This was certainly a long weekend, but it was probably one of the best in my life. I got to meet a couple of the most amazing people ever. I got to network with some people about a few things. I got to present this summer research and I got $200 out of it for a second place prize in my category. It was a magnificent experience. As I sit here on the bus typing into Word, I am reminiscing back on the past few days and really truly cherishing the moments we had.
So we arrived on Thursday morning after an overnight bus ride. It was a long, uncomfortable ride which resulted in little sleep to start off this conference. By the time we got checked into the hotel and situated in the city, it was late breakfast/early lunch time and we had not eaten except for the foods that we had brought on the bus. So Kim, Rasheed, and I went to some place called the mall food court. It was exactly what the name implies. I got food at a Checkers. Then we walked around the place a bit. Then afterward I wanted to walk around the city to explore and Rasheed decided to accompany me. We walked a ways and got to a point where we were definitely lost. So it took us a good hour or more to figure out where the hotel was. By that time I was sweating profusely due to the fact that I was wearing long pants and it was like high 80s and humid, so I showered. Then naptime, then we were to meet up for registration for the conference itself. So the night ended with more talks on random stuff that I can’t remember at the moment. I just remember that there was a speaker who was really great about teaching chem and I wanted to talk to her for a little. Going up to her at the end was the best decision of my life. Not because of meeting her, which was definitely inspiring, but because I got to meet two of the most amazing Arkansans I have ever met (ok so they are probably the first two, but that does not diminish their amazingness in my mind). Laura and Jerry are the most intellectual people I have met in a long time. She is a straight math major, which is insane in and of itself, and he is a freakin triple major in math, physics and chemistry. Absolutely phenomenal!!!! For those who don’t know at one point was a double major in physics and chemistry with a minor in math. He, from the get-go, was my long lost twin brother. The group of us talked for a while, then decided to go to dinner. We all talked and got to know each other at the Metro diner, which was like a karaoke bar/restaurant. None of us cared to do it but we listened to others sing the classic rock that, at least me and my twin both love. We talked for hours about ourselves and the program and our majors and the universe and space and deep sea and all kinds of stuff. It was awesome. We really became quick friends. It was perfect, the friend version of love at first sight it seems. Over the following days we connected to a huge extent. So bed the first night was nice, much more comfortable than the bus seats.
Friday morning was extremely early. We had a half a day of talks. All on graduate school and things along those lines. We finished around 3 I believe. We then had the day to ourselves. Laura and Jerry went with their adviser to the aquarium. I remained in my room for a few hours so that I could research grad schools and perhaps look over my presentation. That didn’t work out exactly as planned but I did write a few emails. Rasheed, Josh and I decided to go out and get pizza for dinner. The others went to the Hard Rock Café. Jerry loved it. He is such a classic rock junky, it is so good. So that night was relaxing after dinner and getting ready for the presentations the next day. Something that I did with minimal effort because I was fairly confident in my presentation. After a while I just decided sleep would be best and I went to bed.
Saturday was presentation day. We had to present between 9 and noon. I got to see a bunch of great presentations on interesting research from around the country. Some actually pertained to my Widener research which I was really surprised about. I gave some people business cards and got some of my own. I presented and I was told by several people that I did well. It was nice to be recognized. After my presentation two people came up to me and asked for my information because they wanted to contact me with regards to their research and the applications to our research. It’s cool being able to talk to people about my research experiences and hearing others. I got to watch other people’s presentations too. And Laura presented too, which I got to see. I can’t say I understood it much at all, but it was really cool to see a (now) really good friend talk about things that I could never even fathom. I was thoroughly impressed. She did such a great job. She just needs to have more confidence in herself. Anyway, so then lunch with grad school recruiters and then a grad fair. I got some information from schools. Got some free stuff. I found out that Scripps sounds like a really great school. They have great benefits and I definitely will consider them for grad school. After the fair, I got to spend some more great time with Laura and Jerry, my newest best buds. We went to Jerry’s room to watch corny Syfy movies (ice spiders to be specific). After we criticized the hell out of that, we decided dinner should happen soon. Then somehow we got to the idea that we should visit the Coke factory. It was definitely the best plan. We got Rasheed and Josh and their adviser, Laura #2, and left for the factory. For $16 this was an absolutely amazing deal. We went in and got to the taster place. It has all the sodas made by Coke around the world. Some are really good, others (Beverly) are absolutely the worst thing I have ever tasted. We looked at the different exhibits, watch a 4-D movie, saw the factory, and saw the vault that contains the secret formula. It was absolutely worth the $16 that it cost to enter. We visited the taste thing again before we left. I am pretty sure I tried about 30 of the 64 flavors available. It was insane. My mouth and stomach probably hate me after all that acid, but it was necessary, for science. After the factory we went to Max Lager’s Brewery. That was also epic. I ate, for the first time, a bison burger. It was really good, not too much different than a normal burger, but it was still really good. Also got fresh brewed root beer. That was very different than A&W and Barq’s. It was good though. After that I was super full but decided since it was our last night I had to get chocolate cake. Me and Jerry and Laura shared it, also amazing. After that we all stayed and played pool upstairs for a few hours. What we didn’t know until we were leaving is that the place had closed a while before we left. The workers, somehow, did not realize we were there playing pool (an extremely loud game). But whatever, it made a great night, even more amazing. Then we went back to the hotel and played card games. That was fun, we played BS and hearts. Jerry was the first to hit the hay. That was around 1 I believe. After he went, the four of us talked about stuff and played hearts. We all were getting really tired. But we were resilient. Josh was the next to go at like 4. Then there were 3. We decided that we would continue to talk about stuff. Philosophy, school, grades, tests, all kinds of stuff. It was excellent. Gradually we got more and more tired. Laura was insistent upon staying up to see the sunrise. So we did. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to see it because there was a building in our way. But we tried. Then we realized we only had 3 hours until we had to be at breakfast so we should at least try to get some sleep. I returned to my room and packed up my stuff before taking a 1.5 hour nap. Then the final day began. I awoke feeling like I wanted to vomit all over the room. Not good. I felt awful, not really sure why. I’m attributing it to a combination of the complete lack of sleep and the awful stuff I ingested the previous day. I couldn’t eat breakfast even though it was the first time we got bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of fruit and bread. So I ate yogurt, a piece of cantaloupe, and corn flakes. We had a really good speaker. Unfortunately this would be the last time I see Laura, Laura, and Jerry. The speech was making me pretty emotional already, but seeing them leave was really, really depressing. I have been on occasion tearing up thinking about these awesome guys. I have officially made them my siblings in my mind. I will truly miss them and I really want to make an effort to see them again really soon. So that leads to the award ceremony. 7 people from UIUC got awards. I was luckily one of them. I received 2nd place in the Life Sciences category. I was happy to get it and 200 bucks. Then we packed and left. Now we are on the road back to UIUC. I have to say I really miss Laura and Jerry. I hope that I will be able to see them again soon.