Scholarships: Life-Giving Hope

In Hope promotional materials (especially to donors and asking for donations), scholarships are associated with some type of life-giving, hope-promoting (pun there), and very crucial pieces of student life.

I didn’t understand just how important they were until I attended a Scholarship Luncheon two weeks ago. I have received many scholarships during my time at Hope, and without them I wouldn’t be able to attend. Let’s be real, not many families have $40K to throw into a single individual’s education each year. My family certainly doesn’t. This is where loans come in. But who wants to be paying back for years to come? Scholarships are LIFE-GIVING. and HOPE Promoting. On both ends.

This year, a new scholarship emerged called the Dr. Margaret DeWitt Van Wylen Scholarship, given to an upperclasswoman (Gender roles here, people) pursuing some type of pre-medical/advanced science curriculum. When I received the initial letter, of course, I was like….SCORE. MONEY. Who doesn’t like a letter telling them they get some money? And of course, I noticed my scholarship contained names that are common on campus….DeWitt…hm well there is a STUDENT CENTER called the DeWitt Center…..VanWylen…Well…our VanWylen library….

But for some reason, in my busyness I didn’t really take the time to look into my donor, and things didn’t really click.

I was invited to the Scholarship Luncheon (where donors get to check in with their award receipients to see how the semester is going), and eagerly googled my donors to see what they looked like so I could be prepared to meet them. I ran into some INTERESTING things.

Oh – did you know Dr. Margaret VanWylen was a psychiatrist that traveled throughout Michigan helping nursing home patients?

The library was named after them……

And…oh…minor detail….she is married to Gordon VanWylen – the ninth president of Hope College.

BOOM. I quickly realized I was in over my head and did not realize the prestige of my donors and their contributions to the Holland Area (they do a lot). I’m just a struggling college student!!! How am I supposed to impress them?!

So, I put on my big-girl pants and went to the luncheon. Man. They are the most awesome power-couple you could meet. I learned about their retirement years, which now include TONS of reading by Margaret and impressive work for the City of Holland by Gordon. They live downtown and even invited me over for dinner!! They were very intrigued by my research and I talked a lot with Dr. VanWylen (Margaret) about her experience in the medical field. WOW were things different! She never found out her MCAT score, they just accepted her to UM med school! HA!

Anyways, I had a blast and can’t wait to learn more about them and develop our relationship.

Here’s a little snapshot from the day. (Please ignore my awkward stance).

Me, Mark (another recipient) and the VanWylen's!
Me, Mark (another recipient) and the VanWylen’s!

More next time!! XOXO


Documentaries on Documentaries: My take on my recently watched

Lately, I’ve been watching some interesting documentaries. My brain has been going crazy, craving information and stimulation via video.

Here’s a review of some of the top documentaries I’ve watched in the last week:

The Woman Who Wasn’t There

66276cee9db349b79411ed63bbcfb3a2This is a fascinating and captivating documentary. Though the title is quite revealing, we initially get the story of Tania Head. She tells her story of surviving the September 11th attacks being in the second building that was hit, while working for Merrill Lynch. Her husband, devastatingly, was in the tower next to her, and was killed that day. Being thrown against a marble wall and experiencing terrible arm and back burns, Tania stayed in the hospital for quite some time. This documentary covers her involvement in survivor organizations and her enthusiasm for survivors to be thankful to be alive.

OK. So I’m not going to spoil it all for you, because the documentary does a great job of portraying this already, but the title is quite telling. TANIA wasn’t there. Actually her name isn’t even Tania….

Check it out to find out this immigrant’s desperate story to be involved in a new nation’s catastrophe.

Inside Pixar

pixar-w770h330This documentary is quick, witty, and just fun. It mostly follows and profiles John Lasseter, Pixar’s current CEO. Overviewing Pixar’s history and Lasseter’s career, you learn about Steve Jobs’ acquisition of the company, Lasseter’s passion for cartoons and animation, and the overall process of developing a Pixar film. I really recommend this short, even if you’re not that thrilled with Pixar movies. Being now acquired by Disney, Pixar films will continue to evolve, and let me tell you: If you want to make some money – get into Pixar.

Bloomberg Game Changers: Anna Wintour

13905806_oriLooking for a lighter film, I jumped into the world of Anna Wintour, Vogue‘s current Editor-in-Chief. Walking through Anna’s life, her dedication, perseverance, and cutting-edge willingness to make drastic changes characterizes her career. Friends say she always had the goal of being the top of Vogue, but it took her many mistakes to get there. She became the editor of House & Garden on her way up, and guess what she did… She changed the entire format of the magazine and started putting celebrities in the photos to change the focus of each piece. This was a dramatic FAIL and the company even had to give back customer subscriptions because they were all so displeased. But this failure didn’t stop her and eventually she rose to the top.

I think the fashion industry is fascinating, mostly because I don’t understand it, so this documentary was almost a mystical continuation of my misunderstanding of what occurs. I highly recommend it. It’s also pretty short as well.

I also have watched a fair amount of strange singer documentaries, which I also find fascinating. The business side of entertainment is so predictable. Though quite fluffy and lacking information, I’ve also seen Taylor Swift’s Journey to Fearless, Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never (which apparently nobody else liked….I didn’t think it was bad), and Katy Perry’s Part of Me. If you’re looking to get an inside look of what it’s like on tour, this is the genre for you! There’s also a One Direction one… (I don’t know much about them)….So maybe i’ll have to check it out pretty soon for laughs.

Take it or leave it! But documentaries are NEVER a waste of time. LEARN LEARN LEARN.

Greek Orientation and a Splash of Spring

Hi guys!!

Guess what! I ran outside for three days in a row. Can you believe it?? It has been warm enough (above freezing) to somewhat enjoy the sunshine in Holland. I feel blessed that I am able to run this season, as last year I was still recovering from hip surgery.

Anyways, on the school-front just the same-ole same-ole… Tests, assignments, etc. However! My biochem lab was only a half semester class, so now I have 5 extra hours in the week! WOO HOO.

Also, I was the Greek Orientation assistant for my sorority, Theta Gamma Pi, which took up about 20 hours per week.So, I’m glad that is over. What is Greek Orientation, you ask? Well. it’s an alternative to new member education, or pledging, a sorority or fraternity. Hope College came up with this new system this year to help easy new members into Greek life a bit easier and much nicer. This system eliminates the temptation for active members to haze new members and demand tasks from them. Nobody wants to be tortured to get into an organization!!

I am so proud of our pledge class, 8 girls that I am proud to now call my sisters. They worked really hard for all that they accomplished, and although it was a long and busy 5 weeks of Greek orientation, they will be great assets to our organization.


Part of their final initiation was a stroll, a dance that was performed together. They completed this stroll with masks on to “mask their true identity.” Then, they introduced themselves based on their talents and attributes, and finally were able to say, I am a member of Theta Gamma Pi! And they got to take off their mask and REVEAL their identity, to show us our new sisters.

It was actually REALLY REALLY cool, even if it sounds a little dorky. It’s a very formal process and it really helps to put on a show for the alumni and active members to show what our new members have been working on for 5 weeks! They also get to show off their sorority knowledge and information they’ve learned.

1779046_683552715024970_283187546_nANYWAYS. Just a tidbit about what has been happening in my life over the last weekish.

I hope you’re weeks are going well! If you have sunshine, enjoy it!!!

Also, enjoy the SPRING FORWARD. Maybe this will mean No more Snow?

A Week in the Life: A Biochemist


Sometimes I’m not so good at prioritizing. Let’s be honest. We all have a lot on our plates. I’m no busier than anyone else. But, you need to be realistic about what you’re getting yourself into here! College is more than a full time job. But, the lucky part is it’s a blast.

Here’s a glimpse at my first week of February:


Yeah. You can laugh about my “Amanda Needs to Workout” scheduled event everyday.

I also had Greek Orientation events M,T, H from 8pm-10pm that are not shown.

The biggest question during the week becomes: When am I actually going to do my to-do list??

And what about my to-do list?

Monday: Study all neurochem for upcoming test, start analysis on biochem lab, study all physics for upcoming exam, study all behavior disorders for upcoming exam, finish online physics lab 2.2 and begin 2.3. Print information for Greek orientation.

Tuesday: Continue Monday’s to-do list and also work on the MSU summer research application that is due. Work on lab paper about gut ecology that should have been done by now!

Wednesday: Study biochem because there’s an exam coming up! Finish 2.3 physics lab. Also continue Monday’s to-do list, because lets be honest, you didn’t study on Monday.

Thursday: Work on the new biochem notes (aka understanding them), finish the biochem lab report complete with graphs, do the new physics CAPA and the Friday homework, print out information for Greek orientation.

Friday & Saturday: Work on the new biochem prelab and finish the biochem lab report that is due at 5 PM. Read the new 30-page chapter of behavior disorders. Read a 6-page PDF about depression and write an extra credit summary for behavior disorders. YOU NEED THE EXTRA CREDIT. Choose a topic and make an outline for neurochemistry on a neurological disorder that you will write a 15-page review about by the end of the semester. This includes picking journal articles as references and delving into the literature. Work on lab paper that should have been done already.

Sunday: Do all of that Friday and Saturday stuff that you didn’t finish!

Yeah. Well let’s be honest it’s not a walk in the park. But hey, it’s all for a good cause: AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE. Along the way you meet great friends, learn lots, and make mistakes. It’s all called LIFE.

Also, I have to admit, lately I have been visiting the cats at Petco a lot, because I’m missing my snuggly animals! So, just for you, here is a collage of cat photos.

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Perks of Hope College Living + Special Apartment Bonus

So you’re debating whether the Hope College Campus life is for you…. Not really sure if you should live on campus, off campus, commuter??? WELL. Do I have some good pointers for you. Here are the top reasons I LOVE living on campus and why I will for ALL FOUR YEARS of my undergrad education

Top reason:
1. My financial aid stays nice and happy like I like it. 🙂

Other reasons:

  • I don’t have to buy toilet paper. It’s always provided.
  • The physical plant man fixes all my problems like broken stove clocks and burnt out lightbulbs, and even helps me push my car out of a snowbank!!
  • I don’t pay for electricity or heat (ok you could debate that I do but really I would prefer to think that I don’t).
  • My driveway gets plowed whenever I want it to!!!!
  • I am 1.5 blocks away from all my classes (but sometimes that seems really far on Hope’s campus).
  • I can keep my 7+ meal plan so that I don’t starve!
  • When I need money, I can walk to an ATM in Dewitt Student Center (disclaimer: this money is not free. It comes from your account…I know…it was sad when I realized that too).
  • When it’s a snow day, I can still walk to the lab 😉
  • I literally never have to drive if I don’t want to.
  • I can get up at 8:22 for my 8:30 class and be on time!!!!
  • The Hope shuttle that drives around from residence hall to residence hall has a bus stop right at my driveway (SUPER CONVENIENT in this winter arctic weather).
  • Constantly furnished everything!!!

Now perks of living in an apartment on Hope’s campus:

  • I have a kitchen to myself!!! And I can bake whenever I please.
  • I have a living room that is very quiet.
  • Nobody is allowed in except people I like (ok this is true anywhere I suppose).
  • I can workout in my living room!
  • Hope provides shovels and salt for scary winter conditions.
  • I can put a standup kickboxing bag with my roommates face on it in the living room and she just laughs.
  • I can have an exercise ball to roll around on.
  • We are a part of a Hope College neighborhood ( a web of supportive community alliances).
  • I have a driveway for my little car to park in.
  • I have a backdoor that leads to wildlife (squirrels, skunks, kittens….).
  • I have my own WASHER AND DRYER. holler.
  • I can sleep anywhere in my apartment if I so desire.
  • I can have late night romcom movie sobbing sessions and nobody will know.
  • I have every appliance known to man and my kitchen fits them all!!!! (toaster, coffeepot, keurig, blender, crockpot x 3, espresso machine, microwave, rice cooker)
  • I can leave my homework all over my couch and nobody complains.
  • I can hang artwork all over the walls.

If that doesn’t make you excited to come to college, I’m not sure what will!!!! Send your questions and comments to or tweet me @hopeamanda15!!

Skiing, UP, Cats, and Snow :\

Welcome back everyone!

I don’t know about you, but my Christmas break was just what I needed. It was a time full of relaxation and family. So wow. It was a whirlwind. I’ll give you a little walkthrough using some photos I took.










My boyfriend, Jeff, and I went to the Holland Crazy Bounce! Let me tell you, it is a crazy good time. Admission is really cheap, and there are a ton of bouncey houses and slides and obstacle courses. We had a blast. One of my favorites was the TIGER SLIDE. Above is me sitting on the tigers paw. It took many attempts to get up there!


My boyfriend was super lucky and went to Mexico for part of break. So what did the little Eskimo stuck in Michigan do? Of course, I dug out his mom’s truck and his car! After the record snowfall in Holland, there was a lot to do after only a week of leaving the cars. I had to shovel a lot :\.


Upon arriving back at Hope, I got my car stuck. Four times. Here is one of my escapades. Don’t ask why I was so close to my house ! ;).

Cat time

Please tell me, what is winter break without a good animal cuddle sesh? I spent a lot of time cuddling up with my cat, Simba!!!! It’s something you don’t think about often at school, but I MISS MY ANIMALS!


I went to Goodwill over break and got some photo frames for $.50 each. I gave them a little paint job to match my room and added photos! Ok, I didn’t add the leopard. That was already there.

The Mackinaw Bridge
The Mackinaw Bridge

All of my relatives live in the Upper Peninsula, where I am originally from. We took many trips across the Mackinaw Bridge. Look how pretty the Ice is!!!


My grandma lives in a really tiny town named Engadine, Michigan. They opened a new restaurant there, so here we are trying out the new Pine and Dine!

Cleaning out the ties
Cleaning out the ties

My stepdad has a lucrative amount of ties. He claims he can tell them all apart but I really don’t believe it. There has to be multiples in there somewhere. My mom and sister decided they were not only going to count but organize the ties. They gave up halfway through. There were over 300 ties. PUH-LEASE. Really ? How could you ever need that many.

Skiing with my mom
Skiing with my mom

I did an amazing amount of skiing over break. I love to XC ski, as I was the captain in high school! Last year I had hip surgery and had to sit out the season, so it was nice to finally get back out on the snow!

My dog gunner with his stuffed animal dogs
Gunner with his friends

For Christmas, we got my dog some friends. He definitely needed them. And now he cuddles them all the time!

Boyfriend brings rose and chocolate
Jeff brings me a rose and chocolate!

Oh, I just have to brag a little that my boyfriend showed up with MY TWO FAVORITE THINGS. A rose and Godiva chocolate. Good job, Jeff.

ANYWAYS! How was your break? I hope successful and relaxing! Do you have any questions about what it’s like to go on break as a Junior in college?

Please please please. Email me about anything! I love to hear from prospective and current students! Email me at, or tweet me @hopeamanda15!



Summer Research: Trips, Lab Family, and Fun!

Scientific Lab Cousins
Scientific Lab Cousins

I have neglected to tell you about my fabulous summer right here in Holland, Michigan. As a third year researcher at Hope, this summer was my ultimate time to grow in the lab. I was blessed to receive the Wolterink Prize in Biology in the Spring of 2013 for an upperclassman student that shows promise in research, funding me for a summer research position here at Hope. I had already applied to do research with Dr. Fraley (my lab mentor) for the summer, so it was perfect! He was happy that I was paid for, and I was happy that I for sure got a spot!

I was joined by three other students (all current seniors) in the lab for the summer, and boy did we have a blast. Working on multiple studies, we focused on progressing our projects and delving into the research we are not able to progress much on during the academic year. We worked on GnIH rat studies, cannulizing different locations of the hypothalamus to determine what the affect of GnIH is on feeding behaviors, behavioral duck studies, and a brand new water study on ducks that is technically TOP SECRET.

When thinking about research, it’s really a two way street. What can the student do for the mentor (of course- putting in the work and learning the material) but also what the mentor can do for the student. Teaching a scientist how to do science is NOT EASY. As new members come into our lab, veteran members are constantly learning how to best teach and mentor the new members. I give Dr. Fraley such credit for doing this 365 days a year for consistently new lab members.

Also, mentors give you CONNECTIONS. One of the most powerful things Dr. Fraley has done for us (other than teaching us science, and how to conduct science), is bringing us to national conferences and introducing us to elite members of the scientific community.

We had two AWESOME opportunities this summer to really get to know some of the top members in the poultry field.  The first event was a research conference at Maple Leaf Farms Co. to introduce the executives at MLF to the research and potential research that can be done to improve the poultry industry and standards they use daily.

Alexis Presenting for Maple Leaf FarmsAlexis Presenting for Maple Leaf Farms

Two of our lab members presented posters at MLF, and two of us did 15 minute presentations on our research. I happened to give a 15 minute presentation and BOY was a I NERVOUS. Standing in front of experts in your field and presenting on your findings is quite intimidating. However, the crowd was very receptive, interested, and asked GREAT questions that really helped me improve my research goals and define the next steps in my project.
The second event was a week-long trip to San Diego, California to attend the American Poultry Association Yearly Meeting.
We met an incredible amount of scientists, PhD and Masters Students and it was a great time to learn not only about other research but about possible careers in the sciences. You can read about graduate schools and opportunities there, but hearing it first-hand from students attending these schools is really a great resource.
2 generations of Poultry Scientists
2 generations of Poultry Scientists

At both conferences, we got to meet up with our “Lab Uncle and cousins,” Dr. Fraley’s colleague Dr. Michael Lilburn and his students. It was fun to pretend they were our “Lab Family.”

Grandma and the Fraley Lab
The Fraley Lab with Grandma!

We also met Dr. Fraley’s lab mentor and his wife! We had been anticipating meeting our “grandma and grandpa” for weeks before our conferences. When our “lab grandma” approached, she really surprised us by screaming, “ITS ME!!! GRANDMA!!!!” We definitely got a kick out of that.

Old Town San Diego

Of course our days weren’t only spent inside learning science and talking to colleagues. We got to do some site-seeing, mostly in Old Town San Diego. It was fantastic! With little shops, restaurants and performers, it was a great way to experience San Diego for the first time.

Old Town San Diego
Sightseeing in San Diego Old Town
Dr. Mamduh Sifri who joined us both in Indiana and San Diego
Dr. Mamduh Sifri who joined us both in Indiana and San Diego

While at the national conference, Chelsea Campbell and I presented yet again. This time, we did a 10 minute presentation with 5 minutes for questions from the audience. At the end of the conference, we got awards for our quality presentations. We were even featured on KnowHope later that week!

Fabulous Four In San Diego
Fabulous Four In San Diego

Though the summer was fun, of course, time goes on. Soon, I’ll fill you in on the Van Andel Institute conference we attended with new members of our lab. I am really proud of our new members who are really acclimating well and making great advances on our projects.

The Fraley Lab at VAI for WMRUGS 2013
The Fraley Lab at VAI for WMRUGS 2013

If you have any questions about summer research, or research at Hope, feel free to email me at or tweet me @hopeamanda15.

Trials and Tribulations: The Verdict of Bipolar

“You have Bipolar I.”

Two weeks ago, I had had enough. I was non-chalant, but exhuberant. Elated and pumped full of adrenaline. But so much so that I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t listen to one thing at a time. My thoughts were rapidly running, so fast I couldn’t even determine what each thought was. And I could do it all. I wanted to run a marathon? Sure. I could do it. I wanted to stay up for three days? No problem. My body could handle it.

In reality, I couldn’t. My body couldn’t. Having reacted poorly to an antidepressant, I found myself in an extremely strange place. I was having experiences unlike anything else. But, I knew I couldn’t go on like I was.

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I knew from the start there was a problem. After determining a diagnosis and stopping the evil antidepressant that had caused me to act so strangely, I have been able to really take a step back.

For some, Bipolar I is a death sentence, and understandably so. In a reality where such stigma is placed on mental illness, it’s difficult for others to understand. With cancers, joint replacements, organ transplants, and broken bones, a piece of your body is on the mend. Interestingly, dealing with mental illness is exactly the same; but it’s seemingly more difficult for others to comprehend when that piece that is suffering is your personality and your mental ability.

I’m taking a huge risk sharing this with you. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take. If we are so scared to talk about mental illness, how can we ever change and more importantly help those that need support? It’s true, that I have lost quite a few friends who just can’t fathom the idea of befriending a Bipolar I individual. Funny thing is, they knew me before I was even being treated.

My Hope Professors have been nothing but encouraging. I missed a week and a half of school (which I do not recommend), and I became pretty far behind. I missed four exams :\. I, like I am sharing with you, told them upfront what I had been dealing with. My make-up work became my own schedule, and each professor worked around me effortlessly. They were there to solicit studying advice and even spent extra time with me in learning the material. I highly doubt it would have been this easy at a large public university where the professor doesn’t even know my name. I hadn’t seen one of my professors for a couple of days, so she even CALLED me to make sure I was doing ok and asked if I needed anything. The community we live in here at Hope College is unlike anything I have ever experienced, but I am blessed to call it my home right now.

But where do we go from here, friends? We continue on with life. We hope for a better future; a more magnificent outcome. And most importantly, we continue being ourselves! Who can we love if we cannot love ourselves?

Just a few things for you to stew over here:

Celebrities with Bipolar:

Beethoven, Charles Dickens, Mel Gibson, Macy Gray, Ernest Hemingway, John Keats, Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, Moses (how do they know he was bipolar, beats me), Isaac Newton, Florence Nightingale, Edgar Allen Poe, well you get the point.

  • Over 5.7 million adults currently suffer with Bipolar Disorder (about 3% of US population)
  • Average age of onset is 25 years old (Guess I made it a little early.)
  • People who receive correct diagnosis after 3 years: 25% **Definitely need to work on this.
  • Only 49% of those diagnosed are receiving treatment

Have an excellent weekend everyone ! And be sure to follow me on the Twitter!

Mindfulness: 3 ways to destress


This is how I feel around this time of the semester. With 5 weeks left, we are burdened with all types of commitments, projects, and assignments to complete.

We put ourselves in this REALLY strange situation of this thing called school. It’s one of the most stressful events of our lives (if we allow it to be), along with the other stressors of life.

So today, I’m going to take a minute to give us some healthy coping skills.

(BTW, I stole this awesome graphic from If you have never heard of this site, I would highly suggest checking it out!)


  1. Deep Breathing. This is a really great technique in which you can quiet anxieties and lower heart rate. It’s time to concentrate only on your breathing pattern and how it effects your heart rate. Taking just 2 minutes per day to practice deep breathing will significantly increase your ability to concentrate and reduce anxiety.
  2. Mindfulness. MY FAVORITE. Focus on one object. My favorite object to focus on is a candy, because then I get to eat it. It starts by studying the object. What does it look like? Is it wrapped? What does the wrapper feel like? Slowly unwrap it. What is the texture of the candy? What does it smell like? What does the candy feel like in your hand. What shape is it? Take a lick! What does it taste like, does the taste concentrate in one area of your tongue, or does it dissipate quickly? Put it in your mouth. What does it feel like on your teeth? Is the flavor stronger in one section of your mouth rather than the other? Continue on for 5 minutes focusing only on the candy.
  3. One thing at a time. Focus on the task at hand and only the task at hand. For example, if I’m washing the dishes, I would control my mind to focus only on the dishes. Repeat in your head or even outloud: Pick up the cup, I rinse the cup, I scrub the cup, I rinse the cup, I put the cup in the dish rack. And so on. Do this for 5-10 minutes. If you fall off and start thinking of other things, just ease your mind back to the task at hand. This helps you be in the moment, and ground yourself.

Of course there are hundreds of coping skills for reducing stress and anxiety, but these are my favorite three. Take time to hold these in your mind and use them throughout the day. It takes 3 months to develop and maintain a habit. So start today! De-stress!