Monthly Archives: February 2014

Why It’s Okay to Not Go Anywhere for Spring Break

Feb 27, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

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There’s this idea that you have to go somewhere crazy for spring break. Ideally, it should be someplace warm, tropical, and far, far away from Utica, NY. But if someone asks you where you’re going for Spring Break, it’s not uncommon to get looked at like you have six heads when you reply, “Nowhere.”

The truth is, not all of us have the resources, time, or patience for setting off on a wild adventure when spring break rolls around. Maybe you’re saving your money, or maybe you’ve got a big project to work on and can’t sacrifice a full week. Or perhaps you’re like me, and you just don’t feel like traipsing across the countryside when you could be sleeping.

Despite what television tells you, it’s okay to not going anywhere over break. In fact, it could be the best decision you make for yourself. Here’s why:

  1. The obvious reason: save money. Unless you’ve got money coming out of your eyeballs, it is highly unlikely that you’re at a time in your life with gobs of disposable income. Save your money now, so you can take that amazing trip to Italy or Disneyland with your future family later on in life.
  2. De-stress. Vacations, in theory, sound relaxing. You envision yourself sprawled out on a sandy beach with the sun beaming down on you, and your worries are miles away in NY. But here’s the reality: you argue with your friends over splitting the cost of gas to get there, you get lost on the way, that cheap motel you got is a health hazard, you’re too hungover to enjoy the sunlight on the beach, and everything costs money. Instead of putting yourself through all that, just kick back at home and enjoy a few days off from classes.
  3. Catch up on sleep. I don’t know about you, but college has really made me appreciate sleep. I don’t get much of it during the semester, so it is absolute heaven to partake in a week’s worth of sleeping in.
  4. Catch up on schoolwork. I know it doesn’t sound fun to spend your break doing homework, but think of how awesome it will feel when you’ve got all your most annoying work out of the way while you watch your friends scrambling and cracking under the pressure to get it done on time. Tough luck, guys!
  5. Netflix for life. Finally check out that TV series you’ve been wanting to get into, or have a movie marathon. You probably do that anyway when you’re not on break, but at least you can do it guilt-free now!
  6. Invite your family up. Usually, it’s you going home whenever you have a break, but why not invite your family to stay awhile and see the area? Show them around campus and take them to your favorite local restaurants.
  7. Enjoy me-time. It’s hard to get a second to breathe during the semester between classes full of people, hallways full of people, roommates, sports, etc. During break, the campus clears out, and you can finally have a moment to yourself.
  8. On the flip side, party with friends. Find some friends who aren’t leaving either and figure out some fun stuff to do together. Go to the movies, have a party, binge eat junk food while watching Netflix – the possibilities are endless.
  9. Do that thing you keep saying you’re going to do. You know exactly what I’m talking about: the dentist appointment you’ve been meaning to make, the laundry piled up on your floor, the kitchen that needs organizing, the new clothes you need to buy, the call to your grandma you should really make – whatever that “thing” is, you’ve finally got the time to do it.
  10. Prepare for the second half of the semester. By now, you know what you’ve got left ahead of you. Start prepping for finals, clean that mess of a dorm room, stock up on essentials, grocery shop, and get yourself ready to buckle down and power through the remainder of the semester.

See? It’s not so bad. I know getting away sounds nice, but you can metaphorically get away without having to fly thousands of miles away. Whatever you’re doing for break, don’t stress. Give your brain a chance to recover, get some sleep, and you’ll be ready to tackle anything.

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How to Be a Better Commuter

Feb 17, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
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Photo by The Tangerine

Utica College has a fairly large commuter base. It attracts a lot of local folks, myself included, who choose to go home at the end of every day and drive back again in the morning. Some of us have a quick five-minute drive while others devote an hour or more there and back.

We all have our reasons for why we prefer it this way. And as with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages. One of the hardest things about being a commuter is dealing with harsh CNY winter travel and making that dreaded decision of whether or not to take your chances driving to school every time the snow rolls around.

There are several things to do to lessen the inconvenience and dangers posed by nasty weather. For starters, be smart when you’re making the decision of whether to face the commute or not. If you can afford to miss the class without severely getting points docked from your grade, then it might be best to not go in. Even if there’s important material, you can always try speaking to your professor or getting notes from a friend. Class is very important, and so is attendance, but your safety is the most important of all.

That being said, I am not in any way condoning skipping classes without a darn good reason. After all,we are seasoned veterans here in CNY when it comes to driving in harsh elements, so if you can, get your butt to class. It’s a given that you should drive slow, and always leave early on a bad weather day so you don’t feel the need to rush. But if you can’t avoid leaving late, do not try to rush there. It’s better to make it to class safely and a few minutes late.

It’s a good idea to even leave for class early on a good day when you’re a commuter. You never know what kind of traffic snafus or incompetent people you’ll encounter along your journey.

In fact, getting there early means better chances of a better parking spot. You can’t argue with that!

Being a commuter can also be tricky if you’ve got a long day with back-to-back classes and/or work. You don’t have time to run home again, so it is key to plan ahead when packing for the day. More obviously, you’ll need all your books, papers, etc. for your classes. But you also want to make sure you have tons of food to get you through the day. I recommend bringing more than you think you’ll need in case you get stuck being out later than you originally intended.

On a similar note, I recommend getting yourself a Brita water bottle. It has a built-in filter, so you can feel safe drinking tap water. That means you’ll have water all day long, and won’t have to bring or buy a million plastic water bottles.

It’s also not a bad idea to keep your car stocked with essentials like tissues, Advil, and your chargers for your phone/laptop/etc. This way, you won’t find yourself running to the store or back home when you unexpectedly need something.

If you have a laptop or tablet, I definitely recommend bringing it to school with you as a commuter. You never know when you might need it. If one of your classes gets canceled and you’ve got time to kill, you’ll be glad you brought it along.

Be sure to have a back-up plan for rides. Just last week when it snowed on Friday, I got completely blocked in by snow thanks to the snow plowers at my apartment complex, and couldn’t get out of the parking lot. Luckily, I had a friend who was willing to pick me up on her way into school.

Finally, try to be as picky with your class schedule as you can be. Some classes are only offered at one time, and you have to deal with that. But if you can choose classes so that you have to make as few trips to campus as possible, then do it. Your gas tank will thank you.

Are you a commuter? What do you do to make your life a little bit easier?

High Heels, Senators, and Lobbyist

Feb 12, 2014 | Author: Guest Blogger

Tuesday morning at 7, several fellow Utica/MVCC students and faculty and I boarded the comfort of a Bernie coach bus to head to Student Advocacy Day in Albany. In the government capital building, more than 100 other New York students, along with our small group, came to lobby the state representatives, senators, and assembly members to advocate for student financial aid. What could be a better experience than seeing firsthand how government makes its decisions on something that affects us as students?

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Starting off the day we have to go through security, typical precautions for an important building like this. But of course, I am made to walk through several times because of the glitter on my shoes – a very interesting start to the day. We all then gathered to meet with fellow Utica alumni, John Casellini, who currently works in Albany as an advocate for Utica College. Meeting with him helped ease the nervousness because he is a professional lobbyist, and we needed his help!

After the of wisdom from Casellini, all students were gathered to speak about their stories, and listen to several speakers about these aid options. Students told their stories at the rally about their struggles with financial aid, and their experience with the New York student aid options. They were very relatable, sad, and inspiring stories from other students all around the state who needed to advocate for their education.

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We had three meetings with two very important people, and I mean important. We met with assembly members, Anthony Brindisi, who is on the board of higher education, and Senator Griffo. We all went into their offices, sat down, and spoke about our issues with the finical aid programs. Not only is it just fantastic to meet these people, but this experience of acting as professional lobbyist, and actually using one of our Constitutional rights to advocate was just cool all in and of itself. When else do we as individuals ever get to go lobby the government?

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At the end of the day, we got a chance to walk around the building and explore. Talk about gorgeous; the famous “Million dollar stair case” is a sight to see: hand-crafted sandstone that goes four floors up. Not to mention, the history artifacts, and the Hall of Governors is practically a museum. The history in this building goes all the way to our founding fathers of America.

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In the end, after the pain of walking for hours, and the constant annoyance of dress slacks and dress shoes, we managed to get our messages across. Not only was this a rewarding experience in the way that we get to see government happen before our eyes, but rewarding as in the way that I feel like we accomplished to relay the vice of the students to our government.

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How to Survive Night Class If You’re Not a Night Owl

Feb 10, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
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Photo from camelcitydispatch.com

Some people thrive in night classes. In fact, some people actually prefer to take them  because night classes are generally only one night out of the week as opposed to the typical Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday/Friday combination.

However, there are also a lot of folks like me who would much rather take an earlier class, and often avoid night classes like the plague. On top of not being an evening person, I am also night-blind (it’s a legitimate genetic condition; look it up), so driving at night is a struggle. Night classes are basically my worst nightmare.

I successfully avoided taking any until this semester in my senior year when two classes I needed to take were only offered at night. I’m sure many of you have run into this as well, and the most we can do is suck it up.

But there are ways to make it more bearable, tolerable even.

  1. Start by looking on the bright side. You only have to take this class once a week! That means less trips to campus and less days to worry about the class in general. It also usually means you have more time in between classes to get your assignments done. If you play your cards right, this could mean having a day or two off except for the night class(es).
  2. Learn to reverse your homework schedule. If you’re like me and you’re used to getting your homework done at night, you’re going to have to learn to switch that around on the days you have night classes. Get your work done early in the day so you don’t have to tackle it when you roll in at 10 o’ clock at night.
  3. Eat a light dinner beforehand. You want to make sure you’re not going to class on an empty stomach because that’s miserable and distracting, but you also want to make sure you don’t overeat so you aren’t uncomfortably full during class.
  4. Check the weather a day or two in advance. This only applies to commuters, but you want to be prepared if you’re going to have bad weather while traveling at night. Plan to leave a few minutes early so you can take your time. Also get your professor’s cell number so you can contact them if the weather is making it completely impossible for you to finish the trip safely.
  5. Carpool, if possible. Again, this is just for commuters, but you can arrange to carpool with a friend, switching off each week. Driving at night is just annoying, so it helps to share the burden. Plus, you can make it a point to stop and get ice cream or something on the way home, giving you something to look forward to.
  6. Bring snacks. Your mind is bound to wander during three straight hours of class, so keep yourself focused with energizing snacks. Just be wary of the super loud and crunchy snacks like carrots and chips that could be distracting in class.
  7. Ideally, have a classmate walk to your car with you. There’s safety in numbers, people!
  8. If that’s not possible, call a friend or family member while you’re walking to the car. Have a safeword agreed upon so if anything happens, you can say it to them so they can call the police for you. I know this stuff is ominous, but it’s good to be prepared.
  9. Don’t go the gym right beforehand. Okay, this one is really just for me. I took a cardio fitness class right before my night class and didn’t have time to shower or cool down in between. It was rough.
  10. Caffeine! An obvious one, but essential. If you’re not a night owl, you’re going to need a little pick-me-up in order to stay focused at the end of the day.
  11. Don’t wear uncomfortable clothing. It’s college; nobody cares if you wear sweats, and you aren’t going to want to sit there in your Sunday’s best at 9 o’ clock at night.
  12. Get a friend to take the class with you. Even if it’s not related to their major, there’s a good chance they can get elective or liberal arts credits for it. And obviously, class is a heck of a lot more fun with a buddy.

What are your opinions on night classes? Are you a night owl or a morning person?

The Blame Game Won’t Fix Negative Female Body Images

Feb 5, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

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In one of my communication classes, we have a lot of interesting discussions about gender differences and the effects of these differences on American society. In one of our conversations the other day, I watched the blame game play out: men vs. women arguing over whose fault it is that women feel pressured to meet an impossible physical appearance standard.

It’s no secret that these body image issues are particularly prevalent in college-age women. Eating disorders are frighteningly common among college students, and according to Brown University, “74.4% of the normal-weight women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance ‘all the time’ or ‘frequently.’”

Photo by Brittney Sabo

Photo by Brittney Sabo

But can we really say this is because men have unrealistic expectations of women, or conversely, that women pressure each other into looking a certain way?

As I watched my classmates go back and forth defending their own gender and condemning the other, I realized herein lies the problem. If all we ever do is declare that the fault belongs to someone else, then we ourselves will never change.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short 20 years, it’s that you cannot change people who don’t want to change. The most you can do is work on improving yourself.

Of course, changing yourself isn’t much easier than changing someone else. In the past year, I have done a lot of work on self-improvement – not physically per se, but mentally. I used to be like many other women who look at 6-foot, stick thin models and flawless celebrities and felt the crushing self-criticism as I analyzed every difference, every thing I thought I lacked.

I’m 5’1″ and not stick-thin. I knew I couldn’t change my height, but I thought losing weight was the most important thing in the world. Slowly, I have been trying to change this mentality. I am trying to accept my body as unique and beautiful for what it is. It’s a simple enough concept, but an incredibly difficult process, and it’s easy to fall off track.

Here is the thing that fashion magazines don’t tell us: we’re all built differently; our bodies don’t do the same things. You and I could have the same diet and workout regime, and still look drastically different.

If you think about it, it’s sort of ridiculous that we should find one very specific body type beautiful when there is such a rainbow of body types out there. Why not embrace all the differences?

Everyone, including men, needs to try to join me in this process of changing our own thoughts. Don’t worry about anyone else right now; just concentrate on you. Start looking at your body differently, and when you feel those negative thoughts coming, remember that there are parts of you that other people are jealous of. Your beauty is different from everyone else’s, and that’s what makes you so incredible.

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Remember to be realistic. You can beat yourself up endlessly for not having longer legs, but is that going to change anything? Stop fighting yourself, because the second you start working what you’ve got, you’ll become exponentially more beautiful.

It’s all much easier said than done, but the first step to improving society’s feelings toward female body image is reevaluating our own thoughts first. The next time you look at a female and start picking out what’s “wrong” with her, stop and ask why you’re doing that. Is there really anything wrong with her, or is that just what you’ve been made to think? Are you just jealous of things she has that you don’t?

And don’t forget to include your own body in this. Unless your “problem” is endangering your health, it’s not a “problem” at all.

Change how you think; it’s infectious – others will follow.

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