• Study abroad: Staying connected over land and sea

    by Anna Espenhahn

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    In the digital era staying connected to those you love no matter the distance has become infinitely easier than it once was. Phone calls, social media, texting, and video calls allow for communication over land and sea, so why does it feel so hard to truly connect with those you aren’t physically present with? This is a feeling that can be overlooked and overwhelming to those who decide to embark on a study abroad adventure. 

    When I was preparing to study abroad, I checked my packing list a dozen times. I triple checked my class schedule and researched my destination. I prepared myself mentally for possible culture shock, the stress of travel and school combined, and having to meet all new people. I didn’t think about the struggles that would come from staying in touch with people back home. After participating in a summer abroad, having a partner study abroad, and a friend move to another country, I have become well experienced in bridging the distance.

    Mental barriers

    Personally, my biggest struggle with staying connected was getting over the mental barriers that would stop me. I am someone who suffers greatly from the feeling of missing out and when separated this feeling would come from two directions. I would fear missing out on opportunities in my own life and fear of missing important moments in my loved one’s life. I would want to be out experiencing the world around me, while also terrified of leaving the house in case someone would call to talk. 

    While I was abroad, I spent days in my room when I should have been experiencing the culture around me all because I wanted to continue to call, text, and video chat my friends back home. The feeling of missing out was also extremely challenging when my partner was studying abroad. In a relationship it can be hard to take a step back and understand that a partnership is two individuals coming together in love, but they are still individuals. It is OK and encouraged to have your own experiences apart from your partner. You must trust your partner, yourself and the relationship. While distance might be separating you physically, that does not mean you aren’t together. 

    Technical tools

    Apart from the mental, there are also physical barriers to overcome. It is important to research messaging applications that are used in the country you are visiting, and if you will want to communicate solely over WiFi or not. Some applications are not as popular, efficient, or even functional in other countries. Research recommendations such as this one for application ideas. I am a huge fan of video calls when talking to those who are overseas. It allows for face-to-face connection even if there is a physical barrier between you. I never appreciated that connection until it was the only way for me to see the people I love. 

    Shared experiences

    Once you have your means of communication, it is time to consider what to do when talking. While it is nice to sit down and have a catch-up conversation about what is going on in your different lives, this can get redundant and boring over time. I suggest finding things that can be done together while on the phone. My favorite is sitting down and watching a movie together. I did this with those I loved by downloading a screen sharing software on my computer and pulling up Netflix, or any other movie sharing website. I would then video-call the person with whom I was sharing my screen and we would commentate, laugh and cry together while watching a movie. This made it feel as though we were truly together and allowed for a bonding experience while apart. 

    Staying connected can be hard, but it is possible. Many students travel for a semester, go to school far from home, or move away after college. You can still get the feeling of being with those who are far way with the help of technology. The biggest block is often a mental one. Be open to new experiences. This will allow you to stay connected to the world around you and to those you love.

     

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  • Conquering Fears: 5 tips to improve your public speaking skills

    by Anna Espenhahn

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    The National Institute of Mental Health reported that approximately 73% of the population is affected by glossophobia or the fear of public speaking. This fear is a challenge that college students must overcome. In one’s academic and professional life, public speaking is bound to arise in one form or another from giving a class presentation, being interviewed, or even in a job. As an introvert who used to be petrified of giving a presentation, but now thrives in the spotlight, I hope to share my knowledge of how to get over the nerves with these five tips.

    Prepare to present

    I know it’s hard to hear, but you are not going to have a good presentation if you don’t practice. Putting in the effort before you stand in front of a crowd makes the difference, especially with something as nerve racking as public speaking. There is a lot less room to mess up when you have your speech down pat. If you put in the effort behind the scenes, many of your nerves will go away because of sheer confidence in what you’re presenting. 

    Listen to your words

    Have a tool, such as Google or Siri, read your speech back to you. This is a great way to find any lulls, grammar mistakes, or confusing phrasing that may be present. You will actually be able to hear what the information might sound like if it was presented to you. I love using this tip because it gives you insights on where your speech could improve and forces you to write out what you plan to say. There is less room for error when you plan out what to say, rather than winging it completely. This doesn’t mean you must stay 100% on script, but you will have a general outline and key points to follow. 

    Practice in mirror

    Watch yourself speak. This may sound weird and maybe a bit narcissistic, but watching yourself in the mirror while you practice is a great way to become aware of your body language. You can practice what to say all you want, but if your body language doesn’t match then the whole speech will have the wrong tone. Body language is just as important as spoken language when it comes to presenting. 

    Pro Tip: To get a boost of confidence before a presentation, stand in the “superman” pose with your feet spread shoulder length apart and have your hands on your hips. Standing in a powerful pose for two minutes has proven to boost confidence levels. 

    Hide while in the spotlight

    Visuals, whether a PowerPoint, display, photos, or any other visual aid, can help when presenting. Having something to look back to can help you keep your thoughts when anxiety might take over. It also helps take the audiences’ eyes off of you and instead redirects their attention to a screen or other display. Thinking back to this can be a mental release of anxiety, reminding yourself “they aren’t looking at me” if you feel as though all eyes are glued on you.

    Another tip is to stand behind a podium, table, or desk. Hiding part of your body can be enough to trick your brain into thinking you are safer than you would be without it. When using this tip, be mindful. You don’t want to fidget with or hide yourself completely behind an object. 

    Fake it ’til you make it

    This is by far my favorite tool when it comes to presenting. First, I use the superman pose to gain my initial boost before I take the spotlight. Then I simply ‘fake it ’til I make it’. I become aware of my body, making sure to avoid any swaying, fidgeting, or any other distracting gestures. From there I let my muscle memory take charge and I present the speech I spent hours writing and listening to. I use the hand and body movements I laid out when practicing in the mirror. I fall back on my visuals when I forget what to say, or feel like too many eyes are on me. Lastly, I tell myself while I may be scared out of my mind, no one in the room knows that. If you can fake confidence in the beginning, you will find it along the way.

    Public speaking can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. It is a learned behavior, so as long as you put in the work you will be good to go. Always remember to prepare adequately and be confident – then you can’t go wrong!

     

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