Tag Archives: Academic Success and Achievement

START NOW!

13 Feb

Successfully preparing for exams is one of the hardest things to learn when coming to college. I know that I still have not mastered this art, but I have picked up a few tricks to avoid procrastinating.

Exams are administered so that you can show that you fully understand the material presented in class. In high school, it was easy to study for exams the night before and come to the test completely prepared. I know I didn’t have spend days slaving over the books to get an A on a test. It was a huge wake up call when I had to take a college exam.

After I took my first exam in college, I realized that studying the night before left me under prepared, and subsequently my grades plummeted. I needed an action plan, but I didn’t know how to study. Where to begin?

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How to Study: College Style

1. Attend every lecture.

I know this concept may sound silly, but the truth is that it’s easy to skip class. Sometimes life gets in the way, but the best way to prepare for an exam is to have all of the information presented in class. You never want to miss class and play catch up for the exam.

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2. Start Early.

Start studying the minute you get the information. By going over the information early, you can get help with material you don’t understand. You can learn the material as fast or as slow as you need to, with no time crunch. By starting early, you can reduce the amount of stress you have come exam time because you have been preparing all along. 200-9

3. Have confidence.

Have confidence in how you study, how you learn, how you organize, and how smart you really are. Keep your head high and know that you are smart enough to ACE that exam. I know that helped me a lot when I walked into an exam. Never think you are going to fail – when you prepare, you do well.

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The best way to be successful in an exam is to be prepared and to have good mind set. Plus it’s the best feeling when you know you just aced that exam because of all the hard work you put in.

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If you need a good outline for a study schedule, click here for an awesome seven day study plan!

-Laura

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Major Changes With Major Changes

30 Jan

I’ve always seen myself as a determined student. Someone who knows what to do and how to do it.

THEN I CAME TO COLLEGE.

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I came into college with one goal in mind: to become a lawyer. I thought being a lawyer was my destiny, my calling, my life. I knew becoming a lawyer was going to make my family extremely proud of me, which frankly is a serious and big goal in my life. Having a proud family is a big deal for me.

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Being a first generation student in his freshman year, I childishly thought I had my entire life figured out. I remember letting everyone in my freshman year dorm know of my goals, constantly repeating the phrase “I’m going to be a lawyer.”

And I believed it too.

Things started to change during the first semester of my sophomore year, once I started to take courses required for my major. I was not doing so great in them and even thinking about my major would stress me out.

I felt as if I were an alien in a foreign land, unaware of what to do next.

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I realized that I was feeling all of this because I wasn’t truly passionate about the subjects I had to focus on to succeed in my major.

I felt like a coffee aficionado being forced to drink water for the rest of his life.coffee animated GIF

I began to wonder if I truly wanted to be a lawyer. I felt scared, ashamed, and clueless.

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I wanted out.

I knew I wasn’t meant to go through college with doubt and dissatisfaction. I knew I had to make this experience my own, I had to formulate a plan that would get me where I need to be, where I truly want to be.

I forced myself to focus on MY goals and dreams, not anyone else’s. I realized college is a place for students to advance their knowledge on the things that they truly want to learn about, not what they think will make their parents proud. Although this is a big goal for many students, as it is for me, it is not all that students should focus on. At the end of the day, if you are passionate about something, you will always be eager to learn about it, which only guarantees your success.

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If you truly set your mind on the things you love, you can accomplish them.

And THAT will definitely make people proud.

I encourage students to reflect on their educational and professional goals throughout their college experience. Think of all of the high stake decisions you’ve had to make, and the many you know you’ll have to make. Focus on what your goals are, memorize the steps you need to take in order achieve them, and succeed. Remember, sometimes change is good.

Good luck, wildcats.

– Julian

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“Going Off Script” with Your Education

25 Apr

If I’m remembering my freshman orientation correctly, we were all given pre-generated course schedules, quickly introduced to UAccess, and then told to change our schedule around however we like. Well, at first, that’s great! So much power! It’s our first real opportunity to make our own decisions and finally have some say in how we spend our academic lives. All good things for sure. However, if I am in fact remembering orientation correctly, I was also very confused, definitely on the brink of heat exhaustion, and so overloaded with information that I didn’t even know how to start. I think I ended up halfheartedly scrolling through some courses, swapping one gen-ed out for another, and then calling it a day. The result? A huge block of core classes with some pretty random gen-eds sprinkled in (at very inconvenient times of the day, might I add). It is only when you realize you have six straight hours of pre-calculus, English, and chemistry (don’t forget the lab!), that you realize you probably should have rearranged a few things for the sake of your sanity.

Making your perfect schedule is easy, said no freshman ever. It’s true. Priority registration can be a frustrating time. Maybe all the courses that you so carefully selected end up being closed by the time you register. Or maybe the only section available is at 8:00am and you don’t really enjoy taking economics with your morning coffee. Such are the qualms of a first year Wildcat. The good news? As you move up in the “registration food chain,” the more options and flexibility you will have with your schedule. Your job is to make sure you take advantage of it!

By now you have had a couple rounds of registration completely on your own. No pre-made schedule. Just you, UAccess, and your ability to strategize how much time you will need to get from Harvill to Modern Languages in time for your next class. Crafting the perfect schedule is an art form, really. But carefully selecting your classes isn’t all about convenience. It’s an opportunity to personalize your education!

There are 4 key components to individualizing your college career:

1. Shop Around.

Take some time to get to know UAccess. If your skills are only at “basic survival” so far, now is the time to familiarize yourself with all the different features of your main registration tool. Once you know all the different ways to filter your search, you can hone it to your specific interests, degree requirements, and preferred time frames.

Make sure to use your other main resource: YOUR PEERS. Your ears should be perking up every time you hear that someone is enjoying a class. Ask them about it! Why do they like about it? What’s the study load like? How’s the instructor’s teaching style? If all their answers sound good to you (and you trust the person’s judgement), why not try it out yourself?

For the most part, I only knew my most interesting classes existed because of word of mouth. We can easily get limited by our declared major when it comes to searching for classes, so it’s a great idea to ask people outside your college (especially upperclassmen). The good classes tend to fill up quick, so start asking around…

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2. Know Yourself..

Know when you are most likely to be alert, productive, and motivatedThen make sure to apply that to your schedule! I know. I know. Again, easier said than done. Sometimes there is just no getting around an inconvenient schedule, but being mindful of your personal (and biological needs–you know, food, water, sleep) is a big step in taking an active part in your life, rather than remaining bound to your academic demands alone.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that while creating a well-timed schedule is important, do not fall victim to convenience either! If you have been eyeing a really cool sounding course for a couple semesters now, (but it’s always at four in the afternoon), don’t miss out on it just because it’s at a less than ideal time! Balance isn’t about equality in every area of your life. It’s about weighing the costs and benefits, and carrying out your priorities accordingly.

3. Go Off Script.

Tools like Degree Search and Smart Planner are great for creating your four-year plan as they offer a general overview of your coursework and degree requirements. However, much like that schedule you were handed at your orientation, these are only suggested plans. You can look at them kind of like degree templates. The structure and relative timeline of your core classes (i.e. the required courses for your degree) are included, but when it comes to upper division credits, electives, and which semesters you take them, that’s pretty much up to you!

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4. Get Creative

Did you know that you can invent your own minor? Not every degree requires a declared minor, but if that’s the case, it doesn’t have to be a chore! It can actually be a great chance to take classes outside your major and be a little crafty with your education. These are called Thematic Minors.

The process for declaring a thematic minor is fairly simple. All you have to do is create a proposal that outlines courses from two or more subject areas and how they apply to a common theme. This is then approved by your advisor or college.  For instance, I was able to blend my nursing prerequisite courses with the coursework I had already completed for a linguistic minor. The result? I declared a thematic minor in biolinguistics. Fancy, huh? It’s a pretty cool way to take classes that seemingly are “just for fun,” and also get credit for them!

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The beauty of degree-seeking is that as long as you complete your degree requirements, the rest is up to you! You can explore other fields of study, gain experience through an internship, or even take up a fitness class. Take every opportunity to put yourself into your eduction and add in aspects to your education that are going to motivate and excite you.  That way, when you look at your four year plan, it’s not “I have to take another Tier II INDV,” it’s “I get to take a class on Werewolves and Vampires!”

 

–Franny

Ring Ring! Your Future’s on the Line!

4 Apr

These days, it seems like everything is going digital. Interviews are the same (at least that’s what Franny and Tori have experienced). They’ve put together their top tech tips to help you click with your interviewers, even if you’re half way across the world! Whether you’re in front of a screen or have the phone to your ear, seizing these opportunities take strategy! See what Franny has to say about video-conferences while Tori shares her experience with phone interviews:

1. Set the stage. Find a quiet space with minimal distractions.

  • Franny: when you’re viewing somebody through a screen (or they’re viewing you), you don’t want them to be distracted by the “hang in there, baby” kitten poster floating by your head or have them reading your bookshelf. Pick a fairly bare, private room where you can speak at a comfortable volume. Also, if you’re taking the call at home or in a place with other people, let them know not to disturb you during that time (and lock the door!). (Tip: you can reserve study rooms at the UA library for up to 2 hours!)

It also goes the other way, too! You don’t want to be distracted by things around you, or worse, internet tabs you have open. Don’t have anything unnecessary open on your computer, especially something that may make noise like Facebook (ding! Whatserface poked you, and now you only have 0.5% chance of getting that job you were interviewing for!).

  • Tori: This goes double for phone interviews. Even though your interviewer can’t see you, you need to focus all of your energy into making sure you’re listening carefully. For some reason, it’s much more difficult to understand questions over the phone. Maybe because you can’t see the person’s mouth going along with the words they’re speaking… I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. So, pick a nice quiet place where you won’t get distracted.

2. Troubleshoot all technology beforehand!

  • Franny: Make sure you understand the technology you will be using before the big day! Whether it’s Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts, do a trial run with a friend to make sure the tech-status on your end is good to go. For instance, every time I sign into Skype, the settings automatically default to “external microphone” rather than my laptop’s own mic-system. This means people can’t hear me until I change the settings! Make sure you work out those kinds of glitches beforehand so you don’t have any surprises during show time!

Also, be prepared if something does go wrong! I have had the internet go out as I was answering a question and didn’t realize they were completely frozen (and disconnected) until I was finished. It’s a bit disorienting when your tech fails, but just remember to stay calm! Being able to continue from where you left off shows you can handle pressure, react in crisis-mode, and move on.

  • Tori: Avoid the awkward “can you hear me now?” conversation with phone interviews. It’s best to use a landline so you know you won’t get disconnected, but I think landlines are becoming a bit like mythical unicorns (meaning they don’t exist…). Personally, I only have a cell phone, and that’s what I used for my interview. It works fine if you don’t have another option, but make sure you’re in a place with full coverage so you won’t drop the call.

3. Know who is interviewing you.

  • Franny: This one is just a good rule for any interview, but something about not meeting your interviewers in person makes it more difficult to remember their names! If you have multiple interviewers, things get even trickier. Sometimes they might be physically sharing the screen (by cramming together in the camera view) or they will be sharing screens digitally (which means alternating screens popping up when different people talk). To tame the chaos, try to get their names before the interview, and make sure to write down their names when they introduce themselves. This makes following up with them easier, sending thank you notes more personable, and making second interviews go much smoother!
  • Tori: I think Franny said it all! I had a phone interview where four people were on the other end, and as they introduced themselves, I jotted down names so I could find them easily when I was finished. Phone interviews can be a bit more difficult because, if you have more than one interviewer, you need to go based off of the sound of their voices and can’t match a face to that sound. So, when you go to write that awesome personalized thank you and want to say, “So-and-so, I really enjoyed our conversation about _____,” it may be a bit more difficult to parse out who said what. But do try!

4. You’re never fully dressed without a smile!

  • Franny: This one seems a little obvious, but hey, the face does weird things when you’re nervous. Even though it can be extra nerve-wracking when you are in front of a camera, try your best to relax and be yourself. This means smiling, blinking like a normal human, and making sure your body language isn’t distracting. Also, video conferences have their own kind of distractor–YOU! Try not to look at yourself on the screen, but rather the camera on your computer. This is like the digital-version of good eye contact. (Of course, it’s not your fault that your so attractive it’s distracting,  but do your best to resist!)
  • Tori: Why do you need to smile when you’re on the phone? They can’t see you! Well, that may be true but you can hear when someone smiles. Try it! Introduce yourself without a smile, then say the exact same thing with a smile on your face. It sounds different! That smile comes through on the phone, so even if you look like a weirdo sitting in a room on the phone, by yourself, smiling to yourself, do it.

5. …you’re also never fully dressed without pants.

  • Franny: Before my last interview, I was searching Skype-interview tips (yeah, whatever, I’m a nerdy over-preparer) and I came across this gem: “Even if you don’t think you will need them, wear pants.” Maybe this tip is a joke, but really, dress as you would for a normal interview. Yes, they will only see the top half of your body, but you never know when you might have to get up to grab that pen (that you may have thrown across the floor from nervous fidgeting)– leave nothing to chance! Dress appropriately and modestly and you’ll be just fine. (Need some help with that? Check out this Pinterest Board to make sure you’re camera-ready!)
  • Tori: On the phone, it can be even more tempting to skip the pants. Or a shirt. Don’t! Even though there is literally no chance they will ever see you in your undies over the phone (unless you accidentally FaceTime with them…), being fully dressed puts you in a different mindset than when you’re in your pajammies. I would suggest wearing what you would to an in-person interview, but if your immediate reaction to that is “pfft, nope”, at the very least, wear something that you feel confident and powerful in. And take off those earrings! You don’t want to miss a question because they’re clacking against the phone.

6. Have a copy of your resume and a notepad to take notes.

  • Franny: It’s likely they have a copy of your professional documents with them, so make sure you do, too! I don’t think any of us have our resume memorized, so keep it handy for reference if they mention something specific. That being said, use it ONLY for reference! After all, you should know what your experience, skills, and accomplishments are, so don’t let them catch you reading it during the interview. Also, make sure you have reviewed the cover letter or letter of interest that you sent them. We all have different versions of the same letter, so remind yourself which sparkling personality traits and experiences you outlined so that you can better expand on them during the interview!
  • Tori: The notepad is especially important for phone interviews. I need a visual to make sense of anything, so those infamous multi-parter questions are always quite the challenge for me. One benefit to having a phone interview is that I can jot down words to remind me of what I should be answering (in a video or in-person video, eye contact is usually more important so I can’t stop and take notes!). Also jot down things you want to remember to talk about or might have trouble remembering once you get a bit flustered (and everyone gets flustered!).

7. You only got one shot. So prepare, practice, and perform!

  • Franny: Just like with any interview, take some time to prepare and practice! When you’re researching the position you’re interested in, look up the company’s mission statement and try to get a feel for their goals as a whole. Also, look closely at the job description. Which qualities do they emphasize? What kind of employees does it seem like they are looking for? Try to incorporate these little tidbits that you find throughout your interview. It will show that you took the time to look into the job and that you are thoughtful when it comes to joining their team.
  • Tori: When interviewing for graduate assistantships for graduate programs, I looked over at least 50 job descriptions. No joke. Each school had me rank 5-7 of those many, leaving me with quite a few different jobs to interview for (as you may remember…). It was a bit rough to remember all of the details that Franny mentioned above. I was definitely thrown a few curve balls, with positions asking me if I’d had a chance to look over their website and mission statement and to talk about what I saw. I learned the valuable lesson – really know those pieces well. You never know when you’ll be asked about it. The benefit to a phone interview is that you can have those in front of you for reference! Also, practice answering questions over the phone with a friend to make sure you’re not talking too quietly, or yelling in someone’s ear, that you sound put together, and that you sound happy!

8. Shine bright like a diamond!

  • Franny: So you’re sitting alone in that bare, quiet room just waiting for a video chat to pop up on your screen. They said that they would call at 10:00am, thirty seconds have already passed, and all you can hear is your heartbeat in your ears…is that too dramatic? Okay, maybe you don’t get as nervous as I do, but the point is that nerves are going to happen! Remember to breathe, relax, and let your personality shine through! The problem with a Skype-interview is that you are already losing the personable element of shaking someone’s hand and sitting next to them. Your job is to make sure they still get a chance to know you as a person beyond your resume and through the screen. Don’t be afraid to throw in some of your natural humor or maybe a less than flattering story–you’re painting them a picture about yourself, so it might as well have some color!
  • Tori: The “personable element” that Franny refers to is pretty much nil when you have a phone interview. I don’t know the exact figure, but something like 90% of the impressions people have of us is based on body language and facial expressions, not what we say. Over a video, you lose some, but over the phone, you lose a whole lot more. All you really have is your voice, so again be as enthusiastic (smile!) as possible and try to make sure to let yourself shine through your answers.

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–Tori and Franny

 

5 Steps To a Focused Finish

28 Mar

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Okay, so we all know we need some time to “recover” from our week of relaxing on spring break (#studentproblems, am I right?). I don’t know about you, but I have a few piles of neglected laundry to do and I probably should have gotten a head start on some assignments. Procrastination happens, but now that we’ve had a week to get back into the groove of things, let’s talk staying focused these last 7 weeks and finishing STRONG.

Because I will be graduating in May, this is my final semester here at the UA (hey, that rhymed!). That being said, my mind is constantly wandering elsewhere which means my immediate academic concerns keep taking a backseat. So if you’re feeling a little distracted, I feel ya, but have no fear! I have devised a strategic plan for us to get through this semester together and it even comes in list form (for those who respond best to information presented in the “BuzzFeed” format.)

Five Steps to a Focused Finish

 

1. Look it up. Write it down.

Remember that planner you got at the beginning of the year? Or…you know, maybe forgot to get? Now is the time to blow off the dust and put it to use. Also, while you’re digging around in your long-forgotten papers, find those syllabi!

It’s good practice to write down each and every deadline you receive at the beginning of the year, but now that we only have seven weeks left, getting those last assignment deadlines down is not only a good way to remind yourself about what you have coming up, but it also gives you a nice foreseeable timeline (with light at the end of the tunnel!).

Other ways to organize your dates and deadlines:

  •          Schedule it on your phone (with reminder notifications)
  •          Use Google Calendar
  •          Use sticky notes
  •          Make weekly to-do lists (and make sure to cross them off as you go! It’s sooo satisfying.)
  •          Use a whiteboard.
  •          Use your MIRROR (it’s hard to ignore things when they are literally staring you in the face…)

2. Prioritize

Okay, so now that you have all your to-do’s, dates, deadlines, and impending freak-outs (just kidding—you’ll do great), now it’s time to prioritize your tasks based on how much time they will require to do properly and how much time you actually have to finish them. Sounds like quite the process, but really it’s just about being realistic and disciplined with yourself.

  • First, identify which tasks are more “sit-down-til-you’re-done” types of assignments (i.e. math homework, quizzes, discussion prompts, etc.) and which are more like projects (group assignments, papers, presentations, etc.).
  • Second, consider all the outside factors that go into completing them:
    • are group members involved?
    • do you need to visit an instructors’s office hours?
    • will you need someone to look over your work?
  • Finally, consider all your personal factors:
    • do you know you work best in the morning? or in the evening?
    • how many editing days will you feel comfortable with?
  • And, moving on to Step #3….

3. Break down your time.

 Now, let’s get down to business. The key to an effective “master plan” is details, details, details. Now that you generally know when you need to be working on certain tasks, let’s break down each week, each day, and each hour. 

What’s that? You think that’s a little overboard? You bet your butt it is. And that is how we stay focused, team. Over-preparation. 

Thanks to Step #1 and #2, you now have your wonderful list of dates and deadlines, so let’s commit to a schedule!

  • First, map out a relative timeline for yourself. As you outline your “master plan,”  consider those external and personal factors that might affect your timing, determine which week and specific day(s) you plan to work on each individual assignment and how much time you foresee needing to complete them.
  • Second, write it down.
    • commit to periods of time that:
      • specify which tasks you are completing
      • when you will start and stop
      • how much you plan to have completed by the stop-time
    • Make it visual! There are many ways to organize your timeline, but here are just a few:

4.  Set Goals

Setting goals every step of the way not only automatically structures your time, it also keeps you from getting too overwhelmed!

For example, let’s say you have a paper, a bunch of little assignments, and an exam in the same week (ugh…you poor thing). Instead of cramming for the test, slapping together the essay, and frantically trying to complete the assignments all at the same time, setting specific time periods for each assignment has a built-in stress reliever (you get to stop once the time period is done, feel like you have accomplished what you set out to do, and move on to something else).

Tips:

  • make them specific
  • make them task and time based
  • completion shouldn’t be your only goal. Make sure your “progress checks” (i.e. finishing an outline, completing three math assignments, synthesizing data into a chart, etc.) are taken into account and celebrated, too!

5. Reward Thyself.

Don’t wait until you have finished an assignment completely to reward yourself! The beauty of your “master plan” is that you have little accomplishments sprinkled throughout each week. Obviously you shouldn’t go out for ice cream after you have picked out the theme for your PowerPoint slides. Let’s be judicious with our celebrations here. But keep in mind those mini “lights at the end of the tunnel” and use them to motivate you through these last couple of months.

 

So, yes. In the end it turns out organization and forethought are the keys to a focused semester. Not mind blowing, I know, but effective nonetheless. Take the time in between midterms and finals to get organized for this last push to the end. You will thank yourself later and yes….you get a reward at the end!

 

–Franny

 

The Metamorphosis of Spring Break

7 Mar

It’s no secret that spring break is a pretty big deal for us college kids. Whether you are a new student to the Wildcat life or if you have been Bearing Down for a couple years now, you probably start the spring semester with a few big things to look forward to, and one of those involves taking part in the most important week for students across the country: spring break.

The allure of having a week off to have the time of your life is extremely exciting. It’s quite possible that spring break could be the biggest moment of your semester, even the highlight of your life. I mean, just think about it.

The possibilities for greatness are endless. Spring break has definitely taken on a life of its own. Like many other students entering college, spring break symbolized a transcendent experience for me—one in which I was finally able to throw down like an adult and do some crazy stuff. And I have to admit, I intended to make the most of my spring break vacations by going out as much as possible.

I came into college thinking about all of the fun that I would have. I was mostly intrigued with the buildup to spring break. I was thinking Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Rico, California, Jamaica, anywhere with a beach, sun, and piña coladas. As a youngin’ (before I was 21) this was exactly what I envisioned.

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or this

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Of course, it never really worked out quite like this picture, but hey, I did my best with what I had. Without giving too much detail about my previous experiences, I would say that I lived up to most of my expectations of what I wanted spring break to be (minus traveling to Puerto Rico and Jamaica). For freshman and sophomore year, I thoroughly enjoyed going out and having as much fun as possible.

But after dealing with some heavy course loads during my sophomore and now my junior year, my view on spring break changed dramatically. I rarely spend anytime back home with my mom. I can count on one hand how many times I was able to make the trip back down to Rio Rico during the entire year. Sometimes all I want to do after a crazy week at school is spend some time with my family and our crazy dogs.

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This is Malika. She likes to sleep like a sloth.

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And this girl is just the most playful pitbull you could ever meet!

But, with the added responsibility that comes with pursing an education, working everyday, and outside commitments, it just didn’t allow me to take much time off for myself.

It’s safe to say that I had reached a boiling point. I started to feel very overwhelmed with school and realized that I had no free time during the year and was desperately waiting for spring break to come around and save me from going crazy.

You might be feeling this way as well.

My response to feeling burnt out was a sense of dissatisfaction once spring break came around. By this point, I was just so exhausted that I didn’t even want to go out that much. This feeling was me coming to the realization that, after spending the whole year trying to keep up with the faced paced university life, the last thing I wanted to do was to try and keep up with the mainstream hustle and bustle of spring break. This spring break, I am going to cruise in the slow lane.

Part of this means that I won’t be out searching for the wildest parties or craziest events. Rather, I am going to take my time and do some meaningful travel with my family–enjoying whatever falls in our path and relieving ourselves of the day-to-day stress that we go through. And I am more excited for the spring break than I have ever been!

I am not in favor of trying to lecture you into thinking about spring break differently by any means. If anything, I want you to do whatever makes you happy during your well-deserved time away from school. Whether you stay local or travel far, this is your time to do to with it whatever your heart desires. All that I am trying to point out is that at some point you will find out what that free time really means to you. You don’t have to go all out during this one week. You might tire yourself out more than you realize.

Plus, how much can you really cram into one week?

If I think about some of the more popular things to do on spring break, travel, beach fun, and nightlife come to mind. The traveling and finding a spot along the beach take up a lot of time. And why drive all the way to California, for example, and not take in all of the beautiful sights along the way? Or stop by a fruit stand and get some fresh oranges, maybe even dare to take a nibble at some of the street food, or talk to a few locals in a new place.

From my perspective, its the small things that count.  So if it feels right take the time slow down for a few minutes. I promise it will be worth it.

 

–Ciara

(Facili-) ‘Tators Talk Travel

7 Mar
As a group, we must say that we Outreach Facilitators are pretty well traveled! And since we have traveled by plane, train, car, boat, hot air balloon, and just about any way there is to move, we’re basically experts. With spring break travel upon us, we thought it would be helpful to gather some tips for the new travelers among us! Here’s what we have to say about packing, planning, and peregrination (that’s a good word—you’re welcome).

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How do you know what to pack? What not to pack? What about TSA or international regulations?

  • Lauren: I always check the weather two weeks before I leave to get a projection of what will happen, then I make a list of things I want to pack. One week before the trip, I check the weather again and adjust my list…THEN I RELAX. Take a step back for a few days and daydream about the things I will be doing on my trip. Two days before I leave, I pack according to the  list and the daydreams.
  • Franny: When it comes to flying, help your future self out when it comes to the carry-on bag and try to only pack what you will absolutely need throughout your transit-time. It’s no fun having to separate a million things so that they can go through security. The people behind you get impatient, you get flustered, and it is much more likely that you will forget something in one of those bins! It’s better to pack the absolute necessities (wallet, book, music device, light jacket, etc.) and jam the rest in your checked bag.
    • As for TSA regulations and international restrictions, LOOK THEM UP. No one likes to get all the way to security only to have to go back to check the item or throwing it away entirely! (I don’t know how many tubes of toothpaste I have had to throw away). When in doubt, either ask the airline beforehand, check it, or just plan on getting it at your destination.

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What about international traveling? What should you keep in mind when it comes to vaccinations, health care, and laws?

  • Valeria: When traveling internationally it is always a good idea to have international health insurance. International health insurance is a precaution that you want to take when traveling to a new country. One that I have used in the past has been GeoBlue International Health Insurance.
  • Kaelyn: When traveling internationally, I think it’s important to take copies of your passport, driver’s license, and any other forms of identification. Keep these copies in your luggage or give them to someone you’re traveling with to keep. The last thing you want is to lose your backpack or purse and be stranded in a foreign country without any forms of identification!  It’s also important to make sure you bring enough cash or a credit / debit card that for sure works outside the U.S.  I toured Europe a couple years ago and the credit card I brought with me did not work internationally, so I was unable to withdraw any money.  I had to borrow money from my friend the entire trip, so make sure that doesn’t happen to you!

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What do you do when your travel plans go awry?

  • Lucero: Life happens, and sometimes it doesn’t happen in the manner you want it to. Experiences are all about personal perception. If things derail from the perfect plan, embrace the new direction! Make the most out of it. A new direction is always a new opportunity to expand and experience beyond your guided plans. Perhaps these new experiences will prove more notable and timeworthy. Keep an open mind to the possibilities and changes.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”–Laozi
  • Lauren: STAY CALM. If you get worked up (like I can tend to do) it will be harder to concentrate and think on your feet. It is so easy to get caught up in the what ifs, so make it easier on yourself and don’t even go there.

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How do you pick travel tunes?

  • Tori: It’s totally one of those things that you don’t realize is so important until you didn’t prepare! On my last flight, I had forgotten to make myself a fun, relaxing playlist to get me pumped for the trip and calm my nerves. As a result, I kept having to search through my phone to find the song I wanted next. Not cool. On the way to my destination, I usually have a few butterflies in my stomach, so I like to go with my favorite, soothing songs. My personal picks for this task – Weezer and The Black Keys. They keep me perfectly balanced between excitement and relaxation.
    • Use your playlist to set the tone for your adventure by choosing songs with the perfect beat to express what you want this trip to be – whether that’s relaxing slow songs, upbeat stuff to get you pumped up for the thrill ahead, or anything in between!
  • Lauren: I like to listen to the music of the region if I am traveling out of the country.
  • Franny: Okay, this may sound a little nerdy, but I like to load audiobooks onto my phone. For some reason, reading books during flights makes me incredibly sleepy, which is unfortunate because I find it really difficult to actually fall asleep! And for road trips, forget about it. I get carsick by the time I’ve finished a page. With audiobooks, I can close my eyes, relax, and throwback to my kinder-days when someone would read me stories!
    • I use the Audible App. The first month is a FREE trial and you get a free audiobook when you sign in with your Amazon account.
    • PRO TIP: do you have reading for an assignment to do? Well, if you know you’ve got some travel time coming up, invest in the audiobook version…hey, you’re just bringing a new dimension into your learning, right?
  • Kaelyn: Road trips can be tricky if you’re traveling with a group. Who gets to choose the tunes? Well, I’ve found that the best thing to do is think about it beforehand. Have each person contribute and set a rule that there is no making fun of another person’s choices.

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How do you make plans with others?

  • Vero: I always find myself to be a perfectionist. This is the case when planning vacations too. When I travel with my friends, I usually put everything on a Google Doc and then share it with them. This way they can all see what the plan is and add comments accordingly.
    • Franny: to add to Vero’s awesome idea, go ahead and make a “driver” schedule, too! Who is going to take the first shift? Who’s the lucky duck who gets the awful 2:00am-5:00am shift? Whoever is in the front passenger seat should also be prepared to keep that driver talking, singing along to music, or whatever it takes to keep them alert. If you know you have a long trek ahead of you, consider each other’s abilities to be safe drivers during less than ideal times.
  • Lauren: I am a big planner, but sometimes it is better to have the foundation/skeleton of a plan and fill it in when everyone is there. No one likes to feel left out and/or labeled the decision maker for the group. Go with the flow, but have a general plan to fall back on.

So, you’re in a place you have never been. Now what do you do?

  • Tori: Find someone friendly! When I flew to Denver (my first flight by myself!), the grandmotherly woman next to me on the plane was so nice and offered to let me go with her and her husband to find baggage claim. Then, my shuttle driver had some awesome suggestions about what I could do in Fort Collins since I’d never been there before. If you’re new to an area, don’t be afraid to ask the locals for their advice! Most will be more than happy to help out!
  • Lucero: The beauty about not knowing your location is the possibility of what you can find! Get out there and explore! Don’t be afraid to get lost. That’s how you find your way and get the most memorable experiences! Every location I have ever traveled, I’ve gone out and explored on my own. The thrill, mystery, and the knowledge of knowing you are somewhere new is definitely worth every second!

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What if your plane get delayed or canceled?

  • Valeria: Always purchase insurance on your ticket, just to be safe.
  • Franny: I recently had this happen because of a crazy snow storm! About an hour before my flight, I got an email that my departure flight AND transfer flight had been cancelled. If you find yourself stranded like I was, the first thing you want to do is talk to an airline representative. They have the entire system at their fingertips and are likely to know the ins-and-outs of flying dilemmas better than you. Another thing to keep in mind is that you may have to find a creative way of getting home–and that sometimes includes a little detour. I ended up having to hitch a ride to Baltimore instead of flying out of Washington, D.C. Depending on the urgency of  your situation, changing airlines, airports, or cities altogether is an inconvenient, but effective option!

What do you do if you don’t speak the language and you get lost?

  • Tori: When I was in high school, I went on a trip to England with 10 other students and our two chaperones. We spent our last day before coming home in Paris. Since we had a very limited time, we were running around the whole time. In that one day, and really it was only 12 hours, we saw the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Seine, visited Notre Dame. Well, we were so caught up in everything that we missed the bus that would get us to the location of another bus that would get us to the train station. So we ran for it. We were looking for an opera house and could not, for the life of us, find it. With limited time, we started asking everyone we could for help. It took awhile, but eventually we found someone who spoke Spanish, and someone in our group was able to  communicate that way.
    Maybe not the best way to handle that sitch, so I would definitely suggest learning a few key phrases or bringing a phrase book. Even if you’re speaking the language horribly, they’ll appreciate the effort. Also bring a map so you can resort to charades if need be!

What if I’m a picky eater?

  • Hannah: When you visit a different country, you have to be aware of the fact that local markets may be significantly different than what you’re familiar with at home. When I visited Spain, I was surprised that peanut butter was nowhere to be found. They also left milk and eggs unrefrigerated, which freaked me out at first! I was pleasantly surprised at the number of accessible markets that sold fresh local produce, homemade cheeses, and handmade pasta. Every time I ate out, almost everything I had was not what I expected when I ordered it. Hamburgers tasted different, there was fish I had never heard of, and they used a ton of olive oil and a variety of seasonings. I certainly did not like everything I tried, but I’m happy I branched out and experienced dishes special to the country.
    Varying food preferences are part of the culture. You may encounter unfamiliar cuisine and you may find it difficult to adjust at first. Immerse yourself in the culture and let your taste buds experience something new.

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Roommate Drama? Set Rules!

23 Feb

Living with someone can be extremely difficult. Everyone’s personality is different, and oftentimes, people are used to the way their childhood homes were run. Personally, I never wanted to live in the dorms; I shared a room with my two sisters all of my life; I wanted space to myself. Although I don’t have to share my bathroom or my bedroom (Yay for Vero!), I do have to share the living room, kitchen, and laundry room. This, too, can cause serious issues!

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We didn’t want it to get to this point! We agreed to have weekly meetings where we would discuss issues that were going on around the house, as well as a set time we would spend together to not drift apart!

The Living Room

At first, the living room was the perfect place for all of us to have some time to spend together. We would watch our novelas, have study nights, and our monthly movie-thon. When you first live with you roommates nothing seems to go wrong, mainly because you just moved out of your parents’ house.

At first its a lot like this!

At first its a lot like this! Don’t forget the sharing clothes! (:

But eventually, everyone started leaving their things scattered around, and the living room became a huge mess.

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My living room is clean now, but this is often what you would find coming into my apartment!

Initiating regular roommate meetings made it easier for us to talk about the things that were bothering us without feeling like anyone was going to get mad, or that we were stepping on anyone’s toes. It also made us realize that a lot of us had the same concerns and made it easier to fix them.

The Kitchen

This is probably the one thing that we still struggle on. Sometimes, when you cook, you just want to eat and forget that you got so many dishes dirty!

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Welcome to Casa de la Vero and the dirty dishes that house there!

At least that’s the case with me, but having a clean kitchen is something that is extremely important to all of us. One of the rules that we made was if you dirty the dishes, you have two days to clean them! This way it gives you time to be lazy, but also you have to get it done before anything gets too nasty. So far, this system seems to be working fine. Because we all know there is a chef inside all of us…

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Where the struggle really starts is when two of us are trying to cook at the same time. There is only so much counter space and so many burners we can use. There is really no fixing this because it’s not like we can say, you can’t cook tonight. We try to be as patient as we can, although sometimes we could be a little more patient.

The Laundry Room

This is the one thing that really was the easiest to fix! There are four roommates. We each have an assigned day of the week that we get to do our laundry. This helps facilitate two people wanting to wash at the same time, as well as people having to take another roommates’ stuff out of either the washer or the dryer. It has been the least controversial of the three.

Things can get even more complicated when you are sharing a home, but setting simple rules that everyone can agree on makes everything so much easier. Knowing that you can stop any drama before it starts, and have an environment that you want to go to at the end of the day, is something that is important for everyone’s health. Don’t overcomplicate things and wait until you are ready to explode. Talk to your roommate before things get any worse! You can even make this a challenge for yourself through our #FearlessFebruary challenge.

Five Steps to Moving Into Student Housing (Part 2): The Countdown!

21 Feb

You’ve done it!  You have finally found the perfect place to live next semester.  The stress is over and the endless phone calls are done.  So go ahead, stand up and do your victory dance; you deserve it! 

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(However, if you haven’t found that perfect fit, or don’t know where to start, check out my blog entry last week about Five Steps to Finding Student Housing Part 1.) 

Now what?  If you’re living in an apartment or house, then there are actually quite a few things you should take care of before settling into your new place to avoid extra charges and make the moving transition go smoothly…

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1) Immediately: Read the lease carefully.  When you sign the lease, you are agreeing to everything written on that piece of paper, so don’t just skim over the words!  I found some great advice about this in the University of Arizona Off-Campus Housing Guide (if you need a copy, we have some extras in the Student Affairs Outreach Office, Nugent 15D).  Before you sign the lease, they recommend that you know. “(1) The total amount of the security deposit cannot be more than one and one-half month’s rent. (2) Cleaning and redecorating charges are not part of the security deposit.  But if those charges are nonrefundable, the landlord must state that fact in writing.  If it is not in writing, these charges cannot automatically be withheld when you move out. (3) Make sure the charges you pay at the beginning of your tenancy are clearly explained in your lease or rental agreement” (pp. 23).  Don’t get tricked into paying more than you have to!  Read the fine print (see example below) and if you don’t understand something, speak up and ask plenty of questions.

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2) One month before move-in: Call the utility companies.  Unless all utilities are included in rent, chances are it is up to you to set up electricity, water, Internet, and cable.  You often have to put a deposit down for utilities if you are a new customer and don’t have a record with the provider. The utilities will need to go under someone’s name and credit card, and that person will be responsible for paying the bill.  Then, each roommate will pay that person the average utility fee for each month.  Make sure the person who pays the bill is responsible to avoid any late charges.  Don’t forget, sometimes these companies are backed up for inspections or turning on the gas during move-in season. It could take a while for them to process your request, so don’t procrastinate.  I was unaware of this last August when I moved into my apartment and almost got fined fifty dollars by the leasing office because the electricity was being billed to them instead of me.  Don’t let that happen to you — you don’t want to be taking cold showers for a week until your gas is turned on!

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3) A few weeks before move-in: Make a list of necessary household items.  Is your house / apartment furnished?  Are a microwave, washer, and dryer included?  Make a list of everything you’ll need, from utensils and dishware to a kitchen table and chairs (example list below).  Create a Google Docs Excel spreadsheet of these items and share it with your roommates, then have everyone type their name next to the items they are able to bring. This will give you a clear idea of what everyone already has, and which things you will need to buy.  From there you can decide if you will split up the cost of these new items, or if you want to divvy up the purchases and share the items for household use.  My roommates and I all went on a huge shopping spree together for apartment items before we moved in.

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4) One week before move-in: Make a list of roommate household chores.  No one wants to be that messy roommate who leaves his or her stuff everywhere.  And no one wants to be the roommate that constantly has to clean up after everyone. What I find works best is if each person has an assigned weekend where they clean the house / apartment. Each weekend someone will be responsible for dusting, vacuuming, washing the dishes, etc.  Another option is if each person has a different job each month and the jobs rotate.  Make sure that the jobs are equal in work though, for example someone taking out the trash should have an additional job, since compared to someone cleaning the bathrooms, the overall work is less.  Create a list of jobs and dictate who is responsible for each one, then pin this list on the refrigerator so no one ever forgets what they need to do (see example below).  If everyone completes their assigned duties, then your apartment will be as clean as Monica’s vacuum!

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5) Day of move-in: Inspect the condition of the apartment / house.  Do all the appliances work?  Are there any holes in the wall?  Is the carpet stained?  Most landlords should provide a rental inspection checklist for you to go over (see example below). Be sure to obtain a copy of this inspection checklist that includes the date of the inspection. Just like when you rent a car, you are responsible for any damages that occur while you are living there.  Make sure to take note (and take pictures) of anything wrong with the house / apartment besides normal wear and tear so you don’t get charged for it at the end of your lease. Everything should be cleaned for you before your move-in date; if something is unacceptably dirty, let the landlord know immediately. Be sure to inspect every corner.

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Hopefully, these tips have helped to smooth the moving transition into your new home! If you have any more questions about off-campus student housing, TWEET us @WildcatConnect with #UAStudentHousing.

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— Kaeyln

#FearlessFebruary: A Love Story

20 Feb
This month each and every one of your outreach facilitators was encouraged (well actually ordered by our boss….but lovingly so) to figure out a way to step outside our comfort zone, push our own limits, and to document our moments of bravery. This has been an interesting task so far.
It is difficult knowing what challenges you in the first place, but determining how far you are willing to go and evaluating what would be most meaningful for you are challenging tasks in themselves. Personal challenges are relative. And they are extremely personal. What may be completely off-the-wall to you may be commonplace to me. What may seem like my ultimate test of courage might seem like an average Wednesday to you. Challenges are completely unique to an individual—we all have our own definitions, limits, and abilities.

My personal challenge for #FearlessFebruary was an opportunity to explore my independence as well as my adventurous side. It was also an act of love. Let me note that as much as I would like to say I’m a spontaneous person, I have come to the conclusion that this is just not so. I need a plan. I like to know where I’m going. I like to know how things are doing to go down.  Who, what, when, where, and why—my life runs best on predetermined details.

That being said, having your partner in the U.S. Marine Corps throws a wrench in things. Your personal life suddenly becomes much more unpredictable. You don’t know when you will see them next, you don’t know where they will be in a few months, and you don’t know when they will be able to call you. It’s a lot of maybes, if-thens, and some-days. That’s why when I heard my boyfriend would have 72-hours of liberty for Presidents Day, I took action and booked a flight to Washington, D.C.

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My fearless moment was less about the action and more about mindset, attitude, and the willingness to hand the reins over to Fate. You now know that I’m not one to just buy a ticket on impulse. No, no—trips must be planned months ahead for my comfort level.  However, this time I would be taking off in a couple of weeks, landing in a city I have never been in, and having to find my way to the hotel (all by my lonesome!)

Now, my need for planning comes from my overactive imagination—I worry A LOT. So not so surprisingly, in flooded the anxiety the second after I booked my flight. I’m going to miss my transfer, I’m going to lose my suitcase, I’M going to get lost, they’re not going to let me check-in at the hotel, how do I even get a taxi? I was excited to see my marine, but the anxiety surrounding this trip was overwhelming. (For those of you who are pros at flying…well…I’m just a worrier, okay?!)

I arrived at the airport at the crack o’dawn Valentine’s Day morning and made my way through security—so far so good. I settled in my seat and closed my eyes for takeoff (I get very airsick, might I add).

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After a two-hour layover in Atlanta, I boarded my next flight. Again, so far I was doing a pretty good job keeping it together, being all adult and whatnot.

I arrived at last at the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. quite pleased with myself. I had reached my destination fairly smoothly–nothing lost, including me–but now I had to navigate this unfamiliar city. I briefly had a moment of panic when deciding whether to call a cab or to figure out the Metro subway station, but then I remembered: this is a chance to be fearless. I think I’ll go on a subway adventure. I grabbed my suitcase and headed underground.

A little clueless, I stared at a map showing the different metro lines crisscrossing around the entire city and hesitantly identified which one looked closest to my destination. I climbed aboard and prayed I chose correctly. After zooming through a series of tunnels, stations, and bustling crowds of people, I eventually stepped out (and, to my surprise) just a block away from my hotel!

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My two-day trip in D.C. was wonderful. It was filled with snow, a long-awaited reunion, and national monuments that were larger than life. I have to say, seeing some of these memorials was kind of surreal. We’ve all seen Forrest Gump splashing through the National Mall’s Reflecting Pool (which was frozen), and The Capitol and Washington Monument are iconic structures to say the least. Seeing them in person is like coming upon a celebrity in their natural habitat. Slipping and sliding across frozen historical ground definitely makes for some interesting memories and there’s something about looking up at a gigantic, stoic President Lincoln that makes you feel a little small.

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I also found myself unusually reflective throughout my sightseeing. When you stand in front of the Vietnam War Memorial, you can see your own silhouette reflected against the black stone among thousands of fallen soldiers. The image alone is a poetic experience, but I found it eerily beautiful that as you run your fingers across their names etched in stone, you can see others’ handprints left behind. It was a reminder that acts of bravery are not only an opportunity to challenge yourself, but also to affect those around you. Every day is a chance to leave a legacy and every day is a an opportunity to be fearless. 

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Now, I’m not saying we all have to sign up for war. Each of us can find our own way of challenging ourselves and making an impact.

When my boyfriend first left for boot camp, I’ll admit, I didn’t understand. I was furious, confused, and scared. During his first visit back to Tucson, the sight of him in uniform terrified me because (guess what?) it meant a lot of uncertainty. What did this mean for us? How much would his choice affect our relationship? How far was I willing to go? I have done a lot of growing since then and have come to appreciate that he is carrying out his own fearless moments. He is challenging himself and, as his partner, I have to call upon my own strength to support that. We are entering our third year together and I still struggle with the pressures it puts on our relationship. But I have to say, it has shown me I can be brave. I have made it through emotional obstacles I never thought I would be able to handle and this new found courage continues to push me further. Even to jump on a plane without a plan.

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This trip was about much more than my anxieties around traveling. It was another step towards taking responsibility in how I want my life to pan out. I am learning that I don’t need to know everything in advance. I am learning that I can trust in what’s to come because I can take an active part in how it comes about. I have also learned that a little fear is good. It means you care and that something important to you is on the line. As a lifelong worrier, uncertainty has always been my enemy, but I have found that the intention behind each move you make tends to sway the odds in your favor. You can’t have the perfect plan, but you can have some say in a world of uncertainties. 
So, here’s to #FearlessFebruary! It was a reminder that being fearless doesn’t mean not being scared, it means taking action regardless.

–Franny