Tips on Caffeine Consumption

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As college students, most of us drink caffeine at least once a day in the form of tea or coffee. Most people drink coffee to stay awake in their classes, to stay awake while studying late, or to simply stay awake. I personally love drinking both tea and coffee, although I try to be mindful of the amount of each that I drink. While tea and coffee have various benefits for one’s health, it is important to keep in mind that both tea and coffee should be consumed in moderation. Too much coffee can disturb the sleep cycle which directly correlates to increased depressive symptoms, increased inability to focus, and impaired learning. I believe that all of these outcomes are detrimental to learning and definitely make the college experience feel much worse than it should be. So here are tips and routine habits that I adhere to when I drink tea or coffee.

  1. Try to drink only 1 cup of coffee a day or none at all: I know that as college students we need 48 hours in a day to get all our homework, work shifts and classes. And even 48 hours isn’t even enough time. Even though caffeine is a great way to stay awake to finish all the homework and studying, your body will eventually build up tolerance against caffeine. So if you need to study late one night but drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day, you can’t rely on that cup of coffee since your body already built up a high tolerance. So drink less coffee to keep your caffeine levels low.

  2. Drink a cup of green tea a day: green tea has so many health benefits for you. First of all, it has caffeine in it so if you drink it in the morning, it will definitely wake you up. In addition, green tea is known for increasing your metabolism which can help combat the Freshmen 15. Plus, there are virtually no calories in green tea which makes it the healthier option

  3. Get enough sleep: rather than drink coffee, it is healthier and more effective to get enough sleep. You will be more focused, feel happier, and learn more efficiently. In addition, a person can only drink so much coffee before they collapse. It is important to take care of your body and give it the rest that it deserves.

  4. Add little to no sugar: many coffee stores tend to add refined or artificial sugar to their coffee. However refined sugar is not healthy to the human body. They are full of empty calories and they do not add any nutritional benefits. If you want to add a little bit of sweetness, consider adding some cinnamon.

  5. Drink coffee black: coffee itself does not have many calories. Most of the calories comes from the added milk and sugar. If you can not stand black coffee, try using milk alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk. Most Starbucks across the country have these alternatives, so it is worth trying.

Those are all the tips that I have. I just want to make a disclaimer that I do drink coffee and tea, and I definitely use both of them to stay up late to study. However, I put emphasis on good sleeping habits and taking care of my body. Even though I drink coffee on a daily, I try to drink very little such that one cup of coffee can last me 2-3 days.

So happy coffee drinking and good luck on any remaining exams!

Photo credits: http://www.yourbroadwaygenius.com/get-coffee-theatre-district/

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Ways to Really Enjoy the Fall Before it Falls

As the fall semester draws to a close, and as finals approach, I thought I would compile a list of things to do to really make the most out of the fall season, my personal favorite. It is that period when outside is not too cold and not too hot. The days can go from feeling like summer to below freezing in the Arctic, and having that contrasting atmosphere just makes me feel more connected to the world around, since everyone dresses warmly and spends more time with friends and family. It is a transitional period of introspective reflection, of tranquility and serenity, building one’s sense of self one leaf at a time, looking into a transitional future that will give birth to a new period of growth, until it is time to catch one’s breath, shed old inhibitions, and continue the progress of growth for the next available round, bigger and brighter, blossoming like violet spring.

All profundity aside, here are some of the things I managed to do during some of the best fall seasons, and what can also be done for the pre-med students to not neglect their crazy workload (I’m also talking to me here).

  1. Watch a movie

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As cliche as it sounds, watching a movie actually has shown to reduce stress and improve one’s mental capabilities of handling uncomfortable situations. The mind can only handle a certain load of tension before it starts to take a toll on the health of the individual, and so transitioning temporarily into a different world of various characters may actually help unwind the loops the mind has made with all the information that it collects in a short period of time. So, next time you’re stressed for an exam, as long as it’s not the night before, don’t be afraid to take a few hours to watch that comedy you’ve always wanted to see, or see how the affair between those two characters is resolved in the sequel. The fall weather, when it gets too cold outside, offers the best time to plop down and escape into a virtual reality, especially when it gets dark a lot sooner. A word of advice: stick to comedies and dramas if you can, since if you watch horror movies when stressed it can lead to more stress, and possibly to jump scares at the slightest unfamiliar thing in your room afterwards.

2. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea)

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Personally, I’m a tea guy. I have it everyday in the morning, and in the evening when I come back, but the most enjoyable time to sip a cup is none other than that of the colorful descending lateral appendages of the tree branches. It just soothes and relaxes on those freezing Arctic days, and it really calms your mind down when you’re forced to study at such a beautiful time. The caffeine, when not taken based on psychological dependence and the spurious belief of improving performance when drinking in large amounts, actually can stimulate the nerves and generation of synaptic connections, improving focus and keeping one occupied with the important task at hand. The stress of exams can make one overlook the benefits and natural beauty of the surroundings, but to be honest, that beauty is accentuated when those times are limited. In other words, this particular break had made me enjoy the fall weather even more because it was a short break, and so I would not take such a season for granted otherwise. A cup of coffee, or tea, can do wonders for one who aims to retain his focus or simply enjoy the natural collapse of the previous season. However, be careful that one of the leaves does not accidentally fall into your cup!

3. Enjoy time with friends (and Friends)

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The theme song has started to buzz into my head now (So no one told you life was gonna be this way…).

Watching Friends on Netflix, while enjoyable, is not exactly what I meant. Instead, go to your friends house and enjoy what people call a Friendsgiving. If any of your friends cook, great (if the food is good), or their parents can do it for you. Or, you could try your hand at it yourself. There are some basic recipes that are not too hard to follow, even if you don’t even know the first step of cooking, which is getting all the utensils together. I have helped prepare penne vodka, roast turkey, and cornbread stuffing as part of the feast at my closest friend’s house. Eating it was the easy part, but coordinating with the family and getting all the guests to come over, I understand, can be quite a daunting task. The number one concern: what to do with all the food. Personally, that was never a problem for me, the “vacuum” who can suck up all the leftovers in an instant. The best part is, after eating, you all can relax and play some card games like Cards Against Humanity, That’s What She Said, among others. If you think that’s too much effort, go back to Tip #2. It applies well for a group just as much as individuals! For those crazy pre-med majors, a time with friends is exactly what you need to keep yourself sane. If there is any time you don’t have to memorize the Nucleophilic Substitution reactions, or the distinction between Photosystem I and II, please take advantage of it as much as you can!

If there are any other fun, cool party games that you play at Thanksgiving feasts, as long as they don’t involve too much memorization, please don’t stop the fun!

4. Study for MCATs (for prospective medical students mainly)

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Yes, unfortunately, it’s true. Sorry to end on a less fun note, but the breaks are the best times for those of you who have struggled to keep up with the intense load of material while struggling to maintain your GPA during the semester. It really gives you time to at least formulate a solid plan for when you think you want to take it, if you haven’t already done so, as well as which areas you think you need extra practice and/or tutoring for. I am taking mine in the Spring the week after Spring Break, since that will be the best time to gather up any last minute gaps and address them through review, and most importantly, not through study. By then, I should already have seen all the material at least once and have practiced most of it enough times to be confident when encountering it on the exam. This Thanksgiving break, honestly, I have only had time to go over part of the Psychology section, and I was planning on going to the hard science sections now and focus on those for the remainder of the few months I have left, considering they are the bulk of the exam. It is not too late for those of you who haven’t started preparing or planning yet, but doing so as soon as possible will allow you to go in with more certainty when you’re actually ready. Do not simply focus on the MCAT. Instead, focus on where you’re headed with it. What school are you aiming for? What do you hope to get out of studying? How badly do you want to go to med school? Are you ready for this application cycle based on your current position?

As a member of the Eboard for the Alpha Epsilon Delta Prehealth honor society, I can find ways to help any of you get in touch with the Health Professions Office and seek directed advice, as well as for myself. It is better to take a step back and analyze your situation now. Be objective. Do not blindfire with no clear goal in mind. You will do better if you plan. I know it sounds cliche, but when you are stressed, it can be easy to forget to brush your own teeth, let alone follow advice that could benefit you (quoting my earlier post “Pre-Med: The Fair Side”).

Use the time of the breaks, and the beautifully introspective fall season to really propel yourself forward with your future plans for medical school, or your future career in general. At the very least, use it to at least get you started on the right path towards your goal, and leave yourself time to enjoy. But you will enjoy more, if you have a clearer plan in mind, which you can of course modify along the way.

To keep yourself from burning out, follow tips 1-3 closely. Enjoy the rest of the Fall season, and remember: stick to comedies and drama, not horror (you might already be suffering enough of that).

 

How to Study…

Hey everyone! I hope you all had a stuffed Thankgiving. Get it? I am so lame. Anyways, this week I thought I would share with you some of my study tips and methods because, sadly, finals are only a few weeks away! Now, I am aware that not everyone (ahem, me) starts studying for finals until well, a few days before (or the night of). Whenever you study and whatever you study, here are some things I find are helpful to do to ace an exam.

  1. Flashcards

Now before you roll your eyes and say “been there, done that”, hear me out. The key to using flashcards to study is not have a million to flip through when you’re already on the verge of a mental breakdown from studying for twenty hours. I found that it was quite useful to only limit yourself to making a set amount of flashcards; only make flashcards for things you know you will forget. For example, make flashcards for key facts that are pure memorization. This could be pKa values (oh, Orgo), important dates, essential amino acids, enzymes, etc… Also to further minimize the number of flashcards, group terms together. For instance if all the amino acids are non polar, then try to put as many as you can on one card. Try not to write paragraphs or even sentences on flashcards. It also helps if you spend time really categorizing the flashcards so when you nearing the end of your studying (it never really ends), you can go over only the ones you still haven’t memorized by heart. Oh, and when I am saying flashcards, I mean classic WHITE index cards (not the hard-to-see dark colored ones or online Quizlet)!

2. Rewrite notes

I am sure you have heard many professors bring up the point that writing notes with a pen (or pencil) will ingrain the information better in your head. I cannot stress to you how much this is true! Try to take time to just rewrite notes and you will see that half the material is already going in your brain as you write.

3. Colorful pens and white paper

Believe it or not when you make notes in specific colors, and you go over them multiple times, on exam day, you may be able to recall a piece of information because it was in a specific color! No joke! An important thing to remember is not to go crazy when it comes to the colors. Please don’t use ten colors. I personally like using dark colors such as black or blue to write out my main notes. Then, I have a bright red to box, underline or write VERY IMPORTANT information such as key terms or concepts. You might want to use this color to highlight those hints that your professors drop in class about what “might” be on the upcoming exams. I also find it more fun to take notes on a white paper because you have so much more room and you can write however you want! It’s like your study canvas (again, lame I know).

4. Use images or animation videos

In many of my science classes, we talk about complex processes such as protein translation or aldol condensation. When there are a million steps involved, I often find it very helpful to just Google animations or even just images to simplify things. Reading the textbook (who does?) is sometimes harder because I personally find it more difficult to grasp complex processes by mere paragraphs and paragraphs explicating each step. Instead, scan and print out key images from the book or search them online!

5. Talk out loud

This may sound crazy and may be a bit harder to do when other people are around. However, this is also another way I found really helped me get the material in my head. Hearing yourself say the words out loud can further encode the information in your long-term memory (fancy terms but so true). See if you can find a room at the library or find an empty classroom to just……talk to yourself. Become your own study buddy.

6. Put your phone away

Now, I may sound like an annoying parent, but trust me, I get distracted by my phone a lot. It is not even that I am messaging people, but come on, who can resist taking a twenty minute break every five minutes to go on Instagram or play around with the Snapchat dog filter. Turn your Wifi off (and no cellular data!) and just keep your phone out of sight. You can only touch your phone to check the time….occasionally!

7. Don’t study on your bed!

As comfy as your bed may seem, it is not good a place for studying. Try to sit upright on a desk or at a table. Also, make sure you are in a well-lit place  because dim places may even make you a bit drowsy. Temperature is important too. You can’t study if you’re too cold or too hot, so try to study in an area with the right temperature. In addition, I try not to study in my pajamas. Even if I am studying in my room, I try (most of the times) to wear track pants. Be comfortable enough to study but not enough to fall asleep! It also helps if you don’t eat too many carbs or eat so much food that you go into food coma right before studying!

I hope these tips help some of you! Let me know if you have any tips of your own! Happy studying! Good luck on upcoming exams! You’ll do fantastic!

🎶 Everybody Dance Now 🎶

As I mentioned in my previous post about insects, I made it a goal at the beginning of the semester to challenge myself and step outside of my comfort zone.

So, in addition to taking World of Insects (a class I highly recommend), I decided to join an equal-opportunity non-audition dance group at Rutgers. Because despite the fact that I am highly uncoordinated and have no previous dance experience, why not?

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I have always admired people who dance. Watching people perform, whether at Rutgers or in shows like World of Dance, So You Think You Dance, and Dancing With the Stars, I marvel at their commitment and discipline to master this art form, and at their willingness to be so vulnerable on stage.

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Coordination is hard.

Being vulnerable was one concept I had to get used to when I started learning choreography, and something I still have to work on. While dance is becoming more familiar to me, the first couple of practices were extra tough since I had never tried to express myself through movement.

Yes, I played flute for seven years, and spent four years in my high school marching band combining drill with music, facing the (small, but existing) risk of crashing into a tuba, but this, this was totally new territory.

Here, there was no flute to hide behind. Here, there was no orderly marching. Here, this was just me, myself, and I, trying to consciously control my body to not only express myself, but also the emotions of the piece. 😱

And so, from the beginning, it was terrifying. I remember one particularly difficult practice, where I was completely lost. While everyone else was moving to the beat of the music and generally remembering what to do, I just stood there dazed and frozen, sticking out like a sore thumb in my bright red Honors Program (🎉🎉🎉) T-shirt, unsure of what was happening and what to do. Fun fact: the last time I remember being that confused about anything was sixth grade algebra. And I’m only going to briefly mention the freestyling practice fiasco, in which I was so uncomfortable I probably managed to impersonate a statue.

However, when everything was difficult to do and difficult to remember, the support and encouragement from the good-natured people around me (shout-out to my apartment-mate! ❤️) made all the difference.

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In the past few months, I often thought about this Kurt Vonnegut quote:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories”.

I might not know much, but I did know I wanted to make my soul grow. This, combined with my goal to step outside of my comfort zone before I graduated, led me down a path that I slowly but surely grew more comfortable with.

One thing I noticed from everyone else was how they danced with an energy and confidence that came from within. As I grew more confident, I stopped going through the motions and started putting more energy into my moves. As corny as it sounds, I started believing in myself.

Now looking back, I can see how much I’ve grown, from not knowing any choreography in September to performing for the first time a week ago, as well as how much I can improve on. Making the decision to commit to the team not only helped me learn more about myself and about dance but also introduced me to great people along the way 💕.

Ultimately, I want to encourage all you readers to step outside your comfort zones, and pursue whatever it is you’ve secretly wanted to master, whether it’s choir, dance, volleyball, journalism, horse-back riding, robotics, or creative writing. Yes, it might be intimidating, and yes it might be anxiety-inducing, but it also just might be worth it.

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3 Ways to be Creative

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Helllooooo folks! As we come back (to reality) from our Thanksgiving break, we may be at that point in the semester (or we were already there since Week 1?) when our brains have had enough. Need some me-time? Well, how about you relax and rejuvenate by engaging in fun, creative activities (and give Netflix a rest, maybe)? After all, November is International Creative Child and Adult Month! So here, you’ll find 3 cool ways to be CREATIVE! 

1: WRITE!!!

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As a Creative Writing minor and just someone who loves writing in general, I guess I’m just a little biased in suggesting that y’all should write if you’d like to be more creative. I’m talking about poems, creative essays (NOT Expos haha), short stories, flash fiction, fan-fiction. Maybe even venture into the realm of writing a NOVEL! It’s definitely not easy to write–or to be creative, to be honest. But I think as soon as you forget what others might think about your writing–the whole judgment thing–writing becomes easier. Journalling helps, too, for expressing your thoughts and feelings. Overall, writing is a cathartic activity that can undoubtedly help you cope with the stress that comes with college–or life!

2: Color!

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Stress-relieving coloring books are quite popular nowadays. Apart from having intricate and eye-catching templates, they also help you hyperfocus on the activity of coloring, allowing your brain and you some breathing space. This type of activity helps you enter a relaxed state of mind and asks you to creatively decorate a picture that is half-done. You’re the other half that completes it, which is something that tells your brain: “This is worthwhile!” Coloring in these books can hone your art skills, too! Ever want to be the next Picasso?

3: Start an Instagram Account!

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It is not uncommon for people around the world to use social media platforms, like Instagram, to showcase their creative talents. So, this is something you can take on to motivate yourself to channel your creativity! What is something your passionate about? Transform that passion into something that you can keep track of and market to the rest of the world. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to attain a certain goal. For example, several individuals out there create an Instagram account to solely track the progress of a project that they’re working on, like a novel. Each day or once a week–how ever many times they choose to post–they may upload quotes or scenes from their writing, or take pictures of objects and people that relate to their work. This is a self-esteem booster, as well as a way to share your talents and passions! Personally, I created an Instagram account–@4linespoetry–in which I can post poetry along with my own hand-drawn sketches or digital representations (using Adobe Illustrator) of the poem. Though it is challenging to manage the account with all of my other activities, it is still worth my time.

So, there you have it! Take risks, try something new! I promise that adding some extra creativity into your inexplicably busy college lives can ease the stress and worries! 

~Tanya B. 

My (Happy) Thanksgiving!

As an International student, my first experience with Thanksgiving and Black Friday was the fall semester of my Freshman year at Rutgers. It was an interesting experience that I didn’t fully get to appreciate as I spent most of the time just trying to understand it as much as possible. So this year I decided I was going to participate in all the stereotypical Thanksgiving week activities and enjoy it for all it was worth. And that is exactly what I did! I spent the week in Georgia with my aunt and her family and it was wonderful. There is something about the southern air and people that just amplified the feeling of family. We woke up at 5 am on Thanksgiving morning and loaded the turkey full of stuffing and put in the oven and then started making the food for the day.

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Here’s a photo of the beautiful bird.

By the time my family started arriving at noon, everything was pretty much ready. We had turkey, fried chicken, loaded mashed potatoes, apple pie, cake and much more. The day was spent between eating and watching rented movies together; it was amazing family time. For me, the first part of the holiday had ended and the main event was starting- SHOPPING. I spent my Black Friday at the Mall of Georgia and I have to say it is the biggest mall I have ever seen (it has every store you can think of). I got there at 7:30 am and was out of there by 1 p.m. It was crazy and most lines for checkout had about a 10-30 minute wait, but it was worth it. Below are some helpful tips on how to take the best advantage of your shopping experience during Black Friday.

  • Big malls with many stores are best. Don’t hit individual stores or small outlet malls if you can help it because there’s always traffic and you don’t want to be lugging bags to the car. Plus, changing malls or locations just disturbs the shopping flow.
  • Make a list of what you need or want to get; that way you buy what you really need first or want to get first and if there’s money remaining, you can check out different stores and find something you like.
  • Go in the morning – I found out the hard way that a couple of stores ended some of their best sales at noon and those lines to check-out made it impossible to get done on time. So it’s better to get there early and leave early.
  • Check out new stores – I got some of the best deals from stores I’ve never shopped at before.
  • If you can go to the mall early on Friday then don’t cut into family time on Thursday to shop. Some stores don’t even open on Thursday.
  • Hit the stores that are crowd faves first (e.g. Victoria’s secret, Forever 21). It’s best to get done with those lines early or better yet be done with the store before the long lines start.
  • Last but not least, wear comfortable shoes. You are going to be walking up and down the mall for a while. No cute shoes are worth the blisters of feet ache.

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That is it guys, hope you enjoyed my post and my advice. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving and good luck at school this week!

A Month of Writing

November is a really exciting month. Not only is there Thanksgiving to look forward to, but we are also so much closer to winter break! For me, this November is also exciting because of Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month.

Nanowrimo is a writing project where participants attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you sign up on the website, it sends you writing advice, and also allows you to log the amount of words that you write each day. That way, you can see your progress throughout the event, and win some prizes if you reach that goal!

This year, I decided to take part in Nanowrimo. I attempted it two years ago, but could not get past the first few days, because I fell into the trap of worrying that my story was not good. I was also editing as I wrote, which was a horrible idea. This made me feel really discouraged, and it clogged my writing flow. It made me feel stressed out and made writing feel more like a chore rather than something I enjoy. So this year, I am taking a completely different approach to writing than I did in the past.

To combat that writer’s block that I felt in the past, I changed my personal goal for this year. Although the official goal of Nanowrimo is ideally to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, my personal goal is just to make time to write something each day. Of course around exam times, I cannot get much done, but I still try to write at least 600 words per day. Although this number is far from the official 1,667 words per day goal, the way I see it, at the end of the month I will have 18,000 words written that would not have been there at all if I didn’t attempt Nanowrimo.

Writing requires a commitment, but if you have a passion for writing and a story to tell, then you should definitely make the time for it! I thought that I would share some of my tips that are helping me write and could help you too!

1. Write what you know

I am an avid fantasy reader. I just love the feeling of escaping reality and entering a new world full of crazy creatures and ideas that you would never see in real life. For a long time now, I have wanted to write a fantasy novel, and I have had an idea bouncing around in my head, so I thought that it was finally time to sit down and try to transfer my ideas from my head to my Word document. Since I have a pretty good knowledge about the features of a fantasy novel, I know (for the most part) some of the major components that I want to include in my writing.

2. Get inspired

A lot of the inspiration that I get for my writing comes from Pinterest or Tumblr. Whenever I need ideas about a landscape, characters, or fashion, I go to Pinterest and scroll through pictures until I find something that fits with what I am looking for. On Pinterest, I also create boards to separate and organize those little bits of inspiration, so they are easy to find later when I need them.

3. Take advantage of any extra time in the day

Writing consistently is easier said than done. I know how difficult it can be to get time to write when there is so much work to do and when we are always so tired. Most people say that the best way to get writing done is to set aside a time to write, but unfortunately this method doesn’t always work for me. Instead, I get most of my writing done before classes or when I am taking a break in between studying. I usually write in small bursts where I write down what I am picturing in my head. For me, this “less-structured” style of writing allows me to get my ideas down without feeling pressured or burnt-out.

I know my post was about Nanowrimo, but really any day of any month is perfect for writing. There are always going to be distractions and other things to do in life, but as long as you have a story to tell, you should give it a go! Grab a cup of tea, turn off the phone and break out the pen and paper–you will be surprised with what ideas start flowing out of your mind!

 

 

Why Humans Love Negativity

Whether it is in the news or social media, negativity seems to be everywhere these days. Tragic incidents, accidents, celebrity bashing, roast challenges, you name it. While exposure to negative content is important and inevitable, it is the fact that humans love it that is interesting. We know it is bad, yet we cannot stay away from capturing or consuming it. Why?

It has been reported that there are about seventeen negative news reports for every positive one in the media. Evolutionary psychologists and neurologists say that because our brains evolved in hunter-gatherer environments, we immediately attend to anything dramatic and threatening for the sake of our survival.

Another explanation is the probability theory which suggests that the probability of unusual/tragic events happening in large cities compared to local neighborhoods is higher.  Becuase the media focuses on large-scale cities, the prevalence and distribution of negative content increase greatly.

Researchers find that a negativity bias exists in which people have a desire to hear bad news.  This bias exists mainly because people tend to believe that they are “above-average” and that the world is a much better place than it actually is.  Thus, when bad news comes out, they give it more attention.

The brain has increased sensitivity to bad news as opposed to good news. In other words, an insult stings more than a compliment, unpleasant feelings linger longer than positive/neutral ones, and bad news overshadows good news. Thus, despite the presence of all the good in this world, the negativity sticks out like a sore thumb.

In specific, I want to focus on the vastness of negative content online, mainly Youtube. Whether it roasting other Youtubers, hating on celebrities, or capturing another person’s pain, there is plenty of negativity out there. What is concerning is that these are the videos that trend and gain the most attention.  If a video is circulated rapidly on the Internet, it is defined to be viral.

In April 2016, a 16-year-old girl named Amy Joyner-Francis was beaten to death by three girls in a high school bathroom.  Dozens of other girls simply stood by and watched the violent encounter unfold.  Some even chose to record it, rather than intervene. Click here to read more about this incident.

How sad is that?! Is the chance to create a viral video worth risking someone else’s life?

Research shows that negative videos can become viral because they trigger high arousal emotions like anger and disgust. Videos bashing celebrities and capturing accidents/fights gain attention because of the immediate response the viewer experiences.

However, there is an incentive for positive videos as well. Another component in virality is dominance- when you feel in control of your emotions. For example, a high dominance emotion is happiness, whereas a low dominance emotion is fear. Thus, videos that elicit high dominance feelings, such as happiness, admiration, and love have been proven to trend.  Trending videos like “In A Heartbeat” and “Grace VanderWaal: 12-Year-Old Ukulele Player Gets Golden Buzzer – America’s Got Talent 2016” promote positivity and inspiration.

In the long run, creating positive content is far more impactful.  Think about it.  Once the short-lived relevance of a negative video dies out, it is quickly forgotten.  This is because negative content is solely remembered for its content, whereas positive content has a lasting impression.

And the misconception that it is impossible to trend without negativity is just false.  Whether it is #DamnDaniel, Gangnam Style, Watch Me Whip or Carpool Karaoke, these videos have managed to become viral without promoting any negativity.

It is impractical to hope that negative content will cease to exist because there will always be an audience for it. However, if people make an effort to resist watching and sharing these types of videos, then people will be less encouraged to record such content.  So, while it is tempting and difficult to focus on negativity, do not bash what you hate.  Instead, promote what you love.

Stop and Think Before Eating that Turkey

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving – I love the food, I love spending time with my family, I love the sentiment behind it, and I really, really love the break from school –  but I think it’s also important to recognize and acknowledge its history while we’re celebrating it. It’s especially important when you consider recent events: the Keystone Pipeline – which, if you recall, was heavily protested by Native Americans – leaked over 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota a few days ago.

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We learn in elementary school that we celebrate Thanksgiving to honor the first harvest of the Pilgrims after Native Americans had helped them learn how to farm and survive on the land after arriving what eventually would become the United States of America.
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We draw hand turkeys, make little paper dolls of pilgrims and Native Americans, and watch Pocahontas, learning  how the pilgrims and Native Americans hated each other, but came together after clearing up some misunderstandings and they all live happily ever after.

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As we get older, we learn that really wasn’t the case. I mean, there was a feast celebrating the harvest around Thanksgiving time that was celebrated by about 50 Europeans and 90 Native Americans. That’s true. The “happily ever after”? Not so much. In reality, Pocahontas was was about 9 or 10 when John Smith came to America. When she was 15 or 16, she was kidnapped by the English, forced to marry John Rolfe, then died when she was 20.

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They changed her name to Rebecca, too

People don’t like to talk about this, but that’s why it needs to be said: this country’s history is not without the suffering of Native peoples and, as a nation, we still have progress to make in alleviating the long-term effects of that suffering. 

There’s the Keystone Pipeline, first of all, which was protested for, as we know now, 100% valid environmental concerns and the potential destruction of sacred Native American lands and burial sites. Native American reservations, which were lands that the US government allowed the Native tribes to live on (despite the fact that they were here first), have low standards of living and the people who live there suffer from high rates of poverty, substandard housing, lack of utilities like electricity and running water, and sub-par health services.

Then there are things like this:

This was from a textbook assigned to Canadian third graders. Recently. Thankfully, backlash on social media caused the textbooks to be recalled, but, frankly, it is 2017. This shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We shouldn’t have schools telling our children that the Native peoples “agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.”

And there are the little things, like the name of that Washington football team or the fact that people still dress up as “Indians” on Halloween, like their culture is a costume, like they’re not real. It’s the fact that they’re treated like second-class citizens despite the fact that they were here first.

I’m not saying people should stop celebrating Thanksgiving – that’s not what I’m trying to communicate here. In my opinion, I feel that people have certain ideas about the history of Thanksgiving and the colonies that need to be corrected. Eat the turkey and the gravy and the mashed potatoes (I know I will, and to excess), give thanks to everything you’re thankful for, and spend time with your family watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. However,  also be mindful of history. It’s as important as your present.

 

“To Teach, To Learn, To Inspire”

This time last year, I made the last minute decision to apply to be an instructor for the FIGS program on campus. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into, and now, almost an entire year later, I can honestly say that getting involved with FIGS has been one of the most challenging and most rewarding opportunities I have undertaken as a student at Rutgers. If you are unfamiliar with the program, FIGS stands for First-Year Interest Group Seminars. These seminars are 1 credit classes designed for first-year students– they all cover different topical areas that connect to different majors, as well as more general information about navigating the enormous university that is Rutgers. The unique thing about these seminars is that they are taught by upperclassmen–juniors and seniors that take on the role of “Peer Instructor,” and receive 3 credits for attended several training sessions over the summer break, creating 10 weeks of lesson plans, and actually implementing those lesson plans in the classroom. This semester, I taught “Exploring English Literature” to a class of 23 first years.

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“To Teach”

Even after an entire summer of careful planning and prepping, walking into my classroom during the first week of September was one of the most intimidating things I have ever done. I felt awkward and rushed, and having twenty-three pairs of eyes examining my every move didn’t help. Ten weeks later, I am comfortable leading discussions, even when things begin stray from my lesson plan. I see students making connections between different poems and texts we have read throughout the semester. I get to read their reflections and first responses to short stories I selected as a part of their reading lists. And tomorrow, during our last class, I will be able to watch my students present their final projects on authors they chose and researched. I am excited to see what my students create and what they have learned from my class throughout the semester. I’ve always been interested in teaching, especially at the level of higher education, and writing and instructing my own FIGS seminar only confirmed this.

“To Learn”

When I really stop to think about this past semester and the FIGS process as a whole, I truthfully think that I learned more than my students. Some of the most important lessons I have learned directly apply to my future career interests, and will definitely give me something to talk about in future job interviews. As FIGS was really my first experience in a leadership role at Rutgers, I have become so much more confident speaking in front of people and leading group and individual discussions. My time management skills have improved, as well as my general organizational and administrative skills. I have learned about my students and the variety of backgrounds and different high school experiences and educations that they have. I have also learned more about myself, both as an individual, and as a teacher.

“To Inspire”

While there were many moments this semester that stand out, the most inspiring was something that happened just last week. After nine weeks of class, one of my students approached me as asked, “What can I do to become a FIGS instructor?” As cliche as it sounds, it is a really cool thing to think about the ways in which I possibly inspired her to take on the same leadership role as I am currently in.

It’s been a long semester and FIGS as a whole has been a lot of hard work filled with more than my fair share of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. If you are a sophomore or junior this semester, and you have any interest in teaching, or even just really love your major and want to share it with the next generation of Rutgers students, I cannot recommend the FIGS Peer Instructor experience enough.
The application comes out in the next week or so, and will be available here: https://figs.rutgers.edu/peer-instructors/teach-a-figs.