Eye of the Tiger

As the weather gets warmer and the end of the semester nears, it can be tough to stay focused on academics. It’s tempting to put off that term paper in favor of hanging on the quad with friends. However, these last few weeks of classes will be over before you know it, so it’s important to stay on top of your assignments now more than ever. Here are a few ways I keep focused when the end is near:

1. Make a list. Having a to-do list can help you prioritize and complete assignments before their deadline. You won’t forget an assignment or miss a meeting if you jot it down in your planner or on your list of things to accomplish for the week.

2. Give yourself a mantra. Repeating a phrase to yourself when you are getting frustrated can help you feel more confident and focused. I always tell myself to have the “eye of the tiger,” and usually follow that with a little singing and bad dancing.

3. Bribe yourself. For every page of your paper you complete, give yourself 5 M&Ms. Or, once you get your group project done, treat yourself to a white hot chocolate from Common Grounds. When you get that daunting study guide filled out, celebrate with a half hour TV show and a chocolate bar. (As you can tell, I use a lot of chocolate when I bribe myself). Set manageable goals for yourself, reward yourself for your progress, and keep the momentum going in order to complete even the hardest things on your to-do list.

4. Create a study zone. Try not to study somewhere that you know will be distracting. If your residence hall is hard to study in because your friends often stop by your room, go to the library. If the people walking around in the library snatch up your attention, consider finding a table in Gordon Science Center, the Romano lounge, or the Cybersecurity building. There are lots of hidden areas in the academic buildings that can be great for getting a paper written or a textbook chapter annotated. Find a zone you can really focus in and get it done!

5. Put away your phone. Stop hindering your success with your phone. Save the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Buzzfeed, and YouTube for later. Put your phone on silent, on airplane mode, or turn it all the way off, put it in your backpack, and leave it in there until you complete your work. Don’t let your phone be your own worst enemy; put it away to stay focused on your work. I promise, the world will not end because you are disconnected for a few hours.

Stay focused on your goals and what you need to accomplish in order to achieve them. Summer will be here before you know it, so keep the eye of the tiger until then!

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10 Things I Would Tell My Freshman Self

My young, naive freshman self. 2011
My young, naive freshman self. 2011

With graduation fast approaching, it made me reflect on the last four years of my journey through college. My first year was a complete mess. I switched majors twice, had no idea what I wanted to do, and experienced some all too familiar high school drama. Oy! I so did not plan on starting my college life off like that. But, like most things, God had a plan and several lessons in store for me to learn. By my third year, I was FINALLY settled. After changing majors three times, I found my place and have never been happier.

The freshman ‘me’ was so worried about trivial things instead of focusing on what was important. I’ve changed tremendously over the last four years and sometimes, I would love to go back and have a talk with the younger, more naive me. It made me think of everything I would say to the past Allison.

  1. This isn’t high school – let your guard down a little and be open to new possibilities and opportunities.
  2. Stop playing it safe. Step out of your comfort zone and try things that you never thought you would. You’ll end up loving it more than you think.
  3. Focus on what makes you HAPPY, not what will make you money. Money is obviously a necessity to live, but never ever compromise your happiness for the glory of the almighty dollar.
  4. Learn to study. You never had to truly study before and now is the best time to get organized and do it. Find a study method, reevaluate if needed, and commit to it.
  5. Know your professors. Majority of them really want to see you and help you succeed. Don’t be nervous – if you have a problem, ask them. 
  6. Contribute to discussions. If you have something to say – say it. Live fearlessly and boldly. Don’t be afraid to speak up because there are no “bad answers.” Just talk.
  7. Rent your books on Amazon, or anyplace else, but the bookstore. For the love of God rent your books from ANYWHERE ELSE. Nuff said. 
  8. You’re not going to die from public speaking or presenting. Mostly everyone is nervous to do that. Choose confidence over nervousness. You’ll realize that you’re really not so bad at public speaking at all!
  9. Run your own race. Seriously, stop comparing yourself to anyone else. Nobody can do a better job at being you, than YOU!
  10. Have fun, enjoy the bumps, twists and turns. It goes by so fast. 
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Midterms Survival Guide

With only a week and a half until Spring Break, many students have begun discussing what fun plans they have for their time off from classes. While dreaming of sunnier days is something everyone has been doing during these cold months, it’s important for students to stay focused and motivated during this time in the semester, because midterms are quickly approaching!

As a senior, I personally have very few midterms. I have found that most upper-level classes in the psychology department tend to favor tests every few weeks and term papers over cumulative midterm and final exams. Therefore, the busiest time of year for me is prior to finals, when I often have several 10, 12, or even 25-page papers due for my classes. However, as a freshman and sophomore, I had many midterm exams, because I was taking more 100- and 200-level courses in a variety of subject areas (such as math, government, and sociology). Having my fair share of midterms, I have figured out a few ways to make the week a bit easier and more successful:

1. Study as early as possible. Procrastination is something many college students struggle with, and learning how to discipline yourself to get things done will be extremely helpful throughout your college career- and your life! With tests that cover a large amount of material, studying a bit every day will be much more helpful and manageable than trying to pull an all-nighter and cram the evening before the test. Try to dedicate 30 minutes every day to studying for a tricky subject, so that by the time the test rolls around, you’ve already logged tons of time reviewing the material. Plus, if you find yourself with questions, you’ll have plenty of opportunities before the test to stop by your professor’s office hours!

2. Study different ways. It’s great to know which way helps you retain material the best, but sometimes it works even better to study in a variety of ways, so that you can pick up little pieces of information from each technique. Some of my favorite ways to study are:

-taking notes on the textbook readings

-making flash cards

-relating concepts to my own life

-reviewing my lecture notes

-reviewing my textbook notes

-creating my own study guide with charts, vocab words, etc

-“teaching” the material to a friend

-answering review questions in the book or online

-asking questions in class or in a professor’s office hours

3. Read your book and pay attention in class! The number one suggestion I could give to any student is to stay on top of the material from Day One. Skimming a textbook and doodling in class may seem appealing, but if you’re not learning the material then, when do you plan on learning it? Approach the textbook as a way to be introduced to the material and class as an opportunity to grasp the material fully. I always read ahead of time, write down questions I may have, and take notes in class to supplement the readings. Then, if any of my questions from the textbook are still unanswered, I ask the professor to clear up any confusion. The textbook is your answer key for the course, and the professor is your guide to mastering the material. Utilize them, and by the time midterms roll around, you will be way ahead of the game.

I wish that there was a secret trick to automatically acing your midterms, like wearing your pajamas inside out or drinking chocolate milk before the test. However, I have found that the only way to ensure a high grade on an exam is to put in the prep work ahead of time, to study a variety of ways, and to pay attention in class and keep up on the readings. It’s no secret that hard work pays off, so focus on your course work now and before you know it, Spring Break will be here!

By the way, if you have any secret tips, feel free to share them with me in the comment section!

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Can I Get Your Autograph? (HOMW 5)

Hello, everyone!

It was great to bounce back this week after spending all of last week sick. I was really grateful to be able to attend all of my classes, not to mention to be able to breathe through my nose and stay awake for longer than three hours at a time! Thus, my highlight this week is related to one of my favorite classes (which I have written about before), English 407: Advanced Poetry Workshop.

HOMW 5: CAN I GET YOUR AUTOGRAPH?

As I have previously mentioned, my Monday/Friday poetry workshop is a favorite of mine because of the small class size and our hilarious professor, Dr. Leising. A typical day in our class involves reviewing one another’s work, discussing a reading from the week, and brainstorming as a group for a future assignment. We often use a book titled The Poetry Gymnasium to help us find new ways to develop our writing skills and stretch our comfort zones as poets. The class is always a comfortable, welcoming environment, which is especially valuable when we spend so much time having our writing critiqued. Dr. Leising is great at keeping things productive and helping us improve as writers while still making sure we feel like we can have fun and express ourselves fully.

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Our text, The Poetry Gymnasium

Anyway, this past week, we were reading through The Poetry Gymnasium when we saw a familiar name referenced in the text: Gary Leising! The author mentioned reading one of Dr. Leising’s poems and how it could be interpreted many ways. I knew that our professor had written loads of poetry and had won awards for his work in the past (including Utica College’s Clark Award he was presented with at convocation this fall), but it was really cool to see him referenced in our book. Dr. Leising was very humble about the whole thing, but of course I had him autograph my book right below where his name was printed.

Some day, this signature could be worth millions. For now, maybe just half a million
Some day, this signature could be worth millions. For now, maybe just half a million.

I never imagined when I began attending Utica College that such a small college would offer classes taught by individuals that are so well-known and respected in their field. Four years later, I can say that I have learned from some truly special people who have shared their experiences and wisdom with me and really have helped me grow as a student and an individual. Dr. Leising’s shout out in our textbook is a more obvious example of just how awesome the UC faculty are, and it was definitely a memorable moment from my week!

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When Chemicals React

Sometimes, you find yourself saving a degree-required course for your final semester of college. Sometimes, that course is a science with a lecture class as well as a lab, and you have to devote over six hours per week on that class alone. Sometimes, you may be reflecting upon your life choices and wonder why you put off your lab course until your senior spring semester. Sometimes, your two best friends register for that course too, so that your chances of survival increase. This is one such circumstance.

I have never been very interested in science, mainly because I find it hard to relate to the rest of my studies. I love that psychology is a science that is extremely applicable to my daily life- in fact, sometimes I over-analyze things and may relate my life too often to my studies! On the other hand, things like geology and chemistry never came as naturally to me as psych. I definitely procrastinated my required science course due to my disinterest in science, but this semester, I had to register for something in order to graduate in May.

The class I chose as my science with a lab is Chem 105: Everyday Chemistry. Turns out, this class is the best possible lab class for a student like me, because the entire class is focused on relating chemistry concepts to everyday topics. Our professors, Dr. Thomas and Dr. Barr, explain known, familiar concepts like tye dye in terms of atomic bonds and chemical compounds. It makes science much less intimidating and way easier to understand! Plus, the labs are activities like solving a fake crime, which can be pretty entertaining.

My chemistry course is not a class that comes easily to me, but having my friends in the class with me as well as professors that are dedicated to making science relatable and fun makes the class way better. Pretty soon, people will be calling this chick “Elaine Nye the Science Guy.”

Laura and I modeling some attractive goggles. Safety first, peeps.
Laura and I modeling some attractive goggles. Safety first, peeps.
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Ace Your First Test!

So now we’re at the point of the semester when professors are beginning to give their first exams of the semester. (I have my first physics exam on Friday!) The first test in a new class can be daunting, especially if you’ve never had the professor before and don’t know what to expect. So, don’t freak! I have a few tips to help you!

Ask your professor how they typically format their tests. It’s super helpful to know if you only have to worry about preparing for multiple choice, or if you also have to anticipate short answer questions. If a professor doesn’t offer up how their tests are formatted, ask friends who may have taken the class before! Previous students from other semesters can give insight into how long tests might have been, as well as types of questions that were asked. Be sure to NOT talk about the actual content of the exams though!! That can be considered cheating and might result in strict consequences.

Be sure to clarify what exactly you are being tested on! Some professors insist they only teach what they lecture on, so great! Study your notes! However, I’ve been in classes where anything was game for tests: lecture, lab material, and content from the text book. So, make sure you ask your professor to clarify what content is actually going to be tested on. It would totally stink to not read the chapters in the book and then have to fumble through 10 questions that you really have no idea how to answer.

Take advantage of practice tests/ study guides! If you are lucky enough to have a professor that gives you study materials, use them! Professors make those guides knowing what they are going to test students on; those study guides are gold, treat them as such. I use study guides to gauge out how the test may be formatted, ie: if there are a lot of short answer questions on a study guide, I assume that short answer questions will take up a large portion of the exam.

If you’re feeling uneasy, go to office hours! Take advantage of the times when your professor is in their office and ask any questions you might have. Even if you don’t have any specific questions, go talk to your professor and see what they have to say. If I ever feel uneasy about an exam I go talk to my professor about the exam just to calm my nerves.

These are only a few tips for tests that I have. But, obviously, my biggest tip is to study. Professor usually give exam dates well in advance, so don’t wait until the last night to cram in all the info you need to know.

Good luck on your first tests! (And all of the tests that follow throughout the semester!) You’re all going to do great.

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SYBL: Lunch with favorite professor

14. Have lunch with your favorite professor

Another thing off the list! One of my favorite things about Utica College is the size. The school with only about 2,800 undergraduate students and a typical class size of 20,  is classified as a small school. I never look at it as a disadvantage however because it provides me with numerous opportunities for personal and academic growth. Since our professors actually know our names, we are able to take advantage of getting to know them and building great academic relationships with them.

Last Fall, I was able to do something that I know hope many students at Utica College take advantage of, have lunch with one of my favorite professors, Leonore Fleming of the Philosophy Department (and her best friend Paige).

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I met Dr.Fleming during the Fall 2013 semester when I enrolled in her Philosophy 101: Critical Thinking class. Let’s be clear on something, I hate philosophy. Well, at least I thought I did prior to that class but from the moment I walked in I had a feeling Fleming would change my opinion. After a 3-minute back and forth of the pronunciation of my name  I had decided this class would be on of my favorites and so would Professor Fleming. She was actually the best, from her stylish outfits to how she appreciated creativity submitted within assignments.

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During lunch, fellow blogger, Laura and I got to learn all about Dr.Fleming’s childhood and growing up as well as what led her to Utica College. We talked about some of her childhood memories, like Peace Frog, Tamagotchi and the embarrassment of having a boy call your house phone only to have your father pick up.

We even taught Dr.Fleming a few things about our generation, like how to be basic.

Fleming4 FLeming

To learn more about Dr. Fleming and how to enroll in her next course, visit the the utica.edu website. Want to learn more about my Senior Year Bucket List? Check it out how far I’ve made it on my list!

 

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Class is cancelled, now what? Five things to do during a Snow Day!

The front of Boehlert Hall taken from the second floor on February 2, 2015

When I decided to apply to school in Central New York there was one thing everyone warned me about: snow. Everyone knows it snows and many people are prepared for the snow. So it’s no surprise that class is not often cancelled due to weather. However, when it does happen I find myself with an unusually large amount free time on my hands and I seem to never to know what to do. This time I figured it out….

 1. Catch up or get ahead for your next class

This is the perfect time to either: a. get started on your essay that isn’t due for another 2 weeks or b. catch up on the reading from yesterday’s class that you forgot to do. Seize this opportunity.

2. Work on your resume

As a college student, my goal in life is to be in the career of my dreams post-graduation. How can I achieve that with a resume that is sub-par? A snow day is the perfect time to crawl up with your laptop and revamp your resume just in time for Career Services’ next upcoming event. The next one being the Job & Internship Fair on March 4th.

3. Clean your room/apartment

According to the ancient art and science of Feng Shui, a clean home gives you a sense of calm and puts you back into control of your life. It restores order and balance so you are able to locate things easier and you no longer feel overwhelmed. The semester can get pretty hectic (even this early in) don’t let the clutter in your room make it any worse.

4. Binge watch your favorite TV show!

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime…a college student’s best friend right? Almost all of us are guilty of it, spending countless hours waiting to see who “A” is or if Olivia and Fitz will ever be together, or asking why Freaks and Greeks was never picked up for a second season. Each time saying to ourselves, “Just one more episode…”. This. IS. Your. Day.

5. Relax

Stress and lack of sleep can have serious effects on your body and make it difficult to pay attention, concentration or solve problems. So, whether it be curling up with a good book and a hot cup of tea, swimming some laps in the pool or catching the Z’s, take this time to relax and enjoy your day off.

 

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The Friday Afternoon Time Warp (Highlight of My Week: Week 1)

Hi everyone!

This semester, I have decided to reflect at the end of each week and share with you a moment that was a highlight of that week. Last semester was a whirlwind of meetings, classes, appointments, events, forums, office hours, and library sessions- by the end of the term, I was pretty burnt out, to say the least! One of the things I want to focus on this semester is having some down time and enjoying the moment more, rather than over-scheduling myself. I think that consciously spending time each week to reflect on the things that occurred will help with this mission. So, seeing as last week was the first full week of classes, here is my weekly highlight!

HIGHLIGHT OF MY WEEK (HOMW) 1: THE FRIDAY AFTERNOON TIME WARP

A little background: I am currently enrolled in a class titled ENG 407: Advanced Poetry Workshop. This class is a continuation of ENG 307: Beginning Creative Writing. I took 307 last semester on a whim because I heard that it was taught by a really funny professor, and I hadn’t taken a creative writing course since high school. The class ended up being my favorite class of the semester, and I was happy to enroll in 407 this semester to continue learning from Dr. Leising, who always challenges the class to write in different, unique, and fun ways.

407 is a bit different from 307, mainly because it focuses primarily on poetry writing, rather than a variety of types of writing (creative non-fiction, for example). Furthermore, my 407 class has only a handful of students in it (seven, to be exact), which allows us to spend some serious quality time reviewing and discussing one another’s work. This makes the workshop a very thought-provoking and fun class; I know that I am going to get to read some awesome poems when I go to class, have quality conversation with my fellow students about the creative process, and will get some sincere feedback on my writing that will help me improve. Plus, as a psychology major, I love that I am in a class with mainly English majors, because it allows me to view things from a different perspective and broaden my frame of thinking.

Anyway, onto the highlight of my week! On Friday, my class was so invested in our workshop that we ended up going over the class time by 15 minutes. Usually, students will be a bit fidgety towards the end of class, especially during a 75-minute time block. However, none of us even noticed the time; we were really enjoying our conversations with one another and had no idea that we were past the class period. It was as if we had entered a time warp- we hadn’t realized how fast the time had passed us!

This moment reminded me of why I love Utica College so much- the small class sizes allow me to really get to know my professors and fellow students. I am grateful to be able to take a course that is not only challenging me as a writer and a thinker, but also is truly something I look forward to attending twice a week.

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How to Cope When Your Goals Cause Anxiety

 

Image: Google
Image: Google

Have you ever had so many goals and dreams that – before you know it – end up overwhelming you? You’re planning, you’re searching, you’re doing everything you can to ensure that you reach success, then it all crashes down on you? Yes? Well, then this post is for you!

Often times we are so focused on the future that we totally miss the opportunities of the present! We’re overcome with the stress of building the life we want instead of enjoying the life we have now.

Whenever I talk to people about my future career plans and ambitions, or whenever people talk to me about theirs, I notice that we all have one thing in common. Beneath our confident smiles and strong intelligence, we’re completely terrified. Think about it – whether we’re at the beginning, middle, or end of our college education, we’re all in the same boat.

In a few short years we will find ourselves lacing up our running shoes and stilettos, and being thrown into the world of adulthood. How do we handle that? How can we learn to take things one at a time and NOT eat an elephant in one bite? Here’s a few helpful hints:

1) Run at Your Own Pace

Your career path is uniquely yours. There is no time limit for your dreams. It’s not only part of your story, but it’s part of your purpose as well. It took me four times to figure out where I wanted my life to go. Did all those major changes put me behind? A little. Instead of four solid years, it’s taking me four and a half years to obtain my degree, but I refused to settle for a career that was going to make me unhappy for the rest of my life. Did it bother me to know that majority of my friends would be completely finished in May? Yes. But, eventually when I stopped focusing on the journey of my peers, I could focus on figuring out what would make me truly happy, and now, I’m living it.

2) Embrace the Uncertainty

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’m a HUGE fan of this quote. Actually, I’m a huge fan of any inspirational quotes. There’s just something so beautiful about the words of others that really, can make a difference in your life. Here’s the point of this message: embrace the unknown! Often times it’s the fear of the unknown that causes our anxiety, but imagine for a moment, if we had all the answers to life? While it might be helpful, that would make life awfully boring. We find out who we are during the most uncertain, rocky times in our lives.

3) Remember: YOU are Writing Your OWN Story

What are our fears and anxieties telling us? Are they telling us that we’re not good enough? Not smart enough? Not strong enough? Are they telling us that we need to do more and be more? If so, that’s false thinking. Much like the first point, we need to realize that WE are the author’s of our own lives. WE hold the pen. Nobody else does. We can be who we want to be, feel how we want to feel, all without competing with others. People need the skills that we have now. Focus on them. Accept fully who and where you are at this moment.

4) Find Your Inspiration

Everybody needs inspiration and the beautiful thing is that we all have the opportunities to find it.  Our inspiration could come from a book, a friend, a relative….anything. Find it, keep it, and go to it when you need a lift. You’ll be surprised at how your anxieties will quickly fade.

5) Find a Happy Spot

We all have our happy spots. You know, places that we love to go relax and unwind from a long and tiring day? For me, that place happens to be cuddled up at home with my dog on my lap and music in my ears (or a book in my hand). We all need places to go to escape from life a little bit. I find that when I take the time each day to just sit, find my peace, and do something that I love, I’m much less overwhelmed!

Remember: We can achieve whatever we want, whenever we want. The key is to not let your ambitions take control over you.

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