CollegeEducationRecipesSkills

Eating well in college is hard. French fries and ice cream are always going to be in the dining hall, so how can you resist them? You’re always in a rush and need to grab something to go. Sometimes the dining hall does not serve the meals that you enjoy (maybe you dislike Mexican food, so Taco Tuesdays are not for you).

Before you get started with the cooking, purchase a mini fridge! Although it is a $100 dollar investment, you won’t regret it. You won’t have to always look for healthy food options in the dining hall or on campus cafes because you can make your own meals. Even if you don’t plan on cooking, have snacks in case you don’t have time to eat. Keep some cheese and meat in your fridge, in case you miss dinner, and frozen fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast. Raw veggies and hummus are good options for snacks too.

Even though college is the place where you can make the worst eating decisions, it is also a place where you can establish good eating habits for life. Here are some easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:

Breakfast

Avocado Toast With Chia Seeds

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 slice of bread of your choice
  • ½ of an avocado, lightly mashed with a splash of lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Honey to drizzle

What You’ll Do:

  • Toast up your bread.
  • Top the bread with mashed avocado, red pepper flakes, chia seeds and honey. Enjoy!

avocado

Oatmeal With Raisins and Walnuts

What You’ll Need:

  • ½ cup quick rolled oats
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup crushed walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)

What You’ll Do:

  • Combine the water and oats in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Gradually stir the brown sugar, raisins and walnuts into the oatmeal.
  • Once cool enough to devour, enjoy!

1-Minute Ham & Egg Breakfast Bowl

What You’ll Need:

  • Thin slice deli ham
  • Beaten egg
  • Shredded Cheddar cheese

What You’ll Do:

  • Line the bottom of 8-oz ramekin or a custard cup with a slice of ham. Pour the egg over ham.
  • Microwave on high for 30 seconds; stir.  Microwave until the egg is almost set, 15 to 30 seconds longer.
  • Top with cheese. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Grab some fruit and nuts, and if you have time, go to the dining hall and have some oatmeal or eggs, which will fuel you until lunch. Instead of a muffin, choose a wheat or whole grain bagel. If you like yogurt, go for plain Greek, because it gives you a lot of protein and has less sugar than vanilla yogurt. If it is an exam day, grapes, berries and walnuts are good for optimal brain health and focus.

Lunch

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap

What you’ll need:

  • Chicken breast
  • Medium carrots, shredded
  • Diced red pepper
  • Green onions, thinly sliced
  • Reduced fat Asian-style sesame salad dressing
  • Bibb or iceberg lettuce leaves

What you’ll do:

  • Stir the chicken, carrots, pepper, onions and dressing in a medium bowl.
  • Divide the chicken among the lettuce leaves. Fold the lettuce leaves around the filling. Enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 14 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 16 ounce package frozen egg noodles
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley (optional)

What You’ll Do:

  • In a 3-quart saucepan, combine broth, onion, carrots, celery, water, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to boiling and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in frozen noodles. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Stir in chicken; heat through.
  • Discard bay leaf.
  • To serve, pour soup into bowls. If you like, sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6. Enjoy!

chickennoodlesoup

Winter Fruit Waldorf Salad

What You’ll Need:

  • Unpeeled red apples, diced
  • Unpeeled pears, diced
  • Thinly sliced celery
  • Golden raisins
  • Chopped dates
  • Mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • Fat free orange crème yogurt
  • Tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Walnut halves

What You’ll Do:

  • Mix apples, pears, celery, raisins and dates in a bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt and juice concentrate until well blended. Add to fruit; toss to coat.
  • Serve fruit on lettuce. Garnish with walnut halves. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: Instead of getting burgers in the dining hall, eat chicken or lean meats. A salad and a soup combination or a wrap will fill you up and give you energy.

Mid-day Snack Tip

It’s that time between lunch and dinner, but you’re still in class and are hungry. Have a fruit like a banana or an apple in your bag, instead of a pastry. You can’t go wrong with raw veggies.

Dinner

Pesto Chicken Angel Hair Pasta With Herbs

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ cup basil pesto
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

What You’ll Do:

  • Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Cover cookie sheet with foil.
  • Put pesto and chicken in bowl. Toss until chicken is covered.
  • Bake for 20-25 min.
  • Place slices of tomato on top of chicken and sprinkle with cheese.
  • Bake another 3-5 min.
  • Serve with a box of angel hair pasta and herbs and French bread. Enjoy!

Fried Rice with Scallions, Edamame, and Tofu

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • ¾ cup seeded and diced red bell pepper
  • ¾ cup frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package directions and drained
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 6 ounces firm tofu, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

What You’ll Do:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until very hot.
  • Add the garlic, scallions, and ginger and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the rice, red pepper, edamame, corn, and tofu and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  • Make a 3-inch well in the center of the rice mixture.
  • Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, then add the eggs and cook until nearly fully scrambled.
  • Stir the eggs into the rice mixture, then add the soy sauce and incorporate thoroughly. Serve hot. Enjoy!

fried rice

Parmesan Breaded Fish Nuggets

What You’ll Need:

  • ⅓ cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ⅓ cup crushed cornflakes
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ pounds cod fillets, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Butter flavored cooking spray

What You’ll Do:

  • Combine the breadcrumbs, cornflakes, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  • Evenly spritz fish cubes with butter flavored spray, then roll in the crumb mixture.
  • Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at 375 ° for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!

Pro Tip: For your biggest meal of the day, go with some chicken, steak or salmon with a side of veggies or brown rice. Going easy on carbs will help you stay focused, and you’ll get higher-quality sleep.

Late Night Snack Tip

Instead of getting a slice of pizza, Van recommends grabbing a low-fat smoothie from an on campus café. It will fill you up, and fruit is high in anti-oxidants, which are great for your skin.

Find food-spiration! 5 Instagram Foodies Worth Following:

When you look at your Instagram and see pictures of healthy food that is aesthetically pleasing, you’ll get inspired and maybe skip a burger that day for a grain and roasted butternut squash mix from the salad bar instead.

@thenakedfigChelsea Hunter finds beauty in simplicity

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@deliciouslyellaElla Woodward will inspire you daily to eat healthy

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@jamieoliverJamie Oliver has 3.3 million followers on Instagram (He calls himself a proud dad & chef. Unlike other Instagrammers who focus on a particular type of food, he posts a good range of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and sides.)

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@sarkababickaSarka Babicka is a professional photographer who makes a plate of salad look like a piece of art

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@leesamantha: Samantha Lee is a food artist (She makes food that tells a story!)

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Happy cooking and happy exploring!

Image: Flickr

CultureEducation

“I honestly believe if people traveled more often, there would be less conflict because there would be more understanding.” I said this in my Youth Spotlight last week, and I meant it with all my heart. Traveling is a powerful educational tool for everyone and, I believe, is especially eye opening for minority youth like myself. Let me tell you why.

With cultural tensions spewed across the news and social media platforms as of late, people seem quick to grab onto fear before attempting to peacefully resolve a misunderstanding. We are all guilty of being fearful sometimes, but let’s remember, fear is only a result of unfamiliarity. For example, you may be terrified of insects until you watch the Discovery Channel and learn the many ways they help protect us from even scarier things like low crop yields and a massive buildup of animal waste (no, thank you!). Suddenly, you’ll think twice before stepping on the little creatures that are more helpful than we think, and this is all thanks to a bit of new knowledge.

The same concept goes for people. In my personal experiences as a young minority woman traveling, I have often found myself in places where no one looks like me. For some of you, whether Black, Asian, Hispanic, a lovely mix and so on, this might sound familiar. It can be awkward at times, but always eye-opening and beneficial for all parties involved. Travel is absolutely transformative for minority youth in three major ways.

First, it allows those unfamiliar with your culture to become more familiar. When I traveled to New Zealand a few years ago, I never saw another black person during the trip, aside from the few traveling with me in the tour group. This doesn’t mean black people don’t exist in New Zealand; I just never crossed paths with any. During my home stay with a Kiwi family (the native minority population in the country), they told me they’d never had any black friends before and I said I’d never had any Kiwi friends before. At first they were timid to ask pressing questions about my culture, but eventually conversation began flowing as I told them about ridiculous stereotypes that exist in America, the daily struggles faced, and about my personal family history. They reciprocated by telling me about theirs. As native New Zealanders, many of their experiences were similar to mine, as a black American. Who would have known? By the end of the conversation, we could all say we were friends. Pretty good ones, at that. Just think about it – if discussions like this would happen more frequently, there would be much more respect than conflict.

Not only does traveling teach others about you, but it can also teach you about your own culture. Every time you go to a new location, you unlock a part of yourself you didn’t know existed. For example, when I went to Paris for the first time in high school, I learned about how many black Americans in the 1920’s hopped the Atlantic and settled in the City of Lights. Many did this because they felt race was not as much of a hindrance to living a happy life in Paris as it was in America. There were more job opportunities, a booming arts industry, and less violent racism. I found it so interesting to learn about how people like me lived in other countries in the past, and are still living there today. Traveling to Paris expanded my mindset and, in a sense, gave me a newfound sense of my own identity within the world and its history.

Last but surely not least, travel has the power to make the variety of race seem minuscule compared to the unity of humanness. What I mean by this is that through exploring new areas, speaking to new people, immersing yourself in a different society, and catching a glimpse into how others live, similarities across cultures are more evident than any differences could ever be. We all struggle to find ourselves. We all get lazy, grumpy, giggly, frustrated, happy, and jealous at times. We all laugh at our own jokes, have secret crushes on people who don’t know who we are, and have blood flowing through our veins. You get the point. But mostly, we all want to just be happy.

So, whether you are thinking about traveling to another country, a new town, or a new school, I want to encourage you to go for it… for yourself, and for all of us.

Image: Jay Mantri

CultureTravel

While it is true most travelers prefer non-stop flights to those with any layovers, I say, why not turn an inconvenient few hours into an opportunity to explore? The Greek capital city, Athens, is not only a common European layover stop, but also a beautiful fusion of ancient history with a youthful flair. Having been lucky enough to experience the spirited city a few times now, I’ve created the ultimate layover guide that will help you make the most of your quick pit stop in Athens. Let’s get into it; or as the Greeks would say, Opa!

Greece 2

8 hours (7 am – 3pm)

As most flights from the States land in Europe bright and early in the morning, there is plenty of time to do all the necessary bits. By “necessary bits,” of course this means none other than the Acropolis. This massive ancient citadel hovers over the entire city, as you can see it from nearly anywhere in the city. Wind back and forth across the rocky outcrop for about 15 minutes until you reach the summit, and you are in for an unforgettable experience. While on top of the Acropolis, not only can you see a panoramic view of Athens, but you can also see the Parthenon and other architectural masterpieces that have been restored to look as proud as they did in 5th century BC. Take it all in and think about how much world history you are standing on top of…literally.

When you’re ready to move on from the beauty of the Acropolis, I recommend hiking down and walking just a few blocks to the Acropolis Museum, where hundreds of rescued, restored, and collected artifacts are housed from the ruins. Getting up close to each piece and examining its every intricate detail is a remarkable thing.

greece

12 Hours (7 am – 7 pm)

Spend time perusing and people watching in the animated, and ever loving Monastiraki Square, located near the historical Plaka neighborhood. To this day, I have never seen so much affection in one place. In the square, Greeks are often tightly hugging dear friends, passionately kissing their lovers, or jesting about with adorably dressed young children. Shop the windy side streets and browse all the flea markets, souvenirs, and trinkets. It’s a wonderful place to relax, enjoy your company, and of course grab a quick bite!

Thanasis is a restaurant well known for their mouth-watering souvlakis, a popular Greek dish with your choice of grilled meat, tzatziki sauce, veggies, and sometime fries, tightly wrapped in a fluffy pita. It’s conveniently located right on Monastiraki Sqaure, so you can involve your taste buds in the love fest, as well.

In case you want a more formal meal, only a block or so away from the square is an ultramodern, luxurious hotel called A for Athens. Take their terrifying small elevator (it’s worth it, I promise!) to the very top floor and get ready for more great views, food, and drinks. The magnificently lit Acropolis and Greek techno music serve as a backdrop while you sip on your beverage of choice and enjoy modern takes on traditional Greek cuisine. Keep an ear out for all of the languages you’re bound to hear surrounding you – it is remarkable how many international people flock to this great spot!

18 Hours (7 am – 1 am)

Make your way to the main square in Athens, Syntagma Square. This is often referred to as the “heart” of the city as Greek Parliament is located here, not to mention a common site for political demonstrations. In the square are various food vendors and a lovely park area, while the side streets contain some of Greece’s best shopping. For all the serious shoppers, this is a top priority before your layover comes to an end. There are international chain stores, but also boutiques unique to Greece, so you really get a taste of everything fashion-wise!

Finally wrap up your super quick layover in Athens by taking the metro to Soho Bar Athens in the Gazi neighborhood. This club and bar has a neat atmosphere, and is usually full of young professionals and or the “starving artist” type. Prepare for your next flight with a cold glass of ouzo and call it a day!

Image: Aysia Woods (Acropolis and Monastiraki Square); Carpe Juvenis (Greek Flag)

Culture

So you’re in NYC for the winter and you’ve already read my last piece about doing some fun stuff in the city. Well, what do you know, there’s more to do! Who wouldn’t like a hot bowl of ramen, a cozy warm setting with some BBQ, or a comforting bowl of soup this winter?

Relatively affordable for a college student and great for winter­ get-togethers, here are some places I’d like to recommend.

Ramen

Yes, ramen! There are plenty of delicious ramen shops around the city; you just have to find them! You probably know about Ippudo, the popular ramen shop in the East Village that has already been noticed by NYT and NY Mag. But there’s also Momofuku and Takumi, which is located near NYU and is where I suspect local students go when they aren’t willing to travel any further than a five block radius. Spend a day exploring the neighborhood and warm up with a good bowl of ramen!

Japanese BBQ

When I first started college a few years ago, I tried to keep in touch with my friends from high school who were also in the city. We ate at a place called Gyu­Kaku. It’s a Japanese BBQ that’s great for chilly or rainy winter days near Cooper Union, but there there’s one up in Midtown. You and your friends order whatever meat or veggies you want, and you cook it on the grill in front of you. The cozy warm atmosphere and the abundance of food is a great way to spend lunch or dinner during the unpredictable but nonetheless chilly season. Split some orders with a friend, or go as a large group and get a party platter. It’s by St. Mark’s so you can explore the neighborhood (and get an ear piercing if you’ve been dying to get one) while you’re here.

Chinese food

I’ve been going to a Chinese place on 102 Mott Street (the name has changed once or twice) ever since I was a little kid. I’ve always gotten hot congee there. In high school, I went with a group of friends and ordered a rice dish with salt and pepper pork. In college, I went back yet again, and this time with different friends (and one who was a vegetarian). Despite its lackluster appearance, this Chinese restaurant has always been my go­-to when I’m in Chinatown because of its reliable food and nostalgic experience (and affordability!). Explore Chinatown and stop by for wonton noodle soup, rice dishes, and congee.

As a jaded New Yorker and poor college student, I can tell you that finding good food in good places can be exhausting both mentally and for the wallet. At the same time, it can be fun when you have friends who are willing to try new things with you. Take some time this winter break to see what new places you can find. Who knows what hidden gems you will discover. Enjoy and happy eating!

Image: Lauren Jessen

Travel

Many people love to travel. Yet some complain that they don’t have the time or money to do so. The truth is that there’s always a reason not to travel. We need to find some way to make it all work. A weekend trip could be the answer to all these problems. Here are some reasons why a weekend trip might work for you:

1. It’s Less Expensive

When you go on a week long trip for Christmas vacation or spring break, the costs can add up. However, if you are only traveling for a couple of days, you are also spending a lot less on food, hotels, and shopping.

2. It Takes Less Time Away From Your Regular Schedule

It’s hard to take off work or school to travel. You might miss something important or it might take you awhile to save up vacation days. With a weekend trip you can leave right after class. You might not need to take any time off, depending on your schedule. It may seem too short to be a good trip but frequent travelers say we must use every spare day we can. You can get a great experience in very little time.

3. It Forces You To Explore

Instead of saving up for popular destinations like Hawaii, New York, or California, weekend trips are convenient if you stay close. You could book a flight to parts unknown, but you could also take a train or a long drive to a neighboring state. Even if you are not at the most popular destinations, you are seeing a little more of the world.

4. It Takes Virtually No Planning

There are 52 weekends a year. That gives you plenty of opportunities to take off on an adventure. You may want to have a couple of sites in mind so that you can make the most of your time. Either way, the journey can often be the best part of traveling.

Take the time for a weekend trip. There are so many things out there to do. Make the effort to take a trip. You will be rewarded with an adventure and all the great memories that go with it.

What is your dream weekend trip destination? Let us know in the comments below!

Image: Joe Lodge

CultureTravel

Globe-trotting and sight-seeing may not always be within our reach. Sometimes our travel funds are running low or we don’t have a long enough break to really go anywhere. For those of you fresh off a semester at school or enjoying time off from work, turn your vacation into a staycation. Staying at home to create your own leisure moments is often times the best way to unwind and stay frugal during the holidays. Travel time: zero. Destination: relaxation.

Ramen and Rom Coms

You know you love it. Invite some friends and family over for a cozy night in. Supply the packages of ramen and have your guests choose their favorite romantic comedies to watch. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s an easy last minute hangout idea. (Life points to the person who chooses Crazy Stupid Love.)

Easy-Peasy Bath Salts

Here is what you’ll need for a luxurious and silky bath time experience. This does wonders for dry skin sufferers, especially in the winter time. It will calm your skin while the epsom salt can help ease joint pain and muscular aches.

 1 cup of sea salt
 ½ cup of baking soda
 2 cups of Epsom salt
 Mix well in a big bowl
 Add 10 drops of lavender essential oil
 Put your mix into a jar and add a few spoonfuls to your next bath!

Tea Party for One

If you’re looking for some solo time, enjoy a piping hot cup of tea and relax with a good book. It’s always refreshing to read for fun (and not for a grade), but if your brain feels fried from final exams and essay-writing, try audible.com to check out their great selection of audio books. Listen to your books instead and sip on some green tea mixed with fresh mint leaves and a dash of sugar.

Music and Mind

Free-writing is both a powerful and cathartic process. Allow yourself to free your conscience completely with 20 minutes of free-writing. There are no rules or prompts or deadlines, just your stream of thoughts put on paper. Play some music (preferably loudly) while you write to fuel your creativity. You never know, you might get a poem, a letter to self, a letter to a loved one, or the start of a series of journal entries. Tip: listening to music and rainymood.com simultaneously creates a wondrous audio experience that is definitely worth trying.

Image: Mike

CultureHealth

For the holidays, I decided to give my mom a “spa package.” I made her some natural lotions, natural sugar scrubs and got her gift certificates for a mani/pedi and facial (I tried making natural soaps, too, but that was a major fail). While making the lotions and sugar scrubs, I realized just how simple they really were, and I decided to make them for all of my family members and friends.

If you need a super last minute gift idea, or plan on giving friends gifts after the holidays, this is a great one. If not, this is still a simple, fantastic sugar scrub recipe that will leave your skin soft, smooth, hydrated and smelling delicious. It takes about three minutes, two everyday ingredients that I guarantee you already have (if you have a kitchen) and a container, like a mason jar, for storage.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Small mason jars (I found some cute 4 oz. ones at a craft store. You’ll want a fairly small size, because this scrub contains no preservatives and should be used within two months)
  • ½ cup sugar (white or brown)
  • ¼ cup oil (olive, almond and coconut are great options)
  • Optional: essential oils of your choice (I used lavender, rose and peppermint essential oils in different batches)

All you need to do is add the sugar, oil and about 15-20 drops essential oils into a bowl and mix until the sugar is completely coated. Then scoop it into a jar and you’re done! Add a cute label or tie some twine around it for effect.

You can also add different herbs or spices – I added ground cinnamon into my peppermint batch and thyme leaves to one of my lavender batches. Raw natural honey is a wonderful addition, too, as it’s great for softening skin.

A few things to note – be sure you choose a natural, organic oil, or else you’re thwarting your whole natural, chemical-free plan!

Additionally, should you choose to use coconut oil, most will come in solid form. You will need to melt it to liquid form before mixing. It is quite easy to melt – you can scoop it into a glass jar or container and put the container in a pot of simmering water until it melts. You could also use a double boiler or microwave it, although I prefer the glass jar method. It only takes a few minutes at most.

Finally, if you don’t want your coconut oil to smell like its strong coconutty self, be sure to buy refined coconut oil. It’s still natural coconut oil, and I prefer it in natural products because of its scentless-ness.

I used olive oil for mine and the olive oil scent is easily masked by the essential oils!  Olive is a great oil to use in natural products because its smell is light and often undetectable, even when not mixed with essential oils.

I hope you love this sugar scrub! What natural products or homemade gifts do you like making?

Image: Debra

CultureSkills

No matter what you are celebrating this holiday season, a party is a great opportunity to see those closest to you. The task of setting up a party is easier than you think. Here are some ideas to make sure your party is a success:

1. Decorate

There is a time to decorate and this is it. Your residence doesn’t have to be all holiday themed if you have guests of more than one faith. Snowflakes, snowmen, or other seasonal themed decorations are appropriate. Decorations that you have collected over the years can be charming. If you don’t have those on hand, homemade or new decorations could be just the thing to make your place seem like a home. ‘Tis The Season: DIY Christmas” by Nicolette Pezza will give you some simple tips to make homemade decorations.

2. Make A Holiday Playlist

There are lots of Christmas albums out there these days. Mix and match your favorite tracks to give your party some background music. It’s a great way to set the mood.

3. Watch Holiday Movies

There are tons of holiday movies out right now which is a great opportunity for a holiday movie marathon. Channels like the Hallmark Channel play holiday films pretty much continuously. Dig up some good holiday flicks or tell your guests to bring their favorites. You may learn to love something new.

4. Get Holiday Themed Food and Drinks

Holidays are a great time for making treats and distributing them to friends and neighbors. At my holiday parties, I let my friends help in the creation and design of their cookies. It’s a good way to be creative and productive when making your party spread. Think of some seasonal items for the rest of the menu. Take a look at “3 Easy To Make Holiday Beverages” by Marian Rose Bagamaspad for drink ideas.

5. Hand Out Party Favors

The point is to get your friends something to remember their time.  Holiday baking would count as a party favor. There are a lot of sales going on now. Find something small for the people in your life. This could also be a time to pass out Christmas cards.

6. Do What Works For You

Do whatever you feel comfortable with.  I know many people who bought themselves Christmas sweaters this year. Have a Christmas sweater party! Share a holiday tradition with your friends or create a new one. It’s a good way to get to know people better. The important thing is to have fun with what you have.

These are just a few suggestions for throwing the ideal holiday party. Use what is around and available to you. The holiday season is a great time to see all those people you miss the rest of the year. You’ll want everyone to have a good time.

What are your holiday party must haves?

Image: Daniel Ramirez

Skills

By the end of a tough year of school, it’s easy to get burned out. Even if you’re not in school, doing the same routine everyday can bore you. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid learning all together though. The more you use your mind, the better it will be. Here are a few ways to have fun while improving your mind:

1. Read

We all have those books we want to read if only we had the time. If you have the free hour, take the time. You may not be able to finish your book for awhile, but reading will transport you to somewhere else. More importantly, your brain will still be working on a new task while you’re relaxing.

2. Do Puzzles

Puzzles are an easy way to challenge yourself. This can include classic puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, or any other puzzles you can think of. You’ll get a fun sense of accomplishment when you’re done.

3. Learn A New Skill

If you’re bored or burned out in your every day life, introducing something new can be just the change you need. Learning a new skill will challenge you in a new way. Plus, maybe you’ll learn something useful like how to cook.

4. Free Write

Writing is a good way to free your mind of distractions. Have you ever had a problem focusing because something was weighing on your mind too much? You can write a story, a letter or anything else you want to get out. You can unburden yourself and improve your writing at the same time. You could even create a new masterpiece.

5. Get New Experiences

You never know how many new things you will learn just by getting out there and doing something that you’ve never tried before. Even trying a dish you never had before will give you a new experience. When traveling, you have to train yourself to know your way around which will give you a sense of direction. Meeting new people will strengthen your memory when you have to learn faces, names, and details. It will all expand your mind while being perfectly painless.

Get out there and try to re-energize yourself. Don’t stop learning. Taking a little time out of your day to improve yourself will be helpful in the long run, even if it is something as simple as taking an hour to read. Be your best self and have fun doing it!

How do you keep your brain active?

Image: opensource.com

Culture

Halloween is right around the corner, and with that comes the stress of figuring out what disguise you’ll be wearing for the night! As a college student, you’ll likely find the need to have more than one costume at hand. Here is a list of simple, unique, and money-saving costume ideas to help you this holiday season!

1. Nail Polish

We all have a love-hate relationship with painting our nails, so why not make your costume a tribute? This costume idea is simple and can involve yourself or a group of your friends! All that is needed is a solid colored dress and white duct tape to be used to spell out the name brand “Essie” along the side. If you want to spend a little more money, feel free to invest in a white hat to act as a cap! Another cute addition to this outfit is putting a strip of duct tape towards the top of your dress with a flirty and corny nail polish name (because we all know those are our favorite thing) such as “Plum Play With Me” or “Teal Me Your Secrets”!

2. Sesame Street

Why not give a tribute to your childhood and go down memory-lane this Halloween? Gather your best friend and do a Cookie Monster and Elmo duo with the simple purchase of snapbacks dedicated to the characters as well as a few small temporary tattoos to adorn your cheeks! Pair with a black top and blue or red skirt and some black knee-high socks with Converse to complete the look!

 3. Gumball Machine

We all have a sweet-tooth especially around this time of year! Pick up an inexpensive shirt at the store and glue colored pompoms to it with all-purpose glue. Pair this with a red skirt and you’re sure to be a sweet treat!

 4. Valentine’s

Another simple costume idea involving a simple or solid colored dress is to be a valentine! Use colored paper to cute out a heart and write a phrase such as “Be Mine,” “Text Me,” or “Melt My Heart.” Attach it to a piece of yarn and wear it as a necklace to be coordinating with your friends!

 5. Retro

Everyone loves a throwback, and the easiest way to do this is to grab an old boa from your childhood dress-up wardrobe with a simple dress and bold lipstick! Top it off with some winged liner and you’ll be throwing it back to Gatsby!

Have fun, be creative, and enjoy the Halloween spirit in the air (and don’t forget to scare a friend while you’re at it)!

Image: Lenore Edman

HealthSkills

Everyone’s goal seems to be to stay in shape nowadays. Of course, talking the talk is so much easier than walking the walk, so here’s a little help for getting on the right track.

  1. Find a Workout Buddy – Everything is easier with a friend, after all! Having someone there to support you on that last mile, or doing that last set where you literally feel like your limbs are going to fall off, can make a world of a difference. A little moral support can go a long way! If you want to go even further, join a sports team or fitness club. With so many people backing you up, working out will be downright easy.
  2. Start Slow and Make it a Habit – As the saying goes, nobody just goes out and runs a marathon. Don’t expect to show up one day and be able to lift the heaviest weight, or run ten miles. Start simple, and when the improvements start showing, up the ante. As long as you stick with it, you’ll be seeing results in no time.
  3. Get out of the Gym – Who needs treadmills when you have the whole world out there? A workout doesn’t necessarily mean slogging away in the gym. A hike, a trail run, yoga in the neighborhood park; all those count as well. The great outdoors is your fitness oyster, so don’t be afraid to step out of the gym.
  4. Manage Your Time Effectively – In this day and age, there’s always something pressing to spend time on, whether its homework, a job, or the season finale of your favorite show (and then it ended in a cliffhanger, so of course you have to start the next season on Netflix, and this season looks so good and…) However, just as there is time for Netflix, there is time for exercise (and studying should fit in there somewhere, too). Block your days out so you have a specific time where you can set everything aside and just go for a run. Chances are, you’ll feel much better having done it (and your show will be waiting for you when you get back).
  5. Give Yourself Days Off – Results don’t happen in a day, but injury and bad attitude can. If you’re sick or sore or just feeling like the world is crushing you, take the day off. Carrying the weight of the world can be just as much of a workout as carrying dumbbells. When those days hit, don’t force yourself through a miserable workout. Go for a walk instead, and give yourself a break if you need one.
EducationHealth

College is pretty expensive and not just because tuition is ridiculously high or because our wallets cry every time we purchase a textbook. Being a college student requires us to spend a lot of money because there are other expenses that tuition and scholarships don’t cover. For those of us who are dead set on avoiding the freshman 15, the sophomore 20, and any other amount of weight gain that comes with the mostly sedentary college life, then one of the most important things to have on campus is a gym membership. But for those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to go to a university that allows free access to the gym, I’m here to give you some alternatives.

  1. Walking/running: The good thing about living on or near a college campus is that there’s a lot of ground to cover. It doesn’t matter if your campus is huge or small, you can easily use the layout of the land to your advantage, and walk (or run) a few laps to get some cardio in. Bring a few friends along with you both for safety reasons and so you won’t get bored on your walk.
  2. Buy weights/kettlebells: You can easily find deals on personal workout equipment online or at any store that sells weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. Whatever you end up paying for weights will be a lot less money than what you’ll pay purchasing a gym membership at a university. And if you’re not sure what to do with the weights or whatever equipment you chose to buy, this next alternative will be of use to you.
  3. Workout DVDs/YouTube: There are many $5 dollar workout DVDs that are available to rent or purchase. Or if you don’t want to buy one just yet, get on YouTube and search for some workout videos there. They have a variety to chose from and a lot of them will get you started using any equipment that you bought. If you’re interested in yoga, you can find a variety of yoga videos and workouts that help target a specific area that you want to work on.
  4. Bike riding: Remember that bike that collects dust in your family’s garage? Not only is it a great form of transportation, especially on a large campus, but it will put those leg muscles to work.
  5. Sports: You don’t have to try out for an official team if you don’t want to, but you can get involved in club sports and intramurals to stay healthy and in shape.

Choosing any combination of these alternatives will get you into shape in no time and, more importantly, it’ll save you money in the long run. Exercise with a friend both for support and for safety, especially if you choose to walk or run around campus. Also, drink plenty of water and remember to stretch before and after every workout. Working out outside of a gym might take a little more effort, but that’s okay. Your health and body will thank you at the end of the semester.

Image: morguefile

SkillsTravel

Last week I talked about choosing a study abroad location. Choosing where in the world to go is exciting, but nothing can kill a study abroad dream quite like a look at the program price tag. Money doesn’t have to be your deciding factor, though. There are some things you can do to get funding and minimize – even eliminate – what you’ll have to spend on your program.

1. Scholarships

Study abroad scholarships are offered in a variety of capacities, including merit-based, student-specific (i.e. minority scholarships), destination-specific, program-specific (your home or destination school or program may offer scholarship options), and subject-specific (very common for language study, but also available for almost any area of study).

Studyabroad.com offers an extensive database of study abroad scholarships, and the Institute of International Education offers good search options for destination and subject-specific scholarships.

It’s important to pay attention to deadlines; many study abroad scholarships require early action. There are, of course, some that you can apply for on a rolling basis, with little time before you leave.

2. Study Abroad Loans

You can find a database of study abroad student loans here. The great thing about study abroad loans is that transportation and cultural excursions are eligible expenses.

3. Crowdfunding Websites

GoFundMe – This website is amazing. It allows you to quickly and easily set up a fundraising page with a goal, photo and description, and makes it easy for people to donate to the page. Another great crowdfunding website is GoGetFunding.com. Once you’ve created your page, share it via social media and email to all your family and friends, asking them to support you in your dream to study abroad.

In your email, it will help to lay out what exactly your expenses are, what their donations will be funding, and your study abroad goals/things you want to experience. Providing a suggested amount (keep it low so people aren’t deterred), and list what exactly that amount will cover (i.e. a week of groceries, an unlimited train pass, etc.) And of course, be sure to thank everyone and offer the option to pass on donating. You can even request that they share it with other friends.

You can select either a personal funding campaign or an all-or-nothing campaign. The all-or-nothing contains a goal and time limit, while the personal funding does not. With all-or-nothing, you only get donations if you reach your goal, whereas you get all donations from a personal funding campaign.

4. Find an exchange program

I did this, meaning my school exchanged me for a student from the school at which I studied. The reason this option rocked so much was that I had no added costs to my university tuition (besides my flight); my costs actually were lower because I didn’t have to pay my university’s housing or meal plan, plus all of my regular university scholarships still applied in addition to an extra study abroad one. Check with your university to see whether it has exchange programs, and how fees are allocated.

5. Holiday Gift Requests

Send out a mass email, e-card or letter to all family members and friends who typically give you birthday or Christmas gifts. Let them know that in lieu of gifts, you’re asking for funds to go abroad.

Like GoFundMe, list your expenses and goals, and why it’s so important to you to go abroad. You could even list interesting facts about your university and location; that gets people excited.

6. Local fundraising

This works well in smaller towns or suburbs. Ask local restaurants or businesses, particularly those that you spend time at often, to place a donation jar at the counter. While this won’t earn you outrageous amounts of cash, it is an effortless way to earn some extra spending money.

Be sure to leave an info sheet by the jar or can explaining what the fundraising is for and why it’s important to you.

7. Garage sale

Any type of sale is great, but I hosted a garage sale before my trip and made $600 from it. That paid for two months’ rent (my student housing was cheap) and it also helped me de-clutter, so it was a win-win. Hosting various sales, like art sales, bake sales, book sales etc. may, again, not earn you mass sums of money but can get you some good spending money.

If you really have a lot of stuff and your sales do well, you can even earn enough to cover your round-trip flight to and from your host country and more.

8. Odd jobs

Walk dogs, mow lawns, photograph events, babysit… anything you’re good at that can bring in some extra cash. All it takes is a little simple networking and some flyers.

So, between scholarships, loans and personal fundraising, you may be able to raise enough to study completely cost-free.

What tips do you have for funding a study abroad experience? Any creative ways to make money?

Image: Kristina Zuidema, Flickr

Travel

Summers are underrated. Relaxing under the sun, hanging out with friends, seeing movies whenever you feel like them, and worst of all desperately attempting to avoid work all lead down a high speed road until you’re plopped back into the fall at work or at school and wonder what you’re doing with your life.

For me personally, I am staring the inevitable death of summers right in the face, as I prepare for my senior year of college. But no matter what situation might bring you towards your last summer vacation, what’s important is that you make the most of it.

Here are some ideas for how to make the most out of any summer, and avoid that downhill tumble into September:

1. Make fitness a priority.

The hardest part about exercise is getting it into a part of your daily routine. The dog days of summer are the perfect time to set yourself up for the busier seasons ahead by installing an exercise plan throughout the week. It feels like work, but after awhile the habit will kick in. You’ll want to go for a run rather than need to. Whether it’s to stay in shape or just to keep your mind sharp, exercise is a valuable asset to any go-getter’s arsenal.

2. Mix up your environment.

You’ll have the rest of your life to work in a typical office experience. While getting any professional experience will be incredibly valuable in the future, try to find it in an avenue that’s possibly more of a peripheral interest, or that’ll challenge you in ways your aspiring career might not. I’ll give you a personal example.  During my last summer, I have spent my days as a Creative Writing Intern for a small video game company. Though I’ve always enjoyed both writing and video games, I had never fully combined them into one workday until this experience. I feel like its really broadened my preexisting skillset, and opened a door to a potential career field I hadn’t initially thought about.

3. Keep an idea journal.

One of the most powerful things humans have are ideas. Keeping a journal of your day-to-day ideas keeps them under your control and in your hands. Big or small, easy or difficult, all ideas should be saved. You never know when an idea will come, or when the timing is right to seize on it. Write it down.

4. Take advantage of a flexible schedule.

The last summer also presents the ominous prospect of potentially leaving your home or your hometown. Take some time to revisit landmarks from the past,and to discover new places and possibilities too! The flexible schedule of the summer will leave you with some space to get out of your house and your comfort zone. Sleeping in is always an incredible option, but when you’re young and the world is this old, you gotta take advantage of all it has to offer.

5. Set away time for fun.

At the end of the day, this is still summer vacation. I know it’s hard to remember that second part. But it’s still there! When the waning summer days start to get hectic, give yourself the space to recharge in whatever outlet you find best. Binge a television show you’ve always wanted to binge. Read. Sometimes the best thing you can do to further your professional goals is to achieve your recreational ones. You should love the work you do, but don’t forget to love your life, too.

How have you been making the most of your summer?

Image: Jay Mantri

EducationSkills

Summer has just started and most of you are probably too busy soaking up the sun to think about your first semester of college. But everyone else? Well, if you’re anything like I was the summer before my freshman year, then every other thought that you have is about college.

Is that a good thing? Yes!

It’s good that you’re thinking about college because, before you know it, you’ll be moving in to your dorm room and your life as a college freshman will begin. But don’t be afraid! While college can seem intimidating, it’s not as scary as you think it is. Once you get settled into your room, explore your campus, and get the hang of where all of your classes are, your university won’t feel like home just yet but it’ll be a lot more familiar.

If you want your campus to start to feel like your home away from home, then getting involved is the best way to go about making that happen. You’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to get involved if you’re the new kid on campus. Well, for starters, don’t think that just because you’re new means you can’t get involved. All of the clubs and organizations at your college will be happy to have you because that’s part of what makes college college. Outside of academics, universities thrive on student-run organizations and activities. So, to make the best of your college experience, put yourself out there and become a part of your collegiate community.

Not sure how to do that? That’s okay!

Here are a few tips on how to get involved on your campus:

Join Clubs

Most colleges dedicate a day or even a whole week to showcasing the different kinds of clubs and organizations on campus. Whether your campus has more than forty clubs or less than twenty, make sure you visit as many club/organization tables during your school’s activities fair as you can. Learn about each club and organization by talking to the people at each station, and if you like what they’re about, sign up! Clubs are a great way to submerge yourself into the community and to make new friends.

Look at the Event Calendar

As I said before, universities thrive on student-run organizations and activities. If there are any events or activities happening, chances are students were behind making them happen. Usually there are event calendars posted around campus and maybe even on the school website. Wherever it may be for you, make a note of when things are happening. Is a local band performing in the student community center? Is there a comedian coming to campus? A lot of college events are fun and more importantly free! Don’t miss out on your chance to attend some of them, or better yet, volunteer to work the event. This brings me to my next tip.

Volunteer

If you volunteered at a nursing home every week or helped clean up your neighborhood while you were in high school, that’s great! If you didn’t do a whole lot of volunteering, don’t fret. You still have a chance to get involved with different volunteering organizations. Penn State has an organization that helps raise money for kids with pediatric cancer called THON. Your campus might have a similar organization so ask around to find out. If you’re not into fundraising, see if your campus is affiliated with Habitat For Humanity or any other non-profit organization. If they are, this is your opportunity to get involved with some of them. Just like clubs, volunteering is a great way to network and to become a part of your campus.

Talk to People

Freshmen Orientation is the perfect time to make connections. Your orientation leaders are there to help you, and the great thing about that is – they’re sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’ve been where you are and know the ins and outs of college and how to get involved. Ask them questions about their college experience and how they went about making the campus their home away from home.

These are just a few tips to get you started on getting involved on your college campus. Trust me, once you find your place at your university, navigating the collegiate world will get easier and, before you know it, you’ll no longer feel like the new kid.

Photo courtesy of Eric E Johnson

Education

Not only does a new year bring new goals, new classes, and new friends, but January also means that a new semester is starting. For high school seniors, this semester is critical. It is the last few months that you will spend with friends you’ve known for years, it is the time to create a legacy for your class, and it is a time where major life decisions are being made, such as where to attend college or what to study during your gap year.

The countdown begins for seniors, and it is bittersweet because these are the “last time” experiences that you will cherish for a while. You have five months to make your last semester of high school awesome – these 6 ideas will help you make it a semester you’ll never forget.

Designated dress-up day. When I was a senior in high school, my classmates and I wanted to leave a legacy. We wanted to do something memorable. What we decided to do was coordinate dress-up day for one day of every month. This took a lot of effort even though we were a fairly small senior class because in order to pull off the stunt, every single senior had to be dressed up – it had more impact this way. Every month all of the seniors would meet and decide the theme of the month. On dress up day, all of the other non-senior students were thoroughly entertained and surprised. Dress-up day also brought our senior class closer together and gave everyone something fun to participate in. Dress-up ideas include: toga, 70’s, the Great Gatsby, Under Construction, school colors, Hawaiian, mismatched, sporty, ugly sweater, one color, twins, and alphabet.

Connect with teachers. High school teachers are fantastic and they have been there throughout major growing moments in your life. Get to know your teachers better so that when you graduate, you can keep in touch and visit. The loads of homework your teachers assign can be annoying, but don’t let that deter you from getting to know them better.

Get to know your classmates. If you have found your close group of friends that you are comfortable with, that’s awesome. But remember that there is always room for more friends. Get to know classmates you didn’t have the chance to talk to last semester. The friends you make this semester might be your friends for life. Take the time to talk to people you don’t know before graduating and leaving for good.

Nix the drama. High school is filled with unnecessary, stressful drama. And guess what? It’s never worth it! Reject participating in drama and allow yourself to have a stress-free semester that you can actually enjoy with friends. Don’t let petty drama ruin your last days of high school.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Your last semester of high school is the perfect time to try something you didn’t have the opportunity to do during the last three and a half years. Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there. If you are shy and didn’t have the chance to try your hand at drama, audition for the school play. Always wanted to make a 3-pointer? Tryout for the basketball team. Your last semester of high school should be fun and filled with new experiences that could change the course of your life. Who knows, maybe the pottery class you decided to take last minute will inspire you to major in Art in college! Use this time to try new activities and discover new things about yourself.

Go to the Prom. Whether you go with a date, your best friend, or your sister, go to prom and have fun. Try not to worry about being asked or how you look. In a few years there’s a good chance you won’t even remember the dress you wore, but I can guarantee you will remember how much fun you and your best friends had laughing together. Many seniors opt out of going to prom, but it’s one night of your life and you can make it the night you want it to be.

How are you going to make your last semester of high school awesome?

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