How to Trick Yourself into Getting Fit Without Leaving Campus

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Photo by Kevin Waldron

With the recently relentless cold, we’re all about ready to go into hibernation mode. But it’s important to keep yourself moving so that, come summertime, you’re in great shape to enjoy the sunshine and freedom. And of course, your health doesn’t become any less essential in the winter.

For me, an hour or two at the gym each day is my way of staying active and fit. But some folks just aren’t gym people, and that’s okay. You can work little spurts of fitness into your already existing daily routine, and you don’t even have to step foot off campus to do it.

  1.  Get walking. You already don’t have much of a choice when it comes to walking to class if you live on campus. However, you can leave your dorm 5, 10, or even 30 minutes early to walk around campus & maybe the local streets before you head to class.  Just a few minutes of walking means extra calorie burn, plus it will wake you up for your class. Even if you commute to school, you can leave early and take a walk before class too.
  2. Pack heavy. Wait…aren’t you supposed to pack light? Not in this case. Take as much junk to class with you as you want: water bottles, all the books you need for the day, laptop, a sweatshirt, food, etc. That extra weight means more work toting it around, so you’ll burn calories and build strength without even trying. It might seem like a pain, but it’ll  be convenient having everything you could need with you so you don’t have to return to your dorm.
  3. Be a stair master. Got a few minutes between classes? Why not take a hike up and down the stairs a few times? There are plenty of staircases to choose from, and you can take different ones if you don’t want to look weird walking up and down the same flight. Climbing stairs will get your blood pumping fast, and it will wake you up after you’ve been sitting most of your day.
  4. Plank like it’s your job. I love planks because you can do them anytime, anywhere – no equipment required. Plus, they are one of the most effective exercises you can do. If you’re in the middle of studying (or more likely, browsing the internet), take a break to do a quick plank. It’s not an hour-long workout commitment; it can be as short as a minute. Make sure your elbows are aligned with your shoulders, and keep your butt down and back flat. Your abs should be doing the work here, not your back. However, this will work your shoulders too. If you don’t do planks often, start with 30 second intervals then work your way up to longer and longer planks.6-exercises-you-are-doing-wrong-plank
  5. Take a seat. Wall sits are another great anytime, anywhere workout as long as you’ve got a wall. You can take study breaks to do these with the planks, or alternate doing them. Wall sits will work the back and front of your legs, and you’ll feel it fast. Again, start with 30-second intervals, then work your way up. Press your back flat against the wall then slide down until your knees are aligned with your toes and bent at a 90-degree angle. It’s like you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Now hold that position. You can make it harder by placing a book in your lap.

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    Photo from Fit Chicks Central
  6. Get creative. You probably don’t have a set of weights in your dorm room, but you don’t need one to get stronger. Anything remotely heavy can serve as a weight, whether it be a water bottle or a book. You can do bicep curls, weighted lunges, dead rows and more with all kinds of objects you already have lying around.
  7. Blow dry your hair. I know this one sounds like a long shot, but you get a serious shoulder workout blow-drying your hair! Try to switch arms halfway through to fatigue each side equally (although this may be difficult if you’re only used to one side).
  8. Get up. If you’re studying or doing something that doesn’t absolutely require sitting, get off your butt! You can pace around your room while doing flashcards or browsing Pinterest on your iPad. I wouldn’t suggest taking this outside your dorm though because then it gets a little dangerous and you run the risk of bumping into something (or someone). You can even take your downtime outside on nice days. Play frisbee with your friends instead of opting for Netflix on the couch.
  9. Jam out. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to rock out to their favorite music in the privacy of their own room. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably lying. Turn up the tunes, put on comfy pjs or sweats and dance your heart out. It’s so silly and fun, you don’t even realize you’re torching calories. Get your roommate in on the fun too, if you like. Just make sure you keep your music at a respectable level.
  10. Take the long way. There is usually more than one way to get to whatever class or part of campus you’re heading to, so take the longest one. This little change can make a big difference over time without being a huge inconvenience to you.

Moral of the story: a lot of little changes make for a big pay-off. You don’t have to over-exert yourself to get in better shape. In fact, you just have to trick your brain into thinking you’re not doing anything different than normal. These small tweaks to your day won’t cost you a lot of time or pain, but they’ll trick you into working harder and whipping your body into better shape, all from the comfort of the UC campus.

What are YOUR favorite fitness tricks?

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Is Moving Out Right for You?

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Photo by Jamie Callari

I didn’t choose to move out per say. I had every intention of living at home and commuting to school for my entire time at UC. However, my wonderful plan was torn to shreds when my parents decided to up and move right before my junior year.

I was faced with the difficult decision of moving out and being independent or following my parents during their move and having to transfer halfway through my college education. Neither option would be easy, so I ultimately decided I couldn’t give up the public relations program I am so passionate about at UC.

My whole moving out process happened in about two weeks, and it was a whirlwind of changes. I had to find an apartment ASAP, lug all my stuff there, and suddenly learn how to be an independent human being. This also meant that managing my food blog would be twice as hard and time-consuming without my mother to act as my sous-chef, camera woman, and grocery shopper.

I know; it doesn’t sound that appealing at first, does it? It certainly didn’t feel like it to me at the time. But weeks passed, and then months, and suddenly, I was settled in and functioning rather efficiently. Moving out of my parents’ house seemed daunting at first, but I was shocked at how quickly I adapted when forced to do so (and that sentence applies to almost any situation in life).

With moving out, you garner freedom. And I’m not talking about throwing wild parties; I’m talking about the ability to decide what you want to buy at the grocery store, how to decorate, how messy you can be, and whether or not you’re going to put pants on that day (unless your roommate(s) disagree with any of these things). Suddenly, there’s no authoritative, judgmental eye over you. And for the first time in your life, you really come into your own.

Yes, you take on a lot more responsibilities when you no longer live with your parents, but honestly, this is a good thing. You’re going to have to be an independent, functioning adult at some point, so this is like the trial run before graduation. You’re going to learn a lot of important things like the most efficient way to kill a spider and how to change light bulbs. And although these things might feel like a pain while they’re happening, you can’t help but beam with pride for yourself afterward.

Living independently allows you to focus. It gives you more clarity to think about what it is you want and how to get it. Sometimes it’s something as simple as getting your work done. Without having your family over your shoulders, doing homework and writing papers becomes a bit less about distractions. But you also have more room to pursue and think about your interests. You get to concentrate on you.

The best part is you don’t have to move out forever. Most parents will happily accept you back if you decide that’s what you want after some time. Now is the best time to try it; college is all about having flexibility in your lifestyle and trying new things so you can decide what you want for the rest of your life. Whether you’re moving into a dorm or choosing apartment life, moving out of your parents house will be better for you than you ever imagined. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Feasting

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As a devoted food lover, this is my favorite time of year. There are so many seasonal treats to indulge in, and calories don’t count until after the New Year, am I right? Now, perhaps you need some inspiration for what to chow down on this holiday season, or maybe your usual menu is starting to look a little lackluster. Allow me to help you out. I’ve got a smorgasbord of delectable dishes to make this the tastier holiday ever. But I must caution you: Please feast responsibly. Over-indulging in these mouth-watering treats may cause food comas.

Main Dishes to Steal the Show

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  1. Eggplant Parmigiana This overloaded cheesy behemoth is a meal in and of itself. You’ve never seen so much ooey-gooey cheese in one place, plus a sweet yet spicy homemade sauce with fresh basil makes this dish special. And who could resist crispy, golden brown fried eggplant tucked underneath all that goodness?
  2. Vegetable Lasagna with Blush Sauce You’ve probably seen vegetable lasagna with white sauce, but you haven’t lived until you’ve tried it with my rich blush sauce. This substantial main can be customized with your favorite veggies.
  3. Classic Polish Pancakes Whether you’re Polish or not, this recipe is a must-try.

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  1. Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese The flavors of this ultra-creamy mac are comforting and warm, and everyone who’s tried it has raved about it.
  2. Cheesy Twice-Bake Sage & Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes Words cannot describe how heavenly and flavorful these potatoes are. You’re a fool if you don’t try them.
  3. From-Scratch Cheddar Green Bean Casserole Way better than the canned, chunky version, and just as easy to make.
  4. Ma’s Baked Corn Pudding If you’ve never tried corn pudding, this is the recipe to make you a corn pudding lover. It’s sweet, savory, golden brown, and indulgent.
  5. Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole Because everyone needs the perfect sweet potato casserole recipe.
  6. Extra Creamy Stovetop 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese Chances are, you’re short on oven space as is. Save yourself stress and make this super creamy & cheesy mac on the stove in about 20 minutes.
  7. Roasted Garlic & Basil 3-Cheese Shells A sea of rich cheese sauce kissed with the robust flavor of roasted garlic and the sweetness of fresh basil blankets mountains of tender pasta shells.

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  1. Best Spinach-Artichoke Dip Seriously, I’m not kidding. This is the creamiest, cheesiest, best spinach-artichoke dip on the planet, and it’s a one-pot dish.
  2. Party Bread Sourdough bread cut into tearable, sharable pieces and stuffed with monterey jack cheese, drenched in butter, & sprinkled with poppy seeds and fresh scallions. It’s all baked until golden brown and melty. Yum.
  3. Tortellini Dippers w/ Pesto Sauce So easy, and yet everyone will rave over how cute and delicious these are.
  4. Easy, Big, Fat Garlic Knots Starts with a can of store-bought biscuit dough, but tastes like homemade.

Delightful Desserts

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  1. Chocolate-Gingerbread Pumpkin Mousse Trifle This pretty dish is a show-stopper, and the perfect dessert to please pumpkin pie lovers and gingerbread lovers alike.
  2. Peppermint-Gingerbread Cookies & Cream Ice Box Cake All the flavors of Christmas in one insanely indulgent and delicious make-ahead dish.
  3. Nutter Butter Penguins Cute, quick, and delicious.
  4. Eggnog Christmas Cookie Milkshakes What else are you going to do with all those Christmas cookies?

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  1. Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Everyone needs the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  2. Fudge Brownie Thumbprints with Caramel Drizzle These cookies are as gorgeous as they are sinful.
  3. Hello Dollies A 7-layer cookie tradition handed down to me by my grandmother. Just pile all the ingredients in a pan and bake!

What’s on your menu this year?

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The Great Mac & Cheese Debate – Elbows or Shapes?

photos & backgrounds2Almost any kid growing up in America enjoyed the iconic blue box of mac and cheese as a main food group. We loved its neon orange hue, the creamy sauce, and bountiful noodles. It’s quite likely that, while growing up, your mother was often frustrated when she’d prepare an elaborate, home-cooked meal, and yet you’d whine for boxed mac and cheese instead.

Some of us have grown out of that favorite childhood food, but many of us, myself included, have not. Even as my culinary tastes have matured, and I’ve become somewhat of a food snob who adores a good homemade mac and cheese, I still think there’s something inexplicably delectable about classic boxed mac and cheese.

However, I have one major criteria that must be met when I pick up a box at the store: it’s got to be the shaped kind. Over the years, I’ve seen Scooby Doo, Spongebob, Monsters Inc., Spiderman, and more formed into pasta and packed into my favorite blue box. I can’t quite explain it, but I think these shaped ones taste so much better than the elbow macaroni. They hold onto more cheese sauce in all their nooks and crannies. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even bother buying the elbow kind.

But that’s just my opinion. Many people feel the exact opposite. If you talk to my sister, she’ll say elbows all the way. So, I started wondering if there were more people out there who are diehard elbow fans, or if most people prefer the shapes.

I asked a few staff and students what their thoughts were on the mac & cheese matter. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Chris Leogrande, director of media relations, said she prefers Velveeta shells over any Kraft mac and cheese, but her son has to have the Kraft shapes, particularly the Spongebob ones.
  • Victoria, a junior public relations major, says she has to have elbows.
  • Kevin Waldron, assistant director of publications, likes to buy an organic version of the Kraft elbows, but even as a kid, he preferred the elbows, and an occasional spiral.
  • Image production assistant Jamie Callari’s vote was for shapes, but she says she also likes the spiral varieties. She said if she’s going to have the elbows, then they’ve got to be a fun flavor variety.
  • Tyler Gardinier, a senior public relations major, said it’s definitely got to be the shapes.

I don’t know folks, but it sounds to me like shapes are the winner here, and I of course agree whole-heartedly. But this was only a small sample of people’s opinions, so tell me, what do you prefer: Kraft macaroni and cheese elbows or shapes?

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Fuel for Finals Week: What You Should Snack On

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There is actual evidence to show that college students gain weight because of the stress from finals week. It’s a natural habit that we like to reach for the snacks to ease the pain of studying. Often times, we’re not even hungry, but we partake in mindless snacking that can go on for hours. And before you know it, you’ve inhaled an entire bag of potato chips and 20 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You’ve probably got the pizza delivery guy on speed dial too.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh?

But there’s more science to tell you that all that junk doesn’t help you much in the long-run. Not only does it do nothing to fuel your brain or aid your test performance, but it’s unhealthy and will expand your waistband in the future. It sounds pretty obvious to me that, if you’ve just got to snack while studying, then you should reach for healthier options.

I know, you’re sitting there thinking, “Girl, I’m young. I don’t have to eat healthy.” And you probably don’t want to either. But the truth is, the earlier you start treating you body better, the better off you will be. I’m not telling you to give up everything delicious in life and never indulge again; I’m just talking about switching out your normal studying snacks for real brain food.

The common misconception is that brain food equates to raw fruits and veggies, but there are much more exciting options out there if you prefer. Here are some of my favorite snacks that will fuel your brain so you can crush those exams without weighing enough to crush your professors after.

  1. Go nuts. No, but really. There are so many different varieties of nuts that there’s one for everybody, plus they’re salty, crunchy, and delicious. They’re proven to reduce stress and help your brain. And they’ve got protein! Just take it easy on these babies; you only need a handful or two.DSC_7293
  2. Cute & delicious. Teddy Grahams are, in my humble opinion, the cutest snack at the grocery store. You’d think because they’re sweet and targeted at kids that they’re also horrible for you and loaded with sugar, but they’re actually not half-bad. You can have about 30 little bears for around 130 cals, 8g of sugar, and 4g of fat. That ain’t bad! And they come in a plethora of flavors: Chocolaty Chip, Chocolate, Apple, Strawberry Banana, Honey, and Cinnamon.

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    Get the recipe for these PB & Apple Teddy Graham Pretzel Bites on thesmartcookiecook.com
  3. God’s gift to nature: Avocados. I know, you don’t want fruits and veggies, but in my book, avocados don’t count. They are so rich, creamy, and scrumptious that you won’t believe they came straight out of nature. Some people argue they should be classified as cheese because they taste that rich. But half an avocado is only 50 calories, and it’ll amp up anything you spread it on: wraps, sandwiches, veggies, whole wheat pita bread, etc. They are a bit high in fat, but it’s good fat, like in nuts.DSC_6046
  4. Get it poppin’ with plain popcorn. Sound boring? After a lifetime of eating popcorn drenched in fake butter, I never imagined plain popcorn would be any good. As It turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by how addicting and delicious it really is. Just a little bit of salt is enough to make plain popcorn taste like an indulgent snack, but you can have 2 cups for about 40 calories. Score!
  5. Hot and steamy. Did you know sugar-free hot cocoa has only 25 calories? It’s comforting, and it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t put you into a sugar coma afterward.DSC_7464
  6. Cup o’ Joe. Hot coffee has the same comforting qualities as hot cocoa for absolutely zero calories. Just be careful; when you load it up with milk and sugar, it quickly becomes bad for you. Use almond milk or a sugar-free creamer instead. Also, Nectresse is my sugar-free sweetener of choice. It’s not as artificial as other sweeteners.
  7. Take a dip. Hummus is a nutritious but completely delicious and hearty dip that’s perfect for study-time snacking. I only recently fell in love with hummus, but that love quickly grew into an obsession. If you haven’t tried it yet, just give it a shot, and you won’t be disappointed by how creamy and yummy it is. Plus, it tastes good on everything.DSC_8409-6

Those are MY go-to snacks, but here’s what fellow UC students suggested:

  1. Victoria L. – Granola bars (just make sure you look for ones low in sugar), apples, Rice Krispie treats (in moderation – one treat is 90 cal), Subway, and hummus. Did you know you can buy hummus from the Bistro at UC?
  2. Tyler G. – Cheez-Its (in moderation, a handful or two), grapes (try freezing them; they’re like candy), and Chobani yogurt (hello, protein!).

What snacks will you reach for when it’s time to study?

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How to Survive the Final Stretch of the Semester

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If you recorded the amount of stress you have throughout each semester on a graph, it’d probably look the same every time: a short, gradual slope that suddenly shoots up into a steep, ever-increasing mountain. That’s because the assignments become more frequent and more involved the deeper we dive into the semester.

Since we’re at about the 3/4 mark, you’re probably dangling somewhere near the top of the highest peak right now. Not only are you in over your head, but you know you’ve still got more climbing to do before relief is in sight. This is probably your face most of the time:

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I need you to keep hanging in there though. Winter break is just around the corner, and you’ve got this.

Here’s what you can do to keep your head above the water for the remainder of the semester:

  1. Don’t shut down. When things are really overwhelming, it almost feels like you can’t do anything at all, so you want to give up. But instead of losing all hope, try to get just a few simple things done, and you’ll be amazed at how relieved you feel. I did the dishes the other night, and it felt completing a marathon.
  2. Don’t look too far ahead. This one is tricky because you don’t want due-dates to creep up on you. But if you look too far in advance, you’re going to get overwhelmed by the amount of work you still have left. Instead, try just focusing on the next two weeks and say, “Okay, what do I need to get done this week? What can wait?”
  3. Make study guides now. Do you need more than just your notes to study? If you’re like me, you like flashcards and study guides for test prep. However, putting those aids together can be more time-consuming than the actual studying. So, put together as much of your studying material as you can now so you can focus on the actual studying when finals come. A great site I love to use is Quizlet, and there’s an Quizlet iPhone app too. It lets you create electronic flashcards and offers different ways to study them. It’s much more efficient than paper cards.
  4. Check those midterm grades. If you aren’t satisfied, and you want to work on bringing them up, now is the time to do it. Wait any longer, and it might be too late to make enough of a difference. Don’t let yourself be surprised at the end of the semester. Or, if you’re happy with your grades, at least you don’t have to stress about raising them. Just make sure you maintain it!
  5. Create incentives. Tell yourself, if I get this paper done, I can go out with my friends on Saturday, or, if I study for this test for the next couple of hours, I can watch my favorite show tonight. This psychological tactic will motivate to get things done and out of the way.

Those are my tips. What do you do to survive the dreaded final quarter of the semester?

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Why Pinterest’s “Health & Fitness” Section Gets it Wrong

Generally speaking, Pinterest is a happy place for finding inspiration, recipes, fashion, endless photos of your celebrity obsession, funny memes, and more cute, fluffy animals than you can count. In fact, most people associate Pinterest as being one of the more positive forms of social media.bafeb8990846b5bda2d3127d3abd5b67

One of the most popular sections of Pinterest is the Health and Fitness feed where you can find an infinite amount of healthy recipes, tips for well-being, and “fitspiration” (fitness + inspiration). On one hand, I love this part of Pinterest. It motivates you to be healthier and more active, and it gives you millions of ways to do so in one easily accessible place.

But there is a downside to this. Although most of the Health and Fitness pins tend to have good intentions, some of them send the wrong message. A common theme for a H&F pin is a skeleton-thin woman in next-to-no clothes and some sort of “inspirational” quote written across it. The problem is that the women in these photos are usually completely unrealistic and subconsciously send the message that if you don’t look like this, then something is wrong.

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This was captioned “fit.” This isn’t fit; girl has no muscle!
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Again, no muscle or strength. You could snap this girl like a toothpick.

And the quotes aren’t always helpful either, saying things like, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” or, “Don’t reward yourself with food; you’re not a dog.”

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It’s almost contradictory. These pins are preaching being healthy and fit but also saying there is only one way you can be that: by being stick-thin. In reality, there is more than one body type that can qualify as healthy. Similarly, there is no guarantee that someone is healthy just because they’re skinny. They could eat fast food all the time and sit around 24/7 but have a fast metabolism.

These pins send across the same incorrect idea that most of the media today does: being skinny is the best thing you can be. This is the kind of thing that perpetuates eating disorders and other serious body-image issues. If you’re doing good to your body, then why should anything else matter?

There’s another big problem that comes with a feed full of user-generated health advice: probably only 25% of what you see is accurate and from a credible source. I hate to break it to you, but when you see pins about workouts claiming to burn 300 calories in two minutes, that is impossible. Much like how doing 100 jumping jacks before every shower isn’t going to make you thin. And a lot of diet pins are misleading too; cutting out chocolate for a month will not cause you to lose weight if you’re still eating a ton of other crap.

Those pins have the “magic fix” message; and I’m sorry, but there’s no such thing when it comes to health and fitness.

The Health and Fitness Section of Pinterest is a good idea in theory; it’s just not being executed correctly. Unfortunately, this is through no fault of Pinterest, but of the pinners using it. Pinterest doesn’t have any say over what gets pinned; we do. So we need to focus less on body-shaming and constantly judging each other’s bodies, and instead focus on what really qualifies as healthy: eating well, being active, and feeling good about yourself.

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Let’s see more pins like that one, eh?

*All pins taken straight from Pinterest’s Health and Fitness section.

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Why Silence Isn’t Golden in the Classroom

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Photo from Utica College

 

Nobody likes being forced to talk. We all despise those dreaded ice breakers and introductions we’re put through on the first day of classes. It’s a complex battle of trying to sit calmly waiting for our turn while also internally stressing over what we’re going to say.

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Source: IWasteSoMuchTime.com

But do we honestly expect to sit through an entire class in silence, never having to speak or acknowledge each others’ existence? Before I started at UC in 2011, I had a glamorized idea of what each new class would be like: everyone would be friendly and outgoing, happily introducing themselves and eager to make new friends. Now, that’s not to say there aren’t people like this, but way too many of my classes, especially larger ones, have been filled with silent, stone-faced students.

It’s strange because you’ll then spot some of those same complacent people outside of class acting loud and personable, and you’ll wonder why they shut off when they enter the classroom. I know it’s hard to be the one to raise your hand or to start up a conversation, but somebody’s got to do it. And there’s nothing more awkward than a class-full of people who refuse to speak.

Frankly, it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved. The professor asks a question, and tense silence ensues when no one responds. It’s not even that we don’t know the answer. A lot of the time, it’s a simple question, but we just don’t speak up. Why? Are we all socially awkward?

Probably not. Perhaps we don’t want to be THAT person who answers every question, or most of the time, we’re afraid of sounding foolish. Even the smartest people are susceptible to screwing up an answer to an easy question. But if no one talks at all, not just when it comes to answering questions but participating in discussions as well, then class is 10 times more awkward and a thousand times more boring than it needs to be.

We all just need to loosen up a bit. No one’s going to judge you if you laugh at the professors’ jokes, or at the very least, crack a smile for once (some professors are quite amusing at times). Plus, you’ll make the professor feel better, and the rest of the class might feel at ease about letting their guard down too. Not to mention, professors love students who choose to participate. So why not take an easy opportunity for getting on their good side and maybe boosting your grade?

I don’t know about you, but I won’t tolerate the second half of the semester being so cold (and I don’t mean temperature-wise). I know it’s easy to think everyone’s judging you, but they really couldn’t care less. So raise your hand once in a while, say “hi” to that kid next to you, and crack a smile at your professor’s attempt at hilarity (whether or not they’re successful).

 

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