"With this being my senior year, I still hope to make the most of my final year in regards to my academics and experiences on campus."

July 24, 2020

Hello! With the pandemic still being very much alive, I have been attempting to make the most of my days while taking necessary precautions. I am adapting to this new normal. With all these changes that get added or removed, it is tough to comfortably adapt to one thing before having to adapt to another. Despite this, I am trying to also find time to enjoy my summer.

 As discussed in my previous post, I have returned to work and volunteering. I had initially decided to volunteer at RUSH to make myself more aware and comfortable in a health care environment. In addition to this, volunteering alongside numerous ambitious volunteers with similar interests and career paths was something that I was excited about. It is intriguing to learn about the distinct paths individuals take to reach their goals and where they are in the process. Some individuals are further along in their career path to others, so this is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and discover the dos and don'ts. 

Volunteering in an environment that consists of essential health care workers during this critical time is hugely eye-opening. Although I do not interact with healthcare professionals that work alongside COVID-19 cases, I notice their determination to provide the best healthcare possible. I have seen many posts about their commitment during the pandemic. I would like to give a massive shout out to all healthcare providers and all essential workers guiding us. I would also like to shout out to all the individuals who are doing their part by social distancing, wearing masks, and taking precautions to ensure they are protecting themselves and the health and safety of others. 

With the fall semester being a little over a month away, I am quite nervous. As of now, all my courses are scheduled to be online instruction. Although this was the case for the second half of last semester, it will be different now since the semester will start and end online. I do hope that because this is the case, those online classes go a bit smoother than last semester. I hope that this summer allowed students and professors to review what went well and what did not go too well in the spring, to improve and guide for a better semester for all. With this being my senior year, I still hope to make the most of my final year in regards to my academics and experiences on campus.

"I have learned that the impossible is actually quite possible. It is okay to struggle when adapting to something new or unprecedented."

June 30, 2020

As we are slowly entering different phases of the pandemic, life is becoming a bit more productive and less tedious.

As of last week, I have finally returned back to work on campus. Although the campus is still pretty much closed, a few employees are returning. It is empty, which I am not used to. UIC contains a large population of students, faculty, and staff. Not seeing all these individuals around feels unusual. 

Additionally, they reopened the volunteer program at RUSH, so I am back to volunteering. There are so many new regulations to ensure safety in the hospital. I have noticed that many exits, floors, and elevators are locked. This is being done to ensure that individuals are not accidentally entering sensitive areas of the hospital. 

I also have noticed that there are definitely fewer visitors and more workers. For instance, family members and friends are prohibited from visiting a patient's room. Instead, they are only allowed in the waiting area to minimize as much interaction with other people.

As for my roles as a volunteer, a few things have changed. For example, there are more restrictions when it comes to delivering items to patients' rooms. Before COVID, we would deliver flowers, gift baskets, and mail directly to patients' rooms. Now, we are restricted from completing those tasks. When it comes to interactions with patients, we are only allowed to guide discharging patients with no history with the coronavirus. 

It feels good to be back and finally have some structure in my day! Although I am excited to transition to my old routine and schedule, it is scary going out and about in the middle of a pandemic. I have to remain cautious at all times. Taking public transportation also feels different since not many people are allowed to board the buses and trains. People are wearing masks and all geared up with gloves and hand sanitizer wherever I go. It almost feels wrong to be outside.

With my time away, I have recognized that I enjoy being productive and prefer being productive in various environments. That is why I had such a hard time when trying to solely be productive at home. It took some time to comprehend that my house was a place I needed to get work done. Attempting to be productive at home felt like I was never genuinely accomplishing anything or giving back to those in need. The satisfaction of completing a task did not feel rewarding. It almost felt like I was doing everything because I was required to.

Looking forward, I hope to progress in my everyday life. I have learned that the impossible is actually quite possible. It is okay to struggle when adapting to something new or unprecedented. It is okay to acknowledge that the new normal does not feel normal to me. Surviving quarantine is an accomplishment itself, none of us were prepared for this.

"There is going to be a new definition of normal that I will need to learn to adapt to and accept. It will be a challenge, but I am sure it is possible..."

June 16, 2020

At this point, it seems as though I have tried everything to stay productive. I have tried working out, reading, painting, going on walks, organizing and decluttering my belongings, investing in at-home spa days, and the list goes on.

Since the semester concluded, I have tried my best to relax and reflect. I have always spent my summer doing things that my busy semester schedule would not have allowed me to do. This summer that is not the case. The summer bucket list that I would always create and look forward to is nonexistent.

Although this is not how I envisioned my summer, I am trying my best to make the most out of it. Now that I have a lot more time on my hands, I have been attempting to limit my screen time and embed other hobbies and activities in my day.

A few weeks ago, I visited a garden center to purchase plants, pots, and painting supplies. The plan was to have a social distance hang out with one of my close friends. We painted and decorated the pots and planted the succulents and cacti while

enjoying some sun. It was actually very relaxing and fun! Time went by so quickly. It was an activity we really enjoyed and would most likely do again.

In regards to classes next semester, by the looks of it, the majority of all of my classes will be online. I am still waiting on the master online course list to know officially. It is stressful knowing that I might complete my last year of undergrad online. Although I am not going to enjoy online classes as much as I enjoy in-person classes, I would prefer to start and end the semester online rather than having a transition. I believe that unexpected change is what caused me to struggle.

I am trying to be positive. I have figured out what works best for me when it comes to online courses. For instance, I have learned that I need to stay organized and productive by providing myself with a workspace aside from my relaxing space. I have also learned that I need to give myself more time to de-stress than I usually would. Having online classes can get exhausting, and the workload seems extensive since I am not physically attending class.

I'm excited that places are slowly reopening. Still, it makes me less excited knowing that things will not be how they were before. Along with attempting to enjoy my time and go about my daily life, I have to remain cautious and ensure that I am staying safe. There is going to be a new definition of normal that I will need to learn to adapt to and accept. It will be a challenge, but I am sure it is possible, as it is for our own wellbeing.

"I chose to go to school because my education gives me the power to progress for my family, those in need, and, most importantly, myself."

May 29, 2020

Attending school is a privilege. I am truly blessed to be able to attend college and afford an education. I believe that every individual deserves the ability to attain an education, to gain their desired amount of knowledge, regardless of their background. This privilege is something that many do not get the opportunity to experience, including my parents.

My parents did not graduate from high school nor attend college. They lacked knowledge, funding, motivation, a sound support system, and other essential resources that are vital to success in school. They did not have resources that I was exposed to when applying to universities or the resources I now have as a first-generation college student. I am beyond happy and honored to be the first in my family to graduate college at the end of the spring semester in 2021.

I chose to go to school because my education gives me the power to progress for my family, those in need, and, most importantly, myself. I just finished reading a book, "​It's All In Your Head,"​ by Russ, a Hip Hop and R&B artist. In his book, he discusses how his consistent passion for producing music and his persistence to become a better version of himself enabled success. In his chapter focused on comprehending one's potential, he states, "The future version of yourself should be your inspiration. The idea that there is always an upgraded version of myself that can be attained is what keeps me going." 

When reading this, it made me realize that my only competition should be myself. I compete with myself to become the best version of myself. Taking the steps to continuously progress in my education allows me to acknowledge my privilege, acknowledge my abilities, and acknowledge that I can always do more to be more. My education provides me with the knowledge to do well in my field and develop professionally. It provides me with the potential to better myself and continue to aim for my personal goals. 

I aspire to become a pharmaceutical researcher. My dream job consists of me conducting pharmaceutical research for medications and vaccines. I want to focus my research on the ways in which medication and vaccines impact the human mind and body, as well as an individual's behavior. There are always new scientific discoveries being made and so much new research to be found.

An abundant amount of research is extremely critical when researching a new medication or vaccine. I have always noticed that when a drug is prescribed or a vaccine is required, the list of symptoms is often greater than the list of benefits. Why is that so? Why is it that to make things better, other aspects are neglected or harmed?

I want to do better. I aim to research why this occurs and the influences on one's mind, body, and behavior. I wish to conduct research that targets the progress of an individual's health without deteriorating other aspects of their overall wellbeing.

"Having a positive relationship with myself is just as valuable as prospering in my profession."

May 21, 2020

YAY! Since my last post, I have wrapped up my third year of undergrad. This semester felt unattainable. The stress of online classes added on to the current madness of the world was a struggle. Being able to do this successfully makes me feel overjoyed, accomplished, and relieved. One more year of undergrad, and then onto the real world.
On another note, I also feel quite worried and stressed about my future. As mentioned in previous posts, the internships I applied for this summer got rescinded. I was looking forward to strengthening my skills and learning more about my desired field. I also no longer volunteer at RUSH Medical Center, which was allowing me to experience and build bonds with those pursuing similar fields. Looking into the future, I feel as though these instances will impact my career path. I feel inexperienced going into my last year of undergrad and searching for post-graduation programs and occupations. I was counting on these opportunities to build myself professionally and personally connect with my passions alongside others.
Reminiscing on last summer - I participated in a fellowship with Bottom Line. This fellowship was designed to focus on comprehending the significance of learning about oneself through a professional lens. We had eight weeks full of professional development workshops and field trips. The workshops consisted of numerous topics such as personal branding, networking, generating elevator speeches, conducting mock interviews, and refining resumes and cover letters. We had field trips to PwC to learn the importance of budgeting during and after college, and to Freedman Seating Company to learn about careers in marketing and engineering. I thank Bottom Line for this experience because it granted me the knowledge to represent myself professionally while holding my truth. I learned the uniqueness of my personal brand and what differentiates me from others and makes me unique.
At the beginning of the fellowship, we all wrote letters to our future, post-fellowship selves. I wrote about the things I wanted to accomplish and gain from the fellowship, as well as anything else that was significant to me at the time. Weeks after the fellowship had ended, I received my letter in the mail. By that time, I had completely forgotten about ever writing the letter. It was quite interesting to read and look back at myself before completing the fellowship.
One statement that I recall writing to my future self - “Continue to evolve and challenge yourself professionally, but while you are doing that, prioritize your personal growth as well.”
Looking back, those words still apply to my current life. Sometimes I tend to focus more on my professional growth and how I can continue to advance in my field. I tend to forget the importance of professional and personal growth coexisting with one another. I must satisfy my personal goals to be successful in my professional ones. Having a positive relationship with myself is just as valuable as prospering in my profession. I need to balance these components and consider every professional experience as a form of self-growth and vice versa.

"I had to learn to appreciate myself for remaining committed to my education and continuing to push myself further."

May 8, 2020

I'm learning to go easy on myself. Something that is much easier said than done. With all this madness going on, along with trying to complete the semester, I have learned the significance of not being so hard on myself. This semester was challenging before schools began closing, and transitioning to online courses added even more stress. I found it difficult to comprehend new material, engage in conversations with my professors and classmates, as well as remain productive and motivated to do my assignments.

None of this was easy, but I was only making it harder on myself. I needed to let loose, and give myself the space to understand that this new normal was going to take lots of adjusting. Along with this, I had to learn to appreciate myself for remaining committed to my education and continuing to push myself further. I slowly began giving myself more breaks between assignments and asking questions when I did not understand the topics being discussed. With time, I found that I was feeling a bit more comfortable with this transition.

I miss my life pre-COVID. I would be a tourist in my own city and try new restaurants with my friends, go on shopping sprees, go to the movies, attend carnivals, and the list continues. Now, my options are limited. For instance, I had not experienced these new embedded shopping regulations until recently. A few days ago, I went to the store with my sister to pick up a few items. First of all, we had to make sure we were all geared up - masks, gloves, and bottles of hand sanitizer. Before going in, we waited in line for 40 minutes. Once we were able to get inside, we obviously had to continue remaining distant from everyone. It seemed like everyone was extremely paranoid and rushing their ways through the aisles. This made me feel the need to quickly grab what I needed and go. I was not able to browse around like I usually would have. It made me feel like shopping, a hobby I once enjoyed was no longer enjoyable.

Once the world gets back to normal, I will probably miss all the time I have to myself. I have been trying to make the most of this time by strengthening my relationship with myself. I have developed new hobbies and spent this time reflecting and establishing future goals. Amid my busy schedule before, I tended to forget to just sit, relax, and have some "me time." Now that I have all this time myself, I am missing my old, busy schedule. I continuously think, when will I have structure in my schedule again? Despite this, after things get back to normal, I will be sure to embed time to take care of myself by doing something that brings me relaxation, comfort, and joy.

"I have always appreciated Bottom Line's support, and I am grateful that I am involved in a program that continuously supports me in every aspect of my life."

April 30, 2020

My name is Maysaa, and I am from Chicago, Illinois. I have been a part of Bottom Line since my senior year of high school, and I am currently in the Success Program. I am double majoring in Integrated Health Studies and General Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and will be graduating in May 2021. Post-graduation, I aspire to conduct pharmaceutical research and advocate the significance of health justice.

Due to the pandemic, my university has transitioned solely online. I'm also a student employee on campus and have not been able to work since the stay-at-home order. These changes have tremendously altered my everyday life in both positive and negative ways.

As for positive changes, I have pursued hobbies and interests that do not involve my computer screen. Although Netflix can be quite tempting, I have learned to include other activities that I enjoy. Exercising, reading, calling family and friends, and going for walks have allowed me to find healthy, enjoyable activities that bring me happiness.

On the other hand, there have been numerous negative alterations. One thing that I have found the most challenging is remaining focused and productive. A setting, my home, that was my relaxing place, has now become my workspace as well. I am attempting to deal with this by distinguishing my spaces from one another. It is extremely difficult to remain productive and positive when the new normal does not feel normal to you.

In regards to future career plans, many opportunities have been discontinued due to the pandemic. I had initially applied to many internships for this upcoming summer. Majority of these programs contacted me to inform me that they are no longer proceeding with the hiring process due to ensuring the safety of all individuals. In addition to this, I am a special services volunteer at RUSH Medical Center. Due to being a volunteer and not considered an essential employee to run the hospital, volunteers are no longer engaged members in the hospital. I enjoyed volunteering at RUSH and providing service in such a welcoming environment. Both of these instances saddened me.

I was excited to become involved in programs that would guide me in gaining knowledge related to my field. I now feel like my career is on hold, and it is not in my control.

Bottom Line has always been a huge support. My Advisor has remained in constant contact with me to ensure that I have resources to be successful, healthy, financially secure, and mentally/emotionally stable. My Advisor has also provided me with numerous COVID-19 resources and various methods of managing stress during this hardship. In addition to this, my Advisor continues to support me academically. They have ensured that I continue researching post-graduation options and remain dedicated to my goals. I have always appreciated Bottom Line's support, and I am grateful that I am involved in a program that continuously supports me in every aspect of my life.