Hola! I'm Katja, a junior chem major.
(This was before I was a junior, or a chem major, but I learned to love travelling early on :)!)
I'm originally from Germany, grew up in New Hampshire, and love bioinorganic chemistry (metals!! electrons!!), the environment, travelling to new places, hiking / running / swimming, and lots more! I'm going to be blogging for the next few weeks so let me know if there's something you'd like to know about! I'll start with some fun stories from my spring break trip to Costa Rica.
Perhaps you've already read about Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in Laura and Dong Woo's blogs, but here's the short run-down. ASB trips are organized by the Caltech Y (www.caltechy.org), an awesome organization on campus with the mission to enrich student life and challenge students to grow into responsible citizens of the world = a great place to do community service, find others to go hiking, go on a trip to India, travel to DC to study science policy, or go to Costa Rica over spring break! In my experience, classes and labs provide tons of scientific knowledge and the Y links these to our society and world at large. The ASB trips change each year based on student interests (they, like all Y programs, are student initiated and student led, so it's a great place to get leadership experience too!). This year, there were ASB trips to Yosemite (read Dong Woo's blog!), New York (Hurricane Sandy clean up efforts) and a trip to Costa Rica.
Everyone on our Costa Rica trip had different levels of Spanish, so we met weekly before the trip with Spanish Prof Gloria Arjona (who is coming on the trip with us!) to practice the basics we would need to talk to our host families and learn some costaricien terms and important cultural stuff. (For example: pura vida can be used to replace hello, thank you, no problem, ... and you'll fit right in! The costariciens call themselves Ticos. Arroz is rice, and frijoles are beans!) As a complete novice to Spanish, these lessons were really helpful.
On a completely non-ASB note, I also just finished TAing (being a teaching assistant = great student job possible at Caltech!!!) ME 105, Product Design for the Developing World. This is the class Laura has been writting about periodically. I've just uploaded our final presentations and reports to the class website so feel free to check them out! They are on the page labeled "Projects / Final Papers."
Time to leave for the airport! Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: The next few blogs are going to be more pictures than text!!