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Beat the Winter Blues

14 Dec

Congratulations, you have made it through the fall semester! Now you’ve got a few weeks at home to not be stressed out for the first time since August. It will be very tempting to just lay around and be lazy, but now is the time to maximize your fun before the stress restarts in January! Here’s a few things you can do to make your winter break more worthwhile.

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Now is the time to sleep… but not for the entire break!

  • Be a tourist in your own hometown. There’s a lot of cool things in every hometown that you never realized were that awesome, until you started telling all of your college friends about them. So take advantage of being back! Go see all of the things that you’ve missed, or took for granted.
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  • Play with pets. Take them outside, if appropriate, or cuddle on the couch. Most college students don’t have time to take care of pets or aren’t able to bring their family pet with them.
  • Skype your college friends. Being separated from your friends for four weeks can be tough. Take advantage of video chat to keep in touch and feel like you’re basically together, even if you’re miles apart.
  • Take advantage of holiday sales. Buy the things you need or passed on for a while because it was a little too pricey. Take this moment to treat yo self to something nice, you deserve it!
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  • Enjoy home cooked meals and learn how to make them. Even though it’s never as good as when your family makes it, having that knowledge comes in handy when you’re having a bad day or feeling under the weather.
  • Spend time with friends that went away from college or that you haven’t seen in a while. It’s always great to trade stories and hear about what people are up to!
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Whatever you do this winter break, take some time to enjoy yourself. It’s so important to rejuvenate over these weeks and reconnect with the things that make you happy.

-Gabriela

 

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#DreadedDecember: Off Schedule

14 Dec

When it comes to time off of school, I much prefer winter break to summer. I enjoy spending time at home with my family, but I always dread being off of my daily schedule. I’m usually the person that risks getting burnt out at the end of every semester, because try as I might, making time for self-care on a regular basis is difficult during the last few weeks of school. As a result, I spend the bulk of the first few days of break just catching up on sleep and eating properly. Invariably, my sleep schedule gets thrown out of whack and then I struggle to get it back to normal when the next semester starts.

Don’t get me wrong, there are perks to getting off schedule for a little bit. It’s somewhat refreshing to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Between school and work, that’s not a luxury that I have once classes are in session anymore. I relish the time that I get to just go shopping with friends for as long as I want, or exercise as it is convenient. Breaks are a great time for me to reconnect with the things that I enjoy and that I am passionate about. However, after a few days of this, it loses its sparkle.

It’s okay to be a couch potato for a few days during break, but you have a lot of time on your hands to actually be productive. Take advantage and start planning ahead for the next semester, apply for summer internships and jobs, and start thinking about your future! For me, break is a time that I simultaneously look forward to and dread. Fortunately there are a lot of solutions to make it a lot better.

-Gabriela

#NovemberToRemember: First trip to East Coast

24 Nov

Prior to college, I never traveled much except for the occasional road trips around Arizona or California. After my freshman year, I finally got the opportunities to travel to new states for conferences. This month, I got the courage to take a trip by myself for the first time. I flew from Tucson to Philadelphia to visit family and tour a grad school, and it was an adventure I will never forget.

The week leading up to my trip, I was so stressed out. I was terrified that I would hate being in a big city, that I would miss my connecting flight, or that the clothes I packed wouldn’t be warm enough. Luckily, I’ve flown enough times at this point that things like checking in for my flight and getting through security don’t stress me out anymore, or those things would have also made it onto the list as well. The first flight was pretty quick and easy, but I had a really short connection between flights. To top it off, my gates were nowhere near each other, forcing me to run through an entire terminal to make it on time. My heart was racing, but I finally got on the plane and three hours later I could see more trees with orange leaves than I could count. At that point, I could not contain my excitement.

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Part of the city from the sky.

For the first hour or so, I honestly was overwhelmed by how beautiful everything was. Having lived in Tucson my whole life, it was amazing to be in a place I’d always dreamed of- with real seasons. One thing that I was not quite expecting was how people drive on the East Coast. You always hear about how terrible driving there is, but you can’t truly understand it unless you’re in the middle of it. The next three days were action-packed with visits to the university, wandering through downtown, and going to visit all of the historical sights.

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The real Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the background.

Growing up, American history was something I truly loved learning about. After all this time, I finally saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Carpenter’s Hall, and real colonial homes! We also visited the Museum of the American Revolution and the National Constitution Center. While things got a little repetitive, because each place wants you to have a full experience even if you know nothing about American history, it was incredible to see real artifacts from our nation’s founding.

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City lights at night.

All too quickly, it was time to go home! I was honestly really sad to leave, because I finally found a place where I could be free to explore and grow even more as a person. I love being in nature, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was not difficult to go from the heart of the skyscrapers to the forest. This experience definitely helped me gain more confidence in my ability to be an adult. I really love traveling, and I can’t wait to do more of it!

-Gabriela

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Stress

21 Nov

At the end of the semester, everyone gets stressed. If you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t get stressed”, then you’re either lying to yourself or extremely lucky. For those of you also in the boat of being stressed with those last assignments, preparing for finals, and extracurriculars, I promise that you will survive it. Everything seems impossible until it’s done. One of the most important ways to survive the stress is to find something fun to get your mind off of things for a while. This will help you feel better and allow you to better focus on the tasks at hand. What relieves stress is different for everyone, so try a few things out! Here’s a few of my suggestions

  • Exercise: Whether you do 15 minutes, an hour, or more this is a great way to get out any negative emotions. After you exercise, you can also benefit from endorphins that keep you feeling happy.
  • Cook: Make yourself some comfort foods! Whether this be boxed mac n cheese or your favorite family recipe, cooking can be a great way to get your mind off of things. Plus, you get to enjoy yummy food afterwards.
  • Craft: Unleash your creative side with crafts! You can paint, do wood burning, making soaps, sewing, whatever you enjoy. Because these are things most of our classes don’t allow us to engage in, it really helps to relieve stress from school work.
  • Listen to music: Music has a wonderful way of expressing emotions. For some people, it actually helps to listen to sad or angry music, but for others, only upbeat tunes will help improve their mood. Spotify has a lot of great playlists for free if you don’t know what you want to listen to.
  • Do nothing for a bit: With hectic schedules, sometimes it helps to literally do nothing for 10-15 minutes. This probably will feel weird at first, but this is a good time to just let your mind wander or meditate, whatever your preference is.
  • Hang out with friends OR be by yourself: It’s okay to hang out with friends for an hour or two as a study break! But if you need some alone time because you’ve been with study groups non-stop, then take some time to be by yourself.

This list is not the end-all, be-all of options by any means. No matter who you are or what your interests are, there is something out there that will help you relieve stress. Just be sure that your stress relievers don’t turn into the whole day, losing your productivity.

-Gabriela

 

There’s An App For That

3 Nov

Nowadays, technology is something you simply just can’t avoid, you wouldn’t even be able to read this blog without it. Between all of the digital learning platforms, social media, and organizational capabilities technology has a lot to offer us. But all of those awesome benefits come with a price- we become responsible for being safe when we use these tools. In addition, we have to keep up with the fast pace of new threats popping up all the time. I’ve chosen just a few things that are especially relevant for college students to talk about, but be sure to do your own research too!

Facebook and Snapchat

From sharing photos to promoting events to keeping in touch with people around the world, Facebook and Snapchat are spaces for you to express yourself and maintain your network. Most people would probably say that their friends overshare information on social networking apps. While that could be perceived as a nuisance, it can actually be a threat to your safety. Check your privacy settings and make sure that posts and photos aren’t visible to the general public, and never friends someone you don’t know in real life. Avoid sharing your location if it is unnecessary, it makes it easy for stalkers to find you. When going on vacation, don’t make an announcement- it leaves you vulnerable to being robbed. It may sound outrageous, but these things have happened to others.

Dating apps and sites

-Using dating apps and websites is all about personal preference. They provide an opportunity to meet people you might not have otherwise interacted with. However, there is no guarantee that the person on the other side of the screen is who they say they are. Be extremely cautious about how much personal information you reveal to these strangers. If you do decide to meet them in person, drive yourself or have a way to transport yourself. If the date does not go well or they turn out to be a creeper, you don’t want to get trapped in a car with them. Always meet in a public place and tell someone where you are going. It’s up to you if you want to give them your phone number or Snapchat username, just know that you lose control over who they may give that information out to after you do so.

General computer safety & viruses

Always have an antivirus software installed on your computer. As a U of A student, you have access to free downloads of antivirus programs at https://softwarelicense.arizona.edu/. Be aware of websites that commonly infect computers, such as sites to pirate movies, and don’t visit them even if you have antivirus software. When using email, don’t download attachments from spam emails or click on links. Phishing scams often seem legitimate, but may ask you to provide your password or other personal information, which is a big clue that it is a scam.

Unsecured WiFi

We all love to use free WiFi, but do not connect to unsecure networks. It is incredibly easy for hackers to gain access to your computer this way. Additionally, never enter your passwords if you do use an unsecure wireless connection. They’re great for a quick Google search, but not the place to do your online banking or schoolwork.

Taking steps to be safe virtually could save your life or protect you from identity theft. While the consequences of not adequately protecting yourself can be terrifying, the good news is that you don’t have to be a tech expert to stay safe.

-Gabriela

#OutrageousOctober: Horror Movie

17 Oct

Some people love horror movies, but I am definitely not one of those people. In the spirit of Spooktober, I decided to watch a horror movie to get out of my comfort zone a little bit. After consulting with some of the other Wildcat Connections team members, I decided to watch The Houses October Built. (Disclaimer- This blog in no way is endorsing the film or its content, just sharing my experience watching it)

I ended up watching this movie during the day, and thank goodness I did because I’m freaked out enough. I don’t think I would have gotten sleep if I’d watched it at night. It started out being a pretty tame experience, somewhat like a documentary or reality show. And then they show up to the first haunted house and everything was downhill from there. All of a sudden there’s clowns everywhere (which terrify me, by the way), and they continue to go to all of these haunted houses.

What really got me terrified about this movie was that none of it was totally implausible. People can do this stuff to other people in real life! Now I’m pretty much set on never setting foot in a haunted house in my life because you never know what’s real and what’s not. Even though this movie is supposedly fiction, I don’t have much confidence in all of that anymore. Ultimately, I’m pretty proud of myself for watching the movie all the way through. Doing things that scare you without taking you to crisis mode can be a really healthy growing experience!

-Gabriela

There’s No Place Like Home?

13 Oct

No matter where you’re from, coming to college is a huge transition for you, your family, and your friends. It can be difficult to find a new balance in those relationships as your priorities and obligations change. College is also a time for you to grow as a person and discover your values and beliefs, which may not always match up with those of your family or friends. If you are finding it challenging to navigate this adjustment, it’s completely normal. Here’s some tips to help ease that transition.

  1. Create or maintain boundaries
    For many people, it is very difficult to create boundaries – especially with those we have close relationships with. However, creating those boundaries and learning when to say “no” or “I need some space” is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Decide where your limits are by taking a good look at your values and the priorities that need to take precedence in your life right now. Then make the commitment to stick to those limits, no matter how uncomfortable it can be.
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    You may have “helicopter parents” who want to be involved in every single thing you do, every decision you make, and never seem to leave you alone. Remember that they are learning to let you be independent, and that it’s usually because they are worried about you. Sometimes you just have to let that 6th phone call of the day go to voicemail or send a text saying you can’t talk right now, and it will feel a little awkward.
    If you came to college with a friend group from high school, chances are some of them will feel jealous once you start meeting new people. You may have to initiate a conversation with those friends to help them understand why you aren’t around as much anymore. It’s perfectly okay to make new friends! In fact, you may end up outgrowing your high school friends and there is nothing wrong with that either.
  2. Modes of communication
    Thanks to the technology available, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with your loved ones. Group chats are a great way to share the funny things that happen or work through your tough days with family and friends. Facetime and Skype are perfect for storytime when something huge is going on, and it helps feel like you’re with them even if you are miles and miles away. Continue to follow your boundaries with how often you use these modes of communication, but take full advantage of them as well.

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    An accurate representation of chats with your best friend.

  3. Visiting home
    No matter where you’re from, being at home can be both comforting and challenging. Sometimes parents forget that you’re an adult now and you lose a lot of the freedoms that you have while at college.

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    How family, friends, and pets react when you come home.

    If you aren’t living at home, there’s a lot of factors to consider when visiting home. Tucson natives struggle with everyone saying “it’s so easy to go home” and balancing the demands of being a student. While it is really easy to go home, you have to live your own life. When visiting, sometimes you have to bring your homework with you and you may not get to go on a ton of family excursions for the sake of completing assignments.
    If your hometown is a few hours (or a long plane ride) away, visiting home takes a lot more planning. You have to figure out the costs of traveling and how to work around your class or work schedule. When you do get the chance to go home, you still have the same balancing act as Tucsonans in terms of focusing on school while catching up with your family.

  4. Homesickness
    No matter where you’re from, homesickness will hit you at some point or another. You miss food that isn’t from a fast-food joint, the softness of your own bed, your favorite restaurants, and the scenery. As painful as it is, you will survive it. Let yourself feel a little sad, then do something that reminds you of home.
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Navigating these relationships can be uncomfortable and emotional, but it’s a normal part of being an adult. As difficult as it can be, you will learn a lot about yourself in the process. Remember that what your relationships look like will be different according to your needs and wants.

– Gabriela

 

#StudiousSeptember: Old habits die hard

28 Sep

This year is my fourth and final year as an undergraduate student at the U of A. At this point, I am fairly comfortable with my study habits. However, as I have taken on more extracurricular commitments than I am used to this year, the first few weeks presented a time management challenge for me. Suddenly, everything that helped me be successful in the past wasn’t working anymore. Here’s three easy strategies that I’ve been trying for the past few weeks.

  1. Keeping a more detailed online calendar
    There are a lot of online calendars out there, but the one I’m using is Outlook. I like having this tool to keep track of my hourly schedule, while my paper planner is to track completion of readings and homework assignments. It’s been helpful for me to immediately put meetings and appointments that come up into my calendar so that I don’t miss anything important. I tend to be very forgetful, so this has been instrumental in keeping my life together.
  2. Turning my phone off for brief periods of time when working on homework
    I never realized how much of a distraction my phone could be until I started doing this. My friends send me lots of random texts, memes, snapchats, and group messages. Checking all of those as soon as they come in turns out to be a huge time drain. What I’ve started doing now is turning off my phone or putting it on airplane mode for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. Taking advantage of lunch breaks
    This is the first semester that where I’ve had true lunch breaks that lasted more than enough time to wait for food and scarf it down before the next class. I’ve been able to really take advantage of those few hours to get ahead on readings, review notes, and even take the occasional nap. Attempting to get as much done as possible during the day has been helpful in maintaining a healthy, balanced life.

If you are noticing that some of the things you tried in high school aren’t helpful or are even holding you back, don’t be afraid to try some of these strategies or research other time management tips online. Best of luck with the rest of the semester!

-Gabriela

Just Keep Swimming

25 Sep

In the hustle and bustle of the beginning of freshman year, everything seems to go by so quickly. So many opportunities get thrown at you and before too long your head starts spinning with all of the possibilities. In many ways, that is the beauty of college – you can become who you were meant to be! Some of the opportunities that interest you the most may be things you never would have imagined could be a good fit. My entire college journey has been a mixture of absolute uncertainty and questioning my decisions. Don’t stress too much if you’re in that spot too, it’s hard to believe it now but everything will work out in the end.

Freshman year:

I came to UA as a pre-med student, but the more I explored the options available to me I realized it wasn’t quite the right path for me. I ended up changing my major 5 times between orientation and the beginning of sophomore year. Thankfully, they all had overlapping courses so I was still on track to graduate in four years. One of the most helpful classes I had that year was a 1 unit health professions exploration colloquium. Between the guest speakers for that class and the many mentors in my life I found the perfect major.

Sophomore year:

At this point, I knew I liked my major because I was actually enjoying my classes. Every day I felt really excited about all of the options my chosen field had to offer. In all of the excitement I started to get scared because I could not narrow down my interests to one career. Instead of stressing out too much about this, I decided to just go with the flow and take the time to keep exploring rather than trying to tie myself down to one thing.

Junior year:

Last year, I was able to narrow down to two or three options that I felt extremely passionate about. I spent more time researching how to get started in those fields to start to identify what my life after college could look like. Talking with professors in my field really helped me realize that most professionals had a journey filled with uncertainty and change too, which reassured me a lot.

Senior year:

During the summer, I took on an internship that gave me a lot more insight into a potential career path. While it may not have been exactly right for me, it did help me do a lot more thinking about what careers truly fit with my passions. One day I watched a YouTube video and I learned that public health law exists as a career. Immediately, I made an appointment to sit down with a pre-law advisor to discuss how to showcase my journey in my applications. Finally, after all of the confusion my path forward has action steps.

When the future seems scary or intimidating, just keep swimming! Don’t discount yourself or your abilities, if you put your mind to it you can make it happen. No two people here at the U of A are the same, your experiences won’t be identical either. If you’re like me and need a lot of structure, let yourself be a little uncomfortable in the confusion for a bit. When you do finally find the right path, you will know.

-Gabriela

The Beginning of the Mid-Semester Slump

15 Sep

Now that the first weeks of school are out of the way, many students notice that they are not feeling as excited as they once were about being at college. The first day jitters are gone, and now it’s time to really buckle down and focus on academics with midterms right around the corner.

Unfortunately, this point in the semester is often when academic boredom truly sets in. Up to this point, students have likely not had many assignments and tend to lose motivation. Luckily, there are many ways to get back on track! First and foremost, attending class is crucial. Professors go beyond the content presented in readings and can help connect the material to real life. Keeping cell phones and laptops put away during class helps minimize distractions tremendously and will facilitate the most learning possible during a lecture or discussion session. Many introductory courses can feel boring because they are not very specific, so it’s important to realize that each class is counting towards a degree and serves a purpose.

One contributor to academic boredom is that new students’ schedules are typically saturated with general education (gen ed) courses. Gen eds may seem irrelevant to their future plans, but can be useful! Sometimes students discover a new passion in a gen ed and find their dream major or career. Other times, classes that feel irrelevant stretch a student’s ability to think critically. Sometimes professors intentionally guide students to identify or challenge their values and beliefs. These are opportunities unique to the college environment where it is accepted and even encouraged to grapple with being uncomfortable.

Everyone comes to college with different plans for the future. Some people have their hearts set on a particular career, others are questioning their original plans, and still others have absolutely no idea. Societal pressures can make it scary to be questioning a major or career. However, the majority of students will go through that phase at some point in their career and there are several resources available to navigate these thoughts. Every college has designated advisors to discuss uncertainties and future plans for students. Students in leadership roles, such as peer mentors and resident assistants, can help by sharing their experiences and resources. Many students need support from family to know that they will be accepted regardless of what major or career they ultimately choose.

The midpoint of the first semester of college can be a trying and confusing time, but don’t fear – campus is filled with people invested in helping students achieve their full potential. Many of these challenges can actually turn out to be valuable learning experiences that stay with someone for the rest of their life.

-Gabriela