Author: Julia Myers

Study Smarter for Your Next Exam

Now that classes are in full swing, midterm exams and essays are back in town, and have brought their sister Procrastination with them.  If you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely dreading your first round of exams.  Luckily though, I have been doing this whole student thing for quite awhile now, (try 16 years, YIKES!) and have perfected the art of studying.  I’m here to offer you my best studying tips and tricks to make your next exam a little less stressful.

Study Tip 1: Flashcards really do help, especially for those classes that are pure memorization (hello, medical terminology!).  Not only will the process of making your flashcards help you memorize your key terms and facts, but they’re the perfect size to keep in your backpack or purse, so you can whip them out anytime you have a few free minutes.

Study Tip 2:  Make a study schedule.  I LOVE being organized.  I look forward to buying a spiffy new academic planner at the start of each semester, and I did in fact ask for a label maker for my 16th birthday (and was gifted not one, but THREE of them).  Making a study schedule is a sure way to stay organized when preparing for your next exam.  Now, I won’t sit here and tell you that you need to start studying for your exams weeks in advance, because God knows I don’t.  Instead, give yourself five days, and study for about one to two hours each day.  Write down exactly what you plan on doing each day, whether it’s rereading a chapter of your text, or reviewing your flashcards for 45 minutes.  Here’s the hardest part… You actually have to stick to your schedule!

Study Tip 3:  Get out of your house.  I know for me, if I try to sit in my living room and study, I won’t go more than 5 minutes without getting distracted by a riveting conversation with my roommates, or the newest episode of The Real Housewives of NYC.  Grab your books and head to the library or nearest coffee shop, and just get it done.  Try to avoid bringing your laptop, because we all know Facebook will be calling your name the second you open that chemistry book.

Run Your First Race Like a Pro

The thought of running a race can be daunting.  Heck, the thought of walking a race is enough to get my heart racing a million miles a minute!  While I am in fact a perfectly capable runner, the word ‘race’ alone gets me all anxious.

Let’s rewind.  It’s the night before my first half marathon – a half marathon in which I had been training for months – and I’m walking frantically through my house, trying to keep all negative thoughts from invading my mind.  I call my dad, thinking that maybe he can offer some wise advice, being that he’s run a marathon or two in his day.  He tells me, “Kid, it’s just running.  You know how to run.  Suck it up and stop your worrying.”  This doesn’t help.

I get in bed.  I close my eyes.  I open my eyes.  I turn on my left side.  I turn on my right side.  I repeat this until I fall asleep at 5 am.   I wake up at 6am.  I force a piece of toast down my throat.  I pin a paper number to the front of my Nike shirt.  I make it to the starting line.  I make it to the finish line 13.1 miles and exactly 2 hours later, with a smile on my face and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment unlike anything I’ve felt before.

Perhaps some of you have been blessed with the calm, cool, and collected gene, or maybe you’re a Nervous Nancy yourself… Either way, I have developed a full-proof list of tips and tricks to help you succeed on race day.  Whether you’re running a 5K or a marathon, you’re sure to have some extra pep in your step as you cross that finish line!

1. Make a schedule and stick to it.  Have a goal in mind for race day, and make yourself a training schedule based on your goals.  If you’re running a longer race, like a marathon or half marathon, it’s important to continue to increase your weekly mileage over the course of your training period.  About three months before the day of my half marathon, I made a calendar that specified the distance I was going to run each day and hung it on my fridge where I couldn’t miss it.  Don’t forget to include 2-3 rest days each week, stretching, and strength training sessions!  All of these things will help tremendously with you training.

2. Designate a running buddy.  Find a friend who has the same race day goals as you do.  If you’re new to running races, you probably don’t want to train with someone who’s trying to achieve a personal record.  Try to do at least half of your training runs with your buddy.  Come race day, you will know how to pace each other.

3.  Fuel and hydrate.  This may seem obvious, but is absolutely vital.  Put foods in your body that are clean and healthy.  It really is a simple concept that will make a world of difference in your training sessions.  Eat small meals every few hours because a large, heavy meal will just weigh you down on your runs.  While I was training for my half marathon, I ate a lot of bananas, hard boiled eggs, bowls of oatmeal, and whole grain toast with natural peanut butter.  Drink water all day long, and I mean ALL DAY LONG.  Always carry a water bottle with you, and constantly take small sips.

4.  Don’t try anything new on race day.  The worst thing to do come race day, is try running with a new pair of sneakers, or snacking on a protein bar you’ve never had before.  The month leading up to my race, I ate the same breakfast at the same time every morning (wheat toast with peanut butter and half of a banana).  If you know you have to wake up at 7am on the day of your big race, try waking up at that time every day for a week or two leading up to it.  Your body will get in to a routine, and won’t fail you come race day!

 

Invisible Children: It’s personal

Most of you have heard about Invisible Children and their recent viral documentary called KONY 2012… and I’m guessing most of you have an opinion about the organization, be it negative or positive.  Or maybe, you’ve never heard about the organization before in your life.  Regardless, I can tell you that very few of you understand the incredible task that this organization has taken on, and the progress they have made the past 7 years in ending Africa’s longest running war and putting an end to the gross atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The Lord’s Resistance Army is a Ugandan rebel group lead by a gruesome man named Joseph Kony.  What started as a movement to end oppression in Northern Uganda, has turned into absolute chaos and destruction, thanks to the LRA’s brutal tactics.  The rebel group is known for abducting small children from their homes, and rapping, killing, and forcing them to fight in their army.  This has been going on for over 25 years, and Kony and his army have managed to abduct over 30,000 African children.

The founders of Invisible children traveled to Uganda in 2004, and after learning about the brutal war, made a decision to work towards putting an end to it.  What started out as a homemade video, documenting the things they witnessed and the people they met while in Uganda, has turned into one of the world’s most accomplished and recognized non-profits, complete with hundreds of young people who have dedicated their lives to stopping Joseph Kony and finally putting an end to his brutalities.

Here’s where it gets personal for me.  My sister is actually one of them.  My sister spent the last two years of her live working furiously for this cause that she is so incredibly passionate about.  She’s spent months at a time, literally living in a 5-passenger neon van, traveling around the country to spread awareness and support of the issue.  She’s spoken to tens of thousands of students, explaining why this man must be stopped now.  Have I mentioned that she volunteered to do this, regardless of the fact that she wasn’t getting paid for it?

She was joined by hundreds of other dedicated interns, equally as passionate about giving a voice to the thousands of  ’invisible children’ abducted and abused by Joseph Kony and his rebel army.  I have had the privilege of hosting dozens of these interns, or ‘roadies’, in my small apartment here at school.  I’ve literally seen their blood, sweat, and tears, and am repeatedly amazed by their ability to inspire and motivate young people every single day to make a difference in ending this massacre.  They wake up everyday, oftentimes running on only four hours of sleep and a cup of mediocre instant coffee, put a smile on their face, and fervently advocate for this cause.

Not only have I met the blood and bones of Invisible Children, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet a handful of the Ugandan men and women affected directly by the LRA.  I’ve heard their heartbreaking stories, seen their scars, and felt their hurt and pain caused by this war.  Kilara Bazilo, a close friend of my sister’s, told me about a time the LRA came to his school when he was a young boy.  They killed his teacher as he and his classmates watched.  They proceeded to abduct the young girls as sex slaves.  The boys in his class where abducted and turned into child soldiers, who were then ordered to return to their village and kill their families.

It absolutely saddens me to hear ignorant people criticize the efforts and accomplishments of Invisible Children, based solely off of a single blog post written by an uneducated, hateful person, or a TMZ report that is infamously known for having no journalistic integrity whatsoever.  While part of me is tempted to angrily rant on and on about those un-informed, heartless individuals, I choose to focus instead on the millions of people who have stood beside Invisible Children, and have been absolutely instrumental in helping to stop Joseph Kony once and for all.

If nothing else, I ask that you visit invisblechildren.com and educate yourself about the suffering occurring in Uganda as I type these heartfelt words.  Not only that, but be inspired to do something about it, and learn how you can bring Invisible Children to your school this semester.

Photo: My sister (fourth from the right) with some of her Invisible Children family.

Date Night on a Dime

I will try to avoid making this post as cheesy as the title sounds.  I won’t suggest that you watch The Notebook (although it is a great movie) curled up under a blanket with your honey, a mug of steaming hot cocoa in hand and a cozy fire in the fireplace… Not saying that doesn’t sound wonderful, but I’m here to give you some fun date ideas for you and yours to try this fall season!

My boyfriend and I are guilty of getting caught up in our routines.  I’m in class all day, and he’s busy at work, and then 6pm rolls around and we’re both exhausted, starving, sometimes smelly, and wanting to do nothing but lie on the couch watching House Hunters International, with a Hawaiian pizza on its way.  And usually, this is exactly what we do.  But there’s something about the changing of the leaves, and the cooler temperatures beginning to creep in, that gets me excited to change it up a little, and try some new things!  Here’s a list of my top 3 favorite fall dates… on a dime, of course.

1. Fall Festivals.  There are TONS of fall festivals coming up in cities all around the country.  Oktoberfest is an annual festival here in Lexington, Kentucky and is sure to be a good time with tons of live music, tasty fare, and pumpkin beer!  These events are usually free to the public, so bring a few bucks for some treats, throw on those brown boots, and enjoy the night with your sweetheart!  Check out funtober.com to find the nearest festival.

2. Pumpkin Carving.  Childish?  NO!  Awesome?  YES!  There’s something about the idea of pumpkin carving that just gets me giddy.  Maybe it’s those sweet childhood memories that I’m eager to relive, but come October, I will jump at any chance to make a trip to the pumpkin patch.  You see, pumpkin carving to me is a win-win-win.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  A) Actually going to the pumpkin patch is half the fun, especially when you have your special someone with you.  It’s a blast seeing who can pick the biggest/best/goofiest pumpkin.  A little country store with hot apple cider is a major bonus! B) The pumpkin carving itself! Stick with the classic jack-o-lantern, or try something totally wacky.  For a good laugh, try carving pumpkins of each other.  Visit extremepumpkins.com to get those creative juices flowing!  C) You can roast and snack on the pumpkin seeds!  Rinse the seeds to get rid of the pulp, toss them on a cookie sheet sprinkled with some olive oil and salt, and pop them in the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, and enjoy!

3. Haunted Houses.  Skip the dinner and scary movie date, and try a haunted house instead.  They are actually incredibly thrilling and terrifying at the same time, and are sure to create some funny stories by the end of it!  Check out hauntedhouse.com to find the best ones near you!  Grab your date’s hand, and enter if you dare!

4 Paws for Ability

How is it that raising a puppy can be incredibly rewarding and unbelievably frustrating all at the same time?  Last semester, I was able to “foster” a 4-month old Yellow Labrador named Abba, through a program called 4 Paws for Ability.  The non-profit organization trains service dogs for children with disabilities.

A woman named Karen Shirk founded the organization in 1998, when she found it near impossible to obtain a service dog for herself.  She created 4 Paws for Ability with intentions of providing children with a companion, regardless of his or her disability.  These dogs are trained to provide service to children with autism, diabetes, and seizure disorders.

Before these amazing puppies go through their training program, they’re placed with a student (like myself) or a family, for a few months.  My job as a “foster parent” was to socialize Abba by taking her with me to class, the grocery store, and restaurants..  In order for her to be a service dog, she had to be comfortable in crowded places, riding in cars, riding elevators, etc.

I’ll never forget the first time I took Abba to class with me.  Just the walk there was a challenge.  Every other person we passed wanted to pet Abba.  Boy did she love the attention, proudly prancing around campus clad in her adorable red service dog vest — her 4 Paws for Ability patch front and center.

Once we arrived at my classroom, we made our way to my seat and I quickly got Abba situated under my chair.  She was surprisingly well behaved throughout the first half of class, but about 30 minutes into it I heard a rustling sound behind me.  I turned around to find Abba’s face buried in a student’s backpack, fishing through her brown bag lunch.  By that time, the entire class had realized what was happening, and looked over just in time to see Abba’s face emerge from the backpack with an entire turkey sandwich in her mouth.

I never had a dull moment with Abba, and despite those crazy puppy things she did, my time with her was nothing short of wonderful.  The evening before we had to say our goodbyes, I broke every rule in the book.  After feeding her quite the feast of hot dogs and cheddar cheese, I let her sleep in my bed with me and cried until I fell asleep.  She created so many special memories for me that I will hold dear for years to come.

Just last weekend, I got to see Abba again for the first time in almost four months.  I was so proud when I got the news that she passed her training program.  She was an official certified service dog!  My roommate and I drove 3 hours to Xenia, Ohio (where 4 Paws is headquartered) to see her graduate.

It was such a rewarding experience to meet the family that she was placed with.  The little girl whom Abba will be a companion to is named Ruby.  Ruby has the most beautiful head of curly blonde hair, with bright blue eyes that absolutely light up the room.  Her parents were genuinely excited to meet me and were so appreciative that I took the time to foster their new family member, Abba.  Seeing what an impact Abba will have on this young girl’s life made saying my final goodbye so much easier.  As much joy as she brought to my life for those four short months, I know she will bring Ruby and her sweet family a lifetime of joy and special memories.

To learn how you can get involved with 4 Paws for Ability on your campus, visit www.4pawsforability.org!

 

 

 

It’s Football Season: Game Day Style

As much as I ADORE the summertime, and everything that comes with it, I always find myself craving cooler weather come September.  After months of hot and humid days, spending endless hours at the pool or lake, and late summer nights filled with friends and fun, relaxing fall afternoons complete with a mug of hot peppermint tea and a warm fleece blanket seem so appealing.

The Fall season means cozy scarves, pumpkin muffins, and of course, football season!  Although I will admit, basketball is my sport of choice, there’s something about a crisp Saturday afternoon of tailgating and cheering on your team that’s hard to beat.  Be comfy and cute at your next tailgate with these fall fashion trends.

1. Chunky sweaters.  Oversized knit sweaters are certainly a fall wardrobe staple, but instead of spending Friday’s paycheck on a new one, try raiding your boyfriend’s closet.  Bonus points if he has one in your team’s colors!  Roll up the sleeves, and add a neutral belt to give it more shape.  Pair with skinny jeans and your favorite boots, and you have yourself an effortlessly chic tailgating outfit!

2.  Scarves, scarves, scarves.  They’re easily my favorite fall fashion and go-to accessories on game days.  When the weather gets cold, the last thing I want to wear to a nighttime football game is a leg-barring dress or skirt.  Instead, I dress in dark jeans and warm layers, but add a bright blue scarf for a pop of my team’s color.  Change it up by tying your scarf in a braid or cute knot.  Visit tiemyscarf.com for dozens of tutorials on how to tie yours!

3.  Boot socks.  I think we can all agree that a great pair of brown or black leather boots can complete any fall look.  My fall class uniform consists of black leggings, warm sweatshirts, and my favorite brown riding boots.  This season, I’m excited to add some fun tall socks with my boots, to add a little interest to my look.  Find a pair with your team logo on it and be the cutest girl in the stadium!

The Travel Bug: Tips and Tricks for Saving Money Abroad

Lately, I have had the absolute worst case of wanderlust.  Instead of directing my energy towards my senior portfolio like a good little journalism student should, I’m daydreaming about sipping café con leche in Madrid, and sailing the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean in a fabulous white boat.  The travel bug has taken over, and I think it’s here to stay.  That is, until I can afford a one-way ticket to Europe.

Ever since I took my first trip abroad at the age of ten, I have always had a longing to see what that great big world has to offer.  Europe was first, and in the years to follow, I found myself in Asia and Africa, each trip making me more and more eager to travel.  My desire is now at an all time high, but unfortunately, my savings account is at an all time low.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you too have little money, due to something I like to call the poor college kid syndrome.  Luckily, traveling doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, if you do it right.  Consider these money saving tips next time the travel bug comes over you.

1.  Rethink your strategy.  It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a glamorous vacation.  You know, that first class ticket to Paris, expensive hotel suite with a million dollar view of the sparkly Eiffel Tower, and a nightly dinner of caviar and champagne delivered to your room by a handsome Frenchman dressed in a Louis Vuitton tuxedo.  Well I got news for you sister: Your budget won’t even get you past security if this is what you’re expecting!  Remember, you’re there to explore a new culture, not to see how many designer botiques you can visit in a week.  Change your expectations and stay open-minded, and you’ll find an endless number of affordable options!

2.  Try Couch Surfing.  Yes, this really does exist and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Pick a country, or five, and browse thousands of profiles of friendly people eager to host you for FREE in their home.  I know it sounds sketchy, but millions have done it in over 193,000 cities around the world.  The best part?  Instead of paying big bucks to stay in a stuffy hotel, you get to learn all about the cultural and area attractions from a friendly local, and you can spend your money on delicious eats instead! Visit couchsurfing.org to learn all about it!

3.   Booking your flight.  You can never be too prepared when it comes to traveling.  As soon as you start considering a trip abroad, begin checking airlines for flight prices.  Websites like cheapflights.com lets you compare several different airlines to find the best rate.  Look for reservations months in advance, and continue checking back every few days.  As soon as you see a drop in the price, snag that seat.  It’s common for travelers to wait for prices to drop dramatically, and then end up missing out on great deal.  As long as you check those prices regularly, you’ll recognize a price decrease when you see it!

Bon Voyage you world travelers!