Merrick

About Merrick

Sophomore

Aerospace Engineering

Minor: Arabic Year: Sophomore Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia Campus Involvement: AFROTC, Honors Program, Women in Aviation, O-Team, Resident Advisor Why I chose Embry-Riddle: I chose Embry-Riddle for the passionate and studious campus atmosphere. Everyone seemed so motivated and friendly! I immediately wanted to contribute to that positive environment.

Fall Break & Breeze

Happy October everyone! October is my favorite month, and therefore it is appropriate to wish you all a Happy October. I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida.

I spent my fall break on campus working duty day shifts for my RA position, doing physics, statics, and calculus homework, and running! Although the last part may not sound like the best part for some people, the running was actually my favorite part of every day. Also fear not, as per usual I drank lots of coffee and tea.

My fall break didn’t feel like much of a break, but I am extremely thankful that I got to sleep in, or in other words have the luxury of waking up when the sun has already woken up. I must say I do enjoy being awake as the sun rises, but when I don’t get back to my room until it’s dark outside as per a typical school day, by the time I do homework, study, and get ready for bed I’m absolutely exhausted.

Even on my days off I usually wake up with the sun.

Aside from all of my responsibilities, my plants are thriving and deserve to be highlighted this week. I highly encourage succulents or cacti for dorm plants because even if you don’t have enough time to water them (me), they still do great with a little sunlight and a lot of positive energy (also me).

Some of my dorm plants!

As it is still hot in Florida, even though it’s late October, we’ve had great weather that’s been perfect for early morning beach PTs with AFROTC, which is always nice. It’s becoming the time of year when the weather is almost perfect for working out. I gauge the prime temperature for running to be when the air is cool enough that you aren’t sweating before you start working out, but not too cold that it stings your lungs. If it is cold enough that you are able to see your breathe when you exhale, I would prefer the temperature to increase slightly. Thankfully, in Florida, the weather ranges between extremely hot, mildly hot, temperate, and cool, but the cool doesn’t happen until about mid-winter, so lately the fall breeze had been extremely lavish!

Post beach PT with some of my favorite wingmen!

Currently we’re about half way through the fall semester and everyone around campus is extremely busy. Course loads are heavy, there’s lots of homework to be done, tests, quizzes, projects, presentations, and not a lot of time. In my personal experience I’m still on the journey to figuring out how to balance everything. I’ve heard so many times from professors that they encourage students to prioritize school work and really focus on their time management, and while this is true, I must counter this from the perspective of a college student- realistically there are not enough hours in a day. All we can do is try our best and hope for the best. Just keep swimming folks, will report back soon!

October & AFROTC

Happy October everyone! October is my favorite month and everything about fall is also the best. I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida.

Small (yet critical) life update: I passed the AFOQT! The AFOQT, which stands for the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test is a standardized test that all cadets in AFROTC detachments across the country take to determine if they are apt to become Air Force Officers.

Now, there is SO much more than just the AFOQT that goes into preparing to commission as an officer in the United States Air Force. Although I’m not officially there yet, the journey I’m on includes a lot of early morning trainings, leadership laboratory sessions, physical training with the rest of the cadet wing (along with working out outside of scheduled PT sessions), and of course working on the class requirements for my degree!

Being a cadet in AFROTC here at Embry Riddle has honestly been one of the most rewarding experiences and is hands down what I’m most proud to be a part of on campus. A phrase that is constantly reiterated to cadets here is that we are a family, and it’s extremely true! We workout together, we study together, we overcome obstacles together, and we get a flight of about twenty people who are always willing to grab dinner, its a pretty good deal.

Some of my favorite wingmen and I after a workout.

We recently celebrated the Air Force’s birthday and had a series of competitions within the wing between flights in events such as capture the flag, tug of war, relay races, and a poster and flag contest.

My Flight with the Colonel after a tug of war contest!

Just to clarify- the wing is composed of every cadet in AFROTC, which is then subdivided into groups, squadrons, and flights. Within flights of about twenty people there are subdivisions as well, but for right now we’ll just focus on big picture terminology.

Another exciting thing about going to college in Daytona Beach, being a part of Detachment 157, and going to Embry Riddle, is the exciting opportunities cadets have that are specific to this area. Some of my favorites are beach workouts and the Speedway run! Most recently we completed a morale physical training session on the beach where we got to workout by running and performing calisthenics right along the coastline as the sun rose. The weather here in Florida is typically in the upper 80s in October, and the early mornings are the perfect time to get exercise in, especially surrounded by a family of 400 members, AND at the beach. It really doesn’t get better than this folks, I’m motivated just thinking about it.

Flight picture after a beach PT!

Will report back soon!

Fall & Focusing on Commitments

Happy Fall everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida (yes, once again).

The first month of the semester is almost coming to an end and it truly has flown by. I’ve been so busy with classes, working out, homework, RA obligations, and trying to balance my work and school life. A key aspect of being successful when having a lot on your plate that I talked about before is balance. More specifically that can be boiled down to time management, i.e. planning and prioritizing, but in addition to those is staying true to yourself and your principles.

View from my dorm in the morning, I try to start every day with a positive outlook!

When I first got to college everyone told me to sign up for as much as possible and get very involved, then once I figured out what I liked the most and what I wanted to devote my time to, to narrow down what I was involved in to only what was most important to me. Embry-Riddle offers so many amazing clubs, extracurricular activities, and organizations on campus, but realistically it would be impossible to spread yourself so thin by trying to do everything, we’re only human. A kind of time management “rule” I’ve come up with for myself that’s helped me through college and life in general is that once I commit to something, it becomes my priority.

For example, if I find out two weeks in advance that a teacher is holding a Supplemental Instruction (SI) session before a test, I put it in my calendar and commit to it. Then, (also hypothetical) a week before the SI session, I find out an organization I’m involved in is volunteering for an event on campus scheduled for the same day and time as the SI session. This now presents a dilemma, because volunteering with friends would be more fun and the organization might be something I really care about, but I have to stay true to my word. Rule of thumb: even if the commitment is only to yourself, hold yourself accountable to your commitments. Reliability is a great skill to have and now is the perfect time to develop it. When I commit to something I give 100% of my effort, and you should too!

Photo from an AFROTC event!

Outside of being extremely busy lately, I am still trying to make time for myself and keep a positive attitude. Classes are challenging, and maintaining balance is sometimes difficult too, but parting words my friends: when you look at all of your responsibilities and commitments as items you have an opportunity to participate in or complete, your to-do list becomes less of a dread and more of something you’re lucky to be a part of.

Just keep swimming folks! Will report back soon!

September & Self Care

Happy September everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, where I currently predict I will be in for the next few months. Although when I typically think of September I think of Fall, here in Florida it still feels excessively like summer with the high temperatures and humidity. Fun fact: the first day of fall is September 22!

Classes have officially begun and are in full swing. This semester I’m taking 18 credits, which are comprised of classes such as Statics, Thermodynamics, Physics for Engineers III, Physics Lab for Engineers, Honors Calculus and Analytical Geometry III, Arabic, and of course my Air Force Leadership Laboratory and Air Force class. Outside of classes my schedule includes my duty day work shifts for my Resident Advisor position, homework, studying, working out either at the gym or outside when the weather isn’t too hot around campus, drinking coffee, and sleeping! I also attend the occasional group fitness class at the gym and like to add Boxing Conditioning, BodyPump, and Yoga sessions to my schedule when I can.

Trying not to take life (or yoga) too seriously!

As most of you know, college at Embry-Riddle is intense and while it’s good to be involved and stay busy, it’s always good to take time for yourself to unwind and relax too. Life is about balance, and overexerting yourself physically, mentally, or emotionally isn’t healthy at the moment, and is especially unhealthy in the long run. In my first year at Embry Riddle I’ve truly learned to appreciate the importance of balance, through trial and error of course. Recently, I’ve encountered a lot of changes in the pace of my life, I’ve traveled a lot, changed settings, changed schedules, but something that’s stayed with me throughout all that is a focus on balancing work and life.

My first semester at Riddle I hit the ground running, I was taking 16 credit hours, was really involved in AFROTC, and was trying to find myself and make friends on campus too. I completely immersed myself in classes, homework, and exercise, but on the downfall of not getting enough sleep, and not taking time for myself. About half way through my semester, I was walking back from my morning classes and realized that I was constantly rushing everywhere, and I never took time to stop and enjoy life, the weather, or even to take a moment to breathe. This is when I realized that as I was going through the motions of my day, I wasn’t really getting everything I could out of all the amazing experiences I was having. Being present 100% in everything I was doing is really the way I learned to make the most out of my experiences. Whether that meant putting my phone away in class or giving speakers in presentations my full attention, focusing on how my body feels when I’m working out, or building meaningful relationships with the people that I work, study, and live around such as classmates, professors, or even faculty members at the university.

Beach run with my AFROTC family!

My most recent focus this semester has been on proper sleep and self care. I started taking time at the end of every day to reflect on how to make the following day better, to breathe, and to do something for myself: such as reading something that’s not specifically for one of my classes, stretching, drinking tea, doing a face mask, or even cutting up some fruit to snack on while I do homework. Balance has given me an appreciation of the effort it takes to do well in my studies, but also the importance of happiness, and that how taking a few minutes every day to relax are crucial aspects to living my best, calm yet driven, lifestyle.

Stay motivated my friends. Will report back soon!

Fall Semester & AFROTC

Happy August everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach and the Fall 2018 semester is about to begin!

The past couple days have been filled with late nights and early mornings, but instead of studying or AFROTC, the latest concentration has been on move-ins of residents as a Resident Advisor and new student orientation from the perspective of an O-Teamer. An O-Teamer is an Orientation Team Ambassador (ie team member) and Orientation Team is essentially a group of enthusiastic, positive, motivated individuals who come together to welcome students to campus. To sum up the past week, orientation has certainly been very busy, but also a lot of fun. From Paint-U, Glowcade, to the beach bash, the magic show, the movie viewings, the magicians, and the hypnotists, the past couple weeks have been eventful in preparation for student arrival.

A fellow O-Teamer and I before Paint-U!

In other news, AFROTC is starting up again and I’m feeling slightly reminiscent into my AS100 year as I look forward to my AS200 year and meeting all the new AS100s. One year ago I was new to Embry-Riddle, AFROTC, engineering, and Florida. Just looking at how far I’ve come in one year absolutely amazes me and gets me so excited to see all the potential of younger generations as I’m actively contributing to the culture and atmosphere at Embry-Riddle. When I first started college I didn’t know anyone, and I was very nervous. This year I have such a strong support system of people I’ve met only less than one year ago, but feel like I’ve known my entire life. Riddle changed from a foreign place to a home, and I didn’t even realize that was possible when I first arrived. As the Air Force’s birthday approaches, and AFROTC prepares its annual celebration I’m looking back at photos from last year and how I greatly appreciated the irreplaceable connection with the people who surround me. We really were and are such a close community. I am so proud to be a part of our detachment.

The Air Force’s birthday in 2017!

I will be picking up my ABUs again pretty soon and as the semester kicks off I’m ready to be fully back in the swing of things. After spending the past month training and preparing for the school year to begin I’ve come to appreciate that no matter how much time you spend with any given group of people there is always something new you can learn from them every day. That beautiful phenomenon occurred to me as I bask in the nostalgic glory of how I’ve learned, grew, and bonded with the people that have been working besides me this past month.

Orientation Team group photo!

Will report back soon!

New City & New Semester Prep

Happy August everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida.

I have officially moved back to Embry-Riddle’s campus and am currently taking part in Resident Advisor training. This includes a lot of informative sessions, crisis response training, and scenario practice, plus prepping creative hall decorations in preparation for my new residents to move in. I will be a Resident Advisor this coming fall in the Honors Living and Learning Community in New Residence Hall and am very much looking forward to meeting all my new residents.

Aside from RA training, I am helping prepare for student arrivals at the end of this month with Orientation Team and will be participating in Orientation Training in the weeks to come before classes start as well.

On another note, I am all moved in and am excited to get back on my school routine. I just finished setting up my dorm!

Bed!

Tapestry!

Nice views from my window!

This will be my second year in AFROTC and I can’t wait for all my friends to move back. One of my friends who is also in AFROTC, happened to be living in the same town in Kansas that I was temporarily at this summer while learning Arabic. She comes back to Daytona Beach in a few days and I can’t wait because I’ll have a workout buddy again.

Photo from after an event during my first semester in AFROTC with my friend from Kansas (middle)!

(Shout out to my amazing mentor and workout buddy from last year who graduated in the spring.)

My mentor from freshman year!

To update on the Arabic aspect of my life:

I genuinely miss speaking Arabic so much and constantly being around people who I could communicate with in the language. I find myself frequently slipping Arabic words or phrases into my conversations and unfortunately it only seems to confuse the English speaking people I’m talking with (oops). I am hopefully going to be able to continue my Arabic studies in classes here at Riddle this fall, but if all else fails I will be sure to join some Arabic language centered or Islamic culture related clubs. I am very eager to meet more Arabic speakers on campus to practice my language skills with. On another note, I have been actively communicating via texts with my old Arabic classmates and our professor via our group chat. Texting in Arabic is more fun than it sounds, plus it helps me work on my spelling! I wish I had more face-to-face time with Arabic speakers here in Florida, but hopefully I’ll meet some new Arabic speaking friends soon. Side note: I just ordered a new Arabic keyboard cover for my laptop which I’m so excited about!

Will report back soon!

Finals & Nile Crocodiles

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Washington DC. (We’re not in Kansas anymore!)

In addition to all the usual events, my summer in Kansas concluded with an Arabic Homestay Dinner, conversation tables, presentations, a Saudi Arabian movie, an Oral Proficiency Exam, lunch field trips, dinners with our professor, a final exam consisting of listening, speaking, and writing portions, a final skit performance, and of course lots of coffee.

الحمد لله

I thankfully finished with an A in both semesters, but more importantly I made irreplaceable memories with my professor, tutors, and classmates. Also, thankfully, my last two weeks included more “mesa’a’ah” which is my newly discovered favorite Egyptian food.

Arabic Homestay Dinner at our tutor’s house!

Brief recap of the last two months:

After spending hours every day in person, emailing, texting, or calling each other I can honestly say I am so proud to have had the opportunity to study amongst likeminded individuals and to learn and develop language skills in such a supportive environment with my classmates, our tutor, and our professor.

I can now hold a conversation in Arabic, converse on a variety of topics, am more culturally aware, and confidently have a strong foundation of Arabic skills consisting of standard high language vocabulary and a lot of Egyptian dialect.

Family photo of our class with our classmate’s daughter!

For me learning Arabic was a chance to truly open my eyes to the beautiful diversities in the world, especially in Arabic speaking regions such as the Middle East where non-Arabic speakers commonly have a lot of misconceptions about not only language, but culture.

I have only begun my journey in understanding how culture contributes to perception, connotation, and communication. Educating myself is the start to contributing a more globally aware society, starting by breaking language barriers and expanding to clarifying misconceptions and squashing stereotypes. Learning Arabic has allowed me to start developing an understanding of culture and ways of life very different from what I, as a native English speaker, was typically used to. Despite cultural differences between geographical regions, languages bridge the gap between different people and creates an opportunity for communication and understanding to develop.

My classmate and I with our professor!

I would absolutely recommend Project GO to ROTC students, and I would highly encourage anyone up for a challenge to learn a new language as they have numerous benefits beyond the classroom. Learning languages truly helps to form more globally aware citizens. They broaden perspectives, open up doors for communication, educate people on culture, and can lead to amazing opportunities whether it be connecting people within your community, or meeting new people traveling abroad.

I am very thankful for this experience and excited to continue my quest learning Arabic inside and outside of the classroom in the years to come.

Visual representation of the word “ممكن” by my classmate and I, which doesn’t directly translate into English, but is ممكن a verb for maybe/sort of.

Side note: My professor is from Egypt, which houses the Nile River. In the Nile there are many crocodiles. Nile crocodiles can range from 15-20 feet long. Below is a visual representation of the size of a small (15-foot) crocodile, measured out by myself, my classmate, and our other classmate’s daughter.

One 15-foot Nile crocodile!

Will report back soon!

Second Semester & Cultural Exploration

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Lawrence, Kansas (yes, again).

I am half way through my second semester of an intensive language course and I’m still alive, and possibly thriving? I took my second midterm of the summer and have only two weeks left until I’ve completed an equivalent of one year of Arabic studies in two months.

In the first two weeks of second semester (in addition to class, tutoring, quizzes, exams, midterms, homework, and studying) I’ve attended a cultural presentation hosted by a Kuwaiti Professor, a field trip to a middle eastern café, and an Arab cooking class followed by an Africa Eats Dinner. I also have a new tutor from Saudi Arabia.

 

Insight to how these things contribute to my journey learning Arabic:

Culture plays a huge role in influencing many different aspects of the Arab world. In my experience with the Arabic language thus far, my exposure to different regions of Arab culture has been extremely beneficial in helping me to understand how words sprout new meanings and have certain connotations in different contexts. This understanding is extremely important in developing not only fluency, but native-like communication. Furthering my comprehension of Arabic words beyond classroom utilization is especially useful when developing my own vista of words that don’t translate into English.

On my road to becoming a global citizen, and in preparation to be able to take part in foreign relations in the future as an officer, I’ve realized the extreme importance that breaking language barriers plays. The more native speakers I get to interact with and the more I learn about courtesies and take part in different customs of diverse Arab culture, I feel more personally connected with what I’m learning. Beyond standard educational benefits, I’m beginning to grasp how learning Arabic truly offers numerous intangible benefits that extend beyond reading and writing and tap into why communication is a vital skill in a globally interactive world.

Cooking Class Highlight:

One of my absolute favorite dishes I learned to cook is an Egyptian dish that doesn’t translate into English but is pronounced sort of like “mesa’a’ah”. This is an eggplant dish with potatoes, spicy peppers (we used jalapenos), and homemade tomato sauce with garlic, onions, and spices. All of the ingredients are cooked separately, then are added together in a dish and baked. This food is absolutely amazing and fairly simple to put together.

The actual name: المسقعة

 

In addition to learning Arabic, and dealing with the ever-present Kansas summer heat, I’ve been running in the early mornings or late evenings depending on the day and have expanded my caffeine repertoire on quests seeking new study spaces.

Will report back soon!

First Semester & Finals

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Lawrence, Kansas.

My first semester of Arabic is officially over! One month in an intensive language course is no joke. I’m practically dreaming in Arabic at this point (kidding, but I wish).

This past month has flown by, from mosque visits during Ramadan, to celebrating Eid al-Fitr, having conversation tables with higher level Arabic students, talking with native speakers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, attending cultural presentations, watching Saudi Arabian films, performing skits in class, and numerous dinners. I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time and despite having to walk to class in 100+ degree weather with excessive heat and ozone warnings, I would do it again ten times over because this experience has been extremely eye opening and truly one of a kind.

Sometimes the grammar rules are overwhelming, the vocabulary seems like it won’t ever be able to stick in my brain, and I’m mentally exhausted, but despite hours of class, tutoring, homework, and studying, looking back to a month ago, I’ve accomplished things I wouldn’t have even thought of as possible. Some particularly proud moments I’ve had include writing a page in Arabic on my final exam, talking for ten minutes on the oral portion of my final, and writing a 500+ word final essay in Arabic.

Places I frequently study consist of my dorm room, the library, study rooms in my building, and a little coffee shop in walking distance just off campus called McLain’s Market that conveniently opens just in time for me to grab coffee before class.

A critical aspect in my learning experience thus far has been the close-knit community of students in my class with our professor and our tutor. Spending hours every day with the same people definitely presents its challenges, but despite the rigorous and exhausting academic dynamic, the atmosphere really is more like a team. Learning is fun because we’re doing it together, and all parties involved truly seem to want to help us in any way they can. Project GO truly went above and beyond to connect motivated, inquisitive, and likeminded individuals with intelligent and passionate educators to help us succeed in our foreign language endeavors.

I know July will be filled with challenges, many new opportunities, and daily learning experiences. I am extremely excited to see what the future has in store for me in my second semester. One more month left in Kansas, and a whole future left ahead of me with Arabic. Will report back soon!

Side note: I added a small air plant to my Kansas botany collection to keep my basil plants company!

New City & New Language

Happy June still everyone! I’m currently blogging from Lawrence, Kansas.

At this moment, I’ve spent approximately two weeks in Kansas learning Arabic, which is the very middle of the middle of the United States (in both longitude and latitude).

Here’s a look at my typical weekday schedule:

I wake up at 0600, leave my dorm room at 0630, walk off the University of Kansas campus to pick up a coffee, then go find a nice hill in the sun to cram before I have to go to class. (Hills in Kansas?!) My class time occurs from 0800 until 1240. Then I have about an hour break in which, usually, the three other people in my class plus myself grab lunch. Following that, we head to the library to meet our tutor for approximately two to three hours. After this we part ways, I typically eat dinner, then go back to my room to finish up homework and do some extra studying before I go to sleep.

Repeat x 4 Monday-Thursday.

There are fourteen people total participating in Project GO at KU this summer from different Navy ROTC, Army ROTC, and Air Force ROTC units all over the country. The languages we’re learning are as follows: Arabic, Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin. The other students and I also span across different collegiate levels from upcoming sophomores to rising seniors, with some working towards Geography degrees and other Engineers. To say the least, we’re a diverse bunch.

Aside from learning the Arabic language, I’ve also been exploring the culture of Arabic speaking countries, which are heavily rooted in beliefs of Islam. My professor is from Egypt and my tutor is from Saudi Arabia, and aside from talking about cultural differences with them in the first two weeks I’ve been here, our class has visited the Islamic Center of Lawrence twice and got henna at an orientation designed to expose us and get us talking about the different cultures we’re learning about.

Going from zero experience with the language of Arabic to immersing myself in the celebration of Iftar (Ramadan dinner) and Eid (a celebration marking the end of Ramadan) in an Islamic center was a bit of a culture shock. Aside from some common misconceptions, I learned that Islam is a lot like other major peaceful religions in the world who encourage kind teachings. The essential gist I received from being graciously welcomed into a place I’d never been, to take part in a cultural celebration I’d recently learned about, was that Islam encourages all people practicing, and not, to be kind to others and to be loving and charitable.

In my studies in Lawrence these past two weeks I’ve learned many things, not only about the inclusive culture of Muslim people, but about a language that has been spoken for thousands of years too. Overall, taking part in Project GO has been unlike anything I have experienced in the past and I am truly honored to be able to celebrate, observe culture, and study Arabic thus far.

In other news, my first exam is this week. Will report back soon!

P.S. I have basil in my room too!