Culture

The end of the semester is almost here, and with that comes final exams. As a college freshman myself, I am especially nervous for the upcoming week-long cycle that seems to be everyone’s doom. But with all the hectic lists of things to do while preparing ourselves, I have to remind myself that it is equally as important to take the time to relax and wind-down.

Plan out this upcoming week to see how you can spend the time you have. Make sure you have time to study before your exams but also time to sit back and watch a movie with some friends while drinking hot chocolate. Giving your brain a rest will only help yourself to remember all the facts you need to know. Here is a list of a few movies to warm your heart with childhood memories and allow you to take a break from the stressful world.

1. The Little Mermaid: One of my personal favorites that is sure to help you take a trip down memory lane!

2. Home Alone: To get into the holiday spirit, be sure to put on this classic movie.

3. The Lion King: This one is sure to put a smile on your face and remind you how much fun just being a kid can be!

4. 13 Going on 30: We all need a classic chick-flick to help us relax and unwind!

Putting aside these fun movies, make sure to take a breath with all of your studying. It is just as important to take a break from the books as it is to study away! Best of luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Image: Camille Styles

Culture

It is nearing the end of the semester and you are shooting your finals down one by one. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is happy that the semester is over. Everyone is going home.

Many students in my school come from another state, even another country. It is rare for me to find another native New Yorker on campus. During these hectic times, it is difficult to get your friends together to have a final farewell when they’re busy packing their suitcases.

They, on the other hand, are leaving the friends they’ve made during the semester to return to a town where things have changed. For any situation, there is a sense of time passing, of things being different, and sometimes that can be hard.

Being the only one left around, it feels kind of lonely. For those leaving, sometimes we can feel excluded. Sure, there are things to do in NYC, but what’s the fun of doing them if you’re doing them alone? And when everyone back at home has changed too, how can we still hang out?

Here’s the thing, and I think I’m just figuring it out. Being alone and having that breathing room isn’t a bad thing. It’s a scary thing, but not all scary things are bad. Sometimes we get so used to being with friends at school, with meeting them for lunch before class or for dinner after seminar or on Friday night for drinks that we forget that we have changed along the way. Winter break is a break from school, but it’s also a break from people. Going back home is a way of taking a break from what you know and seeing how far you’ve come. It’s a good time to reconnect with the most important person. Yourself.

Now, this is kind of hard for me. I’ve grown used to hanging out on my friend’s sofa in Nolita and having weekly mid­week dinners. It’s become routine. At the same time, I haven’t seen friends from high school, cleaned my closet out, or thought to see if my opinions on things have changed. How am I different from when the semester first started? Did I learn anything valuable about myself along the way? Did I grow as a person? How? Why?

While this a brutal thing to do, winter break is a good time to do these things because there is breathing space from all the people who have been influencing us in the first place. Back at home, whether in a suburban town on the West coast or in a city in Asia, there is a sense of “I’m different” that naturally comes with time. It may be lonely, and relieving, to get away from it all, but in the end, it’s what you make of it.

Image: Tomasz Paciorek

EducationSkills

The stress levels are high and the amount of time to study for tests and get the last assignments of the semester finished are extremely low. Many of you are probably pulling all-nighters and downing cup after cup of coffee just to stay awake. It’s going to feel like a long last couple of weeks before we’re officially finished with this semester, but once we get through our last days of classes, we can take our finals and go home.

But getting through these tough times are easier said than done. This is why I’m here to help you rock finals week. The better you do on your exams, the better you’ll feel about dedicating so much of your time to study.

Here are some of the things that I like to do to prepare for Finals week:

  • Take naps – a well-rested brain is a higher performing one. While all-nighters can be beneficial to you, you can’t focus on much of anything if you didn’t get much sleep. It’s also harder to retain the information you learned.
  • Stay focused – I know you don’t need anyone to tell you this, but I know how easy it is to get distracted. One minute you’re practicing math problems and the next you’re on Facebook. If you find yourself losing focus, maybe try new methods of studying or if you’ve been studying for one test for hours, maybe try studying for another one. You don’t have to spend hours doing this but make sure you do spend a few hours focused. Remove all of the distractions if necessary or study in a quiet place like the library.
  • Form study groups – Sometimes it helps having other people in your class around when you’re studying so if you need help you don’t have to go too far to get it.
  • Listen to classical music – There are a lot of studies that say that classical music helps you retain more information and others that say it doesn’t really help with anything, but I personally listen to classical music when I’m studying to a.) Block out distracting noise and b.) To help lower my stress levels. If you’ve never listened to classical music while studying, please give it a try. I recommend making a classical music station on Pandora.

Also, here are some things to do before you take your finals:

  • Eat a balanced breakfast – This is a tip for the day of your exams. If you can, try to have a nice, big meal for breakfast. It’s not good to start your day off with an empty stomach, especially before an exam.
  • Use the bathroom – I know this might seem like common sense, but some people just want to get their finals over and done with that they forget to go to the bathroom, even if they don’t think they have to go at the moment.
  • Got a cold? – Bring cough drops and tissues. You never know when you might need them.
  • Wear comfortable clothes – No need to get dressed up to take a test. Break out the sweats and the comfy shirts with the long sleeves. Don’t bother brushing your hair or really doing anything to fix your appearance. It’s final week! You have a right to be as casual as you want to be.
  • Believe in yourself – You’re only going to do as good as you think you’re going to do so think good thoughts and try your best to stay positive.
  • It’s only a test – I don’t like not getting good grades on my finals, but I always remind myself that it’s just an exam and it’s not a reflection of my intelligence.

Finals week is really stressful and it can seem like it’ll never end, but it will. Just remember to treat yourself well during this time. Eat three (healthy) meals. Get a good amount of sleep. And stay positive. Study as much as you can and just do the best that you can.  Soon this will all be behind us and next semester will be a clean slate.

Good luck everyone! Rock those finals!

Image: Ryan McGilchrist

EducationSkills

Finals are among us. For those in college, this means papers, projects, and a lot of cramming. For those in high school, this also means papers, projects, and a lot of cramming… There’s just so much to do! Homework, extra credit, paper outlines, group projects. Besides that, part time jobs, internships, after school activities. And before all of those, sleeping and eating! There’s a lot that seems to be happening right now, but there are some ways to deal with all the havoc that is December!

Prioritize.

Always do what you need to do first. Which one comes first: the big thesis paper or that extra credit project? Watering your plants or giving yourself a shower? Going to a club meeting or studying for an exam for that really tough teacher? Always do what is important, and don’t bother with the small stuff during this time crunch. The little things can be slipped in, but devoting large chunks of time to a 10 page paper is an efficient way of getting ideas out, onto a document, and out of the way. The little things you can do as mini breaks in between. Get up to stretch and do a 10 minute yoga pose for exercise, but do this between paragraph four and five of your essay. Moderate and prioritize.

Eat and sleep.

My university’s labs are open 24 hours during finals. In the early 3­-5am hours, students can be seen sleeping at their desk with the screen doing a five hour export. Other students can be seen with three empty cups of coffee next to their sewing machines with half finished shirts and dresses. But whether you’re in art school, business school, or high school, you need to get your sleep and your nutrients! You and a friend can do food­runs. Someone runs out to get dinner for both of you, then you trade and do the same for lunch. Do this for fabric material, photo paper, paint, ink, printer paper. One person can do that half-hour-run to Staples and the other person can do that half-hour run to the cafeteria. Roommates, workshop partners, lab buddies, you name it. It is the time to keep your body functioning during a time when there isn’t enough time.

Know your limits.

Alright. You didn’t sleep in the last 24 hours, and the night before, you only slept
three hours. Your hands are shaking from too much caffeine, and for some reason the words on the
screen are starting to move on their own. You have a dull headache that has turned into nauseousness and your neck is cramped. You haven’t seen daylight in two days. It’s time to stop. Yeah, that presentation is important and people are counting on you. Sure, that exam is 50% of your grade. But what’s the point if you’re going to pass out in front of your professor or wake up to the exam sheet stuck to your cheek? Sometimes enough is enough and there’s only so much you can do. That’s when you take a breather, take a walk, take a shower, take a break.

Dealing with everything is crazy. You and everyone around you are in high gear. Once
you figure out all you need to do, you’ll do them. Keep yourself going with enough sleep and
food. Sometimes, you have to just put everything down. Take it easy and good luck!

Image: TMAB2003

Education

Getting back into college mode is hard after a break. While Thanksgiving break wasn’t that long, it was enough time for me to get used to doing nothing but sitting around the house all day, watching movies, and eating delicious food. When it was time for me to leave home, a part of me wanted to stay and start my career as a full-time couch potato. Since that really wasn’t an option, I had no choice but to come back to school. Now that I’m here, the only thing I want to do is be lazy and not do homework or study for finals. It doesn’t help that our next big break is just around the corner.

It’s seriously all I can think about. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am excited to be able to laze about and spend time with family for more than a week. Since it’s the end of the semester, there won’t be any homework or group projects to work on. We will no longer have to worry about studying for quizzes or final exams. We’ll be home free! I know you’re getting starry eyed just thinking about it but don’t let yourself slack off just because we’re almost at the end.

You owe it to yourself to end this semester off strong. Treat your finals like every other test you’ve had thus far and put in the time to make sure you are as prepared as can be for your exams. It’s okay if you had a rough start to the semester. It’s okay if you’re tired. It’s okay if all you want to do is go home and forget about this thing called college for a little bit. I understand how all of you are feeling right now, which is why I am here to tell you to keep pushing. You might’ve had a rough start, but ending strong can make up for that. You might be tired and just want to go home, but your break will be so much more rewarding if you give your finals your all. Not only will you feel great for pushing through, but your grades will reflect your hard work as well. A runner wouldn’t give up or slow down when the finish line is in view. Well, finals week is our finish line. So pretend that you’re that runner. Push yourself to do better and work harder than ever so that you can come out a winner.

Losing momentum is the worse thing you can do to yourself. If you feel yourself wanting to give up, just remember that you can get through this. It doesn’t matter if this is your first semester of college or your fifth. We all need a pep talk during this time of the year. We all need to be reminded that we are brilliant and amazing and we can achieve anything as long as we work for it. So work for that gold medal. Do your best to ace your exams and even if you don’t do your best on an exam you gave your all, just remember that you did the best that you could and really that’s all you can do.

If you want to win a chance to be lazy during Winter break, then earn it by putting a lot more effort and hard work into finishing this race out strong.

You can do it. I believe in you!

Image: Anne

EducationSkills

November is the start of many things: cold weather, pumpkin spice lattes, and the holidays. However, while department store managers and baristas at Starbucks are preparing for the season, students are preparing for a different beast entirely. Exams are what shortly follow the month of November, so this month is a vital one in getting a few last good grades in before finals.

If you are one of the unlucky souls in desperate need of a few more A’s in a class, here are some ways to study for upcoming tests and exams:

1. Clear your mind and avoid multitasking

Cluttering your mind with other issues is probably one of the worst ways to study; in order to retain information you need to focus on that specific subject. Thus, multitasking is a terrible idea when studying. You do not need to have tabs open for other classes or for Facebook. Actually, if you have trouble with controlling yourself in terms of social media, websites like Cold Turkey is an amazing way to block social media temporarily, allowing yourself time to focus on studying.

2. Drink water and snack healthily

When studying, drinking water and eating healthy can play a vital role in retaining information. For example, eating slow carbohydrates, such as nuts, will give you a steady stream of energy and release of serotonin to keep you up and happy while studying. Whereas if you were to consume energy-infused foods and drinks, you will have a temporary rush of energy, but any information looked at during the crash will be lost to the intense desire to sleep. Also, prepare your snacks ahead of time to avoid wandering from the desk – you might never get back to studying.

3. Chew mint gum when studying and when testing

Psychologists have found that chewing mint gum while studying and testing correlates positively with good test scores. It allows your brain to make connections and help you remember retained information better. Therefore, it might be to your benefit to chew a stick of mint gum while studying for you next test and during the test itself.

4. Break up your study sessions, DO NOT CRAM!

MIT’s website shows that cramming can actually cause you to lose information and that the best way to study is in 20-50 minute intervals and to take 5-10 minute breaks in between these intervals. This allows your brain to absorb the information you just read without being overwhelmed.

5. If you are going to listen to music while studying, make it classical or instrumental

Everyone knows of the idea that playing classical music to an infant can increase the child’s potentiality of intelligence, and this idea still applies to students and young adults today. Studies show that classical music increases cognition and helps to remember data and material. However, classical music is not digestible by everyone. Hence, listen to some instrumental music, but make sure that it is instrumental music you are familiar with; if I try to listen to new music when I study, I get too distracted by the new melody and lyrics that I am listening to.

What are your best study tips?

Image: Anita Hart

HealthSkills

Like many returning college students, the next few weeks will be a whirlwind of textbook hunting, syllabus sighing, and alarm clock slamming. Being a senior (and preparing for a thesis… or two…), I would love to say that I’m used to the First Week hustle and bustle. But like the Freshmen who are moving into the dorms, and like the underclassmen who I’ve come to know, I end up losing a bit of sleep due to all the excitement. There are a few things that I’m sure people get nervous about, like meeting professors, finding your place, and academics. Here are a few things I tell myself, and they might help you out too!

“I’ve done this before.”

Freshman or senior, this applies. You’ve taken those SATs, AP exams, midterms, and finals. You’ve met new people, made new friends, and survived an awful prom night with terrible acne (eck). College is a little better because you (hopefully) like what you’re doing and you can change your mind if you don’t. If you don’t know what you’re doing, this is a good chance to explore. The tip here is to be confident in yourself. You might be worried about the workload, and the syllabus may look intimidating, but that’s okay. You’ll meet upperclassmen who can tutor you and classmates who will study with you. You’ll meet people who relate to you more than ever. Do your best and fear not. Take one step at a time.

“I am who I want to be.”

This comes in handy often. In a new environment, you might find yourself wondering if you will fit in somewhere. You might see yourself change a bit (your clothes, your music tastes, your interests). That’s a normal and healthy thing to do. Don’t feel too pressured to do something if you don’t think it fits you, but do embrace things that seem to feel right. For example, I didn’t particularly like watching movies until I got into college. I was a bookworm and that was the end of it. Now I try to watch one or two a month because it gives me something to talk to people. I didn’t become a movie ­snob (a term I use endearingly), but I am giving it a shot and it has added to my view of the world. You are always you, and no matter who you meet, who your new professors are, or who your peers are, that one fact will never change. Be open-minded but be honest with yourself. This will help you keep a good balance.

“It’s okay to mess up.”

This applies for both of the previous things, but people forget this one often. Anxiety, nervousness, fear. These things come from the feeling that we humans can’t understand or control something. That’s natural and everybody feels these emotions. You might be nervous about a test, or you failed one and you’re afraid of failing the next one. But who will find you ten years from now and ask you, “How did you do on that one quiz in Freshman year Design in that class in room 912 in building C with Professor Twitts?” Probably nobody. And who’s going to come up to you and ask, “Do you remember that one time when you went to that party and stood around awkwardly?” Also probably nobody. Chances are, everyone is feeling like you – they’re freaking out about who they are and what they want to be – and they’re so occupied with that they won’t remember the little things that might consume you at the moment.

So incoming Freshman and fellow seniors, and everybody in between… are you ready for a new semester? Put your worries and fears aside. All of your experiences will be great stories one day, so have no fear, and go forward with confidence!

Image: Unsplash

EducationSkills

Finals are always stressful, especially when they fall right before the winter holiday. That means that while you are preparing for finals, you are also trying to arrange your trip home, pack up your bags, and shop for holiday gifts. It makes sense that on top of all these endless ‘to-dos,’ exams seem like an especially daunting task. Keep these in mind as you prepare for your winter finals…

1. Keep a Clean Work Space

Having an organized desk helps you focus better on the task at hand rather than being distracted by the clutter around you. Take one minute before each study session to throw away trash, organize pens and pencils, and remove unnecessary books or papers that you will not need for the next hour.

2. Time Yourself

Keep track of how much time you spend sitting and staring at a book or screen. It is better to concentrate for smaller increments of time if it helps you stay on track.

3. Keep a Calendar Nearby

Try hanging a poster up on your wall and mark the day finals end with a star or circle. Having a visual countdown could help keep you optimistic and concentrated on the goal!

4. Incentivize

In the world of Netflix/Facebook/Twitter/iTunes, it can be hard to stay focused while studying. To combat these temptations, give yourself small rewards along the way. For example, set a timer for two hours and at the end of that time, reward yourself with a piece of candy, a walk outside, a stretch break, or a phone call with a friend. You can also try a long-term incentive by choosing a larger reward and requiring yourself to study for an hour every day for a month. At the end of the month you are allowed to receive the reward if you have met the requirements.

5. Stay Hydrated and Snack Smartly

These tricks sound too simple to be true but they are the easiest ways to keep alert and awake. While it is easy to grab a bag of chips and a soda, the best way to stay full and hydrated is by eating fruits or veggies and slurping down H20!

6. Work at Your Desk

If you live in a small dorm room, avoid combining your private space with your work space. Do not sit on your bed while doing work, as this leads to distractions and a nap you did not see coming. If you do not have a desk in your room, head over to the library or work at your dining room table. Designating a work space will help keep you on track.

Good luck with your exams!