7 ways to start off the semester right

‘Back to grind’, sighed two college students on their last night before school re-opened that fall. It would be back to books, classes, assignments and may be even punishments for them and for so many other students who were returning to school. Lest we forget, and also for those freshman year students who were just going to start off with, for what might be still uncharted territories, the campus-life.

How many of us can relate to this aforesaid scenario? Haven’t we all been in this situation before? And some of us may still be at this crucial juncture. The times that we spend in college are eternally etched in our lives. So why not we do the best we can to create memories, moments and events that we can fondly reminiscent long after we’ve graduated. Given that, we’ve no or minimal control over most situations in our lives, there are some basic yet comprehensive steps that we can take that may guide us towards the “right direction”; and sometimes, just sometimes, even take us right to our destination!

So whether the semester has already commenced or not, whether you’re making headway towards your goals or you’re finding yourself in choppy waters, here are some of suggestions that may help you to steer your boat through high seas and low tides of what has always been, a roller-coaster campus-life.

1. Set a routine

It’s not as hard as it sounds, I promise. Fine, a tad arduous but definitely rewarding. It may be something as elementary as simply making your own bed immediately after waking up in the morning. One may say that it’s nothing so spectacular that could be added to a resume but it certainly is the first step to creating a solid one, going forward. Setting a routine will only give a boost to all of your succeeding tasks as you can get done with mundane tasks at lightning speed; clearing up the rest of your day to take on more important tasks.

2. Source books, notes, lectures materials early on

You can still manage to get a grade, probably, a C or a C+ by pulling an all-nighter the night before your exams. But how are you going to pull one off if you don’t have the study materials in place? It’s always beneficial to read through the syllabus in advance and raid the library before all those books are gone.

3. Mix-and-mingle with peers at school and outside

Your classmates are the best support system you’re ever going to get. Period. So collaborate and join forces to create your own support system. Try finding find common interests or even better, try finding mutual disinclinations; there’s no bond stronger than when two students jointly despise the same class. By partnering classmates, one is able to learn new skills from one another. And no sooner than later, what might have seemed like a tough class turns out to be a walk in the park.

4. Leverage campus resources

Students tend to overlook plenty of resources that are made available for students at school; ranging from curriculum based extra classes to clubs for fashion, sports, movies and tech. Students are encouraged to give these a try if not become members; for these play a key role in meeting students from different departments and learning about various on-campus and off-campus activities.

5. Volunteer

One the key aspects of making the semester worthwhile is to volunteer. It may be doing a task as plain as scooping ice-cream at a local festival to something more wide in scope like cleaning gardens or painting the walls of neighboring communities. This is really a trump card that students can use going forward in the semester. By volunteering, one gets to learn about aspects like bridging the community-college gap and creating an all-encompassing environment as well.

6. Take break, time-out and relax

Juggling classes, socializing and volunteering is sure going to overwhelm students. So, it’s imperative to take that much needed break from all these activities and let your hair down. Do things that make you happy. Anything, really!

7. Keep working on that personal brand

The laundry list of things above are mere suggestions. However, what’s most important is your unique, awesome personality that you and you alone can shape, nurture and enhance. Take classes or not, volunteer or not, connect with peers or not; your personal brand is that aspect of your personality that you wish to tap on which will open all doors of opportunity for you and widen your horizon. So take a look within yourself and ask what is it that you really want to achieve in this semester and pave your path to accomplish your objectives.

One may or may not get the best start to the semester but what is important is to finish strong. With this goal in mind, reach out to your peers, classmates and community today and experience the many possibilities that the semester will offer you.

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Bucket List for the Summer

The life of a student revolves around semesters of deadlines, classes, credits and prepping for exams. Almost as fast as it began it ends and spring finally arrives! Temperatures begin to rise with flowers appearing. That’s right, summer is here! There is no better time for students to just take some time off to sit back and ponder: goals vs classes, dreams vs ground-realities and plans vs the deviation from plans.

The summer break is vastly underrated because many consider it to be yet another long undeserved vacation showered upon students. More often than not, people don’t realize that students tend to get dragged into a monotonous chain of events that tends to dry out their sense of creativity, instincts and spark! The summer recess is a pertinent opportunity for them to explore areas that are of their interest which may or may not align with their curricular requirements. These areas of interest can not only be tapped but also nurtured to realize and accomplish long-term personal and career objectives.

In order to make the most of the summer, here are some of the areas that students can work on to understand, learn and enhance their personalities.

1. Travel to unravel: take that much needed vacation that you’ve been wanting to go to since the start of the semester. From beaches and boats to mountains and bike trails, whatever it is that gives you the freedom to experience the sights and sounds of a new destination, go for it! There is no better way of not just learning about new cultures but also about yourself, than to travel. From going solo to joining a tour, the experiences of meeting new people and making new friends has a profound impact on perceiving the environment around you. This can guide you to take informed decisions and insightful evaluations about the courses you want take or even the profession you want to choose going forward.
2. Create or clean up your social media presence: the gamut of social media platforms around us makes it mandatory for one and all to create a sense of a ‘larger than life’ perception of who we are. This is great, but only to a certain extent! Many-a-time, we end up posting, tagging, liking, commenting, sharing and tweeting about issues that may have polarizing opinions. Such factors though seem minor, tend to snowball into major roadblocks in the larger scheme of things. From applying to colleges to applying to jobs, your social media presence is scanned and combed out by admissions officials and HR managers. Your personality is evaluated on the basis of your virtual footprints. So, use the summer as a golden opportunity to either create your LinkedIn profile and increase your professional network or clean up by clearing out those random posts on social media. Remember, if there is even a second guess or thought about it. Take it down!
3. Strum that guitar: nothing soothes the mind and body like music. There’s a little bit of a musician in all of us. So why not give yourself the opportunity to explore your musical side. By nurturing a hobby like music, students expand their skill set beyond the usual suspects of being proficient at software tools or sports. Music adds a multi-dimensional facet to the student’s personality. Also, music has a universal appeal, so you could be foreign to a place but your music won’t!
4. Work on back-end tasks: this is a rather vast and vague area of things. It’s basically clearing out everything that you’ve had on your to-do list for the longest of time. Items on this list were sent here because of your procrastination and your sheer commitment to other more important tasks. But, this your time to clean up everything that you’ve been sweeping off under the carpet. From cleaning your room to researching about that college you’ve been aspiring to go to. It could even be taking that gym class you’ve been postponing or helping your folks by contributing to home-related work. Your future self will thank you!
5. Get a job: intern, volunteer or even join the family business. There is no better way to spend the summer than by taking up a job. It may be a small part-time job or even a credit based 40 hours a week co-op at a big multi-national. The learning and experience that students gather in the industry environment is unequaled. This contributes significantly when you’re building your resume. When you have work experience to go along with your high school degree, you stand a greater chance of getting into that college or organization of your choice. This gives students an exposure of the industry environment and gives them an opportunity to connect classroom knowledge with real work experiences.

There’s so much that students can do in such a short yet significant span of time. Summer brings with it a break from the routine and gives students the independence to work on those things that will give them satisfaction, both academically and personally. So which of these are you planning on doing this summer? It’s not too late to start now!

A New Home – Never Lose Hope

“If I can do it what is stopping you”?

I felt an unexpected cold strike my entire body when it was time to depart from my beloved country of the Dominican Republic, an island so tiny, but immense in my heart and memories. Maybe it was my defensive mentality as a 14 year-old that made me believe the lie that I was going on a nice vacation looking forward to coming back home someday soon.

However, destiny made me realize that the meaning of home would change in a matter of seconds when that airplane reached its destination that many called “the land of freedom”. When we landed my mind was full of pessimist ideas that would not let me see the positive view of coming to this country. For starters, it made me feel like a traitor leaving my family behind after all these years that they have been taking care of me. Further, that everything that was said sounded simply too good to be true. Arriving into the promise land where all your dreams could become a reality without knowing the truth of how much suffering goes into accomplishing them. Furthermore, I still have tremendous weight on my shoulders. It started at a very young age because I was trying to make my family proud but also to fulfill my own internal drive. That drive and hunger to surpass any goal that people expected from me to make my family proud.

Now looking back at my progression in since arriving in this country I feel so proud to represent the positive impact immigrants can bring when they come to this country with good intentions. Many other people might bend but you cannot break. You have to fight for what you believe in to accomplish your dreams and to reach your full potential.

If a pretty regular guy like me made it, what’s holding you back? Go fight for your dreams don’t let anyone stop you from it. Have courage to reach for the moon so you end up among the stars. Put all your focus on achieving that goal, degree, or anything extraordinary in your life because if I could do it, you can do it too! Have courage and just believe in yourself.

Guest Blogger: Enmanuel Moya, Torch Scholar Student.