Sunday, April 26, 2015

Take It Slow

"Cause we're ordinary people, maybe we should take it slow"
~Ordinary People, John Legend

What's up?!

Last Sunday, I just got back home from San Antonio! So I'm gonna devote this post to telling every lovely detail of my trip! Although I am glad to be back home, I miss being in Texas a lot, but I will never forget this incredible experience!
First, let me explain what we were going to San Antonio for. I was recently inducted into my school's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, which is the international honor society for two-year schools. It's actually a pretty big thing; according to PTK international, there are 3 million members! I was also selected to be a part of our chapter's executive board (as the vice president of public relations!), and as a member of the board, I had the opportunity to attend the PTK international NerdNation convention! It's a three day convention that occurs in April every year in a different place around the country, and this year it was in San Antonio! This is a convention where PTK members can get to know one another and learn more about how to have a good chapter and make the best out of your community college experience. The best part about going was being surrounded by people like me: nerds everywhere!

Obligatory plane wing picture
Wednesday (the 15th) afternoon, two limos came to our school to pick up our group of 13. We split into the two limos to ride in style! Four of the people I rode with ended up being the people I bonded with the most and spent the majority of the trip with! I was with my friend Adrian, and got to know Kayla, Brittany, and Andrew! Of course I got to know the other chapter members too, but I got the closest with those few. We got to the airport and most of us were planning on carrying-on our bags, but our advisors convinced most of us to check our bags, which was a bit of a risk (especially since one of our members, Hayley, had her luggage lost! She had to wait until Thursday night for her bag to be sent to Texas and to our hotel...). We then proceeded through airport security, where I predicted that someone from our chapter would get randomly selected, and sure enough, Adrian was (we're pretty sure it wasn't random...he's Mexican.). Our flight was supposed to be about three hours long, but luckily it was a little under two hours long! This was great because I actually greatly dislike flying...
We got to the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel kind of late, but we did have time to explore the RiverWalk a bit. It was a beautiful night, and everything was so pretty by the river and the convention center! There were stairs, paths, and bridges everywhere around the river for exploring, which was tons of fun. I shared a room with Brittany and Hayley, so I got to hang with them a lot.

Our hotel was really big and fancy!

Brittany, Kayla, Andrew, Adrian, and I exploring the RiverWalk!
The best part of this trip was how much freedom we got. Our school gave each of us $200 to spend on food only, and our advisors let us go anywhere we wanted to eat, and let us go anywhere we wanted to explore as long as we made it to the convention events on time. Thursday morning, the five of us had breakfast at the Denny's that was right across from our hotel (subpar, I know, but we didn't have much time for anything else...), then went to register for the convention. Everyone got a schedule for the weekend and a pair of nerd glasses (tons of people were wearing them and I felt so accepted...cuz, well, I already wear nerd glasses...). The events for Thursday didn't start until the afternoon, so our advisors thought it'd be fun to take our group to the Alamo! It was within walking distance of the RiverWalk, so we got to walk through the beautiful city to get there. We got to walk around and explore then take a tour of the Alamo. It was really interesting and I learned a lot, considering I didn't really know much about it going in. 

Here we are right before the Alamo tour!

After touring the Alamo, our advisors let us free and we had a few hours to wander around and do what we wanted before the first educational forum we had to go to. There were 5 forums throughout the weekend, and each had numerous areas we could choose from, so we'd all split up and go to different hour-long forums and meet up afterwards. First, I went to a forum about the scholarships available to PTK students, which was pretty informational because a huge advantage to being in PTK is some exclusive scholarships! The next forum I went to was about the Honors in Action project, which was okay. After the forum, everyone from our chapter met up and went to a regional meeting, which was were we met up with all of the other chapters from Illinois. We got Illinois Region PTK t-shirts and just talked about some business stuff. After that, everyone was super pumped up because the next thing was a general session, at which John Legend was to speak! The five of us were assigned to save seats for the general session, so we waited in a pretty big crowd outside the large convention room/theater area. When they eventually opened the doors, it was a mad rush to run in and get seats! Everyone was sprinting in, and this room was HUGE. There were so many seats facing the stage, which was also enormous; it reminded me of awards shows like the Oscars! The seats were organized by region, so we found seats in the Illinois region, which was pretty much right in the middle of the room. Then, the PTK International president and 4 vice presidents welcomed everyone to Nerd Nation 2015, they had the all of the flags representing all of the states and countries present shown, and then they introduced John Legend! He gave a fantastic speech about love, and I was blown away by his speaking ability and everything he said! After his speech, he walked right over to the piano on the stage and performed three songs (two I didn't recognize and then All of Me)! Let me just say, John Legend is amazing. His voice is beautiful and he can really sing extremely well! He's such an emotional, authentic performer and he deserves his fame as a musician!

Here he is from our view! These screens were also really nice, and everything was so professional!

Such a beautiful performance!
After John Legend's amazing performance, my friends and I were pretty tired, so we decided to call it a night. Friday was a pretty packed day, and it started early. Our first educational forum was at 8:30 so my friends and I got up pretty early so that we could quickly grab some breakfast from the Starbucks at our hotel (I got a green tea and a strawberry yogurt parfait three mornings in a row...). The forum I went to was with Adrian and was about Improv and how it could be applied to PTK. Personally, I think it was just an excuse to do some improv and have fun! There were several different activities, like this game called machine, and also some conversation activities where we had to practice listening. It was pretty fun because it was interactive! We had a chill lunch at the restaurant built into the hotel next door, and then went to the next general session. At this one, Dr. Michio Kaku spoke, which many people were excited about, but I had no idea who he was! He talked about his predictions for the future, which actually terrified me a lot. Fun fact, I'm kind of scared for the future and HATE robots and the idea of a society with technology and a lack of privacy and all things natural, so I really disliked the speech...

I don't remember where we were when I took this, but here we are in our cute Illinois PTK shirts...represent!

Friday night, our advisors treated us to dinner! They took us down the riverwalk in a way we hadn't explored yet, but it was absolutely amazing! We walked right along the river down by lots of restaurants and shops. It was beautiful because there were different levels, stairs, and bridges and lots of outdoor restaurants. There were also lots of mariachi bands walking around and performing, which was actually really awesome! We went pretty far down to this Mexican restaurant, which was AMAZING. The best Mexican food I've ever had, but that's to be expected because we were in San Antonio! Everything was super delicious! After dinner, we were just given time to hang out and do whatever we wanted, so my friends and I enjoyed walking around the riverwalk some more and got ice cream from the Ben and Jerry's store. We then went back to the hotel and relaxed in Adrian and Andrew's room playing Cards Against Humanity and Never Have I ever. It was great to bond with everyone and was a nice way to end the evening!
Saturday was also a pretty packed day, but was still lots of fun! The first forum I went to was the best one yet; I went to a forum about teambuilding and it was not like any of the others! All of the chairs were lined up against the walls so we could use the whole empty room. We were given instructions to find a partner who had the same shoe size as we did, and we had to get to know that person and converse with them. Next, we had to find a partner born in the same month as we were and get to know them. Lastly, we had to grab the person within a close proximity of us and get to know them (this was pretty funny - I grabbed the shoulders of this girl right next to me and screamed "You're mine!" and kind of scared the crap out of her...she got a good laugh out of it though!). Throughout the forum we had to reunite with these different partners, which was a great way to get to know people! At the end, we had to get into groups of four and find a similarity all four of us had (in our group, each member could play at least two musical instruments!), and lastly, we had to merge with another group to make a group of eight. Our group of eight ended up being really cool and charismatic and I loved getting to know them! I even added a few of them on facebook and got a selfie with them! Such cool people! One of the guys, Jake (all the way on the left in the selfie), remembered me from the Improv forum, and I recognized the girl Jenny (all the way on the right in the selfie) as the Illinois region president!

The best group in the best forum!
We had a few hours for lunch on Saturday, so my friends and I thought it'd be fun to go back to the riverwalk and find a good restaurant there. Everything looked so good, so it was hard to decide, but we eventually chose an Italian restaurant because, let's face it, Italian food is the best.

Everything, including this bruschetta, was so freaking delicious.
After eating, we had some time to wander around before the next forum, so we decided to chill outside by the riverwalk for a bit. It was really nice out, and one of the only times it wasn't too humid, windy, or rainy!

So beautiful, and sporting my lovely new PTK sweatshirt!

We then made our way back to the convention center for our last forum. The one I went to had a panel of a few transfer students to give tips about surviving at a new school. It was really informational and I'm really excited to transfer (I just have to stick it out one more year here and I'm good!)! After the forum, we had some time to get ready for later, where we had to get dressed up! We were told that we had to dress nicely ("at least business casual") for the upcoming banquet and awards gala, so my friends and I wore cute dresses and did our makeup and hair and whatnot. But once we got to the next general session, we felt extremely underdressed. I kid you not, a good majority of the girls there were in prom dresses/evening dresses! Everyone looked so beautiful and dolled up, and as one of my friends put it, it felt like we were at "Nerd Prom" (more on that later.).

Brittany, Adrian, and I felt classy, yet a bit underdressed for the evening...
The general session was pretty boring at the beginning, but then the author Malcolm Gladwell came out and gave a speech. I didn't think I'd like it because I had read his book "The Outliers" in the past and didn't really like it, but his speech was great, made a lot of sense, and kept me engaged and thinking! He talked about talent, hard work, and success. I definitely left inspired. After the general session was the banquet, so we had to rush out to find a table in the next ballroom (a lot of people left during the speech to go get seats... I thought that was extremely rude!). Everyone from our chapter got a table together except for me, Adrian, Andrew, and our advisors, so we had to sit at a table with some people we didn't know. But it was fun to bond over a fancy banquet dinner! The table was set to beautifully and I felt so fancy, yet didn't know which silverware to use!

Lookin hella fine at the banquet!

Next, it got pretty fun. One of the ladies at our table started tying the cloth napkins together to make a necklace, or "lei", to give to her son (who was at our table), and told him to go put it on someone. Our advisors explained to us that it was a PTK tradition for the guys to make a napkin lei then go surprise a random girl he doesn't know by sneaking up on her and putting it around her neck. They would then introduce themselves and take a picture together. The girl would then either pass the lei along to another guy, keep it around her neck, or get rid of it. This was so great to see and an awesome way to interact with people we didn't know (and it was fun to hear people say "you got lei'd" haha!)! The guy at our table was just as confused as we were, but did it anyway, and went over to the table of other people from our chapter and lei'd Hayley! My friends and I were skeptical about this because we didn't see anyone else doing it, but eventually, everyone in the ballroom was up doing it; there were people running around lei-ing other people and tons of girls walking around with leis around their necks. Adrian and Andrew disappeared to go to the bathroom, so Brittany, Kayla, and I wandered around a bit. Then suddenly, while we were walking, some random guy RAN up to me and threw a lei around my neck! It caught me by surprise (the lei was heavier than I thought it'd be...), and we took a pic together. I ended up making the mistake of taking the lei off, because soon enough it happened again! After the second time, I thought it was really fun, so I took it off again, and ANOTHER guy gave his to me! By this time, Brittany and Kayla were complaining because no one was lei-ing them. I felt really bad, but it was an incredible confidence booster! I felt really special! To be fair, Kayla said she didn't want it, and Brittany has a boyfriend so she thought it'd be uncomfortable. Then lastly, some guy had two and lei-d both me and Brittany at the same time. This was so extremely fun and I don't remember the last time I felt so special and flattered!

So I got lei'd four times tonight...holla ;)
After the banquet we had the Hallmark Awards Gala. This was where chapters were awarded for their achievement. This ran kind of long, but it was fun to support the other chapters in our Illinois region! When the awards ceremony was over, there was a "Farewell dance" in the ballroom at our hotel. My friends were pretty against it because they thought it'd be lame, but I insisted that we at least stop by for a bit and feel it out, and if we didn't like it, we could leave. We got in there and it was a bit awkward at first (Adrian and Andrew ended up leaving to go pack....), but then it got really energetic and fun! We ended up staying the whole time! This is where it really felt like "Nerd Prom", except this was way different from my actual prom. To be completely honest, I think it was actually better than my high school prom! There was no grinding, just people dancing around and having fun! We were all nerds, so we all felt accepted and that we could be crazy around each other! The music wasn't that bad, and we ended up having a great time! At one point, a group of Hawaiian students danced by us and one girl put a shell lei around my neck and hugged me, and later, some random guy grabbed my hands and started dancing with me and spun me around. I felt super special and that I could be myself (Kayla and Brittany liked watching all of this happen to me!)! Later, I ended up seeing Jake (from the sessions earlier) from across the room, and we recognized each other and he came up and hugged me and danced with me a bit! I ended up running into him a couple more times during the night, and at one point we found Ryan from earlier too and we were all reunited at the dance (and he even found me after the dance as I was leaving and hugged me and said goodbye; I hope to see him and the others again in the future!)! Things were so fun and there were even people crowd surfing (Jake included!)! This was definitely one night I will never forget!

The dance was so fun!
So yeah! That was pretty much my trip! It was incredible and I apologize for the long post, I just didn't want to forget anything! My friends and I had a couple running jokes throughout the trip, and they were that I had two goals for the trip: 1. to make a friend from another school, and 2. to carry the Illinois signs (at every general session, they had people from each region running around in a train with letters to spell out their region), and I ended up accomplishing both! This trip was truly unforgettable and I hope everyone I met and got to know will keep in touch and I can't wait to participate more in PTK in the future!!

With love, 

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