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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17 Things Students Who Graduate Early Will Understand

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Photo by Kevin Waldron

College students know it’s hard enough to graduate on time, let alone early, but some of us are on a different path and kick things into high-gear so we can get our diplomas sooner. It isn’t easy, but we stick to the plan of attack come whatever may. And with a few heavier course loads and a lot of determination, we finish up a semester or two early feeling on top of the world.

Anyone who’s been there knows our lives are a little bit different than our fellow students on the normal 4-year timeline. There are certain things only we can understand, and for that, we share a special bond.

  1. There is no such thing as an “easy” semester for you. You have a full or overloaded course load every time, even as a senior.
  2. If you’re like me and only graduating one semester early instead of two, you wish you’d gotten yourself going sooner so you could graduate two semesters early.
  3. Free time? What’s that?
  4. Maintaining a decent GPA is twice as hard.
  5. You’ve inevitably had those full days that start with 8am classes and end with a night class, at least once every semester.
  6. People assume you’re really smart, but honestly, it was more about taking on extra workloads than anything else.
  7. People get really confused when your age and your class don’t match up (You’re 20 but you’re a senior???).
  8. You’ve come to accept the inevitability of all-nighters.
  9. Your time here with your favorite professors and classmates is all the more precious since you’re leaving sooner.
  10. People who say college goes by in the blink of an eye don’t know the half of it.
  11. You’ve been forced at least once to cram some of the most labor-intensive classes for your major into the same semester.
  12. You felt like a boss when you made it out of that semester alive, and with good grades too.
  13. You have a special bond with your adviser who helped you make graduating early possible. Without them, you would’ve gone crazy trying to put your schedules together.
  14. You’re a master at packing a whole day’s worth of meals into one lunch box since you often wind up spending entire days on campus.
  15. You are the ultimate multi-tasker, and your time management skills are incomparable.
  16. You learned to embrace planners and calendars to keep your plethora of deadlines straight.
  17. You know graduating early isn’t for everyone, but for you, it was worth it.
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Why It’s Okay to Not Go Anywhere for Spring Break

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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

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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?

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

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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?

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What Not to Forget When You Return From Winter Break

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Photo from Utica College

I know nobody wants to talk about it (I certainly don’t), but we’ve got to address this pressing matter regardless: winter break is over.

But I’ve done my crying, and I’ve dried my tears, and now it’s time to man-up and prepare. We’ve got a long couple of months ahead of us until summer warmly welcomes us with open arms, and I want to make sure you make it to see the sun.

There are obvious things you need to have ready to go with you like clothes and money, but I’ve got a list for you of a few things you might not have thought of.

  1. Textbooks – Yeah, an obvious one it would seem, but I guarantee there are a few people reading this right now and exclaiming, “Crap!” because they forgot to order them yet. Get on it.
  2. Family photos – Even if your dorm’s already decked out in photos, I’m sure you’ve acquired a few new ones over break. Hang ’em up in your dorm to make it feel a little more like home and freshen up the room you became so used to last semester.
  3. Recipes – Remember all those great dorm-ready recipes you saw on Pinterest that you said you were going to make? Unless you print them out and have a tangible version, you’re going to forget about them. So, go ahead and print out recipes you like, then compile them into a folder or binder like your own little cookbook.
  4. Holiday decor – this one might be more for the females, but you’d be surprised how festive you’ll feel with just a few cheap decorations for your dorm. You’ll have Valentine’s Day and Easter to decorate for this semester, and although it may be early to shop for Easter stuff, the V-Day decor is already out. Little things like this will keep your mood lifted.
  5. Emergency comfort food supply – I don’t care how healthy you eat on a daily basis; everyone needs a little bit of chocolate or instant mac & cheese or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. Have a little bit on hand, and keep it hidden, so you don’t have to rush out to the store when you desperately need it.
  6. Reusable water bottle with filter – Ever since I bought my water bottle with a built-in Brita filter, my life has been so much better. You’ll save a ton of money not buying bottles all the time, it’s environmentally friendly, and you can feel safe drinking from most faucets.
  7. Back-up hard drive – This sounds like something only high-tech people need, but if you’re a student, or just someone who relies on their computer for things like picture and music storage, then you NEED a back-up hard drive. What would you do if your computer crashed in the middle of the semester? That would stink, wouldn’t it? These guys aren’t that expensive, about $60 for a decent amount of space, and definitely worth it. They will save your life.
  8. Notepad – Just a tiny one is all you need. You’d be amazed the difference writing down little reminders can make. “Run the dishwasher,” “Do laundry,” “Remember your book for class tomorrow,” etc. It is so helpful for a scatter-brained person like myself. You can also use it to write down long-term stuff like papers, final projects, and goals. And of course, write out those grocery lists.
  9. Way more pens than you think you need – Because they get up and walk away when you’re not looking, am I right?
  10. Extra underwear and socks – Because doing laundry is the worst.

What non-traditional stuff do you tote along to school each semester?

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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 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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