Forty days from now, I was supposed to walk across the stage at my college graduation. The plans had been made and the hotels were booked. I had even carefully picked out my cap design. For four years, I’ve worked towards this moment, and over a couple hours, it was taken away. Despite this, I’m not upset that I won’t walk at commencement; I’m sad that I’ll never get to work in another classroom. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to finish my classes out with the guy who has sat by me for eight semesters straight. I’m angry that my friends are miles apart. The COVID-19 crisis has been unprecedented, but I believe my graduating class will be just the same. While there is chaos all around us, there are many things I am still thankful for.
This spring, I won’t be running between classes at one of the prettiest campuses in the US. I will never walk across campus again as a student. However, I have so many incredible memories to look back on. In August, I had a cardiac ablation the week before school started and I thought that it would be the craziest part of my senior year. Boy, was I wrong. In the first few weeks, I was exhausted just making it to the bus stop or to my first course. Over the year, I have been pushing myself further and further, and I made my way between the buildings. I’m thankful for the places that felt like my home and the strength they helped me find.
College is competitive and becoming an engineer involves a lot of late hours in the lab. Therefore when I had the chance to become a Pearson Campus Ambassador, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth fitting into my busy schedule. However, being a PCA has been a college highlight that has taught me more about my major than I ever could have imagined.
The first time I felt my job overlapping my software development studies was at the International Society for Technical Education (ISTE) conference in Chicago. I had the fantastic opportunity to showcase Pearson applications on the Microsoft Hololens and got the chance to meet many members of the engineering team at Microsoft. They were terrific at answering my questions and gave me a feel for their company outside of the recruitment scene. Additionally, I got to meet several members of Pearson’s VR team and learned a lot about the process used to make Hololens applications.
The benefits of being a PCA don’t stop at the special events. I have the opportunity to witness the development process in all different stages through focus groups and beta testing. This first-hand view has been incredibly helpful in connecting classroom concepts to real life and made their importance more clear. My favorite example was the recent Wayfinder project on which I got to help. The first time that I got to work with the Wayfinder team, they were in the original mocking stages and the product was nothing more than static drawings. I learned a lot about the planning stages of development and continued to learn more when I got to meet with the team months later and see the first functioning prototype.
As a PCA, I get the chance to share my voice on the products that students use every day; however, I never expected how that would impact me. When I first applied for the job, I wasn’t sure if it was the right fit, but now I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to help change the way others learn and to see the consumer side of the developer’s process.
Challenge yourself and say yes to the unexpected even if you think it may be hard. It may help you in ways you could never imagine!
I’ve always been one to walk before I ran and put myself into a box before the rest of the world could do it for me, so when I decided to take a summer internship four hours from my friends and family – in a city I barely knew – it came as a shock. The 12-week program was with a company that I had never heard of until the career fair and wasn’t exactly what I had considered doing long-term, however, this summer has been one incredible journey and I am so thankful for it.
I work for a comfy-chic software company that believes in open collaboration and equal parts work and play. There are no cubicles or closed doors, and everyone has a chance to join in the Smash Brothers tournament at the end of the day. I learned how to win at ping pong and finally got good enough at cornhole to call myself a Midwesterner, but I also found a space where I could freely ask questions and never had to doubt my ability.
I was just an intern, but I had the same desk as a full-time engineer and sat in on the same meetings they were attending. This summer helped me regain confidence in myself that I had lost through the semesters of feeling excluded in the classroom or feeling afraid to ask questions because I was already fighting an uphill battle to fit in. A fun company is excellent, but a supportive one makes all the difference.
My decision to pursue a job outside of my predetermined search radius was a bold one that hit me before I had an opportunity to consider the risk. It meant leaving my friends for the first time and learning how to make new ones. Throughout my three months, I discovered that I love to paint my nails and that metal may have a place in my music library. I learned that regardless of how similar our lives are now, people have amazing experiences to share and different stories to tell. My coworkers came from different states, ages, and races, but at the end of the day, we were all college kids taking a chance on our future together.
I learned how to stop caring long enough to enjoy a night out or sleep in on a Saturday. I put away my to-do lists and binge-watched a TV series for the first time in years. I’ve spent so much time trying to juggle the things I love and the things I do and the people I surround myself with that I forgot to include myself. By finally stepping out of my self-created box, I discovered a balance between the life I normally led and the new things I had found. The world suddenly wasn’t as black and white as I had led myself to believe and those boxes we put ourselves in are not always accurate.
This summer, I decided to challenge myself and step entirely out of my comfort zone for 12 weeks. There were days that I felt on top of the world and days that I cried watching my boyfriend’s car leave after a weekend visit. I pushed myself and found a happiness that I have never felt before with a group of people I would never have had the pleasure to meet. So the next time an opportunity comes at you, take it and run. There are days to calculate your moves, and there are days to celebrate your ability to move. This leap of faith was one worth taking.
I have trouble managing my mental health. I push it off like a check on my To-Do list and tell myself I’ll come back later; however, I know that I never will and new priorities will take its place. This mindset is something that I am confident I am not alone in.
Summertime is a great time for college students to reflect and react on all the thoughts that have piled up over the academic year. Feeling stuck? Want to try something new? The following are three of my favorite ways to introspectively spring clean and launch your best self this summer.
Make New Resolutions
Missing New Year’s? Summer break is the perfect time to start new goals! Spend time now forming new habits without the stress of classes. You’ll be making these resolutions because you want them, not because the world decided you need one. So take out your favorite sticky notes, type out a plan on your computer, or do whatever you need to lay out the steps to achieving your goal in one year. Break it down into smaller goals to help motivate you throughout the changing seasons.
Marie Kondo is on the right track: if it doesn’t bring you joy – do you need it? Use the summer to reflect on the things you surround yourself with and get rid of those that aren’t promoting the version of yourself you’d like to be. Don’t forget to include whom you follow on social media, the kinds of notifications you have on your phone, and other daily reminders. In a digital age, phones play a huge part in everyday interactions, and it is crucial that you surround yourself with the things you want to see. Bottom line: kick those bad influences to the curb!
Count Your Accomplishments
College students live high-speed lives filled with juggling school work, budding careers, and trying to stay social. Take some time to reflect on everything you did do rather than the things that are left to do. Create a “done” list at the end of the day, or start a gratitude journal. Recognizing the progress made every day will help you stay motivated for your goals, and you can look back on those moments when a hard day emerges. The only opinion that matters is yours, so talk yourself up.
Mental health isn’t an easy topic to talk about. It is something incredibly personal that impacts every individual differently; however, we are all in it together. Use your summer break to remind yourself that you matter. Go out there, get those goals, and finally make that change you’ve been wanting.
College is hard. You spend hours working yet sometimes feel defeated and it is easy to attribute a bad grade or a tough class on the professor, the program, or even on the smarter students. The following seven things helped me shake off the excuses and get the grades I wanted.
1 – SMART Goals
The first step to having the best semester yet is to plan it out. Sit down with your syllabus and determine what needs to be done to meet your goal. Using the SMART system makes it easy to determine what smaller achievements are needed in order to keep yourself on track for the semester. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound.
After figuring out what is needed for the semester, try creating a timeline of goals that can be looked back on frequently. Reminding yourself of what you’re working toward is not only beneficial to keeping you on track, but will also help motivate you during the latter part of the semester.
2 – Find People You Know
Challenge yourself to find one person in every class that you know or could get to know. Having a lifeline in each class can be incredibly helpful when it comes to studying and staying caught up. Sitting with the same people every class can also help hold you accountable to attend.
3 – Break It Down
Large projects or studying for an exam can be overwhelming. Try dedicating one notecard to one section of material. Go through your notes and lectures and reduce them down to only what is really important for your notecard. This not only helps studying one section at a time, but also makes it easier to review the entire chapter before the test.
4 – Practice, Practice, Practice
This piece of advice is exactly what it sounds like. The importance of repetition cannot be stressed enough. By taking the time to practice problems, you are not only setting yourself up to identify them better, but also solve them quicker. Avoid being surprised on the exam and do the work beforehand.
5 – Outside Resources
Don’t be afraid to look other places for help if the teaching style of a class doesn’t work for you. There are so many great resources online that offer different takes on the same material. Utilizing websites such as Khan Academy can quickly clear up confusion on specific topics.
If you are struggling to find options online, try on your campus! Many schools offer tutoring, writing help, or other opportunities to meet with TAs that have taken the classes you’re currently in. Ask your professor or advisor if you need help finding campus resources.
6 – Stay Motivated
The mid-semester slump is real. Don’t let it be you! Stay motivated throughout the semester by remembering to take breaks and enjoy college. This will help avoid the burnout and give your body time to absorb all the information you’re throwing at it.
Similarly, bad days are inevitable, but they don’t have to define an entire semester. There is nothing wrong with reevaluating goals mid-semester and changing your routine to make your end goal possible.
7 – Treat Yourself
Accomplishing a goal is exciting and deserves to be celebrated. Reward yourself for meeting milestones throughout the semester as well as making your overall goal. Choose something that you enjoy but don’t usually do as a large reward for the end of the semester. Smaller treats could be things such as a drink you wouldn’t normally spend money on or an hour of your favorite show.
These seven tips will get you on the right track for success this semester! These are traits I learned throughout my college experience that I hope will inspire you to strive for the best possible grades in your classes!
I’m a planner person. I like buying sticky notes and filling out my To-Do list on a Sunday evening. However, I have never met someone who plans the same way as I do. I am constantly told that I should “modernize” and move toward digital calendars. Recently, I took two months to experiment with digital calendars. Here’s my experience.
To help me “go digital”, I chose to use Google Calendar for both mobile and desktop. Throughout my experiment I continued to use my paper planner and regular To-Do lists. To begin, I went through my regular calendar for the remainder of the school year and added events as well as the GoogleCal invites I’d been ignoring. By this point, my new digital calendar was beginning to take shape. For the final touches, I color coordinated multiple calendars for work, school, and personal events.
Pros of Online Calendars
Utilizing an online calendar opened lots of new opportunities. My favorite thing was having the multicolored grid layout of my calendar to help me visualize how busy I really was. When writing things down in a paper planner it is easy to see three or four lines and think it’s nothing but seeing three hour blocks of time cut out of a day – it makes a large difference! Additionally, the blocks allow for a quick and easy way to see potential overlaps in events.
The other big takeaway for me was that others were able to change the invites they sent me and update as needed. This was way easier than me having to remember to change the entry in my day planner after each email. In addition to this, I enjoyed being able to create events and send them out to people with notifications attached to remind them later.
Cons of Online Calendars
While updating to a digital platform had many upsides, there were still some things I was unable to get used to. First were all the steps of having to fill out a form for each event. When I use my paper planner I can write down whatever information I want then move on to the next thing. With Google, however, I found myself writing less and clicking through. This I found very annoying especially considering that my classes run in 50 minute intervals and Google’s default event time is 60 minutes.
Secondly, when using an online schedule, I felt like I didn’t retain as much of what I added than when I wrote it down. Not remembering what I needed counteracted the pro of being readily available the moment my phone or laptop died. This made me feel unorganized and overall less prepared for the week.
After sixty days of using both online and physical calendars, I decided that I don’t have to rely on one or the other exclusively. The handiness of having notifications on my phone or desktop from a digital calendar helped me spend less time stressing over forgetting an event or meeting. I found a middle ground of both platforms allows me to see what I need to do at a glance while still having the option to write it down my way. If you aren’t using an online calendar now, I would strongly recommend one! Just remember that adding a physical calendar can not only help you stay on top of things but also give you a little more time away from your screen.
Why do you volunteer? What motivates you to go out and do something in your community – without monetary compensation? The encouragement to make a difference is unique for everyone. I realized this when I was recently asked: “what would make you feel appreciated as a volunteer?” Gift cards? Plaques? Thank you notes? At first I didn’t know how to respond. Then I started looking around my room and seeing everything I have collected from volunteering over the years. I have emails from coaches, thank you notes from students, a coffee cup from a Girl Scout event last year. So what did I want as a volunteer?
Watching eyes light up
That’s when it hit me. I don’t look for a thank you email in my inbox or a note at the end of the day. I look for the moment when a student finally solves a problem and their eyes light up. I watch 20 little faces glued to the experiment I’m doing at the front of the room, and I wait for the questions they ask once their walls come down and their imaginations run wild.
Finding answers together
A few months ago at a FIRST LEGO League meeting, one of my students asked me a question that I didn’t have the answer to. I told the classroom full of 5th graders that we will learn together! We brainstormed ideas on why the question was important and possible alternatives to answers. It was exciting to see everyone engaged, and eager to participate! Together, we came up with what we thought to be the answer to the girl’s intriguing question. It may not have been perfect or scientific, but it was a good experience for everyone in the room – myself included.
Exploring new experiences
Similarly, when working with preschoolers at a STEMfest, I came across a girl who was afraid of the Sphero, a remote control robot. She was three years old and had never experienced anything like the rainbow ball currently rolling around in front of her. I brought her the iPad and asked if she wanted to drive the robot. As she pushed around the control pad, the Sphero began to go wild across the room – bumping into things and changing colors. By the time we got around to doing the actual session, she was no longer afraid of the robot and instead became a pro at running it through the maze we created.
Embracing and building on new ideas
So, when it came time to answer the question: “what would make you feel appreciated as a volunteer?”, I clicked “Other”. No plaque or gift card could mean as much as the experience I have as a volunteer. I do cherish the thank you notes hanging around my room, but the notes themselves don’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the places I’ve been, the memories I’ve made, and the mountains I’ve helped conquer. But I can remember my students without that reminder. I can picture every hand and every shocking question. What I want as a volunteer is to continue creating atmospheres where children can ask questions and not be judged by the complexity of their answers. An environment that embraces ideas and builds upon them. As a volunteer, I want to learn as much from my students as they learn from me.
What makes you feel appreciated as a volunteer? Share your thoughts when you comment on my blog!