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    Set Your Summer Goals

    Amethyst O'Connell

    Your summer break is valuable. Do you want to go back to school in August bragging about what Netflix series you binge watched? Or would you rather go back to school full of pride and accomplishment on achieving one of your goals? Make your summer a productive one and set at least three goals you want to achieve. Brainstorm ways you will work towards them. Last summer, I set three goals for myself and my experience was remarkable.

    Look for free resources

    One of my goals was to learn programming so that I have a coding mindset to use on engineering challenges. I worked on Lambda School’s Mini Bootcamp for the few weeks before summer semester classes started, which gave me a crash course foundation for web development. I built on that foundation after the summer semester ended by attending local Free Code Camp meetups. I also benefited greatly by attending the Frontend Masters’ live JavaScript for WordPress Workshop. If you are looking to build on your programming knowledge over the summer, a quick internet search will provide you with resources.

    Money matters

    Becoming more financially stable and literate was my second summer goal. I was able to get a position as a Student Ambassador over the summer semester. In addition to earning a paycheck, I gained valuable experience on campus. To increase my financial literacy I attended a workshop at my credit union. I learned how to set up a Certificate of Deposit that will mature when I transfer to a four year institution. I’m in community college with a grant that covers tuition, but a Certificate of Deposit is a great way to earn money effortlessly (through interest) on your savings!

    Plan for the future

    My third goal was to research four year colleges. I will soon be graduating from my community college and will need to transfer to a four year institution. I visited a local state school as well as a local private school to learn more about the transfer process. Different schools have different transfer requirements. For example, the private school would only accept my freshman year credits as transfer credits. I would need to take three years there! Yikes! It’s important to know all of your options before making a decision.

    Summer is what you make of it. You can use that large chunk of time to build something great or wither away with a three month Netflix binge. The choice is yours.

    What will your goals be this summer? Share with the Pearson Students Community by commenting on my blog!

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    Summer Break: Time to Learn?!

    Amethyst O'Connell

    Last summer while my peers were spending their time poolside or streaming shows, I made my summer break productive and educational. I took a full summer semester course load. Summer semester courses are certainly challenging, as you are expected to learn content and turn in homework at a faster pace. Here are three tips that will help you succeed if you decide to take classes this summer.

    Summer Classes have their perks

    Learning is much more focused. Teachers tend to give out less busy work, only giving out the assignments that are necessary for learning. And generally, only the teachers who love teaching choose to teach over the summer semester so you’re often getting the best. Finally, as fewer students are on campus, you have better access to campus services like the tutoring center.

    Time management is essential

    Since classes move through objectives at a faster rate, it’s important that you have a schedule to stay organized. I put all my classes in Google Calendar and also make sure to see my school counselor to plan out a studying schedule. My school counselor always recommends that you study a little bit before and after the lecture to keep the information fresh in your mind. Have you ever heard of the Ebbinghaus curve? Also called the forgetting curve, it shows how information is lost over time when no attempt is made to retain it. If you review it, your brain has less opportunity to forget. Another way to stay organized is to make study groups. This is a great way to create relationships with your classmates. Humans are social creatures. We learn better in teams, and in the summer semester, you need that advantage. My classmates made it much easier to learn the content in my courses.

    Participate in your classes

    In my Calculus 2 class, I didn’t shy away from solving equations on the board in front of the class. I made horrendous mistakes in front of the class, however, I did not repeat them on the test. Calculus is a subject where you learn best from your mistakes. You’ll learn more if you make them in front of people who can call you out on them. In Chemistry 2, I was passionate about my lab capstone project. I did a project on mouth bacteria. I was engaged in that lab project, and it made it easier to be more engaged in the class.

    I encourage you to take some classes this summer! Pairing up my two most difficult classes led to a challenging – but exciting – summer!

    What classes will you take this summer? Share with the Pearson Students community by commenting on my blog.

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    A Pig in the Suburbs: How I Found My Normal

    Amethyst O'Connell

    Once in awhile, on a chilly morning waiting for the bus to school, I would be greeted by a fluffy companion, my neighbor’s cat. My dad is allergic to cats, therefore we never had a “typical American pet”. I sometimes envied my friends’ playful dogs or cuddly cats. However, it’s not that I didn’t have a pet – I had one pet and it was Wilbur – a pig. A hypoallergenic potbellied pig. Having Wilbur was strange, and it was almost worse than having no pets at all! Wilbur wasn’t the type of pet that I could show off to my normal suburban peers. Wilbur was a pig in the suburbs. However, what I learned from him was far more meaningful.

    A Not-So-Normal Pet

    At first, I hated Wilbur. Partly because he was much larger than I was for most of my primary school days. I remember hanging out with my friends in the backyard, and Wilbur barreling up to me and knocking me over. Mostly though, I hated Wilbur because Wilbur was different. Wilbur stuck out like a flamethrower in a snowstorm. When I told my peers about Wilbur, their first reaction was usually disbelief. “You’re lying!” they would say with conviction. After I would show them pictures, they would usually follow the Kübler-Ross model of grief, as if a pig were as awful of an occurrence as the death of a loved one. Why couldn’t I have a normal pet like everyone else?

    Finding my “normal”

    I desperately chased trends to make up for what I viewed as my lack of “normal”. But then I began to realize that “normal” is a vague and unattainable construct. For instance, I was very noteworthy in middle and high school for wearing pajamas to class. Why not wear pajamas to class? Nobody could answer that question. Why not have a pig in the suburbs? My pajamas habit allowed me to get about an hour more of sleep than my peers, because I wasn’t waking up earlier in the morning to pick my outfit. This allowed me to accomplish slightly more things than my peers. I was elected as a board member of the National Youth Rights Association. I was also involved in countless clubs, including a club at a public access TV station where I learned how to operate cameras and later got an internship. Another favorite club was FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics club where we built robots for competition.

    I blamed Wilbur, for what in hindsight, is true of us all. We are all different. We all have a pig in the suburbs. Mine was just literal.

    Why not be a pig in the suburbs?

    It’s been years since Wilbur’s death (and no, we did not make him into bacon). I think the biggest thing that Wilbur gave me was my freedom to be true to my heart. I was so jealous of my peers that I didn’t realize what a wonderful pig I had until it was too late. It’s quite ironic that Wilbur was named for the pig in Charlotte’s Web, a pig trying so hard to not be eaten, only to realize the value in who they are inside. We have one life to live, so why not be a pig in the suburbs? Embrace your differences, and cherish every opportunity life gives you.

    What’s your pig in the suburb? Share with the Pearson Students community when you retweet my blog!