Club Spotlight: SVSN!

By Nicole Chiulli (CAS’23)

Coming into college, there were some things from my life in New York that I knew I wasn’t prepared to give up. Throughout high school, I spent a lot of time working with individuals with disabilities – I interned with a child psychologist where I met kids with varying forms of neurodivergence, and I worked for an organization which provided recreational programs for adolescents and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Through these experiences, I made so many genuine connections with amazing people; I had the opportunity to learn from individuals who see the world differently than I do, and I knew for sure that I wanted to continue this during my college career. To any prospective student who’s looking for something similar in their own future college, or any incoming freshman just looking for a fun and rewarding club to join, this post is for you!

SVSN stands for Student Volunteers for Special Needs, though I will add a disclaimer that the name may be changing soon. The student-run organization was founded at BU around 15 years ago; we are aware that the terminology is rather outdated, and are in the process of hopefully selecting a new name for our group. The goal of SVSN is to provide support for individuals with disabilities in the Boston area in a number of ways. Our primary activity is hosting Friday Night Club (FNC), a social event which happens a few Friday nights each month. We invite individuals with disabilities from around Boston to join us on campus to play games, listen to music, do arts and crafts, eat snacks and chat! We alternate hosting responsibilities with our sister club at Harvard, which means that some weeks we travel to Harvard to have FNCs there, which is always a fun excursion.

Beyond FNCs we are also currently working with Perkins School for the Blind, a school in Watertown, MA that provides all types of services for people with visual, auditory, and multiple impairment disabilities. We’ve helped out with a variety of things there, from painting one of their buildings and doing green space clean-ups to organizing their Braille library and assisting at their fundraising/awareness 5k walk.  These larger events are usually on the weekends, though there are additional volunteer opportunities with Perkins during the week for anyone who is interested!

Our club is pretty small, and with the pandemic over the past few years we’ve definitely faced challenges in finding ways to safely make a difference in our community. Now that things are moving back towards normalcy, we are excited to hopefully expand both our number of members and our volunteer opportunities. SVSN is low commitment – we send out a list of events happening each month, and our members can sign up for as many or as few as they want; it’s a very easy way to get involved with the local community and meet some fantastic people. Volunteers who attend our events regularly are also able to apply for any open executive board positions at the end of each year, so if you’re someone who wants to hold a meaningful leadership role during your time at BU, SVSN might be for you! If you’re interested, you can check out our instagram page (@svsnbu) or email me (nchiulli@bu.edu) with any questions. For incoming freshmen, you can also find our table at Splash next September in the Community Engagement section. We always have tons of fun, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to make even a small difference in the larger Boston community. If you’ve read this far and SVSN seems like a group for you, I hope to see you next year!

What to do the Summer After Your Senior Year

By Bridgette Lang (CAS’23)

The summer before you enter your freshman year of college can be a confusing time. You made a decision for your future, but now what? For the first time ever, you won’t have assigned summer work, meaning that you have a lot more free-time. Though it may seem like you have all of the time in the world, it’s still important to ration out some time for activities to prepare yourself for your first year of college! Here are some of my suggestions about what you should do the summer after your senior year:

1. Get a part time job

Getting a part time job doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to spend your last summer of freedom, but working during the summer can set you up well for the school year. It’s no secret that Boston is an expensive city, and having some spending money can’t hurt to offset some of those costs.

2. Learn skills to become more independent

Use your parents as a resource while you can! Do you have questions about how to open up your first credit card? Or maybe you’re just unsure how often you need to wash your sheets. College is your first step into adulthood, so ask questions before you get there. I’m sure your parents will love getting a phone call from you during the semester, but maybe they won’t be as happy if you are asking them how to clean the toilet two months into the semester.

3. Set up professional social media accounts

You might already have a Linked In or Handshake account, but if you don’t, go set one up now. Creating your account and entering in some basic information before you get to school will help you get a head start. Instead of creating an entire account when you’re looking for a summer internship in the fall, you can simply update your profile.

4. Make your Boston bucket list

If you’re not from Massachusetts, Boston has a lot of new sights for you to explore. If you make a bucket list over the summer, you can try to stop by everything that you want to see. You can maybe even make a one year and a four year bucket list. You’ll never get bored!

5. Find clubs to join and activities outside of class

In high school, I’m sure you participated in clubs that helped enhance your academic experience, but college offers a wider variety of clubs, organizations, and activities. It could be useful to evaluate what activities you enjoyed and what other ones you didn’t have an attachment to. Is there anything new that you want to try that wasn’t available at your high school? Check out BU’s full list of clubs here:

https://www.bu.edu/admissions/why-bu/student-life/student-activities/

6. Give your brain a rest

Every single summer, I am sure that you’ve been given summer work by your teachers. Reading five chapters of your AP textbook, writing three papers for your summer reading books, and solving math problems is what my summers normally looked like. With that being said, it's important to give your brain a break from learning and do what you enjoy. Congratulate yourself for what you’ve accomplished, and give yourself the space and time to reflect on your journey so far.

A Day in My Life as a Biomedical Engineering Major and Pre-med in Kilachand!

By Emma Hartman (ENG’23)

5:40 AM: I wake up. OK, OK: don’t panic reading this -- as hard as it is to believe, this is something I do to myself willingly and for reasons completely unrelated to academics. My favorite hot yoga class is at 6 am on Wednesdays at a yoga studio less than 5 minutes from my dorm. There are other yoga classes at normal times, but I really like this one.

6 AM: Hot Yoga! I started practicing yoga about a month ago to shake up my routine and quickly got addicted. I use it to manage my stress, stay in shape, and as something fun and COVID safe that I can do with friends.

7 AM: I take my time on the walk back to my dorm. I live in a safe area that’s incredibly pretty in the morning and I’m trying to enjoy it more. When I get back to my brownstone, I make some breakfast (I’m currently training in the art of microwave-based cooking) and shower before class.

Beacon Street in the morning, right by South Campus.
Beacon Street in the morning, right by South Campus.

9 AM: I arrive at the George Sherman Union (GSU), our student center, before my first class and meet up with my friend Sarah. Our Differential Equations lecture is remote learning only this semester, but we meet up to get Starbucks, catch up, and to take the class together in the library attached to the GSU. We claim that we keep each other accountable and focused, but we almost always wind up talking during the slow parts of class.

10 AM: Sarah and I leave the GSU and walk to our next classes together. I have my Cell Biology and Biotechnology lecture, where I run into Natalia, one of my friends from Kilachand. We met during our first semester of freshman year in a Kilachand seminar on Latin American music. I met a lot of engineers in that class since we all took it to fulfill the same HUB units. I still see a lot of them in my engineering classes or around campus!

Socially Distanced Biology Lecture in Agganis.
Socially distanced Biology lecture in Agganis.

12 PM: My lecture is over, and I want some lunch. Some days I’ll stay by Agganis Arena, where my lecture was, and eat with my friend Karolyn who lives in West Campus. Other days, I’ll head back eastward and eat with my friends Chloe and Sarah, who are studying at the GSU. No matter where I am, I always try and use meals as a time to see my friends.

1 PM: I head into the BU biomedical engineering research lab that I work in. We study mice to learn more about the neural circuits in the brain responsible for movement. Right now, I’m working with a PhD student on her latest project. Together we’ve been training our 3 mice—Matcha, Mocha, and Macchiato—to perform different behavioral tasks. Once they’re trained, we use electrophysiology probes and optogenetic techniques to record neural activity in different parts of their brains (basically: we stick a sensor into a genetically engineered mouse’s brain and choose what areas of the brain we want to record data from by using a laser to selectively silence groups of brain cells). I ask my grad student a truly annoying number of questions about the research, and she answers every last one because she’s genuinely happy to help me learn.

My lab mouse Matcha is in her tube and ready for training!
My lab mouse Matcha is in her tube and ready for training!

4 PM: It’s time to log onto Zoom for my HUB co-curricular, a course that I take in tandem with KHC HC 302. We teach Boston high schoolers about public health through a local program called Boston Area Health Education Center. It’s a great way to give back to the local community, learn more about public health and the Boston Public School system, and secure a coveted HUB unit.

6 PM: I log off of Zoom and knock on my roommate Iris’s door. We’re off to go find dinner so we can bring it back home, eat on the couch, and talk about our days. Sometimes we put on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or the Bachelor while we eat

7 PM: I do some homework and answer some emails for my Girls Who Code club.

8 PM: I log onto Zoom office hours for my engineering mechanics class. I work on my homework and private message my friend Jenny, who’s also here because she’s struggling with problem #7 too.

9 PM: My roommate wanders back out to our couch and wants to figure out our weekend plans. We bring our laptops to the couch and work while we talk. Eventually, we either finish or abandon our work and just relax.

10:15 PM: I start getting ready for bed, write in my journal about the day, and look at my color-coded Google Calendar as I write in my planner about tomorrow. Tomorrow’s schedule is incredibly different, but no less exciting!

ENG & KHC: Balancing Academics, Extracurriculars, and Social Life

By Peyton Tierney (ENG’21) & Deema Abdel-Meguid (ENG’21)

DeemaPeyton
Peyton & Deema, March 2021: Four years later, still each other’s ENG and KHC partner in crime <3

Freshman Year (Don’t worry about the extra credits!)

Peyton: Freshman year on paper is daunting, and I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy. Since both KHC and the engineering core curriculum are front-loaded, you will be taking 2-3 more credits than your peers who are either in just ENG or just KHC. The good news is the extra credits are primarily just for the first year, and once you get the hang of it you're in a better place to deal with the more fun and challenging work that follows in your next few years. Deema and I survived the freshman year workload while also joining clubs and making friends so we are here to tell you that you can do it too!

Deema: Freshman year certainly was not an easy one. I was maxed out on credits, signing up for a bunch of clubs and organizations and trying to maintain the clean pink and grey aesthetic I had chosen for my second floor KHC double. Finding a balance was challenging at first, but knowing I was not the only engineering student going through it helped tremendously. I quickly got into the swing of things. My peers and I encouraged and supported each other to keep pushing through. I distinctly remember Peyton, who was amazing at chemistry, teaching me about moles using a tree and leaves metaphor when we were freshmen. Who knows what would have happened in that class without her...

Eventually, freshman year was over, and it was on to the next. Being in ENG and Kilachand is more work than your major alone, but it is ABSOLUTELY doable and highly worth it. There is a lot of talk about the retention rate in Kilachand when you are an engineering student, but the reality is that if you are willing to put in the work and you value the balanced education Kilachand gives you, you will pull through and you will make some of the strongest academic connections imaginable when you do.

Peyton and Deema in New York, 2018
Peyton and Deema in New York, 2018

Advising (Plan ahead)

Peyton: I am graduating this year as a KHC, biomedical engineering student with a concentration in nanotechnology and completing the pre-med track while having studied abroad and worked in a lab for 3 years. It takes lots of advanced planning, good time management, and a lot of hard work and dedication, but you can accomplish whatever your goals are. And you don’t have to do it alone, you have a veritable fleet of advisors to help you navigate class registration, extracurriculars, and future planning. I have a KHC advisor, an ENG advisor, and a premed advisor to ensure that I am fulfilling all of the necessary requirements for my degree. All are extremely supportive of my goals and have also helped me plan what research/extracurricular I should strive for as well as helped refine my post-grad plans.

Deema: Throughout my time in the Honors College, I worked with my ENG advisors and my KHC advisors to flesh out my schedule and academic goals. At one point, I wanted to minor in Biology, and even with my Kilachand schedule and requirements, I was able to work with the department to make it possible. I ended up starting a minor in Mechanical Engineering and was able to take a few extra classes and opportunities to work towards it. My advisors were supportive every step of the way.

Peyton and Deema in Salem for Halloween, 2017 (Left), and having high tea at the Boston Public Libraries, 2017 (Right)
Peyton and Deema in Salem for Halloween, 2017 (Left), and having high tea at the Boston Public Libraries, 2017 (Right)

Finding Balance (Class, Life, Lab)

Peyton: While good time management is essential to managing the busy schedule of ENG KHC student, finding activities you enjoy and friends to hang out with is critical to your success and wellbeing. Growing up with a family who plays a lot of boardgames, I joined the BU Boardgame club my freshman year. Through this group, I met the majority of my friends outside of KHC and ENG and used our Thursday night meeting times as both incentives to finish all my weekly problem sets a day early and to ensure I always had a night off to have fun. Boardgames have been a part of my weekly routine for 4 years now, and I am the current president of the club. Making sure to give yourself a couple of nights off every week despite how busy you are is a great way to ensure you always have the energy you need for your busy schedule. Managing lab work and classes also gets easier starting your junior year as you are finished with the engineering core curriculum and have a greater say over your electives and class schedule. This makes scheduling blocks of time to participate in research a lot smoother. Also, there are a number of opportunities for paid summer/semester research work for engineering students so you can get paid for these hours.

Deema: Looking back on my four years at BU, it was really the people I met who helped me find balance. It was the friends I made in my Dance Theater Group who made the late rehearsals after a long day of academics worth it. It was my colleagues in my research labs who were also up late nights making incredible research happen who helped me push through my own late nights. It was the Brothers I met in my professional fraternity who became my family in Engineering and made me smile during the tougher weeks. It was the KHC friends that I got to bond with during classes that made every moment in Kilachand worth it. Finding balance for me was about finding the right support groups and people who kept me on my toes and reminded me of the activities that I enjoy the most. Balance was about finding moments between classes like walking or eating at the dining hall to catch up with friends.

Making time for the things you love and the people you care about (including yourself) is absolutely key for navigating whatever academic path you choose to pursue. Taking care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you, will re-energize you and enable you to better fulfill your obligations. The road was bumpy at times, but here I am getting ready to graduate!

Peyton and I have done almost every project possible together when given the choice. We are both BME, so we have been in most of the same classes both within KHC and in ENG. We always worked together well, but it was really the common experience we shared of both being in KHC and having similar ways of thinking that brought us success and honestly a lot of fun while we worked on a ton of deliverables together. Our story is not unique, and many people in ENG and KHC tend to pair up because they are the best equipped to support each other through the entire process.

Peyton: My best piece of advice is finding a group of friends to become your study group. Since we all tend to be busy, we often schedule longer than necessary group meetings or study sessions so that we can also use these work periods to hang out. These study sessions work even when we are not working on the same sets of assignments, it's just nice to have the blocked off to keep each other accountable and catch up on the week!

The Three Groups to Join in College

By Ellie Olsen (SAR'23)

Above: My view of the Prudential Tower and downtown Boston from my dorm window.


In high school, I was involved in upwards of 10 extracurriculars. I played two sports, was an officer for student council and National Honor Society, played in the band, was involved with my church, and more. The time I needed to devote to these activities was balanced, with all of it fitting together neatly. Most of them also doubled as social time because my friends and I joined the same clubs. If I tried to be involved with that same number of activities in college, I would fail miserably.

College extracurriculars ask much more time of you than high school ones did, and because of that, I knew I would struggle to maintain the same level of involvement. I was given a piece of advice before going to college about how to choose among the thousands of activities that colleges have to offer, and regardless of how involved you were in high school, I think it’s important to consider: “Choose three things to get involved in when you get to college: one for academics, one for service, and one for social interaction.”

As a note before I tell you what I chose to get involved in, it will take some trial and error to find the perfect three. You should probably start with 8 or 10 and narrow down which ones serve you the most, providing a balanced array of opportunities and engagement.  Also, three is a guideline. I have 5 main extracurriculars that I have been involved with for most of college, and other ones have come and gone or require less time and can be added on, so take everything that I say here with a grain of salt.

Now for my big 3.

1. Academics. I am a health science major looking to get my Master of Public Health and then continue into clinical medicine. To boost my skill set and strengthen my resume, I joined Peer Health Exchange as a Health Educator. I teach a public health curriculum to Boston Public School high school students, and can say with confidence that I now know how to communicate health information and work well with young people, both of which will be valuable to my professional career.

2. Service. I have participated in community service activities my whole life and quickly found that I was missing it when I got to college. I joined Camp Kesem, a free camp run by college students for kids whose lives have been affected by their parent’s cancer, to both develop my leadership skills and become more involved in service. I am now a development coordinator and have organized fundraisers that have gathered our chapter more than $20,000 in 5 months.

3. Social. I have been inseparable from my best friend since we met in seventh grade, and going to college left a hole that she had filled in my everyday life. I struggled to find close friends and, though I was successful in making a few, I wanted a larger group of people to be involved in, so I joined Sigma Kappa, a panhellenic sorority, and Omega Phi Alpha, a community service sorority. I have absolutely loved my time in both of them and have found it so easy to find friends among girls that are like minded and hold similar values.

I want to emphasize again that getting involved is not a formula. Nobody can tell you what three things to join or if three is going to be your magic number. I also have a job that I love at the FitRec center, served as an FY101 peer mentor (highly recommend taking FY101!!!), am a Kilachand ambassador, will start a job as an EMT in the fall, and do normal college things like working out, going out with friends, and sitting around watching movies when I don’t feel like doing anything else. These are all integral parts of my college experience and have made my time at BU as amazing as it has been in just my first two years.

I think getting involved is a good thing to start thinking about before you’re in college and even for my fellow college students, it is never too late to join something that looks exciting to you. My best piece of advice is to join what you find interesting, stop being involved in something if it is not adding great value to your life, and do what you need to to maintain your balance, which for me is fitting my main extracurriculars into one of those 3 categories.