AMS Freshman Scholarship Winners Reflect on Their First Year

In academic year 2016-2017, the School of Meteorology was privileged to have three of the AMS (American Meteorological Society) Freshman Scholarship winners commit to OU for their Bachelor’s degrees. Over the next week, we will be featuring each of these students; learning about them and their experience during their first year as OU Meteorology students.

Our second student is Kristine Chen. Chen is from Rosemead, California and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Meteorology. In addition to academics, Chen is also involved with the Sierra Club, OU’s Community Emergency Management Team (CERT), and OU’s chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), which is an honor society within OU.

She touts the reputation of the school and the many learning opportunities available as one of the best things about being at OU:  “The best part about being a meteorology major at OU is being able to learn from the talented and knowledgeable meteorologists that work within OU or the National Weather Center, as well as from my peers. Although I can’t say that I fully understand everything these meteorologists speak about (I’ve still got quite a bit of learning to do!), it is nevertheless amazing to be exposed to their expertise as a freshman.” One program that has allowed Chen to work so closely with these meteorologists is FYRE, the Honors College’s Four-Year Research Experience. Dr. David Parsons, the director of the school, is her mentor for that program.”During the spring semester, I worked with Dr. Parsons and [graduate student] Sam Lillo to study the causes of extreme rainfall events in California…”

Chen, like many students, had some worries about the challenges of moving from high school to university level academics, but she was pleasantly surprised: “Academically, transitioning from high school to college wasn’t as difficult as I had expected it to be. What struck me first was how much more unstructured time I had in my day. In my last two years of high school, I was in class from 7 AM to 3 PM every day. In my first semester at OU, I was in class 3 hours or fewer for most days of the week. Having so much flexibility was great; I could set aside large blocks of time to study, run errands, nap, or eat. I think that in the past year, I slept more than I had in my junior or senior years of high school. That’s not to say that attending college is all fun and games, however. Having unstructured time also makes it easy to procrastinate. More than once, I’ve had to stay up late to finish an assignment or study at the last minute; time management is not one of my finer skills! Other than that, however, I experienced no major difficulties. The coursework for my classes was not overly demanding, and I felt that in jumping from high school to college, I made a smooth landing.

Many things stuck out to Chen when deciding to choose OU. One of these was the diversity of the campus.

First of all, I liked OU because it’s so different from my hometown of Rosemead, culture-wise and demographics-wise. As my history teacher told me while I was deciding which college to attend, college is just about the only time you’ll have to experience what life is like in a completely different area; at other points in your life, you’ll be constrained by your job, family, or obligations. I decided to take this opportunity, and I’m glad I did! Coming to Oklahoma has exposed me to people with different lives and different views, and these have widened my perspective of the world.”

While many students cite financial concerns when considering taking that opportunity to broaden perspective, Chen was able to get lots of financial aid, which made OU the more affordable choice. “With financial aid and scholarships from OU and the School of Meteorology, it was actually less expensive for me to attend OU than to attend some in-state schools. Additionally, with the research campus, there seemed to be a lot of opportunities for students like myself to engage in research and to find jobs and internships. Finally, I was amazed by how caring and attentive Shelby [Hill, our coordinator of undergraduate students] and other SOM staff were when I first visited; I was sure that if I came to OU, I would be in good hands.”

Although there were positives, Chen still had a bit of a change being over 800 miles away from home. “As far as I can tell, I’m at least 800 miles from my nearest high school classmate. On one hand, it’s frightening to be so far from my support system. I worried that I would have trouble making friends and building a new support system at OU. This fear, however, turned out to be unfounded. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to be able to grow as a person in a place where no one has any preconceived notions about you. I feel that if I went to a school that many of my peers attended, it would be far too easy to continue being the same person I was in high school.

Despite the distance, Chen has found ways to make OU feel more like home. “The best non-academic part of being at OU is definitely the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had with them. One thing I’ve noticed about people at OU and in Oklahoma is that they’re very welcoming! Within the first few weeks, my roommate (who lives in Norman), was showing me around town, and she invited me to go to the OU-Texas game with her family. Another local friend took me and another out-of-state meteorology student to the state fair. And when Thanksgiving came around, I was touched when multiple people invited me home with them upon learning that I would be staying in Norman over break. Overall, I’m overjoyed to be surrounded by such fantastic people and to have experienced so many things with them.

We are so glad Kristine chose the School of Meteorology at OU! We wish her the best over the next few years in the program!

Keep an eye out for our next featured freshman, Jessica Wiedemeier!