The Hill

Last Friday, we all had the day off for the holiday weekend, so I made plans with two of my friends to go visit the “Manhattan sign hill” (we have no idea what the hill is actually named, but it’s the only hill with a giant Manhattan sign on it, so it gets the point across). It was a real adventure because we didn’t really have more than a general idea of how to get there, and absolutely no idea how to get up the hill once we actually got to it.

Marie and Kilti and I just got together and decided, “we think it’s this way,” and so we walked that way. It turns out that we actually started by going in nearly the opposite direction, so we ended up taking a pretty roundabout route, but I think that’s what makes it an adventure. It was super hot outside and it felt like we’d walked miles by the time we even spotted the hill, and at that point, we just made a beeline to the closest side, which happened to be a wall of trees and foliage. There was an open area but, of course, that was the steepest part in sight, a nearly sheer face. (Right next to that, there was a sign that said “Trail” but absolutely no trail in sight.)

Obviously, that was our top choice, so we scaled that steep part of the hill (we had a few unsuccessful tries, but Marie’s persistence kept us trying) until we hit the treeline… And we were immediately rewarded by the sight of that elusive trail. The rest of the hike was pretty steep but definitely easier than climbing!

Hike

The view from the top of the sign was definitely worth the long walk and climb.

Hill Pano

It felt amazing to just sit up there and think about how far we’d come, both physically and metaphorically. Yeah, it had been a long walk and at one point, we were tempted to turn back because the way wasn’t clear or easy—without even realizing how close to the path we were. Maybe I’m diving too deep here but it makes me think about how true that can be in real life.

I’m getting close to the easy “trail” of being home and having a month off, I just have to push myself through a few more weeks of intense researching! (Just kidding, it’s not that bad.)

I’m sending lots of love!

Maggie

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Squad Bonding

I was pretty nervous about meeting people when I came here to Kansas, because I don’t really see myself as someone who is particularly good at making friends. And to endure these ten weeks without any friends would make it a terribly long and lonely summer.

Keith has told us that we get have clicked and bonded as a group faster than any of his REU groups before, which is awesome news. I think that the fact that we’re all very far from our homes and we don’t know anyone here but each other has kind of forced us to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other. I feel very lucky to be a part of such a fun, welcoming circle of people.

On the other hand, we haven’t been together long at all (in terms of the average friendship lifetime), which means that it can still feel lonely sometimes. We’ve grown together pretty quickly but there’s not any promise that the friendships will continue as strongly after July 31st, when we all part ways for our respective corners of the country. That sounds pretty pessimistic, but in reality we all know that everything about this experience is temporary.

Plus, there’s the pressure to be constantly social: I feel like if I missed out on a big social event (especially near the beginning), the group’s bonds would continue to get stronger without me, and I would get left out or left behind. But, trying to keep up socially to avoid that FOMO (fear of missing out) can get pretty exhausting for poor introverted Maggie. I’ve been trying to balance the need to make friends with the need to, well, not.

I think this is good for me because, in general, I’d say that my balancing tends to lean towards anti-social-ness. Hey, at least I’m self-aware, right?

As time goes on, I feel more and more a part of the squad, so my worrying is eased. Spending time with this group is pretty much a guaranteed good time, and I’m happy to know I’m part of the squad. It feels good to be a part of anything, really, but this is a pretty good group.

I’m sending lots of love home,

Maggie

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This is The Month

Happy July! This is the month in which I will come back home, and I am pumped for it to finally be here.

I’m having a great time in Kansas, but I’m starting to long for two important things: being home with the people I love, and a real summer vacation. In four weeks, I’ll have to be ready to show off the research I’ve done this summer, so I’ve been revving it up at work to make sure that everything can get done in time. I have a ten-page paper to write, a website to code, and a poster to design to bring it all together!

Time has been passing so quickly, and I’m sure this last month will go just as fast (if not more so!). We have been saying to each other every Thursday, “X many weeks until we have to present our research.” And now it’s only four weeks??? This is crazy talk.

In addition to July being the month I come home, it’s also the month that my research is finalized and presented. I’ve reached the point where I’m starting to get nervous about deadlines, especially because my mentor does not seem to be in a rush at all. We had a meeting on Monday and I expressed my concerns to him, which resulted in him telling me not to stress, which resulted in me being even more stressed. I’m doing my best to just keep being productive and trust that it will all come together; I do have plenty enough time to finish this thing.

Kansas B&W

As excited as I am to come home and have a whole month off (I wonder what that feels like), I promise to appreciate Kansas for as long as I can. There are a few more field trips and squad bonding events planned yet, and more researching to be done, so I’m going to soak it all up. I don’t think I’ll ever have another experience in my life that is quite like this one.

I’m sending lots of love,

Maggie

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Not a Country Song

I think that Wednesday’s field trip to Hesston, Kansas (for tractors and chocolate) was my first time actually driving through what could be classified as the Kansas countryside… and it was gorgeous. Everything you’d expect it to be.

Waves of tall grass rippling in the wind. A pickup truck kicking up dust all the way down a long dirt road. Miles of perfectly straight, deserted highway lined with corn fields. Remote farmhouses with red barns. Herds of apathetic cows wading in shallow ponds. Wooden windmills.

I got a repeat of that experience today as we traveled to Hutchinson today (er, Saturday). There isn’t much like spending a few quiet hours with just some scenery and my thoughts. In fact, I think I may have enjoyed those car rides more than the actual destinations themselves.

I don’t have much positive to say about the AGCO tour (long, boring, hot) but I did appreciate having a day off in the middle of the week, the squad bonding time, and the visit to Russell Stover on the drive back to Manhattan.

Today’s field trip was first to Strataca, a Salt Mine Museum… 650 feet underground. Very reminiscent of the tour through Mammoth Caves in Kentucky on the cross-country trip my family took the summer before I started 9th grade. Something about the thought of tons and tons of rock above my head just doesn’t create the calm, quiet museum feeling for me. It felt more like I was trapped in a suspenseful thriller movie, without the background music to cue me when something bad would happen (turns out that nothing did; however, I did not have this informative and helpful hindsight during the actual nerve-wracking “being underground” part).

After we finally got out of that godforsaken place, we went to a real museum, above ground. The “Cosmosphere” is like the toned-down, scaled-down version of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and it was nice to quietly (and safely) walk around and calmly read historical facts about bomb airplanes and breaking the sound barrier and exploding spaceships.

It has been a crazy and exhausting week full of adventures (and early wake-ups, especially for a Saturday)… Maybe I’ll sleep all day tomorrow.

I am sending lots of love!

Maggie

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Paper Writing and Field-Tripping

I had a meeting with my faculty mentor (Dr. Vincent) last week and we talked about what my final products would look like and how we would eventually get there. Today, my graduate student mentor (Frank) laid out a more specific schedule for the next few weeks… and honestly, there are only a few weeks left until I am completely done! Five weeks from today, I’ll just be putting the finishing touches on my paper, I’ll present my work for the following few days, and then I’ll be flying on home.

It’s amazing how much time has flown by since I arrived in Kansas. Yeah, sometimes the workday can move pretty slowly, especially on my reading days, but I’ve been here for a month and it feels like yesterday that I was just moving in. I attribute this to the fact that I’m having a really great time.

Some fun updates:

(1) Today is the four-week anniversary of my arrival in Kansas.

(2) I have started writing my research paper and I’m about a page and a half in! The final product has to be at least 10 pages long (single-spaced woot woot), so I still have a ways to go, but I’m proud of how far I got today and I know that the rest of it won’t be that bad.

(3) Today we visited the on-campus nuclear reactor and got a pretty interesting tour. The reactor itself is like a giant vat of water 20+ feet deep (with technical science stuff inside, of course), and it looked super intense from above. I was a little nervous (because hello radiation), but the operators assured us that it was safe. Humans are exposed to a natural amount of radiation every day (by doing random stuff like being in a concrete room or eating bananas or being around other humans) and the reactor emits only a negligible amount. Also nobody fell in the reactor, which was a plus.

(4) Tomorrow is a FIELD TRIP DAY, which I think is a great way to break up the work week into more manageable two-day segments. The squad is going to Hesston, Kansas to visit AGCO (a place that makes tractors) and also to stop by the Russell Stover Chocolate Store on the way home. Road tripping for tractors and chocolate, what a great way to spend the day. (I can’t wait to tell you guys about it.)

I am sending lots of love!

Maggie

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Three Weeks Down (Six and a Half to Go)

Time to update y’all on what’s been going on recently!

This past weekend, a little group of us girls took a day to go shopping in downtown Manhattan. It’s a very small area, but clean and new-looking, and there were plenty of cool little stores to check out. Manhattan is pretty hip.

On Monday, we didn’t have to go in to work at all because we had mandatory field trips and social events all day. It was a double great day because not only did it feel like an extra day of the weekend, but the planned activities were pretty fun too. The highlights of the day were a visit to the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, which is a newly developed facility on campus that’s doing research on wheat development and genetics, and the next-door feed mill, which was smelly and dusty and not quite as awesome as the wheat center, but the view from the roof was fantastic.

The baby wheat plants at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center are kept in K-State purple light to help them grow!

The baby wheat plants at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center are kept in K-State purple light to help them grow!

A majority of the Squad with our leader, Keith, on the roof of the feed mill.

A majority of the Squad with our leader, Keith, on the roof of the feed mill.

A view of gorgeous Kansas farms from the roof of the feed mill.

A view of gorgeous Kansas farms from the roof of the feed mill.

Both my grad student mentor and my faculty mentor are out of town for the whole week, so I’m on my own… Still reading. I’ve developed a method of getting through the articles that I think seems to make the material stick in my brain the most. First I read the article while highlighting and making notes in the margins, and then I reread while typing up the notes and highlighted bits. It’s definitely slow going, but I know that I’ve got the material down pat by the time I’m done. And hopefully my written notes will make writing the final paper an easier and faster process. Reading is basically all that’s going on for the rest of the week.

Lots of love,

Maggie

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Economics Research

The past week has been by no means busy, so I don’t really have any excuse for taking a whole week off from posting, but honestly, time has been flying and I didn’t even realize that it had been a whole week since I last showed up on here. It probably doesn’t help that all of my work days go the same… I’ll tell you what I’m doing in a minute.

Dr. Vincent and I played email tag quite a bit for a few days, in an attempt to set up another meeting and figure out what my next steps would be in the research. When we finally did meet up and chat, he spent the whole time discussing the articles I’ve been reading, how to find more, how to track my reading, and how to read effectively. I walked out of that meeting yesterday morning and it finally hit me: that’s what I’ll be doing this summer. Reading. Now if you know me, you know that I was an avid reader for the entirety of my childhood and early teenage years. I will admit that reading fell to the wayside (from its former place as a semi-obsessive hobby) when I bloomed a bit and developed an actual social life in high school.

I still love to dive into a good book and hide there for a little while, but curling up in bed with a book that I chose for personal pleasure is a lot different than spending 7 hours a day hunched over a desk, meticulously taking notes on a heavily-worded article that perhaps isn’t so interesting.

So that’s what I’ve been doing (at work anyway; my free time includes spending plenty of time chilling with the squad) and that’s what it looks like I’ll be up to for the rest of the “researching” portion summer. I do get to fiddle with some data occasionally, but it’s not a significant portion of the project overall (shucks).

This experience is a complete turnaround from the telling I was doing at the credit union last summer. I was hoping to use this summer to learn more about what I’m going to do with the Math & Econ degree I’ll be walking away from Buffalo with in less than two years. And I am pretty sure so far that economics research is not it. Regardless, I’m only two and a half weeks in, so I know my opinion could change, and I’m open to that. And if I don’t change my mind, at least now I know (and also have some pretty radical experience and resume muscle).

I am sending lots of love (and more updates soon, I promise),

Maggie

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