Why You Should Spend a Summer in your College Town

If you're not excited for the school year to start up in August, you either picked the wrong school... or you're already living in your college town. Most students can't wait to pack up and move back to the city they go to school in. This summer, after my trip to New Zealand, I moved straight down to Springfield. I've been working two jobs on campus, cooking for myself, and beginning to actually be responsible for myself. Let me tell you, this has not been easy, but I'm glad I did it.

Here's some reasons why you should spend (at least) one summer in your college town:

You'll have time to become responsible - Instead of moving into your apartment or house in August and not having time to settle in, you have two or three extra months to become accustomed to your living space. I'm working M-F and settled into a routine quickly, with enough free time to relax and have fun.

Your friends will be a lot closer - Most likely, you won't be the only one staying near campus in the summer. When I'm at home, most of my friends are almost 30 minutes away. However, since my college town is a lot smaller, most of my friends are now less than 10 minutes down the road.

Keep working the same job - Instead of going home to work odd shifts in retail during the summer, I found a job in May that I could start when I moved down here and continue through the school year. I'm also working a second job for the summer.

Do all the things you don't have time for during the semester - Explore your college town, and do it while it's not as crowded as normal. In the month that I've been here, I've been to new places that I always wanted to visit and never had time for during classes. Look out for a part two of this blog post soon!

Summer classes - If you need to take a class or two over the summer, it's much more convenient to take them at your own university. It might cost a little more than a community college, but you won't have to worry about transferring them. They're also typically a little easier than they would be in the fall or spring.

I've now spent one summer in my hometown and one in my college town, and I'll most likely be spending next summer in my college town too. How are you spending your summer? Leave a comment and let me know!

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8 Habits for Better Grades

I'll be honest with you, I'm not the poster child for amazing grades in college. In my four semesters, some have been better than others. There's definitely a few small things you can do to improve your grades and hopefully get you on the Dean's List! I promise they aren't difficult habits to develop, you just have to be consistent.

Choose your Seat Wisely
Set yourself up for success on the first day by choosing a seat near the front and center. Not only will you be able to see and hear better, but you'll probably pay more attention when you know the lecturer can see you as well. It's not a bad idea to sit with friends if you have them in your class. I always do, and typically don't have time to talk to them during the lecture but you can ask each other clarification questions and check their notes if you miss something.

Familiarize Yourself with Material
Before class, check the syllabus and read over the concepts that will be covered in the following lecture. I like to keep a copy of each syllabus in the pocket folder at the beginning of each notebook or in a folder on my laptop. This way, you can reference it quickly and easily and check dates.

Pay Attention
Whether you're taking notes on a laptop or in a notebook, it's obviously important that you're actually taking notes. It's way too easy to open another window and browse Facebook, Twitter, or check on things for other classes. If it's too big of a distraction, keep your laptop on airplane mode. Make sure your phone is on silent or vibrate, and in your bag. Do the same thing when you are studying, and take short breaks so you stay focused.

You don't have to physically sit there with a highlighter and make everything bright yellow, but make headings, vocab words, and key concepts stand out. There's plenty of ways to make text stand out. Write a little bigger, bolder, or add an underline. If it suits you, use an organized system for your notes to make studying easier.

Review Notes
Within 24 hours, go over your notes. Some people like to rewrite their notes after a lecture but I could never find time for that. However, I do like to make study guides for each chapter that I can reuse before the final and other exams. You can also make flashcards with vocabulary and big ideas. 

Attend Office Hours
If there's one thing that makes it likely for a professor to boost your grade, it's recognizing your face and name. Stop by and visit your professor to look over tests or ask questions. Get to know them! You never know when you'll need a letter of recommendation or a reference. Usually, your professors want you to do well just as much as you want to do well. Make an effort and they will do the same.

Manage Time
Use your agenda or the calendar on your laptop to plan out your week. I like to write everything down. Balance between activities and academics is so important if you want to be successful in college. If you know you're going to have a busy week, dedicate some of the weekend to getting ahead on studying.

Only one single thing can mess up all your hard work and progress on it's own. Not getting enough sleep will ruin you. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. If you don't get a full night of sleep, you won't be able to pay attention in class and stay up to study. I know that's tough in college, but if you're consistently staying up late budget time for naps. 

I know it seems early to be thinking about classes already, but my university's Welcome Weekend is in 6 short weeks. I'm excited to head back but I'm also a little hesitant to admit that I'm a junior now. It's so crazy how fast my college years are going by. I'm really looking forward to this year, now that I've changed my major to Public Relations. What are you most looking forward to this upcoming school year? Leave a comment and let me know!

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How to "Do It All" In College (+ free iPhone wallpaper!)

In my spring semester, I became a pretty busy person. I was serving on executive councils for multiple organizations, coaching Girls on the Run, searching for an apartment/house, making summer travel plans, blogging, interviewing for jobs and taking 12 credit hours (should have been 15, but I changed my major and dropped a statistics class). My calendar was so full that I started blocking out time for lunch with friends and taking naps, or those things weren't going to happen. I've talked about time management in several blog posts but how do you actually balance all the things that college entails?

Start with the right planner for you. I use a combination of my laptop's calendar and a Lilly Pulitzer agenda. The outlook calendar is good for seeing each day and week at a glance. Below is an example of a week that was particularly packed full of commitments. During Greek Week, I also had three tests, a huge project due, an interview and a campus event to help run. As you can see, I use different colors to separate classes from organizations. Looking at my week this way helps me to see the free time that I do have and I'm able to figure out how to use it productively. 

There's one week in every semester that feels like it's going to destroy you. All your professors schedule an exam or a project to be due, and your organizations need you on two sides of campus at the same time. I use my agenda in class and at meetings to record dates as soon as I find out about them so I know ahead of time when I'm going to be busy and I don't overbook myself. Become accustomed to the idea that you might leave your apartment or dorm at 8am and not come back until after dinner time.

Know when to say yes and when to say no. You can be heavily involved in organizations and do well in class but you can't actually do it all. Minimize your stress by setting priorities and choosing which opportunities to actually go for. It's okay to say "no" to things that don't fit in your schedule. At some point, you have to. I got to a point last semester where I wouldn't promise to hang out with a friend until two days before in case something came up and I starting feeling awful about it. Your social life is, honestly, just as important as other aspects of college. If you don't leave yourself time to de-stress and maintain relationships, you'll fall apart.

Join organizations that you are passionate about. If you're running around and dedicating time to things that you don't actually care about, it becomes exhausting. There were certainly days when I thought I would rather take a longer nap than go to Girls on the Run practice, but I always went. Talking about things like confidence, emotions and healthy relationships with a group of 8-11 year olds was incredibly eye-opening. Going to these practices was one of the most rewarding parts of my week, so it was always worth being there. One of my favorite quotes is "do it with passion, or not at all" so keep that in mind.

The best way to remember something is to see it constantly, and you look at your phone about a million times a day. So, I made these iPhone wallpapers for you! Click on the image to go through to the full sized version for download.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx4qkM1DtntxU1ktSFR4WVpuTE0/view?usp=sharing     https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bx4qkM1DtntxQ295X0owM2VqVDg/view?usp=sharing

I hope this blog post was helpful in some capacity! Leave a comment and let me know how you stay balanced and motivated! 

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Mount Cook, New Zealand

Can you believe this scenery? I think I'm still in awe. The last leg of my trip to New Zealand was in Twizel, where my uncle and his family live. They are about half an hour away from Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand at about 12,000 feet. Mount Cook is one peak in the Southern Alps. It sits in a national park that also includes valleys and glaciers. 

We walked up to the Tasman Glacier (pictured right before the first helicopter photo!), which was supposed to be a "20 minute walk." This walk is completely uphill and includes a lot of stairs. I'd say it actually took us 30 minutes to hike to the top and 10 minutes to come back down. If you're looking for more information about the Aoraki/Mount Cook national park, click here. My uncle works for The Helicopter Line at Mount Cook. He was able to be our pilot when we flew up near the Zodiac Glacier for the photo op of a lifetime. It was -6 degrees Celcius, or about 21 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the snow was up to my knees.  All the flight information can be found here!

After New Zealand, we spent a few short days in Australia. Check out my instagram for a few photos, but there won't be a blog post since I spent as much time as possible with family and friends. ALSO, by the time you're reading this, I'll be back in Missouri and moving into my first off-campus house. I can't wait to show you how I decorate my room, so be on the lookout for that blog post!

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Queenstown, New Zealand


The next stop on our New Zealand adventure was Queenstown. You might recognize some of the scenery from such films as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which New Zealand is well known for. All my life, when people learn that I'm from New Zealand, they ask about how pretty it is. Since I was only six years old when I moved to the United States, I hadn't seen all that much of the country to remember it until this trip. So now at least I know what people are talking about. Queenstown is an extremely popular tourist destination and is home to plenty of activities. On our first day, right after we flew in, we took the gondola up to the luge and checked out the view.

The second day, rain was in the forecast, but that didn't stop us from a little thrill-seeking. The plan was to drive out to Kawarau Bridge for the zip ride, similar to a zip line. When we reserved our time and paid online, we paid for five individuals. However, when we arrived, we found out there was a 5-pack deal that saved some money. This left us with a $100 credit for more rides or the store. After some deliberation, I decided to take this opportunity to bungee jump. What better place to bungee jump than the first place to commercialize bungee jumping? I tried not to think about it too much as I got strapped in and ready to jump. Standing on the edge was just a little terrifying and before I knew it, the instructor was counting down. I said "oh shit, no" and didn't jump the first time. He asked why I was still there and told me not to look down. The second time he counted down, I looked straight out and leaned forward. Before I knew it, the free fall was over and I was bouncing around above the river. Two guys come out in a raft tied to the dock and lower you down. Honestly, the climb back up the hill was the worst part of the whole ordeal.

We spent only two short days in Queenstown before it was time to head on to our next adventure. My uncle and his family live in Twizel, which is near the base of Mount Cook. We're spending a few days there before it's off to Australia! If you missed any of my other blog posts about New Zealand, check them out here.

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