Jessica + NZ + a campervan

by Jessica Brown

Hey, you wonderful blossoming students of Honors! I’m Jessica Brown, and I am a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering at THEE Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. But who cares about the studying part, right? (Sorry Mom and Dad) I just returned from a two week hell-raising, memory-making, AMAZING road trip around the South Island of New Zealand.

My friends Joey (fellow Iowa Stater), Sam, and I flew into Christchurch and picked up our campervan, which we affectionately dubbed ‘Tammii’.

After picking up 10 pounds of cookies from the Cookie Time factory (no, I’m not kidding) and pressing play on our dope jams playlist, we headed for Lake Tekapo, which overlooks Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand.

Lucky for us, we actually got to camp underneath Mount Cook. I tried my hand at night photography, with a few shots actually turning out pretty well.

In Queenstown, which reminded me of a Colorado ski town without the snow and with a lot more adventure activities, we took a ride up the gondola to catch some amazing views of Lake Wakatipu and the city. We also indulged our inner children and raced each other down the luge, a mix between go carts and bumper cars.

One of my favorite parts of our trip, and the most nerve-wracking, was the Nevis Canyon Swing. Boasting as the world’s biggest swing, the Nevis Swing is suspended 160 meters above the valley floor, then launches you 125 kilometers per hour (77 miles per hour) through a 300 meter arc as adrenaline courses through your body. I chose this picture instead of the one of a terrified me screaming as I freefall. You’re welcome.

No matter where you go in New Zealand, you are always treated to magnificent views. As we were driving to our next destination along the coast, the sun began to set, treating us to a brilliant display of rays and various colors. We stopped 7 times on the way just to take it in.

When I left for New Zealand, my parents feared that I wouldn’t come back. I wasn’t too worried, as New Zealand doesn’t have Chick-Fil-A and I can only go so long without those nuggets, until I got to Milford Sound. A fiord situated on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound is truly the 8th wonder of the world. It was raining on our boat ride through the sound, but it was even more breathtaking as the waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs. I love the water and even as our boat approached the Tasman Sea and the water started getting choppier, I was leaning forward, laughing and urging the captain to take any opportunity to get me soaked. He obliged, and the turned the boat so the water started coming over the sides of the boat, hitting me like walls at full force. I loved it. The captain must have too, because he invited me into his cabin, gave me his pirate hat to wear, and even let me drive the boat for a while! Once again, sorry Mom and Dad, I may never come home.

It wouldn’t be a trip in New Zealand without some hikes, right? In Fiordland, we did quite a few, with my favorite being the Lake Marian hike. The 1 ½ hour hike was well worth it when we arrived in view of the gorgeous reflective lake. Joey and I couldn’t help ourselves: we jumped in the freezing cold waters, shivering and clattering our teeth as we climbed out.

We also got the chance to kayak Doubtful Sound, which was SO COOL. I loved being right on the water, getting to see everything up close. A little blue penguin swam near us as we glided through the sound. Our guide for the day, Tony, went fishing during our lunch break and caught a very large grouper. The way I feel about this clearly shows on my face.

We loved kayaking so much we did it again in the Abel Tasman. Just a small ways out from the shore stood an island with seal pups playing in the water! Did I mention I may never leave New Zealand?

I’ve been loving my time in New Zealand. Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I’m so thankful to my family, friends, and all the people at Iowa State who have supported me and made this possible. Every day in New Zealand is a new adventure waiting to happen. I’ve come down with the travel bug, and here’s to hoping there’s no cure!

College Student Cooking: Kaitlin and bananas

by Kaitlin Peterson

Hello! My name is Kaitlin Peterson. I am a junior in the English Education program. Between juggling classes, work, research, and life in general, I do not tend to have a lot of spare time. Whenever I have the time, two of my favorite things to do are bake and cook!

Baking ingredients can be expensive to buy all at once, so I tend to try and use leftover ingredients that I have in the kitchen that are going to spoil soon. One ingredient I tend to have a lot of are bananas! I will buy a bunch of bananas, but they stay the proper amount of ripeness for consumption for two to three days. Usually I end up with two or three extra overripe bananas at the end of the week. Thankfully there are a ton of ways to use bananas in baking or for substitutions in regular cooking.

If you want some safer things to try out first, try using bananas as a staple in these recipes.

  • Banana bread
  • Smoothies
  • Pancakes
  • Oatmeal
  • Cookies
  • Ice Cream

However, bananas can be used as substitutes for other ingredients as well.

  • 1 banana = 1 egg
  • ½ cup banana = ½ cup butter
  • Bananas in place of yogurt or sour cream in cakes
  • Banana instead of cream cheese
  • Bananas as an oil substitute

If you are super excited to try all of these banantastic recipes, but live in the dorms, don’t worry! Depending on the dorm, you may have a kitchen on your floor. If not, then you can use the kitchen at the Margaret Sloss Women’s Center! Make sure to bring your own ingredients and clean up after yourself when you are done.

Geocaching 101

by Charlie Labuzzetta

What do geocaching and Harry Potter have in common?

The term “muggle” is used by both communities to describe those who do not know about geocaching or wizardry! This post will answer your questions about geocaching so that you are no longer a muggle.

What is a geocache?

A geocache is a small container placed at specified GPS coordinates in a public place that geocachers can search for using clues from an online database. Each geocache contains a signable list of all the previous geocachers that have found it and some geocaches are large enough for tradable trinkets to be left inside.

How can I give geocaching a try?

First, you will need a free account at Then you can search either online or in the geocaching app on a smartphone for a geocache near you. There are many different types of geocaches, but the standard type will provide GPS coordinates and a few hints to help you find the geocache once you reach the coordinates. Sometimes you will need to solve a puzzle to discover the coordinates or visit multiple caches before reaching the final geocache.

When geocaching, you will need access to a device that can provide GPS coordinates. Most smartphones now have this capability and there are several free geocaching apps that are very useful. You should also bring a pencil/pen so that you can sign the log inside the geocache when you find one. Be sure to wear long pants and tennis shoes when geocaching. Sometimes, geocaches are located in the woods or even up trees. A few years ago there was a geocache on central campus about 40 feet up in one of the pine trees.

Are there geocaches at ISU or in Ames?

You may have guessed that there are geocaches on campus and in Ames! In fact, there are over 100 within 2 miles of campus. I have only found a handful, but it is an enjoyable weekend activity to grab a few friends and trek through campus on a geocache hunt. If you’d like to start out easy, try finding the geocache at the “coordinates”: GV1202 G46 M35 2004 in our very own Parks Library!

Happy Hunting! Beware of muggles.

Things I Missed About ISU While Studying Abroad

by Emily Forsyth

The sense of community at ISU. It’s hard to put this concept into words, but there is something special about the campus community here at Iowa State. Once you become a Cyclone, a special bond is formed with generations past and present. I come from a long line of Cyclones. Even though many years separate us, I can still reminisce about late nights at the Parks Library with my grandparents. My parents and I talk about how the Memorial Union has changed over the years but it still smells the same. I never expected to find such a special community at Iowa State. For goodness sakes, there are 36,000 some people who go here. But strangers still smile at one another on the sidewalks. Just last week, I waited with a group of other students at a bus stop in the rain and we shared joy and disappointment as the bus drove right past us.

School sponsored athletics. Piggybacking off the sense of community at Iowa State, there is nothing like being in the student section at Jack Trice or Hilton. Win or lose, the college athletic atmosphere is unrivaled here. I am a Cyclone sports fanatic and athletic events are some of my fondest memories at Iowa State. Like the time when we upset number one ranked Oklahoma and court stormed. I’ll never forget that. The university I attended in New Zealand partnered with a semi-pro rugby team, but they only played one game while I was there.

Knowing the campus norms. One of the things that threw me off the most about going to school at a new university was how much I took mundane tasks for granted. It was almost like being a freshman all over again. I got lost going to the majority of classes, I couldn’t figure out how to print the lecture slides I needed, they don’t have a 23 Orange bus, and there was a bar in the middle of campus…what?! It took me quite a while to get oriented. It definitely made me aware of how much I had learned about ISU – and the great things our university has that I took for granted.

Knowing who to ask when I have questions. I have been blessed in my experience at ISU with great advisors, helpful professors, and finding staff members who can point me in the right direction if they can’t answer my questions. While I was abroad, I talked to other students who said they didn’t even know who their advisor was. Because I was at a smaller university abroad, they did not offer the same types of student services we are fortunate enough to have here. I encourage you to reach out and ask somebody if you have a problem or a question about anything at ISU. Odds are you will find a helping hand.

Homework/extra credit points. Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating for more homework here. But in my courses abroad, the only assignments that were graded were lab reports, papers, and exams. In one of my classes, we were only assessed on the midterm and the final exams. Yikes! I have a new appreciation for the homework assignments, not only for the points but for the practice. Keeping up on homework forces me to go over the content periodically – instead of trying to remember a semesters worth of knowledge in a week before the test.

Traditions. Walking around the Zodiac to avoid failing your next test*. Becoming a true Iowa State student by kissing under the campanile. Falling in love by walking around Lake Laverne. Whether these traditions are true or not, they add a unique character to the popular places on campus. *Fun fact: When I was in elementary I walked across the Zodiac and I vividly remember my mom joking/scolding me and saying I would fail my first test if I came to Iowa State. I failed my first test at Iowa State. Coincidence? I think not…

This is just a brief list. I don’t want to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy studying abroad because that is the farthest thing from the truth. Studying at another university opened my world view, challenged me to be a better student, and go outside of my comfort zone. But, the bottom line is that Iowa State is a great place to be and I am happy to be a Cyclone.


by Edel Aron

Chag Sameach (happy holidays) everyone! Easter just ended, and many millions of people around the world got in touch with their faith and families to celebrate Holy Week last week. There are a few points in the year where Christianity and Judaism run parallel and so I’m here to talk about the other important spring holiday happening right now: Passover, which started last Monday night and will end Tuesday. According to the Gospels, Jesus’ Last Supper was actually a Passover supper and the holidays frequently overlap. Feel free to listen to this song as you read the rest of this post to set the mood:

Passover or Pesach in a nutshell is the week-long celebration of thousands of Israelites led by Moses/Moshe escaping from slavery in Egypt and starting on their journey to Canaan (roughly modern day Israel, Lebanon and parts of Jordan and Syria). The name refers to God or the Angel of Death “passing over” the homes of Jewish people during the 10th plague; the killing of the firstborn children of the Egyptians to finally convince Pharoah to let the slaves go. The entire story can be found in Exodus, one of the books of the Torah and the Old Testament in the Bible, and includes how the Red Sea was crossed, the desert was wandered (commemorated by the holiday Sukkot) and the 10 Commandments were received from Mount Sinai (Shavuot/Pentecost). The most important days are the first two and the last two and many people will take time off of work for them. The four in between are collectively called Chol Hamoed.

It is the most widely observed Jewish holiday as it brings together both the spirit of our people and the everlasting hope for freedom for all (which inspired the song above), to the point that there are even people from other faiths who celebrate it. The emphasis Judaism tends to place on tradition and symbolism is especially felt around this time of the year as we reflect on the past and the path to the future and the responsibility which comes with that journey. As written by some rabbis in the Talmud, the point of the holiday isn’t truly to retell the Exodus story, but to feel it and have a personal connection with history in order to be able to move forward.

Logistically, Passover comes with a lot of prep work. There is a 15-step ritual dinner and service known as the Seder (SAY-der) which typically happens at home on the first night. Friends and family are invited over (if you’re ever invited to a Seder, you should go) and a book called the Haggadah which contains the story, rituals and prayers is read from. During this, the youngest child present will read the 4 Questions which explain some of the traditions being followed i.e. “Why is this night different from all other nights?”. We have the kids’ version at home, but it serves just as well.

The Passover feast centers around something known as the Seder (SAY-der) plate, which contains specifically chosen foods with deep symbolism for the holiday. Our plate down below has handy place names for us. These are the typical components:

  • Matzah (the large dry cracker-like square) = there was no time to let bread rise when Pharoah agreed to let the Jews leave, which is why traditionally no leavened bread or other products can be eaten during the holiday
  • Maror (bitter herbs, usually horseradish) = bitterness of slavery
  • Charoset (sweet paste traditionally made from apples or other fruit and nuts) = mortar that was used during the forced building of Egyptian structures
  • Karpas (leafy green vegetables like lettuce) = labor of the enslaved builders; the veggies are usually dipped into the salt water
  • Zeroah (shank bone) = sacrificial lamb killed the night before the exodus
  • Beitzah = egg (hard-boiled), traditional temple offering and symbol of spring
  • Salt water = tears
  • Four cups of wine = celebrates freedom

There are many other components like cleaning the home of all chametz, which is the forbidden leavened products and hiding the Afikomen, which a piece of matzah broken in half, for children to find. Overall, Passover is a simultaneously joyous and solemn holiday with many centuries of meaning behind it which brings together friends and families and inspires many who observe it, even in the smallest of ways.

College Student Cooking: Baking Tips for College Students

by Paige Vaden

I’ve loved baking since I was a kid. Growing up, my favorite toy was the Easy-Bake oven, and my favorite thing do was to help my mom make cookies. So, when I moved to an off campus house this past year, I was looking forward to having my own kitchen and oven more than anything else. I imagined that I’d be able to bake anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, but being a college student presents some challenges. Whether it’s finding time to bake with a busy schedule or baking with minimal counter space, here’s some advice about what I’ve learned over the past year!

1. Utilize the space and materials you have. As college students, most of us aren’t going to have spacious kitchens and top-notch appliances at our disposal, so it’s important to work with what we’ve got. This year, I’ve been living in a house with about 2 square feet of counter space which makes it extremely difficult to bake or cook anything from scratch. But, I’ve learned to bring out a TV tray to double my counter space. Here’s a picture of my kitchen when I tried out a new recipe this week (I wasn’t exaggerating about the counter space).

Some kitchen equipment like mixing bowls are essential, but you can be creative if you’re missing a utensil. Don’t have a whisk, use a fork. Don’t have cookie cutter, use a cup or even cut out your own shapes! It’s all about using what you have.

2. Invest in Quality ingredients/products. When you’re living on a college student budget, sometimes it can be hard to justify not always buying the cheapest ingredients. But, when an ingredient is essential to the flavor of a dish, it’s important make sure it’s a good quality. Some things like flour, sugar, and baking powder are standard, but splurging on dark chocolate chips or walnuts can take your creation above and beyond. This is especially true if you don’t have time or energy to make something from scratch. If you end up using a box mix for things like brownies or cakes (which if we’re being honest, most of us do) this is especially important. Ghirardelli makes a great brownie mix. For just a little bit higher price, you’ll have people complementing your “homemade” brownies. This tip can also be applied to some baking products. Parchment paper might seem like a thing only the Food Network pros use, but I just learned that using this paper as a lining on your pans can really save you a lot of time and frustration when removing things from trays or pans.

3. It’s all about the presentation. A decorative dessert is more exciting than a plain one. It’s usually easier than you think to dress up whatever you’ve baked. For example, cupcakes are super simple to decorate with just a Ziploc bag and colored icing. Fill a sandwich bag with whatever icing you want on your cake, then cut a corner out and you’ve got a makeshift piping bag! Rectangular box cakes are the classic birthday dessert, but honestly, they’re a little boring and bland. So, if I want to bake a cake for a friend’s birthday, I’ll turn a chocolate box cake to a Double Chocolate Bundt cake by adding chocolate chips and a chocolate pudding mix, and baking it in a Bundt pan.

4. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Baking is a cross between science and art, so while it’s important to get the right proportion of ingredients don’t be afraid to try new flavors or ideas. I really like trying to incorporate healthy substitutions into my baking. Trying things like black bean brownies or cookie dough hummus can be a fun experiment, and you’ll even feel a little healthier eating them. (Both recipes taste better than they sound, I promise). It’s important to realize that not all your creative endeavors will turn out in exactly the way you want, but at least you know to try something else next time!

5. Sharing is caring. Lastly, baking is meant to be shared so gather up some friends and share what you’ve made. Now, get baking!

Humans of Honors: Dana Smith

Major: Materials Engineering

Year: Freshman

Hometown: Everett, WA

FHP Section: K3

Favorite Honors memory: I really liked bubble soccer and the FHP

What cheers you up? Going out and doing something active with my friends.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why? Ginny Weasley because I love the Harry Potter series and she’s not one of the main characters but she is smart and funny.

Are cats great or the greatest? Great.

What’s the coolest place you’ve been? Paris, France. Because I love the culture.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you? I gave myself a concussion in track freshman year of high school by standing up into a 45 pound bar.