Spring Semester Slump or Come Back of the Year?

There’s something that happens at certain points in your college career: it’s called spring semester. I don’t know if I’m speaking for anyone else when I say this, but spring semester always kicks my butt. This is for a few obvious reasons. First of all, winter break is much shorter than summer break, so there’s less of a breather before the action starts again in full force. It is also colder. When it’s cold outside, I just want to hunker down and watch Netflix and eat Skittles all night.

The first part of the spring semester usually starts off pretty cold.

I’ve looked like this a few times this semester, not gonna lie.

With cold comes snow and with snow comes snow days. Oh, the dreaded snow days. Yes, they’re fun at first: you go sledding, you build snowmen, you drink hot cocoa. It’s all fun and games. Then you realize you haven’t had class for half a week. You start forgetting where your classrooms are or even where you put your backpack. Yes, snow days are the killers of my motivation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, once the weather stops being cold…it gets warm. Warm is probably worse than cold. Because now, you’re in class, and the breeze is blowing and the sun is out, and you can hear people out on the quad from all the way inside Avery.  And you’d probably give your left kidney to be out there with them. I can remember Earth Day from one of my spring semesters past. Everyone was on the quad, drawing chalk pictures, sitting in a drum circle, and tie-dying. If I’d had some extra bed sheets, I would’ve rappelled out of that second story window. 

All is not lost, though, for I have found a few ways to stay motivated during the spring semester. As always, motivation (no matter what odd forms it comes in) is key.

First of all, keep in mind that classes can be fun. I know I’ve said it before in other posts, but I really mean it this time. When the weather’s nice, it’s easy to forget to focus on your professor while he/she is lecturing. But what you’re missing while your mind is somewhere else is either important, interesting, or both. If you approach your classes with the same open-minded attitude that you give them when the weather is bad, you might just forget about the sunshine altogether (for at least an hour, anyway).

Well, there’s that.

Do your homework outside! Get your dose of nature and Vitamin D from reading, writing, or doing some equations outside. That’s one of the reasons I love living in LP; that patio is stellar. There are plenty of other places around LMU’s campus to sit and do your homework outside, though. You might even be inspired to be even more productive once the nice weather gets to you.

Secondly, to make the most of the gorgeous weather and time, plan time to be outside with your friends! LMU (like most campuses) has plenty of activities to do outside, from the volleyball courts to the hiking trails on campus and in the surrounding area. If you set aside time for outside activities, you’ll not only have something to look forward to, but knowing you’ll get to have some fun later can help get you through your classes. Personally, I look forward to walking down to the Gap on pretty days or sitting out on the quad reading or writing with my English major family. (Yes, we enjoy our homework!) 

That being said though, don’t put off your school work: the faster you get it done, the faster you’ll be able to hang out. AND if you get your work done early, then you have room for spontaneity which is also healthy to spice up your routine. I usually save my homework for when the sun goes down, that way I won’t be so tempted to frolic out the door. I also usually take a lighter class load during the spring, which seems like the best choice if you can make it happen. Fewer hours means a little less work. I also try to take my classes earlier in the day in the spring so that I can have the afternoons to do whatever I want and won’t be stuck in class during the prettiest parts of the day.

Yes. Just yes.

Thinking of summer also helps me make it through the spring semester. I have a countdown app on my phone that tells me how many days I have until my last final is over. It also lists the days until my music festivals start! Planning is a good way to keep my mind off the pressure of school and to push me through the spring. Festivals are kind of like my light at the end of the tunnel, or a reward of sorts.

But remember, enjoy your classes and your time with your classmates and friends before the summer hits and you’re separated. It sounds sappy and cliche, but I’ll say it anyway: it’s all about the journey. It’s not about racing to a degree or to the summer. Your life’s going to be a lot better if you make the most of all your semesters. As a senior, I can say that this is something that I wish someone had told me my freshman year. I wish someone had mentioned how much I would actually enjoy my classes, and that I needed to find a balance between class and social life, especially during pretty weather. I wish someone had mentioned how much I would miss my college friends during the summer and that I needed to spend time with them during the semester, because a lot of them are hours away from me during May to August.

If you have spring semester tips, feel free to tweet me, email me, comment, or follow this blog for more updates! Happy spring!

Because There’s Not a Class on Heartbreak…

In honor of Valentine’s Day being this Friday, I’ve decided to post on something that most every college student (or person in general, really) can relate to. No matter your major or what your extracurricular activities happen to be, there is at least one thing that most college students share: heartbreak. Whether it comes from the shattering of your relationship with your high school sweetheart or attempts at finding love in college, chances are you’re going to experience some kind of heartbreak during your time as an undergraduate. As someone who has spent plenty of Valentine’s Days alone, I felt like it was time to address the matter of how to stay motivated to function in spite of singleness.

An article by Peter Jacobs (who also writes about University life and college-related things) in Business Insider claims that 28% of married people went to college with their spouses while only 15% went to the same high school. So I mean, from that data, the chances of finding lasting love in college are pretty good. That being said, people typically have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding their princes and princesses. Continue reading

Fish Tails! (And Some Other Animals, Too)

When lots of people come to college, they’re forced to leave behind more than just family members and their high school crowds. I’m talking about our furry friends, of course. If you live on campus, most schools (like LMU) don’t allow all kinds of animals in dorms (LMU allows fish in small tanks). For most people, that’s pretty hard to cope with. I know it was for me. The idea of living without a cat was, at first, appalling, but I’ve made the best of it. Continue reading

Do I Really Have to Take Math?

The answer is yes. Yes, you will have to take math. It’s a fairly unavoidable fact of college life.

The first couple of semesters you spend at college are probably going to be spent mostly in general education classes. I know I’ve stressed how important choosing your major is, but there is also another little-known fact about college that many don’t realize: your gen eds are actually really important.

Most of my classmates complain about having to take such a rigorous gen ed course load. LMU is a liberal arts university, so of course there is going to be an emphasis on general education! I don’t enjoy taking math or biology any more than most of my other humanities majors, but in my time at LMU I have realized how important gen eds actually are.

My first semester at LMU, greatly to my dismay, I had to take College Algebra II (Math 112, for those of you who know your catalog). Ever since I was young, I’ve hated math to the point of nearly declaring it the greatest horror on the face of the planet. Come to find out, my professor was an infinitely intelligent man. He assigned a lot of homework and practically never stopped to take a breath during his lectures. I went back to my dorm every day after class with hand-cramps and a headache. His tests were brutal, but thanks to his relentless lecturing and making sure the entire class understood before he moved on to the next chapter, I never felt unprepared for them. Nevertheless, I was still no mathematician. It was the first class in my entire life that I had not gotten an A in. But, I also realized that….that was okay. I tried. I did my homework, I went to class, I got tutored, I studied. For the first time in my life, I was really proud of a grade that wasn’t an A. I was proud that the class had challenged me and shook me out of my comfort zone. The class also really made me appreciate people who are good at math. Kudos to you, math and science majors; I have the utmost respect for you!

Haha. Math jokes.

My second semester, I enrolled in Physics 100, because Chemistry 100 was full (which can happen if you forget to register for your classes early!). The entirety of Christmas break was spent fretting over physics. I had never taken a physics class in my life, and I never thought I would have to. I went to class the first day back, walked into the room, and realized I didn’t know a soul in there. At least in my math class, I had known a few people, but this room was full of strangers. To top it off, the only seat left was in the front of the class. After a few minutes, the professor walked in and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Okay, how many of you are actually science majors?” Only a couple of Vet Tech majors raised their hands. The rest of us were an array of majors spanning from Psychology to Broadcasting Communications, from Criminal Justice to History. My professor’s response was not what I expected. He actually seemed excited that most of us were non-science majors. I guess he saw us as a clean slate, just waiting to impart his love of physics on to us. He told us up front that he wouldn’t torture us with too much math and that he was going to make the class as painless as possible. And it actually was. Over the course of the semester, I actually found myself enjoying reading my homework and looked forward to going to class and to lab. We played with inertia, and light, and mass, and all that other cool physics-y stuff that I would never have encountered if I hadn’t taken the class. Most of all, since it was considered Conceptual Physics, the class actually helped improve my critical thinking skills. Most of our tests were in essay form and demanded an understanding of pretty abstract concepts that had been new to me at the beginning of the semester. I also got the chance to make some new friends, especially in lab, which was really fun, by the way. But, really, what college student doesn’t want to spend her afternoons crashing Hotwheels cars to better understand acceleration?

I mean, I don’t know if this is true, but Mr. Twiggle seems pretty qualified, so it must be legitimate.

Some of my favorite stories and memories about my college experience have taken place in my gen ed classes (i.e. passing out in Bio lab when we did blood-typing and getting rave reviews in my Speech class for my presentation over the benefits of flossing). They gave me a chance to meet people outside my major and get different viewpoints on a lot of different things. Many of my gen ed classmates are actually still some of my good friends.

So, all in all, coming from a college senior, your gen eds are super important! Take them seriously, and you’ll get out what you put in. If you have any other comments or stories about the gen ed experience, feel free to tweet me, email me, or follow this blog for more stories, tips, and advice!

Surviving Finals!

Finals. The very word inspires fear in the hearts of college students everywhere. But really, finals aren’t that bad, and at LMU, finals week can actually be kind of, dare I say it, fun!

Here at LMU, during finals, there are no regularly scheduled classes. All you have to do is show up for your test at the university-assigned time. That means one thing: plenty of free time. Don’t be fooled though, you’ll obviously have to study. That’s why finals are set up that way. The time away from classes gives you plenty of time to study. But you’ll also need study breaks.

You could even make yourself a little inspiration board!

Now, my first semester at LMU I lucked out and didn’t have any finals that were actually during finals week. I basically got a free week of Christmas break and my friends were all still around. This spoiled me though. The next semester, I was in for a rude awakening. I had a final almost every day of finals week, my every night was spent studying and writing papers and generally stressing about my academic life.

Luckily, that never happened again. Since my freshman year, my finals have been pretty well spread out during finals week. This has allowed me time to adequately study and to start winding down from school-mode to break-mode.

But for those last few days when you’re in super-school-mode, here are some tips that work for me:

1. Prepare yourself. Arm yourself with your favorite drinks, snacks, blankets, pillows, music (or silence if you’re like me), and all your study material. Lay everything out. It’s like your little finals survival kit that’s going to get you through the week. For me, it’s also always fun putting together this ‘kit’. It’s something to get my mind off the actual studying for a minute before I know I have to commit myself to academia.

2. Find a spot. Find a regular study spot where you’re comfortable and not at the risk of giving you too many distractions. For me, this is one of the most important steps. I have a hard time concentrating in my room, so I usually always end up in the library. There, I feel more focused and there are fewer distractions. It’s also a bigger space so I feel a lot less claustrophobic.

3. That leads to the third tip: don’t suffocate yourself. Take breaks, go outside, take a jog, or watch an episode of your favorite TV show. Overloading your brain with a constant stream of information is just going to make you overwhelmed and unfocused.

Well then….

4. Form a support group. They’ll help keep you focused. I always study better in a group. I know that’s not true for everyone, but at least give it a try to see if it works. I know for me, I always do better on tests that I’ve gotten to talk over with my classmates. They might remember things about the class that I don’t. They might have liked some specific topic better than I did and can tell me more about it. The network also provides emotional support. It’s always nice to see that you aren’t the only one stressing about something and it’s nice to get pep talks from time to time. Forming this network has been pivotal in helping me pass my finals.

5. Again, make sure you’re prepared, this time, to take the test. I always walk into my finals with extras of everything: extra pens, extra pencils, tons of paper, two Blue Books in case someone forgot theirs (trust me, it’s happened to the best of us), and all my study material in case the professor gracefully gives us a few extra minutes to cram.

Funny! But try not to get TOO distracted!

6. I guess the most important tip, though is not to panic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve  panicked and stressed and freaked out over a test only to walk into the final, take one look at the paper, and realize Hey, I’ve got this! If you’ve gone to class, taken notes, done your assignments, and studied, there’s no reason to worry about your final.

And! Once you’re done taking your finals or studying for them, you get to spend a few last days with your friends, roommates, or significant others before the long-awaited, much-welcomed Christmas break! In fact, that’s why the end of finals week is one of my favorite times during the semester. Everyone is less-stressed and pumped about the break and wants to squeeze  those last few moments in with loved ones before a long (three weeks is a long time, isn’t it?!) break.

If you have any other encouraging words for those of us about to face our finals week, you can tweet me, email me, or follow this blog for more updates!

Happy Hunger Games! Eerrr….Finals Week!

Favorite Spaces and Places

Plenty of people say they go to college on a pretty campus, and that’s probably true. I’m sure that there are a lot of beautiful campuses out there. But, I will always think my campus at LMU is the prettiest of them all. The buildings, the quad, the surrounding area, even the people are pretty. Sometimes, I get lost in the majesty of the campus and forget I’m so close to home!

Even though I could commute, I chose to live on campus. Like coming to LMU in the first place, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve lived in various, awesome residence halls during my time here, but I’ve finally settled on a favorite. LaFrentz-Poole (LP) is where I intend to stay throughout the rest of my college career. My room is one of my favorite spaces on campus. It’s cozy, it’s quiet, it’s private. It’s my retreat. My view of the volleyball court and the town outside campus is phenomenal. It’s perfect for those who choose to live the roommate-less life. For others, there are apartment-style halls that provide a more social living atmosphere. Either way, there’s a residence hall for every taste here.

Another one of my favorite spaces on campus is the library. There’s definitely something in there for everyone, too. There’s everything from the main stacks (so many books!) to the reference room to the Appalachian collection (a personal favorite of mine) to the music collection. There’s also a medical library for those so inclined. There are private and public study areas, my favorite being a loft-like area that has a phenomenal view of the quad. The quad itself is especially pretty right now, during the autumn, when the gingko trees are turning bright yellow and carpeting the ground with vivid leaves. It truly is stunning. Not only are the views great, but some of my favorite memories are in LMU’s library. I’ve gotten to know people while studying there and I’ve worked on countless papers. I’ve even had a couple of stressed-out cry sessions with my classmates that ended with relieved, rejuvenated laughter and some pretty amazing papers and projects to show for our stress.

In fact, campus is beautiful year round. During the autumn the leaves all over campus and in the surrounding mountains paint the area all sorts of reds and oranges and yellows. Even though I’m from close to here, the sight never gets old.

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 During the winter, even though the trees are bare, there is a somber beauty that encapsulates campus and snow dusts the mountains that circle us. When it does snow on campus, as cliché as it may sound, it’s like stepping into a winter wonderland. All the old buildings (and the new) stand out against the white backdrop and really make me appreciate the architecture around me.

Winter Wonderland! Photo by Jamie Mihalko

Snow! Photo by Hannah Furrer

During the spring, everything in the mountains blossoms and campus is covered in buds and blooms and freshness. It’s particularly invigorating during midterms when the newness of spring is a refreshing sight. During the summer campus is warm and sunny and the perfect epitome of Tennessee heat. There are trails to be hiked in the Gap and tea to be drunk on the patios and front steps of buildings. Basically, campus is always pretty. Playing volleyball behind LP (even though I’m horrible at it, what’re a few missed serves between friends?), sitting and doing homework in the Alpha Alumni garden, and walking the trail to the park and back are all things that make me realize how amazing campus is.

Not only is campus pretty, but the people are. (And not just on the outside, they are inwardly pretty, too!) I’ve met so many amazing people here; I’ve made life-long connections with my classmates and found excellent role-models and mentors in the faculty and staff. I know that here in this community I always have people to turn to on both personal and academic levels that can help me with anything. My classmates always have comments on any project I’m working on and my professors are always willing to work with me to improve my work. Here at LMU I’ve found a group of people who love what I love in a place that we all feel comfortable. That’s a rare find at any stage in life!

All in all, coming to LMU was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The place is amazing, the school is amazing, the environment is amazing, the people are amazing. I get to see four actual seasons (all of them different and gorgeous!) from some beautiful spaces like my comfy room or the epic library.

If you have any favorite spots on LMU (or any other campus!), as always, feel free to email me, tweet me, and follow my blog for more updates!

 

How to Read and Write Good.

After elementary school, I never would have expected to have to learn to read and write again, but one of my biggest challenges when coming to LMU was learning to read and write on a college level. I obviously don’t mean I started from the bottom, but I did have to learn reading and writing techniques that weren’t necessary in high school. College is a different playing field and requires different skills and more effort. Effort, though, is the key. The more you put into your reading and writing at university level, the more you will get out of it and, in turn, the class.

Definitely not true. Not true at all.

As an English major, I have to read everything that’s assigned. (I’m sure other majors have to as well, but as you’ll learn or have learned, it’s a different kind of reading.) But no matter the type of reading, the key is being an active reader. You have to engage the text the way you would a conversation. Give it the courtesy of listening to what it has to say as you would a person, because a person did write it and wants you to read it. Underline things, make notes, ask questions, read the footnotes, look up words you don’t know or ideas that interest you. Then, go to class and discuss what you’ve read. Ask your classmates what they thought of the reading and see what they got out of it.

Don’t be embarrassed if you didn’t understand what you read; chances are that you aren’t going to absorb everything a text has to say. I know I certainly don’t. If you really hate something or just plain don’t get, I encourage you to read it again. Ask it to repeat itself, or approach it differently, with fresh eyes and a different attitude about it.

Sometimes, I try the reward rule. When I’m reading something I really hate, I’ll put a piece of candy at the end of each paragraph and only eat it when I’m finished with the paragraph. While this method may not work for everyone, it’s both delicious and productive for me. Other times I give myself one episode of Bob’s Burgers after each chapter I read. (You just have to be careful with that one; that show’s like potato chips.) No matter how you reward yourself, it’s healthy to take breaks, that way you’re not stuck reading the same paragraph and trying to comprehend it for an hour. Continue reading