoopie Pie from Cupcake and Whoopie Cravings.

Red Velvet = sexual chocolate

Instead of the All-American/All-Southern foods, we get a diverse mix of international cuisines.

Veggie lo-mein, quinoa and wheatberry salad, HOLY MACKEREL what a spread!!

But, no matter whether you’re getting a greasy Pokey Stick in your dorm building’s meeting or gourmet salami picante and Margherita pizza at a Happy Hour for Public Health students, at the end of the day, free food is NOT free.

DAMN YOU, SUPERIOR INGREDIENTS!!

I know it’s been the case with me. I’ve been thinking to myself YEESH grad school is so expensive. I have nothing in the way of a steady income (though I am loving the Athleta job, it’s certainly not a 40-hour career gig that can support city living) and ANYTHING free is better then spending my own money, right?

Wrong.

Last week, with all sorts of events going on for school and a little bit of wobbling when it came to getting accustomed to my new working-girl schedule, I found myself rushing around campus going to any and all events that were free and sponsored by campus. Collecting cookies, soft pretzels, and hot dogs for the run. Thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t shelling out my dollars on expensive salads and grilled chicken. And then it hit me.

With the effort that I was putting forth finding the times for these events, mapping out the destination and the route to get there, and considering time is money… I was spending quite a bit on these “free” meals.

Their nutritional value was rarely better than the slop you’d find at a fast food restaurant or a massive buffet. Hamburgers, pasta salad, hot dogs, snack-bar cookies, brownies. And the occasional fruit cup and quinoa salad didn’t really offset the unhealthy other junk.

The result of the week?

blub blub blub

I’m feeling like a pufferfish, head to toe.

So this weekend, I went out, nabbed some grapes, some chicken breasts, frozen veggies, and spinach at my local Superfresh. Instead of taking the bus there, I jogged. And I prepared food for the week.

For when I have to eat lunch/dinner at work, I picked up some sandwich thins, lunch meat, onion, and fruits for my lunch bag. No rushing over to McDonalds for convenience and cheap burgers.

Turns out that the cost of this free food was surprisingly steep. My self-esteem, my energy, my time, and my digestive system.  And that’s just not worth it, not at all.

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and I think I might have with that disembodied wisdom.

Ever fall into the “Free Food” trap? 

Any advice for navigating it without ending up puffy and sad?

I’d say avoid the carbs, that’s going to be the very worst part of the meal most of the time. The hot dog buns, the noodles, the cookies… they ended up as the lowest of the low quality.

 

 

 

 

Philly: The School of Hard Knocks and Soft Pretzels

I’ve officially survived the first week and some change of grad school, and came out without a scratch! Maybe a corneal scratch or two, I’ve been doing a lot of reading (actually, I highly doubt that corneal scratches come from reading, and I’m pretty sure that my best friend, the optometrist, would smack me for saying such a thing). But, beyond the classroom walls, the outlining, the biostatistics, I’ve learned a few other bits and pieces on the mean smelly streets of Philadelphia. And, since I’ve been doing enough writing for school on things that might not fit into this blog (The effects of tar balls on public health! The Theory of Reasoned Action and how it influences condom use! The history of voluntary abortion in India!), I figured I’d share a few tidbits on the blog so that each of you can get a little tutelage from little old me.

1. Have your cake and eat it, too.

Or, in my case, find a place to work and workout, too.

Second home?

You’re reading the words of one of Athleta’s newest employees. And, even though I’ll soon be better dressed in the gym than I usually am outside of the gym, I promise not to forget the little people that brought me to this point (if you’re reading this, I’m probably talking about you.)

One of the major perks of working somewhere filled with like-minded athletes and fitness Barbies like myself? Workout classes IN THE STORE!!

Athleta just was identified by Be Well Philly as the best place for free workout classes and, after finally trying one on Thursday morning, I can see why. In 40 minutes, I broke a sweat, burned over 500 calories AND was surrounded by adorable clothing that just screamed out “buy me, buy me!” I held off (waiting until I actually get my first paycheck, before I blow it on clothes) BUT it was definitely worth the trip over.

2. You can ALWAYS find X cheaper if you look hard enough. 

Deal on grapes at Whole Foods?

Go to Trader Joe’s.  Too expensive there?

Try Superfresh.  That not doing it for you?

Farmer’s Market.

Shopping around, when you have the time, can save you a buttload. You just have to make the effort. Luckily, I’ve got the time AND am a notorious cheapskate. A dynamic combination….

3. Be Aggressive. B-E AGGRESSIVE!

Ok, maybe this isn’t going to work for everyone. And, honestly, I don’t even know if it’s working for me. BUT I’m taking a fairly aggressive approach to befriending people. If I find out their last name, I’m friending them. If I can get their number, I’ll text em. AND, if there’s a chance to interact with my peers outside of class… I’m doing it.

Silly happy hour photos at the Mutter Museum? I’m there.

We’ll see how this goes in the long run….

4. Find Joy in the Little Things

Got a three hour class on the more complicated theories that form the basis for public health policy and interventions?

At least there’s a view…

Penn’s coat-of-arms is gorgeous. 

Also a little joy?

This solar-powered dancing sunflower, which is only happy when it’s sunny out.

Sound like anyone else you know?

5. Free? I’ll take it.

Yes, I know I said I’m a cheapskate. And you know what’s even cheaper than cheap?

Free.

Today, I stopped at the RnR Philly expo to see what all you crazy runners were fussing about…. Then I stopped by the Reading Terminal Market for some goodies. The sum of my experience?

Score.

The cost?

Zilch.

Be resourceful, check twitter, and who knows? You might take that old phrase “No such thing as a free lunch” and flip it right on its head.

6. YOLO

Last minute bus trip to NYC for the weekend, leaving in 30 hours?

Pretend that’s me in there.

Jeez, living in the Northeast is easy.

Agenda today? Quick trip to Rittenhouse Square for some art walking then DATE NIGHT with the beau!!

Learning is so fun.

 

Grad School vs. Kindergarten

And, just like that, I’m in grad school. I’m making moves, I’m taking Philly and UPenn by storm, and my higher education is top priority.  Yesterday was my very first day of classes and, though I was PAINFULLY excited, I was also silly-nervous. Was the teacher gonna be hard? Would there be mean girls  a la Elle Woods’ first day in law school? Would anyone sit next to me? What was the difference between nominal and interval-ratio, again?

Luckily, my intro to Biostats class was the ideal first class to have. My professor was friendly, adorable, and “loved” that I was named Jordan (boy’s name for a girl! HOW NOVEL!!)  As I listened to the lecture (for which I was incredibly prepared for, as I’d been “that girl” who did all the reading before the first day), I found my mind drifting a bit. Primarily to the fact that, despite almost all the students being 25+ (with a few “young’ns” clocking in at 21-22), this wasn’t so different from another first day I had, years and years ago.  Maybe like… 20 years ago.  Like Kindergarten.

And, though I’m not the first person to make this comparison, my personal experience revealed both major similarities, and stark differences.

Like Kindergarten, I pored over my first day of class outfit. And, also like Kindergarten, I chose a pink dress.

LET’S LEARN!

Like Kindergarten, I took the bus to school (at least, like most Kindergarteners, I was spoiled and got driven).

Unlike Kindergarten, it looked like this:

Where’s my yellow schoolbus?

Like Kindergarten, I had a nutritious lunch to fuel my big day.

Unlike Kindergarten, I cooked it in an oven, and served it with avocado and salsa. I don’t think I even knew what an avocado WAS back in the day.

Trader Joe’s Pizza al Polla Asado – $1.99 at TJ’s, SO tasty!

Like Kindergarten, we all introduced ourselves and said what animal we wish we could be.  (Mine was a Jellyfish. No surprise there.)

Unlike Kindergarten, we followed up with what school/program we were from… This was different unless you had PhD candidates for Bioengineering in your Kindergarten classes. I’m 98% sure we did not (though who knows about that one geeky kid with the swanky Lunchables container he designed himself…)

Like Kindergarten, we had snack time in the middle of class.

Unlike Kindergarten, snack time consisted of Rainier cherries, goat cheese, manchego, cracked pepper water crackers, and Pirouettes.

Thanks, Professor!!

Like Kindergarten, we were all eager to learn and meet each other.

Unlike Kindergarten, the plans we made for the future were not for playdates and sandbox trysts, but for happy hours and Restaurant Week.

And, as I got home after class and sat down to a dinner of crock-pot pulled pork and a bit of reading for my next class, I realized that, even though the (used) textbook I’m reading is titled Health Behavior and Health Education and doesn’t have ANY pictures, just like Kindergarten, it’s filled with illegible handwriting that might as well have come from a 5-year old.

Solid chicken scratch, bro.

Ah, it’s good to know some things will never change.

What was your favorite thing about the first day(s) of school?

 

Feels Like Falling for the First Time…

I’m feeling those little tingles and jingles that I haven’t felt for 7 years. There is a change in the air, and it’s not just the pollen. I’m getting lost and spending far too much money on textbooks, and all of the sudden, I’m on the same level as the 2,500 17-19 year olds scampering around the campus of University of Pennsylvania… Where on EARTH is my Trapper Keeper?

Yup, I’ve found a new love and, though there’s a bit of an age difference (try 247 years… rob the cradle much?) I think we have a solid future ahead.

Ben Franklin – Founder of UPenn and general badass extraordinaire

I spent yesterday doing typical first year things…. I panicked when I couldn’t get into a building, I stumbled over the uneven bricks, I took a campus tour, and I checked out some frat boys (totally platonic, I got my own frat boy at home).

Delta Psi ’til I die

Visiting the UPenn chapter of my OWN fraternity (though, at UNC, it’s co-ed and basically 100% different from the UPenn chapter) brought back so many feelings of excitement and anticipation, feelings I never thought I’d have again after graduating from UNC.  And, of course, I picked up the standard amount of Swag for any new student to campus.

Praise be, this shirt’s free (other than that massive tuition bill I paid…)

Hell, I even got a LANYARD!

(Anyone else remember how attached they were to their first-year lanyard? And how devastated you were the first time you lost it/it broke? So many feelings…)

I’m too excited for words. There’s this feeling I get exploring my new home for the next few years… an electricity in the air, a general “anything can happen” vibe that fills the air. And even though I spent this morning shelling out some more bucks for textbooks (that’s one semesterly purchase I did NOT miss) and going over all the readings I have to do before classes even start (What happened to syllabus week being for parties and free foods?), nothing is going to bring me down.  I gotta get some notebooks, some highlighters, and a few reinforcers I’ll never use, and invest in a solid chunk of Lisa Frank goodies.  It’s back to school, baby, and this makes it official.

Too Legit.

What is/was your favorite thing about going back to school?

Best school supplies?