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In the week leading up to Spring Break, I remarked to my parents that “I’m looking forward to break, but I don’t really feel like I need a break yet.” I was staying afloat with my coursework, and I was getting used to the cold weather. I felt that a break from school would be fine, but not really needed. Wow was I mistaken! I came back from this Spring Break feeling refreshed, energized, and excited for the rest of the semester.

The biggest part of my break was the Chicago Trip, and rightfully so, this trip is the biggest reason I feel so rejuvenated. Instead of reading textbooks on the importance of quality assurance in IT Project Management, I was culturally engaged and intellectually stimulated. I ate amazing deep-dish pizza (twice), acquired my first harmonica, learned about Frank Lloyd Wright’s symbolism behind his architecture, took a picture in the lowest point in Chicago, toured a bomb art museum, and laughed my ass off at the Second City Comedy Club. On top of this, I learned about water reclamation, assistive robotics, marketing at McDonald’s, Monet, the difference between jazz and blues, and the story behind Chicago’s only vulvic skyscraper. While it’s easy for me to rattle off everything we did and learned on the trip, my memories of the trip to Chicago will be more about less tangible things: the conversations, the inside jokes, and the new and renewed friendships. I am inspired by how fascinating and insightful all my PLA classmates are, and this trip reminded me of that. Beyond that, I felt like I was very presented and engaged with the here-and-now. I wasn’t stressed about exams or homework or the difficulties of adulting, and this allowed me to relax and experience the trip very fully.

After getting back from Chicago, I went home for a couple days. Those three days at home reminded me how blessed I am. I am really thankful for having a stable and supportive family; several of my friends at school have talked to me about their less-than-stellar family lives and how much time/energy they have to invest into them. Because of the hard work and support from my parents, they’ve created the ideal environment for me to thrive in my academic, social, and professional pursuits. I know this isn’t totally related to my Spring Break, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how grateful I am for my family.

While I was home for a couple days, we went out to dinner with a couple of family friends, and my friend Justin told me all about his experience in Navy ROTC at Villanova. A lot of the acronyms and other military jargon went over my head, but I was really impressed by Justin’s work ethic. Every single day, he puts in some kind of effort to make himself a stronger, smarter, or more prepared for his future military service. He’s “on his grind” from 6am to 10pm every day. While I have no intention of joining ROTC (Ryan in the military LOL), I want to figure out how I can implement a similar program of continual self-improvement to my life. I don’t have a concrete plan of how I can be “on my grind”, but I feel compelled to improve my work ethic.

Ultimately, the thoughtful conversations I had in Chicago reminded me how much I enjoy intellectual discussion and debating difficult concepts. Being home reminded me how lucky I am to have a supportive family. And hearing about my friend’s ROTC training reminded me how I should be continually working on bettering myself. Together, from these experiences, I want the rest of this semester to be about academic stimulation, self-improvement, and gratitude.

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