Finding the Balance: Study vs Play

on September 27, 2013

First time away from home? No parents anxiously awaiting your return after a night out or checking that you have finished your homework? Welcome to college.

The sense of freedom can be incredible – as is the terrifying thought that you may have bitten off more than you can chew.

Not in the mood for that early lecture. So, stay in bed.

Feel like having a bender on a Friday night? It’s okay.

Yes, in many ways this is college life – and a part of growing up – but it can be hard to strike a balance if you are away from home for the first time ever. Getting into destructive habits can take a toll on your education, affecting your health and mental well-being.

The exact reverse would be the students who take their work too seriously, missing out on the social opportunities inherent in campus life. Leaving college with a degree and none of the connections and memories so valuable to a well-rounded person is almost as though you haven’t fully explored your education.

Here are a few things to do to make sure you enjoy the most positive experience possible throughout college:

• Stay healthy – Eat properly, get enough sleep and remain fit. All of these will ensure you can perform physically and mentally – even when if you party hard over the weekends. Making sure your body is able to recover from the campus life challenges you throw at it will ensure you can keep up with all other aspects of college.

• Do what you need to do – Remember that the primary reason you are at college is to get a degree. Your entire future is based upon your education and, financially, you are probably already in debt up to your ears. Make sure you stay on top of your classes and assignments. Put in the hours and attend your lectures. If you know you are working and putting forth adequate effort, you won’t feel guilty taking the time out to play.

• Minimize risky behavior – Being placed in a position where you need to make adult decisions doesn’t necessarily mean you will make the right choices. It’s alright to make mistakes – that’s what college is all about, but try to ensure that any of these activities won’t affect you negatively in the long run. Stay safe and remember that you will need to live with your actions.

• Socialize – Make new friends, join clubs, play team sports. Your college experience is about so much more than a degree. A good education is also about the life lessons that you gain during your college years; lessons which will be with you for life. Choose close friends carefully, yet be friendly and open with others, so you can have a wide range of acquaintances.

Finding the balance between work and play is vital for a successful time at college and for building those special memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

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College Life: The Challenges of a New World

on September 16, 2013

College is meant to be fun – according to Van Wilder and countless other Hollywood versions of campus life. For many students, however, this is the first time away from home, and although Mom is just a phone call away, you don’t want to feel like a complete failure by falling back on them instead of the lasting friendships you could and should be making during this special time in your life.

Feeling daunted by the newness of everything may prevent you from getting out and exploring and the longer you avoid doing so, the harder things will be. Enclosing yourself in your dorm and heading out only to class could make you a recluse, before you have even realized what’s happened.

Going to college is about so much more than studying or partying. It’s about spreading your wings, becoming an adult, meeting new people, disagreeing with opinions and standing up for your beliefs. It’s about expressing yourself and being the person you know you were born to be.

So how do you meet college life head-on?

• Get out and meet people – No, I am not talking about adding friends on Facebook. I mean physically talking to real people. Directly. Standing in front of them. No gadgets and no smartphones. Join groups or go to forums and college meetings. Chat to the people sitting next to you in class. Go to college athletic games and cheer for your team.

• Play sport or exercise – Nothing helps one’s state of mind like a bit of sunlight and exercise. Hit the road, whether for a walk or a run, and get that heart rate up. Join a team sport or find a friend to chase a ball with. There’s always the college gym. Pull on your sneakers and go and check out the sights from a treadmill.

• Ask for help – Feeling like you aren’t coping? You’re not alone. Speak with one of the campus counselors and get the support you need. Often, just talking to another person can make sense of a confusing time in a way you wouldn’t have expected. The counselors are there to assist students wherever and whenever possible.

• Ugh, dirty laundry – Don’t put off those ghastly chores just because you don’t know how to get started. Mom is not around to clean up after you! Talk to your fellow students, and find out how to get to the local Laundromat. Make sure you stay on top of your domestic responsibilities. Getting swamped with dirty laundry, a dirty room or a lack of food won’t help you in other areas of college life.

Take the necessary steps and embrace college life – now is your time, so make it count!

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Study Tips For College Success

on September 14, 2013

Been enjoying college life a little too much? This can happen to the best of us.

By now, however, you may have come to the conclusion that the top results for those inconvenient tests tend to come after an endless night of shoving as much as possible knoweldge into your short-term memory – to later be called upon following day.

If you shudder with the thought of drinking another 5-hour energy drink, to help you stay the course, then you know where I am going with this.

Yes, those all-nighters do have their place in college life, but by tweaking your strategies, you may be able to invoke the use of your long-term memory with less work – and less dark rings under your eyes.

How, you ask?

• Attend class regularly – By paying attention in class, and taking notes, the information gathered is moved into your short-term memory. From there, you can shift it over to long-term memory storage. By reviewing your notes after class and before your next lecture you activate your long-term memory, coaxing the information into permanent structures.

• Prepare for class – Perusing your notes prior to class, or reading the assigned material, your memory banks are able to interact effectively with the new knowledge acquired, enabling long-term storage. If you have an understanding of the subject matter prior to your lectures, you will be better able to assimilate and understand the new information.

• Practice makes perfect – As with all things, training gets you results. Feeding your memory a little at a time, on an ongoing basis, helps to strengthen the existing connections in your brain. By training your mind to process the information you need it to retain, and by allowing it to assimilate this with previously acquired long-term knowledge, you will absorb the material into your long-term memory for successful exam-time retrieval.

• Doing what’s necessary – Of course for “all-night” learners, the thought of preparing for class and planning in advance goes against the grain. Sometimes, due to extenuating circumstances or your personal style of learning, an all-nighter may be best.

Here is another thing to consider. By being a procrastinator, you have skillfully ensured that you don’t have the time to sit down and revise.

A possible solution here is to “trick” your brain into putting in the extra work – without it feeling as though you are actually working.

Leave note pages beside your bed at night. Before you pick up a book, you can glance through your notes. Take a few pages in your carrier bag and while waiting for friends at the local hangout, catch up on a point or two covered in the day’s lectures.

By taking advantage of a few spare moments, you can make significant positive changes. Don’t classify it as “studying” per se. Just let it be a bit of extra fuel for your long-term memory.

These small learning opportunities will add to your long-term memory and increase overall retention, thereby freeing you to get a good night’s rest before your exams.

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About Those Student Loans

on September 10, 2013

College is expensive. We all know it, and it’s getting more expensive with each passing year. And college is more important than ever with college graduates easily out-earning workers without a degree.

Many people take out student loans to help them pay for college. With tuition and fees getting ever more costly, few people can afford the price of higher education without borrowing at some point in their college career. Maybe you already have a few loans of your own.

But what do you really know about student loans?

Two Basic Types of Student Loans

There are basically two types of student loans, federal and private.

• Federal Student Loans – Federal student loans are funded directly by the US Government, by way of the Department of Education. Generally, the interest rates on these loans is “fixed”, and is usually lower than that of private loans. Federal loans can be subsidized or unsubsidized, the difference being that the US Government pays the interest on a subsidized loan for the length of time you are in school. Finally, you can usually defer the interest accrual until the time you graduate or leave school – in other words, the amount owed as interest will not accrue while you’re busy worrying about other things than money!

• Private Student Loans – Private loans come directly from private lenders, like banks or credit unions. Interest usually cannot be deferred on a private loan; it begins to accrue from the moment you accept the money. And the interest rate is not normally fixed but, rather, may vary from loan to loan. Depending on your credit score, or that of your co-signer, the interest rate on a private loan can be significantly higher than that of federal loans.

But, unlike federal loans, private student loans can be more flexible when it comes to timing and need. Federal loans are often deadline-driven, whereas private loans can be applied for at any time of the year. And private loans often help fill the gap between the amount a student needs and the amount the government is actually willing to lend. For students whose tuition is greater than the amount they’re able to borrow from the federal government, private student loans can play a very critical role in educational success.

Which is Better?

The answer depends on your preferences and needs. My personal preference is for federal loans. Interest deferment and a low fixed rate mean I can concentrate on my studies without worrying too much about the price of my education. In some cases, though, a private loan might be preferable. Your situation and preferences ultimately decide which is best for you.

Whatever you choose, be careful with your borrowing! Some students see loans as “free money” and borrow too much. But, unlike most other forms of debt, student loans cannot be written off in a bankruptcy. You can never “discharge” your student loan debt. So, be careful and prudent. There’s no such thing as “free money!”

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How to Be a Successful Introvert on a Campus Full of Extroverts

on September 8, 2013

Experts say we’re either one or the other. Are you an introvert, or an extrovert? Do you know the difference between the two?

Me, I’m an introvert. I’m quiet and reserved. My big sister likes to say I’m “deep”.

My old friend Steve, on the other hand, was a classic extrovert. No room full of people could hold enough people for Steve! Charming, persuasive, and amazing with kids, for Steve “more” was always merrier!”

Why is this important?

I’m getting to that.

We live in an extroverted culture. Openness, friendliness, the willingness to engage are all highly valued character traits. Their introverted opposites, like reserve and reticence, are often seen as social hindrances or just simple shyness. Because our culture values extroversion so highly, introverts, whether workers or college students, have to work harder to get along and succeed in this world.

Introverts and Extroverts

First let’s get one thing straight. Introversion has nothing to do with shyness. Often the two qualities are grouped together, but that’s more coincidence than necessity. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Some are, like me. Others, like my best friend Martie, aren’t shy at all!

By the simplest definition, introverts are people who expend energy in social situations. We may enjoy parties and events, just like the next person, but we’re often very tired by the end of the night. Extroverts, on the other hand, don’t want the event to end. Ever! They gain energy in social situations. The next party can’t come fast enough!

Because extroversion is stressed so highly in our culture, introverts get a bad rap sometimes. There’s a certain stigma to being an introvert – the captain of the football team is *always* more popular than the president of the chess club. And, though no one likes to admit it, popularity has a lot to do with success.

OK, I’m an introvert. Now what?

First of all, face facts. You’re a minority in an extrovert-majority world. What can you do?

Don’t be afraid to promote yourself.

Be social.

It may be uncomfortable, but do as the extroverts do. Let people see your light! Join a club and speak up. Volunteer whenever, and however, you can. Keep your Facebook and other social media accounts up to date and active. Don’t be afraid to join a conversation. Make an effort to be social, even if you’re never going to be the loudest member of the group.

But then, after all this social activity has exhausted you as it will, remember to do this one simple thing: rest.

Stay around the dorm for a day or two, catch up on a good book, watch television, or just take a long walk alone. As an introvert, you need this quiet time to recharge your batteries. You can’t do without it.

Sometimes we have to fit ourselves to the world we live in. In this world, if you’re an introvert, like me, you’re like a fish at a dog park. Adapt! Learn how to play by their rules. Wag your tail and learn how to bark!

But don’t forget to swim now and then.

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Settling In to a New Town or City

on September 6, 2013

No matter what the situation, moving to a new town or city can be hard. Whether you’re just going 50 miles or 5,000, moving is considered to be one of the three most stressful life events alongside taking a new job and the passing of a loved one. Friends and loved ones, support systems too, all of these have been left behind. It’s easy to get homesick.

You owe it to yourself to make a home of your new town or city. Settling-in, finding things you can connect with, and things you love, is often a key to success in your new home. Ironically, embracing your new city is often just the thing to soften the pain of leaving home.

How can you find your place in a new place?

Think about your interests. Do you like to meet new people? Do you like to travel? Are you adventurous? Do you love the sports, or the arts? Your interests are they key to building a new life!

For example, I love the arts. From literature to photography, I’m a dilettante of the highest degree. When I moved from California to South Korea, I was often very lonely and bored. I knew no one, and I had few friends.

Then, two things happened.

First, one cold December night, unable to sit still in my tiny apartment, I went out to the movies. Carefully I walked across the ice and snow to the nearest bus stop, then I took the Number 530 downtown. Getting off at Lotte Cinema, next to a very out-of-place McDonald’s, I walked inside and fell in love! I was right at home, even if I couldn’t read or understand anything except the concessions menu. I had found a place to call my own, 8,000 miles from home, a place that sold pizza in an ice cream cone!

Not long after, I discovered the Jinju Book Club, a book club for English-speakers in our little city of Jinju. Though I can be very shy, I took a chance and went to a meeting on an icy Sunday night. I knew I was in the right place when I met Todd. In that moment, I went from being all-alone, all-the-time, to having a best friend with whom I could share the joys and terrors of expat living!

These two things made all the difference for me. I settled-in. Little Jinju became my home-away-from-home.

Remember: your interests are the keys to finding new friends, to discovering new places. Whether you’re 50 miles from home or 5,000, be sure to bring a positive attitude and a willingness to explore. Settle-in, and let your home-away-from-home find you!

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How to Cope With Your Challenging New College Roommate

on September 4, 2013

Once, I had a college roommate I instantly disliked. To be fair, she disliked me instantly, too! For several weeks, we struggled to be nice, to co-exist, but we were just two very different people and we just couldn’t live in the same room. Eventually, seeing the futility of keeping-on, I requested a room reassignment. I was happy, she was happy, and all was forgotten.

It’s a fact that we can’t always be surrounded just by the people we love and get along with. Often the people we come in contact with, at school, work, or in a college dormitory, are people that are just very different from us. It’s a big world, and there are as many kinds of people as there are flowers in the gardens of Versailles.

If your new roommate is somehow a challenge, if you’re finding it difficult to get along, maybe these suggestions will be helpful.

Be Open to Solutions

Does your new roommate stay up too late studying? Does the light from her desk lamp keep you awake? Be open to a solution, and be creative! Is it possible a blindfold might help? Can you arrange for her to study in the common area after 10pm? Be creative, and be flexible!

Your willingness to find a solution is often the first step in overcoming an obstacle.

Accommodate Her

College dormitories are mixing-pots. Students come from all over, from far and wide. While this is a good thing in many ways, there’s always bound to be some cultural friction between people of different places and traditions. Even students from different regions of the same state might find themselves stuck in the mud of these cultural misunderstandings.

So accommodate your new roommate. Show some interest in her life and in her home. Does she cook or eat exotic foods or meals? Try them – you might like them! Is English not her mother tongue? Are you up for learning some new words in a new language? This is a great way to build a friendship and defuse tension. Take it from a former expatriate, nothing is more flattering than having someone be so interested in talking to you that they’ve gone to the trouble of speaking your mother tongue. It’s a great way to make a new friend.

When All Else Fails

When all else fails, move. Sometimes, there’s just nothing else to do. If you just can’t get along, if there’s just no way to make it work, perhaps the best thing to do is to move.

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t just pick up and go. Moving out should be your very last resort. If you must go, you should start with a visit to the campus housing office.

We can’t always control the people who come into our lives, and we won’t always get along with everyone. College roommates are no exception. You may find yourself with a mismatch, and if you do? Be creative! Be open to solutions! With an open heart and mind, you might just turn that mismatched roommate into a friend for life.

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How to Handle Homesickness Like a Pro

on September 2, 2013

Living away from home can be hard, especially if it’s the first time. Way back, when I was a very young adult, I went to work for the season at a Colorado ski resort. Even though it was less than 100 miles from Denver, where my sister was living, I felt like I’d landed on the moon! More homesick than I’d ever been, I didn’t eat well, or sleep well. “Lonely” is hardly a strong enough word to describe how I felt all those years ago.

After a few months, I began to feel better. I became adjusted to my new environment, and started making friends. My homesickness faded. Mind you, it never truly went away for good; but it faded and became manageable.

Everyone gets homesick from time to time, it’s an unavoidable consequence of travel. Whether you’re away from home for the first time, or the fiftieth, there’s always some inevitable discomfort, a hollow sense of dislocation, waiting for you in your new town or city. And while experts seem to agree that homesickness can’t be avoided, it can be softened and managed if you take some positive steps.

Acknowledge It

Homesickness comes in waves. One moment you’re fine, and the next you’re in tears. The seesaw nature of homesickness is what makes it so confusing. When the feelings come, don’t fight them, don’t suppress your emotions. Instead, acknowledge them, but remind yourself, out loud if you must, that you are just feeling homesick. This too shall pass!

Acknowledging your homesickness can help put things into perspective.

Try New Things

Sometimes when you’re feeling really homesick, you’ll have absolutely no interest in exploring or trying new things. This is understandable; but don’t let the temptation to withdraw take over your life.

Trying new things – new foods, new music – can help to make this new place into *your* place. Make your new city into your home, even if it’s just temporary. Be on the lookout for things you like and be ready to adopt them as your own.

Take Care of Yourself

It can be hard to care for yourself when homesickness comes. We may not feel like eating, and exercising might just be too out of the question. But in order to do our best, whether at work or at school, we must take good care of our bodies and our minds.

Eating well is crucial. Don’t be tempted to eat fast food 8 days a week. Try to eat good, balanced meals, whenever possible, to keep your mind sharp and your body strong. Particularly, foods rich in Vitamins B1 and Vitamin D can be very effective in helping ward off the pain of homesickness as these vitamins are associated with stress relief and relaxation.

And don’t forget to exercise! Exercise triggers endorphin release which can lift your spirits and help to keep you in good form.

While you can’t avoid getting homesick, you can take steps to overcome it. Acknowledge your feelings, try new things, and, most of all, take care of yourself! Approach homesickness with a positive attitude, and you may find it fades quickly away.

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Eating Well When You’re Away From Home

on August 30, 2013

It’s not always easy to eat well. Sometimes, we’re just too busy, and it’s often just easier and more convenient to eat something quick, a burger and fries, rather than something mother would approve of.

Convenient or not, however, eating well isn’t optional. Even in the most unchallenging of life circumstances, eating well is essential for maintaining mental, physical, and emotional health. When you’re away from home, eating well becomes even more essential to staying healthy and fit.

I know this from experience. Recently, I lived for a time in South Korea. I was so far from home, and so very homesick. Often I didn’t feel like eating. Or sometimes, when I did, I’d eat nothing but sugar cookies and bread with jam. I felt invincible … until the day I began getting sick. What started as a minor cold became something more serious, serious enough to require a visit to the doctor and some medications. Luckily for me, medical care in South Korea is inexpensive and the quality of care is very good. I got well again, but I learned my lesson and took great care to eat well for the rest of my time there.

When you’re suffering the emotional and physical strains of being far from home, what can you eat that will help you the most? Here are a few suggestions:

Whole Grains

Eating whole grain foods, like whole wheat bread or whole grain pasta, can have a number of positive health benefits, including: better weight maintenance, better blood pressure and cardiovascular health, and, due to the presence of Vitamin B1, stress and anxiety reduction.

All Foods Rich in Vitamin B1

Whole grain foods aren’t the only foods rich in Vitamin B1. Others include:

• Yellowfish Tuna
• Cooked Corn
• Brussels Sprouts
• Beans.

As mentioned already, Vitamin B1 is very helpful with stress and anxiety, both of which are closely associated with the homesickness that often comes with being away from home, especially for the first time.

Foods Rich in Vitamin D

Finally, Vitamin D is another super-essential substance. Some of the many health benefits associated with its consumption are:

• Stress and anxiety reduction
• Depression relief
• Improved circulation

You can get Vitamin D in fish and in “fortified” dairy foods, like milk and cheese. You can even get Vitamin D straight from the sun. A 35 minute walk in bright morning sunlight can do wonders for your emotional well-being.

It’s always important to eat well. Sometimes it’s even more important, like when your away from home and faced with new demands and challenges that sometimes lead to frustration. Being away from home can be hard. Make it easy on yourself when you can.

Eat well, and take care of yourself. Prosper.

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Connecting & Making Friends at College

on August 28, 2013

Many students choose their college for the education standards – not because all their friends are heading in the same direction. Leaving your buddies behind means beginning anew, without the support system you would normally once have had at your fingertips.

The thought of starting from scratch can be an incredibly daunting prospect – particularly if you are shy. Large colleges and groups of people bustling around does not necessarily boost a timid persons confidence.

The danger with not taking advantage of the newness and immersing yourself fully in campus life is that if you miss the opportunities of orientation, you may find yourself even less inclined to meet people later on.

As humans, we are social animals, and nothing is brings about feelings of loneliness more than being by yourself when surrounded by hundreds of strangers.

Should-you-be-friends-with-people-at-work

Ensure you take the steps to connect, making contact with your peers by taking to heart some of the following tips for meeting new people:

• Be a joiner – Even if the clubs or organizations might not be exactly what you are looking for, these can be a terrific means of meeting people. If you share common interests, even better. Chances are, you will strike up real friendships with like-minded individuals.

• Be a party animal – Even if the idea of heading to a party feels like torture, try it. You don’t have to make your college career all about parties, but maybe until you are on your feet with a solid social circle established, challenge yourself to do something different.

• Get gainful employment – Having a job is a great way to meet people as well as gain a bit of financial freedom and become more responsible. It is easy to make friends with coworkers as you work together during shifts.

• Study hard – Drum up a study group by asking classmates if they would like to work together with you. Combining friendship and work ticks off two boxes in one go in terms of college life: keeping up with your studies and making life-long friendships.

• Get active – Playing sports ensures you are out of your dorm and interacting in a healthy, energetic way. The added benefit is that with a fit and strong body, your mind performs at it’s peak potential.

• Use technology – Get connected through Facebook and MySpace or other campus apps and communities. Add fellow students to increase your overall friend base.

Being around people is important in terms of meeting fellow students and making new friends. Avoid studying in your dorm room when possible and use the common rooms, library, coffee shops and so on. If you must be in your dorm, try keeping your door open, so other students will view you as approachable and make the effort to strike up a conversation.

Most importantly, give yourself time to adjust to campus life. Pretty much everything will be new to you – from the people, lessons and sense of freedom. Don’t expect miracles, but take small steps, challenging yourself to try something different and make the most of your college experience.

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