college life

3 Tips for Handling College Clutter

August is finally here, and with it comes the back-to-school shopping season. This means renting textbooks, shopping for new clothes, and buying other items that will take up space in your dorm room or apartment. Not having room for everything can cause a headache, but there are ways to alleviate that. Here are some quick and easy tips to minimize the college clutter and maximize what little space you are given to live in.

messy room

1. Spring cleaning is not just for the spring. This is the perfect time to go through your clothes and weed out things you never wore, things you will never wear, and things you no longer fit into. Donate the bags to the local consignment shop, and proceed to use that extra drawer space to your liking.

2. Invest in storage for under your bed. Think you do not have enough room? Think again. Several options are available for storage bags and bins,  and the storage you get with them is unbelievable. Stash away those out-of-season clothes or books you want to keep but need to hide to save space.

3. Sell, sell, sell! Have books you needed for a general education class that are just taking up space? Sell them online to get the most bang for your buck. Have junk from when you were a kid that your parents made you take to get them out of their house? Have a yard sale or sell them online. If you cannot see yourself carting it across the country or using it at any point in your life, get rid of it.

Have any other tips for organizing your space? Let us know in the comment section below!

Knetbooks Kickstart Sweepstakes!

Looking forward to a new semester? Or maybe you shudder at the thought of buckling down once again for a year full of textbooks and all-nighters. Either way, knetbooks wants to help you kickstart your school year by giving away 15 daily prizes in our Kickstart Sweepstakes! Whether you need a coffee break or just some new music in the background, we are here to help you adjust. We will select one winner each day from July 30-August 13 to win a $25 gift card of your choice, from the following companies.  To enter the sweepstakes visit the knetbooks Facebook page, or simply follow the link below. And as always, visit knetbooks.com for the best deals on college textbook rentals along with FREE shipping on every order!

Kickstart Sweepstakes Blog

5 Summer Music Festivals Your Friends Haven’t Heard Of

Everyone knows the big names in music festivals (think Bonnaroo, Coachella, Ultra, Sasquach etc.) but there are some great smaller music festivals that are sure to cure the festival fever without causing major wallet damage. Here are my picks for the top 5 little known music festivals.

5. Bunbury Festival – Cincinnati, OH July 12-14

This downtown festival has six stages and three days of performances. The headliners include Fun. MGMT, Sky Ferreira, Tegan and Sara,Yo La Tengo, The National, and Daniel Martin Moore. Although you may have to spring for a hotel for the weekend instead of camping, you will still come in under budget because this festival is only $120 for all three days.

4. Wakarusa – Ozark, AR May 30-June 2

If you are looking for an intense camping experience in one of the most beautiful locations look no further than Wakarusa. I would say that this particular festival isn’t for everyone. It has an attractive line up but be prepared to have a primitive camping experience and be surrounded by some modern day hippies where music and shows are a way of life not just a summer distraction. Notable acts include Grouplove, Snoop Lion, Zeds Dead, Baauer, Icona Pop, Araabmuzik, RJD2, Widespread Panic, and my personal favorite, Amon Tobin. Be warned you will be dirty, smelly, and sweaty at the end of this one. Watch the promo video and you’ll know what I mean.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CunpGcq5fE8]

3. Hard Summer 2013 – Los Angeles, CA August 3-4

If you live anywhere near LA you’ll want to attend this show. In the past this series has some of the most elite electronic acts including Deadmau5, A-Trak, Borgore, Crystal Castles, and Flying Lotus. The festival lineup isn’t out yet for this year but tickets for a 3 day pass are about $120. It is definetly a bang for your buck.

2. Summer Camp – Chillicothe, IL May 24-26

This is another small camping festival that landed some big names this year. The lineup includes Big Boi, Diplo, Zeds Dead, STS9, Theievery Corporation, 3 days of Moe, and 3 days of Umphreys’s McGee. It has 7 stages and over 75 artists and at $115 it is a no-brainier. Like other mid-west camping festivals you’ll wanna be prepared for limited showers, bugs, and heat. If you can stand the stress it’ll be worth it and at ¼ the cost of Bonnaroo.

1. Forecastle – Louisville, KY July 12-14

This will be the 11th forecastle festival, and in the past few years this festival has gained some major publicity mostly due to the unique structure and setting of the weekend festival. It is a true music and arts festival that includes speakers and art tutorials as well as music. The setting is also unique. There are 5 stages in downtown Louisville on the water front (one stage is even under an interstate overpass). The after parties are on the historic bell of Louisville and range from 15-35 dollars for late night shows. This festival has become a popular one so it may be your last year to enjoy it at the low $145 price point.

When so many good lineups are released in one year it can be tempting to clean out your savings account on tickets, but it is important to look around at your options before committing to the priciest summer fest. Are there any we missed?

Study Abroad: Communicating with a Host Family

In most study abroad programs, living with a host family is a huge part of the overall experience. Not only can they help you learn about your culture, but they feed you, help you get around and can help you find the city’s hidden gems. But with a language barrier, or for someone who’s shy, it can be difficult to adjust to living with a stranger (or multiple strangers), especially in a completely different country. In the days I’ve been spending with my host mother and roommate, and hearing about others’ experiences with theirs so far, I’ve discovered a lot of great ways to communicate and open up—even if you’re not on the same linguistic page.

Luckily for me, my host mother knows English pretty well and also helps me learn Italian by speaking to me in sentences including both. For others, the transition hasn’t been quite so simple. If neither of you can speak each other’s language, there are still ways to communicate. Keep a pocket dictionary or phrase book with you. It might be annoying to look up everything you want to say, but it’s even more annoying to not be able to say anything at all. By the end of the summer or semester, you should have at least some words down pat, and conversation will be a breeze.

While you’re learning to speak in a new language, you can also learn to gesture a lot while you speak (if you don’t already). Pointing, nodding, smiling, etc. can all go a really long way in the absence of words. Sometimes you and your host family might not always understand the whole intended message, but again, some effort is better than none at all. It can even be helpful to write a few words down from a dictionary, so even if you don’t know how to pronounce them yet (something your host can help with), you can at least hold up the words for them to read. You can also attempt to help your family with English as well, by saying the words they are acting out. A few words and lots of gesturing can make for a great conversation!

In addition to language, some people find it difficult to fit into their families or talk freely with them. You don’t have to share your whole life story, just little details. If they have a dog and you have a dog, make a comment and maybe add a story about your dog they’d understand or appreciate. Compliment their cooking or ask them about a trinket you noticed on the TV stand. You can easily keep your personal life private while still getting to know your family and get along with one another. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or just talk about how classes are going. As time goes on, you’ll all feel more comfortable around each other and get alone just like a real family (hopefully anyway).

Just relax and remember to give yourself time to adjust. It’s a new situation, a new environment and all new people, so it’s ok to feel out of your element—that’s part of the fun of studying abroad! Put yourself out there, try to make yourself feel at home and never be afraid to speak up. Even if you have a negative comment to make, like if they make something you can’t eat for whatever reason, mention it to them. Your host family is like your adopted family for the time you’re in this new country, so take advantage of what these relationships have to offer. Above all else, traveling the world, whether for school or independently for fun, is an amazing learning and growing experience. So, push yourself out of your comfort zone, try new things and reach out to your family in whatever way you can to help you through the adjustment. You’ll be glad you did.

- ToonyToon

How to Save When you LOVE to Shop

I love to shop. Shopping is wonderful passing time when you’re bored; need “therapy,” or when you are looking to have a fun day. The only problem with shopping is that it prevents you from saving. If you’re like me, you are busy working during the summer in order to save money for school. It’s so hard to save money for school when there are so many cute clothes on sale! It also doesn’t help when you work in one of your favorite stores! I work retail at one of my all-time favorite stores to shop in, every time I work new products scream my name. I’ve been forced to learn the secrets to self-control when it comes to buying. The secrets I have learned have allowed me to save a ton of money, enough to buy my own car and help pay for school!

The first secret is to start a change jar. Change is so annoying. It weighs down your wallet, clinks in your pocket, and is rarely used when buying.  You have to keep yourself from stealing change from the jar, but when you do it adds up fast! Think about it, every time you break a bill you get more change! Once your jar gets full take it to the bank in exchange for paper money, you will be surprised at the amount of money you can walk away with! A penny is nothing on its own, but it’s worth so much when it’s grouped in numbers.

The second secret is to recycle your cans! Every can is worth 5 cents! Throwing cans away is like throwing nickels away. Find a cardboard box or old trash can and mark it “cans only,” fill it up and turn it in to your local grocery for cash! This is such an easy way to get money back for your purchase. If you’re buying canned beverages anyway, this is such a simple thing to do.
My third secret is to work a lot and spend a little; it’s easier said than done. When I am out and I want to buy I usually try to remind myself of what I’m saving for. I ask myself questions like….

  • Will I still want this in a week if I don’t buy it now?
  • How much use will I get out of it?
  • Is it worth its price tag?
  • Is this something I NEED?
  • Do I have something like it already?
  • Why do I want this?

By asking yourself the tough questions, you’ll find that the answer is usually no. If it’s not, a treat is okay once in a while. Set yourself some boundaries and try your absolute hardest to stay on the right track. It’ll all be worth it when you have money for school and the things you really need.

- Speedy G.

Study Abroad: Finding Your Way

We’ve been situated with our host families for about 5 days now, and the directions are becoming a little easier. So, for those you of you planning to go abroad in the future, here are some tips to start getting familiar with your surroundings.

First of all, be prepared with maps. The more you have, the better. Every map is different, and some will tell you stores or restaurants, or better views of streets. Sure, you risk looking like a tourist, but if you’re in classes there is no time to get lost—especially if you don’t know the language. Florence isn’t a huge city, but if you’re elsewhere it might not be so easy to find your way around. Plus, it’s not like you need to unfold an entire map and stop dead in the middle of the street. Fold your map to the section you need, so you’re more discrete and it’ll help you get your bearings quicker. Then you can simply tuck it into your pocket or bag, and take it out when necessary. If you pay to have an iPhone or smart phone that works abroad, you have it even easier: Google Maps! But still, make sure you pay attention to where you are so you don’t have to rely on help your whole stay.

Another way to help learn your way around is traveling in groups. Of course, at night especially, it’s safer overall to travel with at least one other person. But even during the day, working with someone else to get to your destination will prove extremely beneficial. Together, you can figure out different routes and determine where you are going faster. Like they say, two heads are better than one. Also, this is a great way to go on an adventure and get off the beaten path a bit. Instead of using your map, just venture around and see what you find (trying to pay at least some attention to where you are so you can visit these places again sometime). One of the best ways to explore a new place is to just go out without any real destination in mind—and a nice way to possibly avoid some of the overcrowded touristy areas.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you speak the language, ask people on the streets for directions—I’ve done this without speaking Italian, too, since pointing and nodding can go a long way. Talk to your host family if you’re staying with one, or the professors/school employees. They’re there to help you and they won’t be rude about giving you directions if you need them. Also, school friends may have already found cool routes to go on, so pairing up or asking around can be very helpful.

I have the worst sense of direction in the world, and I’m doing just fine so I’m sure you can figure it out too. Good luck, and happy adventures!

- ToonyToon

How to Make Nice With Fellow Interns

You’re ready for an incredible summer. But you’re far from home and all of your friends as you intern somewhere new for the next few months. You know your boss likes you and the work will go well,  but you’re unsure about your fellow interns. Will you have anything in common? Will you have anything to talk about? What if they’re not nice? What if they just don’t like you? Though there’s lots of ways to get off on the wrong foot or create office enemies, more often than not interns manage to get along. There are lots of ways to at least be friendly with your colleagues and keep the tension down in the office—and you may just make a new best friend.

If you’re like Rachel Berry, you’re the top of the office. At school, you dominate your classes. At home, you’re the favorite child. At work, you breeze through your work and make your boss especially happy. You don’t care who stands in the way, you’ll rise to the top. But nobody likes a know-it-all-better-than-you type! If you fit into this personality type, you need to tone it down at work. Obviously, you’re allowed to succeed and work really hard to please your boss and potentially see a promotion in your future. Creating competition and tension in the office though by trying to one up your fellow interns—especially if you’re all working on the same project or within the same position—is no good. Not only with these other interns likely begin to resent you, but any future interns starting late will also hear about this annoying office superstar. Tone down your competitive edge a bit, help out your interns, and you’ll be just fine.

If you’re super shy, there are some easy ways to create a bond among those in your office. A simple smile can help bridge an awkward situation and bring about conversation. If you feel kind of socially awkward and don’t want or know how to make conversation, simply introduce yourself; the other person will then tell you a bit about themselves and perhaps further the conversation with some questions. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence either. Many people feel the need to blab into the quiet, but this isn’t always necessary. Unless you feel awkward, you can simply work away and perhaps start a new conversation during a lunch break or at an appropriate moment. Try to find some common ground or topics that are easy to talk about, like movies or even your internship itself. As time goes on, you’ll all feel more comfortable and talkative around each other, and conversations will flow.

Hanging out with fellow interns when you’re not in the same room or department as them can be difficult at first. If they don’t put in the effort to talk to you—or possibly don’t even know you exist in the office—you have to take the first step to put yourself out there more. Take a walk to the break room and don’t be afraid to say hello and introduce yourself to whoever’s in there. Listen for office meet-up opportunities after hours and join in. Even making a connection with the head of another department can help introduce you to your fellow interns and make friends. Plus, the more professional connections, the better for your future. By putting yourself out there, you’ll be doing a lot more than just building friendships.

Overall, remember interning isn’t meant to be a big social event. At the end of the day, your work comes first and worrying about office friendships shouldn’t be at the top of your list. You also shouldn’t be pushing your fellow interns to the side in your constant battle to be number 1, or claim responsibility for a group effort. Even if you are the only intern in your department, keep in mind there are other ways to meet people—around your neighborhood, during a night out, hanging out in public spaces. Besides, you’ll be with this company all summer, so don’t feel awkward if you’re not clicking right away. There’s plenty of time to bond with people in and outside of your work space. But even if you end the summer without any new besties for life, at least you’ll walk away with more experience to put on your resume. And there’s always your friends and family back home to turn to when you’re lonely!

Just be yourself, work hard and have fun. It is summer after all!

-ToonyToon

Taking Time Off

Imagine life in college without classes.  Seems like the dream right?  While taking time off from school seems like the new thing to do, there is a difference between doing it during collegiate years and taking some time off afterwards, known as a gap year.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to morph into a celebrity or athlete and run with the “stay in school kids” speech.  I’ll simply say that when the Celtics beat the Sixers to get to the Eastern Conference, they did it off Rondo’s momentum.

Now that I’ve been so convincing and you plan to finish your degree then take a gap year, what are you planning to do with your time?

Going home and living off Mom and Dad is as exciting as, well its not.  Plus, you are a college graduate.  Unfortunately, that does not hold as much weight in 2012 as it did when the first New College (now Harvard) graduates walked.  Even still, living financially independent is a step into becoming mature and adult (pronounced ah-dult).  Anything spending you do will be more appreciated and taken more seriously if you make the money yourself.  If you are planning to travel, why not take a few months to make the money first while you research where and what you will be doing.

There are tons of different ways to spend your gap year.  Colleen Kinder’s Delaying the Real World details hundreds of opportunities.  It is incredible how open the world really is to us; just because we don’t see the doors open to us does not mean they are not there.  Kinder’s book helps recent grads discover those doors.

The book does not simply list the options but is well organized and breaks up the information with real life examples, stories of ex-pats, those who have traveled with companies, and other adventurous alumni.

From teaching English abroad to biking across the country for a charity to interning abroad in your field, you can make your gap year be a time that will give you the excitement you crave while also giving you something to place on your resume.

Traveling is something that can set you apart from the crowd.  By traveling I don’t mean packing up the car and driving a state or two away.  Professional travel, working for a school, volunteering, interning abroad, etc. is an incredible talking point in interviews.  Plus, the travel will probably be more accepted by anyone who is helping to fund the trip…

No matter what you plan to do the summer before or after senior year, if you decided to take a gap year after college or get right down to business, remember that there is only one time in your life that you get to be the age you are.

- ToonyToon

Easy Ice Breakers

College brings many new social situations along with it. Breaking the ice can be an awkward thing, that is, unless you read this blog! I’m here to give you all the tips and trick you need to succeed in a new social setting. Let’s try and steer away from the oh-so common, “how’s the weather?”

The first situation is with your random roommate. Odds are if you chose to get a random roommate you answered some basic questions about yourself to try and get someone somewhat similar to you. Regardless of similarity, the beginning stages of moving in with someone you don’t know can be a little scary. The first thing I would suggest is to talk to them ahead of time. Use Facebook message, texting, or even a call to get things in order. Talking to your roommate at least a couple times before you move in will ease your jitters. Go into the roommate situation asking the basic stuff, like where they’re from, if they have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and what they like to do for fun. Try and go out of your way to spend time with your new roomie be it study time in the library or a quick lunch, the more time you spend with them, the more comfortable you will be.

Next, let’s talk football games, pep rallies, or welcome week. When in a large crowd, make a point to talk to the people around you, or at least smile! You need to appear friendly and welcoming. If you are standing next to someone you don’t know at the game try talking to them about the game. That one is obvious. If you notice they are cheering extra hard for certain players ask if they know them in order to strike up a convo. Same thing goes for pep rallies or welcome week activities, the key is to pay attention to the person, and try talking with them about whatever interest them. When meeting new people you need to be a good listener above all.

What if the person I’m talking to is shy!? In this case, you might have to be the talker. If the person you are trying to get to know is shy, the key is determination without being annoying. Odds are, they enjoy people, and they just don’t know what to say. Try asking basic things like whether they have any siblings, play any sports, or live on campus. Eventually, they should loosen up, but you need to be patient above all in this situation.

Let’s say it’s the weekend and you get invited to a party where you know no one, except the person that invited you. Go! The key to meeting new people is to get out of your comfort zone. You need to realize that everyone else is also there to make new friends and have a good time. Try not to cling to the one person at the party you know, and get out there! Find something to talk about with the people around you. Like I said before, pay attention to the people around you and talk about their interest. If you notice they have some good moves on the dance floor try this, “you’ve got some good moves, where’d you learn to dance like that?” Compliments are always a go to in new environments.

But what if I get shut down!? The worst thing that can happen in a social situation is a person not replying. Honestly if this happens, pretend like you were talking to someone else and walk away. Or, ask again. Chances are they didn’t hear you, or they’re so rude they aren’t worth knowing anyway. There is nothing embarrassing about being ignored, more so, it just makes the ignorer look rude.

Use these basic ice breaking tips for any situation and remember to smile often! There are many new people to meet and it all begins with a simple conversation. Try and save yourself from, “So…how is the weather?”

-ToonyToon

Places for Students to Volunteer Domestic and Abroad

How do you give back to those around you? This is a question that doesn’t often get asked, or even thought about by a percentage of college students. In between cramming for exams, trying to stay afloat in the social stratosphere that is college, and planning for your future, students tend to simply run out of hours in the day to give back. That’s not to say that everyone does, but let’s admit it, it’s not always in the foreground of our priorities. Work gets in the way, time slips by, and things just don’t work out. However, if the mood strikes you, and the time permits, I have to say that volunteering, both locally and abroad, is one of the most rewarding and beneficial activities that you can engage in as a college student.

There are a number of reasons to get involved in service, the most obvious being that you’re helping other people. However, that’s not always the first reason people get involved—and it doesn’t have to be. Volunteering is a life-long activity that can serve you physically, socially and mentally. You are physically bettering your community, making lasting relationships that can transfer well beyond service projects, and doing something good for yourself, while also helping others! What beats that?

All of these reasons are great—however, as well intentioned as service may be, these benefits may go overlooked as a result of how crammed and busy our college lives tend to be. This doesn’t make service any less desirable to get involved with, but it does make it trickier to “market” to college students. How can you convince students to give up time, energy and effort for a cause that doesn’t seem as relevant as Tuesday’s Biology exam? How can you showcase the wonderful and lasting impressions that service can make without overshadowing the real reason for doing the service in the first place? It’s a balancing act—you want students, and other volunteers to enjoy service, and have a good time, but also understand the depth of the activity, and the “whys” behind doing it in the first place.

With all of this being said, where and how can students and potential volunteers look to get involved? Is it better to go far away to help, or can you look in your own backyard?

My advice is to look at both! There are numerous trips and geographic areas that you can search for! You can choose to go far away, or stick to more locally based programs and projects. My school is on the smaller side and specializes in service trips—it’s one of the larger departments in our service office—so take these trips with a grain of salt or use them as a jumping off point for where you and your school could eventually travel to, or for projects you could eventually start!

Domestic Trips that get rave reviews—both on the “fun” scale and the impact that the students are able to make—are located all over the country.  Over spring break, 40 students travel to Harlan, Kentucky located in the Appalachian Mountains. While there, the students stay in small log cabin. They not only make friends and memories, but also help to rebuild homes and neighborhoods in the local community. Students participate and work on full-scale construction sites with local carpenters, builders and technicians. The trip is rewarding for the community because they receive outside support and recognition for their hardship, however it is also rewarding for the students as they see how others live in this country, and experience first hand the importance of supporting and giving back.

Students also travel to reservations in Montana to work with and support children and communities. Another large project that students are involved with is an annual Habitat for Humanity trip. The location changes every year, however the students are able to engage in hands on work that benefits a family or community in need.

Other domestic, local projects you can look to get involved with are soup kitchens, local shelters, food banks, thrift stores, city clean ups, charity walks or events, or even rehabilitation centers, community centers, or after school programs. Any help or time you are willing to give is appreciated. Find a cause, or project that means something to you and search for ways to give back.

If you interested in volunteering abroad there other options. Some students take a year off and volunteer to travel the world to different countries, fulfilling different needs as they come along. Other students take trips to the Dominican, or to Central America. These trips require research and most likely, formal arrangements. Don’t let the restrictions deter you, just do your research and look for a program that fits your needs.

Volunteering can be special and rewarding. Not only will you make life-long memories, but also you will find an activity that you can participate in for years to come. The relationships and experience you gain for the simplest of service can change your outlook, and maybe even the time you have left at school!

-Ring Queen