The Last First Day

niagara family lee blog

A highlight of my summer – getting soaked from the boat ride at Niagara Falls!


♪♫♪ We’re the new romantics, come on come along with me / Heartbreak is the national anthem, we sing it proudly…

Hello UIC! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last blogged. As always, summer has flown by and we’re back into another long grind. But this year is a little more noteworthy for me because it’s my last first day of undergrad! When did I suddenly become a senior?? It makes me feel quite old to be walking around the quad knowing it could be my last year doing so. UIC and Chicago have been my home for the past three years, so it’s hard to think about leaving it behind…but who knows? Maybe I’ll be back sooner than I think.

With that thought, my entire summer has been consumed with the looming question of the future, which mentally I keep labeling as “the great beyond” (sounds both adventurous and ominous enough to me!). The moment that summer began way back in May, I dived right into a rigorous study regimen for the June MCAT, which was one of the most stressful and loneliest endeavors I have ever undertaken. More on that soon! I would like to dedicate an entire blog post to recounting the many trials and tribulations of the MCAT…perhaps some of the horrors I faced could help one of my readers!

For five weeks, I burrowed myself in the library for nearly six days a week to take practice test after practice test and cram and review all the material that I felt was seeping from my ears after three years of taking chem, phys, bio, and biochem courses. And as all pre-med students know, the MCAT recently also revamped itself to be a whopping 7.5 hours and tack on psychology and sociology…lucky us, right? As someone who’s never taken a sociology class in my life, I gave myself a crash course to Soc 100 in the span of a few days and hoped for the best (it actually went okay!). But it’s definitely not a route I would recommend to anyone!

But enough about the MCAT. Enough about med school apps, and (fruitless) scholarship apps, and deviating thoughts to grad school apps and Fulbright apps. Because frankly, there were a whole ton of better, brighter summer memories that I’d rather share!

lee blog brother

So proud of my brother!

A major one…my brother graduated! I am so unbelievably proud of my older brother Bob, who already finished his undergrad degrees in both Biological Sciences and English at Northwestern University two years ago. In May, Bob graduated from Case Western Reserve University with not one, but TWO graduate degrees — a master’s in Medical Physiology and a master’s in Business Administration. He was the very first student to ever accomplish the MS/MBA dual degree in just two years! Our family drove up to Cleveland for his graduation weekend, and I’ve never felt so proud as I watched him walk across the graduation stage. My brother will always be my forever role model in life.

taylor swift lee blog

At the Taylor Swift concert with Chevelle.

In July, I had one of the best experiences ever in my life by going to the Taylor Swift concert at Soldier Field! If anyone has read my blog for these past couple years, it becomes quickly apparent that I am quite the Taylor Swift fan. And with her newest album smashing records and charts left and right, I’m happy she’s becoming more successful than ever. I still remember listening to her first album on my first iPod walking to middle school…I’ve really grown up to her music! I went to the RED tour in 2012 at Soldier Field as well, and knowing how expensive tickets would be, I bought my ticket during the pre-sale. Although it was high up in the nosebleed sections (row 325!), it was thankfully not too expensive when I bought it. The 1989 album definitely has been her biggest mainstream success to date—a sold-out show, and there were people of all ages in the audience who knew every lyric of every song! I had the best time of my life singing every word and dancing for hours with my friend Chevelle! Every person in the stadium had a light up wristband coordinated to her show’s light choreography. It was quite an incredible sight to see 60,000 people lit up in neon lights dancing…she puts on a spectacular show. Shameless Swiftie for life!

Toronto CN tower

The view of the CN Tower from Lake Ontario.

In August, my family planned and replanned and replanned again vacation plans…after long deliberation, we decided to drive up to Toronto and Niagara Falls! About ten years ago, when I was in middle school, we went to Toronto before and went up the CN Tower. When I was just a toddler, my parents also took me to Niagara Falls…but I must admit that I don’t remember the trip well! In any case, since it had been so long and my parents love the Fallsview, we decided to make that our short four day trip. The driving was not too bad at all, especially since both my brother and I are able to drive on these long road trips now. With a staggered driving schedule between four people, we made it there swiftly and spent two days touring the Toronto area. We even bought tickets to a hop-on-hop-off double decker bus! We had a fantastic time eating at too many Tim Hortons, trying Canadian maple syrup, and just wandering the streets of Toronto. Although we didn’t go up the CN Tower again, we did take a lovely boat ride on Lake Ontario. Toronto reminds me of a more tranquil version of New York City combined with Chicago with its own version of Times Square on Yonge Street and lakeshore paths. My mother and I loved the underground food market, where a friendly Canadian stranger gave us several free samples of the most delicious honey I’ve ever tasted…we walked away with two big jars!

niagara selfie

A Niagara Falls selfie!

The next two days, we drove south to Niagara Falls, just an hour away. In a small splurge, my family booked a night in the Embassy Suites hotel that just overlooks the beautiful fallsview. There are several big name hotels that are famous for their location at Niagara Falls because you can see the most spectacular view of the falls from your room…it’s a gorgeous sight to behold. We also took the famous Maid of the Mist boat ride (now renamed the Hornblower) that takes us all right up to the Falls…everyone was absolutely soaked by the mist! The Falls were beautiful, and I am ever grateful the precious time I was able to spend with my family.

I spent the rest of summer prepping for move-in and the school year…I have an absolutely crazy semester ahead. Despite leaving my Peer Mentor job to focus on my family, my own goals and myself, I find myself busier than ever. I have to confront some serious questions about my future and my own goals. But I’m going to take it all in stride, one step at a time…it’s a hackneyed statement, but I have nothing figured out at all now, even if it appears otherwise on the outside.

Welcome back to UIC, everyone! Wishing everyone the very best first week of the semester.

We’re too busy dancing to get knocked off our feet / Baby we’re the new romantics, the best people in life are free ♪♫♪


New Romantics—Taylor Swift


Sarah Lee (F)Sarah Lee is a senior studying neuroscience and Russian in the GPPA Medicine program at UIC. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants to do, but some of  life goals include running a marathon, exploring Eastern Europe and becoming fluent in Russian. In her free time, she loves running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. A Naperville native, Sarah is a peer mentor in the Courtyard residence hall.

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