Students blog

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

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  • A front view of the blog author’s elementary school, Sacred Heart School.

    Thank You, Teachers!

    Maeve Murdock

    Each May, Teacher Appreciation Week reminds us to pause and think about all the teachers we have had throughout our lives who formed us into who we are today. Many teachers challenged us, encouraged us, cared for us, and grew with us.

    Thinking all the way back to 1st grade, I remember a kind-faced, smiling, short woman with stark, black hair welcoming us all in. Her name was Ms. Youkhana. A mere five years old, I didn’t know what to expect other than that I wanted homework. I have two older twin sisters, both of whom would regularly come home from school with a math worksheet to do, or a few pages to read. I so badly wanted the same, having no idea the extent of the homework I’d be assigned in the years to come. As 1st grade progressed, I began reading the Harry Potter series. I’ll admit I was whizzing through the chapters alarmingly fast–so fast that Ms. Youkhana asked that I sit down with her after each chapter to quickly summarize what happened. She was incredibly supportive of my determination and motivation to learn and did everything she could to help me along the way.

    Ms. Carr, a wonderful, bright-eyed older woman, served as our long-term 4th grade sub, as our teacher had her baby at the beginning of the school year. Ms. Carr regularly spent her money on doughnuts for the class, just so we could start our day with a smile. She was patient, open-minded, and amazingly tolerant of the jokesters in my class. She made each of us feel loved and special.

    Señora Young, our Spanish teacher 3rd-5th grade, was brilliant, strong-minded, and hilarious. She made conquering a new language seem easy, teaching us vast amounts both linguistically and culturally very quickly. She pushed us to learn as much as we could yet kept her classroom an enjoyable learning environment. 

    Mr. Stewart, my 5th grade math teacher, was a goofy, heavy-set guy and an avid Chicago Bulls fan. Mr. Stewart put the class at ease with his quick-witted humor and made each student feel valued, heard, and intelligent. He taught us PEMDAS and how to solve for x, willing to go over tons of example problems and try other ways of explaining more difficult concepts. 

    Mr. Thomas, our 7th grade English teacher, was heavily opinionated and even goofier than Mr. Stewart. Mr. Thomas emphasized the importance of taking a stance on important issues and developing the skills of vocalizing your thoughts and advocating for your position. We regularly held debates in his class, many of which have stuck with me today, 7 years later. We performed rants and raves in front of our small, 15-person class, subtly learning to value releasing our emotions and coming to understand our irks and passions. 

    These five are only a few of the teachers who have made quite an impact on me over the years. The list goes on and on. These teachers, all of whom taught me in grades 1-8, were (or still are) employed at Sacred Heart School, a small, private, Catholic school in the suburbs of Chicago. Catholic schoolteachers in Illinois are severely underpaid; they make significantly less than their public-school counterparts, and yet these teachers remain deeply enthusiastic and passionate. Each one showed up every day, ready and excited to teach. Especially after the educational trauma the pandemic brought, I am confident we’ve all come to realize how vital and special our teachers are. 

    Teachers, thank you SO much for all your hard work–we see and appreciate you!

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

  • A graphic featuring with a dark blue background with small yellow stars, with a round yellow face with closed eyes and the letters Zzzz, indicating sleep.

    Don’t Sleep on Sleep

    Maeve Murdock

    Some of the best things happen at night: late night talks with your roommates, warm cookies coming out of the oven, dance parties, social events, etc. It seems like there's always a reason to stay out and about, bright-eyed and experiencing whatever it is that's happening in the moment. Sometimes we stay up late for less exciting things too — whether it's slowly typing away at that essay that's due tomorrow, cramming for an exam, or finishing up something for work. No matter what incentive or obligation you're staying awake for, I'm here to tell you that this is your sign to PRIORITIZE your sleep!

    How Much?

    The age-old question: how much sleep do I really need? Can I get by on 5 or 6 hours if I just drink coffee? Well, yes. But the data has made it clear that the tendency to rely on caffeine and energy drinks in replacement of a good night’s sleep is not sustainable. With all the fun things in life in addition to our various commitments, it can be difficult to set aside the proper amount of time for sleep, especially when we can mask exhaustion with caffeine so easily. Caffeine, however, does not grant us the dozens of health benefits that sleep does. Mere attentiveness only scrapes the surface of sleep benefits. Some advantages to sufficient sleep include: a stronger immune system, regulation of your metabolism, lower risk for diabetes and heart disease, lower stress levels, heightened mood throughout the day, memory processing, reduction of brain fog and an increase in neural clarity, higher productivity, and much more. 

    Think Of the Time You Waste Instead of Sleeping

    It’s easy to snuggle into bed and stay awake for hours scrolling on our phones. As the minutes tick away, we sometimes don’t realize the comparative advantage we give up each and every night to others with time spent in the black hole of social media. Think of the extent to which you could truly apply yourself in all aspects of life with just a little bit more energy. If you weren’t dragging through the day looking forward to that midday nap, where would you see yourself? What could you be using that time for? 

    Sleep Affects Your Immune System

    Additionally, sleep deprivation makes us significantly more susceptible to falling ill. Why do you think college kids are constantly coughing and sniffling? I attend Notre Dame, and I’m confident we had 3-4 flu seasons at school this past year. I managed to remain mostly healthy throughout the year – until the very end. After one week at home after spring semester, I went to the doctor suspecting I might have pink eye. My eyes were a little swollen, and I felt exhausted and unlike myself. My doctor immediately insisted on testing me for mono, and 15 minutes later, I received results that I was positive for mono. 

    The pure fatigue I endured with mono completely changed my perspective on sleep. While I can’t say that sleep deprivation towards the end of spring semester is directly correlated to my diagnosis, I do think I would’ve had a much milder case if I had prioritized sleep in the weeks prior. For two weeks after my diagnosis, I slept whenever I felt drowsy, which was very frequently. For someone who loves to keep busy and take on everything, this seemingly never-ending treatment of “rest” was horrible. All I wanted to do was go spend time with my friends, play tennis, and get out and about – but I legitimately would begin to feel exhausted after 20 minutes of activity. It took a while, but I fully recovered. Now, I’ve converted my schedule to prioritizing sleep – both to recover and to change my old habits for the future.

    So, all this is to say – SLEEP! If you get between 7-8 hours per night as a young adult, your body will be well-equipped to protect you from illnesses and keep you performing at your best–not to mention you’ll have much more endogenous energy. Fun Fact: March 17th is World Sleep Day. But no matter what day it is, don’t sleep on sleep!

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started! 

  • A campsite with three tents in the foreground, with rising hills and the sunset in the background.

    Camping is Good for the Soul

    Maeve Murdock

    Camping is good for the soul. No matter how much you hate dirt, bugs, non-perishable food, or sleeping on the ground, camping for a few days out in nature can do wonders for your mental health and perspective on life.

    In August of 2021, a group of 10 friends and I landed in the midst of towering mountains in St. Elias-Wrangell National Preserve. St. Elias-Wrangell is our largest national park, containing 13 million acres, and is found in south-central Alaska. So remote, we were flown in from Tok, Alaska on a 3-person plane in 4 separate rounds. The trip and transportation were organized through Xavier Expeditions, an initiative at Xavier University to introduce students to the beauty and peacefulness of nature. 

    Camp Set Up

    Dropped in the remote wilderness, surrounded by a mountain range, the only sounds we could hear were the rush of the river and the soft wind. We kept our food in bear barrels, large metal barrels that conceal the scent of food, in an effort to keep the bears from venturing into our camp. Any time we cooked, all the food was required to be eaten–otherwise the bears would be attracted to our camp. At night, we traipsed into the thick of the trees to sling the bags of food over the branches above, keeping them out of the bears’ reach. As you can tell, many precautions were necessary for our safety. 

  • Blog author Maeve Murdock at work in her research lab. She is using a white tube to insert a liquid into a test tube.

    Why You Should Consider Academic Research

    Maeve Murdock

    Typically, people interested in science are immediately asked if they’re pre-med. The conversation normally goes something like this:
    Them: “What’s your major at ND?”
    Me: “Biological Sciences!”
    Them: “Oh my gosh, that’s awesome. Are you pre-med?”

    I plan on pursuing a PhD post-grad, and I strongly believe more attention needs to be drawn to academic research. People paint this picture of those in research as highly introverted, antisocial, and uber-competitive. While I can’t universally disprove this rhetoric, I’m here to make you think twice and to share why I personally love biological research. 

    Find The How and The Why

    Biology is the study of living organisms. When you think about it, we, as humans, have millions of little molecular machines going nonstop, keeping us alive, regulated, and energized. Studying for an exam within one of the areas of biology is one thing. Performing research to uncover a new truth in the field is another challenge entirely. Not only must you completely understand all the fundamental concepts related to your field of work, you must think innovatively and creatively about very complex ideas. Rather than the “what” of biological processes, you begin to consider the “how” and the “why.” Why is this family of genes expressed in these conditions but not in those conditions? How could this protein play an instrumental part in this unknown signaling pathway?

    It Takes Intense Focus

    Biological research has a degree of attention to detail that I had never previously experienced. You cannot space out for even one moment in the lab because you'll forget which reagent you put in which sample so far, label something wrong (which then can ruin weeks of work) or contaminate thousands of dollars of reagents. Yes, I’m speaking from experience–I’ve done all of the above. It takes mental stamina and experience to apply the highest levels of critical thinking and attentiveness for many hours at a time. 

    There Is Always Room for Improvement

    In addition to abstract thinking, an endless skillset accompanies biological research. As soon as I begin feeling comfortable with one procedure, I’m expected to multitask that procedure with two or three new ones, jumping on incubation periods of 10-15 minutes as an opportunity to make progress on my other experiment. The other side of that coin, though, is that there is always more to learn. Much of the results of my experiments are quantifiable data–results that are good or bad. I find it a fun challenge to always try to improve my performance on an experiment compared to my previous attempt (less background signal, higher DNA concentration, faster speed, etc.). 

    Think Beyond the Stereotype

    If you like science, research can be a very fun, stimulating way to apply your passion and knowledge to push the medical field forward. Though researchers rarely get much credit, they are the reason our medical treatments continue to improve so rapidly over time. And as for the stereotypes I mentioned earlier, my lab is full of very social people. We have happy hour, networking events, and occasionally take a quick break to walk to the farmers’ market together. We are collaborative, and every member of the lab contributes to others’ work in a meaningful way.

    If you are interested in getting started in academic research on your campus, talk to professors to learn more about the process. Explore academic departments that interest you. Reach out to current classmates involved in academic research for ideas on how they discovered their research opportunities.

    Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!