A leadership experience can benefit you in so many positive ways, both in the short and long term. I would like to highlight three of them. First, a leadership experience can give you a competitive edge over other candidates when you apply for a job. Employers now look for leadership experience as they know that a candidate with some sort of leadership exposure will be able to deal with a situation more effectively. Next, a leadership experience can help you build connections, which you can utilize throughout your professional career. Finally, it can develop your interpersonal skills. You will get to communicate with a lot of people through your role in a particular club or association, and you will acquire different skill sets in the process.
Purdue University will provide you with many opportunities to experience leadership. My leadership journey started with volunteering for the Bangladesh Students Association in my first year. In my second year, I was elected as the president of the association. My volunteering experience in the first year gave me an opportunity to observe the association and learn how events are organized at Purdue. During my presidency in my second year, I organized several events on behalf of the association. I would like to highlight two of them. The first event was the Bangladesh Artist Festival where we were able to invite two of our prominent musical groups from Bangladesh to perform at Purdue. The event was open to all Purdue students and the community to learn more about Bangladeshi music. We were awarded a Student Fee Advisory Board (SFAB) ($58,000) grant to organize two such concerts. This also represents Purdue’s strengths in financing big events led by student organizations.
The second event that I would like to mention is the Celebration of International Mother Language Day. International mother language day is internationally observed on February 21, and the day originated from the language movement in Bangladesh. In this event, we also involved eleven other countries to showcase their culture through different performances. It was highly appreciated by the attendees for its diversity and inclusiveness. This was funded by a One Community grant from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Because my experience was so enriching with this student organization, I decided to lead another student organization, the Purdue Association of Learning Design & Technology (PALDT,) as the president in the current academic year.
The message that I wanted to convey through these examples is that you can also lead many such events at Purdue! Student Activities and Organizations (SAO), the unit that oversees student organizations, will be happy to support you in every possible way. The first step would be to find a student organization that you like and join that organization in some capacity. After that, you can plan on taking an officer role and execute your events! The sky is the limit for Boilermakers!
I believe graduate school is one of the most important decisions you can make for your life. When you are going to college, you may not have the freedom or the means to select the university you want. However, going to graduate school is your own choice, and I felt the pressure to choose wisely. I remember making my list of things that a graduate school should have to deserve my dedication to the application process. I applied to five different universities, but Purdue was always my first choice.
Before selecting the university list, you need to define your own professional goals. And remember, graduate school, especially a Ph.D. degree, will be demanding and time-consuming. So, it is better to put your effort into something you want. Here was my list of priorities:
1) International world rankings: If I spend money and time on a graduate degree, I want that degree to be internationally recognized. And civil engineering at Purdue fulfilled this requisite easily. As a prospective graduate student, here are a few sources to check out:
2) Living costs: Did you know that each state in the USA can have different living costs? As a graduate student, the budget is my responsibility. Even for visa purposes, you need to check how much money you will need to have. Depending on the location of the university, you may need much more. Purdue is located in the state of Indiana in a small city called West Lafayette. These characteristics showed me that I could have a better-quality of life on a student budget.
3) Funding sources: Purdue is a massive university with more than 45 thousand students. And to attend this enormous student population, a significant infrastructure is necessary. The university has many student employment options that are incredibly helpful during your academic life.
4) Laboratory infrastructure: To study far away from home, there needs to be a reason. The university needs to have something that I could not find in other places. The impressive Bowen Laboratory is a research facility beyond expectations. With more resources available to you, your research and your career can go further.
5) Purdue spirit: I confess that I didn´t know about it before I arrived at the university, but it ended up confirming my choice to attend Purdue. It is a place where everybody wants to do their best. The students do not wish for grades “enough to pass”; they want to be the best student in the class. Graduate students want to solve big problems in the world. Professors and employees want to help students in any way they can. Everybody is proud to wear Purdue gear and apparel. When you are surrounded by people trying to do their best, you also push yourself harder to achieve more.
Moving to a new place is always difficult. You are not familiar with the city, have no idea where anything is located or where you need to go, and you don’t have any friends just yet. Such a transition can be especially stressful for international students who come to the U.S. for the first time. Adjusting to the new culture can be quite challenging (especially during your first semester), and it usually takes some time. Typically, making friends with American people really helps with the transition, because your American friends can introduce you to their culture and the American way of living. But…how do you make friends with Americans in the first place? Surely, not all of us are lucky enough to be born with the natural talent of making friends easily. However, all of us international students here at Purdue are lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the International Friendship Program, or IFP, during our first semester in West Lafayette!
IFP helps new international students and scholars connect with the community by matching them with a local host or host family. The friendships that are formed as a result of such pairings help new students and scholars adjust to the new culture, and make their transition to living in Greater Lafayette area easier. All you need to do is sign up for the program, and then your IFP host will contact you to arrange some fun activities for you to do together approximately once a month.
Personally, I did my undergrad studies in the States, so I wasn’t new to the U.S. when I came to Purdue; however, I was new to Indiana and West Lafayette. Being paired with my IFP host, Linda, has really helped me during my first semester at Purdue. She has invited me to participate in a number of really fun activities organized by her church.
We went to the Fall Festival and screening of the movie Hidden Figures, saw a performance of A Christmas Carol and attended a Purdue Women’s Tennis team match. Linda connected me with many Russian-speaking students, as well as some Russian-speaking professors (it turned out that she had spent several years living in my home country and speaks fluent Russian!). Although the IFP technically only lasts for one semester, many students become such good friends with their hosts that they stay in touch with them long after that semester is over! Linda and I were matched back in August of 2018, but we still exchange messages on a regular basis and do something together from time to time. I am very thankful to the IFP program for giving me a long-term American friend, and strongly encourage all the new international students and scholars coming to Purdue to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!
I have heard that fraternity and sorority are kind of a must-joining for undergraduate students in their college life especially there are some movies talking about the Greek life. People are proud of being brothers or sisters in their fraternity or sorority. They have the same missions and goals to complete some projects. In most of movies, they describe the fraternity and sorority in a funny, weird, and downside way. It seems like people only do parties and hang over all the time. But, how about in the real life? Is it true that brothers’ and sisters’ lives are what movies demonstrate? Also some people think honor society as an evil cult. The elites do something secret and are isolated. Is that true? Let me tell you MY experiences and break the rumors.
I joined Eta Kappa Nu (ΗΚΝ) Beta Chapter, an honor society for students who excel in the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. HKN or IEEE-HKN is the international honor society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The organization promotes excellence in the profession and in education through an emphasis on scholarship, character, and attitude. Membership is a lifelong designation for individuals who have distinguished themselves as students or as professionals in the fields of IEEE interest. There are 263 IEEE-HKN chapters worldwide now. Membership in HKN is limited to the top third of seniors, the top fourth of juniors, and the top fifth of sophomores. Graduate students are also eligible for membership beginning in their second semester of graduate study.
One day there was an email for HKN callout. I had no idea what it was but my friend wanted to attend and encouraged me to go. So, I went to the callout and learned what HKN was and how to become a member. Before being initiated as an active member, people are called “pledges,” and pledges need to complete all requirements before the initiation. In Beta Chapter, for example, some requirements are volunteering for a community service project, attending one social event (TGIF), and participating in lounge cleaning. After completing all requirements, pledges go to initiation, a ceremony conducted by the officers of HKN to induct the pledges into the honor society of HKN. Since the initiation is unique and secret in every honor society, I will not talk more about this exciting part (Come join and you will discover!)
After being as an active member, there are still some requirements that members need to complete every semester such as doing at least 2 hours community service and ECE service, working weekly Person-On-Duty (POD) at the Lounge, etc.
Since I did many volunteering service in the Greater Lafayette, one of my recruitment directors, Héctor E Rodríguez, encouraged me to be the Volunteer Director. I would really like to thank him for starting my leadership development. I was successfully elected as Volunteer Director. During that year, I have provided many volunteer opportunities for the members to participate. They were all inspired by my passion and did a great job on the service. Now they have good relationship with some community partners and volunteering with them regularly. Under my hardworking, HKN was nominated for “The Community Engagement & Involvement Award” in the annual Student Activities and Organization award in 2014.
Besides, I have learned how to contact people and organizations efficiently, how to encourage students when they felt bored or tired during the service, and how to lead people. I now feel more confident while talking to foreign friends. Also, I have become more outgoing and think positively. Lots of my friends are also inspired by my enthusiasm and now we are doing the happy volunteer service together! The leadership made me more organized and communicative.
A year later, another Recruitment Director, Nadra Guizani, encouraged me to be the President when I expressed my interest. I felt it was a good opportunity to lead HKN but I was not sure I had this ability to do that. She gave me many positive supports and……. I was elected!
When I was President in Spring 2015, HKN had the most members ever, and still many ECE students were interested in and wanted to join the society. My goal was to make HKN more publicity and have our members more united. I made the sandwich board and put outside ECE building, so all the people have chance to come to our very own student lounge and buy delicious coffees. In the meantime, I also tried to connect members in a good relationship and to give back to ECE Department.
I was so happy to join HKN and did not regret. I met many smart and nice people, and we supported each other. I want to especially thank my two Recruitment Directors, Héctor E Rodríguez and Nadra Guizani, for bringing me to the HKN and they are like my mentors. They helped me and encouraged me a lot in many ways so I could try many new things in HKN. I also understand more about myself, how I react to different situations, how to negotiate and compromise, how to solve the conflict, etc.
I am honored to be HKN member!
How about fraternity? Stay tuned! That will be another fantastic story!
This week is Purdue Homecoming week. What is homecoming? I looked up the dictionary and could not find a good translation since in Asia we don’t have this term. Homecoming is an annual tradition in the United States. People welcome back alumni and former residents with a series of activities such as a banquet, a football game played on a school’s home football field, and a parade featuring the school’s marching band. Besides these activities, the school also selects homecoming court. The homecoming court is a representative group of students who are completing their final years of study at their school and who have done a lot to contribute to their school. It is extremely honor to be selected in the court. The entire student body votes for the Queen and King.
In 2016, the Purdue Student Union Board was looking for involved and enthusiastic candidates for the 2016 Homecoming Court. Selection of the court was based on the candidate’s essay, resume, academic achievement, extracurricular activities, and community involvement. I told myself that I should give a try in my school life! I had a strong involvement at Purdue, doing tons of volunteering service, building leadership at many organizations, and receiving many scholarship and awards on campus. Therefore, I started to write the essay why I was proud to be Boilermaker and what my most rewarding Purdue experience was and why.
In the end of May, I got an email from PSUB. Congratulations! You have been selected to be the 2016 Homecoming Court! I was selected!! The FIRST EVER international graduate student was selected in the homecoming court! I was over the moon, and I would be going to sit on the convertible car and do my queen’s wave in the homecoming parade!
After being selected, I was planning to make a fun and attractive button and a catchy slogan during the campaign. In 2016, people were crazy for Pokemon Go. Therefore, I decided to make a poke ball button so people could catch me all. Some of my friends helped me design as well. Where should I put my name in the ball? How big of my name should be in the button so everyone could see it clearly. What font should I use? What color of poke ball should I choose? Generally the ball was red, but the red color was a feud color. After long discussions and modifications in several weeks, I used Purdue gold for showing my loyalty.
For the slogan, since my number was five, I had give me five, pick I-Fan and high five I-Fan. But I was not satisfied with them until a teacher suggested me the catchy slogan: “I am a Fan of I-Fan.” Therefore, I also made a formal button and a banner for it.
The official campaign started on Monday 6pm and lasted for ten days. If candidates did any advertisement before 6pm, they would lose points. At 8pm, I started to post my flyers and I saw some candidates’ posters at every store around Chauncey Hill. Only two hours! I could not believe that they did it so fast in only two hours. They must have had a campaign team! My friend and I only posted 5 flyers in the first evening. I had no experience of campaigning and got very frustrated. However, if I gave up now, the game was over ahead of time. I would not be easily defeated. The next day, I sank my teeth into the campaign. I carried my heavy posters to every restaurant and store off-campus for their permission to post my flyer in their places. Most of them were happy to support and were super proud that I was selected in the homecoming court. Finally, I distributed around 60 posters in the Greater Lafayette. I even distributed my poster to Silver Dipper located in Sagamore Parkway and in Exploration Acres, the largest corn maze in Northwest Indiana. People told me that they saw my posters everywhere. I made my goal.
On Thursday, I just realized that if I chalked on concrete sidewalks, I did not need to clean it after the campaign since the rain would wash it automatically. Therefore, I started to chalk. One of the reasons was I had given out all 300 buttons I made. But rather than generally chalking such as vote for I-Fan, my friend told me that we could chalk poke balls just like the button I designed. So, we chalked several fun poke balls on the ground. Unfortunately, this chalking disappeared the next day. There was no rain in the evening. I was very disappointed but I had not given up. During the weekend, I was on fire. I chalked a lot in the popular and important places on campus such as CoRec entrance, Engineering Mall, PMU, bus stop, and Elliot Hall. Take a look. The fun fact was other candidates mimicked my idea and started to chalk creatively. The PSUB Homecoming committee also told me I did a great job.
During the campaign, I also showed my big banner when walking on campus or on bus. In the beginning, I was shy and embarrassed. I did not like people staring at me all the time, but it was also a good time to be brave. I would regret if I did not do my best. Therefore, in the last two days, I held my banner naturally and gracefully walking on campus.
The final selection was based on the interview (50%) and general body votes (50%). The formal interview was held by a panel of judges composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders. The interview was about 15 minutes with six questions.
Finally, I did not get crowned because I did not do very well on the interview part unfortunately. I did not prepare for the interview and did not present/advertise myself to the judges well.
But I was told by PSUB that I got the most popular vote! My hard work paid back. (That was also my main goal.)
I was honored to be selected in the homecoming court, and really glad to have this opportunity to be involved in the American’s tradition. I also thank my friends and many organizations with their fully support such as PGSG and Purdue Bands & Orchestras Department. My advisor also was excited and gave me some suggestions for the campaign. Some of my friends told me in the beginning that it was impossible to get votes and competed with undergraduate students. But, you never know until you try. Never give up and nothing is impossible!
Hellooooo World!!! I am David and in this post I am going to talk about one of the (special) days that I have lived and enjoyed here at Purdue University.
First of all, you would say… “this guy made a mistake in the title.” Well, that may be true, but read it again slowly… As a graduate student, everyday is different, everyday is atypical because you have the power to organize yourself, to build each day as a different day and not stick to the routine (or stick to it if it is what you need). That is why I call this piece of enjoyable reading “an ordinary atypical day as graduate student.”
The day I am going to talk about was a Cold Day in the Sun and it was special because I went to one of the best concerts I have ever been. It was one of These Days that you wake up and you say: “David, today you have to give The Best of You ” and you get up with energy because you know what is coming. The good thing of being in grad school is that you do not have imposed everyday schedules and the bad thing is that you have deadlines and meetings.
Two of them were scheduled for that morning. I always complain about meeting, I think I have too many, that distract me from doing research that is what I want to do All my Life. But I have to recognize that meetings in graduate school teach you as much as the research itself if one is able to see the big picture. Being a researcher is not only to spend time in the lab, but built confidence on yourself and your work and share it with the research community. This last part, in which a lot of us (young researchers) miserably fail is the Generator of future research. In meetings you can learn how to interact with people, how to express your ideas to different kind of public and how to motivate young researchers (also, sometimes you learn how you should not behave, but let’s stick to the positive things).
The two morning meetings were exhausting for My Poor Brain, so we decided to go have lunch around Lafayette. There are amazing places to eat here in Lafayette-West Lafayette. I think the multicultural environment around the university has brought the best of each place around the world to this town in Indiana. The food is one of them and I especially enjoy Asiatic food so we decided to go to a Japanese restaurant here in West Lafayette (I will not write names to avoid advertising buuuut if you need info about good food around here you can reach me).
After lunch, time to do research. This is something important that I have learned during my time at Purdue: even when you are Exhausted, you have to progress everyday in your research. You choose your pace and the way you do it, since normally supervisors leave you Enough Space to be your own boss the most part of the time, but the progress needs to be there. So that special and cold day, I spent four hours in the lab before hitting the road for that concert I waited Everlong. The concert, unfortunately, was not in West Lafayette, but if you (or one of your friends) have a car it is normal to drive one or two hours to see one amazing spectacle that normally you are not able to enjoy in the place you are from. Lafayette is one hour drive from Indianapolis where I have been in several concerts of all kind of music and sports spectacles as NBA games, NFL games and motor races in the famous Motor Speedway of Indianapolis. If one drives North for two hours, one arrives to the Windy City: Chicago. Obviously if in Indianapolis you can enjoy all the aforementioned shows, you cannot imagine in Chicago, but this will be for another post.
Coming back to our special day, we drove west to Urbana, Illinois. It is a place similar to Lafayette, maybe a bit bigger, but one of the best groups of the world (and history) was playing there. The concert was amazing. It was a three hours concert with the top hits of this group, which name for the moment I have not mentioned. When you go to a concert like that, it is difficult to put in a paper how you and the people around you feel, so if you are curious, you know… come to Purdue.
A nice moment during the concert.
The concert finished around midnight, and we had to come back home. Moreover, when you pass from Illinois to Indiana you have to add one hour more, so at the end of the day (or the beginning of the next day) we were pretty much dead, and you feel even worse thinking that the next day I had another meeting. But I know that Times Like These are unforgettable in all the senses, for work and for leisure so I always enjoy the ride to Purdue and at Purdue, and I am ready to Learn to Fly thanks to the Boilermaker spirit!!
I hope you enjoy the reading and for future posts… I’ll Stick Around so you should too!
Best wishes to everyone!
David Gonzalez Cuadrado
P.S.: I did not say the name of the band…. If you are fans you should have guessed it in the second paragraph!! For the ones not into rock music, go to Youtube, look for the bold and cursive titles in the text and enjoy the music!!
Home Away from Home
When I moved to West Lafayette in August 2015, I did not expect to discover my new Home. Although I was floored by the hospitality of the local people, I yearned for something connected to India. I saw numerous Indian students in Purdue campus, but in the College of Education, I did not meet many.
A casual walk one day revealed a “little India” here. Just across the road from my apartment was the Indian cultural center. With my heart pounding within my rib cage, I entered the building which looked more like a huge shed. There was a little Hindu temple attached to a very big hall with a stage on one side. Bharatiya Temple & Cultural Center of Greater Lafayette or BTCCGL is the organization that runs all operations in the cultural center.
There were several flyers pinned neatly on a soft board which revealed that there existed a vibrant Indian community in this city. Few words exchanged with the lonely couple sitting there, threw more light on the center’s activities. On weekends, besides religious activities, the center offered Yoga, Sanskrit, Bal Vihar and Bagwad Gita classes. This was like any town or city in India. Little did I expect this here. I paid a visit on a Saturday and was amazed at the number of people attending the classes, both parents and little kids dressed in colorful Indian attire. If I was shocked by their numbers which was, say around 50, it was nothing compared to a bigger tremor that was coming.
On Diwali, an important festival of India, the hall attached to the temple was full to capacity. I walked into the hall, being drawn by the aroma of Indian food and was taken aback by the sheer numbers of people. There were nearly 400 people at any time and people kept leaving and coming continuously. I asked a friend, (yes, I made some friends) whether all the people were connected to Purdue. She replied that several Indians worked in companies like Caterpillar and in the many research laboratories in West Lafayette and Indianapolis. Parents worked in Indianapolis and preferred to have their homes in WL because of the good schools and safe environment. They did not mind commuting to Indy every day. This is a lot to say about any place.
In WL, all the Indian festivals were celebrated with great pomp and show. I enjoyed dressing in Indian attire, which I do rarely when in campus, and eating mouth-watering food from every state of India. There was always a grand spread of 7-8 dishes and soon I started looking forward to any celebration. I came to know that every festival was celebrated by the Indian community with great fanfare. Moreover, all these activities were organized by BTCCGL volunteers. Men and women and even children participated eagerly in organizing events, dancing, singing, putting up plays, maintaining a small library and what not.
Come November, I bought tickets to go to the Celebration of India event organized by the Indian Women’s Association or IWA. The Faith West community center was full. Now, were there a 1000 people or 1500? I never even thought in my wildest dreams that a little city like West Lafayette located in the United States, would have these many Indians. There were Purdue professors, Purdue students, their families, engineers from companies, doctors and people from every profession.
As is normal back home, there were numerous dance performances and bands belting out music from Indian movies of various languages. Performers traveled all the way from India to entertain the population here. Again, there was food, food, food……. from samosas to biriyani, all my fav food was there. My excitement was evident when I related my experiences to my mother that night. “Are there so many Indian families,” she wondered.
The story of the Indian community in WL will not be complete without me talking about the IWA. The small but efficient group of ladies organized several fun activities like summer picnics, Cricket matches and Holi celebrations. But, IWA was about something more. They used their funds to award a scholarship to a woman researcher at Purdue whose research focuses on women centric issues. They also collect money to donate towards rehabilitation efforts taking place in regions where nature unleashed its fury. In December 2015, my hometown, Chennai, was ravaged by floods and IWA immediately started arranging for help. Locally their services have been valuable to the Lafayette Food Bank, Asha Purdue Chapter, YWCA, and Lafayette Urban Ministry. They do not shirk from expressing solidarity with issues affecting the Indian community in the U.S. I know for a fact that public demonstrations were avoided even in the big cities regarding such issues.
Every year IWA publishes a magazine called Sanskriti which carries articles about global tourist attractions, critical issues, current events and also short stories. Sanskriti gives voice to many aspiring writers who live in WL. This year they published a beautiful cook book named, “Dash of Desi.” All the credit goes to the women behind IWA.
I was learning so many things about the WL Indian community and was baffled at the myriad activities they were involved in. Any big city in the U.S. houses a huge Indian population, I know, but for a small city like West Lafayette, it was amazing. The festivities, friendship and fun were reminiscent of the harmony among the Indian community. I am sure I’ll have a ton of stories to share when I visit home next summer after three long years. I can go on and on about my findings about this city, but let me keep some for my next blog post.
By the way, did I mention the word HOME, in my previous paragraph? Isn’t this like home? When I wrote that sentence, I got my title to these ramblings, “Home Away from Home.”
My “hate” for my calves. I think I have always been genetically predisposed to run. I have really muscular calves. (Thanks Pops!). In elementary school and high school, my calves were a source of great insecurity for me. Let me say this, high school boys can be cruel. I remember vividly how a bunch of 9th-grade boys would loiter by the stairs looking at girls’ legs and I overheard this particular group talking about my muscular calves. Now for an 8th- grader, this was particularly distressing. I put on a brave face and ignored it but I can never forget the fact that my calves were a topic of conversation.
Despite being a source of insecurity, my legs (calves, included) helped me with my gymnastics. My coach would tell me I had “great legs”. By great, he meant that my legs could take me to the nationals. And they did and even won me a silver medal.Yet, for all the “nice things” my legs brought me, I was always insecure about them. I remember freshman year in college, the girls in Silliman University were required to wear — of all things — bloomers. I would run as fast as I can from my dorm to the field and back again so I can spend as little time in public wearing those despicable excuse for shorts. I think I left an impression on my classmates when I would remove my shorts underwater rather than before going into the water for our swimming classes. I was THAT insecure.For the longest time, I think I avoided wearing shorts, skirts or any piece of clothing that would bare my legs. But these days, I now wear a lot of running shorts. Because I rediscovered a love for running.
Running in the Philippines. I think I have always loved to run. In the University of San Carlos where I did my undergrad, I was almost always rushing from one place to the other. However, I was told it was “unladylike” to run. So I stopped. I now regret listening to that advice — because I would realize later on that once our bodies get used to inactivity, it will remain at rest. (Newton’s law, right? LOL). I would run here and there but never really made it a habit.
Running in Texas. This is now an absolutely horrific memory but in TAMU where I did my masters, in the first not-so-fun run I ever joined, I only bested 2 pregnant women and a woman with her baby in a stroller. If that’s not embarrassing, I do not know what is. Those women were running for 2. I wasn’t.
How running helped me overcome depression. In 2012, I hit a really low point in my life. I was depressed. I hit rock bottom. My self-esteem was zilch. I was overweight. I was ugly. Everything in my life was falling apart. I can hardly recognize myself in the mirror. And now, I wish to confess that I had thought of ending it all. But as I was too cowardly (or maybe brave), I sought help. I went to the doctor. I went to group therapy. I sought counselling. I eventually went home to the Philippines to heal myself. And I decided I needed to make changes
When I went back to Texas, I knew I needed to fix my health issues. I started with the small things. I decided to eat healthy. I started to avoid all meat and I started cooking all my meals. I would portion them and made sure I only ate within my caloric allowance. I went to the gym. I tried the treadmill.
My running journey. Running on the treadmill, I would get bored and would focus on the time or distance and when I get tired I just hit that STOP button and workout is over. So one day I decided I was going to run outdoors. Running outdoors forces you to run till a certain point then run back to where you started. Now, at this point, I was really horrifically unfit. I was slow. So I decided I was just going to do timed runs. I got a Couch to 5K app. My first run consisted of a 20-minute run/walk combination. I hated every second of it. I can barely breathe. But I finished it and that gave me a bit of confidence to do it again. So I did. Eventually, I was running 30 minutes a day, then 45 minutes. I got better at it and I would run a minimum of 3 miles on average every day during the work week. I would then run 6 miles on average on Saturdays and/or Sundays. I wasn’t fast or anything. I just kept at it.
Running in Flagstaff. I would eventually move to Flagstaff and I thought I can run as easily as I was able to in Texas. Wrong! At 7500 ft above sea level, I was back to square one. The first time I ran in Flagstaff, I once again felt like my heart was in my throat and that I can hardly breathe at all. I only ran 1 mile that day. Now this put me off from running for a while. I was severely discouraged.
Life then happened, but I was happy. I was happy with my job, with my coworkers, with my students. I felt appreciated and I regained my self-confidence. I was happy once again after a very long time. And winter hit. Now, I can run okay in Texas winters but Flagstaff is a different story. So I took a break.. a really long break.
Let me just say that when summer came, I took out my running shoes again.. and once again went back to square one. I started again. Eventually, in the Fall, I kept running because I had coworkers who were patient with me. They would easily chat while running while I struggled to keep up. Yet they were always patient with me.
I would then join Team Run Flagstaff’s Step Into Running Program. I met some wonderful people there. I felt comfortable running with people from different walks of life and different stages of fitness. I was very impressed and a little bit intimidated at the marathon runners. They were very inspiring. I put in the work and I was happy to have survived a 5k at 7500 ft above sea level. I didn’t care much for my time but I thought I finished strong.
Running in Flagstaff was easy logistically. I miss that about the city I lived in for two years. I can just walk out my apartment and explore some urban trails. I am sad I didn’t run more when I lived there.
Running in Indiana. When I moved to Indiana to attend Purdue University, I was very determined to keep running. My friends thought I was crazy when I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to get a 3-mile or a 6-mile run. That was in the Fall. But Winter was another story. Winters in Indiana are something else. But of course after the winter comes the Spring. I started running again – back to square one, then to being comfortable at 3-miles, then 6-miles and eventually 10-miles. That was the longest I have ran.
I would eventually join Fleet Feet’s running program. Fleet Feet in West Lafayette is awesome. I met amazing people from different walks of life with different running goals. Since I am not fast at all, I ran with the BOP – or the Back-of-the-Pack. We may not be the fastest but we sure did have a lot of fun.
I sought to run a half marathon. And I did! My first half marathon was the Purdue Half 🙂
I was super proud of myself after I finished. Training for it was a 12-week commitment and I made it! I would run another half marathon after the Purdue Half in the Spring. I did the Indy Mini. I was super proud of myself.
Injury. I kept running in the summer because I had signed up for another race. But alas, I injured myself, had a couple of health issues and well, life got busy.These days I am trying again.
Why do I run? I run to exercise and feel healthy and strong. I run to enjoy my running music. I run so I can make full use of expensive running gear (On a grad student’s salary – running clothes and shoes are pricy!)
I run to exorcise all my demons. I run to find peace. I run to talk to friend. I run so I don’t have to talk. I run to think. I run to stop thinking. I run so I can forgive others. I run so I can forgive myself. I run to run away from all the stresses that plague me. I run to fight with my enemies in my head (I sometimes imagine myself as Manny Pacquiao, the boxer). I run when I have things weighing me down. I run when I need to make a decision. I may not always get an answer but I always feel much better after a good run.
How do I run? I try to run in good form. I run till the only thing I can focus on is taking my next breath and putting one foot in front of the other. I wonder if my eyes sweat as well or I am actually crying. But I run till all my sadness, all my heartbreak, all my frustrations, all my desperations, all my anger go away. I run until I feel myself becoming whole again. I run like it is a form of meditation or prayer. I run despite my whole body rebelling until it feels right. I run in order to be happy. I run so I can live.
My “love” for my calves. These days, I am really proud of my calves. Because they are strong. Quite strong that even after the killer workout, I hardly feel any soreness. Because I am vain. I get compliments on how muscular they are. But most of all because I have always had them and they are strong and they are mine and they take me places. Maybe it isn’t even too far-fetched to say that my calves saved my life.
And to celebrate them, here’s a photo of me running away from my insecurities and running towards my happiness.
Bye for now, gotta run! 😉
Purdue International students reciting Hail Purdue, the University’s fight song. Wherever you are from, you will always be a Boilermaker.
To Your Call Once More We Rally;
Alma Mater Hear Our Praise;
Where The Wabash Spreads Its Valley,
Filled With Joy Our Voices Raise.
From The Skies In Swelling Echoes
Come The Cheers That Tell The Tale
Of Your Victories And Your Heroes,
Hail Purdue! We Sing All Hail! Hail, Hail To Old Purdue!
All Hail To Our Old Gold And Black!
Hail, Hail To Old Purdue!
Our Friendship May She Never Lack.
Ever Grateful, Ever True,
Thus We Raise Our Song Anew
Of The Days We’ve Spent With You,
All Hail Our Own Purdue!