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Opportunities for Spring Semester

12 Dec

Winter break is coming to a close and the spring semester is upon us. While I’m sure we’d all love another week (or more) of time off, I like to focus on being excited for the beginning of the new semester, instead of being sad for the end of the break. The start of the spring semester is one of my favorite times of the school year. It’s a new beginning with a ton of opportunities.

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One of the biggest opportunities that spring semester gives is academically. If you didn’t have a strong fall semester, spring gives you the opportunity to make up for it. The first semester is always difficult because you’re getting used to how college classes (and professors) operate, forming new study habits, acclimating to living on your own, and trying to navigate who you are in this new setting. By spring semester, you’re a lot more familiar with how classes work, hopefully you’re dealing with homesickness better, and you’re really getting a sense of who you are. If things didn’t go so well last semester, take this as an opportunity to change your study habits and set yourself down the right path.

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Spring semester is also a great opportunity to get involved if you didn’t last semester (or if you want to get involved more). It can be hard to join a club in the middle of a semester. At the beginning of the semester, clubs are expecting new members so it can be easier to integrate into a club. You could also get involved by getting a job or internship. A lot of places on campus are looking to hire and fill positions at the start of the semester.

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One of my personal goals for the spring semester is to be intentional with my time. It can be so hard to balance school, work, clubs, and leadership positions with spending time with my friends and taking time for myself. I know that if I’m not proactive in being intentional, I won’t see my friends very much or take time for myself. These things are both really important not only for the health of my friendships, but also my own health. I’m really going to take the opportunities I have to spend time with friends and spend healthy time alone.

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Whatever you’re looking forward to with the upcoming spring semester, I hope you seize the opportunities you have in front of you. Whether it be improving your grades, getting more involved, or being intentional with your relationships, be proactive with your semester and make the best of it right from the beginning!

-Jess

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#DreadedDecember: Making Plans

10 Dec

I love winter break. I get to go home and see my family, boyfriend, and my best friends from home. I also get time to relax and prepare for the upcoming semester. While this is all great, it can be really stressful for me to balance doing everything that I want to do over break and making plans with so many different groups of people. That’s why my Dreaded December is making plans over break.

I’m definitely much more of a planner as opposed to being spontaneous. I like to know when I’m doing things, especially when I’m planning so many things with so many people. Added to this, both my best friends from home and my boyfriend and I decided that instead of giving gifts, we’d do something fun for Christmas. For my best friends, that meant finding two days that fit all three of our schedules for a short road trip. When you throw in the fact that we’re all trying to spend time with our families, one of my friends is working and has family in from out of state, and my other friend is traveling a few times, and that was an adventure. As for my boyfriend, he lives out of state during the school year, so we try to spend as much time together as possible. However, he’s traveling with his family twice over break and still has to keep up his workout schedule (he’s an athlete). Throw my family’s schedule and holiday plans into the mix, and it’s really just a lot to balance.

Some of the ways that I’ve made this a little better is by planning as much in advance as possible. This has helped me know when I’m free and what fits best where. Another way I juggle these plans is by doing stuff with my family and boyfriend together. My family loves him so it’s a great way for us to all spend time together. As for my friends, it’s all about communication and making the time for each other.

While I do like to combine groups and hang out with my boyfriend and friends or family and friends, sometimes I like to have the 1 on 1 (or 2 on 1) time with them. To do that, it really comes down to being intentional with my time and not wasting it away in front of the TV or sleeping. As much as I want to rest over this break, I’d rather rest in the company of the people I love than by myself.

I am dreading the planning process and trying to juggle everything over a relatively short period of time. However, I’m also really looking forward to spending time with my loved ones and doing a lot of fun things together. I know I’m going to be making a lot of memories over this break, and although there are some things about planning I’m dreading, I’m really looking forward to the time I have.

I hope you all have a great winter break!

-Jess

Maximizing Your Winter Break

8 Dec

I really love winter break. It’s a month of no school, being at home with friends and family, and relaxing. The one downside is that when it’s over and I look back on it, a whole month has passed and it seems like I got nothing done. While it’s great to sit around and take time to relax and recharge, there are a lot of ways to balance having fun with being productive and making sure your break isn’t wasted.

  1. Volunteer. I personally volunteer at a local animal shelter, something I don’t have time to do during the semester. Volunteering looks great on your resume and is actually a lot of fun and very rewarding. Winter break is a perfect time to do it because you don’t have the commitment of full-time school.

  2. Make plans with friends/family so you don’t waste your time just sitting around the house doing nothing. If you’re intentional about spending time with loved ones, you’ll ensure that you don’t sleep/Netflix your whole break away. Plus, you’ll probably have more fun and make a lot of really good memories.family
  3. Get a seasonal job. This way you can make some extra money over the holiday season to set you up for the upcoming semester.

  4. Do the things that need to be done that you normally don’t have time for. Update your resume, clean up your desktop, apply for scholarships, research grad school or career information, apply for internships for the next semester or summer, etc. These things are all easy to do but normally get forgotten or neglected when classes are in full swing.

  5. If you have nothing to do, learn a new skill. You could take up cooking, baking, knitting, crafting, a new sport, etc. There are so many fun things that are so easy to learn through Youtube or books.knitting
  6. Take a winter course. There are a lot of good classes offered over winter break that can help you catch up if you’re a little behind or get ahead. It could also lighten your load if you’re scheduled for a really busy spring semester.

  7. Do things you enjoy that you normally don’t have the time to do. A lot of the hobbies and activities we like to do get left behind when we start college. For me, that’s playing basketball, the clarinet, and knitting. I just don’t have time during the semester, so I love taking the time to do these things I enjoy over break.

  8. Take time to rest and treat yourself. Ask for a spa day for the holidays, cozy up with hot cocoa and a good book, take a relaxing bubble bath, or try out a new face mask. You deserve some rest and relaxation.relax

However you choose to spend your break, I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season and winter break and are able to have some fun and rest that you deserve!
-Jess

A Winter of Firsts

8 Dec

For freshmen college students, they’re entering a season of “firsts” in their lives- first round of finals, first college winter break, and for some students first time back home since the summer. This is a time that can be overwhelming for some students as they’re preparing for tests, writing essays, completing projects, preparing to move out of their residence hall or off-campus housing, arranging travel plans, wrapping up with clubs, and probably attending a holiday party or two (or seven).

So how do students handle all of this stress?

First of all, staying healthy is crucial. Stress causes immune systems to break down and students often neglect exercise and healthy eating during finals. This is the time when these things are the most important. Encourage your student to eat well, hit the rec center for a study break, and manage their stress in healthy ways. The University offers a variety of stress-busting activities, health and wellness activities, and fun study breaks for the Finals Survival Week. It’s also really important for students to stay focused. It’s so easy for students to neglect studying because they’re either busy with break preparation and maximizing on fun, or they’re mentally checking out early in anticipation of break. I know that the closer the holidays get, the harder I find it to focus. That being said, it’s more important now than ever to focus, buckle down, and get done what needs to get done.

After finals and the semester ends, students are faced with a new challenge- what to do over winter break. For most students, this means going home. My freshman year, I wanted to do nothing more than hang out with friends and family over winter break and just relax. While this is obviously necessary for students, winter break is also a great time to be productive, especially to do things that they don’t have as much time to over the course of the semester. This could mean applying for scholarships and internships, make or update their resume, volunteer, or get a seasonal job. Students should really strive to balance between having fun over break and still being productive with their time.

Along with being productive, students should spend this time celebrating their accomplishments over the semester with their family and friends. Students have worked hard over the past few months and need some well-deserved down time! Enjoy the holidays (if your family celebrates) and spend time making memories with your student. If they’re anything like I am, they’re really looking forward to this break and time with family and friends. Enjoy the time together!

I hope you and your students all have a wonderful winter break together!

-Jess

#NovembertoRemember: Cooking for Thanksgiving

23 Nov

A few weeks ago, my mom called me to talk about what our family was going to do for Thanksgiving. Typically, we get together with our family that lives in town at either my family’s house or my grandma’s house. While not a huge ordeal like some people’s families, we usually have around 10 people, so it’s still a pretty large dinner. Ever since we were kids, my mom and grandma got tasked with the cooking, but neither of them particularly like to cook, especially not Thanksgiving dinner. While I was on the phone with my mom, she surprised me by asking, “Do you want to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year?” I was caught off guard a little bit. “You want me to cook the whole dinner?” I replied. “Sure, why not?” my mom said. “We’ll help some, but do you want to do most of it?” “Umm ok, sure,” I said. I guess I was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year.

This isn’t really that unusual of her to ask. She hates cooking whereas I actually enjoy it, so it only makes sense that I’d do it. I’m actually pretty excited about it too. One of the reasons I really enjoy cooking is that I’m kind of a picky eater, so if I cook, I make things that I like. Usually on Thanksgiving, there are a lot of foods that people make that I don’t eat. Potato salad, green bean casserole, creamy jello, frog eye (it’s this weird creamy pasta salad… I don’t know why anyone thinks that’s a good idea). With all of these things on the menu, my plate is usually a bit more empty than anyone else’s.  I’m excited to be able to cook all of the foods that I love to eat, as well as learn how to make some of our family classics.

While the task seems kind of daunting right now, I’m really excited about it. I love to cook so it’ll be fun and a challenge to take on something so big for the first time. I’m also excited to learn to make new things and experiment a little bit outside of what I’m comfortable with. I love Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season so I’m ready to kick it off. I think this will definitley be a November to remember for me because I’m mixing my family traditions with my own style. I’m so excited to tell you about how it goes after next week, but for now I have a menu to prepare 😉

Hope you all have an amazing Thanksgiving of your own and make some memories with your loved ones!

-Jess

Time Management Tips from an Expert Procrastinator

16 Nov

I’m a horrible procrastinator. I leave everything until the last minute- homework, studying, papers, projects, you name it. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve known about the assignment, how easy the assignment is, or how much of my grade it’s worth. One of my goals for this semester was to have better time management. For me, this takes a lot of planning and being intentional with my time. Here are the things I’ve learned to help me manage my time:

  • Schedule the hours of my day. I write a schedule with everything I have going on in my day- work, class, clubs, meetings, etc., then I plan when I’m going to do homework and study. I also make sure I plan time that I’m going to take for myself so that I have time to rest and take care of myself.
  • For big assignments or tests, I plan out what I’m going to do or study on each day for a week leading up to the test or due date. It really helps me when I sit down with my planner and all that I need to get done and schedule things day by day. This gives me a lot of mini-benchmarks so that I know I’m making progress and not putting things off. It also looks a lot more manageable when I look and see that I have to write one page a day for the next week as opposed to seeing that I have a 7 page paper due in a week.
  • When studying and working, I work with no distractions for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. If I sit down and say I’m going to work for half an hour, I waste most of that time sitting around, playing games on my phone, etc. However, when I give myself 5 minutes to do those things, the other 25 minutes are way more productive because I know I have a break coming up.2
  • Wake up early in the morning to do work as opposed to staying up late. I’m a terrible morning person and love staying up late, but I’ve noticed this year that when I try to stay up and work, I don’t really get anything done. I waste most of my time doing pretty much nothing. So now I wake up earlier in the morning and finish assignments. This way, I have more motivations to get things done because I have a set amount of time to finish things before I leave for class.
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  • Do quick assignments and study small sections when you have a free 10-15 minutes. We never realize how much random time we let go to waste throughout the day. Those 5 minutes you’re sitting in a classroom before class starts, the 10 minutes you’re waiting in line for food or coffee, 2 minute Hulu commercial breaks. If you add up all of these random times throughout the day, they can really add up to a substantial chunk of time. I always carry around a stack of flash cards and pull them out during these times. Before I know it, I’ve studied a few hours without adding any extra time.

  • Work in a space with minimal distractions. For me, this is at my desk. Whenever I try to work in my living room, I end up wanting to take a nap on the comfy couch, going to the kitchen for a snack, turning on the TV, or talking to my roommate. Without distractions, I can make the most of my time and get things done quicker.3

Doing these things has really helped me manage my time better. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m an expert at time management or that I’ve stopped procrastinating completely (because I totally haven’t), but being mindful of making these changes has helped me to get better at using my time wisely. I notice I get a lot more done and have more free time when I focus on working and being more productive with my time. I hope these tips help you manage your time better too!

-Jess

Safety First!

27 Oct

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We all like to feel that U of A is a safe place, especially considering this is where we go to class, study, work, eat, and even live. U of A has a lot of safety precautions in place, but it’s still a large college campus. It’s important to be proactive and aware when it comes to our personal safety. Here are some of my tips for how to stay safe and feel safe on campus.

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  1. Be aware of your surroundings. It’s so important to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Look around when you’re walking alone, pay attention when you’re getting into your car, and notice people that are around you. This isn’t to say you have to look over your shoulder every 2 minutes, but just pay attention to what’s happening around you.
  2. Don’t walk around distracted. This includes having on headphones, texting, or searching around in your bag. You can’t really be fully aware of your surroundings if you’re attention is on something else.
  3. Try to avoid walking alone at night. I try to avoid walking alone at night whenever possible. I know that sometimes it’s unavoidable though, so I call a friend or family member. That way someone knows that I’m out and alone and knows when I get to my car/house/wherever safely. On the other hand, there would also be someone who would immediately know if I was in danger.
  4. Always make sure someone knows where you are, especially at night. I always tell my roommate a general time she should expect me home. If I’m not home by then, she checks it to make sure I’m okay. Or if I know a friend of mine is walking/driving alone, I’ll tell them to text me when they’re home. These may seem unnecessary, but it’s an easy thing to do to look out for yourself and your friends.
  5. Keep a low profile social media presence.Sure, you want all your friends to know what you’re doing and where you’re going at all times. But you don’t want strangers to know all of that information too. Take a few minutes to review your privacy settings, and keep your accounts private so you can approve who sees what you post. Also, don’t check in to public places or share your location on something like snapchat maps. Strangers shouldn’t know where you are at all times.
  6. Be informed about campus safety precautions. Obviously everyone knows “911”, but it can be really beneficial to know non-emergency police numbers. U of A also has a great emergency blue light system, and Saferide is a great resource for traveling at night as well.
  7. Consider taking a self defense class. This is a case of “it’s better to have and not need than need and not have.” Hopefully you’ll never be in a position where you’ll have to defend yourself (and if you follow these tips, you’ll be less likely to be in that position), but it’s a good skill to have just in case.jimmy
  8. Use common sense. There’s no substitute for your own common sense. As long as you are aware that there are potential dangers both on and off campus and you take precautions against these things, you have a low risk of ever encountering something dangerous. Be smart and take care of yourself.

Have a happy and safe semester!

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-Jess

#OutrageousOctober: Acting in a Haunted House

25 Oct

I don’t do scary things. I’ve never been to a haunted house. I’ve watched one scary movie in my life and had my back turned to the screen 95% of the movie. When I would go trick or treating as a kid and a house had a haunted house you had to go through to get the candy, I’d make my sister and all my friends go in front of me so they’d get scared first. I’ve just never understood why people choose to get scared. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Halloween. I like the when the weather cools down (if it cools down), the costumes, the candy, the cheesy Halloween movies, and the start of the holiday season. I just don’t like the scary part of it. That being said, I’m also not an actor. The extent of my acting career was a few elementary school class plays, so when I had the opportunity to act in a haunted house as a fundraiser, I figured it was perfect for my Outrageous October.

Because I’ve never been to or acted in a haunted house, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at Slaughterhouse, one of Tucson’s most popular haunted houses. I showed up at 4:30 wearing the assigned uniform of a black t-shirt and jeans. When my full volunteer group was present, an employee of the haunted house came to get us and have us sign in. From there, we went to a window and got our character assignment for the night. I was assigned to be a clown. I’m not really scared of clowns, but with the new movie It, I figured it was a pretty good place to be in if I wanted to be able to scare people. Once we had our character assignments, we went to an actors’ tent and sat and waited to be called back to get our costumes, hair, and makeup. We aren’t allowed to show pictures of hair and makeup until after the end of the haunted house season, but just take my word for it when I say it was pretty much everything you’d expect clown makeup to be. After a brief actors’ meeting, we were put in position for people to start coming through the haunted house.

Pretty much what I was doing in the haunted house was standing in a hallway and jump scaring groups of people as they walked by. Scaring people was admittedly fun. Because of the lighting and other effects, often times people couldn’t tell if I was a real or a fake clown, so they were extra scared when I jumped out at them screaming. I made a lot of people jump, scream, and I even made one guy fall on the floor which was pretty funny (don’t worry he wasn’t hurt). It was especially funny when I’d really scare a person and the other members of their group would voice how they were impressed. While there were obviously a few people who didn’t get scared which was a little awkward when you’re right in their face, I was able to scare most groups. However, my feet, knees and back HURT. I have a bad back and knees anyway, so standing straight against a wall for four hours was pretty brutal. On top of that, I was sweaty, I was hungry, and my throat hurt from screaming. It was a long four hours for sure.

Overall though, I’d say I had a pretty positive experience and definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone. It was fun getting to play a totally different character and scare people. It was also really cool to get a behind the scenes look at what goes on at a haunted house. It’s easier to not be afraid when you realize that it’s just actors in costumes playing a carefully crafted part. It was more difficult than I expected in terms of the physicality of the job, but I know it was for a good cause in fundraising for one of my clubs. I don’t know if I’ll be on the other side of a haunted house any time soon (I’m still a pretty big chicken) but it was fun to try something completely new to me and do something a little “outrageous” to celebrate the season.

-Jess

The Non-Morning Person’s Guide to Registration

9 Oct

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I am not a morning person. I admire those people that are, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself enjoy mornings. So when I know that registration is coming up and I’m going to have to be on UAccess at 6am to register for my classes, I’m not a happy camper. Since I struggle so much with mornings, I do everything I can to make early morning registration go as smoothly (and quickly) as possible so I can go back to bed before class. Here are my top tips to having a smooth registration.

  1. Meet with your advisor at least two weeks before your registration date. This way you’ll know you’re taking what you need to in order to stay on track with your four year plan. If you don’t have a four year plan, this is a great time to make one so that you have a general idea of where you’re going and what you need to take to graduate on time.
  2. Make sure your shopping cart has all of your classes in it before the morning of registration. If your shopping cart is loaded up, all you have to do on that morning is wake up, click enroll, and go back to sleep ASAP.
  3. Explore UAccess prior to registration and know what to do to enroll. There’s a lot going on in UAccess. Take 15 minutes the week before registration to walk yourself through the enrollment process. This prevents a scenario where 6:00 hits on registration morning and you’re completely lost on UAccess and all of your classes fill up. Taking the 15 minutes to do a simple walkthrough can save you a lot of time and trouble later on.
  4. Set multiple alarms. Waking up early is pretty much the worst. I don’t know how many times I’ve overslept because I thought I hit snooze when I actually turned my alarm off. Waking up that early is hard but not getting into the classes you need is probably harder. Make sure that you’re up on time and ready.
  5. Have a backup plan and a backup backup plan. Some classes fill up pretty much the second the clock hits 6:00, no matter how fast you click the enroll button. If you have a backup plan, you’ll at least be able to add something into your schedule so you aren’t stuck with no classes. And if you don’t get the particular time, professor, or class that you really want, you can check in later in the semester to see if it has open spots. It’s better to be in something that isn’t your top choice than nothing at all.
  6. Have a backup computer plan. As great as technology is, it fails sometimes (usually at the most inconvenient time possible). Have a backup plan for registration, whether that’s your phone, roommate’s computer, or head to the library. You don’t want your computer to crash and spend the whole morning panicking.
  7. Wake up at 5:45 to make sure that your computer and internet are working. Waking up just a few minutes early gives you time to troubleshoot any computer or internet problems. If your internet is down and you have to run to the nearest Starbucks with free wifi or if your computer decided to install updates overnight, give yourself a buffer to deal with these issues.
  8. Don’t refresh UAccess while waiting for your classes to be confirmed. It’s really tempting when you’re waiting and it seems like nothing’s happening. However, if you refresh the page you’ll have to start all over and there’s a greater chance your classes won’t be available. Even if it seems like the page isn’t loading, it’s actually working and you should get a confirmation soon. You have to remember that there’s thousands of other students doing the exact same thing at the exact same time, so the system gets a little slow.
  9. Don’t panic and be patient. If you don’t get your classes right away or if your computer crashes at 5:59, panicking isn’t going to solve anything. Stay calm and readjust your schedule as best as possible (good thing you have that backup plan, right?). If a class is something you absolutely have to be in or if you end up needing additional department permission to get in the class, shoot a quick email to your advisor and be patient. They’re super busy these few weeks (especially on registration day) but they will get back to you as soon as they can.

Registration isn’t fun, especially if you’re like me and don’t do mornings well. If you’re prepared and on top of the situation, it’ll be smooth sailing and you’ll be back to sleep in no time.

Happy Registration!

-Jess

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#StudiousSeptember: Busy Schedule Organization

26 Sep

Staying organized and having good time management is really hard, especially after coming back from summer break. I know that it’s definitely one of the things I struggle with the most: balancing classes, work, homework, and extracurricular activities. But this year I really made it a priority to manage my time well and stay more organized on a weekly basis and for the whole semester. Through a lot of trial and error, this semester I’ve really figured out what works for me to keep myself organized and on top of things. While what works best for me might not be what works best for you, here are my top tips on how to keep track of everything that’s going on and stay organized for the semester.

  1. Utilize a planner for long-term organization. I’ve always bought planners and then failed to use them past the first week. This semester, though, I’ve been utilizing my planner to keep track of dates of assignments, exams, club meetings, and events. It’s really helped me not only remember what I have going on, but also be proactive in studying and doing assignments. It keeps me aware when I have a busier week coming up to do things in advance. Since I’m in multiple clubs that have lots of weekend events, it’s also helped a lot with scheduling and keeping track of what I have on the weekends.
  2. Use lists for day to day activities. Every week, I make a list of all of the assignments, exams, meetings, and events I have for the upcoming week. Because of this, I don’t forget that I have things due and can plan when to do school work between meetings.
  3. Break up tasks into manageable action steps. “Read pages 30-35 and do the first 5 practice problems” is a lot more specific than “study for math test”. This helps me make the most of study time by having a plan of action and limits a lot of unproductive work time.
  4. It’s ok to say no. Sometimes you can’t attend every club event, study group, or meeting, help that friend, and take on that extra project at work. You can’t always do everything (something that’s been hard for me to learn), and it’s important to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and making sure you have time for yourself.
  5. Plan times during the day for homework and studying and stick to it. If this means reserving a study room in the library for two hours, turning off your phone, putting on headphones to avoid distraction, or just being disciplined, making yourself use a certain block of time will make sure that you get stuff done. It will also free up a lot of other time that would otherwise be wasted and used for procrastination.
  6. Do work in advance. I am the worst procrastinator in the world and constantly put things off until right before they do. This causes stress, late nights, lower caliber work, and sometimes not getting things done. Do your best to do things in advance and save yourself this trouble.

Hopefully these tips help you either stay or get on track for the rest of the semester! I know they’ve helped me.

-Jess