Orientation & Re-Introduction

Happy August everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida, back on campus as a Resident Advisor (RA) and I’m ready to get the Fall 2021 semester started! The past week or so I’ve spent every day in training for my RA position, my Student Government Association (SGA) position, and for Orientation Team. Since it is a new semester and I anticipate I will meet a lot of new people working around campus during Orientation and Move In, I decided it’s time for a re-introduction!

Hello! My name is Merrick and this is my 5th year working towards a Bachelors of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. I plan to graduate in Spring 2022. My concentration is in Aeronautics, with a minor in Arabic Studies. On campus, I’m an RA, an SGA Associate Justice on the Student Court, an Orientation Team Ambassador, a University 101 Peer Mentor, an Air Force ROTC Cadet, and I blog for the school!

In my free time (which is very limited), when I’m not in class, meetings, doing homework, or studying, you will most likely find me working out. I love to run and workout outside, as well as attend Fitness Classes at the Fitness Center on campus! My app of choice is Spotify, and I love listening to music on my noise canceling headphones. I also love music when I’m running, and I like to listen to podcasts in Arabic for fun. My current favorite is BBC Extra. I try to do yoga every day, particularly in the mornings (even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes when I wake up). I’ve been fairly consistent in that routine for about a year now. If I’m not doing yoga I’m probably sleeping, reading books (my latest find is Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind by Napoleon Hill), or doing an outside activity.

On the weekends if I’m free I will most likely be at the beach, surfing, hiking, on nature walks, or listening to podcasts in English like Ted Talks Daily or Short Wave (a science podcast hosted by NPR).

This is me on a hike from my summer in Alaska!

I love plants. I also love dark chocolate! I drink a lot of water, and also a lot of coffee and tea. In particular, I prefer hot coffee in the mornings, iced tea or coffee in the afternoons, and hot tea in the evenings. I enjoy smoothies, especially on the hot Florida days after a workout.

Some of my plants I keep by the window in my Residence Hall room!

I am so excited to meet my residents this semester and I’m looking forward to greeting all the incoming students during Orientation. If you see me around campus, feel free to say hi!

Keep on keeping on folks, will report back soon!

Dorm Essentials & Tips

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Fairbanks, Alaska where August and the Fall 2021 semester are both right around the corner! Since Orientation, move in, and classes are going to be beginning in less than a month I want to share my favorite Dorm Essentials & Tips for those living on campus. 

Starting this fall, I will have had experience living in a total of three different Residence Halls over a period of my (soon to be) five years at ERAU. I’ve lived on campus my entire college experience and I’m here to share my top tips to make your living space feel like home.

My current home away from home includes lots of weekend hikes, here’s my latest adventure!

Since your dorm room will be where you spend a lot of your time, making sure that is a comfortable space where you can do homework, study, and relax at the end of the day is extremely important. Since this list is general, most residence halls allow all of these items, but double check with your housing contract for items more specific to your specific living community. For reference, you may check out ERAU’s Housing and Residence life Community Standards, linked here, where also featured is a FAQ page, a Residence Hall option guide, a Move-In guide, as well as my personal favorites (guides I reference the most) the Approved Cooking Appliances in the Residence Halls list, and ERAU’s streaming service website for television shows and movies available for free here to all on-campus students. 

My dorm essential list includes, first and foremost, stocking up on snacks! Secondly, my favorite part about coming back to my room at the end of a long day is taking a hot shower and setting up my essential oil diffuser! I also love having plants in my room. All rooms have windows that receive some amount of natural light during the day, so I suggest low maintenance plants like succulents or cacti. Another great option is planting a few wildflower seeds in a small pot to brighten your room, or trying some easy to grow herbs such as basil, mint, or chives!

Nonperishable snacks like granola bars, nuts, and apple sauce are great to have on hand during the school year, but right now I am grateful to be able to pick fresh berries to snack on in between my online summer classes!

Another one of my favorite room essentials is a natural light simulating alarm clock. Since I’m in ROTC (or if you have any early morning or late-night flights if you’re studying Aeronautical Science), I highly recommend getting an alarm clock that can sync with your phone, your Alexa Amazon Echo, and simulates sunrise/sunset to help you regulate your sleep schedule. Before PT in the mornings, I am always listening to music on Spotify while I get ready in my room, so being able to auto-play music directly after my alarm goes off makes my morning routine that much simpler.

I also suggest investing in a good pair of headphones! Despite nighttime quiet hours, and quiet hours during finals, living in the Residence Halls can be loud at times and there are definitely moments when I like peace and quiet. The perfect solution I’ve found to this, other than heading to the Quiet Rooms on the second floor of the library to study, are noise canceling headphones! Since music plays such an important role in helping me relax while taking breaks from studying, I use headphones for peace and quiet while I do homework, as well as for high quality music when I’m working out or relaxing.

Keep on keeping on folks, will report back soon!

New Schedules & Summer Shifts

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Fairbanks, Alaska and the 60 degree summers are a stark contrast to summer weather in Daytona Beach. I stayed in my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia for about a month and am going to be in Alaska until I return to ERAU in August for the Fall 2021 semester.

A view of one of the last sunsets I will see until I return to the east coast for the Fall 2021 semester!

I am looking forward to my final half of summer being filled with a smooth conclusion of my summer Arabic classes through the University of Arizona and post Project GO program testing, as much hiking as possible, and visits to all the Alaska coffee shops. Currently in the Fairbanks summer the sun shines almost all day, sunset is at approximately midnight and sunrise happens at about 3:00 AM. Since the night time only consists of sunlight and a few hours of dusk/dawn transition, my schedule has shifted a bit too. I intend to spend my Winter Break between the fall and spring semester in Fairbanks as well, but during that time I expect the temperatures will be about 40 below with lots of snow and only about 3 hours of sunlight everyday.

A view from the Airbus A321neo window en route to Fairbanks International Airport (FAI)! Working towards my B.S. in Aerospace Engineering I may be partial to the sky, but nevertheless flying is always my favorite!

My Alaska Summer online class schedule:

I typically wake up around 4:00 AM, do yoga, make breakfast and coffee, then hop on my Language Partner meetings from 5:00-6:00 AM, have a 30 minute break filled with another cup of coffee or tea, then I go to my professor’s Office Hours or meet with my program’s director or coordinators, followed by a total of four hours of class, then an hour of tutoring.

I am typically finished with class obligations by noon, just in time to make lunch, workout, and finish homework. Usually in the evenings I’ve been having fun enjoying Fairbank’s food truck scene for an afternoon snack or dinner, and going on evening hikes (since the sun doesn’t set until midnight). In my free time I have also been reading Bear Tales for the Ages: From Alaska and Beyond by Larry Kanuit, because Alaska has peaked my wilderness curiosity. In addition to my goal to try every coffee shop in the city while I’m here for the rest of the summer, I also have a goal to safely spot some wildlife, including but not limited to: a bald eagle, a moose, and a bear (from a VERY safe distance away). Bonus exploration: A few days ago I went to see Cruella in theaters which was very fun too!

As my life keeps changing and evolving, each day becomes more exciting and I am always looking forward to what adventures lie ahead. Keep on keeping on folks, will report back soon!

Summer B & Summer Snacks

Happy July everyone! I am currently blogging from Norfolk, Virginia where I am enjoying my last few days on the East Coast until the in person Fall semester at Riddle starts again. I’ve had the great opportunity to see family and explore yoga and spin classes, frequent coffee shops, and visit the beach as much as possible in my hometown and I’m getting ready to start the second half of my summer classes (Summer B Term), and begin preparing for the semester of my final year at Riddle… before I graduate in Spring 2022!

I am so excited for my last year. I will be an RA in a different Residence Hall and am happy to get back to all my fun extracurriculars. My last year will include Air Force ROTC, being a Peer Mentor for University 101 classes, being an Associate Justice on the Student Government Association’s (SGA’s) Student Court, and of course being an Orientation Team Leader!

Although my summers are still busy with my summer classes for Arabic studies, they are significantly more relaxed than the hustle and bustle of the Fall and Spring semesters. That being said I have had the luxury as of lately to have the time to briefly relax in between my studies.

Post spin class coffee shop break with my sister!

Books I’ve been reading recently include When: the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink and The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath, both of which were recommended by the current Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force (CMSSF Towberman) when he visited ERAU during the Spring 2021 semester and spoke to the Air Force ROTC cadets one morning.

My favorite quick snacks in between classes lately have been chips and salsa, hummus with cucumbers or carrots, unsalted mixed nuts, fresh cherries or watermelon, and frozen banana slices with almond butter, dark chocolate, and sea salt.

One of my favorite super easy, super delicious, refreshing summer snacks!

Frozen banana slices are one of my new favorite study break treats and can even be made in a dorm room! I started by slicing about 3 bananas that were about to go bad, melting chocolate (which can be done with chocolate chips in a microwave for about 15 second intervals, stirring in between), then laying my banana slices flat on tin foil before dolloping with almond butter (or your favorite nut or seed butter), melted chocolate, and sea salt! After all your slices are covered, lay them them flat in the freezer for about 30 minutes, and you will have a super tasty treat that can be transferred to a bag or Tupperware container in the freezer for whenever you need a study break!

Keep on keeping on folks, will report back soon!

Study Abroad Scholarships & Summer Plans

Happy February everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida, posted up in a local coffee shop on a Saturday morning grinding away on homework. I have some exciting news! I recently got accepted to participate in an amazing opportunity this summer with Project GO! I’ve talked about Project GO in the past because I started my language learning journey in Summer 2018 with Arabic!

Project GO is a program offered through the Department of Defense to all military branches of ROTC students where they are offered scholarships to learn critical languages either domestically or abroad over the summer.

Since I am in Air Force ROTC, I spent my first summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years with Project GO learning Arabic domestically in Lawrence, Kansas at the University of Kansas. I continued my studies throughout the year at ERAU Daytona Beach and decided to add an Arabic Studies minor to my academic curriculum. The following summer in 2019 I spent at the University of Arizona studying Arabic domestically as well. Last summer in 2020 I was selected to study Arabic abroad in Morocco with Project GO, but unfortunately due to the global pandemic, travel lockdowns were set in place and Morocco’s borders shut, so I continued studying throughout the summer on Arizona time with online Arabic courses. (Shoutout to Zoom, I am VERY familiar.) 

A perk of Pre-Pandemic studying with Project GO in Arizona was the amazing hikes!

Also, in 2020 I was selected to receive a Boren Award to study Arabic abroad in Amman, Jordan, but unfortunately (again due to the pandemic) I was unable to do so, and the Boren program allowed me to postpone using my award in Summer 2021. Boren is a National Security Education Program initiative that offers scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students to study critical languages abroad.

The difference between Project GO and Boren is that the Boren Awards program is open to all students (not only ROTC) and is a bit more flexible on choosing your specific language, country, foreign host institution, and courses. The Boren Awards program is more heavily reliant on self-initiative and providing your own plan for language learning, as well as proposing the funds needed for the expenses of your endeavor and applying for the Boren Award to do so.

View of the sunset from the University of Arizona’s campus while I was studying Arabic there.

With Project GO, you have the option of language and learning level, along with different host universities (domestically) that host both domestic and abroad programs where you are able to choose up to three programs both domestically and abroad to apply for (a total of 6). If you are selected to receive a scholarship, the foreign host institution is already paired with a domestic institution and essentially requires less planning from a student/participant’s perspective.

That being said, I have officially accepted a study abroad opportunity for Summer 2021 with Project GO where I will be continue my advanced Arabic studies in Meknes, Morocco and I am extremely excited. Will report back soon folks, keep on keeping on!

Daily Life & Extraneous Happenings

Happy February everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida and now that I’m back in the groove I would like to share with you a day in the life of an Aerospace Engineering student in Air Force ROTC who works as a Resident Advisor (RA), along with multiple other campus involvements! 

To begin, in AFROTC this semester we have one In-Person physical training (PT) a week, and one “virtual” at home workout PT, in addition to one In-Person Leadership Laboratory (LLAB). If I have either PT or LLAB, I typically wake up around 0500 via an alarm on my phone, sometimes multiple alarms especially if I was up late doing homework. I usually start my day extremely thirsty so when I first wake up I make water, coffee, tea, and a vitamin C drink from a powder I have (I know this might sound like a lot, but I love beverages). Then I do 10-15 minutes of yoga, eat some oatmeal and take my vitamins, and head to ROTC around 0620. After ROTC I typically return to my room between 0800 and 0900 and shower and make second breakfast, which is sometimes more oatmeal, coffee, and fruit if a have it (sometimes oatmeal is subbed with a muffin from the Cadet Lounge).

Then I prep for my day! On my busiest days I have in-person Airplane Stability and Control, Preparation for Active Duty Air Force class, online Aerospace Structures II, in-person SGA Student Court office hours, Space Mechanics, and my bi-weekly 1:1 with my RA supervisor (the Residence Life Coordinator of the residence hall I live in). This week my other obligations include my Returning RA Interview session, a 1:1 with my APAS (Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies) to go over my academic course plan up to graduation, Student Court Hearing Sessions, RA staff meetings, RA duty, workouts, office hours with my professors to ask questions about homework assignments, and my first Community Hangout of the semester – I’m teaming up with my RA hall partner to do a virtual Paint night!

In my free time when I’m not working out I’m probably playing virtual chess with my friends, strategizing Blokus games, or sleeping!

My first 2-Person Blokus game!

My usual schedule typically includes homework, quiz prep, and studying for upcoming tests. Also, I recently joined ERAU’s Surf Club which I’m very excited about. I went surfing for the first time since I’ve been back in Florida over the weekend at Ponce Inlet and it was so much fun! Going to the beach recently was the first time I’ve worn a wetsuit because the water was cold and I had a blast.

The beach when I went surfing with Surf Club!

As I get back to doing homework, I look forward to blogging again soon, keep on keeping on folks, stay safe!

Sleep & Busy Schedules

Happy November folks! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Thanksgiving is about two and a half weeks away and I feel like I’m on the last uphill sprint before finals. I am so excited to go back to Virginia and eat good food and catch up on sleep! 

Florida has been getting colder lately, and when I recently took my Fitness Assessment for AFROTC it was probably one of the chilliest mornings yet. In-person PTs have been canceled for ROTC on ERAU’s DB campus for the rest of the semester but we still do “virtual workouts”. Essentially we are given workouts to complete individually to maintain our fitness on personal accountability, rather than gather in person with socially distant procedures for group PT sessions.

This past week has been extremely busy! I have had lots of tests, quizzes, and presentations, and I am very tired. My plans for Thanksgiving and Winter break include lots of sleep!

 My daily plan for Friday is to wake up at approximately 0500, do my morning yoga routine, go as a spotter (essentially a repetition counter or time keeper) for the AFROTC Fitness Assessment, return to my room, take an Aerospace Engineering Materials Exam, take an Experimental Aerodynamics quiz, go workout and get smoothies for lunch (Friday is $5.00 smoothie day at Smoothie King in Daytona Beach and after a midday run on a Friday, a smoothie is the best way to start the weekend off on the right foot!), finish the day by working on Aerospace Structures I homework, and my AFROTC Flight is holding a socially distanced Flight Goal of an Improv Night in the evening that I plan on attending. Very busy!

My Student Court Associate Justice headshot in my SGA Court polo!
My (personal favorite) Student Court Associate Justice headshot in my court robe that makes me feel like I’m a Wizard in Harry Potter!

I have a fully packed schedule every day and there is never a moment where I don’t have something that I could be doing. For example, there seems to be an exponential amount of need for me to be working on a homework assignment for various classes, studying or preparing for an upcoming test/quiz, trying to get a head start (or most of the time realistically trying to keep up) on deadlines for my Experimental Aerodynamics labs, sending or replying to emails, working on scholarship applications, and sleeping! 

In my free time you will usually find me working out, doing yoga, studying, or sleeping… so maybe it isn’t really free time? I am looking forward to actual free time over winter break, I can’t remember the last time I actively planned on doing nothing, and successfully followed through with it. Only a few more weeks left! Will report back soon. Keep on keeping on folks!

Announcements & Roles

Happy June everyone! I am currently blogging from Virginia Beach, VA and I found out I’m going to be a Peer Mentor for University 101 (UNIV 101) for the Fall 2020 semester! University 101 is a class exactly what it sounds like, essentially a “How-To” for the behind the scenes (ie paperwork) side of college navigation, a *sometimes* confusing yet necessary aspect of university life. Most engineering students take this course, while Aeronautical Science, Aviation, and Business students attend a slightly different version of the class catered towards their unique degree paths.

A Peer Mentor for UNIV 101 is a leadership position available to graduate and undergraduate students as a learning coach, student advocate, trusted peer, and source of information about the University and its offerings/resources. I like to see it as an extension of being on Orientation Team as an O Team Ambassador. In this position I will be in the UNIV 101 class sessions (sort of like a Teacher’s Assistant) and help students become familiar with university resources such as ERNIE, Canvas, and Campus Solutions. I will be an additional resource for answering questions like locating advisor information, finding the course catalog, online registration, navigating placement evaluations, and Academic Study Plans!

In Air Force ROTC we make academic study plans mapping out our classes for each semester up until graduation, which is very helpful in ensuring you meet all of your course requirements for a timely graduation and something that the UNIV 101 course immensely facilitates and provides resources to help you plan and communicate with your Academic Advisor.

Recently reflecting, I realized I hold a lot of leadership positions on campus.

I am a Student Blogger (of course),

a Resident Advisor (RA),

an Orientation Team Ambassador (O Team Ambassador),

a Student Government Association (SGA) Student Court Associate Justice where I am the acting Clerk (essentially a spokesperson),

in Air Force ROTC with the leadership position I am assigned as a Professional Officer Course (POC) Cadet for the semester,

and now a Peer Mentor for University 101 as well…. In addition to getting a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and a Minor in Arabic Studies, and miraculously I still find time to workout!

My current progress!

If anyone has questions on time management or any of the positions/organizations I’m a part of, feel free to reach out on this platform or if you see me around campus! Additionally if I specifically am not a part of a group that you want to join, there is a high chance that I know someone who is and I can put you in contact with them!

My summer classes have officially kicked off and we’re almost halfway through summer which is mind boggling to me. As my third summer participating in Project Global Officer learning Arabic I can say that I definitely prefer in-person learning as compared to online courses. Learning a new language in itself is difficult, but sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day is almost more difficult to me.

I will report back soon on how my language learning is progressing over Zoom, and more information about my current summer class schedule and how my on campus leadership positions impact my time management during the fall. Stay safe everyone!

Online Classes & COVID-19

Happy March everyone! I am currently blogging from Northern Virginia, and here’s how my schedule has changed since COVID-19 come in effect and I began taking online classes:

I still wakeup early and drink coffee and I still begin working from the very beginning of the day until the end of the day.

I spend more time working on class things now than before. This is partly because I had to spend two days packing and vacating from living on campus to moving back up north by myself. Usually move out occurs at the end of the semester, after finals, and I am able to have my friends/family help me pack. This time was extremely expedited, solo, and very stressful . . . on top of up in the air RA responsibilities and professors starting online classes and uploading lectures and assignments that I began to fall behind on. Moving out and going to a safe place where I was not at risk of becoming sick (from exposure to thousands of students returning from traveling over spring break) began taking precedence over me trying to stay on top of 60+ priority daily email notifications. 

So to say the least, my personal transition to online classes was very abrupt and sort of felt like I was running to keep up with a moving train. Quarantine preparation and move-out time were not originally factored into my Spring Break plan.

A selfie from the airport quickly traveling back from Daytona Beach to IAD, not pictured: a lot of hand sanitizer and a row to myself on the plane.
Flashback to waking up stress free and looking outside in Key West over Spring Break.

Once I traveled back home and transitioned to actually having time to spend on my online classes though here are a few things I’ve noticed:

Typical in-person classes in Aerospace Engineering are difficult, especially ones that are traditionally not offered as online courses (in the fall/spring as well as summer semesters) because they are too challenging. Now, take these courses with professors who are not the most technologically savvy, and force them to transition to teaching upper level engineering courses via a digital platform. In your head you might be thinking, that doesn’t sound like an idea that would flow very smoothly, and yes, I will tell you, indeed it does not.

Thankfully, however, flexibility is the key to Air Power and AFROTC has smoothly transitioned to hosting online classes and digital assignments to compensate for not having in person Leadership Laboratories, Physical Training sessions, and Air Force classes. That being said, it is significantly easier for classes that frequently rely on digital assignments and communication over online platforms to quickly and easily make a transition to solely remote learning.

I’ve had my first Solid Mechanics test online since digital courses began and even though most of the material was taught before spring break, it was still significantly more stressful as the constant worry of technical issues, distractions, or everyday life problems that occur in a home setting were looming around me (think power outages, that yes, of course happened to me 20 minutes prior to starting my exam).

I have come to the realization that I spend more time on my coursework now with online classes than I did with in-person classes because even with power-points, notes, and recorded lectures being uploaded, I am pretty much teaching myself material in addition to completing homework, projects, and “in-class” assignments on my own.

Verdict: I prefer in person learning to online classes.

Will report back soon folks, keep on keeping on, stay safe and stay well!

Quarantine & Self Care

Happy April everyone! I am currently blogging from Northern Virginia, where I am blessed to be quarantined with my sister who is an amazing chef. Currently sipping on whipped iced coffee with coconut sugar and vanilla almond milk and it’s lovely. I would like to provide a Quarantine update as April is the last month in the spring semester, and focusing on your studies is as important as balancing that with time to relax.

Staying constantly plugged in is something I’ve definitely struggled with while adjusting to online classes. So when I’m not monitoring my laptop or my phone, here are some things I like to do in Quarantine besides study, take notes, and do homework:

If you have the luxury of living in a semi-rural to rural area, take walks, runs, or hike! I’m working out, taking vitamins, drinking a lot of water, running, going on walks, hikes, or hilly/wooded area treks, eating healthy, and doing yoga daily. My personal favorite is Yoga With Adriene on Youtube, a virtual online yoga class with everything to relaxing sequences to power yoga that will give your muscles a run for their money. I usually practice her videos in my dorm room at school when I don’t have time to go to a class at the fitness center and they are perfect to do in your backyard or in your house, while using safe social distancing techniques (6 feet bubble)!

Try to branch out from boredom by listening to new music, or tuning into free social media live-streamed digital concerts from your favorite artists.

Catch up on podcasts! For me Crime Junkie by audiochuck, The Long Distance Love Bombs Podcast by Dr. Jeremy Goldberg, and Press Send with Chinae Alexander by Dear Media are my favorites to stream on Spotify.

Catch up on some shows or movies!

Things I’ve personally been watching include:

Hulu: Dave, Little Fires Everywhere

HBO-Go: Euphoria, Ramy Youssef: Feelings

Netflix: On My Block, Night on Earth, Tiger King

Disney +: All of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Ice Age, Ratatouille

Social media cleanse! The rule I’ve been following lately is to unfollow any pages that does not inspire or motivate me, or if I don’t think I’d be willing to stop and have a conversation with someone in person, there is no reason why I would need to keep their life online, so I unfollow! Be picky about what you expose yourself to, it’s under-appreciated self care!

Side-note: The Spring 2020 AFROTC Det 157 patch design I collaborated with another Professional Officer Course (POC) cadet came back from production, so now we have a decal. I’m super excited about it (even if I won’t be able to physically have it until the Fall 2020 semester, @social distancing).

Keep on keeping on folks, stay safe, wash your hands, cover your faces, and I will report back soon!