Students blog

Explore the latest trends, tips, and experiences in college life in this blog written by fellow students.

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    You are what you eat: Student-approved tips to healthy eating

    Alana Castle

    Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that students face when transitioning to college is that of eating healthy.

    We are tasked with adjusting to rigorous academic coursework, making new friends, holding part-time jobs, and joining student organizations – alongside everything else that comes with growing up (like doing our own laundry and making sure that we get out of bed before 11:00 AM). It is understandable that, in the midst of all of this, making healthy choices often drifts from our list of priorities.

     Thankfully, I have learned a few things about eating healthy while on a budget and when crunched for time throughout my two years as a college student.

    Taking Control

    For many of us, our first year of college is the first time in our lives that we truly have control over what, when, and even where we eat. Because of this, it is easy to lose structure and regularity in meal schedules. Oftentimes, we settle for eating whatever is the easiest and quickest or for skipping meals entirely.

    Take time early on to figure out what mealtime is going to look like for you. Will you have a meal plan and be eating at dining halls? Will you be reliant on your dorm room’s microwave and minifridge? Will you be doing your own grocery shopping and cooking in your own kitchen?

    Once you have an answer to the questions above, it is much easier to explore your options and learn how to prioritize your health during mealtime.

     Conquering the Dorm Room and the Dining Hall

     Tip #1: Learn to buffet ‘better’

    Let’s be real. The endless buffets offered by most campus dining halls seem like a dream come true for most college students. When you swipe in, try to gravitate towards the healthy options that are offered. Try out vegetarian and vegan dishes, load up on fruits and vegetables, and enjoy ice cream and cookies in moderation.

    Tip #2: Drink more water

    It may seem obvious that drinking water is good for your health, but many of us are not drinking as much as we should be. Fill up on water rather than sugary sodas or juices whenever you sit down for a meal in the dining hall. Carrying a reusable bottle with you at all times as it is good for you AND good for the environment. It’s a win-win!

    Tip #3: Dining hall ‘take-out’

    If you are able to, I recommend taking reusable containers with you to the dining hall. Fill up your containers with salads, cooked vegetables, or even rice and pasta dishes to store in your minifridge to have meals ready to go right in your dorm room. Convenient and frugal! You can also grab some fruits to go to snack on throughout the day instead of stopping by the nearest vending machine for a Snickers.

    Tackling the Off-Campus Kitchen

    Tip #1: Limit how often you eat out

    Although it is tempting to eat out when you are rushing from class to class or holed away in the library, it is important to limit how often you indulge fast food. Not only are these foods less nutritious, they are more expensive than homemade options in the long run.

    Tip #2: Conscious grocery shopping

    When it comes to grocery shopping, I recommend visiting stores like Aldi that source delivered-daily produce, fresh meats and fish, and carry an extensive line of organics, gluten-free and vegan foods for affordable prices. Grab your reusable shopping bags and choose to buy foods that will nourish you (and that you know you will not let go to waste in the back of your fridge or cupboard).

    Tip #3: Meal prep

    Eating meals at home does not have to be inconvenient when you are willing to give meal prepping a try. Find a day that works for you each week, perhaps Sunday, that you can set aside time to prepare various meals to store in your fridge and heat up. I recommend making several servings of overnight oats for a quick and easy breakfast that you can take on the go. Brown rice, lentil pastas, chicken or tofu, and various vegetables are great to cook and have as lunches throughout the week.

    Figuring out how to eat healthy in college is no easy task, but it is possible. Whether it is in your dining hall, dorm room, or kitchen, I hope that you keep the tips and tricks that I have learned throughout my time as a student in mind.

    Prioritize eating healthy now. Your mind and body will thank you later!

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    The value of resiliency

    Alana Castle

    The past few months have presented many of us with changes and challenges unlike any that we have faced before in our lifetimes. From transitioning to remote, online learning (then back to a hybrid model of online and in-person learning) and adjusting to a world in which facemasks and social distancing are the new norm, the COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted every aspect of life as we once knew it. Although much remains uncertain, I am able to reflect and acknowledge that the past few months have taught me quite a bit. Specifically, I have learned a lot about the value of resiliency

    Practicing Resiliency

    One of the most difficult aspects of coping with the changes brought upon us all by the pandemic is the fact that we are unable to be in control of many facets of our lives. Whether it be our education, work, or even our social lives, the pandemic prevents us from living out our ‘normal’ day-to-day lives. This feeling of being out of control can leave many of us, myself included, feeling overwhelmed and oftentimes on the verge of coming undone

    Thankfully, these situations are exactly the kind that resiliency can help us to overcome.  Instead of letting our circumstances dictate us and dwelling on the negative, practicing resiliency allows us to handle unforeseen and unprecedented events in ways that cultivate emotional strength and personal growth. 

    Focusing on the Positives

    I can acknowledge that the pandemic has brought unfavorable change into my life without placing blame or brooding on what I cannot control. I can reach out to friends and family to work through my emotions and realize that I am not alone in what I face. I can focus on the multitude of positives in my life that the pandemic cannot alter.

    Dealing with change is an inevitable part of life. How we adjust to these changes determines what our lives will look like moving forward. Although it is not easy, remaining resilient in the face of life’s adversities can help each of us to live more meaningful, fulfilling, and happy lives. 

    Piece by Piece

    I admit that I did not suddenly start seeing life through rose-colored glasses, but, by practicing resiliency, I have better been able to work through the challenges, setbacks, and losses that I have faced in recent months. Resiliency helps me to keep moving forward little by little, piece by piece. I hope that it can help you do the same. 


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    Practicing mindfulness amidst uncertainty

    Alana Castle

    Similar to the experiences of many college students from around the world, my semester on campus came to an abrupt end when universities transitioned to online learning due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. I found myself in a situation that I had not anticipated and never experienced before. I was packing my belongings and moving back to my childhood home, with news of the cancellation of my summer internship and fall study abroad program weighing heavily on my mind. I spent my first weeks at home adjusting to a new class schedule, new academic requirements, and a new ‘normal’ in quarantine. 

    Now, having finished my final exams and completed my sophomore year of college, I have had the time to reflect upon my experiences. Amidst these times of great uncertainty, the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that we have endured and continue to face prove to be difficult in a variety of ways. I cannot change the circumstances that I find myself in. However, I have found that there are ways in which I can practice mindfulness in order take care of my physical well-being, attend to my emotions, and learn to be present despite it all. 

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    Practice Sustainability This Earth Day and Every Day

    Alana Castle

    With influential climate activists like Greta Thunberg championing for international environmental justice, it has never been more evident that change is necessary in the way we treat the planet we call home. This Earth Day, and every day, it is crucial that we all engage in sustainable practices that contribute positively and equitably to the well-being of our planet. Change must start somewhere, and that somewhere is with students like us. 

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    Securing a summer internship: 3 tips for student success

    Alana Castle

    “What are your plans for summer break?”

    If you are a college student, this question is likely one that you encounter quite often. With the spring semester well underway, having a plan for your summer break is especially pertinent. Although taking a break from your studies, visiting friends, and vacationing are important aspects of summer break, the summer break plan that I am referring to is that of an opportunity for valuable undergraduate experience through an internship. 

    The months of summer break provide a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to gain valuable experience in their chosen field of study. However, knowing exactly how to locate and secure such experience can be a challenging task. As a student who recently secured an internship with the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, I wanted to take this opportunity to share what I learned throughout the process of finding summer undergraduate experience with other students. 

    Reach out to your university’s Career Services!

    One of the first things that I would recommend to any student who is looking for a summer internship is to visit their school’s career center. Career services on college campuses are specialized in connecting students with opportunities specifically intended for undergraduate students. Check out your university’s career service website, subscribe to their email list, or schedule an appointment with a career center advisor to explore what options are available to you. 

    Create a LinkedIn profile

    Alongside exploring your university’s career services, creating a LinkedIn profile is a great way for students to connect with organizations and companies that are searching for interns. Ensure that you have a professional headshot and bio, upload an updated resume, and link related projects that highlight your skills to your profile. In addition, be sure to connect with past employers, coworkers, and other respected professionals that you know and that are in your field of study. You can even specify in your LinkedIn settings that you are currently looking for an internship opportunity in order to increase the chances of your profile being located by potential employers. 

    Don’t limit your options 

    Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice that I have for students who are searching for a summer internship is to not limit what options are available to you. What I mean by this is to be open to new places, new people, and new experiences throughout your search, application, and interview processes. There are countless opportunities available for undergraduate students during the summer months. Whether that be in the form of a paid or unpaid internship, research experience, shadowing, or working in a particular field of interest-you just have to be open to the opportunities that come your way. Being able to gain any form of experience is better than no experience at all, and exploring new aspects of your chosen field of study could help you find new passions and forge new connections with employers and professionals. 

    Whether you are a first-year or a third-year student, no time is better than now for you to look into what opportunities are available to you for gaining experience in your field of study. Start your search as early as possible by going to your school’s career center, creating a professional LinkedIn profile, and keeping your options open. This will set you on the path to securing a summer internship and to gaining valuable hands-on experience! 


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    Give study abroad a second look

    Alana Castle

    Have you ever considered studying abroad during college? Would you like to be an exchange student? Spend a semester or May-mester outside of your home country? An even better question might be, have you visited your university’s study abroad office to learn about the opportunities available to you?

    Well, if you are looking to develop the critical skills needed to compete in today’s global economy, including foreign language fluency, strong problem-solving and analytical capability, a tolerance for ambiguity, and cross-cultural competence, then you probably should give studying abroad a second look.

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    Student-Approved Secrets to Managing Your Time Effectively

    Alana Castle

    Close your eyes and picture this: it’s the night before your Chemistry midterm and you have yet to study. You know that you are unprepared for the exam, but you have been too busy cramming to finish a 10 page paper for your Global Studies class to review the material. When you finally submit your paper, minutes before the deadline, you are exhausted and fall asleep on top of your Chemistry textbook. A week later, you get your grades back and find out that you received a D on your midterm and a C on your paper. 

    If you are like most college students, this scenario likely feels all too familiar. And, if you’re me, it reminds you of the time this actually happened to you during your first semester of freshman year. Regardless as to whether you’ve been there once or twice in your college career or find yourself in this position regularly, there are ways that you can escape the black hole of ineffective time management. So sit down, grab a coffee or a snack, and allot yourself 10 minutes to read this blog because I am going to share with you some secrets that I have learned that can help you make the most of your time!

    Schedule, schedule, schedule! 

    The reason time management becomes an issue for most college students is because having the freedom to make your own schedule often results in no schedule at all. I have learned that planning out my days is vital to my success as a student. By giving everything in your schedule—no matter how small—a deadline, you’re actually freeing up time for other things. I have found that sitting down each evening and writing out my obligations and assignments for the next day has helped me manage my time effectively. Whether you use an agenda, online calendar, or the reminder feature on your phone, creating a game-plan for your day will keep you motivated and on track. Nothing motivates me more than waking up knowing exactly where I need to start.

    Hold yourself accountable!

    Planning out what you need to do each day doesn’t always mean that all of your responsibilities will be accomplished. The secret to scheduling is learning to hold yourself accountable to your plan. Also, keep in mind that this does not mean that you cannot be flexible, but it does mean that, if you said you were going to study between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., you actually sit down and do it. Maximize your productivity in those two hours you allotted yourself by minimizing your distractions. Put electronic devices down or away and find an environment that fits your specific needs. If that means finding somewhere quiet in order to focus, or sitting outside because the fresh air boosts your mood, do exactly that!

    Find time for what is most important—YOU!

    The aspect of scheduling and accountability that seems to scare most college students is the misconception that there will be no time left for yourself. The beauty of a schedule is that you are able to arrange time for what is most important—your physical and mental well-being! I know that it can be all too easy to devote every waking moment you have to school and work. But studying all the time often leaves you feeling unmotivated, unhappy, and burnt out. When you create your agenda, think about what brings you joy. For me, that is time to go for a run, practice yoga, grab dinner with friends, or visit one of my favorite art museums. Doing this may seem counter-intuitive, but by giving yourself a break, you are setting yourself up for success. You will be able to tackle things more effectively if you are physically rested and mentally rejuvenated!

    I can thankfully inform you that, although I may not be able to retake that freshman year Chemistry midterm or rewrite the Global Studies paper, my academic performance has since improved immensely by learning how to manage my time effectively. The next time you feel swamped, take some time to implement these student-approved secrets into your daily life. Just 10 minutes a night can help you to make the most of your time and take back the control of your personal, professional, and academic success!