Skills

During the holiday season, especially right around Thanksgiving, gratitude is everywhere. Starting around kindergarten, we’re taught that this is the time to list out the things we’re grateful for and say our thank you’s. It’s a wonderful thing, and our warm holiday glow often lasts a few weeks past the big day. But, most of us get caught back up in our busy routines and forget to show or regularly acknowledge our gratitude for the miraculous gifts life has given us: friends, family, love, education, health, pets… and the more simple ones (which may not be so simple to many people in the world): a sip of water, a bite of food, or a breath of fresh air.

Forgetting to show gratitude doesn’t make us bad people, but it actually would serve us and our happiness if we could remember to thank our lucky stars each day. Giving thanks daily can be so quick, but can truly impact the way we see our days.

Here are a few ways to remember our gratitude and give thanks to those who mean so much to us:

  1. Gratitude list – get a small journal, notepad or just sheet of paper, and fill it every day with five things for which you are grateful. You will soon realize how many tiny yet wonderful things have accumulated in your life.
  2. Start your day with thanks – if you happen to be religious or spiritual, wake up and thank the Universe, God, or any divine form of energy or higher power you worship. An example could be “thank you for letting me see another beautiful day.” Repeating this each morning can slowly rewire the way you see things.
  3. Say “thank you” – to EVERYONE! The person who held the door, your server, your friends, your boss for complimenting you, your teammates for working hard. Thank people for just being. Even if they try to play it off cool, no one ever dislikes being genuinely thanked for being kind or doing a good job.
  4. Write thank you notes – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve put them off, write letters to people who have recently given you gifts or cards. Write thank you notes to your friends for being the friends they are. Write a thank you note to the person who smiled at you and made your day, even if you don’t know them and have no way of giving them the note.
  5. Thank yourself – no matter what anyone says, you are doing the best you can, so thank yourself for that. You’re here, living despite any challenges you may be facing. You’re awesome, thanks for being you! Write yourself a note or just look in the mirror and say it.
  6. Share – when we truly appreciate the abundance in our lives, we are more willing to share it. I believe this can work backwards, though; when we share, we often become more aware of our abundance.
  7. Make a phone call – call a grandparent, and ask him or her to tell you a story from his or her life. Ask your dad to tell you his favorite recipe, or your mom to tell you more about her favorite hobby. Asking others about themselves is a way to show we care, we are interested and we’re glad they’re here.
  8. Take a deep breath – and notice the air filling your lungs. That, in itself, is a miracle, and the more we slow down, stop to smell the roses and feel the air in our lungs, the more we train ourselves to realize these small but beautiful things.

Thank you for reading! How do you show your gratitude? Share below!

Image: MTSOfan

Culture

It’s the time of year where we say our thanks to the things we’ve taken for granted, and being without a phone for the second time this semester has caused me to realize all the things I’m truly thankful for when it comes to my phone. Being without a phone has made me acknowledge not only the many things I take for granted regarding my phone, but also the things that having a phone has caused me to take for granted. Here are some things I’ve become thankful for that may just influence you to put your phone down for a couple of hours this holiday season.

1. Reminders

I’m always busy, and with being busy comes needing a way to stay organized and on top of things. My phone has all of my alarms, appointments, birthdays, and random notes in it in order to keep my daily life together. Being without it has definitely made me thankful for my little partner in crime!

2. Email

After missing out on the email for my 8:30am class being cancelled and getting up and lugging myself to class, I have definitely taken having access to email on my phone for granted. Being able to have my email on my phone allows me to check it straight when I get up; along with any cancellations that go with it!

3. Social Media

Not being able to Instagram on the daily may or may not be causing me to have withdrawals. Social media helps me keep in touch with my friends at school, as well as my friends and family at home. Being without easy access to all my social media sites has made it a lot more difficult for me to stay up-to-date on everyone’s lives.

4. Nature

Though being without a phone has given me my share of hardships, it has also helped me to realize how beautiful my campus truly is. Instead of scrolling through my feeds while walking to class, instead I look around and notice the beautiful flowers, trees, and architecture that I so easily took for granted.

5. Friends

My relationships with those who are my true friends, as well as my family, clearly deepened without a phone involved. It brought back emailing and direct messaging on Twitter, which although may be annoying, shows me who my true friends are when having to make an effort. It has also pushed me to spend more time talking to my friends and family face-to-face rather than texting them 24/7. Not having a phone has allowed me to be more social and have better relationships in general.

Though having a phone is a great thing that many of us take for granted, it’s also important to acknowledge the little things that we overlook when we’re absorbed in our screens.

Image: Jonathan Velasquez

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.

HealthSkills

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

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

CollegeEducationHigh SchoolInspiration

The transition from college to high school is a weird time. Not only are you getting ready to embark on a new journey in your life, but you might be going on a journey that is different from your friend – some of whom may decide to go to a different university, take a year off to travel, or maybe they don’t see themselves continuing with their education. Whatever their choice ends up being, it will usually end up being different from the one you make.

That is a hard realization to come to, and for many of you, you are already trying to navigate your collegiate experience without the people you have spent four years (or more, if you knew them before high school) of your life with. Luckily, we live in a society where technology has advanced and we don’t have to rely on writing letters to communicate with someone. So, if you’re missing your friends, you can always video chat with them or send them a text.

As it gets to be later in the semester, this line of communication may be hard to keep up, especially once you start getting involved with activities and get bombarded with various assignments. You might even make new friends that share the same interests or are taking the same courses you’re taking.

It’s never easy to talk about ‘letting someone go,’ especially if you’ve known them for a long time. This is not to say that it is impossible to stay friends with the people you went to high school with when you’re in college. Many people are able to keep the friendship intact, which is always a great thing. But if you and your friend(s) grow distant over time, that’s okay too.

We grow up a little each day, and sometimes when that happens, we become different people. The jokes we used to make with our friends might not seem as funny as they used to. Our definitions of fun changes and we just grow away from the people we used to be close to. When I was in ninth grade, I thought the people I befriended would be my friends forever. While we still message each other on Facebook from time to time, we don’t have the bond that we use to have. That is partly because none of us are the same people we were when we were in high school. This might apply to many of you because you just started your first semester of college. I think it’s important to talk about this now because no one told me that I wouldn’t have the same friends after I graduated from high school and went to college. No one told me that the people I sat with at lunch for four years would become strangers.

This might not happen to you but if it does, don’t worry about it. When I say ‘let someone go,’ I don’t mean that you should close them out of your life forever. It’s just that if a friendship has run its course, let it run its course. Some people are in your life for seasons, and others, especially the ones you meet in college, may become your lifetime friends. It’s up to you to decide who those people will be.

On the other hand, you might have had friends who partied a lot and participated in things they shouldn’t have participated in while they were in high school. If you were the kid who hung out with that crowd, it’s up to you to make the decision on whether you still want to keep those kind of people in your life. People can tell a lot about the kind of person you are based on the people you associate with. You might see or understand the importance of choosing your friends carefully right now but, trust me, as time goes on you’ll begin to understand why people don’t always keep in contact with their friends from high school or why people change in the first place.

It’s up to you to decide whether someone will benefit your life in any way, or if the person you used to get into trouble with when you were in high school will keep you from reaching your full potential and having the best collegiate journey you could possibly have. I’m not saying that you can’t be friends with the girl you used to party with a lot or the guy who used to do crazy pranks. It’s just that if they’re still the same way and aren’t going in the same direction you’re going, you don’t have to cut them off completely, you just have to distance yourself from them so you have room to grow and to become the person that you want to be.

College will change you and your life. Whether for good or for bad, that is entirely your decision. Just make sure you have the right people in your life because part of what changes you is the people you associate yourself with. You’re not going to be the same person you were in high school, so don’t be afraid if your friends aren’t the same either.

Image: morguefile

EducationSkills

Many of us can’t wait to be out the doors and in our dorm room, but when the time actually comes, it can be difficult to finally say goodbye. Whether it’s to your friends, family, or even your co-workers who you never thought you’d miss, goodbyes aren’t easy. Here are some tips to make giving that final hug a little easier:

1. Make Plans

As summer comes to an end, your days will start to get numbered. Make time for the people you care about. Have a group of you and your co-workers go out to eat after work or have a beach day with all of your closest friends from high school. Do the things you love with the people you love. Don’t put off spending time with people you care about because saying goodbye is just around the corner.

2. Pictures

Don’t forget to take lots of pictures while you’re out spending your final moments with your favorite people! Putting pictures in your dorm will make coping with goodbye so much easier. They’ll make your dorm feel homier and help remind you that your friends and family will be waiting for you when you go home during breaks.

3. Social Media

Social media helps so much with saying your final goodbyes. Whether it’s just a #throwbackthursday post of Instagram with your besties or a Skype call with your brother, social media will remind you that even though you may not be able to physically be with your friends and family, they’re still there to talk and listen.

An important thing to remember is to not spend all of your time trying to keep in touch with your friends and family. While you’re at school, make sure you focus on your studies and have time to add new people to your life. Don’t worry, your friends and family will always be there for you, and they’re always just a phone call or text message away. The time you spend apart will make the time you spend together so much more special, and you and your friends will have a lifetime’s worth of stories to share come winter break!

Image: Civilon, Flickr

HealthSkills

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

“I’ve done this before.”

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

“I am who I want to be.”

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

“It’s okay to mess up.”

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

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

Image: Unsplash

Travel

There are a few more weeks in summer to go on a trip! If you opt for a road trip, you will have a lot of fun. Before you go, though, there are a few must-have items to bring so that you can cruise peacefully. Here are eight important items you won’t want to forget:

1. Gas/ Food/ Emergency Money

I know this is an obvious one, but it is still worth mentioning. You don’t want to get stranded before you get anywhere.

2. Food

When you’re on a long stretch of road, who knows when you’ll see food again. It’s always good to have some snacks on hand so you don’t get too hungry. Or worse: grumpy in a car full of people because you’re hungry. Bringing a cooler can be helpful for snacks when you absolutely need them.

3. Games and Toys

If you are traveling with kids, games and toys are a must. However, they’re also great for adults. Playing a trivia game or a guessing game can help pass the time and keep others engaged.

4. Good Music

Be it an awesome playlist, CDs, or the radio, music can keep a long road trip feel a lot shorter. You can share your favorite music with those closest to you. You might just love hearing something new.

5. Something To Sleep With

Road trips are long. If you are not driving, you are welcome to rest. Comfortable clothes are good since you will be sitting for hours, so you may as well wear pajamas or sweatpants. Add a pillow, a blanket, and a sleep mask to block out the light so you can get some much needed rest.

6. A Cellphone

I know this is a necessity for a lot of people. Cellphones have many great uses. You can use it as a GPS, for games, music, a camera and most importantly, to contact people! Remember to keep it charged in case you get stranded and really need it. Having a car cellphone charger on hand is never a bad idea.

7. Maps

If you lose signal or run out of battery and have no electronic GPS, you could end up really lost. Maps still exist for a reason. Use them.

8. First Aid Kit

Many first aid kits come travel-sized these days. They are cheap and useful if the situation arises.

I hope these tips make the ride enjoyable for everyone! Have fun!

Image: weheartit

CultureSkills

Most of us haven’t had to make friends since high school, and even then we didn’t have to start from scratch. Going out to a new place on your own – some of us not even in our home state – can be pretty intimidating. Most of us aren’t used to having to make a whole new group of friends. Here are some tips on how to break out of your comfort zone, meet new people, and make the most of your college experience.

Start Early
Making friends takes time and the only way to speed up the process is to start early. If your college or university has a Facebook group, you’re in luck. Social media is the easiest and holy grail of ways to make new friends and meet new people in general. Post on your school’s page and post a brief paragraph about yourself including your name, major, where you’re from, and a few interests and hobbies that you enjoy. Breaking the ice yourself and starting the trend is always an easy way to get the ball rolling!

Have Questions and Ask Them
If you end up talking to any of your future classmates one-on-one through any sort of social media, have a few generic questions to ask. Questions that can allow you to get to know people and see if you have anything in common can include asking what their major is, how far they live from the school, what their hobbies/interests are, if they have any siblings, and what music they like to listen to. These basic questions always lead to more in-depth conversations and allow you to get to know each other.

Keep the Conversation Flowing
Don’t let the conversation die out. By letting the conversation end, you’re losing the opportunity to continue the relationship you’ve already started! There are always more questions you can ask to break the ice. Feel free to start a question game and go back and forth asking questions you’re curious about. Feel free to ask for someone’s phone number if you’ve been talking for a while as well as their other social media accounts to keep the relationship going.

Be Open-minded
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Try to connect with as many people as you can, regardless of if you think you’d have nothing in common with the person based on their 2010 profile picture. Never pass up an opportunity to talk to someone new; you could be missing out on your future best friend!

Have a Positive Attitude
If you have a positive attitude not only about making friends, but towards the people you’re making friendships with, you’ll be a lot more successful. A smile or exclamation mark can really break a shy person out of his or her shell, so don’t forget to spread the happiness!

Overall, be yourself when meeting new people. Never try to be someone you’re not. College provides an opportunity for you to find the people you really click with and make friendships that will last for years to come!

Image: Unsplash

CultureSkillsTravel

Road trips are a fun way to spend the summer. If you have the free time and the gas money, it is a great choice. It gives you the opportunity to spend time with family, friends or a significant other. Here’s how you can plan one:

1. Pick a Location

The trick here is to pick a place you want to go, as well as finding the right time to go. If it takes three days to drive to your destination, you have to also factor in breaks for meals and using the restroom. Plus, if there are not enough people and little desire to drive continuously, you may need to spend a few nights in hotels. That will make the entire trip take longer. You want to make sure you have enough time to and from your destination. 

2. Figure Out Who To Invite

Traveling is fun but it can also be hard. If you are stuck in a car with someone for hours or days on end, make sure you like that person. More importantly, how many people you invite can mean different cars. Keep in mind that if you are the only one with a driver’s license, you will be the only one driving. That will mean more work for you. You also need to find people who can go on the trip at the same time as you.

3. Logistics

Timing can be everything on a road trip. You have to factor in times to stop for food, gas, and rest. You should also make reservations somewhere if you need them. Sleeping in your car is not always safe. You do not want to end up in an unfamiliar area and not be able to find a place to sleep. Above all things you should find out how much time you want to spend at your destination. That might determine how many breaks you take.

4. Pack Well

You want to bring everything you need. Gas and food money are a must. However, you do not want to over-pack. There needs to be enough room in the car for everyone.

Lastly, remember to have fun! These memories can last a lifetime.

Image: Unsplash

CultureEducationSkills

Haven. Sanctuary. Kingdom. It doesn’t matter what you call your room but, at the end of the day, it’s yours. You can paint the walls any color you want to, put up posters that represent things you like, blast your favorite music, and be as messy as you want to be. That is, if you’re not the kind of person who needs for things to be in a particular order.

The point is, our rooms belong to us and, for the most part, that means we don’t have to share our personal space (I feel sorry for those of you who have to share your room with siblings. I’m an only child). It’s a different story when you get to college, however. Not only will someone else be living a few feet away from you, but that someone will more than likely be a complete stranger.

That pretty much was what freaked me out when I got assigned my roommate. And it didn’t help that I had just watched The Roommate (Note: Do not under any circumstances watch this movie before starting school). After seeing that movie, I kept thinking about what kind of person my roommate would be. Among other things, I was afraid that she wouldn’t like me and that we’d have nothing in common. To be completely honest, I was just extremely nervous about the whole thing.

And I’m sure quite a few of you are too.

Sharing a room with a stranger is not easy but it’s not as hard as you think it is. Sure, you might not have anything in common with your roommate. Sure, you might find being in the same room with them to be extremely awkward the first couple of days. But all of that will pass. You just have to keep in mind that, just like you, your roommate is experiencing college for the first time, too. They probably have the same fears that you have about college and that, in an of itself, can be a good thing.

So why not work to find some common ground? You don’t have to be best friends with that person right away, but the truth about having a roommate is…there’s no avoiding them. It’s impossible to live with someone for eight or nine months and not talk to them. In fact, if you want to have a great relationship with your roommate, the best way to do that is to talk. It can be small talk at first. Ask about where they are from, what they plan on majoring in, what classes they’re taking etc. Chances are they came from a different country (my roommate freshman year was from China) or a city/state you’ve never traveled to. They might even have the same intended major as you or have a similar schedule. It doesn’t matter what questions you decide to ask but it is important that you get to know them. Trust me, it’ll make sharing a room with them a little easier.

Remember what I said about having your own room? Well, your dorm room is technically your personal space but it’s also the personal space of another person. While you can hang up posters and decorate your side of the room the way you want to, keep in mind that you shouldn’t blast music whenever you want to or turn on the TV when you’re roommate is trying to study. That’s not to say that you can’t do any of those things, but another truth about having a roommate is…you’re going to want to set some ground rules. It’s always good to sit down and talk about each other’s likes and dislikes, figure out who’s going to take out the garbage on what days, and if one (or the both of you) are in a relationship, ask if it’s okay to have your boyfriend or girlfriend stay over.

These are the kinds of things you might want to clear with each other if not the day you move in, then in the next few days to the first few weeks of school. If you don’t set some ground rules, then there’s no telling what you both like and dislike. So it’s better to hash that out sooner rather than later. I’ve seen quite a few people, my freshman year, change rooms because of issues with their roommates doing things they didn’t like i.e throwing dirty laundry on the floor. Yeah, if you’re not into that, you have to let your roommate know from the get-go otherwise they’re just going to continue to do it.

This brings me to my next truth about sharing a room with a stranger: if it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Talk to your RAs and ask them about how you can go about getting a different roommate. I’m not sure how it works on other campuses but at mine, I know that before ultimately deciding to go through with the change, you have a meeting with your roommate, the RA and a few other people to see if the problem is something that can be resolved. Whatever that process may be, just know that if you have a roommate who doesn’t have good hygiene or is outright rude, you don’t have to put up with it. Having a roommate can and should be a wonderful experience, so don’t settle for a horrible one.

Again, I have only known a few people who have had bad experiences with their roommates so the chances of you getting placed with one are very slim. Just start school with an open mind, talk to your roommate and remember that, while your room is your room, it’s your roommate’s room, too. You can both work together to make your room your haven, your sanctuary, your kingdom.

So, when you find out who your roommate is going to be, why not shoot them an email? It doesn’t have to be a long, overly excited one if you don’t want it to be. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple, “Hi, my name is…”

Don’t be a stranger!

Image: Dormify.com

Skills

In this day and age, the job market is competitive. Getting the job of your dreams may require not just education, but also experience. If you don’t have time during the regular school year, working during the summer can be invaluable on your resume. Even if you don’t get the internship of your dreams, getting a job during the summer has its own rewards.

Here are the five benefits of having a summer job:

1. Learn New Skills

The learning never stops. No matter what odd job you have, you can put the skills you already have to use while gaining some new ones. You can be paid to learn something new! Even going through an interview is a learning experience. These new activities will be different than the normal school rigor and will give your brain a break as you try something different.

2. Meet New People

Chances are your jobs will force you to interact with people outside of your normal social groups. You can make new friends and gain people skills.

3. Even Part-Time Helps

If you want to travel and spend time with friends during your summer break, you will still have time to make an impression with a part-time job. You can make the most of your summer this way.

4. Earn Spending Money

When you do get the chance to go out with your friends or you want to treat yourself, you will now have the money to do so. Or you can save your earnings for something big, such as a trip.

5. Boost Your Resume

Having previous job experience shows that you are responsible, determined, and motivated. If you get a job in the field you plan on working in, you will begin gathering the building blocks you need to work in that industry in the future. Many of the better positions these days require prior experience. Having experience in the work force while you are still in school increases your chances of getting hired once you graduate.

Photo via australia.edu

CultureInspirationSkills

We’ve all seen, or at least heard of the movie “Yes Man” staring funnyman Jim Carrey, or as his parents know him, James Eugene Carrey. Although completely outlandish and (somewhat) unrealistic, the movie has a point. We go through our lives saying ‘no’ to whip on our mochas, ‘no’ to going out with the friend we just met because we are “too tired,” and ‘no’ (or more realistically “NOOOOOO!”) to our mothers when they ask us to take out the trash when in reality we are saying ‘no’ to a lot more than a couple bags of garbage. It’s human to be scared of the unknown, especially when it involves a bit of work. Heck, I’m scared of the unknown. But being aware of your fear and doing something about it are two very separate things. I’m not urging you to give homeless men rides home, but rather, urging you to do something you’d typically decline.

In our day and age, we are accustomed to exerting as little energy as humanly possible when we are not required to do so. Think of all the afternoons that turn into evenings you spend watching Netflix. Who knew there were so many movies that you’ve never even heard of! While it’s relaxing and easy to just lay in bed for 6+ hours after a hard day of work, there is something to be said for trying something new and saying ‘yes’ to an offer to go shuck oysters with a friend.

Want to know the answer to obliterating FOMO? Don’t ever put yourself in a situation where you think you coulda/shoulda/woulda. This is not to say that you should say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that presents itself because I know there are days when I actually cannot handle anything after a day at work and I’d rather lay in bed doing nothing. That’s okay. It’s okay because that’s what I wanted to do, I said ‘yes’ to myself. Woah. Never thought of it that way did ya? It’s all about balance. Don’t you just love how everyone is always talking about balance? Just so you know, I’m no therapist or counselor so I can say I can talk about balance without making you want to roll your eyes. I’m just a human going through my human life learning how to make it all work. I’m saying ‘yes,’ and life is saying ‘yes’ right back. Why not give it a whirl!

Image via Velcrosuit

EducationSkills

Counting down the days until you are free from the vice-like grip of your job or internship? Dissatisfied with the work you are being asked to do? Wishing time would pass faster? We’ve all been there, and it really is no way to spend your time. Instead of using your energy being dissatisfied with your internship, use that energy to figure out how to make your internship work. Here are some tips to make the most of your internship when you are feeling frustrated with it:

1. Grab Lunch with People in Other Areas of the Company

If you are working in a certain division of a company, talk to people who work in other divisions. For example, if you work in the script reading division of a film production company, ask people in the marketing, finance, Human Resources, talent, and production divisions to go to lunch. You can walk up to someone or send a quick email introducing yourself. Be grateful for the time people give you, and meet with the intent of learning more about how those people got to where they are in their careers. This is a great way to network internally at your internship and to make the most of your time there. Even if you aren’t dissatisfied with your internship (or job), this is a smart way to meet more people and gain insight.

2. Focus on the Good and Write Down Positive Things That Are Happening

When you are frustrated, it’s easy to get pulled into a negativity spiral. Step back from your disappointment that the internship isn’t what you thought it would be, and instead focus on the things that are going well. Did you make a new friend? Did you deliver a project before the deadline? Was it a nice sunny walk to work? Pay attention to the little positive things, and you’ll see when you write them down that things might not be so bad after all. You might also try starting a gratitude journal for this same purpose.

3. Ask Your Boss for More (or Different) Responsibilities

Do you think your workload could be heavier? Too much free time? Maybe you see something that would be interesting to try? Once you determine whether you need more responsibilities, or maybe just a different project on your plate, approach your boss with a game plan. Have a clear “ask” and know what you want to say. If you approach your boss with an open-ended loose idea, he or she might think you aren’t serious or ready for more responsibilities. Ask for something specific and explain why you are feeling this way and how you would accomplish the tasks. If your boss approves, you now have a new exciting project to add to the original tasks that weren’t satisfying you. Even though you still have to get the other work done, your new tasks will help you break up the day and test new skills.

4. Be Honest with Your Boss About Expectations and Reality

If you are truly frustrated with the way things are happening in your internship or you feel like the job you applied for isn’t quite what you are being assigned, talk to your boss about it. Your time is precious and you should be making the most of it. While it’s important to pay your dues, you shouldn’t be spending every day for three months cleaning walls and getting coffee for people. You need to be learning and challenging yourself.

5. Take Initiative (While Also Getting Your Work Done)

If you see something around the office that needs to get done, be a self-starter and offer to do it without anyone having to ask. Be sure to get your main duties finished first, but then once those are completed, you have a project where you can shine and show initiative. This is a great way to be a rockstar at your internship even when you might feel dissatisfied with it.

6. Make Friends

Befriend the other interns or entry-level people you work with. Ask them to grab lunch or dinner after work. Is there a fun networking or social event this weekend or weeknight that looks interesting? Ask someone from work to join you! Having friends at work will help your internship feel more fulfilling.

7. This Internship is Temporary

Oftentimes, we figure out what we want to do by figuring what we don’t want to do. Even though you are disappointed with your internship, treat it as a learning experience for what you do not want to do. It’s a good lesson to learn now when you haven’t invested too much time or money into it. Additionally, once you realize that you only have a certain number of days of your internship left, you may start to feel inspired to make the most of it.

8. Create Healthy Competition with Yourself

When I feel frustrated with repetitive work, I create a healthy competition with myself. I try to get the work done faster than I did the previous day or see if there is a new strategy I can implement to accomplish the work. Setting goals against the work you did on previous days will keep you feeling sharp and attentive.

9. Plan After-Work Activities

When your days are filled with work you are not passionate about, they can feel long. Plan after-work activities to help keep you excited throughout the day. Search for networking or social events in your area, plan a dinner with a co-worker or friend, or catch a movie. There are many things you can organize after work that will help keep you from feeling too bummed out.

Bonus Tip #10: For Future Internships, Truly Know What You’re Getting Into

When you are applying for future internships, really understand what you are getting into. Just as the company interviews you, interview the company and ask them questions so you get a feel for what you will actually be doing on the job. Talk to other people who have interned at the company to hear what they have to say about their experience. Companies will be getting value from you during your internship, and you should gain value from your internships, as well. Ask lots of questions, do research, and if you can, ask to spend a day with a member of the team you are interested in to get a feel for what your summer, fall, or spring will look like.

How do you make things work when you are dissatisfied?

CultureSkills

Effective communication is acquired through practice and observation. What works and what could be improved? Every conversation, exchange, and interaction helps improve your interpersonal skills. Communication is, for the most part, an unavoidable and crucial part of each and every day, and harnessing effective communication skills will bring a sense of ease and comfort into every new situation. Use these tips in both professional and personal situations to improve your relationships and learn how to get what you want!

1. Be transparent. Be clear about what you are trying to say. Do not “beat around the bush.” Being obvious about your objective is often more appreciated and welcomed than tip-toeing around an issue and being unclear about your desired outcome.

2. Simplify. Be as concise as possible when presenting information. Choosing the most important and relevant points will make interactions less confusing and more fluid.

3. Be yourself. Use language that is comfortable and clear. Speaking clearly and slowly is important, but be sure to stay true to your own voice.

4. Listen. The most important part of communication is listening. While getting your own point across is an important part of any conversation, it is vital that you try to understand what the other person is saying and to take them seriously. Sometimes you might spend more time listening to others than speaking, but that is an equally useful part of any interaction.

5. Defense versus offense. Be careful not to be too defensive during a heated exchange, or be too aggressive. Jumping to the defense or offense right away shows that you may not be secure in your own opinions or thoughts, causing you to lash out unnecessarily. If you find yourself wanting to react immediately, take a step back, take a deep breath, and collect your thoughts. Approaching an argument with a clear mind shows how mature and calm you can be in a tough situation.

6. Consider the timing. Figure out the best time to approach certain topics. Some situations are best to address right away, while others are better to think through before bringing up.

7. Ask for feedback. Do not be afraid to ask for advice on how you can improve. Whether it be with a teacher, boss, sibling, parent, friend, or mentor, proactively asking for advice shows initiative.

How do you effectively communicate?