A New Pond

Many can second my opinion regarding the beginning of college—it can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in someone’s life. That’s what it was for me. It’s not like going from sixth grade to seventh grade or transitioning from middle school to high school. While those points are nerve-wracking in and of themselves, the concept of college is picking up your life and being thrown into a pool of people who are there to achieve the same things as you. As many say, we are the little fish in the big pond now. It’s difficult not only beginning your work at a new institution, but also leaving your family and creating a comfort zone somewhere else.

My biggest struggle was leaving my family. I have never moved locations in my life and I am fairly codependent on the presence of my family members. I had always dreaded the day in which they were required to drop me off and go home without me. It’s weird and all, because now that they’ve left, all you have is yourself. You won’t see your family tomorrow, nor will they remind you to turn in your homework you forgot to do. In some ways it’s rather liberating, but while you’ve probably never been in this situation before, the freedom was counteracted with fear—at least or me.

You’re here. There is no one here to tell you that your laundry is overflowing, that you have an exam to study for on Monday and most importantly, there’s no one telling you where, when and how to do anything. As many people warned me, these freedoms can be dangerous if I didn’t handle myself the right way. I believe the first semester of freshman year is the time to experiment with things—to see how you work as a person, to make mistakes and learn from them. No one can expect you to be thrown into a new environment and do everything right, so you learn. You learn first hand and upfront as opposed to someone telling you the repercussions of a mistake.

I believe the most important and personal advice I can give someone who’s going into college is to just remember why you’re here. Everyone has different reasons and everyone forgets them at times. I would be less than human if I never admitted to losing motivation—there are times when chronic stress and anxiety overcomes me and there have been many times that I’ve questioned what I’m even doing here. However, in the grand scheme of things, I remember how hard I worked to come here, how badly I wanted to be here and how proud I’m going to make the people who believe in me. I can say as a student who pays an incredible amount of money to go here to go study. Do your homework. Go to class. Find your interests and do what you’re here to do. Don’t forget what’s important.

My semester was a better than I’d ever expected. If I could go back and tell myself what I know now, I’d tell myself that the homesick feeling does go away. You are here because you are qualified to be—there is nothing you can’t do. You have people to help you when you’re down and to congratulate you when you’re up. There is great intrinsic reward that comes with doing well, and once you know you can succeed you have no excuse to attempt for less. It is okay to make mistakes as long as you are conscious of them and learn from them. Everything comes gradually with experience. Three months ago I was scared to death—I didn’t know whether I’d fail or succeed, but whatever I did, I knew it would be based on my own merit. Now, in retrospect, I wish I could tell myself there was never anything to be afraid of.

Aside from academics, the last piece of advice that I would give to anyone is what my dad always tells me. Get yourself involved. Create a life for yourself and surround yourself with people who can enhance it. Go outside your comfort zone and try new things. I found a whole new side of myself through visiting my interests. While grades are extremely important and imperative for success, make sure you’re happy. Happiness is key—and while I am proud of my grades, happiness is how I’ve measured my success.


Stick It Out

Oh, wow. My first semester at a real university has almost passed. Who knew you could learn SO much in such a short period of time? In a few months, I have learned more about myself than I even thought possible. Everything I thought I knew about myself, I didn’t know. I definitely didn’t give myself enough credit. It’s crazy how bad a person can need change without realizing change is what they need most. I could have comfortably stayed back home for the rest of my life. I could have found a purpose for myself. I could have made it work. I could have maintained a happy, healthy life. If I had never left, though, I would have never seen how the move I made to Richmond has opened up my life more than I could have ever imagined. I always knew change was an essential component to growth, but I had never experienced it in such a overwhelming and transformative way.

Thousands of people come from all over the world to one university. So many different personality types, spiritual backgrounds and lifestyles.. all in one place. Isn’t that amazing? We all came here for the same purpose- to find our purpose. What a unifying ambition.

Even so, when I first came to college, I felt so alone. I had no friends. It wasn’t any different from back home because I had no friends there either. It’s not to say that the time I spent alone over my year off of school wasn’t the best gift I could have allowed myself, I’m only trying to say that after a while being alone becomes less enjoyable. My natural need for companionship was growing increasingly noticeable.

I waited two months after I moved in for the “right” friends to come along. I knew that when I met them, I would know they were the right fit for me. In those two months, I met a lot of people that were nice and funny but they lacked the kind of personality that I love most in a friend. As time passed, of course, I got discouraged. It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s even natural. It’s not easy to stay true to yourself and have faith in yourself and the universe that you are worth the friendship of the people you really, really want to be friends with.

To many young people, the need for social interaction is so intense that they let themselves become whatever it is will give them social and emotional support, however true to themselves it may or may not be. The thing these people don’t realize is that if they just wait a few more weeks, stick it out a few more weeks, they will find the friends they’ve been waiting for. They will find the other people that are waiting for friends that really build them up and push them to be their best while respecting their boundaries. There are people out there that don’t want to settle for anything but the best in friendships, too, and they are so worth waiting for. Having a healthy support group is essential to making the best grades and having the best experiences. Without these people to support you, it becomes very hard to stay motivated, excited  about learning and true to yourself along the journey. Without the grades and life-changing experiences, college isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

College (and life) should be a beautiful, challenging, happy, sad, confusing experience filled with honest, loving people. Anything other than that and I’m pretty sure you’re doing it wrong.

If I could give any advice, I would say.. Stay true to you. The right people with show up. Go do things you love. Even if they’re new or scary, if they are something you are interested in, then go do it. Explore your life and explore your passions. Let yourself grow. Along the way, you will find the people that want to grow and live as much as you do. When you meet them, you will know.

Below is one of my favorite quotes. I have this quote on my wall as a constant reminder to live my life through my own eyes..

“Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep travelling honestly along life’s path.”




Fall Adventures at Hollywood Cemetery

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Cemeteries are usually depicted as disturbing or even horrifying fictionally, but there is an overlooked beauty to cemeteries. I had personally never considered a cemetery as a place I would want to go to admire scenery or find peace. My main motivation to visit one of these places would be to adventure, but my adventure was something that I had not expected. The timing of my visit to Hollywood Cemetery couldn’t have been more perfect. The leaves of the trees were saturated with fall colors and the setting sun illuminated everything in the cemetery just right. I felt comfortable there. I never would have imagined feeling so comfortable and simultaneously awestruck in a place like this. I noticed that the park was quite with the occasional jogger or biker traveling the paths. The quiet was respectable rather than unsettling. The layout of the cemetery was large, but simple. I was surprised to see so many families buried together in individual sections of the cemetery. It carried an interesting unity. Another trip to Hollywood Cemetery will be necessary in the winter, perhaps when it snows. I’m curious to see how the atmosphere of the cemetery changes with the seasons.


Community Engagement

On the weekends, I volunteer at my local hospital in town. I discharge people off from wheelchairs and interact with so many kinds of people. At first, I started to volunteer in the hospital with the idea if I worked in the hospital, it would give me the experience needed if I were to work in the hospital in the first place. If I want to be a doctor, then having the experience in volunteering at the hospital and great for my resume if I wanted to be a doctor in a hospital or a private practice of the sort. But now since it has been over a year volunteering at the same hospital, even before that, I have noticed that volunteering at the hospital is more than that. The experience of interacting with people is the best thing that could happen, especially knowing that you have helped that person in a particular way. Just seeing the smiles on other people when you have helped them in the car or pushing them in a wheelchair is the best experience I have had being at the hospital. Not only I receive the experience of working at a hospital that is great for my resume, but I get the opportunity to socially interact with so many different kinds of people. Pushing someone from the top floor down to the lobby can enable someone like me to learn more about that person because they tend to share some of their life stories. Knowing the life stories of other people gave me the background knowledge on where other people come from. It is very interesting to me talking to other people like that. I would always meet so many different kinds of other people and the get the realization of where those people come from.


I strongly encourage whoever is reading this, to go out there and get involved with your community! You can be like me and start off with the ideal of thinking about the future job you might want to have and find an area or place to volunteer in that specific field. Do not always think that volunteering is the only way to get involved with your community, you can sign up for other organizations held around your community to get involved! If you find an area of work that you would like to volunteer in, and if you are really interested in that field to work in, I strongly believe and encourage to stick with what you are doing. Not only it is great for the resume when you volunteer, but you would always learn something new. Even if you think volunteering at that place is not the right place for you, do not give up! Look around for another place to be engaged in, even if it means to work there only once a week. Even once a month would be great to volunteer, as long as you are being engaged with the community and are aware of what is going on, it is great!


Great Shiplock Park and Urban Exploring

I recently had the pleasure of exploring Great Shiplock Park in Shockoe Bottom. My mother was born and mostly raised here in Richmond but moved to Northern Virginia. I never really got the chance to come visit or see anything more than the VCU campus and a brief view of the University of Richmond.

Of course, when I first started this semester, my roommate and I did some urban exploring but our feet couldn’t take us to the places I wanted to go. So this past weekend I my mom visited and showed me the sights. Specifically, Great Shiplock Park on Pear Street in Shockoe Bottom.

There's a beautiful panoramic to be seen here. The day was beautiful and the water was still. There's a view of the warehouses and water tower that sums up the city for me.

The skyline at the park. November 8, 2014

There’s a beautiful panoramic to be seen here. The day was beautiful and the water was still. There’s a view of the warehouses and water tower that sums up the city for me. When I stepped out of the car, there was a guy reading on a bench and a couple getting ready to kayak on the James River. It was a little windy and the sounds of the city were a little more muted than normal. All that existed was the water running through the canal and the passing of cars a few yards back on Dock Street.

Behind where I stood there was a bridge of rusted copper and steel rafters. I took this photo in my car before stepping out into the beautiful weather.

Bridge from the car.  November 8, 2014

Behind where I stood there was a bridge of rusted copper and steel rafters. I took this photo in my car before stepping out into the beautiful weather. After looking around the park, I stepped onto one of the small bridges built on a small lock. A man jogged past me and my mom stood in the parking lot. It felt a little strange that somewhere so quiet when just the day before I was overwhelmed by sirens and loud voices. It was peaceful and I needed the break.

The small lock seemed well kept and it was exciting to feel the cool metal as I stood across the small canal.

A small metal bridge and lock.  November 8, 2014

The small lock seemed well kept and it was exciting to feel the cool metal as I stood across the small canal. The feeling of being near water was invigorating. As a former rower and kayaker, being near any type of water is rejuvenating in a way that many can’t understand. It makes me remember the times I spent rowing, slicing through the water, and enjoying the feel of sea mist on my face when kayaking off Tybee Island in Georgia.


As I peered off the side of the bridge there were turtles in the water making brief appearances. I was actually pretty surprised by that. The water didn’t seem the cleanest. I know the water will feed into the James so it’s going to disperse but it still didn’t seem like it would have so much life in it. How did they even get in there anyway? The James is further down an dammed by a lock. Upstream is a tiny creek. It was something for thought.

The view downstream at Great Shiplock Park November 8th, 2014

The view downstream at Great Shiplock Park
November 8th, 2014

When I got to the other side there was a jogger resting and a lot silence. It was peaceful in a way campus can never be.


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If you turn around and look up you can see the lucky strike building way up the hill with it’s smoke stack splitting the sky.

A view of the water but without the view of the turtle from earlier.

A view of the water but without the view of the turtle from earlier. November 8, 2014

The water could honestly be cleaner.


My favorite picture of the whole trip is this view of the lock.

I love this photo. It captures the mix between man-made and nature. The bricks are overgrown but they still stand. The water pours through but the dam does its job. It makes me wish there was an outdoor study area on campus that has running water. A place to hangout that is a mix of industrial and natural. No, the fountains in Monroe park do not count. Something bigger! Something more inviting! A canal!

Richmond Book Store

A place that I had never really explored, but always meant to was the Richmond Book Store. The store is hard to miss; sitting right off of West Broad Street, a small blue building, with large windows showing a vast array of teetering books through tall windows. It always looks like a scene out of a movie. For this reason, I decided to venture into the store, armed with a dirty camera lens, and a desperate need for blog post content.

Once inside the store, you get the impression that the store is more of something that came to being after someone spent too long hording books and other random objects. However, I think it adds to the overall aesthetic of the store. The eccentric music playing out of old speakers, combined with the fact that there is not a single new object in the building, makes for a small leap backwards in time. There is no place to sit and enjoy the journey; you have to stand, reading the books as others shove past you in the cramped rows of bookshelves. Overall, none of this really bothered me, due to me being a closet book-worm. I mostly just enjoyed reading the books.

My one complaint about the store would be the pricing. For used books, the prices are way too high. The other objects in the store are also priced above their value, making it far less compelling to buy a book. Most college students don’t have the money to buy overpriced books, even if it supports local business. Just for that, I think I’ll stick to my usual used book store back home. Either way, it’s a good place to check out, if not just to take a look at some books.DSCF4473 DSCF4458 DSCF4457 DSCF4472 DSCF4471 DSCF4470 DSCF4469 DSCF4468 DSCF4474


Home Away From Home


My first semester in Richmond has allowed me to get to know the city better and really appreciate its’ aesthetic. Almost every street in Richmond has a different feel from the others, and with one simple turn you could feel as if you were in another city all together. Buildings for simple things such as shops, restaurants, homes, and religious buildings have so much character. The Catholic Church and Altria Theatre, which used to be a mosque, both have really interesting architecture and the students of VCU get to admire them each day on our way to class. Without traveling far Richmond can offer you so much, and these are few pictures that I see on an average day around campus.


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A New Place, a New Perspective

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Having to visit a place in which I was completely unfamiliar with gave myself a new perspective on nature and its wonders. Growing up around the city, I was accustomed to living around constant traffic noises, and buildings everywhere. Going to Coalfield Park in Midlothian, VA., made me get away from what I was used to. There were no busy traffic, and parking was really easy to find there. The scenery was simply beautiful, and posted above are pictures that I have taken as I went exploring. There are a lot of trails you could just walk on in the forest area of the park as you listen to nature, it is a lot different from being in the city, because it is hard to listen to nature when you are in the city. In a remote area like the park I went to, made me appreciate mother nature more as I observed wildlife in the forest and in the large pond in the center of the park. It was very peaceful being out there in the park, I could just sit at the deck behind the railing in the last picture and do my homework because it was so peaceful. I wish Richmond had more areas like this, all quiet because it is nice to get away from the city and enjoy what mother nature has to offer.


The Pier Leading Nowhere

When thinking of where I wanted to shoot my photos, I tried to think of a place that may at times be over looked. In search for creativity and uniqueness, I rallied an art student friend and headed out to a lesser known river bend adjacent to Belle Isle…

Here is a shot of the pier that seems to lead out into the black abyss.
Here is a shot of the pier that seems to lead out into the black abyss.

Found slight past the Virginia Memorial, the quaint and understated area offers something quite unlike any other city.

Once you move past the deep grumbling of the churning water, the area becomes very serene.
Once you move past the deep grumbling of the churning water, the area becomes very serene.


Unfortunately, the sunset that night was not as bright as it has been in previous days, however, the eery blackness created a whole different atmosphere.

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This vantage point offers a totally different, yet equally beautiful, view each way you turn.

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The water, shallow and rolling over large rocks, held the illusion of lava at night, which the picture encapsulates very well!

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The random broken bridge in the middle of the river was probably my favorite aspect because, despite its randomness, it didn’t seem out of place.


Industrialization Meets Nature

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I spent my day exploring downtown Richmond – where industrialization meets nature (as I like to refer to it). I initially chose Shockoe Bottom as a destination to explore and naturally, I gravitated towards the local nature trail right by it. I took this project as an opportunity to attempt to capture the colors, beauty and symmetry around the area. The park I went to is called Chapel Island Park. The amount of places in which I could simply sit down in the leaves and take in my surroundings both amazed and calmed me. These times when I am encouraged to go out and explore, take in and embrace my surroundings make me so much more appreciative to have such a beautiful city that inhabits me. There are truly places for everyone – whether you like the city side, the corner coffee shop or the shore that overlooks the James River. I especially enjoyed the Shockoe Bottom area because of the historical culture that has been preserved for so long. I tried to capture some of my most favorite views of the day, but pictures can’t do complete justice – go explore it yourself. One of my favorite pictures out of what I’ve posted is the picture with the stop sign that says, “Look” with arrows pointing in both directions. Although that obviously goes to remind people to look both ways when crossing a train track, it told me to stop and look around. Look at your surroundings, take them in and appreciate them.