Tuesday, August 18, 2015

10 study tips I wish I knew my freshman year

Oh, freshman year. What an interesting time. My freshman year was so strange, odd, challenging and just all around difficult. In every area, but mostly academically. I am not a naturally gifted student and I am particularly challenged in the area of organization. Also, I'm lazy. A fatal combination when it comes to college. It took a whole lot of trial and error to figure out how to nail this whole college education thing. While this list could go on for miles, I will spare you the boredom. I have looked high and low at every "freshman tips" page I could find. Some of these are common suggestions but I want to share with you my favorite, unique and most necessary tips I wish I knew freshman year. 

It is a lot easier to bring down a high grade than it is to bring up a low grade. In other words, stay on top of things. I repeat, STAY ON TOP OF THINGS. The worst thing you can do is miss a major deadline or assignment, it will wreck your grade. Once a grade is low, it is literally an uphill battle to get it back up. 

Little assignments add up. If you have a class that has 50 small, 10 point assignments compared to 2 big ones, it may seem like no big deal to skip a few. However, somehow those little suckers add up fast. Keep up with the little assignments along the way to score the ‘easy’ points. You will thank yourself at final exam time when your whole grade isn’t riding on just your exam score. The little assignments allow you some 'wiggle room'

OFFICE HOURS ARE YOUR FRIENDS! Go.to.office.hours. Every professor is required to have designated office hours- use them. Go in to ask for clarification on concepts, to ensure you are on the right track with a project or even if you just pop in to introduce yourself- it will matter! Professors are human too, they appreciate a friendly face and an engaged student! Forging a relationship may also save your butt if you ever find yourself in a pinch with a deadline.

Sleep. This is not a recommendation, this is a MUST. Late night pizza parties, sheetz runs and all-night chats with the girls down the hall are amazing activities- for the weekend! Get in at least 7-8 hours every night that you can. Nobody can kick butt all semester when they’re averaging 3-4 hours a night. It’s just not healthy.

Find your ‘golden hour’. Everyone has a time the function best. For me I am most alert and can focus best in the AM. As much as I love to sleep in, I wake up at the butt crack of dawn to study and get important tasks out of the way first thing. Find your best time and utilize it.

Go to every class. Do not fall into the stereotypical college cliché and skip a bunch of classes because you’re tired, hungover or lazy. It’s not cool. It’s dumb and a waste of money. Go to every class you can- save your skips for when you actually need them (illness, family emergency, etc)

Your agenda will save your life. Everyone is different so your system may not be as intense as mine but an agenda of some type is a must. The first week of every semester you will be handed every reading assignment, every project, and every paper for the entire semester. For each class. That is a lot of information. Find an agenda that fits your lifestyle and keep up with it. Write every assignment down in it as soon as you get it.

Re-write your notes. This one took me a while. It is a PAIN in the butt but let me tell you IT WORKS. After every class either revise or rewrite your notes. Date them, write the topic at the top and file them away. The information will stick better and come exam time your notes will be organized and legible.

Write everything down. Biggest lie you tell yourself “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.” Whether it be a change in a due date, a small fact the professor says will be on the exam or a reminder to do something for class- WRITE IT DOWN. It takes 3 seconds and will save you a whole lot more time than that.

Leave the computer behind. Unless you absolutely cannot hand write your notes, do not even give yourself the option of having your laptop. If your professor puts your power points online, print them out beforehand. Having a computer in front of you is such a huge distraction and temptation. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

There are no words

I made a promise to myself that what happened last year when I returned from Honduras would not happen again this year. On one front, I was successful in that I have not had diarrhea for the past 2 weeks. On another front, not so much. I swore that when I came back I would have formulated an amazing combination of words and sentences to convey to you all how great, amazing, wonderful and life altering the trip was. I was convinced I would somehow be able to find the words that last year hid from me for months, the words I am not sure I ever quite found. Somehow though, I am back and as speechless as ever. When someone asks me to tell them about my trip I stumble over my words and struggle to say anything other than, "it was great." or "I'm not ready to be back". When they ask why I mumble an incoherent string of words and end with, "I don't know, I just love it." Which is a sorry excuse for an answer. That is an answer I would give for a trip to Hershey Park or a movie. Not a mission trip to a third world country in which I came face to face with the poverty and beauty and wonders that most Americans (including myself until last year) do not ever acknowledge or even know exist.

I am dumbfounded at my complete inability to sum up the strong, intense emotions I felt everyday as I saw God move in and among each person I came in contact with. I realize now that the only explanation for that is because there are no words. There are no words to sum up the experience because it is one that transcends what can be communicated orally. It is so much more than words. The emotion and the sights and the sounds and the smells. There are no words.This sensation feels similar to the way I feel an emotional bond with people I could only communicate with through hugs, smiles and the occasional translator. A language that is above that which we speak and write. A language that can only be felt. It can only be experienced first hand.

I know this sounds a bit pretentious and that is not at all my intention. Quite the opposite- actually, I feel as though my words cannot do justice to what I felt, saw, smelled, tasted and heard. It is just that after returning home I feel almost ready to burst at the seams with too much. Too much of everything but specifically too many words. In Honduras, I communicated so much with my students by simply making faces, using hand motions and learning a few key phrases. It worked. I somehow portrayed my sarcasm and sass without even speaking so much as a full sentence in their language. I feel as though I cannot communicate in words that which was never spoken to begin with.

The lack of words reminds me of a moment I had with a little girl in the school yard. I was in our classroom tidying up supplies during recess when I noticed a small figure lingering by the doorway. I turned to find a small girl, probably 1st grade, watching me closely. She carefully observed as I pulled out my camera, as though she were memorizing my every move. She was shy and hesitant, you could feel the uncertainty in the way she moved- slow and unsteady. I knelt down to her eye level and held out my hand. She looked at my hand, looked in my eyes and then back at my hand. After a moment of hesitation she reached out and I pulled her closer to me. I then held my camera in front of her and using only motions showed her how it worked. After about 5 minutes she was sitting on my lap taking selfies with a camera the size of her head. Her demeanor had changed, her comfort had changed and her trust for me had changed. There were no words communicated but yet a loud, clear message was delivered. I cannot find the words to describe my time there because the message I received was never spoken, it was felt.

So, I am sorry. This is a sorry excuse for a re-entry post. This does not even begin to do justice to the trip. Maybe someday the words will find me or I will find the words. Do no be alarmed if I come back in a month with words, lots of never ending words because historically, finding words has never been a problem for me. For right now though, there are no words. I can leave you with this: Above all, I spent a week in Honduras and God was there. He has been there and is still there. Like any country, there is crime and poverty and desperation. But there is also God. There are God-loving, Christ-centered people. There are people trying to make a difference and change their land for the better. There are people who have more grace, humility and sacrificial love in their left hand than I have in my entire body. Some of the strongest, most influential people I have even known I met in the 16 total days I have spent in Honduras in the last two years. I can tell you that I did not know you could fall in love with an entire country, but I did. I can tell you that I was so deeply changed that I have begun applying to orphanages and other mission opportunities in Honduras for post graduation. It feels strange that long after any evidence of the trip is gone, I still feel stained, marked and changed by the experience. I can tell you that the dirt washed off my feet but the stains remained in a place deeper than my skin. I can tell you that I feel different, I am different and I wish to never be the same again. I do not know what else to say except, I was there, God was there and it was amazing. I'm sorry, there are no other words.