Admission Blogs

Big Sur Spring Break

(Brandon) Permanent link

From March 10 to March 18 I was free from college courses, and I would not let this time go to waste. I decided to go on a six day camping and backpacking trip with my girlfriend to Big Sur, California (about three and a half hours south of San Francisco). The trip was fantastic, with lots of exciting adventures.

We started our trip by spending a day in Santa Cruz on the way to Big Sur. We had lunch and took a nice walk along the coastline. In Big Sur we spent the first night at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. After that we hiked on the Pine Ridge Trail about 12 miles to Sykes campground. Sykes campground is my most favorite campsite I’ve ever been to in a long time. The river that flows right next to the site is wonderful, and calming through the night. Another great attraction at Sykes is the natural hot springs. There were two hot springs, a smaller one and a bigger one. I couldn’t believe how crystal clear the water was and perfectly warm. I had never seen hot springs in person and it was nice to see. The hike to Sykes had its uphill climbs, but the reward was worth the work. We camped at Sykes for one night, and although it rained all through the night and our tent got a little flooded, I had a great time. The hike back to the trailhead from Sykes was a lot easier than the hike in. 

For the remainder of the trip we camped a couple nights in the SUV and near the Big Sur Station. We went on day hikes through the area, which included trips to see an 80ft waterfall into the ocean, a day at the beach, and great views of nature. 

One of the days my friend from the bay area came down to spend the day with us as well. This was fun to catch up and spend some time together. We decided to visit some of the tourist shops, and eat at one of the Inn’s restaurants. My 12oz. New York strip, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and apple pie ale mode was a nice treat from the backpacking food I had been eating most of the trip. The rest of the trip involved more hiking and sightseeing and card playing until we headed back to the city Friday afternoon. 

On the way back we stopped at a friend from USF house in Santa Cruz to say hi and visit. For the rest of my trip, I’ve just been doing some reading and homework as well as taking it easy. 


(Brandon) Permanent link

         One more week before spring break; that means two things: cram and midterms. Actually I think I’m pretty lucky the way my schedule has ended up this week before spring break. I have four classes and a lab. This week I have a lab practical exam on Monday, a biology exam on Wednesday, and an engineering exam on Thursday. Other than those I have a take home midterm to complete over spring break and I have to work on my final project proposal for my political revolution course. 

         To me this seems really manageable; I have friends who have four exams as well as essays that they need to write. I have even been able to get some relax time in this weekend. The USF Men’s Basketball team is in Vegas competing in the WCC tournament with the winner getting to advance into the NCAA playoffs. USF ranked 5th place this semester in the WCC, and are doing really well in the tournament so far. They beat Pepperdine and are facing St. Mary’s next. It’s bound to be a great game and I look forward to watching it online since the game is streamed for free.

           My plan for this week is just to stay on top of my assignments and study so I can be prepared for my exams and then relax  little over spring break. I’ll tell you about my spring break in a following post.

The Start of Spring 2012

(Brandon) Permanent link

This semester holds a lot in store. I can break my responsibilities down into four major groups. My first group is a student. As a student this semester I am enrolled in: General Biology II with a lab, Environmental Engineering, Religion and the Environment a theology course, and Revolution(s) a politics course. I am excited about all my classes, but mostly excited about Environmental Engineering and Revolution. I feel that engineering could be a possible route for my future career planning so I am really interested in learning more about what is engineering, and how to go about it as it specifically relates to the environment. Especially during the time we are living in with revolts occurring seemingly everywhere and movements almost unstoppable across the globe, I feel a politics course studying revolutions is not only exciting and intriguing but insightful and informative as well. These two courses I look forward to the most.

Another role is my Advocate for Community Engagement, and although technically every semester I perform the same responsibilities, every semester is different and eye opening. This role is practically another course, but also a life builder. This role allows me to become a better person in many aspects and learn more about social justice issues existent today as well as giving me the opportunity to work with great colleagues and friends that make the job all the more worth while and fun. I look forward to out innovating and performing my successes last semester as well as having the opportunity to teach and learn with a new set of service-learners at Quesada Gardens Initiative. 

My third role is a research intern with Allison Luengen, an environmental science professor doing research on mercury in the bay area. There is a lot to look forward to this semester in this regard as well. Specifically I look forward to expanding our research projects as we coordinate with another Berkeley professor studying relationships between bacteria and heavy metal concentrations in Bay Area sediment. This aspect of the job includes boat-sampling trips in the Bay as well as analyzing samples in the lab using sophisticated instruments to analyze very low concentrations of methlymercury and total mercury. Because this is closely related to my major and a possible future route I look forward to expanding my learning around this topic. 

Finally I also blog (what you are reading), and I definitely look forward to sharing hopefully informative stories about my semester and life as a USF student. So this includes my stories about hanging out with friends, adventures in the cities, socializing, challenges, successes, new found interests, and USF events and/or activities I may attend.  I think considering these four things, I have a very good semester to look forward to, as so do you as you read my blogs and live my semester through my words.

How was winter break?

(Brandon) Permanent link

              Spring semester 2012, sixth of eight semesters began on August 23rd. Fall 2011 had finished on December 15th, so what did I do for 38 days? Well I am a Colorado native, so of course I flew back home to visit my friends and family. I flew out to Colorado from December 22nd to January 4th. From the 15th to the 22nd I mostly just relaxed and took it easy and recuperated from the semester. This included sleeping in till whenever (usually noon) and going to bed whenever (usually after 1am) and enjoying a week of no responsibility (sort of). Of course I had to eat and clean a little. I hung out with my housemates and my girlfriend. I went out to eat at restaurants in the surrounding area: usually the Presidio, Marina, Richmond, Inner Sunset, Panhandle, or Western Addition districts of San Francisco. My favorite food is Mexican or Italian (it’s a close call). Other then that I enjoyed my “new” town home that I had moved into in August, it feels so great to be living in my first place out of home and not associated with dorm life. Although I do miss a few things in the dorm, such as automatic cleaning of the bathrooms, the ease to go get food and hang out in the common area, and especially free (well included in tuition) internet and cable. 

           During my two weeks in Colorado I celebrated Christmas as well as the New Year with friends and family. My Brother and best friend (both in the Marin corps and I don’t always get to see them) were able to come out during this time as well so it was a real blast to see each of them and hang out. My girlfriend also came out to meet my family and visit my friends. This was the first time she had come to meet my family, although she had been out to Colorado before. I went skiing for the first time (snowboarded previously) at Winter Park/Mary Jane Resort, and I must say I enjoy snowboarding better.

            I enjoyed visiting and eating family, o boy how much food there was. It was great to drive around doing nothing throughout the night with my friends from high school similar to the old days, and we got to catch up and play some basketball, football, and bowling. I also won my ESPN Fantasy Football League this year so that was a fun fact over winter break.

            When I came home (to San Francisco) I took a couple days to relax and recoup from my travels and then got down to business doing some extensive cleaning of my town house. We got rid of a lot of items that were just old tenants belongings or unwanted items; I hosed the entire house down and cleaned the shed. Also steam cleaned the shampoo and scrubbed the walls (I’m sort of a clean freak). My housemates and I then rearranged the living areas and went to work interviewing new potential housemates because one of our current ones at the time was moving out at the end of January. It was sort of a juggle of sorts to manage interviewing roommates and beginning the semester, but overall it went smooth.

            I returned to my student work position as an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) on January 18th to the 20th were we went on a work retreat to Alamo in East Bay and prepared for our work during the semester. I purchased new books before the retreat and they were waiting for me when I got back and ready to begin the semester. 

The Finals study recipe

(Brandon) Permanent link

So how were finals? How did I study, and how did I survive? Well now that it finally is over let me answer those questions. It’s been a pretty stressful ending, but it has finally ended. This semester I had four finals and two essays due. Fortunately for two of my finals it didn’t involve much studying, due to the fact that I understood all of the material pretty well and the professor spent the last two classes reviewing for the final. This was really helpful, and resulted in me not having to spend so much time reviewing for this course. So what I did, is once the last class was over I had one day to review again and then my final was the next day. Two of my friends and I met up in Crossroads (the USF café eating area/lounge) we went over some of the major course materials and helped each other review. It took about an hour total and was very helpful and prepared me for that final. My next final wouldn’t be until Wednesday and Thursday, but I had an essay due on the following Tuesday. Thankfully my Environmental Ethics final was held the last day of class and I didn’t have to study too hard for this final as well. The professor devoted the second to last day to reviewing for the final and this was again very helpful. I took good notes and reviewed them over the weekend and was ready for the final. I would say these two finals (air & water and environmental ethics) were the easier two and didn’t require too much time to study.

So what I had left for my agenda was an environmental ethics final, biology final, political theory final as well as a political theory essay. I began working on my ethics essay the Saturday before it was due, this allowed me four days to finish it, and was more than enough. I had already been thinking about my essay and gathering research so I had to formulate the actual essay. I worked on my essay mostly at home and would do a little here and a little there. I also would balance this with some biology studying and political theory studying. Biology was my hardest course this semester and was tough all year long. It was a combination of things that made it difficult (mostly my own reasons such as not studying enough or devoting enough time to it) so for the final I tried to devote some more time to studying. I reviewed all of the course quizzes and previous finals as well as course lecture material. I think this prepared me well for the final. For my political theory final I reviewed my course notes and drafted my essay based on the prompt and felt good going into the final. 

       Over all I wasn’t so stressed, just really busy. I managed my schedule well and was able to finish all of my finals with confidence while also finishing up all my other responsibilities during the end of the semester. This included working in the lab with my environmental science professor to analyze some sediment samples from the bay for methlymercury, and wrapping up the semester for my advocate for community engagement position, as well as getting in some blogs for the CBS Defend Your Ride San Francisco site. The semester has been busy, and is still moving along. Although I’m finished with finals I still don’t feel like its all over yet so I’m looking forward to being on the plan flying back to Denver to visit friends and family for the holidays. 

Thanksgiving Holiday

(Brandon) Permanent link

    This thanksgiving holiday was really great! Instead of flying back to Colorado for thanksgiving and again in December I stayed in the city. One of my friends held a thanksgiving dinner at his house for all of our friends and college students staying in the city for the holiday. Each person cooked and brought his or her own item to be shared with everyone else. It turned out super great and the food was awesome. There was everything that a thanksgiving dinner calls for: mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, green bean casserole, asparagus, and of course a turkey.

I had the responsibility of cooking the turkey, and let me tell you it was quite the experience. This was my first time ever cooking a 20 pound turkey, and I learned a lot in the process. I bought the turkey the day before thanksgiving, and began cooking it at 6am the day of thanksgiving. I buttered the turkey and seasoned it then put it in the oven for four hours. Before and during the process I definitely called my mom for some advice and my girlfriend helped out with the seasoning and prep work. The turkey came out very great and juicy! I was impressed and proud of my first turkey. I look forward to doing it again in the future and am thankful for what I learned. 

My girlfriend also cooked a pecan pie that was delicious. After the turkey was finished, around 2:30 we headed over to my friends house and helped set up the dinner. My girlfriend carved the turkey and I assisted with setting up the table. We all were eating by 3:30 and I felt really thankful to be surrounded by friends during the holiday.

After dinner and dessert we all gathered around the television and watched the San Francisco 49ers play against the Baltimore Ravens. It was a good football game, but unfortunately the 49ers lost. After that we continued to hang out and listen to music before heading back home.

Midterms and Studying

(Brandon) Permanent link

    Unfortunately my scheduling this semester has placed me with three midterms in the same week, two of which are on the same day, and an essay due. This is to be expected in college so I’m not complaining about it being a reality of college; I just have to plan my week very well to be able to study appropriately. Depending on your individual reasons for attending college and your future goals, these test times are the important times of the school year where students need to focus on why they are in college, for me it is to learn and weeks like these I need to buckle down and study.

I think midterm weeks require a lot of dedication and sacrifice, dedication to your studies, and sacrificing a little free time and social life for a week. These sacrifices pay off by the end of the week when the dedication put into studying pays off with either a good grade or confidence in knowing you learned the material. 

For me I have a unique opportunity as a student during midterms and finals. I have an on campus job that provides me with an office that I utilize as a great isolated studying environment. I feel that USF provides a lot of areas for students to have a good atmosphere for studying. For example, the atrium in the library is open 24 hours and is 100% silent area devoted to focus on work. The library is open until midnight, and has silent areas throughout that allow students the ability to focus on studying. There are numerous lounges in buildings such as the university center, Kalmanovits, and lone mountain that also provide great studying environments. 

Overall the key to midterm time is finding a great place to study and actually devoting the time to study. If this is done I can’t guarantee that I will get an A on the exams, but that I will learn the material and will perform better on the exam if I hadn’t studied. 

Returning to Campus

(Brandon) Permanent link

I was extremely excited to return to campus this semester. I will be heading into my junior year, and it will be my first year living off campus.  Although the whole process of finding a house close to school in an affordable price range was a little daunting and stressful, everything ended up great.  I am living in the Presidio with three other housemates who have already graduated from college and work in the “real world”. 

Some of my friends have asked if I feel that I am not enjoying a real college experience since I don’t live with college students, but rather older people already in the work place.  My answer to that is that for me, I do not feel that I am being shorted of the college experience at all.  I know myself as a student, and I know what environment helps me accomplish my goals as a student. To me, living with fellow college students would be more distracting, and if college is to prepare us for the real world, I see it as a great opportunity to be living with three other individuals who have already been experiencing the “real world” after college and I can learn a lot from them.  Needless to say I think my housing situation will also provide a great stable environment to get my work done and focus on my studies. 

This semester I am taking: Environmental Ethics, Political Theory, General Biology 1 with a lab, and Air & Water with a lab. I’m looking forward to these classes, but am a little nervous about Biology and Political Theory because I’ve heard biology is a lot of memorization and political theory is a lot of reading and writing.  However, I am ready to take on the challenge and learn more in both of these areas that interest me. I’ve heard that environmental ethics is a great class and I’m really excited about learning various ethics that relate to my environmental science major. 

When I think about the atmosphere at the beginning of fall semester, I think it is one of my favorite atmospheres during the school year.  By atmosphere I mean all the excitement and involvement of veteran students and new students who are first moving into the college dorms and beginning a new phase of their lives. I think when I see all the students exciting and moving in it motivates me and reminds me about why I go to college. 

With that said, I’ve enjoyed the beginning of the fall semester, and being able to finally live on my own. I look forward to this semester. 

Summer 2011

(Brandon) Permanent link

Summer 2011 has been very productive and I had time for a little vacation on the side. A couple of weeks after the spring semester I began my internship at the U.S. Geological Survey where I would work with scientists whose focus in measuring different types of mercury in the bay area. The types of mercury include: methylmercury, total mercury, and reactive mercury. The samples were obtained from all different areas, and the types of samples analyzed have included water samples at various depths, pore water (which is the water extracted from sediment), sediment, and filters. I’ve been living with a family friend in San Mateo and commute to work in Menlo Park using CalTrain and a bicycle. CalTrain is a very good way to get around in the bay area if you don’t have a car. The reason for interning at the USGS is not only because it is related to my environmental science major, but also because it goes hand in hand with research that I am working on with a professor at USF. Allison Luengen is an Environmental Science professor who is researching the bioaccumulation of mercury through the food chain, and my internship experience will allow us to further her research when I begin in Fall 2011.

Recently I just took a vacation/trip to hang out with my best friend from high school who is in the Marine Corps and just got back from Jordan and was on post deployment leave. I hung out with him and we visited San Diego, Hollywood, Twenty-nine Palms, and Las Vegas. I was in Vegas for the fourth of July. The trip was fun, and it was good to see the fireworks in Vegas. I will travel to southern California in Santa Barbara for the last week of July in order to intern with another Environmental Science professor who specializes in riparian ecology. I will assist in her research regarding riparian ecosystem restoration. After that I will return to the USGS until the 16th of August. On the 16th I begin training for my position as an Advocate for Community Engagement at USF. Concurrently with all this I have also begun looking for a place to live for the next year in San Francisco. I will have two other roommates who are students as USF as well. Hopefully we can find a place and move in by August 1st.

This summer has been busy and very fun. I have learned a lot and still will learn so much. I am looking forward to starting a new semester though.

Getting Started

(Brandon) Permanent link

Hello, my full name is Brandon Lee Oldham and I am one of the bloggers for the University of San Francisco's Admission Department. I will be a junior at USF during the 2011-2012 school year, and I have been a USF student my entire college career since my freshman year of 2009-1010. I am majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in Politics. I was born and raised in Colorado where I attended Horizon High School, and graduated Valedictorian in 2009. I enjoy a lot of things including the usual: spending time with friends, snowboarding, biking, gardening, walking around the great city of San Francisco, and being healthy and active overall. I'm a nice person and am always open to meeting new friends.

I wasn't always an Environmental Science major; I use to be a Politics major with no minor, but then I found a passion for Environmental Science so decided to major in that and keep a background in Politics. Besides just being a student and blogger at USF I work as and Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE) in the universities McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good; here I act as a liaison between service-learning courses offered at USF and a local non-profit in the city called Quesada Gardens Initiative. As an ACE I facilitate meaningful service as well as reflections, and may see some of you if you enroll in a service-learning course. I am also performing research under an Environmental Science professor at USF where we are examining ways in which methylmercury travels through the food web and biomagnifies and bio-accumulates in species. With any time left on the side I try to be as active as possible on campus by attending presentations, sporting events, plays, and/or guest speakers. I really love my time here at USF and hope that through my blogs I can help give you an idea of what life is like as a USF student or give you ideas of things you can do on campus. If you ever see me feel free to say hi, and I hope you enjoy some of my blogs!

Wrapping Up the Semester

(Brandon) Permanent link

As I look ahead to the next 13 days left in the semester I can't help but to also look back and realize that in 13 days I will be 50% finished with my undergraduate experience. Time has flown by, and the next 13 days will definitely be a grind. This semester I have been enrolled in: General Chemistry II with a lab, Ecology and Human Impacts with a lab, Latin American Perspectives (a history course), and Second Semester German totaling 16 unit hours. The last day of courses is on May 12th. I then have my German final on May 14th at 10am, my Chemistry final on May 16th at 7:30am, my Latin American Perspectives final on May 17th also at 7:30am and finally my Ecology final also on the 17th at 10am. On the 17th at 9:00pm I will be flying from San Francisco International airport to San Diego to visit my brother for a week. That will be a nice break directly following finals. Besides being just a student at USF I also participate in other activities and job positions. If I were to summarize what I do I am a student, Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE), Environmental Science Research student intern, as well as a blogger for the admissions department. With all these things on my plate I also try to make time to relax and enjoy company with my friends and be engaged in activities/events occurring on campus as well as in the city.

This past weekend was really relaxing and great. Since I knew finals were approaching I thought it would be a good time to enjoy activities and events while I could, so I did just that. Following classes and work on Friday the 29th I went to a play entitled "The Maids" being put on as a senior project for graduating seniors majoring in performing arts and social justice. The play was very intriguing; it had a cast of only 3 people and explored the life of two maids who go crazy out of envy and jealously of their Madam that who they work for. The play led viewers trough the psychological breakdown of these two maids minds who eventually … well I wouldn't want to spoil the plot so you'll just have to see the play for yourself. On Saturday April 30th from 8am to 6:30pm I went on a field trip to Point Reyes for my Ecology course. The national park was wonderful! We hiked, went to the beach, and ended our day at the lighthouse. If you don't know of or have never been to Point Reyes I strongly recommend a trip there sometime! Sunday I finished my weekend with a trip to the De Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (admission was only $4 thanks to my USF ID) with my girlfriend, our friend, and her father who was visiting for his daughter's birthday. The museum had some great exhibits including ancient artifacts from Latin America.

This week reality of the semesters end kicked off with my Chemistry course at 8am. Over the last three days I have been finishing up class assignments, lab reports, and essays. Tuesday I worked in my research lab, and I have also been finishing up preparing for the training of new ACEs that will take place this weekend. It has been a busy week, and busy couple weeks lay ahead. Currently I am finishing up laundry while I type this and then going to get back to course work. Till next time!

~Brandon Oldham