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

EducationSkills

Midterms are right around the corner already and juggling studying with regular coursework can be difficult. Here are some tricks to balancing and preparing to help you do your best when these scary exams roll your way.

1. Don’t Procrastinate

If you have work assigned to you, take care of it as soon as you possibly can. Waiting may seem like a good idea at the time, but if you wait too long you’ll have more work added on, and before you know it you’ll have a huge pile of work to get done. By doing assignments at the earliest possible date you prevent the opportunity for excess stress to be created.

2. Think Ahead

If you know that an exam is coming up, don’t wait until the last minute to make a study guide or notecards. Instead, create your study materials as soon as you know what is going to be on the exam so when it does come to study time, all you have to focus on is that!

3. Know Your Study Techniques

While some people do well with written out study guides and notecards, others do well by repeating information aloud. Experiment with different study techniques in order to find the one that works best for you so you can have an easier time when the cramming comes around.

4. Ask a Friend

Don’t hesitate to ask a friend for help! Even having a partner-in-crime to go to the library with can motivate you to take the time to study and focus. If you see someone else studying hard, you’ll be more likely to do so yourself. Also, having someone to quiz you or explain different topics and concepts can ease the studying process and take a huge weight off your chest.

5. Plan Your Time

If you want to take time to rest or if you know you have a class that will take up a lot of time, plan it out. Planning out your day and managing your time is one of the most important things when it comes to preparing for midterm exams. If you don’t stay organized and scheduled, it can be difficult to juggle everything that gets thrown at you along with your daily routine.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to take breaks and keep from stressing yourself out. Getting the proper amount of sleep and relaxation is just as important in order to do well on these exams.

How do you prepare for midterms? Good luck!

Image: Jack Amick

CultureTravel

Travel can transform the mind, body and soul, but only if we let it. Many of us are so fortunate to have the means to travel, yet sometimes we squander it. We travel to beautiful places, have a lot of fun, eat wonderful food, take some nice pictures, meet a few people and come home, usually with a tan, feeling the short-lived vacation afterglow effects.

There’s nothing wrong with these types of vacations; we all need to relax, unwind and just have a good time now and then. But, these types of trips don’t make us richer; it isn’t during times of comfort that we grow, expand and nourish our souls. Growth happens outside the comfort zone. But how do we take that step away from comfort and into the unknown?

There’s no formula. I can’t give you a step-by-step checklist to do it, because life doesn’t work that way. I can share some ideas, though, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments below.

Take a back road.

Realize that, when traveling, we are free to be whoever we are, without the expectations our friends and family may have for us. We don’t have to plan our entire day. In fact, don’t, because playing it by ear will allow us to start listening to that innate voice that knows what’s best for us and what we want. We can leave the café whenever we want, and if we miss a tour, who cares? We can’t do everything; such is life. We might as well stop trying to pack everything into our schedules and fully enjoy the things we can do.

If you are not a minority, travel to a place where you will be.

We can’t control who we are, what we look like and where we’re from. We can, however, control where we go. One of the most eye- and heart-opening experiences of my life happened on my first day in Singapore, walking around my exchange university’s campus as the only white person in sight. In the U.S., I am privileged. I don’t feel starkly aware of my differences. People in the U.S. don’t ask if they can touch my hair, or a hundred other questions that place me in a box of “white people” stereotypes. I could go on.

It is one thing to intellectually understand that privilege. It is another to set foot into a world where that privilege no longer exists. It is important, and everyone should do it, for the sole reason that part of being a human in this world is to step into other humans’ shoes and attempt to understand and empathize with the different angles from which people live.

Make friends.

And travel with them! Travel is all about those sweet moments when we connect with someone we will likely never see again, or when we join up and head to a new city with new friends. This not only gives us the chance to form beautiful friendships, but it teaches us to let go: to be ok with saying hello, enjoying each other’s company, and saying goodbye. Because, again, such is life.

Stay in hostels. Or Camp. Or Couch Surf.

 Anywhere but a nice hotel. Anywhere we can meet people or connect with nature. Anywhere that isn’t what we’re used to.

 Rent a bike. Learn to surf. Go dancing on your own.

 Those of us who are lucky enough to get to travel have the opportunity of a lifetime. If we take it and run with it, escape our comfort zones and give ourselves the freedom to grow, we give ourselves an incredible gift that can never be taken away.

Have a travel story about escaping your comfort zone? Share it below!

Image: Rob.

Culture

Halloween is a night of fun, and of mischief. Whether you’re on campus or at a party in the city, it’s always good to have some safety tips in mind.

1. Do stuff with friends. Your friends take care of you and you take care of your friends.

2. Have a breathe­able and walk­able costume. Have back up shoes. If it’s cold, have some layering possibilities.

3. Avoid having a seance. Avoid all attempts to talk to spirits or bring back the dead.

4. Eat before drinking. Don’t leave your drink lying around. Don’t drink too much.

5. Know your surroundings when you’re going to a place. Know the people at the place. When you arrive somewhere, locate the bathroom and know your escape routes.

6. Charge your phone and keep it with you. Also have all of your emergency contacts in your phone, as well as your friend’s numbers.

7. Stay if it’s fun, don’t if it’s lame. No stress.

8. Follow your this-­is-­sketchy gut.

9. Have a way to get home or have a place to crash (friends from rule #1).

10. Carry a mini-flashlight or glowsticks with you to provide light when it gets too dark.

11. Have fun and be smart!

How will you be staying safe tomorrow? Happy Halloween!

Image: James Lee

Health

You think you’re healthy, but have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a stress-free morning? Many times, we don’t realize that being healthy goes further than being physically healthy; it has to do with being mentally healthy, as well. There are many do’s and don’ts: do exercise, do eat plenty of fresh greens, don’t go near processed foods, don’t munch on late those night snacks, and do check out that yoga center that’s just around the corner! Although these are all great things, we must not neglect to underscore the importance of maintaining a stress-free morning routine.  Consider these few tips to help keep your morning game on!

Avoid Technology First Thing

How to not check those morning streams of Instagram posts, flips of late night Snapchats, or the urge to text X friend about X morning thought?  However, resisting technology and avoiding grabbing your phone or touching that computer for the first hour of waking up will allow you to hold the peace of mind to focus on just yourself. It also decreases your reliance on technology and you will be able to concentrate on other important things. Morning texts, e-mails, appointment alerts, and social media feeds spark the first dose of mental stress. It’s best to simply stay away from white noise, artificial bright lights, and overall technology in order to focus on yourself for that first hour.

Drink Water

There is nothing more revitalizing that chugging a glass of water at the break of dawn. Studies have shown that water cleanses your blood from toxins, which in turn, makes your skin glow and renews your cells by increasing the rate at which new muscle and blood cells are produced. Also, nutrient absorption is boosted by purifying your colon. It also helps balance the lymph system and fluids in your body. But the best part? It spikes your metabolism by 24% which means that this is great for weight loss! Who knew that simply gulping down water could do such wonders to your body? Try a cold glass of water, or warm water with lemon.

Meditate and/or Exercise

Every person is different, and there are different ways for each person to meditate. Meditation can consist of doing yoga, sitting in silence, showering with essential oils, or even take a quick trip outside to be with nature. Walking outside, watching the sunrise, and even going for a run on the dawning beach is a great way to clear your mind. Also, meditation is for a great way to begin the day in a peaceful surrounding and to encase your mind with positive thoughts.

Exercising first thing in the morning is also a great way to start your day. Whether you exercise inside or outside, increasing your heart rate does wonders for your body. Working out first thing in the morning is a smart way to get your daily sweat out of the way. If the weather is good, get your fitness on outside. Studies show that you will be a happier person if you are outside. In the University of Essex, they have studies that have shown that “green exercise” or exercising outdoors can improve your self-esteem and mood. I would say this is an excellent way to start your day!

Avoid Rushing

Rushing is an integral part of American culture. America is constantly running to get to work, school attendance, an appointment, an event, a meeting, a flight etc. The point is, we never want to be late, yet we are always on the verge of it. This is perhaps one of the most stress-inflicting things that the body can go through. You can avoid this by picking out your next-day’s clothes the night before, making a to-do list in the evening so you won’t forget anything in the morning, and the most effective one, I think: wake up extra early. This will give you the peace of mind that there is no way you can be late since you’ll be able to avoid rush hour or any other incidents that may impede on timeliness.

Shower with Cold Water

Turns out, there are more health benefits to cold water than just drinking it! Showering with ice cold water is incredibly beneficial for your body, as painful as that may sound. It increases your metabolism fifteen fold! After exercise, cold showers also help your body recover by reducing soreness. Heart rate increases when exposed to a surge of chilled water which in turn, causes faster blood flow which will up your energy big time and help you avoid hypertension and the hardening of arteries. There was a study at Virginia Commonwealth University showing how cold water stimulates the main source of noradrenaline, or a chemical that may be used to decrease depression. All in all, starting off your day with a cold shower is a stress reducer and yes, I will repeat, very healthy.

Any of these tips will be great to implement into your current routine. It feels great to start your day off on the right food! How do you maintain a healthy morning routine?

Image: Unsplash

CultureTravel

There are always risks to traveling. Your flight might be delayed or the airline might lose your luggage. I eliminated some travel risks from my life by creating an all purpose packing list. It’s the list that I consult before every trip to make sure I leave nothing to chance. The list is partly common sense and partly items I added over the years based on recommendations. Even if I don’t bring everything on it, it’s good to consult just in case. Here are some tips to make your own list:

packing

1. Remember The Essentials

Think of what you cannot live without while on a trip. Try to think of what you need in your everyday life. For me, my clothes, my wallet, and my cellphone must always be packed. I need these items no matter where I travel or for how long. Write down the things you can’t live without, even for a couple of days.

2. Be Smart When Packing Toiletries And Medications

It’s always good to bring travel-sized toiletries with you. You may want to take your chances using whatever soap and shampoo is in your hotel, but there might not be any. Remember that when going through an airport, you don’t want any liquids pulled out of your carry on, so think about that while you are packing.

I would also think about any medications you might need. Depending on how long your trip lasts, you might not need your entire pill bottle. In fact, you might not want to bring any medications if you are able to go to your local drugstore. Just consider where you will be going on your trip. When I was in Europe, the language and cultural barrier made it hard for my friends to find cough medicine when they needed it. Bring some medicine from home if you think it will be more convenient.

3. Think Seasonally

All of the items on my list are convenient for travel during every season. Once you have every possible item on your list, it is only a matter of deciding what to bring. For example, I won’t bring my raincoat to Hawaii in the summer, even though a raincoat on my list. Check the weather forecast and consider what you might be doing on your trip. You can also throw caution to the wind and say, I’ll just pack what I packed last time, but if your usual plans change, you might be unprepared. It doesn’t hurt to keep all of these items on your list so you don’t forget anything.

4. Only Bring The Electronics You May Need

Electronics can be optional on your list. It’s always a good idea to remember to bring your phone and your charger. Someone else might have one, but you don’t want to worry about it. Keep in mind that a lot of electronics, such as a laptop, are expensive and can be stolen. Also, you might not want to bring something as heavy as a laptop if you don’t think you will have a lot of downtime. Put it on the list anyways in case the opportunity presents itself. If you are traveling to a different country, remember to bring power converters for your plug-ins.

5. Entertainment Can Be An Asset

Entertainment doesn’t seem that important until you are stuck at the airport for two hours. This category could include a book or movies to watch in the hotel. It’s good to plan for these things. Just think about how much time you will have to read or watch movies while you are away. If this is not a priority, you can make room for other things in your bag.

6. Determine Your ‘In Case Of Emergency Items’

I have a list of worst case scenario supplies. This would include matches, batteries, or a first aid kit among other things. Chances are you can buy these wherever you go. The point is to have them in the moment that you need them. They don’t take up much space in a bag; however, a lot of supplies can take up valuable space and weigh you down. Be practical.

7. Pack Some Accessories

Accessories tend to be different, but we all have them. Accessories might include a hat, glasses, scarves, or jewelry. I would advise against bringing anything you are worried about losing. Sort your accessories into accessible bags for convenience.

8. Remember Anything Needed Specifically for the Trip

These are the items you will need to get anywhere. This would include your driver’s license, passport, flight plan, or money. Even if you are not taking a plane, you could find a car, a train ticket, or anything else you definitely need to get you to your destination. You don’t want to get all packed to go and then realize you can’t go anywhere. Put them on the checklist to be sure.

9. Take Care Of Things At Home

This is actually just one item on my list but it covers the broad idea of making sure that your regular life isn’t interrupted by your trip. Think about everything that needs to taken care of while you’re gone. An example would be getting time off work or returning books to the library. You will probably do this anyway in the months and weeks before your trip. The point is to give it some last minute thought before you leave so you are not stressed out during your vacation.

10. Make It Your Own

In the end, what ends up on your list is whatever you feel like packing. For example, I am not really a camper. If you are someone who goes camping often, there is probably a lot of camping gear on your list. The list is about making your travels easier. Once you discover what you want to get out of a trip, write down whatever you need to in order to make it happen.

These are just a few categories that I used to make my own list. You are your own person with your own needs. You need to find what works for you. It will take you awhile to think of everything you will need. You can even consult some travel websites for advice. My personal list is a checklist but I know that not every box has to be checked. The point is to be ready so at a moment’s notice you can get out there and have fun.

What does your ultimate packing list look like? What are your must-have travel items?

Image: Strange Luke

CultureEducation

Adjusting to your college dorm can take some time. If you’re still working on settling in, or if your current situation just isn’t working out, here are five ways to adjust to your college dorm and make it feel like home.

1. The Bed

No matter where you go to school, there’s nothing comfortable about the jail cell-like bed of your dorm. Investing in a good mattress pad and bedding set that is warm and makes you feel at home is essential to making your bed feel close to the one in your room at home.

2. The Closet

Going from optimal clothing space to a three-foot closet is a big deal. In order to get through the size change, invest in space-saving hangers so you can still bring a large part of your wardrobe. Narrowing down the necessities that you need to bring is also extremely important when it comes to making the most of your new home. Bring clothes that make sense for where you are going. For example, if your school is in a location with harsher winters, load up your winter jackets, boots, and scarves.

3. The Bathroom

Not being able to walk around barefoot is a big step. Getting used to the idea of a communal bathroom can be frightening, but it isn’t as scary as it sounds! A shower caddy is your new best friend in college, as well as a pair of cheap flip flops to accompany you everywhere you go.

4. The Noise

The noise level is going to increase dramatically when moving from your room at home to a college dorm. Having 30 or so neighbors on the same floor definitely contributes to that. It’s important to get into the habit of taking advantage of the library when it comes to studying and doing homework because it will be your savior of silence and concentration.

5. The Roommate

Living with another person in the same room may not be something you’re used to. Having a friend can help you from being lonely and homesick, but it can also be difficult to get used to another person’s living habits. Setting rules and boundaries from the beginning is a key factor to make dorm living easier for both you and your roommate. Who knows, your living companion may just be your future maid of honor!

Overall, living on campus is a major part of the college experience and one that should be taken advantage of if given the opportunity. Even with its ups and downs, some of your best college memories will be made and shared in your college dorm, and you’ll be sure to call your college dorm home!

CultureSkills

Before Macklemore made it cool, hipsters used to roam the empty aisles of local thrift shops, handpicking hidden wardrobe gems as the occasional indie tumbleweed rolled by. Fast forward a few years and a catchy chorus, and everyone wants to be a thrifter.

This new trend is really fantastic, because it means: less waste, less sweatshop labor, support for local non-profits and, of course, killer jumpsuits, sweaters, hats, and bowling shirts galore. Self-expression rocks.

Of course, with so many new thrifters on the block, finding those coveted diamonds in the rough has gotten more difficult, and prices have even gone up.

That’s why I’m here to share some tips that will have you poppin’ tags and takin’ names.

1. Patience, friends.

Sometimes you’ll have to search high and low before you find something you want. Other times, nothing will call your name. It’s ok to go home empty handed. Collecting as you go will allow you to slowly build up a collection or wardrobe of items you love.

2. Be willing to get dirty.

If you really want to find something worth writing home about, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. Sift through the entire wall art section; dig through the book bins and clothing piles. I know, it can be a battlefield in there sometimes, but stick it out and you might go home a very happy camper.

P.S. dress comfy and even consider wearing close-toed shoes if you’re heading to a massively popular store on restock day.

3. Research first.

Many thrift shops have great clearance events; call ahead to see if any are coming up. Additionally, ask what days the shop generally restocks its selections. Show up on those days! Be warned, they’ll get hectic at good thrift shops (see item #2).

4. Pay attention to the tags.

Many thrift shops have tiered pricing, meaning they will put an item out at one price, and then lower it a bit if it hasn’t been sold in a couple weeks. The price will continue to drop until the item is discarded to a clothing recycler. If you love that funny floor lamp but don’t want to drop $15 this week, check out the dates on the tags or ask someone working how long it has been out and if/when the price will drop. Just be aware – anything you’re not holding or don’t already own is fair game. That lamp may be gone tomorrow. It’s all about making the tough judgment calls.

5. Budget yourself.

A good way to make those judgment calls is to allocate the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Macklemore only goes in with $20 in his pocket. How much are you going to take? I like the cash thing, because it not only eliminates credit card fees, it allows me to control what I spend. Leave the cards at home or in your glove compartment, and walk in with your allotted cash as your only form of currency.

6. Throw out the gender stereotypes.

By this I mean that a large portion – we’re talking at least 60 percent – of my winter wardrobe consists of sweaters from thrift store men’s racks. They’re oversized and awesome. Don’t limit yourself to your gender’s section only. Gender stereotypes belong nowhere in this day and age, and thrift shops are no exception to that rule.

 7. Use your imagination.

Turn old drawer pulls into wall hooks, and key chains into necklaces. Get super DIY. A good way to get imaginative without losing control: when you see something you might want, envision its purpose in your room, wardrobe or wherever you plan to put it. Does it work? Does it serve a purpose of some kind? If no bells ring, don’t buy it.

8. Keep an open mind.

You may find clothes that scream “I’m weird!” But they could also turn out to be the coolest clothes you’ve ever worn. Don’t be closed off to finding things you didn’t expect to want. While shopping for my new apartment, I went to a thrift shop in search of a lamp. I left with a super cool bed. It happens.

It’s great to see thrift shopping growing in popularity, and it’s even better to see people rocking outfits that match their own individual styles. It’s also an incredible way to save money on clothes that you’ll be able to spend on other experiences. All in all, good things come from thrifting. Do you have any thrifting tips?

Image: Sabrina Dan Photo

Health

The feeling that comes with knowing your laundry, kitchen, and bathroom are clean is something like intense joy. We often judge this cleanliness by what we smell: the smell of disinfectant. Bleach. Soap. Strangely tropical flowery fragrances that would never actually be in our apartments naturally.

What these smells actually tell us, though, is that we have replaced dirt and germs with chemicals and artificial substances. Replacing bacteria with these agents is sort of like replacing a stomachache with a headache – the unpleasantness is still there, just in a different form. We clean our little living spaces with chemicals that are unsafe to even inhale. What is up with that?

I’m not dissing our love of freshly cleaned chemical smell. I love it, too. I am saying, though, that there are some natural cleaning agents that actually get the job done better, and much more safely, than the commercial products to which we’ve become so accustomed.

Below are five natural cleaning products to replace commercial cleaners:

Task: laundry
Natural solution: soap nuts

I’m sorry, what? Soap nuts? That’s the reaction I often get to this.

Soap nuts, native to India and Nepal, are these little round berry things that grow on trees and do a fantastic cleaning job by releasing natural saponins to free dirt, oils, and stains from clothing. They are unscented and wonderful for those of us with sensitive skin and allergies. In fact, they’re used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis.

Not only that, but they clean incredibly well. I spilled red curry all over a new white shirt. In a moment of pure stupidity, I didn’t wash the shirt right away, leaving it to bask in all its curry-stained glory for two days. I felt defeated when I finally put it in the wash. To my surprise, it looked good as new after I took it out.

What you do is place around five soapnuts in a reusable muslin bag (which typically comes with the order) and place them in the washing machine. It’s not unsafe to put them in the dryer, but I prefer not to do that. The soap nuts can be reused for about five washes.

The best part? Soap nuts are completely non-toxic and can be composted when done, and they are pretty darn inexpensive. I love them, and order mine here, although Amazon and plenty of great retailers also carry them.

Task: dishes (in the dishwasher)
Natural solution: white vinegar

I know, I know. It sounds strange. But, if you want your dishes to actually be stain free and deep-cleaned, I’m telling you, this is how. Just put white vinegar in the dish soap slot and run the dishwasher. That’s it. They will be sparkling when they’re done, and the vinegar smell isn’t apparent when used in the dishwasher.

Task: quickly remove a stain from clothing or carpet
Natural solution: Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and water

I can’t tell you if it’s ok to use on fabrics that require dry cleaning – I’m going to assume it’s not. I can tell you that last time I spilled hot sauce down my cotton shirt (I’m messy, ok?) I put water and a little dab of Dr. Bronner’s almond castile soap on a tissue and wiped away the stain. It went away completely after wiping for around 20 seconds each with three damp/soapy tissues. It probably would have been quicker had I used a washcloth, but that would have made too much sense.

Castile soap is good to have around the house, too, as it has many uses, including washing dishes in the sink, as an ingredient in natural body washes and shampoos, and to hand wash delicate fabrics.

Task: maintain shower cleanliness
Natural solution: apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle makes a great everyday shower cleaning spray. I also like to add a few drops of lavender oil to remove the vinegar smell. You can use this as a quick toilet bowl cleaner, too, by spraying and letting it sit, or using a toilet brush. Add coconut oil, too, and lemon or lime juice for an extra cleaning kick.

Task: use an all-purpose cleaner in the bathroom and/or kitchen
Natural solution: coconut oil

Coconut oil is magical and life-changing. It has hundreds of fantastic uses, and it’s incredibly gentle and safe on skin. In fact, I use it as a face wash and body moisturizer every day. Aside from its gentleness, its cleansing properties are incredible.

Dampen a rag or sponge with coconut oil – it can be in liquid or soft form – and wipe down any surface that needs cleaning. The dirt will come right off; it’s amazing to watch.

Pretty amazing, and a little strange, that we can safely and naturally wash our faces with the same product we use to clean our showers, floors and countertops.

I hope these cleaning products help you replace the dangerous, nasty chemicals currently under your kitchen and bathroom sinks! I swear by each of them and have found success using them to keep my apartment clean. They’re great for dorms, too, because we all know those little rooms can get dirty. Happy cleaning!

Do you use any natural ingredients in cleaners? Share below!

Image: Umberto Salvignan

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

CollegeCultureCulture & TravelEducationHigh SchoolInspiration

Leaving your cultural comfort zone is a topic that seems to have been left out from the endless self-help articles I come across. The United States is a country of immigrants, and learning to plunge yourself into other cultures is not only an unspoken requirement to succeed in almost all professional fields, but it is also a surprisingly fun thing to do. I want to touch on the importance of diversifying. Be it college, your workplace, or even in your community, one often tends to gravitate toward people of their culture. It’s a fascinating thing to note that although you can be friends with a variety of people, you’re probably wont to relate most with those who come from a similar background. However, waving that white flag will do great things. Here are a few reasons why leaving your cultural comfort zone is important:

  1. “Expanding your horizons” doesn’t mean ordering Chinese takeout

Expanding your horizons, or emerging yourself in things you would not normally do, brings many outcomes. It means more than ordering Americanized Chinese, Mexican, or Italian foods. It means making friends with people of different cultures, it means attending a cultural festival and trying all of the foods, it means attending an LGBTQ poetry event, and it means doing these things with an open and inviting attitude. It allows you to experience the different parts of life and place yourself in the shoes of others. You may have assumptions about many groups of people, but spending time with them may shatter these pre-existing judgments, which is essentially the goal. It is always refreshing to see that there are reasons for ways of expression, that there is history behind art, and that there is love behind musical forms. It can be uncomfortable at first to put yourself in new shoes, but it will open your mind. Also, participating in cultural endeavors will definitely bring some zest in your day.

  1. Discover new favorites

Surrounding yourself with people from a totally contrasting environment does great things for your brain. For example, being surrounded by people who speak another language is great for making brain connections and stimulating your thought process. Hanging out with them and maybe accepting an invite to dine at an authentic Japanese, Portuguese, or Arab restaurant is a great way to try out non-Americanized foods that really hold the heart of the traditional foods. You never know, you may discover a favorite dish! Or maybe even a new favorite song or genre by listening to French dance, Japanese pop, Spanish rap, or Italian classical music. Discover the variety of flavors each culture holds. In addition, these new introductions to a new world may also spark an interest to travel to an unfamiliar country. Meeting people from unacquainted areas ignite captivating and bizarre conversations which bring interest to what you have yet to experience!

  1. Learn about yourself

You can learn a lot from just being around others of different backgrounds. You understand more about where you came from and how different that can be from what others are accustomed to. You also note how open you are to try new things. This may call for a new goal: maybe room for improvement in this area? In this day and age, diversity is a major component in many areas of business and organizations. Trying to improve your adaptation skills is definitely a great thing for you to improve. My goal for this school year was to meet people from other cultures. I wanted to meet other people on my college campus and befriend students who are not solely Hispanic. I realized that all of my friends were, in fact, Hispanic when I was asked this summer how the culture shock was since moving to college. I realized the culture shock was not as drastic as I had thought it to be. I was a bit bothered and disappointed by this epiphany and made the decision to expand my horizons. Two of my suitemates are Chinese and as a marvelous result, I have met Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and even Arab and Indian individuals.

Here are a few tips on how to achieve doing this:

  • Attend and/or join a diversity-specific club

There are many organizations that are misjudged to strictly pertain to a particular ethnicity, identification, background, or race but that’s not the case as people of all kinds are invited. For example, check out one of the following clubs that may pertain to a Latin, GSA, Caribbean, Democratic, Christian, Muslim, Republican, Eco-friendly, Vietnamese, or Chinese Student Association club. People of all beliefs and backgrounds are always welcome to these clubs and organizations. Not only do they lead to meeting different types of wonderful people, but it also allows you to be surrounded by something different, which might be a big step away from your comfort zone and a great start to where you want to be.

  • Media switch

Believe it or not, media is a huge influencer. Begin with maybe switching up your music. You can surf the web for songs in different languages and maybe even another genre of music. Music says a lot about a culture. Listen to something different than your usual EDM or Country. Another shift you can make is to rent a foreign movie. Two of my favorite movies are actually foreign, and they are dramatic, original, and exciting. Subtitles may seem like a dreadful effort at first, but after a couple of minutes into the movie, you will hardly notice. Or maybe watch a T.V. series or show in another language. The last big step you can do to remove yourself from your cultural comfort zone is to attend a concert of a foreign band or a music group you would not usually attend. Check out different bands and musicians! Observe how they become in sync with the tunes and maybe open up your eyes to something that may catch your attention!

  • In class, sit next to somebody that seems totally opposite from you

You may be in high school or you may be in college. And of course, we all have those teachers and professors who give assigned seats, but there is always that one class that lets you roam free. Sit next to a person you would usually never sit next to, someone who seems opposite of your interests and even race or background. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. It is a wonderful feeling to just listen to others.

Leaving your cultural comfort zone is a fascinating thing. It can be a learning experience and even a normal part of life if you let it. Approach these steps with an open, positive mind, and purge your mind from pre-existing judgments. You may be in for a wonderful life-changing surprise!

Image: Catalina Casas

SkillsTravel

There are a lot of ways to travel. For those of us who are perpetually short on cash, our travel usually won’t consist of beach resorts, luxury cruises, and designer shopping sprees. We won’t ever sit in first class and chances are we’ll get used to bunking in a hostel’s shared room.

For me, that’s part of the beauty of it all. Backpacker hostels or locals’ couches, public transportation and street food make for authentic experiences. Tiny obstacles, like bumpy night buses and confusing street signs, create challenges; they make you a little more vulnerable and open you up to asking for help. The opportunities that come with travel on a budget are so much more fulfilling than the ones that come with all-inclusive, first-class vacays.

I’ve certainly traveled on a budget. As a semester exchange student in Singapore, I survived on my savings, traveling about every other weekend. I had a few close calls, and by the time I arrived back on U.S. soil at the end of it all, I had $34 to my name. There were a lot of mistakes and lessons learned, along with some budgeting successes.

I recently shared many tips on traveling on a super low budget; aka, almost no money. Those involved a lot of working abroad. These tips, though, are all about spending every ounce of your free time soaking in your journey, and doing it on a dime.

Some of these tips are conventional, others you won’t exactly find in travel magazines. In the end, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. First of all, travel must be your priority.

If you want to travel but don’t have the money, it’s because you’re spending yours on other things. Every job I’ve ever held has paid me hourly, sometimes below minimum wage. But, I saved all of my money because I knew I wanted to do something sweet with it. I didn’t buy clothes, get my nails done, go out to eat nightly… I saved.

Take a page from my book – buy some wardrobe staples that you love, preferably from a thrift or consignment shop, and don’t spend on clothes for the rest of the year. Invest in some nail polish and remover and never get your nails done (or do it like me and have cavewoman nails year round). Invest in things that keep you from spending money long-term. It works, my friends.

2. Make every flight count.

Enroll in frequent flyers and rewards programs with an airline. You can end up redeeming your miles or points for free flights.

3. Night buses and trains are your friends.

Only fly regionally if you absolutely have to, and when you do, use Skyscanner.com to find the best budget fares. Chances are, though, you’ll be able to ride a bus or train from location to location, and night transportation doubles as transportation and lodging: score.

4. Similarly, public transportation is key.

For the love of money, don’t take cabs. Find a subway or public transportation map and get out there. It can be intimidating to step on a bus or train for the first time in a new city, so a few minutes of preliminary research can help – know the fares, which lines to take and which stops you want. If you’re going to be somewhere for a week or more, investing in a multi-day or -week pass is your best bet.

5. Rent bikes.

Many cities offer bike and motorcycle rentals. Depending on the length of your stay, this can pay off. You will save on cabs, bus fares and other transportation costs, besides gas if you go the motorized route. Plus, you aren’t at the mercy of a tour group or driver, and can go wherever.

6. Take a granola bar.

Or five. Plus a refillable water bottle (a simple way to save, unless your destination’s water is unsafe for you to drink out of tap, then you’ll have to splurge on bottled water). Pack small snacks that can double as meals. I’m a foodie – I really am, but eating bars for breakfast has never ruined any of my trips, and it’s freed up a lot of cash. Speaking of…

7. Buy groceries and use the local food markets.

Because you should be staying in hostels or locals’ apartments (more on that in a second), which almost always have kitchen areas. If they don’t, buy no-cook items, such as bread and lunch meat. Foodies, you can get creative with local ingredients, too, because local food markets have great deals on ingredients and staples that often aren’t available fresh or authentic in the U.S.

8. Make friends.

Local friends or friends who have been in your location for an extended stay (a couple weeks or so) can often recommend or take you to the best cheap restaurants, connect you with their cousins who can get you drink deals (or some similar scenario), even give you a place to stay or cook.

9. Speaking of drink deals. Facebook groups.

Join them. Facebook groups, such as Hazel’s Guestlist in Singapore, provides incredible deals, discounts and even VIP access for its members. It’s free to join these, and there are usually no strings attached. They just want foreigners checking out their nightlife and attractions.  Obviously use your best judgment; it’s pretty easy to tell if the group is a weird scam. And don’t post any of your personal information or whereabouts in these groups.

These groups are often promoted to exchange students because they’re easy to reach, so do a little stalking on Facebook. Find exchange student groups in your area; if they aren’t completely private, you may be able to see what discount websites and Facebook groups the students post between each other or that promoters post within the groups. Then, join them. Easy as pie, and it’s safe and allowed.

10. Stay in shared rooms in hostels.

This requires you to get comfortable with a little less privacy. It isn’t as invasive as it sounds, though. Most hostels offer the option for same-gender rooms and you will almost always receive a locker to stow your belongings. These rooms are usually very cheap, and in many regions and countries, cheap doesn’t mean dingy or unsafe. In fact, in most of Southeast Asia, we found sparkly clean, well-managed, very safe hostels for a few dollars a night.

The amenities are generally basic; you may have to bring your own towel and Wi-Fi is often non-existent. This is budget travel, we can’t have everything, and usually at good hostels you get way more than you expect for the price. Besides, friendly people, clean running water and a cozy roof over the head for a couple bucks a night is a true gift. Ask around, use Trip Advisor, or invest in a travel guidebook to point out the best hostels in your area.

11. Better yet, couch surf.

Couch surfing is free. I mentioned it in my previous article, and it really is a fantastic resource. Many of my friends have done this and spoken highly of their experiences.

12. Utilize hostel resources.

A good hostel won’t scam you. Obviously do your math when the front desk guy offers you a tour package, but excursions are often offered at discounts at backpacker hostels. Befriend the front desk people, too, because they can very easily get you some sweet deals and discounts. Just let them know what you’re into and get to know them. It’s fun anyways, because people who work in hostels are usually pretty interesting and magical.

13. Student IDs.

If you are a student, or still look young and have your student ID (pretend I didn’t say that), use it. There are student discounts and freebies everywhere. Be aware, though, that American student IDs may not be recognized in all the countries you visit; still harmless and worth a try.

14. International Student Identity Card.

You can register for these online and they come with discounts on travel and excursions.

15. Groupon.

It can be hit or miss, but if you find something you really want to do on Groupon’s site, it’s fantastic. Most countries have their own Groupon site. As a hint, read the fine print. I recommend not using Groupons for travel deals, because travel agencies and other involved parties usually hide the massive extra fees. Other stuff is fair game.

16. Set a budget.

Know what you want to do, and plan a little beforehand. You don’t need to map out a detailed itinerary, but know generally how much transportation costs within and to/from the places you want to go, where you can find cheap lodging, etc. Allocate the amount you want to spend per day, or per activity, and stick to it.

Generally, travel’s main expenses come in the form of lodging, transportation and food. Hopefully the tips above help minimize those expenses while allowing you to have an incredible journey.

Bon voyage!

Image: Buck Lewis, Flickr

EducationSkills

Last week I talked a little bit about building your brand and how to do it. Even if you’re still trying to figure out how to market yourself, the best time to make a LinkedIn profile is now. Think of it as your lemonade stand where you can set up all of the ingredients you need to be the best lemonade stand you can be. Okay, maybe, that isn’t the best analogy in the world, but the point is that in order to get people to buy what you are selling, you have to let employers know that you are on the market.

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or in college. There is an internship out there waiting for you and you’re only a LinkedIn profile away from finding it. Don’t waste anymore time; if you don’t already have an account, sign up! It doesn’t hurt to have another social media outlet. Don’t panic if you’re not sure where to start. I’m here to help!

While I was building my profile, I did a lot of research on how to make my profile look as professional as possible. You don’t have to read countless articles on how to make a good LinkedIn profile – here are the 10 things that you should include:

1. Professional photo: LinkedIn may be like Facebook in the sense that it connects you with other people, but that doesn’t mean the profile picture you use for Facebook (the one where you’re making silly faces with your friends) should be the same one you put on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is like the more conservative cousin of Facebook. Whereas Facebook is for personal usage (though this doesn’t mean you should post anything and everything), LinkedIn is the Internet’s door to the professional world; a place where recruiters from different companies look at the profiles of students just like you.

Keeping that in mind, don’t let their first impression of you be a picture of you sticking a finger up your nose. Instead, use a headshot that has a plain background. If you’re like me and can’t afford to have a professional photo taken at the moment, take the picture yourself with your phone or camera in front of a white wall. Or, use an old picture and use Paint (or any equivalent program) to cut yourself out of the original photo and paste it on a white background. The second choice is really time consuming, but is ultimately can be a good option for the time being.

2. Summary: This is the section where you talk about yourself. You don’t have to share your entire life story, but it may be good to talk about your college major or write a paragraph about what your future goals are. You can also mention your purpose for making a LinkedIn profile, i.e.  to find an internship in [insert field]. Remember to keep the summary brief since recruiters won’t spend an hour on your profile. You want them to get past the summary and onto the good stuff, such as your work experience and courses that you have taken.

3. Collegiate/high school experience: The four years you spend in high school and in college tell a story. Whether you participated in after-school programs or in clubs, it doesn’t matter. Document it all! If you held any leadership positions, that is especially great.  These are the kinds of things you should put on your LinkedIn profile to let everyone know that high school and college isn’t just about the academics for you. Don’t forget to list all of the relevant courses you have taken so far. This means any business, language, major, etc. classes you have under your belt. Displaying a sample of your work (i.e project, paper, etc.) in this section might also be a great idea. Or, if you don’t want to do that, make an online portfolio and link it to your profile. That way you can have a separate space for all of your work.

4. Skills: We are all good at something, whether it’s having great written communications skills or being good at building websites. There is an employer out there looking for someone with your expertise, so make sure you list the things that you have excelled in. If you can get endorsements (people who can attest that you possess said skills), then that’s even better! The more endorsements, the better. Try not to have more than ten skills on your profile though. Only list the ones that are important and the ones that you think will make you stand out from the crowd.

5. Awards: Are you the student who gets good grades or is a star athlete? Good for you! List all of your accomplishments in the awards section. Let people know that you have rewards as proof for outstanding work.

6. Headline: A headline on LinkedIn is like the headline of a newspaper article. It’s the attention grabber; it’s your chance to send out flares to recruiters so that they can find you more easily. You can constantly change your headline to fit your liking, but if you’re not sure what to put there, start off with ‘Student at [insert school].’ or ‘Intern at [insert company]’. If you don’t have an internship and would like one, try using ‘Aspiring [insert profession] seeking an internship in [insert job/field].’ You could use a combination of the three, just play around with it and look at other profiles to help and inspire you.

7. Contact info: You don’t have to provide your phone number (and I advise against putting your phone number online) but what you can do is put your email address on LinkedIn. This way, recruiters or anyone who is interested can contact you through email. LinkedIn may be a professional site, but you always want to be careful with who you give your information to.

8. Groups/companies/universities: The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can join groups that fit your career interests. LinkedIn groups, once you become a member of them, give you access to thousands of people that otherwise wouldn’t show up in the ‘People You May Know’ section. Getting involved in discussions will get you noticed, and you may even learn valuable lessons from professionals that you aren’t connected with. Also, ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ the companies that you would want to intern for or possibly work for in the future. If you want to go college or graduate school, ‘Follow’ your dream universities to stay on top of what’s going on.

9. Connections: Make sure to only add people you know. If you do get those few random invitations, make sure to check out their profiles first before you add them. It’s good to have a lot of connections, but it’s not good if you don’t know your connections. That said, connect with professors, teachers, old friends, family members, people you’ve worked with, etc. Sometimes it’s not about what you know but WHO you know. Keep that in mind as you navigate the networking realm.

10. Alumni tool: LinkedIn has become more accessible to college and high school students alike in recent years, especially with the addition of the alumni tool. Here you can see what people who graduated from your university (or your dream university) went on to do with their degrees. You can also look at their profiles for tips on how to structure your own. If you have any specific questions, you can message them. I love the alumni tool and it’s certainly something you should check out if you’re new to LinkedIn. Go to ‘Connections’ and click on ‘Find Alumni’ to access that tool, and for more information on a particular university, go to ‘Interests’ and click ‘Education.’ Both of these can be found at that top of the page.

I hope that this list was helpful to those of you new LinkedIn users who don’t know where to start. I don’t want to tell you how your profile should look because not one profile should look the same. I do, however, want to give you a sturdy foundation to build your profile upon. Just remember that you don’t have to get it ‘right’ the first time. You can always edit your profile to your liking. With that said, make sure to keep it updated. If you get a new job, update your experiences on your LinkedIn profile. Or if you’re unemployed but you have an internship or are involved in a club, let it be known that you are staying busy even if it’s not a job. Also, if you haven’t participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, internships, or jobs, don’t let that discourage you from not making a LinkedIn profile. Maybe that blank profile can be what motivates you to get more involved. Who knows?! Just don’t wait to create your profile because you won’t know how successful your lemonade stand will be until you build it.

Image: Esther Vargas, Flickr

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

HealthSkills

Maybe you’re having a bad day or maybe even a bad week. It can be hard to stay positive when life just seems as though it isn’t ever going to go your way, but here are some tricks to keeping an optimistic mind!

1. Reminders

Having inspirational and motivational quotes as a daily reminder to maintain a positive attitude can be extremely helpful! Whether that’s putting Post-It notes on your mirror that you can look at as you get ready in the morning or having an alert on your phone for a middle of the day pick-me-up, adding positive sayings to your daily routine can brighten your day!

2. Exercise

Exercise is proven to make us happier. Not only does it relieve stress, but the results of exercise cause us to feel better about ourselves on the inside and outside, giving us a feeling of accomplishment and an attitude that wants to accomplish more!

3. Your Diet

Yes, that chocolate cake may give us temporary happiness, but eating healthy has a similar effect on us as exercising! Taking care of ourselves on the inside makes us feel better on the outside and gives us a more positive outlook!

4. Socialize

Spending time with people will boost your mood as well. We love to be around company, and being around others to talk and laugh with is an easy way to put a little pep into your step.

5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

If you’re with people who have a positive outlook on life, it will help you to do the same. Being around negative people can cause us to be negative as well. Of course, it’s important to be there for your friends, but being around people who are negative 24/7 will only do harm to yourself.

6. Take Time for Yourself

Take time for your own hobbies and interests. Try learning a new song on the guitar or pick up the book that’s been sitting on your bedside table. As important as it is to be around other people, it’s just as important to take time to do the things you love.

7. Pamper Yourself

Sometimes a thing as simple as changing out of your pajamas and putting on a pair of jeans and a cute shirt can boost your mood. If you look good, you feel good. Feeling put together on the outside makes us feel put together in other aspects of our life and gives us the boost of confidence we need to conquer other activities.

Image: unsplash

CultureLearnSkills

One of the main lessons we learn growing up is that it is always okay to ask for help. That is very true. Yet, people have trouble receiving help in this new era. People who post their feelings on sites like Facebook are often accused of whining and needing attention. If you need advice, you need to ask for it directly. Your true friends will be there for you.

What do you do when you get bad advice? Trust your instincts. (If your instincts disagree with this statement, feel free to disregard it). If you think someone does not have your best interests at heart, you do not have to listen. Peer pressure is a good example of this. If someone wants you to have a drink and it’s legal, it is fine to indulge. However, if you have already had enough, then you do not have to drink to be cool. You know yourself better than anyone else does. You probably also have developed some sense of right and wrong. Even if you are lost and confused on issues and you ask for advice, it is not rude not to take it. The important thing is to respect that person who tried to help you.

Here are some tips to make sure that happens:

  1. Listen. Listen to someone’s advice even if it is not what you want to hear. It may be what you need to hear.
  2. Think about it for yourself. It may make you see things in a new light even if it does not solve your problem immediately. As I noted before, trust your instincts.
  3. Say thank you. Say it in words or a gesture such as buying them coffee. Even if what they said did not work out, at least they tried.

Giving advice can also be hard because you do not want to be responsible for leading someone down the wrong path. Sometimes you have not gone through what someone else is going though. The best you can do is just be there. If someone is coming to you for help, it makes them brave but vulnerable. Do not betray that trust. You are giving the gift of your experience. This could save someone from making a mistake that you have made yourself. You are also giving someone the benefit of your friendship, which will last much longer than any problem. The most important note is that in giving advice, it is not about you. It is about helping someone else. 

Here are some tips to make sure that happens:

  1. Make sure the person is ready for the information. If someone does not want to be helped, they will not accept any help. Specifically, see if they ask to know what you think. Sometimes people just want to be heard.
  2. Think about what you do know about the situation. Do your best to make an informed statement even if you feel out of your depth. If you have no idea what they are going through, it is okay to admit that. It gives them the chance to see if they still want your opinion.
  3. Be honest but be kind. The truth is important but it is not worth making the person you are helping feel judged. If they feel like you are against them, they might not accept your help. Try to see things from their perspective.

No matter what, you have to trust that what you’re doing is right. You have to be kind. You can always ask for help if you need it.   

Image: morguefile