CollegeEducationSkills

A resident assistant (RA) is a trained peer leader who supervises residents living in a dormitory. RAs have many roles and responsibilities. They build a community through programming, serve as resources, mediate conflicts, and enforce college’s policies. RAs must be role models on campus and hold themselves accountable to all policies.

As the application season quickly approaches, are you considering becoming an RA? RAs get free room and board! That settles it. But wait a second— there’s a lot more to being an RA than just a free single room. Being an RA can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re not in it for the right reasons. Before you sign up, make sure you know what the position involves.

Perks

Making an Impact

The most rewarding aspect of being an RA is knowing that helping someone, even in the slightest way, can have a major impact on his or her life. When I came back to college after summer break, several of my residents from the previous year approached me and gave me big hugs. As an RA, you help residents go through various issues ranging from homesickness, roommate conflicts, and alcohol poisoning to suicidal ideation and power-based interpersonal violence. You give advice about getting involved on campus, talking to professors, and socializing.

Time Management

Being an RA is a 24-hour job. Sometimes residents are surprised that we are also full time students who have other responsibilities, such as on or off campus jobs, internships, or involvement in campus organizations. Being an RA means having mandatory weekly staff meetings and weekday and weekend duties when you have to go on “rounds” through all of the floors and stay in the building from a certain time in the evening until morning. This position helps you plan your time well and prioritize. You become good at multitasking and scheduling.

Crisis Management

As an RA you learn to think on your feet. You don’t have time to plan every move because the situations that arise are time sensitive. You might find someone passed out in the bathroom and have to transport them to the hospital. You might have to evacuate the building at 3AM in your PJs. You might have a resident cry on your shoulder about a recent breakup. You never know what to expect, so you always have to be ready. Being an RA teaches you how to handle any crisis. For a crisis to be handled well, effective communication skills are crucial. You develop them by interacting with your fellow RAs, residential directors (RDs), and residents. Sometimes the communication is urgent and can’t wait until the next day. During crises, RDS, fellow RAs, and police have to be notified immediately.

Relationships

One of the best things about being an RA are the relationships you can form. You spend so much time with you fellow RAs during training, mandatory staff meetings, and also by working and living together in the same building, that they can quickly become some of your best friends. You share this bond with each other because you have similar experiences as RAs. RAs understand that you are sleep deprived because you’ve been dealing with an incident while on duty or had a few lockouts at 4AM the previous night. They’re your biggest support system and you can always rely on them. They can help you by covering duty or being there for you when you break down— RAs call that “RA-ing” each other. Besides the issues of the residents, RAs frequently have their own personal problems, so being there for one another is very important.

You also have unique relationships with your residents. They continue to ask you for advice if they feel comfortable around you. It’s wonderful to see them grow throughout the year. Often times you can become friends with most of your former residents.

Not only are relationships formed with your peers and residents, but also with your RDs.  They are your supervisors and you spend a lot of time working with them. They help you with both your professional development and your personal growth.   

Compensation

Each college offers different compensation packages, but most provide free room and board. You get your own room and don’t have to worry about living with someone else. For most, this compensation helps finance their college education. It depends on the location of the college, but I’m able to live in downtown Boston for free. A lot of people apply to be RAs just because of free housing. This reason is valid, but not good enough. The job is a big commitment and requires a lot of dedication, so you need to be passionate about it; you can’t just do it for the money. Maybe you care about fostering diversity and inclusion in the community or maybe you want to help the freshmen adjust — these are all important factors in making the decision to be an RA.

Pitfalls

Time Requirement

You’re going to be busy. Sometimes your time isn’t always your own as an RA. Academics always come first, but then it’s the RA position (not any other leadership position or job you hold on campus). You have to be able to work around other commitments and get coverage when needed. It’s important to manage your time well and even schedule in time for rest.

Sleeping in Your Office

Unlike any other job, when you’re an RA, you basically sleep in your office. Maybe it’s 3AM or 8AM in the morning and someone knocks on your door — it’s a lockout. You have to do it. Maybe you have a significant other, but your resident needs you urgently, so your privacy is limited.

Stress

Juggling a lot of things at the same time is stressful. You have classes, other commitments like jobs or clubs, and your personal life. Sometimes your residents forget that you’re also human and that you might feel the same things that they are feeling. They come to you to complain about their roommates, professors, homesickness, personal problems, etc. That’s why you can always rely on your RA friends to listen to you.

Returning to Campus Early

Returning early to campus for training requires you to do some major planning with your summer. You can’t work, intern, travel or research for the entire summer and you have to find places that would hire you for a shorter period of time.

Fish Bowl Effect

As an RA you’re held to higher standards even if you’re not officially on the job. Technically, you’re never “off duty.” If you see something wrong, you have to report it. Students know that you’re an RA and they look up to you as a role model. They might follow every step you take. If you make a mistake, they might hold it against you and it can cost you your job, unfortunately.

The RA position has prepared me for future employment because it has not only taught me how to communicate effectively, manage time, educate, and mediate and solve conflicts, but has also helped me develop a leadership style. Like Ralph Nader said, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

Image Courtesy of Demi Vitkute

CultureLearnSkills

Being a leader is not easy. There are countless factors and people to consider at any given moment. Being a leader, however, is a life-changing and life-steering opportunity to positively influence other people. As a student leader, you have the privilege to impact peers, the community, and your campus every day. Having any sort of reach to influence others is a great responsibility and understanding the meaning behind it is essential for everyone. Leadership styles are all different, but here are four traits that every student leader need not forget:

1. FULLY PRESENT, FORWARD-LOOKING

Sharing a vision and fostering its growth with relationship-building and goal-setting.

Leaders are bifocal, always looking at both the process and outcome. They understand the details of working with people and how their opinions must be heard and considered before making further steps. They take time to get to know the people on their team to gain insight on their strengths and potential contributions. Think of a leader as a conductor of an orchestra. They oversee the pace of the music, paying attention to various sections of musicians while working towards an engaging and emotional performance. Conductors are able to think notes ahead, anticipating the turns of tone and guiding musicians to change tempo if need be. Similarly, student leaders are in rhythm with the interactions on their team and the overall project development. If something begins to sound off key, leaders are the first to respond with some fine-tuning, knowing the desired sound and sharing that vision with everyone else.

2. TRANSPARENCY

No hidden agendas. Consistent openness and a willingness to show your true self.

Gaining trust from a group of people can be difficult, keeping it can be harder. Student leaders accept this challenge by being transparent and conveying clear, direct, and honest information. Even more than that, they feel compelled to do so not in their own best interest but in the best interest of their organization. Especially when leading peers your age, it is essential to be seen as the real you. If there are conflicts among team members, rising concerns over new policies, or a personal dilemma, people will respond better if the news is shared in a sincere and straightforward way. By doing so, you are showing people respect for their time and their thoughts, allowing them to know about a situation and to make up their own minds. Being transparent tells people that your concern for the group is a priority and that you are willing to sacrifice self-importance and self-perception for honesty. True emotion and vulnerability do have a place in leadership and often times that’s what makes leaders even stronger.

3. FIRM STANCE, FLEXIBLE GRASP

Rooted in personal and organizational values while having the ability to accept change.

Just as important as having your own principles is the open-mindedness to value those that are different. People look to leaders to gauge situations or make the first move, and there are reasons why they have been chosen to do so. Anchored in ideals like social justice, collaboration, mentoring, or community involvement, leaders identify strongly with their core values and show people where their actions are coming from. The extension of this quality is being able to make choices when their values are tested. For this trait we can think of a leader as being their own solar system. They are centered in their world of values and cannot choose what goes into their orbit. Sometimes, collisions of ideas happen when they’re least expected. When this happens, leaders must accept the change, learn how to listen to conflicting opinions, and gather the information needed to make an unbiased decision. They may be unwavering in their central ideals but are always ready to listen to the input of others and apply new knowledge.

4. LOVE AND LIGHT

Creating a loving and supportive atmosphere by empowering others to rise to their best selves.

Forbes contributor Meghan M. Biro describes this quality as “something that transcends the every day ordinary and the practical, they engage you on an emotional level.” As described in the Harvard Business Review, there are multiple studies to back this up, showing that “employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork.” Student leaders are not just called upon to run meetings and make decisions. They are called to create a warm and inviting environment for their team members to feel secure and heard. Remember, those who feel encouraged to do their best are more likely to excel. A smile, a thank you note, a friendly follow-up, a motivational email, or a team retreat (that’s just for fun), can help boost morale. It’s about making spaces that are conducive to conversation, safe from judgment, and inspiring to be in. Student leaders have a lot to do, but it’s the way they do it that makes all the difference.

Image: Startup Stock

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As an entrepreneur, it can be difficult to find useful resources to help grow your business. Many days are full of trial and error and spent thinking, what can I do to make my business successful? This is where Irving Torres steps in. As founder of Young and CEO, Irving empowers entrepreneurs  and provides free resources and tools to help entrepreneurs succeed and make their dreams a reality. When you sign up for the Young and CEO newsletter, you receive lots of information about books to be reading, smart articles from around the web, and tools that will help you advance.

Irving is passionate about helping others succeed, and he goes above and beyond to answer a question or provide more information. Start-up life is nothing new to Irving as he was heavily involved in starting organizations and businesses in college. For those interested in starting a business, club, or organization – in or out of school – Irving shares the lessons he learned and what he experienced along the way. From balancing school and business to taking the time to travel and explore and always being hungry for knowledge and information, Irving is seizing his youth and making the most of every minute of every day. When there’s a lot to see, do, and accomplish, there’s no time to waste.

Name: Irving Torres
Age: 23
Education: B.A. in Media Studies from Pomona College
Follow: Twitter / Young And CEO / Irving Torres

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”? 

Irving Torres: To me seizing your youth is all about realizing that no matter who you are, you can take everything that has been given to you and modify it, break it down, and create new things for other people to use. As Steve Jobs famously said, “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you will never be the same again”.  This is what ‘seizing your youth’ means to me. Realizing that you have more power than you thought possible and realizing that you are in the driver’s seat of your life and not the standards set by the people of the world.

CJ: You attended Pomona College and majored in Media Studies. How did you determine what to study?

IT: It was a pretty tough decision that’s for sure. I have always been a curious mind so I was undecided for a few years. I took everything from Chemistry to Psychology, Calculus, and Economics. I loved learning different skills and making friends in various disciplines. I finally settled on Media Studies after I took an intro to Digital Media course and fell in love with the intersection of technology, media, music, film, and art. Even with Media Studies I was all over the place and took a bit of film history, art, drawing, graphic design, advanced film, and theory.

I finished off my senior year by taking two Entrepreneurship courses and that’s when it all came together for me. I realized that I was a creative, a maker. I had accumulated a whole arsenal of tools to use in creating something like a business. It was thanks to all of this exploring that I landed with Media Studies and I couldn’t have been happier. My advice for current college students is to not be afraid to explore outside of your comfort zones. It was in the process of nearly failing microeconomics that I learned what I was truly passionate about.

CJ: When you were in college, you founded Pomona Ventures, which inspires students to take risks and tackle real world problems. How did you go about raising capital for this organization?  

IT: The journey was a tough one for sure. We were met with many obstacles because there had never been an entrepreneurship organization on campus so administration had no guidelines or funding set aside for us. We had to think creatively. Nevertheless, we were aware of a few advantages we had. 1. We were college students and we knew that we could get away with a lot. Mentors would (in theory) flock to us and alumni would be supportive because we were still young. 2. We did extensive research on entrepreneurship courses and programs at other college campuses (we wanted to be able to explain how far behind we were). 3. I was pretty darn good at talking to people and maintaining professional relationships (known in the business world as ‘networking’) as well as marketing.

Based on these strengths, we first partnered up with the alumni gifts department to be able to tap into the alumni network directly without interference. They wanted to get alumni in Silicon Valley involved in the college once more and we wanted donors and mentors so it was a win-win for us both. We then drafted up an entire program proposal complete with events, competitions, budgets, and info graphics. My roommate did most of the work on that one. I then coded a website, designed a logo, put the messaging together, and got a ‘pitch deck’ type of presentation together to make sure we were clear on everything. We then interviewed a few first-years who were interested in joining the team because we knew that we wanted to keep this going beyond our graduation the following year.

At this point it was show time. During all of this chaos we were able to set up a meeting with a dozen prominent Pomona College alumni involved in entrepreneurship. Pomona paid for the executive team to fly up to San Jose and have dinner with them. Our goal was to get them interested enough for them to give donations and/or get involved. We walked into that restaurant with spiral bound proposals for each alumni, awesome energy, and incredible passion that we had about this idea to help others discover entrepreneurship and receive resources and support.  The dinner was well over four hours and we managed to convince them that we were up to the challenge. The alumni started to pledge on the spot and a few weeks later we had a sizable amount of funding in the bank. The whole process took about three months but the funding was crucial in throwing events and educating the student population.

CJ: Any tips for starting an organization while balancing school?

IT: Just do it. College is the best time to try something new. The risk of starting a business is little to none and there is a ton of support from professors, family, and friends. My first business in college was DJ-ing. It wasn’t a big deal but I was getting paid pretty well for three hour gigs at different college events and off campus events. More importantly however was the fact that I was having a blast! I think that in the past people had to choose between college or business but with the advances in technology and the increase in resources it is now possible to do both and excel.

Make sure to be flexible about whatever you build (pivoting when needed is crucial) and also make sure to fail fast if necessary. It’s better to realize something is not going as planned and quitting while it’s early in order to learn as much as possible and create something else. Use the anonymity of the Internet to test ideas and products without spending a dime. I’d suggest reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. There might be times when you feel stressed because of the workload you have. I’ve dealt with that. I had an on-campus job as an R.A., worked on my business, and was a full-time student. My advice? Make sure to keep your calendar well organized and make sure you set some time aside to go to the gym, eat healthy (not rushed), and to take a breather. These things help out a ton and can boost up your mental state if done regularly. Lastly, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks. This is something I struggled with because I was a perfectionist but I learned to work with my teams (work, school, & business) in order to balance my workload and still be successful.

CJ: After graduating from college you founded Young and CEO, an entrepreneurship organization that supercharges entrepreneurs with free resources and powerful tools. What inspired you to start Young and CEO?

IT: To answer this I have to go back a little and tell you how I got to be where I am. My whole life I was taught to pursue a certain path and check different boxes in order to be successful. As a first generation Chicano there were two paths in my mind. One path led to an easy life of conformity where I would amount to nothing and probably stay in the same neighborhood and father children at a young age. The other path was one of hard work and dedication but it included education and ‘success’. I could be someone. I picked the latter. With my eye set on the prize I put my foot forward and became a 4.0 student, captain of the lacrosse team, member of the honor society, and eventually got a full ride to a university of my choice thanks to the Gates Millennium Scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Once I started college I followed this arbitrary path to ‘success’ and continued off checking boxes. I finished all of my college general requirements by my first year, became a manager at my on-campus job, got a wonderful girlfriend, and began to think about my ‘career’. All good so far. It was around this time that I was introduced to entrepreneurship. I had never even heard of that word. It took me a while to realize it was pretty much the same thing as business but with a sexier ring to it and more about us as generation-y. It was an interesting and fascinating world for me.

Pomona College paid for a trip for me to attend an entrepreneurship summit in New York City with the Kairos Society. It was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during one of the events that it hit me. Here I was, the Chicano kid from the urban sprawl in San Diego on the New York Stock Exchange trade floor having drinks with mentors like the CEO of Cisco and the founder of Electronic Arts. Everyone there was around my age and they were creating things, solving problems, and having an awesome time doing it. This was what I wanted to do, I realized. Why is this not a viable career path? Why was it that I had to find this organization to meet people who pushed me to create something and solve global problems? Why had it taken me 20 years to learn about entrepreneurship and more importantly that I, Irving Torres from City Heights and son of a single mother, could create something to change the world for the better. I had checked off all the boxes up to this point. I had taken the Myers-Briggs test, I had been to the career center, I was attending one of the best institutions in the world.

Everyone told me to get a career in teaching, higher education, or management consulting. These were safe bets and had stable salaries.  No one had told me I could change the very fabric of what we accept as a life. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I could but no one had ever sat me down and said, “Hey look, someone else created the ‘path’ to ‘success’ you are on. This whole, ‘go to school, go to college, get a good job, and start a family’, you don’t have to follow this. You can create your own path”. The important thing I know is that you have the power to do as you please. It was with this mentality that I decided to help others discover this very thing. I believe the world would be a better place if people at the very least realized this.

I think that the world we live in is full of problems but we also have a ton of incredibly intelligent and passionate people. With Young And CEO I send out a monthly newsletter full of info on events like the Kairos Society, Starting Bloc, the Thiel Fellowship and more so that others can discover the power within. I include a book summary and review every month on powerful books that could change the very way you think and solve problems. I also write articles and send tools, news, and send any resources that could help entrepreneurs succeed. I want the young entrepreneurs (and the old) out there to realize the potential they have in changing the world.

CJ: You are the Creative Director at Young and CEO. What does your role as Creative Director entail?

IT: I run the day-to-day operations and work on delivering the best content via our monthly newsletters. This means I am always digesting books, content, and networking with others to grow our organization. I embrace my creativity and unconventional methods of doing business hence the title. The thing that drives me the most however is the ability to connect with and help other entrepreneurs around the world.

I’ve personally connected with a few of these entrepreneurs and it’s amazing to see what they are up to. I met Collette, a female racer who is doing some great work in the bay and inspiring women to get involved in entrepreneurship.  Fabio is an Italian entrepreneur who is starting a crowd-funding site for students and has built a great team. I’ve also connected with Jason, an entrepreneur here in the U.S. who sold his last name to a tech start-up and just recently released a book. Meeting other innovators is the best way to learn new things and the best way to collaborate. This is why I am trying so hard to create this entrepreneurship community.

CJ: When starting Young and CEO, what skills did you have that were useful, and what do you wish you had known before taking the leap?

IT: A lot of the skills I learned on my own throughout the years were extremely helpful when launching Young And CEO. I picked up graphic design my freshman year of college and had been operating a small logo design business for random organizations and school clubs. This helps me have a good sense of design when it comes to my website, newsletters, and logos. I also learned photography, videography, web design, and business from several courses I attended, blogs I frequented, and books I read. All of these allowed me to do 100% of the stuff in-house and with great ease.

The legal aspect of launching an LLC I learned on the job when I hired a lawyer to help me incorporate the business. The experiences in launching organizations in college were very helpful but definitely not the same. I made a few mistakes but they helped me learn a ton. Going into it with little preparation was actually the best thing I have ever done because it allowed the business to evolve along with me.

irving 3

CJ: You were a Growth Hacker at Strikingly. What does it mean to be a Growth Hacker?

IT: A Growth Hacker is the new VP of Marketing at tech companies. During the rise of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, founders had to find creative and efficient ways to catch up to the big companies. There was little to no capital to spend and a huge market to reach so many started ‘hacking’ the system. The founders of Hotmail for example, found that adding a signature with a link to sign up for their service at the bottom of every e-mail in circulation would allow them to advertise and grow their service organically (it worked).

Some start-ups created viral videos and gained an enormous following for little to no cost. Big companies started to realize that a lot of these little guys were growing at alarming rates because start-ups had Growth Hackers (a mixture of computer coder, marketer, and entrepreneur). This is what I am and it allows me to use my entire arsenal of weapons to help Strikingly succeed. I basically focus on reaching as many potential users out there in the most creative ways possible. It is an exhilarating thing to do.

CJ: You are currently writing a book. What is your book about, and what does your book writing process look like?

IT: The book I am writing is a collection of stories that will help entrepreneurs realize the power within. I’m including experiences, things I’ve heard from travelling and living on the Vegas strip for a few months, and amazing stories I have learned. After reading a ton of great books like Think Like A Freak and David and Goliath I found that stories are the most effective and entertaining way to teach. I don’t really have a set process. I write when I feel inspired and I think this is the best way to go about because I want every single page to be passionate, honest, and raw. Stay tuned for more information via my monthly newsletter.

CJ: Between working, traveling, writing, and maintaining a social life, how do you manage your time?  

IT: I’ve become really good at prioritizing tasks and getting ‘in the zone’. I usually keep a running list of to-dos and keep a log of my goals. Getting in ‘the zone’ takes practice but I can speed up the process by a mix of different activities. I like to stay active, I’m always hydrating, and I try to eat healthy. By consistently doing this I have no problem sitting down for hours a day and hashing out work while listening to some good music.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

IT: The great thing about my life at this point is that every day is really different.You will probably find me mountain biking around, at a meet-up, reading a book, or exploring some new part of the world.Right now I am at Strikingly in Shanghai so I usually work and play at the office and then I head out for some good food or to explore the city.

CJ: What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in being entrepreneurs?

IT: Read a lot of good books, tinker with technology, and get a good education so that you can get a good feel of how the world works and then go for it. Don’t hold back.Try something new and ask for guidance and mentorship but don’t let others dictate what you do. Remember that you are in charge. Take this time to experiment with business and use all of the tools that many of us entrepreneurs didn’t have available. I didn’t get on-line until I was in middle school.

CJ: When you aren’t growth hacking and growing Young and CEO, how do you like to spend your time?

IT: I like to be spontaneous. Sometimes I go out with no agenda and find something to do.  I definitely read a ton and watch TED talks it feeds my knowledge thirstiness. I go biking or running, and I like to go out with friends. One big hobby of mine is photography. I was actually considering getting into commercial or travel photography at some point and who knows? I just might.

CJ: What motivates you?

IT: I think the drive to create something good for this world and inspire others to do the same is my main source of motivation. I really do believe that the world would be a better place with innovation. Just recently I saw how a man created a trash collecting water wheel in Baltimore and placed it in the inner harbor. This water-powered machine picks up tons of trash every month. Without his idea this wouldn’t have been possible and all it took was the courage to believe that he could make a difference.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

IT: I don’t think I would. I feel very happy with the path I took and I think the butterfly effect might just ruin something. If I had to I would remind myself to make time to get to know people, never forget where I came from, and to under promise and over deliver.

Irving Torres Qs

Images by Irving Torres

EducationSkills

Debt. And debt. And then some more debt. We all know it’s waiting for us at the end of our four years in college, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice a new college wardrobe, right? Though it may be hard to part with your over-flowing closet of endless outfit options, here’s what you really need for your college wardrobe to stay up-to-date without breaking the bank:

1. Leggings/Yoga Pants/Sweatpants

Every college student knows that life revolves around leggings, yoga pants, sweatpants, and the life of comfort that comes with them! There’s a simple way to break down these basics that you’ll likely be wearing 75% of the week:

  • Leggings: When you want to be comfortable but still want to look nice. When paired with the right shirt these can totally be dressed up!
  • Yoga Pants: More casual and perfect for when you’re on the run from class to class but still want to look somewhat put together.
  • Sweatpants: Typically worn on those roll-out-of-bed mornings, sweatpants are the ultimate comfort luxury for when all you want to do is curl up in your bed and sleep the day away.

2. Shorts

As much as leggings, yoga pants, and sweatpants are the staple of every college wardrobe, the long pants just aren’t going to cut it during the warm weather that comes around during the beginning and end of the year. Shorts, particularly jean shorts since they match virtually anything, are the go-to wardrobe fix for this problem.

3. Jeans

There will be days, most likely around once a month, wear you decide to break out the jeans and look a little nicer than usual. Jeans will also come in handy when you want to go out but don’t feel like getting completely decked-out in a skirt.

4. Plain Shirts

Another absolute staple, plain shirts – both long-sleeved and short-sleeved – are going to allow you to get the most out of your wardrobe and money. These can be paired with any variety of bottoms and layered with the right cardigan, scarf, or jewelry, and they can be worn on any occasion.

5. Crop Tops and Skirts

Whether or not the party scene is for you, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience at least one during your four years. Crop tops and skirts are items that are typically worn, so it can’t hurt to have one or two of these stolen away in your closet or dresser!

6. Scarves

In order to dress up those plain t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts and to keep warm, scarves are a necessity. They’ll allow you to get the most out of your basics by making an already worn outfit appear brand-new while also keeping you cozy as the weather cools down.

7. Cardigan/Jackets

Like scarves, these add-ons can be a life saver when it comes to getting the most out of your college wardrobe. They’ll also help big time with transitioning into fall and winter weather. You can get the most out of those summer tops without freezing and still look stylish.

8. Flip flops

Two words: flip flops. The ultimate necessity that every college student needs. There are three very important uses where flip flops come into play.

  • In the Shower: Whether you’re in a suite or in a communal bathroom, sharing a bathroom with any amount of people is tricky business. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a pair of cheap flip flops to solely wear in for your bathroom adventures.
  • At Parties/Social Gatherings: There will be drinks and there will be spilling of drinks. Do yourself a favor and wear a pair of (preferably black) flip flops so you don’t have to go through the heartbreak of having your favorite (or worse—brand new) shoes ruined.
  • Everyday Convenience: As mentioned earlier, you’ll definitely have your roll-out-of-bed mornings and those mornings require no-hassle shoes. Flip flops are the perfect solution!

9. Flat/Fall boots

As the weather gets colder, you’re no longer going to be able to wear your beloved flip flops going from class to class. The smart choice that every college student should make is to have at least one pair of flat boots for everyday use. No wedges, and definitely no heels, are needed when it comes to trudging your way across campus!

10. Undergarments

This may seem extremely obvious, but I felt like this was a necessity to put on the list either way. Pro tip: stock up. Being in college calls for a lot of hours to do the three S’s: study, socialize, and sleep. That leaves little time to do laundry and even when you do have the time, you’re really not going to want to do it. Also, don’t forget to have a surplus of socks (we all know we’re bound to have multiple lone socks in the drawer after a month or so)!

Overall, these 10 categories should save you a lot of hassle when it comes to deciding what you need for your college wardrobe! Happy shopping!

EducationSkills

Last week I shared a few tips on how to get involved on your campus, this week I’m here to talk to you guys about how to find the clubs that are right for you. While it is true that joining clubs allows you to get involved, clubs aren’t fun if you’re not really interested in the ones you’re a part of.

And though clubs can be fun, keep in mind that they are also commitments. Once you decide to join a club, you are responsible for attending all of the meetings (within reason), show up on time (again, within reason), follow club rules, participate in events thrown by your club etc.

You don’t have to worry about those responsibilities just yet. I just want you guys to keep them in mind when you’re at your school’s activities fair. Speaking of which, seeing all of the clubs and organizations with their respective stations at the activities fair can be a little overwhelming, especially if your campus has more than forty clubs to choose from. And even if your campus doesn’t have that many, it still doesn’t make deciding which clubs to join any easier.

You could always sign up for all of the clubs at once and then go to each club’s first meeting to see if you like it, but then you run the risk of missing meetings that might be going on at the same time.

This is not to say that going to every club meeting can’t be done, but it’s always good to have an idea of what kinds of clubs you want to be a part of just so you have a smaller, more manageable list to work with. If you’re not sure what kinds of clubs are available at your university, make sure you check out your school’s website. There should be a list of clubs available there. Don’t worry if you can’t find it. You can still make a list of things you either like doing or are interested in. Before you groan and say how much you don’t like making lists, let me just say that it doesn’t have to be a very long one. It doesn’t even have to include sentences if you don’t want it to. Also, if you were part of clubs in high school that you really liked, add that to your list. Chances are there will be something similar offered on your campus.

Your list might not be as vague as this one, but here’s an example of a club list you can create:

  • Writing
  • Books
  • Mock trial
  • Doodling
  • Singing
  • Leadership
  • Learning about other cultures

I know this list isn’t long, but as I said before, it doesn’t have to be. I don’t want to write a book about things I’m interested in because from these seven bullet points I can think of a reasonable sized list of clubs to join off the top of my head. But let’s pretend that I can’t think of any clubs to join and that I have no idea what kind of clubs/organizations my campus offers.

In that case, I can do one of two things:

1. I can use my list as a guide when looking through the clubs and organizations listed on my college’s website. It will help me narrow down any list, regardless of the size, especially if there’s a search engine on the site i.e. Penn State’s Student Organization Directory (in case you’re wondering what a site like the one I described might look like).

OR

2. If I can’t find a club/organization directory or website of any kind, I can wait until school starts and go to the activities fair. Each club will have their own table on it with a sign so it’ll be like using a search engine, only in real life. Look for the signs with words that are similar to the ones your list.

Let’s pretend that I did both of those things on two separate occasions.

If I were to choose the first option, I would type in the words from my list into the search engine (assuming that your school’s club website has one. If not, your search might take a little bit longer) and look through the descriptions of every club/organization that pops up. After that, I’ll jot down the ones that appeal to me so that I have another list; one filled with clubs I want to check out during the activities fair.

I used Penn State’s Student Organization Directory to make another list to show you:

  • Writing: InState Magazine, Kalliope, WORDS
  • Books: African Library Project, Book Club
  • Mock trial: Debate Team, Mock Trial Association
  • Doodling: Art Club
  • Singing: The Coda Conduct, University Choir, Women’s Chorale
  • Leadership: Atlas, Blue & White Society, Bridges to Prosperity, Circle K
  • Learning about other cultures: AHANA

See how I turned a list of seven into a list of sixteen? I could’ve made it a bit longer because there were still more clubs in each category but, to follow my own advice, I only picked the ones that really appealed to me.

As for the second option, I can’t check out all of the clubs at once, but as I do with a search engine, I can utilize keywords. There will be signs and posters at the activities fair, so find the ones that relate to your interest list. I like writing so chances are, signs that say campus literary magazine or newspaper will appeal to me just as much as the student government association, international club, and the debate team would.

Clubs are a great way to get familiar with your campus, get involved, make new friends, and once you become a full-fledged college student – de-stress. So choosing the right ones for you is important. Like I mentioned before, being a part of clubs take a lot of commitment, which is why you want to be sure you join ones that fit your interest. Again, I know it might be overwhelming, but if I can take a list of 1,024 clubs (that’s how many are offered at Penn State) and narrow it down to sixteen in less than an hour, so can you! And don’t worry if your university doesn’t have a website for the clubs. I personally used the second option my freshman year, and it worked out for me.

Now what are you waiting for? Go make YOUR list.

Image: Colgate.edu

CultureEducation

Yep, we’ve all heard about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s daughter, baby North. And most of us are pretty aware of who the current World Cup championship title holder is: Spain (and hopefully most of us know where it’s located on a map).

Moreover, just about anyone who’s anyone has heard of Miley Cyrus’s twerkfest at the VMAs this past year.

Don’t believe me? Three hundred and fifty-seven first and second-year students from popular universities on the East Coast (including, but not limited to, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Duke University, Elon University, and Brown University) anonymously answered these questions to test their general knowledge on news events. I even got a few answers from students living outside the country. Let’s take a look:

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Wow! What an overwhelming number of correct responses to each of these questions (especially the last one). As you can see, the results gathered from these questions indicate that we know quite a bit about what’s hot in pop culture and sports. But what about other types of news stories, such as those dealing with racism, discrimination, murder, and hate? How many of us have heard about the 2007 story of renowned Hindu priest Rajan Zed being discriminated against while opening a prayer for the US Senate? I didn’t even know about this event until recently— seven years after it happened— so I’m not exactly bereft of any ignorance to the event either. Let’s look at some additional poll results to see if anyone else knew about this:

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It’s astoundingly clear that many more people were unaware of this news event than the first three they were polled on (including myself). Here’s some background on what went down: Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric, appeared as a guest Chaplain at the United States Senates, where he opened (or attempted to open) the day with a Hindu prayer. Sudden interjections with passages from the Bible were made by Ante and Kathy Pavkovic, two devout Christians. Theological outcries became rampant in the Senate, but Zed was eventually allowed to complete the prayer. After the event, many radical Christians openly rebuked the US Senate for even allowing a Hindu to open prayer before many pious Christians, a sin far too gruesome to ignore.

Amongst the religious hodgepodge and fervent defense for Christianity, Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt stated “…Zed committed the sin of idolatry, right there in public, violating the first of God’s Ten Commandments with full government permission.” However, Klingenschmitt and many other protestors did not acknowledge the fact that the United States of America runs one of its governmental principles on the freedom of speech, blatantly stated in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. This means that people in the US are allowed to pray freely and practice any religion, be it Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or Satanism.

There was also another question on my poll about a more recent event. A Muslim student in the United Kingdom was stabbed repeatedly because she wore a hijab. I asked students if they heard about this event. Here are the results:

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Once again, a vast number of those polled had not heard about this event either. A couple of students even refrained from answering. Here’s a bit about what happened: Muslim PhD student Nahid Almanea fell victim to a brutal attack in which she was stabbed sixteen times in the head and the back for wearing a religious outfit. Another attack of a similar nature occurred in the past three months, as well. This prompted Essex police to tell residents not to walk outside in private areas until the murderer is found.

I asked students one final question: Do you think Zed and Almanea’s stories contain instances of hate crime? Take a look at the results:

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That’s a pretty good consensus, one that’s almost hard to ignore. Hate crimes are defined as crimes directed at characteristics such as race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Crimes can range from hateful/discriminatory speech to murder. Insults thrown at Zed after the tiff at the Senate and the murder of Almanea could be possible examples of hate crime. So, why haven’t the majority of us heard about these unjust, important, and newsworthy stories?

Let’s take a detour and reexamine the title of this article: So, have you heard…? It’s evident that North is cooing in her crib, Spain is a winner, and Miley is twerking herself through her day, but do we really have any idea about what’s actually going on around the globe? I requested students to answer the following question on the same survey: “If you’re unaware of some of these events, why do you think you’re unaware?” Here are a few responses I found:

“The media is manipulated to air garbage news to keep the people unaware. Knowledge is power and our political leaders know that.”

A bit 1984-esque, if you ask me, but I received a lot of responses like this one. I cannot tell you if the government has some sort of role in this conspiracy theory, but perhaps a country’s government would cover up news like this so people don’t form a bad opinion upon the institution of government.

“Frankly, the news just does not care about real world events. It is a much bigger deal to talk about Miley Cyrus twerking than to discuss matters that really affect our society. Media shapes the way we think and lately, all the media cares about is celebrities and meaningless drama. It is a lot easier to discuss who is winning a soccer game than to report about the stabbing of a young student. And in the end, average Americans would rather hear about the soccer game. It reinforces the idea that we live in a perfect world, instead of the harsh reality that bad things everyday without any logical reason.”

Perfectly logical! We all want to live in a utopian society, or believe that our society is already utopic. In general, we would much rather hear about good or funny things, or perhaps even events that make us feel better about ourselves instead of the harsh and vitriolic reality we’re really surrounded by.

“The high school culture that I have been living in places more importance upon things of popular culture, such as the VMAs and Miley Cyrus. If I don’t know about twerking and the VMAs, I can be ostracized by my peers. But do they care about a Muslim student who was stabbed to death for wearing a hijab? No. There’s something about high school that makes it its own little world, where popularity and knowledge of pop culture are supposed to rank highest in our lives.”

It’s true. Veritably enough, the high school society we’ve all experienced found twerking amusing. If you were to say that you haven’t heard about Miley twerking at the VMAs, people would pause mid-conversion to demand you “Excuse me? HOW HAVE YOU NOT HEARD…LIKE OH MY GOSH.”  Unfortunately, it is normal for people to view others who aren’t exactly like us as “different” or “weird.” Whether she wears a hijab or a bindi or if he decides to wear a yamaka, certain people tend to veer away and associate with people they perceive to be more like them. Instead of acknowledging that different sorts of people exist, we’d rather learn about what type of drama is going on in a celebrity’s life…probably because it’s easier for us to read and digest.

Finally, I posed one more question: What do you think you can do to be more globally aware, instead of just having a limited awareness to pop culture? Here are some answers I received:

“Go to news sources like BBC, Aljazeera, Aaj Tak, and the New York Times. Go directly to the world news section, too. Oh yeah, stop reading celebrity gossip on Yahoo! News. That’s crap. Take 15 minutes out of your day and read some real, non-brain numbing stories.”

Great suggestions for finding news. International stations are worthy enough to be looked at by our young eyes. Also, that’s a good tip. A little bit of time invested each day can make you much more informed.

“Befriend foreign people to gain insight into events pertaining to other people around the world.”

Having a diverse group of friends is a great idea. You could learn a lot about other cultures and the daily lives of those around you. And besides…who wouldn’t want more friends?

 “Me? How about addressing the MEDIA’s focus on the inane? That’s where the problem is.”

I knew someone was going to say something like this. We endorse and support the media and their current stories through the amount of views they get. We control what we share on social media. Practically, without the youth, there is no media because we are the ones who shape it. If we find Miley twerking more entertaining than any global event…well, the media will broadcast that to get their ratings up. A change in our thinking can consolidate future knowledge about what actually matters.

It’s crazy to think that so much is happening in our small world, yet a lot of the youth remains unaware of what’s really happening. We focus on five percent of the world’s population when we read celebrity gossip and sports insiders, but what about the 95 percent of the average people out there? Do we know enough about other countries? Probably not.

I’m going to try to take some of the suggestions I’ve garnered from this survey and implement them into my daily routine. I’m going to attempt to seize all the opportunities I’m presented with, and make the most out of my youth with all the knowledge I collect in my six by six cranial reservoir. What about you?

CultureEducationTravel

Backpacking through the Trinity Alps, kayaking down the Salmon River, conversing with local school children in rural Chile…these experiences are just the norm at the Alzar School.  And Elena Press, a sophomore at Upper Dublin High School, located outside of Philadelphia, was one of just ten participants in its Fall 2013 session.  From mid-August through the end of December, Elena attended the fully accredited semester school, partaking in the schools “Six Foundations:” leadership training, academics, outdoor adventure, service learning, cultural exchange, and environmental stewardship.  The school, based on a 100-acre campus in Cascade, Idaho, is for motivated sophomore and junior students.  Students participate in significant outdoor expeditions, learning to whitewater kayak, backpack, rock climb, surf, ski, snowshoe, and more. Its academics are challenging, all honors and Advanced Placement, and the leadership opportunities that are provided are what Elena describes as “once-in-a-lifetime.” But these high level courses are distinctly different from those familiar to a traditional high school. The Alzar School emphasizes critical analysis, creative thinking, and effective communication, while using its unique resources to provide a vast variety of hands-on experiences for its students.

Elena Press elaborates:

Before beginning the process, I was hesitant to depart my highly regarded high school, as well as the town I had lived in my whole life.  Leaving behind friends, family, school, clubs, and activities would be an immense sacrifice. Of most concern, since I was missing a semester of my customary education, was how this would impact my future?  A typical worry of many teenagers is college.  Many students, including me, wonder: What classes should I take?  How can I earn the best grades?  Should I get more involved in my community and service projects?  How many awards can I receive in my high school years?  Yet colleges love seeing students partake in unique activities and take risks, two items surely fulfilled by an experience at the Alzar School!

A frequent activity of the students at the Alzar School is kayaking. Students kayak in Idaho, Oregon, California and Chile, providing many opportunities for a first-time kayaker, like me, to increase their knowledge of this riveting sport. I vividly remember staring with wide eyes and quaking in fear as I gingerly paddled in my kayak, mortified at the prospect of going down Snow Hole, a Class IV rapid. My instructors insured me that I was capable and reviewed the line with me multiple times. Then, I went down. I did it! And I flipped over and swam out. Consequently, I discovered that kayaking is absolutely thrilling; you can choose to challenge yourself however much you desire. The uncertainty of being under the water’s influence taught me to push myself, but kayaking is all about community; my friends and I learned many lessons from each other, and constantly supported and cheered one another on, whether doing a flip in the air, or leading down a rapid for the first time.  This is one of the reasons why the Alzar School integrates a large amount of kayaking into the students’ time.  The school considers it a great medium for empowering young leaders.

Of the five months spent at the Alzar School, students spend two weeks traveling through the Northwest, six weeks in Chile, and the remainder of the time in Idaho.  When traveling to Chile, students fully immerse themselves in the culture, vastly improving their Spanish skills by participating in a homestay program, attending a Chilean school and conversing with locals. By traveling through Chile, I discovered that smiles and laughter can break even the strongest barriers of age, language, and culture. The traveling opportunities are not presented purely to allow the students to experience new places, but to open their hearts and minds to other parts of the world, and an unknown culture.  All these contribute to the ultimate goal…to empower and teach young individuals to become leaders in our world today.

Throughout the semester, I learned to plan and lead expeditions and service projects. Alumni continue to develop the leadership skills they acquired from their time at the Alzar School by creating a Culminating Leadership Project to make a difference in their home communities and the world.  The goal of my CLP, Girls Outdoor, is to foster an appreciation of the environment by exposing young girls to the outdoors.  I’m planning and taking 19 Girl Scouts on a three day camping trip. This will involve, among other things, teaching them Leave No Trace principles, risk management, and camping planning.

My semester at the Alzar School was the peak of my high school career and a highlight of my life. The greatest benefits that I acquired from the experience were figuring out who I am as a person and becoming confident in that person, while gaining a support group of the most incredible lifelong friends and mentors from all over the world. From chopping wood, to teaching Chilean kids how to kayak, I’ve never had more fun doing anything. I overcame limits, fell a lot and laughed even more, and found out quite a bit about myself in the process. I wish that every high school student could partake in an experience like the Alzar School offered me.

 Elena encourages anyone who is interested in the Alzar School to check it out.  For more information, visit www.alzarschool.org