Students blog

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

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PreK-12Higher EducationProfessional

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    Studying Abroad Changes Your Life!

    Sarah Laborde

    I have traveled abroad before, and I was able to see that the world offered more than just my small hometown in Louisiana. So when the opportunity arose to study abroad I DID NOT want to miss it. Through the honors college at my university, I had the chance to study in the U.K. at Oxford University — one of the most well-respected institutions of higher learning in the world. I encourage students to study abroad when the opportunity presents itself.

    Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience. Discovering the cultures and customs of different nations gives a student a fresh perspective of the world.  A person’s experiences abroad can shape and mold them into well-rounded individuals who can connect and interact with people of many different backgrounds.

    Academic experience abroad sets you apart. The first step in getting that great internship or landing your first job is to have a standout resume. The benefits of the global mindset a person gains from studying abroad are what bosses and businesses value, especially with today’s globalized economy.

    I’ve put together a list of things I’ve learned to do or consider before studying abroad: 

    1. Know what you are getting into before you get on the plane – Keep an eye on political events and safety messages from the country you are going to. These happenings may affect foreign policy, currency or exchange rates, and the overall atmosphere of a country. Sign up with your nation’s embassy in the country you are traveling to, and stay up to date on current events.
    2. The time leading up to your program’s departure can be quite stressful – Constantly checking to see if the flight you booked four months ago is still confirmed; watching the pound to dollar exchange rate like a hawk to be sure you get the most out of what little money you have to spend; finding the right clothes to pack and the luggage big enough to fit everything you will need for the next month; all take a toll on what little sanity you have left from the previous semester.
    3. Don’t try to climb the mountain – On my program, we were allowed one free weekend, but climbing the tallest mountain in the U.K. may not be the best idea for someone who is not used to altitude change or much altitude at all (New Orleans, LA is BELOW sea level). Seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child would be AMAZING, but tickets DID NOT fit into my budget. Dream big because your study abroad should be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but be realistic.
    4. People > Places – Make an investment in the people you are studying with. Try to get to know at least one person from your group before your program starts. Having a friend to go to London with you for the day or to help you study for the next quiz is something everyone needs while in a foreign place. Find a buddy, and your experience abroad doesn’t have to end when you touch down back in the States.
    5. HAVE FUN!!! – Studying abroad is all about having an amazing encounter with different cultures and peoples. It should be FUN! Go explore the world, and soak up everything you can in the new and exciting places you will go.

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    Why I Love My Human Development and Family Studies Major

    Cassandra Lawton

    I am majoring in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) at Michigan State University (MSU). This program is amazing because it incorporates many hands-on requirements in the curriculum. In my intro to HDFS class, I was required to do a service learning placement for 40 hours last semester. These service learning placements range from helping food banks, refugees, farmer’s markets, or volunteering at afterschool programs. These placements are nice because they are required, if they weren’t I probably wouldn’t have made volunteering a priority.

    My placement was at a low-income housing apartment complex where I worked at the Learning Center. I taught the importance of college to the kids in the apartments and tutored in my spare time. This placement taught me so many things, among those, that I want to help people of all ages.

    HDFS curriculum also requires us to take an internship. I am planning to do two internships before graduating. My internship this semester is currently at St. Vincent Catholic Charities adoption home with the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program. In this program, I have my own caseload of kids in residential homes that I get to know and find homes for. My internship has taught me the importance and significance of having a home to come back to, it also taught me about the adoption system processes. I wouldn’t have taken it on if my program didn’t encourage and give me the skills to do it. My second internship will be at the Marriage and Family Therapy Clinic on campus.

    Finally, HDFS courses are extremely interesting and help me learn a lot about each course’s material. Each course builds upon the previous course and I feel like I’m getting more concrete foundation with each course I take. I can honestly say I feel “ready for the real world” into my field because of my experiences.

    The HDFS major at MSU is an amazing program that allows students to gain real life skills and knowledge that can be used for real careers. Even if someone isn’t going into a human service field people can still use the skills in other professions.

    Overall, HDFS is an amazing major because it is versatile in all career paths and allows for hands on work as well as courses that reinforce concepts.


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    Random Act of Kindness: A Small Gesture can lead to Friendship

    Victoria Bankowski

    Life on a university campus in the heart of a city can be challenging for students who commute.

    I know this all too well.  Often, I have a difficult time locating affordable parking and I am forced to park within a parking structure and that can get expensive.  I attend The University of Michigan, which is a large school and sometimes it can be difficult to find parking before class. Juniors and seniors can purchase yearly parking passes at one of the many locations across campus, but it can still be a long walk to class. In one of my classes, another student mentioned she was concerned because she inadvertently left her wallet on the seat of her vehicle, which was a few miles away.  I offered to drive her to her car.  I did not know this student well, but I figured I would drop her off on the way home.

    As we walked to the parking structure we became better acquainted with one another and began to develop a friendship.   It was nice to meet and talk with someone that had similar interests to me. As we pulled up to her car said she would walk back and see me another day.  I offered to drive her back to class so that she would make it back to class on time. She was shocked at the fact that a person who she didn’t know would volunteer to help her out. 

    We have since become friends and communicate often.  We spend time together in between classes and have plans to stay in touch over the summer.   I am happy I could be of assistance to this student. Additionally, because of this random act of kindness, a friendship has developed.   I have spent five months at the University and I have not interacted with anyone, other than my professors, until then.  I really feel good about our interaction and will do it again should the need arise.  Random acts of kindness should happen more often, at school, and within our communities.  A random act is a non-premeditated, action designed to offer kindness towards another.  This one action changed a lot of things about the way I felt and the way in which I see life at my school.

    Every day should be a Random Act of Kindness Day.  If more people throughout the world would volunteer their services to help others, our world would be a much more efficient place. Let’s stop being angry and let’s start communicating with one another, the world will be a better place. Who knows, even a friendship could develop from it!


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    Math as an International Language

    Rulon Olmstead

    There is no better time in life than college to make some great international friendships. For me this all began in math class. Even though we have different backgrounds my friend from Indonesia and I can always get together to discuss math. Once our homework was done, we could always discuss other interests and hobbies. Having friends from around the world can really help you diversify and broaden your horizon, but it can be challenging. These five tips will help you make and keep friends from across the globe.

    Find an international language to relate to other people. Some things are universal such as a smile, music, art, games, and my personal favorite math. Common ground can be established if you try. You might have an international student in class, a great way to start a friendship is working together on homework. You might have a roommate from a different country, you can bond over an impromptu fashion show as you show each other your various styles of clothing. Maybe you meet someone new in the cafeteria, you can always talk about differences in culture and food between your two countries. Even talking about the weather can work, a simple question “what’s the weather like back home?” can lead to a longer conversation.

    Speak clearer not louder. Chances are your fellow students already know and speak English very well, but some international students who are learning English might struggle in some situations. Talking too loudly can be frustrating to international students and may make it appear that you are mad. Unless they actually have hearing loss, it is best to speak at a normal volume. If they struggle to understand you, try speaking clearer and avoid ambiguity and slang.

    Use clubs and other social activities. Making new friends can be hard no matter where you are they are from. Many schools have clubs or groups for specific cultures or languages.  Joining a club or going to various campus activities will provide great opportunities to mingle without making much effort to plan.

    Learn their culture, background, and language to any degree you are able. It’s fun sharing your culture with others but don’t be selfish. Taking time to learn about their culture will help you make a more genuine friendship. Learning their language (even just simple phrase and greetings) will give you another chance to bond, kind of like a secret handshake.

    Using social media is great for new friendships and key to making international friendships last. Consider all the ways you can communicate online. You can use pictures, emoji’s, video, audio, and even language translators. J Share your interests and pictures with new friends and pay attention to what they like, this will help you bridge the gap. We are all different but we also have a lot in common. Who doesn’t like cute cat videos or delicious snapshots of food? Being connected online is crucial to make your worldwide friendships continue after college. If your friend graduates and leaves the country normal text messaging and their student email might no longer work. Having other connections online will insure you can stay in touch.

    On a college campus you can have the opportunity to make friendships with individuals from very diverse backgrounds. Be open to this experience, and approach an international student, introduce yourself, say hello! You might be shy or find it awkward to approach someone new, but try to put yourself in the other student’s perspective: they want to make friends just like you, but they also are trying to embrace the new culture.

    So, whether it’s through technology, written, or spoken communication – have an open mind and use math as an international language!


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    Technology has Alienated Humans with Humans

    Anuj Saxena

    The technological developments that have taken place over the past decade are colossal. With the use of social media and other networking tools, we have acquaintances all over the world…but are we becoming social robots? The reality is that we have connections but no genuine conversations. We are getting along but are often ‘alone together’. Instead of talking to people we prefer sending texts. The simple reason behind it is that in texts we get to edit, delete, retouch and in turn end up hiding our true selves and present only what we finesse. It has not only altered what we do but what we are. In a room, if five people are sitting together, each is busy exploring the world on their cell phones and laptops but nobody is interested in learning about the person sitting right next to him or her. We think too much but feel too little.

    As Charlie Chaplin correctly said, “we, humans, are meant to live by each other’s happiness and not by each other’s misery.” Each one of us forms an integral part of this society and it is our prerogative to actively work to form a community which benefits all of us. I feel we are letting technology take us to places where we don’t want to be.

    We have forgotten the essence of belonging to the mankind race. We are meant to stand by each other in good and bad times. People generally say that technology has made our lives better and easier. No doubt it has made our lives easier, but has it really made our lives better? Technology has given us cures for so many diseases but the bitter truth is that alongside these cures came numerous new diseases. Technology has drastically changed our lives both for good and bad.

    The optimum use of technology is certainly beneficial for us, but we need to stay away from is our over-dependency with technology. I encourage you to realize your technological usage, and evaluate if it is benefiting your relationships or hurting them. It’s essential that we maintain our balance in our society, whether that means with our electronics or without them.


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    Life Lessons: Relentless Actions and Random Acts of Kindness

    Cassandra Lawton

    Every month I try to make it a goal to perform a random act of kindness. Sometimes, seemingly small actions can make a big impact on another person’s life. This month my sister and I were at sibling’s weekend at my college. I go to Michigan State University and all of the events were in a building called the MSU Union. We had a good night: we made slime, watched a comedian, and got photo booth pictures. The last event was to get balloon animals. We talked about what animals we wanted and decided as we got in line. The person making the balloon animals came over and gave a lady behind us a sign saying she was the last one in line. He was running out of supplies and it was the end of the event, so everyone after the lady with the sign wouldn’t be able to get balloon animals. He gave everyone in line a card saying it was good for one animal, this way he could keep track of who was in line.

    While standing in line waiting for the man to make balloon animals, a woman came up with her two kids. The lady at the end of the line explained that she was the last one and he wasn’t going to make anymore. The woman who had come up to the line started to walk away with her kids, but my sister and I decided together to give the kids our two cards, so they could have the balloon animals instead of us.

    The woman and kids were happy and thankful, they got in line soon after we left.

    My sister and I always try to do things like this. Instead of getting balloon animals, we decided to paint picture frames. My sister was still just as happy as she would have been if we got balloon animals.

    Every time my sister and I perform an act of kindness, it’s an inspirational and educational experience. Considering this one specific example with the balloon animals, we realized those kids deserve the balloon animals just as much as we did, but they were probably even more thrilled to get them. I think that it is important for my sister and me to learn: how to give up something to make someone else better off. I encourage everyone to do one relentless action each month. My sister and I are thankful that we can make a positive impact in other people’s lives, just simply by being kind.


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    Tips for studying Asian languages: Video Blog

    Mai Chi Nguyen

    This mini video blog series will share tips to successfully study Asian languages. In this short video blog series, Mai will walk you through how to set a mindset, address common challenges, and point out useful tips to help successfully master Asian languages.


    Part 1


    Part 2


    Part 3

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    My Mentor, My Friend: Dr. Bonita Leavell

    Victoria Bankowski

    I sat in my first chemistry class and listened to my instructor talk about a former student she had given a letter of recommendation to. That student was accepted into all three of the Ivy League universities she applied to. From that point forward, I found myself dreaming of ways that I might land myself a spot in a classroom at one of the Ivy League schools. Whether it was a summer research program offered, or a transfer scholarship to complete my bachelor’s degree, I passed the time away trying to imagine ways I could turn this dream into reality. Dr. Leavell made me feel in my heart that I, too, could go to one of the top universities in the United States. I was inspired and set my sights on attending Johns Hopkins University (JHU).  It was because of the way Dr. Leavell spoke to me that I felt that I could transfer from my community college to an Ivy League school if I worked really hard.

    Dr. Leavell inspired and motivated me to reach for my dreams and apply to transfer to a top school. She helped me realize my capabilities. Dr. Leavell taught me the importance of learning in a way that is smart and effective. When Dr. Leavell talked about her previous students, she was so proud and it was so great to hear about other students who were successful. I feel that it’s important to have a professor and mentor who shares examples and inspires students to go for their dreams. Dr. Leavell is a gem and she is one of the finest professors who taught at my community college.

    Dr. Leavell is an inspiration. She encouraged me to succeed. She changed my mindset. I went from believing that I would never go to a top notch school to believing that I was as capable of attending an Ivy League. Especially when my professors gave examples of other students who were in my seat from years before. It was Dr. Leavell who turned my thinking around and inspired me.  She inspired me to apply for the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship to help me pay for an education that I knew that I could not afford.  I began applying to lots of different schools to transfer to.  In March, I received a letter stating I was selected as a semifinalist for the top ranked Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.  I realized that even if I don’t get selected for this prestigious honor, I am still a winner. I did not get into Johns Hopkins University. However, I was so excited to get into the University of Michigan Ann Arbor on a full tuition scholarship and doing very well.

    I spent my life filled with self-doubt. It was Dr. Leavell’s belief in me that allowed me to understand and focus on the prize, along with helping me transform my insecurity into confidence and determination.

    It is very important that students recognize their mentors.  Especially educators who go to work every day for the students benefit. There is not a day that passes that I don’t think twice about the impact she made on me. It is equally important that I tell her how important she was in getting me to believe in myself. Dr. Leavell, I want to say thank you so very much for the lesson you have taught me.  I will never forget you.   I will cherish the thought of you, in my heart for the rest of my life. I hope not to disappoint you, for you are such a very important determining factor in my success. Thank you!


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    Speaking From Experience

    Alexis Phayakapong

    Writing this as I am finishing my Spring semester of my second year of my college career is incredibly euphoric. The person who I have grown into today has been through many ups and downs: academically, mentally, emotionally, socially, you name it! My experiences these last few years have opened my eyes and made me want to find a way to (hopefully) inspire someone to be a bit more aware about things you will encounter as a college student. Of course everyone is going down different paths with their respective majors but in all honesty, there is so much overlap with us all because college is a diverse playing field that you learn to navigate.

    My main piece of advice is to make sure that you are as open as possible your freshman year. Be open to new ideas, new food choices, new landscapes, and most importantly, seeing yourself and others differently. You have been surrounded by the same people for years and you feel like you might know who you are and what you are capable of – however, by being open to new ideas you might be surprised to find a new side of yourself! What college has taught me is that you can never be too sure of the future. Not everything is predictable or concrete. There will always be things that surprise you.

    Some of the greatest memories that I have made have been because I put my anxieties to the side for a moment and just tried something new. At first, I felt like I did not belong on my campus because I just could not seem to make friends with the right people and being that I am multi-racial, I felt like I was underrepresented. However, what kept me motivated at SDSU were the professors, and my hometown friends encouraging me to find the right people in which to surround myself.

    I continued to pursue what I love: fashion, brunch and marketing. I applied for the Marketing Committee and delightfully was accepted. I finally found a place to really expand my reach throughout the student body.

    I struggled with making sure I was investing my time at the right place. Who you decide to live with in the dorms is a big decision, and therefore it’s also important to keep an open mind about your potential roommate options.  There will be different people in your life –  classmates, people you hang out with, and true unconditional friendship that consist of meaningful conversations.  Having all three in one individual is rare so it’s important that you are able to differentiate between them all.

    Let people learn who they are as you learn who you are, and let that be enough. That goes with friendships, diets, relationships, and most of all, academics. I let issues in my dorm life take too much of a toll on me that it affected my learning in Business Calculus, which resulted in me retaking the course this past Fall. Although I had to retake the course, I am proud to say that I learned the material, went to office hours and retained it so much more this Fall than I would have had I just tried to pass the course.

    Failures and good experiences are just a few ingredients that are bound to be included for your Freshman year but I will leave you with a quote from my favorite Comm 101 professor, Master Rapp: “Be vulnerable. Allow yourself that much, without vulnerability, you will not allow love into your life and that is the biggest inconvenience you could do to yourself.”