How To Kick Butt In First Year

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As August moves along and September appears on the horizon, back-to-school activity begins in ernest. First time Kindergarteners hurry around Staples clutching their parent’s fingers and pick up crayons and craft paper. High school juniors wonder how they can possibly make it through another two years of school, and college freshman sit around selecting courses, paying tuition and buying things for their dorm rooms.

They all ask the same question: what will this year hold?

While elementary and high school are slightly more predictable, university is a total mystery to those of us on the outside. Sure you’ve watched the movies, read the articles and seen the meme’s, but what is it really like to sit in a lecture hall of 1500? What is it really like to spend all your waking hours in the library during exams, and what is it like to specialize your studies?

Last fall, before I moved in to my residence, I had no idea what to expect. Though some of my older cousins had gone to university before me, I didn’t exactly know how to ask them for advice, and while my parents tried their best too calm my nerves, university had changed since their schooling days. So, instead of turning to actual people, I searched Pinterest and Blogs across the internet, reading article after article titled: “What To Expect In Dorm Life” and “20 Ways To Make Your First Year Rock”. Knowing that other people were going through the same messy emotions helped me through that entire summer.

As a sort of thank you to all the blog posts that helped me out, and as part of my Back-To-School Month posts, today’s is all about tips, tricks, and advice so you can kick butt in first year!

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Buy an agenda before school and force yourself to use it. Write everything down. I mean everything (yes, even what you want to eat that day)! My agenda is my lifeline, and honestly, I don’t think I’d make it through the year without it.

Also use a big (pretty) wall calendar. Agenda’s are great for carrying around, and a big wall calendar is perfect for putting over your desk. It’ll help you see busy weeks in advance so you can stay organized and ready.

Plan your readings. Use your agenda to plan what work you need to get done everyday. Sit down on Sunday night and plan your readings/homework/assignments for the week so you can stay caught up (or ahead). This extra time also lets you see what’s coming up that week (maybe a friends birthday) so you can make room for important extra curricular’s or social events.

Protect your syllabus at all costs. This packet of papers is your life line for that class. Keep it safe, make a photo copy (seriously having a back up is a life saver), and highlight any important information. Transfer important dates to your agenda and calendar immediately and keep in with your notes for that class.

Don’t fall in to the “wear pjs and sweats all day everyday” state of mind. It’ll make you feel more tired and lazy. Dress up for yourself and I promise you’ll feel 10x more confident and ready to tackle your school work.

Don’t force a relationship with your roommate. It will come with time, and if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal! Not everyone ends up being best friends with their roomie. As long as you’re civil and respectful, you’re good as gold!

Do assignments right away. This is always easier said than done, but your stress level will lower drastically if you start the essay the day it’s assigned or brought up in class.

Find your library. Some libraries work for some people, and others don’t. Take the opportunity to try out different libraries and study spaces on your campus until you find one that’s perfect for you. Once you find a space you can study in easily, it’ll take a lot of the pressure off.

Work out every day. For the love of God, please get out of the library and move. It can be a dance class, a run, a yoga break or even a brisk walk through campus, anything. Just get up and do it. Not only will your body thank you, but your mind will be more focused to learn afterwards.

Don’t be afraid of taking morning classes. So many people tell you not to, but it’s a great feeling to be up early and done with lectures by noon. It’ll give you lots of time to be productive and get things done during the rest of the day.

Wake up early. Even if you decide not to take morning classes (sorry 8ams, I’m just not feeling it) consider waking up early. Building a routine helps you fall asleep easier (and sleep better) and if you wake up early, you can get the bulk of your studying out of the way so you can enjoy the rest of your day! If you’re not a morning person don’t worry, I wasn’t either, but if you force yourself to get up at say 8am (whether you need to or not) you’ll notice a big difference in productivity.

Get out of your comfort zone! Join the intramural team, rush the sororities, take a really weird art history class or just go to student plays and art shows. Whatever you do, learn new things and step outside of your boundaries. Chances are you’ll find a new passion or hobby.

Don’t worry about dating. If you have a boyfriend, great, but if not, don’t sweat it! Statistically people in university aren’t the ones getting in to long term commitments. You’re in school to learn and grow as a person. Take new chances and focus on expanding your mind and interests. The right person will come around eventually and you’ll be glad you didn’t rush it.

Flash cards are sent from heaven. Make them, read them and then read them fifty other times. They’re perfect for studying and you can have your parents or sibling or roommate or the guy you tend to sit near on the subway quiz you at literally any point in the day. Make them and use them.

Go to class. This is pretty self explanatory, but a lot of people still skip. You’re paying a lot of money to be there, so show up and get the most out of your education. However, if you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and skipping really is the smarter course of action, don’t be afraid to miss a class or two. You’re the only one who knows what you need to do in order to succeed.

Do the readings. I was always told that it’s impossible to get all your readings done in uni, but when I started, I found out that that wasn’t true at all. If you budget your time properly and are studying effectively, you should have no problem completing the required readings. Make the effort, because having already read the textbook helps a lot the night before your exams.

Rent your textbooks. If your student bookstore has the option, rent those babies. Textbooks are so expensive and renting is usually way cheaper and easier to go about than buying. Most schools give you the option to pay the difference if you decide you want to keep it.

Talk to your professors. Go to office hours, and student/staff mixers. Ask them questions after lecture and email them (as a last resort) if you really need to. Contrary to popular belief, your profs want you to succeed but they can’t help you if you don’t reach out!

Set goals. When you know what you want to achieve and the things you need to do to reach those goals, it’s so much easier to stay motivated. Figure out what these goals are, write them down and stick them on the wall near your desk or in your agenda. Read them when you’re finding it difficult to open a textbook.

Take breaks. Sitting for twelve hours straight in the library is not good for you. Your brain needs breaks to properly store the information you’ve learnt and honestly, after that many hours in front of your books, you probably aren’t giving your work 100% anymore (Instagram and Facebook start becoming really important). Get up, take a walk, listen to music, or eat a (healthy) snack.

Nobody cares if you go to the party. It’s no surprise that there’s going to be drinking and rowdiness all over campus most nights of the week (students party when they can). If you choose to go to those parties, all the power to you, stay safe and have fun! But if you aren’t an avid party goer (like myself) nobody really cares. Stay in and do your own thing of go bowling with friends. It’s all your choice.

Nobody cares if you drink either. As someone who doesn’t drink at all, I was really worried that people would judge me in university. Would they think I wasn’t cool? Would I get made fun of? Would the pear pressure be too much to handle? Nope! Nobody really cared, and if they did comment, it was usually to say that they thought it was cool I could go to parties sober. So if you don’t drink, have no fear, just do you!

You might not make many friends. I thought I was going to make a bunch of really good friends in my first year, but the truth is, I only made a couple, and that was totally fine. While quality is way more important than quantity, you will find your group of people as the years go on. Universities are often gigantic, but your homies are hiding in there somewhere!

Keep in touch. Call your parents and your grandparents. Send your high school BFFS letters and care packages. University is scary, and sometimes all you need is a reminder of the love you have back home. Don’t use distance as an excuse for letting important relationships fade. A text twice or three times a week is all you need.

Try to get a job. It may be hard to juggle with homework and clubs etc. But you’ll be so thankful to have some extra cash coming in!

Don’t hold yourself back. Just because you’re frightened or anxious, doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from doing things. If your scared of taking a semester abroad or taking an internship, chances are, it’s a perfect opportunity for learning and growth. Don’t be silly, take the leap!

Have fun! University is stressful and pretty scary, but it’s also an amazing time! You’re learning so many new things and there are opportunities to help you grow around every corner. While school is often crazy busy, make sure you take time during the week to hang out with your friends and do something fun.

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I think I probably could’ve come up with more advice (it’s one of my favourite things to write about if you couldn’t tell), but I’ll save that for another time. I hope this has been slightly helpful to a few of you who are heading to uni for the first time (or even if you’re a fourth year veteran)!

If you have any advice or suggestions, leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear what gets you, through a hectic year!

Hope you’re all enjoying this lovely Tuesday!

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What Not To Do In First Year

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As July comes to a close (wow how is the summer flying by so quickly????) I’ve decided to dedicate most of the posts this month to one of my favourite times of year: Back To School! I’ll be talking about preparing for university and sharing some things I’ve learned for getting through that crazy first year! If any of you guys have ideas for posts or want me to cover a specific topic, just leave it in the comments and I’ll fit it in!

Starting University is a scary and exciting adventure. For some, it’s their first time living away from home. Others, are worried about making friends, and others are worried about the tornado of academic work. Either way, uni is a huge change from High School. Teachers are not as hands on (how can you be in a huge class?), the work load is much larger, and you’re meeting new people everywhere you look.

This summer I’ve been thinking back to my first year a lot. Going over the mistakes I made and wondering what things I could’ve changed to avoid certain experiences. While there’s no right way to go through university, there are some things you might want to avoid to make your first year go a little more smoothly, so, I’ve decided to curate a few things I wish I’d been told (and a few I wish I’d believed more) before starting school last fall!

Date That Boy — In the first few weeks of university you’re going to meet so many people, and some of them just might be people you’re madly attracted to. Whatever the case, and no matter how well you get along, or how “right” it feels in the first few months of school, do not date the boy! By all means, keep up the relationship. Flirt, text, hang out and giggle, but wait until at least mid semester before making any serious commitments. School gets stressful and you’re at university to work on yourself and your academics. Focus on that before jumping in to something that could go south really fast. Trust me on this one. It has bad idea written all over it.

Forget The Readings — While home work might seem light and easy (reminiscent of high school) in the first month of uni, do not let yourself fall behind in readings. When things start to pick up (and trust me, they will) you’ll thank yourself for keeping up and even getting ahead. Going in to midterm season with a pile of work you’ve neglected multiplies your stress by at least 1000%!

Shut Yourself Away — While school is incredibly important (that’s what you’re paying tons of money for of course) don’t lock yourself away in the library or your dorm room. Being social is just as important to your experience and well being as academics, so make sure you take time to talk to the people on your floor and go out once in a awhile.

Miss That Opportunity — If you go in to school knowing you’re interested in a certain type of club, don’t miss joining it! I went in to first year with a few clubs I wanted to join in mind, but was either too scared too go through with it, or got too busy. Looking back on it now, I regret that decision and have decided to follow through with those clubs this year! Student groups and associations are a great way to meet like minded students and people who could ultimately become your best friends! Don’t give up on things that could really improve your uni experience.

Wear Only Pyjamas — I know school gets hectic. Assignments pile up and it feels like you’re living in the library. But please, don’t go from well thought through outfits, to sweats and pjs every day! As silly as it seems, dressing up and wearing clothes that make you feel awesome and beautiful are really important for feeling confident. If you feel good in what you’re wearing it’ll translate to how you act to others and how people react to you. And hey, when things are crazy, it’s always great to look in the mirror and know you look damn fine!

Worry About Your Major — Things change. You learn new things and take classes that you’ve never heard of. University is made for this! The more you learn, the more your ideas of the perfect major might change…or not! I know so many people who came in to school in one program, and by the end of the year, had completely switched. I also know people who came in with one idea, and realized it really was the perfect program for them. It’s all dependent on the person, and there’s no right way to go about it! Just know that figuring out your course of study is a process, and it works out in the end.

Forget About Yourself — This is my last, and probably most important, piece of advice. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Workout, take breaks, eat well and be gentle with yourself. School is crazy, and when stress starts to get to you, it’s important to take a step back and make sure you are keeping yourself healthy and happy. You absolutely cannot function optimally if you’re not sleeping enough or are incredibly anxious. Your mental and physical health are both so important and school should never overshadow that!

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So, those were a few of the things I want to warn incoming freshman about. It’s a scary time, but don’t let the new experiences and change throw you off. You are a strong person and scary experiences are the perfect opportunity for learning and growing!

Again, if there are any “Back-to-School” topics you’d like me to cover, let me know in the comments!

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15 Ways To Improve Your Mood

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Sometimes life gets tough! Things don’t go our way, we trip or fall down and can’t seem to get back up on our own. While you always need some dark in order to appreciate the bright, when things keep rolling down hill it can be very difficult to stay positive and appreciative. We’ve all been there at one point or another, but there’s no need to let yourself fall in to a slump! There are always little ways you can pick yourself back up when you notice that familiar blue cloud passing by.

While ultimately I (highly) recommend speaking to a psychologist or physician about recurring low moods (for real treatment), here are 15 little tricks you can also keep in your back pocket for when life gets rocky!

Go For A Run

While any form of exercise (even a relaxed walk) should do the trick here, I always feel like a good quick sprint is just what I need. Not only will your exercise produce endorphins, burn some calories and give you an excuse to get a donut (guilt free) later, but there’s no better feeling than pushing yourself and literally running your worries in to the ground. While it’s always hard to get started, you will never regret a run when you’re done.

Talk To A Friend

Our friends are our friends for a reason. Calling up your BFF to chat can be a perfect way to shake off a bad day. While you can tell them what’s been bothering you and work through it together, the best thing about our friends, is that you don’t always need to tell them what’s going on, often they can sense it. A conversation featuring a funny story from last night’s shenanigans, some plan making, and general chatting will often help brighten your mood, and remind you that you aren’t alone.

Listen To Your Favourite Song

Music is an incredible power. It can comfort us, empower us and move us to tears all in three or four minutes. Whenever I’m feeling down, I whip out my ukulele (because let’s face it, everything sounds happy on those guys), or blast my favourite feel good tunes! A good solo dance party (hair brush mic included), never fails to pump you up and distract you from feeling low.

Put On Something Nice

While this might sound silly, dressing up has always been one of my favourite tactics to avoid feeling upset. If you’re wearing something you feel powerful and cute in, it will translate into your mood and attitude, which can really help combat negative feelings. Not only do you get an excuse to bust out that new dress or blouse, but when you feel fierce and confident, those around you will notice too!

Watch Funny Videos On YouTube

This one is a quick fix. I’m partial to baby and baby animal videos (cuteness overload) but whatever you find funny will work just as well. Get yourself laughing for a few minutes and you’ll go back to your day feeling rejuvenated!

Cross Something Off Your To-Do List

In many cases, negative emotions are brought on by stress and anxiety, especially during the school year! If you’re like me and live to make to-do lists, crossing things off can really help your mood! The act of writing a to-do list is helpful in itself, as it breaks everything we have to do into smaller chunks. As soon as you start crossing things off (even if they’re the smallest ones on there) it will boost your confidence and get you in the mood to tackle the bigger tasks with gusto!

Paint Your Nails

This is another quick fix, but it always works really well for me! While not everyone admits it, painting your nails is an activity that requires a lot of attention, and that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to do when feeling down! While you’re drawn in to making smooth strokes and not smudging the polish, your brain gets some much needed down time to process and relax, and you get a fancy new set of nails to show off.

Clean Your Room/Workspace

Cleaning is therapeutic. I’ve always thought this way, and probably always will. There is no better feeling than reorganizing your room or work space, throwing away old papers, vacuuming the floor and rearranging your pencils. If there’s one thing that will help you feel more relaxed and ready to take on the day, it’s this! Cleaning and reorganizing is also the perfect way to take your mind off things you can’t stop thinking about so your brain can have a nice little break.

Take A Shower

Wash your worries away with a nice hot shower. Wash your hair, use fancy soap, yummy smelling lotion, and generally care for yourself. Your body is so incredible, it’s your home, and when you take care of it, it will return the favour! The shower is also a perfect place to sing (great acoustics), cry, or think through problems so that you come out feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Make Yourself Something Healthy

On a similar wellness note, your body is your home, and when we aren’t feeling 100%, we tend toward eating fatty comfort foods. While “junk food” treats are important to staying sane, I 100% guarantee that you will feel better after cooking something fresh and healthy for yourself. Not only are you providing important nutrients for your body, but the act of preparing the meal will calm you down as well.

Call Your Mom

Your mom likely knows and loves you more than anyone else, and that is the exact reason you should call her when you’re feeling down. She can help you work through your problem, give you encouragement, and remind you of how loved and needed you are. Also, few things are better than a mom hug, so if you can, get a bunch of those too!

Write It Down

Journaling is a great thing to do when you’re upset. Paper is the perfect opinion-less listener, and you can delve as little or as deep in to your thoughts as you’d like. If you enjoy symbolism, try burning what you write (very satisfying), or just work things out on paper to get a better understanding of what you’re feeling. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to emotions, and if you can identify what’s bothering you, it’ll be that much easier to deal with.

Get Creative

Making something is always helpful for me. Whether you like painting, sewing or dancing, getting lost in the creative process works wonders for your mind and body. If it’s something you really enjoy, you will no doubt feel better after flexing your creative muscle. Not only will you give your brain a break, but you get something cool at the end of it!

Read A Childhood Favourite

Picking up the story book your parents always used to read you is another great way to calm down and feel better. They often bring back great memories and the warm fuzzy feelings we often associate with our childhoods. If anything, funny picture books are a great mindless thing to read to distract yourself!

Buy Fresh Flowers

There has to be some science to back this up somewhere, but fresh flowers are the ultimate pick me up. Whether they’re a gift from someone or just something you picked up at the market, it’s impossible to feel upset around brightly coloured blooms and gentle fragrances! Add a vase of peonies to your desk, some tulips to your bedside table, and revel in some of natures most beautiful handy work!

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While this post is full of little tricks you can use to get out of blue moods, sometimes our feelings goe deeper than a surface fix can reach. If this is the case, know that seeking professional help should never be embarrassing. You are not weak for admitting that you need a little extra help.

Mental illness is such a serious issue, and while I won’t be going in to it much in this post, it is so important that we address the stigma around it. So please, remember that your emotions are valid. The way you feel matters, and if you are struggling, there is no shame in asking for help, just strength.

Your mind is just as important as your body, treat it as you would a best friend.

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More Me Time

In between the crazy demands of school, family, friends and the gazillion other things we cram into our lives, it becomes really easy to forget about yourself. As a student, I’ve learnt not only that me time is precious and hard to come by, but that making room in your busy schedule to make it happen is so worth it.

It’s the same story for most: We have class, homework, assignments, tests and in-between the never ending work, still have to find time to eat, socialize and get enough sleep! I seems just about impossible when you first start getting in to the groove of the school year, so “me time” is something a lot of people overlook or forget about entirely.

But here’s the thing… you shouldn’t!

I know, I know, it’s so easy to start worrying about taking time away from the library (it’s definitely hard for me) but once you exercise your “me time” muscles, it really does help you out.

School is important and obviously staying on top of assignments and readings is why you’re here, but burning yourself out by not taking breaks or time to follow hobbies and relax is sooo counter-productive! Not only will you feel the stress building up on your shoulders, but almost every other area of your life will begin to feel the effects of overwork.

Our schedules are so hectic as students, they start early and end later than they should, and amidst it all, it’s hard to fit in all the things we need, to get done. Here are some simple ways to add “me time” back in to your schedule without putting school on the back burner!

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Set a Bed Time

This one seems a little odd but let me explain! I go to bed (or try to anyways) at 10:30 every night, and at 9:30, I stop any work I’m doing and do something I want to do. My evening me time usually consists of self-care type things and doing yoga. Setting this time standard is so helpful because it becomes really easy to build this hour in to your schedule (taking an hour to wind down before bed is also an amazing way to fall asleep faster if you have trouble with that).

Wake Up Earlier

If you’re more of an early bird, waking up an hour, or even half an hour early can work wonders. Starting the day quietly by taking care of yourself (maybe make a fancy breakfast or take a soak in the tub) will start your day off on a totally different foot. I’m determined to become a morning person this year and while I’m not fully there, I’ve definitely noticed a change in my mood and stress level if I start the day out by doing something I like (it’s also so much easier to wake up if you have something to look forward to!)

Extend Your Lunch

If you aren’t a night owl or an early bird, taking an extra long lunch might be just the right thing for you! Lunch is a lovely time of day to focus on doing something to destress and focus on yourself, I mean what’s better than reading a few chapters of your favourite book while eating?

Take Breaks

During study sessions, make sure to take breaks. They don’t have to be long (fifteen minutes usually does the trick) but make sure you take them regularly (say every two hours). Not only will this break free up your mind, you can take some time to stretch or grab a snack, and  you’ll feel so much more motivated and ready to sit down and work again!

Schedule It In

Sometimes, there’s nothing else we can do and our time seems to escape us. If you live because of your planner/daily schedule, physically pencil in some me time. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be extravagant, all you need is twenty minutes to decompress and focus on yourself! Writing this time into your daily schedule makes it easier to work your day and responsibilities around it so that you can make everything work (it’s also another reason to spend a good half hour organizing and list making – a favourite pastime of mine).

Join A Club

Joining a club for something your passionate about and interested in is the perfect way to put some me time in to your schedule. It might not be your typical “alone time” but with mandatory events and meetings, this time to get away from the stress of school work is built in! Clubs also provide the perfect setting to make friends and build a support group from people with similar interests and values!

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Life can get pretty hectic and if you don’t take the time you need to rest and recoup, you can hardly expect to reach your potential! Hopefully this post has given you a few tips for adding “me time” back in to your crazy schedules!

What’s your favourite way to spend free time?

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