Rock Climbing Image.

Want to Start a New Sport? Climb with Us!

One of Purdue’s greatest facilities is Cordova Recreational Sports Center (CoRec), where students and faculty engage in various types of sports activities. It was renovated in 2012 and is now recognized as one of the best college recreation centers in the US (ranked 12th according to the website I came across: https://www.collegeconsensus.com/rankings/best-college-rec-centers/). It’s huge, and you never run out of things to do. One of the best things to do in CoRec is climbing as there are a big bouldering wall and top rope wall where you can climb for free (free entrance to CoRec as a student and free rental climbing shoes and gears) and make a lot of friends. If you’re looking for a new sport to start, I hope this blog can guide you to choose climbing.

Personally, I have been a relatively athletic kid, and I was in the track-and-field club for six years during junior and senior high school. But the training was too hard, and I didn’t find enough interest in it to continue after graduation. I would also enjoy seasonal sports, thanks to the rich nature in Japan, like surfing, skiing, and snowboarding. But I never had a sport that I engaged on a daily basis.

A year after I came to Purdue, my friend took me to the bouldering wall in CoRec. It didn’t take me weeks to fall in love with climbing. It’s like solving a puzzle. You have to try so many movements to find the correct one while trying to be as energy-efficient as possible. If you were a type of student who enjoyed solving math problems in high school like me, you’ll love bouldering too. Ever since I started climbing, I have been climbing three times a week, without missing any sessions unless I’m sick.

Th bouldering wall at the CoRec.

Climbing is a hot sport. The climbing population is increasing worldwide, and new gyms are opening everywhere. It’s going to be in the Olympics this year (2020) for the first time, and we climbers are all so excited about it. In most cases, indoor climbing has three components: bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing. Bouldering is on a relatively low wall, and thus you don’t have to use a rope. Top rope and lead climbing are on a tall wall where you have to use a rope. The difference between top rope and lead climbing is how you, as a climber, are belayed through rope. Lead climbing involves more risky and tricky belaying technique, but more advanced than top tope. In general, bouldering requires more technical and dynamic movements (like a math problem, and thus I enjoy bouldering more than rope climbing), and rope climbing requires endurance (anaerobic vs. aerobic).

Let me give you interesting info here (from IFSC website):

National team ranking for bouldering and lead climbing 2019

  1. Japan, Japan (bouldering, lead)
  2. Slovenia, Slovenia
  3. France, South Korea
  4. Austria, USA
  5. Germany, Austria

Yes, I’m trying to show you how awesome Japan is for climbing, but also, some of you may be thinking “but I’ve watched Alex Honnold’s Free Solo, and I think there are many strong American climbers too”. Yes, that is true. That’s where outdoor climbing comes in. Places like the US, Europe (like Spain), and South America, are where many people climb rocks outdoors because of their beautiful nature (availability of “climbable” rocks). Therefore, there are so many strong famous rock climbers in the US, but not many of them participate in international climbing competitions, which is all about indoor climbing. In countries like Japan, meanwhile, there are not as many places to climb outside (because of nature, but sometimes also because of inaccessibility to rocks), and indoor climbing is more popular.

If you think you’re more of an outdoor person, there is a famous rock climbing spot in Kentucky called Red River Gorge. It’s about 5 hours driving from Purdue, and they often have international visitors too. It’s so much fun to make a weekend trip out there with climbing friends. In any case, if you want to start indoor climbing or outdoor climbing, I will always be happy to show you, or just talk to random people at the CoRec wall. The climbing community is full of nice people, and they are always happy to welcome new climbers.

The writer is a Ph.D. candidate in Forestry at Purdue University.

Learn more about other graduate student organizations at Purdue here: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/student/organizations/index.html

Three Minute Thesis Competition – a great opportunity for graduate students to stand out

The Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) is kind of a speech contest for graduate students. They talk about their research (thesis) in three minutes with only one slide. It is not a conference-like talk, but rather a speech; they don’t introduce themselves in the presentation, there is no Q&A session afterward, and they are disqualified if the presentation exceeds three minutes. 3MT started in the University of Queensland and expanded to other universities including Purdue. Purdue Graduate School organizes this exciting event every Spring, where a big number of Purdue graduate students participate every time. (for more information, see Purdue 3MT website).

I learned about this event from Dr. Linda Mason, the Dean of the Graduate School. She is a science communication professional and offers graduate seminars/workshops every semester. Just like other students, I was so attracted by her passions and the way she talked in the seminars. That was the time I started thinking about participating in 3MT. But it seemed to be a big challenge – talking in public is definitely out of my comfort zone, and as an international student, I thought I was already having a linguistic disadvantage. I shared this feeling with my fiance – hey, I kind of want to try this, but I don’t know if I can do it. Then he, without trying to encourage me or anything, just went straight to the Purdue 3MT webpage and registered me.

The preliminary round was just me talking in a regular classroom in front of three judges. The absence of a big public audience minimized my nervousness. Luckily, or maybe thanks to the fridge in my apartment that was listening to my practice every night, I was selected as a finalist among 100 participants.

Unlike the preliminary round, the final took place in the newly-built, huge auditorium in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center. I thought I would be extremely nervous but my confidence level had increased since being selected as a finalist. My friends came to watch me, and I tried to do the power posture to just pretend that I was a superwoman (if you haven’t watched Dr. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, I highly recommend it for those who have low self-confidence like me). And the miracle happened; I was placed second among the eleven finalists. That was one of the few experiences (or maybe the only one) where I’ve been under the spotlight. I felt even a little shy on the stage.

Purdue Three Minute Thesis Competition 2018. All the eleven finalists and Dr. Linda Mason (left).

This all happened last year, April 2018; but, the story didn’t end. Earlier this year of 2019, I received an email from one of the 3MT organizers saying “would you be interested in participating in the Midwest Three Minute Thesis Competition in St Louis?” I didn’t wait for a second to say yes.

I couldn’t make another miracle happen in my second 3MT experience. There were 40+ students representing each university in the Midwest, and all the talks were high-level. Some talks were even entertaining to make the audience laugh. Although I didn’t make it to the final, it was a wonderful experience to see all the talks and interact with the participants. I couldn’t believe that Purdue provides such a fantastic opportunity for a student like me.

The Midwest Three Minute Thesis Competition 2019 held in St. Louis. Representatives of Midwestern universities.

Waiting for my returning flight at the St. Louis airport, I was writing a thank-you email to the Purdue 3MT organizers who sent me to St. Louis. Then, one of them asked me, “would you be interested in being a judge in Purdue 3MT this year?” Wow, my 3MT journey never ends.

People at Purdue are respectful and inclusive, both students and faculty/staffs. I feel all the students (both domestic and international students) are equally treated and respected, and I believe this is a very important factor when you choose graduate school. Furthermore, there is plenty of opportunities where you can challenge yourself, stand out and grow as a professional researcher. 3MT is just one of many opportunities. I can’t wait to see what’s coming up next in my graduate life at Purdue!