Skills

For many of us, public speaking had us quivering in the back of the classroom crossing fingers not to be called on.  Speaking in front of a large crowd can definitely be intimidating, especially if it’s not your forte. However, hopefully remembering a few of these tips can help you master this skill in a heartbeat:

1. DO: Embrace Your Nervous Energy

Nervous energy can be the first barrier that a speaker encounters with a crowd if not grounded in a proper way. “How to get rid of it?” you may ask yourself. There are many ways of doing so and one of them, contrary to popular belief, is by making yourself vulnerable. Walking up to the podium and making a light joke about the spilled coffee on your shirt or throwing in a “I’m nervous so please bear with me,” may just save your speech. The audience is not against you; in fact, they are with you. People know how nerve wrecking it can be to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers, and allowing them to identify with you is key.

2. DO: Outline Your Talk

It is vital to begin your presentation by introducing yourself and addressing the purpose of the speech to make clear what you hope your audience will get out of your talk. Who you are is very important and the audience wants to know that. Giving them an outline also allows your audience to create reasonable expectations with what it is you are willing to provide for them.

3. DO: Make Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most human ways of connecting with other people. Of course, it is obvious that one cannot make direct eye contact with every single person in the room, assuming your audience is impressively large. But as you introduce your speech, make sure to begin by turning your head to look at the person farthest on your left to slowly scan the room all the way to the person farthest to your right. This creates a way for you to comfortably glance at different areas of the room while not excluding the people that may not be in your direct field of view. Also, if you are uncomfortable making direct eye contact, try slowly moving your eyes above various heads. It reliefs awkward eye contact and creates the illusion that you are making it.

4. DON’T: Speak in Up Tones

You may not have noticed this, but your tone of voice is representative of how people will “secretly” view you. There are two kinds of people: the kind of people that speaks in up tones and the kind of people that speaks in down tones. It is most common to hear a teenager speaking in up tones while older people tend to speak in down tones. An up tone is the tone of your voice when you are asking a question while a down tone is the tone of voice you use when you are stern. Throughout your speech, especially when you introduce yourself, make sure you always use down tones. Practice it throughout the day to help you achieve this is as your dominant tone. It allows you to sound more confident and legitimate.

5. DO: Utilize Pauses

Pauses are not a sign of weakness. A few seconds of silence may be uncomfortable for you but hold it out – the silence captures the audience’s attention. Silence is power. When you are trying to make a relevant point and have just said something that you want to be remembered, pause and wait for that message to sink in. In addition, if you have forgotten a line or a point, pausing is a great way for you to compose yourself. Pauses are also great for replacing fill-in words: “ummm,” “eeeh,” “errrr,” “mmm,” “uhhhh,” or even the stretching of words. You may not notice it right off the bat, but dropping just one fill-in word is a call for catastrophe. It sets a tone of insecurity and boredom. Practice using pauses instead of fill-in words and you will note just how powerful your talk can be.

6. DO OR DON’T: Use Gestures

There is a common misconception that gestures during a speech are a must. However, one must realize that everyone is different. There are people who convey powerful messages by simply standing still with hands folded in front of them as their words capture the audience. Others have a musical voice which can easily be supported with beautiful hand gestures. It all depends on the person because if a person forces gestures and pacing, it may come off as awkward and stiff. It’s important that every person embrace his or her own style.

Public speaking can get your knees weak – it does for me! Public speaking can be a nerve wracking thing, though it really doesn’t need to be. Overcoming these fears is the key to effectively conveying any message in front of a public audience.

Are you ready to take on this challenge? How do you combat your public speaking nerves?

Image: leahbraun.net

EducationSkills

The spring semester is going to start soon, and for some, it already has. Many of you might be considering doing internships this semester. A while ago, I did a piece about the end of summer internships. This one is about the beginning of spring ones! Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing and applying to spring semester internships, especially in large cities.

Research.

Think about what type of internship you want to do. Social media, computer science, photography, editorial, public relations, you name it. Do you want to work on something in your field of study, or are you considering trying something new? What do internships tend to require? Experience in certain programs, making tweets, or proofreading? This will help you in your search and it will help you with preparing your resume and cover letter later on. Since you’re in a city, you want to make sure that you also open minded to start­-ups, places outside of your borough or local area, and positions that overlap. You also have to consider whether something is paid or not, if there is credit, and if the two -hour commute is worth it. Can you fit it into your schedule?

“Stalk.”

Said my professor. Yes, you spend a lot of time on the computer when you’re thinking about internships, and a lot of it is clicking around. Once you have an idea of what you want to do and a few companies for which you want to work, you should Google them. For example, if you want to write for a magazine, look up the editors. Look at the company’s mission statement and branch. Find the Twitter or LinkedIn or company website. This way, you will know a bit about the company but also a bit about who you will be working under. At first, back in my freshmen days, I was unsure about this, but multiple professors and people who work have told me it is definitely normal (and even expected) so no worries. You can go take a look at where the office is and see if the neighborhood is somewhere you would be willing to spend your time in. Can you buy lunch somewhere nearby? Is there a train station nearby? What kind of people are walking around? Casual younger people or older people in suits? You’ll be among them.

Create.

Create your persona. Make or edit your resume to suit your needs. Design it so it somehow represents who you are and how you work. Design interns design their resumes to be unique, but multi-­colored resumes wouldn’t work for a finance intern. Check your social media to make sure it is consistent. Get some appropriate clothes for the interview. You don’t have to wear black heels through a snowstorm or a suit in the summer, but make sure your nails are clean, your hair is washed, and your bag is suitable to both hold copies of your resume while looking appropriate for the office.

If you’re in a large city, you might want to consider adding some flair to your outfit so you can stand out. You’ll be competing with all the other university students (as well as people who have already graduated). The fashion interns I’ve met have been pretty unique, but not office appropriate. Again, this is where your research comes in! Maybe that’s alright for where you’re applying for. This preparation helps with interview questions that range from “Why do you want to work with us?” to “Tell me about yourself.”

Getting an internship, especially in big cities, can be pretty difficult. It starts out slow, but once you have a foundation, it becomes easier. It can be scary and it’s definitely competitive, but all of that becomes easier to deal with with practice. When something doesn’t work, try and try again. Best of luck!

Image: Chris Isherwood

Skills

Call it whatever you’d like: a talent, pastime, or your favorite leisure activity, but hobbies are something we all have. Has anyone ever told you, “that sounds more like a hobby than a career!”? I have. In fact, I turned down admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City because all of my passions sounded more like “hobbies.” Do I regret this decision? Sometimes, but now I’m finding ways to integrate my hobbies with my career path of choice. However, I’ve found that many of us are sacrificing our hobbies for work and they’re being left behind in the dreamy “good old days.” If you’ve found yourself victim, here are a couple of reasons why it is vital to never neglect your hobbies.

1. They make you you.

Although you’ve probably heard it one million times, you’re special in your own way. Your talents and hobbies are things that make you just that much more unique. What you do in your past time actually says a lot about who you are as a person and what it is that you appreciate in life. People know you for what you do at work or school, but showing them another dynamic part of yourself may give them that unexpected “wow” factor. They are things that distinguish you from the rest of your friends, coworkers, or classmates. Who wouldn’t want to embrace the fabulous and possibly strange parts that make you, well, you?

2. Psych benefits: relaxation, emotional, better thinking.

There are many psychological benefits come with doing what you love. The first one is relaxation. Hobbies serve as an outlet from the stresses that fog up your mind with constant daily worries. They have also been shown to improve your thinking abilities. According to Carol Kauffman, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, hobbies allow you to go into what is called a “flow state,” which is essentially what you feel when you get intensely focused on whatever it is you are doing – you lose the sense of time and your surroundings seem invisible. Sound familiar? She notes that this actually restores your mind and energy. These states of mind that call for heavy concentration actually boost neurotransmitters in the brain which allow for a mental recharge.

3. Make better decisions.

The best decisions are always made with a clear mind and when you have had plenty of time to think. Taking the time to plunge into your favorite hobby allows you to unshackle your mind from the worries of whatever choices are awaiting to be made. It forces you to go into the “flow state” and return to your decision making process with a clear and more relaxed mind.

4. Meet other people.

What better way to meet people that have the same interests as you? Join a club, take a class, or even get together with some friends that have similar hobbies to you. This will guarantee you meet other people that share your passion. Another case could be in conversation. Discussing hobbies and interests are ways for people to relate and understand one another a little better. Who knows – you may just meet your new bestie!

5. Creativity.

Usually, your definition of success in your hobbies differs from the definition of success that is done in your work. You are the judge of your progress and achievements in your activities. Not only does this boost self-confidence and positive thinking, but this also calls for better creativity. It allows you to express yourself in your own terms and within your own boundaries. You essentially set your own rules because you are doing this hobby for yourself and for nobody else.

Making time for what you love is essential in the society we live in today. It is imperative that we make time for ourselves not only for the luxury of its pleasure, but for our own mental health.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Image: Michelle Tribe

EducationSkills

“Hide not your talents, they for use were made, what’s a sundial in the shade?” – Benjamin Franklin

Think of the most successful people you know. Some may come with a fancy job title or an impressive LinkedIn profile, but what is certain among the very successful are these three things: they excel at what they do, are established in their chosen field of interest, and seek constant growth.  Now it’s up to you how you measure success, but in this millennial age there is no doubt that happiness and purpose must coincide with any sort of big career move. This is difficult at times being in a world that says good grades and a steadfast work ethic are still not enough to break through an industry. There are many people out there with extreme creativity or academic dedication or innovative mindsets who are all suffering from an epidemic of untapped potential. One defining factor between the successful and the almost-there is the proper use of one’s talents. Those people who have made it, they are the ones who have realized and utilized their unique skills. It is possible, dear friends, to become the person that other people refer to upon hearing the word “successful.” Understanding and using your talents could be your gateway into finding the cross-section of work and passion. But first, let’s go over two common and very unfortunate misconceptions:

  1. I don’t have any talents.
  2. I do have talents, but they are useless.

People must be able to surpass these ideas and realize that everyone is talented and there are practical ways to make talents relevant. We’re not talking about the whistling or saying the alphabet backwards kind of talent (though do keep those in your back pocket, countless dinner parties await you), but rather, the particular skills and capacities that are transferable into your everyday ventures.

The search is on: Discover & Develop

Everyone is bent a certain way and because of this, we each fit into our own niches in life. The crucial first step in engaging your talents is to find them. Here are a few thoughts to ponder to start your very own talent search:

  • What’s something that you find yourself thinking about and getting lost in thought?
  • What activities do you excel in or wish to excel in?

Being able to answer these questions may help you pinpoint certain interests that you can develop through practice. One of the best books about unlocking creativity is Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist.” As an artist and New York Times Bestselling author, he advises his readers to “write what you like” and “not what you know” and emphasizes the importance of everyone having side projects. Hobbies and side projects are the best ways to foster your interests and ultimately serve as tangible examples of your talents. Whether you are into photography, calligraphy, producing music, planning events, coding, blogging, analyzing movies, or whatever it may be, dedicate time to produce that kind of work. As Kleon says, “Take time to mess around. Get Lost. Wander. You never know where it’s going to lead you.”

Real use in real time: Harness & Employ

Sometimes people have talents that directly align with their studies and jobs. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, it is important to utilize them. Once you have identified your talents, spend time to create ways to share them with the world. Perhaps those photos you take on the side are the mere start of your traveling photography blog. Maybe your love for getting people together will allow you to start your company’s first-ever social retreat to boost employee engagement. With so many channels of communication through social media, everyone has the chance to appeal to the masses. Let your ideas be heard and create teams of people who share the same interests. Kickstarter.com is the world’s largest funding platform in which people can promote their ideas for a product or project to the public, gaining an audience and financial backing. It is a gold mine for ideas and the talented people behind them. It takes courage and planning to bring your talents to the forefront of situations, but allow yourself to create opportunities that not only welcome your talents but require them. You can be the person who has that certain skill, that particular edge that is needed for an upcoming project.

Today is the day to spend time with your talents and make something real with them. Sir Ken Robinson once said, “A strong passion allied with even a moderate talent, will generally get you further than a strong talent with little enthusiasm.” Translation: As long as you work with joy and resilience, there really is no stopping you.

Image: Ali Inay

Skills

People tend to not be concerned about issues that don’t ‘hit close to home’ because they feel like it’s something that could never happen to them, but even if most of us never experience war or lose our homes, it is important that we try to be a little more aware of what happens to other people around the world, even if we don’t see the relevancy of it to our lives.

Awareness is the first step, in my opinion, to understanding the kind of world we live in. Some people have the privilege of traveling to other countries to see firsthand how other people live, others can take classes about different cultures or can talk to other people who have gone places and have experienced things that they haven’t experienced. I understand that not everyone can travel to different places, but you shouldn’t have to leave your country or even your hometown to become aware of the different ways that people around you live and the kinds of things they experience.

It is possible to be a tourist in your own home. All you have to do is put on a different set of eyes and see, for the first time, instead of just looking. Many people judge homeless people because they have never had to experience not having a home or because they automatically assume that the person is homeless because of something they did to themselves. Not everyone is like this, but you may have heard a friend or a family member or someone on the subway blame people who are going through hard times for their current situations. But if they haven’t walked a mile in that person’s shoes, do they truly have the right to pass judgement?

People have the right to their own opinions, but don’t you think that the world would be a much better place if we replaced apathy with empathy? When you place the blame on someone else for their own situation, you are giving up the responsibility that you have to your neighbor. This doesn’t have to be anyone who lives in your neighborhood or even the person next door. If we all look at each other as global citizens and even, as one big family, then everyone you pass on the street is your neighbor in the loose sense of the word.

Let’s pretend for a moment that everyone looked at the world that way. From that perspective, it’s easier to see that blaming someone for their inability to get a job or to keep a roof over their heads is a way of being apathetic. When you don’t show concern for anything that is apathy and when you resort to blaming someone for something that happened to them, you are showing that you don’t care to understand this person’s predicament or even how it affects the people who love them.

It is extremely easy to be apathetic, especially if you don’t pay close attention to the news or if you don’t know what’s happening to other people around the world. You can live out your entire life without opening your eyes and still think that you can see. But once you start looking into what it’s like to wear this person’s shoes or that person’s shoes, the world becomes an entirely different place. Not only because you are aware but because that awareness can lead to understanding if you let it.

Empathy isn’t about feeling sorry for someone, it’s about sharing their feelings even if you can’t completely understand their situation. It’s about stepping outside of yourself and realizing that at the root of all of your experiences are feelings that can transcend any cultural, racial, or religious barriers that exists in our world today. You don’t have to agree with a person’s feelings or even their current situation but don’t let judgment be your first response to that disagreement. In fact, don’t let it be any of your responses. It’s impossible for us to understand what other people are going through because we don’t often take the time to try to understand.

I know that might be hard for everyone to do but empathy is not a foreign concept. We all have the ability to be empathetic; to understand and share the feelings of others. Though our experiences may differ, our emotions are all the same. There is not one emotion that is unique to any one culture, race, or religious group.

Once we all realize that, the world will slowly but surely become a better a place to live in.

Image: Chris Sardegna

Skills

Asking for help can be hard when you’re going through a hard time. At times it can be a case of pride. You don’t want to show how much something is bothering you or how much it is hurting. Perhaps you don’t want to burden someone with your problems. Whatever the reason, I can say it is always a good idea to ask for help when you need it.

I have never regretted asking for help. Have you ever not raised your hand in class because you were worried about asking a dumb question? We’ve always been told that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Even if there were, you could either have an answer right away or you could just agonize on your own for however long it takes for you to figure things out. When you speak up, you get answers.

I admit that this is a lesson I have had to learn more than once. I once missed a day of school while sick. I didn’t ask for anyone’s math notes because I was sure I was smart enough to piece together the information on my own. A week later, not only had I not figured out what I missed, but I didn’t understand anything that came after it. Instead of letting my confusion grow, I finally asked my teacher for help. Guess what? Everything began to make sense.

If someone can’t or won’t help you, it’s not the end. It just means you can move on to someone who can help you with your problem. This idea is not limited to class lessons. The holidays in particular can be troubling times for people. Some feel overwhelmed about spending so much money or the need to make a holiday perfect. Some people feel like they have to spend the holiday alone. Like the fear of asking for help, this pressure we put on ourselves tends to all be in our heads. Reach out to friends or family if you want to spend the holiday with someone. If you need space from your loved ones, you can volunteer somewhere. Don’t suffer because you’re afraid to reach out.

If you’re scared or confused in life, it never hurts to ask for help. You may want to prove you can do things on your own, which is valid. However, if you are slowing yourself down because you don’t want to admit that you need help or because you’re scared others will see you differently, don’t worry so much. Everyone has problems. No one was born knowing everything or being able to do everything. We all learn as we grow. Even in adult life we are still learning. The very problem you are struggling with may be just the thing that someone else is struggling with. You just have to be brave enough to talk about it. Not asking for help just wastes time that you could use to move forward. So don’t waste anymore time. Just ask.

Image: CollegeDegrees360

EducationHealthSkills

Here we are, slowly creeping into mid-December and that only means one thing: finals week. Sleep is probably the first or last thing on your mind right now. If sleep is not one of your priorities, hopefully by the end of this article it’ll move up a level or two in importance.

  1. The Facts

Today, about 75% of people experience some type of sleep issue a few times a week, and about 50-70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. With this fast-paced, money-making, work-obsessed, change-achieving culture, America is reaching for perfectionism, ignoring the personal stakes that may entail. Lack of sleep is causing unintentional accidents on the road, chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as cancer, and a reduced level of productivity. When I asked a “4.0” or A+ friend what she thinks of sleep, she laughed and noted that most of the time, there’s simply not enough time for it. Is sleep really that underappreciated? Studies suggest that school aged children need about 10 hours of sleep; teens need 9-10 hours, while adults need 7-8 hours. In a survey, only 30% of adults reported getting over six hours of sleep while only 31% of teens reported getting at least eight hours of sleep.

  1. Memory Booster

Receiving the adequate amount of sleep actually helps you remember things after learning a new task. However, it seems as though students are actually skipping out on sleep in order to cram and essentially, remember more information. Next time you cram for your Bio exam, try studying all day, sleeping all night, and rising early the following morning to review – you may have much better results!

  1. Weight Gain

Oh no… college students, the freshman 15 was real. We all know firsthand that this is no myth. And here I am, as a sophomore, trying to shed those painful memories away with the help of my fabulous treadmill. Lack of sleep causes those numbers on the scale to increase. “Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite” says The Harvard Women’s Health Watch. It’s true! Think about it, how many times do you end up grabbing that bag of potato chips when writing that essay at 3:00 a.m., or how often you order delivery because there’s no time or your cravings are at an all-time high? Sleeping not only cuts off all chances of cravings, but it also promotes proper metabolism function.

  1. Morning Crankiness

Sleep deficiency causes irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and the ultimate case of moodiness. Notice that when you have slept plenty, you wake up happy, content, and almost excited to conquer your day. On the other hand, waking up to a firetruck alarm clock when it seems like you haven’t slept enough, makes you want to curl back into a ball sandwiched between those cozy sheets.  In fact, this may leave you only doing the things you need to do as opposed to the things you need and want to do simply because you are just too tired to do them. Get the sleep you need and feel ready to seize your youth!

  1. Health Risks

There are many types of health risks associated with lack of sleep including cardiovascular problems like hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and even an irregular heartbeat. In addition, skipping out on those hours can alter your body’s immune function which can, in turn, modify the body’s natural killer cells. This can call for a more vulnerable body making you more susceptible to infection and sickness. Enough sleep has also been linked with cancer prevention.

Living by that “YOLO” motto can definitely have its pros, but just remember that ignoring sleeping needs can put your psychological, emotional, and physical health at risk and maybe working on time management can help you receive the adequate amount of it. It is important that you put sleep on your list of daily priorities until you find it utterly “unthinkable” to miss out on it. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” you may think, but think again, my friends! Skipping out on sleep may just stop you from doing the things you love and need to do in life!

Image: Tandem Properties

CultureSkills

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

1. Decorate

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

2. Make A Holiday Playlist

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

3. Watch Holiday Movies

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

4. Get Holiday Themed Food and Drinks

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

5. Hand Out Party Favors

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

6. Do What Works For You

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

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

What are your holiday party must haves?

Image: Daniel Ramirez

CultureEducation

Dear Writer’s Block,

Welcome back, my friend. I haven’t seen you in quite a while. How have you been?

As you know, the first round of papers and projects have come (and for some, has gone). There is nothing more satisfying in the world than finishing that last sentence, adding that last period, doing that one last save and export as PDF. But sometimes, those finishing touch moments don’t come, all thanks to you.

What do you mean, you ask? Well, Writer’s Block, you’re well aware of your talent for showing up during this time of the semester. Especially for people who have Capstone or Thesis papers to write, you’ve made yourself comfortable, haven’t you? Visiting in the middle of the night just as I’ve gathered my textbooks and novels and highlighters and post­its. You’ve come just as I set down my cold coffee and popped open my glowing laptop.

Ah, yes, the Writers Block. There are things that happen when one feels a Writer’s Block come around. Every moment in the shower, on the bus, on the train, is devoted to trying to resolve a problem.

How do I start this paper?

What should my proposal be about?

This proposal isn’t working!

Is this due next Tuesday? Monday? Friday?

Aaaaaaaaaaah!

Buzzfeed quiz.

I have no idea what I want to write about.

What am I gonna do?

I guess I should do an outline.

Maybe I’ll do the outline later.

I’m just going to go browse Forever21.com now…

This idea isn’t that great, but I can’t think of anything else.

I’m 2 pages short.

I’m a paragraph short.

I’m literally a sentence short of hitting the minimum page requirement.

I’m just going to go internet shopping because I don’t know what else to do.

Help.

It’s about time that finals comes upon us, the rush of assignments before Thanksgiving and the dump of exams after it. Writer’s Block… why?

Sincerely,
Stressed College Student

P.S. I’m going to figure out what to do with you, Writer’s Block. Just you wait…

Image: Rennett Stowe

CultureSkills

It’s the time of year where silver and gold are soon to be decking the halls, and while decorating for the season brings nothing but smiles, the decorations can get a little pricey! There are some great DIY ideas to bring the holiday spirit into your home without breaking the budget.

1. Table Décor

Grab some old bottles or jars and cover the outside of them with some holiday paper. Use a contrasting color to write words such as “Joy” or “Noel” with one letter on each bottle! A paper mache technique works great for these!

2. Favorite Cuddly Snowman

Use a lone, clean white sock to make your favorite frosty friend come to life! Using some clear hair-ties to separate each section of the snowman and some black and orange felt for the buttons, nose, and arms, Frosty will be finished in no time! Add some google-y eyes and you’re all set!

3. Rudolph Candle

Take a candle (preferably of a brown color) and go outside to find some branches to your liking. These will serve as Rudolph’s antlers and can be hot glue gunned to each side of the candle! Grab a red cotton ball to put on the front and voila!

4. Frosty Fridge

Possibly the easiest and most inexpensive of them all would be to make your fridge Frosty inspired! Grab some orange and black construction paper to cut out buttons, eyes, and a nose and tape them onto your fridge! Top it off with some holiday patterned wrapping paper to act as a scarf for your new Christmas friend.

5. Candy Cane Bouquet

This is a simple and adorable center piece for your table: Grab some candy canes, ribbons, and either real or fake flowers. Tie the candy canes around the bouquet of flowers with the ribbon, tie a bow, and you’re done. A cute and polished way to add Christmas joy to your table top!

There are so many ways to add holiday spirit to your home, and with Christmas right around the corner, the decorating has just begun!

How are you DIY decorating this holiday season?

Image: Stephen Nakatani

CultureHealthSkills

The first thing I do when I get online is go straight to Facebook. Sometimes I don’t even notice I’m doing it. Next thing I know, I’m scrolling through my news feed clicking on links, reading statuses, and commenting on pictures. That entire process seems to take up a good chunk of my time. Why? Because the Internet is a black hole. It sucks away our life and we’re not even aware of it, until we shut down our laptops or tablets and look up to find that time passed us by while we read the latest celebrity gossip or watched the latest episode of our favorite TV show.

While the Internet can be an extremely wonderful place, the outside world has so much to offer. Don’t spend your entire break from school online because if you do, you will have missed out on your chance to get some fresh air or spend time with your family and friends.

I know what I’m about to say might be hard for some of you to do. This is why, before I put in my request, I just want to remind everyone that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest will still be here tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. Spending a few days away from social media and the Internet, in general, won’t make it to disappear into the cyberverse forever. That said (after you finish reading this article of of course), I want everyone to close out of their Internet browsers and shut down every electronic device. Those are two simple steps but it might prove to be really hard for some, especially if you’re the kind of person who loves to stay connected at all times.

I am that kind of person too. I like being able to read what’s going on in other countries and, guiltily, what’s going on in the lives of celebrities I like. But, at the end of the day, I make sure to remember my own life. I am young. I still have a lot to explore and a lot to experience. I can’t do any exploring or memory making if I am always sitting in front of a computer screen.

And neither can you.

Get out there! The world is your playground. If you can’t travel to far off places just yet, take a walk around your neighborhood. Check out that store you haven’t gone in yet or maybe try the new coffee shop that just opened. Call up a few of your friends and go see a movie. Do something that doesn’t involve the Internet or social media. Unplugging is seriously one of the best ways you can seize your life because, whether you remember it or not, there was a time when we didn’t have laptops and smartphones and tablets. When we were kids, we still were able to find ways to entertain ourselves that didn’t involve the latest app or Twitter.

Pick up a book from the library, rock out to your favorite song,  and maybe help around the house or clean your room. Do something that doesn’t involve plugging in to the Internet. Do anything that will allow you to seize your youth because you don’t want to look up one day and realize that you didn’t seize every moment of your life. This moment in our lives have the potential to be the greatest. All you have to do is get out there and do more with your time than just stare at a screen. I know unplugging isn’t exactly an easy thing to do, but once you do it I promise you won’t regret it.

Image: Nomadic Lass

CultureSkills

There are many things to be thankful for when the Thanksgiving pieces have fragmented into a “disastrous holiday.” This very American, very well planned, very much awaited for holiday may not be the picturesque family-filled weekend.

The Away-From-Home Blues

Not everyone gets the marvelous chance of traveling home for Thanksgiving as intercontinental trips can result in two entire days of travelling, exorbitant holiday fares, or simply lacking the luxury of time to do so. These away-from-home holidays can be seriously depressing – especially when you scroll through your relative’s posts of family reunions or phone calls that report you’re on speaker and all family members you love and secretly hate are together dining without you screaming their “Hellos.” However, if you are away from home, it doesn’t mean you need to celebrate Thanksgiving alone. Call up some friends who are also away from home and have a five-person-Thanksgiving-dinner; try cooking it all together. Amateur cooking without the guidance of your Mothers expertise is only calls for hilarious memories! Another option could be tagging along with along with a friend who has family in the area. Why not experience a different kind of Thanksgiving?

Preparation Timeliness

It’s almost law that you pay a price for the good stuff, no? Food: delicious, anticipated, and the entity that makes Thanksgiving actually happen. In other words, it is one of the most, if not the most important part of any Thanksgiving dinner. However, in order to have your guests roll their eyes in heavenly delight, you must first prepare this complex meal – aka the ultimate “OCD-enticing-price” as people are stressed out of their minds because the food is either finished too early or too late. Both can be disastrous because nothing is better than eating a home cooked recipe fresh out of the oven and nothing is worse than having to wait hours for your long awaited meal. Take a piece of advice: relax. Nothing ever turns out perfectly and that’s just a part of life! The premise of Thanksgiving may have a food component thrown in there, but when looking deeper into the holiday, it’s about being around family and friends and being able to reflect on just how lucky you are to have them!

Bizarre Selections

The quintessential Thanksgiving Dinner: turkey, apple pie, and stuffing? These are all foreign to me as my family celebrates with only a traditional turkey and Colombian food. Maybe we will get the occasional pumpkin pie that is bought from the nearest convenient store and left untouched throughout the night. Our unconventional dinners allow me to realize that there is true beauty in this holiday: the convergence of two cultures. On a different note, there are great stress-inducers other than the turkey not being prepared on time: not having a turkey. Not having turkey is only the worst thing that can happen in any Thanksgiving. But why? Why not have what vegan/vegetarian families have and eat seitan instead? Why not solve the catastrophic problem of having all stores having sold out turkeys by having a chicken substitute instead? The odd substitutes for what is representative of this day may just bring other little surprises!

Family Reunions

Aside from the obvious mishaps that can happen to anyone on any given family gathering, this can be the most unsettling: awkward reunions. It can be the horrible to have to introduce that semi-announced boyfriend or girlfriend. The impressions, the expectations, and the anxiety can all be a bit nerve wrecking. How about this situation: the absolutely irking family members who try to catch up with the happenings of your life by prying with totally eye-rolling questions. They’re all the same. “Any new boyfriends/girlfriends I should know about?” “You’re turning into such a woman/man!” or the expected comparisons to other relatives. Maybe you’re about to see relatives you have not seen in ages. What to expect? Expect anything from total joy to total awkwardness. But, hey, family reunions do these things – they are good problems to have!

Two Ideals. One Night.

“Bye! I’m off on a shopping spree,” everyone practically screams as they hurriedly move from feasting on gluttony to feast on the “more is better” American mantra. You just had a night of thanks for everything you have had and everyone you have had in your life and suddenly America hurries off to Black Friday to catch those 50% off deals like a heard of sheep desperate for a grass buffet. I have forever been curious and mildly disapproving of this concept but it’s very much present in this culture. Perhaps discern this transition with some extra-thanks? Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone meets in loving gathering – most of the time. It is the time of year when everyone gives thanks for the experiences, opportunities, people, and things in their lives. But it’s also a time when patience, emotions, and your ability to “let go” is tested.

How will you manage your Thanksgiving mishaps?

Image: Satya Murthy

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

CultureSkills

Young people are always underestimating their worth, and I don’t mean worth as in a monetary value. What we have to offer the world is priceless in every sense of the word. It can’t be bought or sold and it can’t be taken away from us. I recognize the plight of young people who live in countries where their voices are silenced by oppression, but I also recognize that even in countries where freedom of speech is not a luxury the people who live there can afford, people our age have found ways to stand up for what they believe in despite the consequences they might face for speaking out against unfair regimes.

Throughout history, we can find instances of high school and college students alike using their voices to make a difference in their communities, their countries, and across the world. Maybe we won’t see an 18-year-old president any time soon, but young people don’t need to hold a political office to change policy. The only weapon in our arsenal that we need is our voice.

I say that our voices are weapons because they are just as powerful as any firearm, and words truly do have power. They have the power to bring people together; inspire them to move into action, and to make a difference wherever they are. You are never too young to stand up for something you believe in. Even if you’re not old enough to vote, you can still use your voice to speak up about whatever it is you are passionate about. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young to understand something or that an issue doesn’t concern someone your age. Statements that use your age to undermine your intelligence, as well as the importance of your voice, are the tools that people will use in their attempt to disarm you, and they are completely false.

No one else has the ideas that you have or can think the way that you think. And this why your voice matters. Your words are unique and while they cannot be duplicated, they can be shared. All you have to do is speak up. There are people who might not listen to you because of your age but don’t let that discourage you because for every person who won’t listen, there will be someone who will. Once you realize that your voice truly matters and that it is powerful enough to make a difference, I have no doubt that you will make a difference in the world around you.

While worth is usually used in reference to monetary value, what we as young people have to offer the world is priceless in every sense of the word.

Image: Evan Forester

Education

High school students are beginning to fill out their college applications, and part of that process includes deciding what major to pick. While you can always change your major once you get to school, oftentimes colleges encourage you to choose one so they can get an idea of your interests.

For those thinking about majoring in photography, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Costs add up.

It is impossible to imagine how much things cost. Film, darkroom paper, photo paper, book printing, photo books, mounting, business cards…the list goes on. As the four college years go by, it adds up. Some schools have amazing facilities (Parsons) but others do not. For those that don’t, it would be frustrating for you to have to buy all your own gear and pay for studio and scanning and developing chemistry.

2. Think outside the box.

Photography is no longer the black and white documentary 35mm it once was. From fashion to fine art, photo students are now expected to grasp, come up with, and execute concepts. Why did you take that picture? Why is it next to that other picture? Is it a series, a diptych, a stand alone? Digital, prints, or book form? Why? Be prepared to think critically.

3. Critiques will happen.

“Crits” are days when your work is hung up and people talk about it. Sometimes you can defend your work, sometimes you can’t. People will disagree or dislike your work. They will tell you what they honestly think. You can’t do anything about it. The best thing to do is to learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and to give good crits. That is the most productive thing to do. Explain what is working and what isn’t and why.

Being a photography major has its good and bad points. But as long as you love it, then it will all be worth it!

Image: Mia Domenico

CultureSkills

“Hey, how are you?”
“Alright! You?”
“Doing well, thanks.”
“Good to hear.”

And cue the curtain call. That’s it, that’s how we talk to each other. While the pressures of getting to class or work on time makes this sort of interaction necessary, let’s pause to think of what this does to our overall engagement with one another. Allow me to preface by saying I am an avid small talker and do see the value of passing conversation. It lightens the mood and provides much needed person-to-person acknowledgement. To surpass the surface, however, we need to recognize the times where we can switch the banter with deep dialogue.

Fig. 1 Everyone loves an iceberg metaphor

deep 1

The usual conversation involves skimming through topics I like to call “skimterests,” ideas that only scratch the surface of getting to know someone. The current climate, who wore what and when, or perhaps some car trouble you had on the way to a meeting, are all so very skimteresting. We sometimes avoid heavier topics in an effort to save the other person from discomfort. It has become a common courtesy to not engage in sensitive issues but as emerging adults, let’s realize that we should not always mask our discussions. What we lose by doing this are genuine moments with those around us. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Don’t just break the ice, melt it (and get to the bottom of the iceberg).

Fig. 2

deep 2

Finding common ground is a valuable place to start when having a conversation, but it should not be the sole subject. It is easy to talk about similarities because you feel secure and understood, but complexity begins when you shift your focus on what makes the other person unique. That is when you delve into the various life events and perspectives that have shaped them into the person they are.

 Fig. 3

deep 3

Digging deeper requires you to invest two things into the other person:

  1. Time spent asking open-ended questions
  2. Verbal and non-verbal marks of interest

Ask questions that don’t end with just a yes or no. Go for the “Why’s” and “How’s” when asking why a certain life path was chosen or how they feel about their relationships. Showing interest is key to conversation continuity and can be done with simple words of affirmation, attentive eye contact, and nods of recognition. People can gauge one another when speaking, intermittently checking if what they’re saying is actually being heard. Listen, process, and have specific follow-ups. The goal now is to widen your knowledge of the other person without feeling pressured to respond with a similar story in efforts to relate. Everyone has something intriguing about them and each conversation is a scavenger hunt to figure it out!

Open-Ended Questions:

  • Describe three things you could add to your life that would make you happier. What about three things you could do without?
  • How would you describe your personality? How is that different than how your family, partner, or friends would describe you?
  • If you had to make up a life motto right now, what would it be and why?

Don’t worry about the back-and-forth. There is no required word count or rule that says two people must talk equally to have an effective conversation. You don’t need to always say something to fill in the gaps. Appreciate silence as a significant facet of conversation. It allows people to ponder their responses, especially those who need more time to process thoughts before speaking comfortably.

Paraphrasing is powerful. Respond with what you have gathered from the other person. This not only shows that you listened but that you care about having an accurate idea of their point. Having positive remarks after someone shares something personal will also help create a safe space for dialogue. Validation is the pillow of conversation, it make things comfortable.

Water it with time. Really getting to know someone is an ongoing process. The best relationships form from a progression of conversations, keeping in touch with others, and remembering what they have to say. If you have time in your day, think about how you can make the “How are you?” turn into something a lot more meaningful.

Images: Sunshine and Marian Bagamaspad