A Lesson from Thor: Ragnarok

By the time this post is up, the release of Avengers’s Infinity War will be only a day away!

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Over the past few months I have been re-watching the Marvel movies in anticipation for the new Avengers, and one of my top favorite movies is Thor: Raganarok. I felt a connection to this movie not only because it was hilarious, but because I felt like I could relate to one of the central themes of the movie. I’m sure most of you have already watched this movie, but in case you haven’t, I will be discussing spoilers 🙂

In this movie, Thor lost his hammer, his hair, and his eye.  These were all physical things that he thought made him the powerful person he is (well, the eye is an extreme example, but you get the idea). He thought that without his hammer, he would have less strength and be less capable of doing what he was able to do with it. He initially felt lost without his hammer, as if a part of his identity was gone with it. At some point in the movie, while Thor is doubting his abilities sans hammer, Odin asks him “Are you the god of hammers?” It was at that moment that he really realized that the hammer is just an object. It does not solely give him strength or unique abilities, as he has power within him. And he is able to do incredible things even without the hammer!

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This is what raw power looks like.

We all go through rough patches in life. Sometimes we are put in situations where we feel like we are disadvantaged or as if we are deprived, and are consequentially farther from reaching our goals. It is normal to feel less capable when we do not have the same resources as someone else has. But inside, we have the power to shape who we want to be. When we are placed into a tough situation, instead of dwelling on the negative aspects and on what is keeping us from moving forward, we should instead look at the positives. We all have the power to change a situation from bad to good, and half of that battle is our attitude toward the problem.

I think that this is important to remember as we approach finals well. I have noticed a lot of negativity swirling around in my classes (and I regret to admit that I also contribute to that cloud of sadness). We should all keep in mind that no matter lost we may feel, how many assignments may be piling up, or how many tests may be approaching, we do have some level of control over our outcomes. Instead of focusing our energy on negative things like how many days we have left before exams, or how many more topics we have to cover, its more worthwhile to find ways to boost our self-esteem and get things done. I realize that this is a stretch from the Thor lesson, but I believe that we all have strength within us. Negativity is like Thor’s hammer in the sense that it keeps us from recognizing our true potential. I feel like my thoughts were a little disorganized, but I really do think that Thor taught us a great lesson about taking advantage of our inner power!

 

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The Perfect Study Session

Something that I have noticed about myself is that it is really hard for me to be productive if I don’t have the pressure of an exam or a deadline to push me to get work done in advance. I’ve procrastinated more than usual on important assignments recently because I just could not get into the “study mode.” If I am not in the “mode,” I either take a much longer time to get work done, or I don’t fully understand what I am working on. And that is just a huge waste of time! So I made a list of some of the things that I do to help myself get into that study zone and be more productive during a study session!

1. Get a drink and snacks

Hunger is my biggest distraction while I am studying. There is nothing worse than getting in the “study zone” only to feel hungry and realize that I didn’t bring any snacks with me. And that has actually happened to me multiple times. So now, I make sure to bring granola bars or fruits with me when I study. I personally like nuts, grapes, blueberries, or other small snacks that I can continually pop into my mouth whenever I feel the hunger. I also make sure to always have water with me, or if I am at home, I make a cup of tea!

2. Put on some study music

Study music is the second most important thing for me when it comes to creating a perfect study atmosphere. It depends on how I feel that day, but I usually either listen to movie instrumentals or white noise. I don’t want the music to distract me, but at the same time, I get distracted when it is too quiet. My favorite instrumental soundtracks include Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Such music tends to keep me awake and helps me focus. If I don’t feel like listening to actual music, I play Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings ASMR on YouTube.

3. Gather all of your tools

It may sound self-explanatory to prepare all of your tools before you study, but you would be surprised at how many times I have forgotten something essential. I like to take elaborate notes, so I always have to make sure that I have my highlighters, colored pens, post-its, and white out with me, otherwise, I can’t take my notes the way I want to take them. It may sound unnecessary, but sometimes, taking the time to make pretty notes helps you to study more effectively. I have found that when I make my notes colorful, I am able to better remember the information later on, and it is more fun to study those notes before the exam!

4. Light a scented candle (if you are studying at home)

I have recently started using an apple scented candle while I study, and it really does make a difference! The smell instantly makes me feel good and takes away some of the stress that is usually accompanied with a study session. I recently read this article about how smells can help enhance memory recall, and I think its an interesting concept that I would like to try!

These are some of the essentials that I have noticed make a huge difference when I am trying to create a productive study environment. I hope they can help anyone who has trouble getting into or staying in the study zone!

Battling Self-Deprecation

Self-deprecation is something that affects everyone, some more than most. For me, it is still something that I am battling today. But I have realized recently, that in order to improve my self-image and become the person that I truly want to be, I have to be aware of the bad habits that I engage in that lead to the lower image that I have of myself. I am going to identify two of these habits and address ways that I over come them. And hopefully, I might be able to help some of you who suffer from low self-esteem too.

1. Do you compare yourself to other people?

One of the biggest problems that I face, is that I compare myself with my classmates.  I look at other students and wish that I could be as smart, as social, or as productive as they are. These thoughts only make me feel inadequate. They don’t help me become a better person; they only bring me down. Now, whenever I find myself comparing my capabilities to other people, instead of thinking about how much I don’t like about myself, I think about how much I do like. For example, I think about how I am proud of the amount of work that I have done for the class, and I remind myself that I put in as much effort as I can. Those small reminders really help me feel more confident in myself, so try it the next time you feel like you are not as good as your peers!

2. Do you ever feel like you are not living up to your own expectations?

We all set high expectations for ourselves. We want the best grades, while also being able to balance extracurriculars, maintain our health/fitness goals, and build strong social relationships. Realistically, it is not fair to hold ourselves to such high standards and expect to attain all of them, because if we fail to achieve everything we want, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Instead, we should reevaluate our expectations of ourselves. For example, I make goals in my journal that I hope to achieve in the month. They are not crazy goals like “get an A on every exam” or “work out every day”. Those are extreme goals that I know I cannot meet. Instead, I make reasonable goals like “work out at least twice a week” and “start preparing at least two weeks in advance for each exam”. Those may not seem like very specific goals, or it may not seem like I am pushing myself enough, but honestly goals like these have been working for me. They remind me of what I want to accomplish, while actually being within my range of abilities. And when I am able to accomplish these goals, it feels really good and motivating!

I know how hard it is to stop comparing yourself to others, because I used to do it all of the time. But it only does more harm then good. I am overcoming these self-deprecating habits and you can too! Stop wishing you were someone else, and instead learn to love the person that you are. Recognize your strong points and use them to your advantage. I have given you two tips that have greatly helped me, so now I challenge you…to become the best and most confident version of yourself!

Making Goals and Sticking with Them

It’s 2018, and although some of us are sick of hearing it, many of us believe in a “New Year, New Me”. We all have goals to achieve or things that we want to change in our lives, and the new year is the perfect time to be inspired to do something different. But most of the time, we have a surge of inspiration at the beginning of the year, and then that quickly dies down and we fall into the same habits that we had the previous year. I am personally tired of watching my years go by without making changes in my life, so I am trying a new method to achieving my goals this year.

This year, one of my goals is to consistently bullet journal. Last year, when I started bullet journaling, I made too much of an effort to make it fancy, and I quickly grew exhausted and dreaded making spreads. So this year, I am going with simple but colorful spreads that do not require too much effort, and get the job done. Bullet journaling helps me keep track of what I do each day, and helps me make sure that I am keeping on top of my goals. One of the tools that I use to keep track of what I do each day is a habit tracker.

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Here is a gorgeous example of a habit tracker!

This is an example of someone else’s tracker that I used as a reference for my own. In my January habit tracker, I have activities like: exercise, drink green tea, read, draw/color, and Bible reading. Each night, I reflect on my day, and color in the little box that corresponds to what activity I did that day. Of course, each day I do not accomplish every goal/activity, so there are some gaps in my spread, but nobody’s perfect! Making a habit tracker, whether in a journal, or on a loose-leaf sheet of paper, is helpful, because it helps me to keep in mind what my resolutions are, and then I don’t forget about them.

Another way that I am keeping track of my goals, is by using my phone/laptop reminders. I am one of those people who cannot survive without reminders. I use reminders for due dates, for events, for homework, anything and everything you can think of! I have also started using my reminders to help me with daily activities. For example, I have a reminder that pops up every day and tells me to take my vitamins  (I always forget about them!). You can also set a reminder in the night to tell you to floss, or you can set one in the morning to remind you to do yoga before you officially start your day. These are really helpful, because although it is possible to forget about a journal, our phones are constantly with us. So why not use them in a way that will help us achieve our goals!

This year, we can all be successful in achieving goals. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you can’t keep on top of every goal. Even keeping up with one resolution will make a change in your life, and that’s a huge accomplishment!

Lessons Learned as a Commuter

Rutgers has a lot of commuter students, and as a commuter student myself, I love to read about everyone’s experiences. I always learn something new! This semester was my first being a commuter student. Unfortunately I had a few days that my classes were spread out, and I would have as much as four hours between them. Personally, I found it really hard to make the most out of this time, as I would lose concentration, or not be sufficiently prepared. Here are some of my own tips that I lived by this semester as a commuter:

1. Bring your laptop charger.

During days when you are on campus for a long time, your laptop battery will drain. It goes especially fast if you are using it to watch Netflix during a break or listening to music on it. There were so many days that I forgot my charger, and I had to use the computer labs because I had to save my laptop batter for my evening class. There are actually a lot of charging spots all around buildings and at the libraries, so you will mostly likely always find an outlet to use.

2. Use the computer labs.

I used to only use the computer labs when I had to save my laptop battery, but I found that you can be really productive there. When I work at the computer labs, I am surrounded by people who are also doing work, and it helps me concentrate. I don’t feel tempted to go on Netflix or Buzzfeed, and I just finish my work instead. Also there are usually printers so you can print out study materials that you might need.

3. Bring enough snacks with you.

The biggest reason for my distraction is hunger. I get hungry really quickly, especially when I am doing work. So I always keep snacks that aren’t messy and keep me full. Some of my favorite snacks that I keep with me are grapes, Belvita bars, mixed nuts, and granola bars. If you don’t have enough time to grab food between classes, snacks can be very helpful!

4. Get study buddies in every class.

Things happen all the time. Whether it be illness, traffic, or something else, it is always helpful to have someone in class who you can talk to about homework or exchange notes with. I try to make at least one friend in each class, that way if I need to get the notes from someone, I have their contact information. I have also set up study meetings with those same people before exams, and they have always been very helpful. Many people in your classes are also looking for a study buddy, so it should be easy to find one!

5. Make time to meet up with your friends.

This I think is the most important tip for any commuter student. When I lived at school, it was so easy to meet up with friends for lunch or study with them because they all lived nearby, or just a bus ride away. Now that I don’t live at school, it is harder for me to meet with them. Sometimes it requires me staying at school later, but in the end, it is worth it to make time for my friends. Whether we are studying or just hanging out, I always feel recharged and happy after spending time with people who make me laugh!

The experience of being a commuter student is different for each person depending on the length of their commute and the way their schedule is set. In the end, it does help you to learn how to be more productive during breaks between classes, and does force you to plan your days more so that you make the time to spend with friends or working. I learned a lot from my first semester as a commuter student, and am excited to see what it will be like next semester.

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!

 

 

Boo to You!

Halloween is just around the corner, and I can feel the excitement in the air! This year, I celebrated Halloween early in September when I went to Disney World. I attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the first time, and it was amazing! Since it is almost Halloween, I thought that I would share my experience with all of you.

Disney is known for its elaborate holiday events. They have the Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring, The Food and Wine Festival in the Fall, the Mickey’s not-so-scary Halloween party during September and October, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party during November and December. I have been to the Flower and Garden Festival many times and I have also been to Disney around Christmas multiple times, so I can confidently say that Disney goes all out when it comes to events. It has always been mine and my sister’s dream to attend the Halloween party, but we never visited Disney during that time period. This summer, we were there at the start of September, and Disney held their Halloween parties early, so we jumped at the opportunity to attend! And let me tell you, it was worth every penny.

The decorations in Magic Kingdom are truly beautiful. During the party, there were fog machines at the front of the park, and loud Halloween music was playing to set the mood. Also, most of the visitors and cast members are dressed in creative and elaborate costumes. It felt nothing like a normal day at the parks!

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At the Halloween party, there are many characters that you can line up to take pictures with that you normally cannot find at the parks: Jack and Sally, the Seven Dwarfs, Jack Sparrow and more! I have always wanted to meet Jack Sparrow, so that was the highlight of my night.

Since it is a Halloween party, I also got to trick-or-treat! I personally haven’t been trick or treating since middle school days, and it is something that I missed a lot! At Disney, they encourage everyone (yes, even the adults) to trick-or-treat! As soon as you get there, you are given a bag and a list of all of the candy stations around the park, where you can pick up some treats (and you can go back as many times as you’d like!).

Of course, Disney wouldn’t be Disney without a special parade and firework show. The parade is called “Boo to You” and the fireworks show is “Hallowishes”. During the firework show, there were projections on the castle that went went along with the music. It was so much fun to sing and scream along. The fireworks were great, but I think that the parade was even better. During the parade, you see characters that are not in the daytime parades, such as the hyenas from the lion king, Oogie boogie, a whole float full of villains, and so many ghouls from the Haunted Mansion!

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The Haunted Mansion performers had really beautiful costumes and their dancing was really good!

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is an experience that I highly recommend to people of all ages. It’s so much fun to get dressed and see other people’s costumes. Also there are so many different things to do like meeting special characters, going trick-or-treating, and eating special treats that are only available during the party. It is something that I will never forget, and I really hope that I will be able to attend again one day!

Being Productive, One Step at a Time

Summer is over and once again it’s time to break out the textbooks and get right back to work. School can feel very overwhelming as the semester starts to kick in and assignments get thrown at you from every angle. Throughout my first year of college, I noticed that a major source of my anxiety came from not planning enough and therefore procrastinating too much or not studying far enough in advance. So this semester, my goal is to stay on top of my due dates and be more organized so that I avoid that stress! Here are some of the things that I am doing to be more productive this semester:

1. Use a planner or printables

Recently, I bought a planner from barnes and noble for less than $15. It has a slot for each day of the week and it also has little section for important notes or for things that I don’t want to forget. Each day, I write down my plan for what I want to get done, as well as the homework that was assigned in that day’s class. I also use printable calendars to write down all of the due dates from the syllabi, since it is nice to see how much time I have in between assignments and activities. A website that I use to get printables is http://emmastudies.com/printables. There are so many different types of sheets that you can use to organize your week, your month, or your study schedule. I have previously used the “Exam Printable Pack” to organize what points I need to revise more before tests. I highly recommend it!

2. Put down the phone!

Phones are probably the biggest distractions that we have today. To combat this temptation, I use an app called Forest. All you have to do is set your timer for however long you want your study session to be, and a tree will begin growing while you study. If you exit the app while the timer is still going, you will kill your tree, so it forces you to stay off your phone. You can also label the study sessions so that you can track how much studying you have done each day for each subject. It feels really rewarding when I look back and see how productive I was. It’s really motivating!
Disclaimer: Forest is a paid app ($1.99), but I made sure that I liked this type of timer before paying for it. There are many other free apps that are very similar such as Focus Now, although there is less freedom when it comes to setting how much time you want to study for.

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3. Use Momentum

Momentum is one of my favorite productivity tools. It is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to write down your To-Do’s and check them off as you finish them. Although having a planner is essential to keep track of everything in the week, Momentum is extremely useful for deciding what you want to get done that day. There is a gorgeous picture from somewhere in the world, a large clock, and a motivating quote on the bottom. Just looking at the screen makes me feel motivated!

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These tips may seem really obvious, but it’s the little things that make a huge difference. Taking a bit of time to plan out your daily schedule and timing your study sessions can help you get more work done in a lot less time. Then you will have more time to get involved or spend time with friends! A good start to the school year will put you on the path to success!

Anyone can Draw

One of my biggest goals this summer is to improve my drawing skills. Personally, drawing is something that calms me and makes me happy, even though I am not a very good artist. But I watched a bunch of videos recently of artists and their drawing progress over a period of time, and I realized that anyone can become a great artist if they are dedicated. Here are some of the tips that I am following to improve:

1. Watch YouTube Tutorials

Today, you can learn to do virtually anything just by watching a YouTube video. I have watched many YouTube videos over the past few weeks that have taught me how to shade more effectively, how to work with guidelines, and how to use colored pencils to create depth in a picture. I also watched videos to learn how to draw eyes and lips realistically. YouTube has proven to be a very important resource to me as I was able to learn so much from it and create drawings that I didn’t know were possible for me!

2. Use a Book

I went to the bookstore around two weeks ago and looked at what they had available for drawing. I flipped through many books, and I found one that I thought might be able to help me learn some of the basic techniques better. The book that I am currently using every day is called You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler. The book has so many different examples of people who used these methods to improve their art, which I find to be very inspiring. The book is split up into lessons, so it is easy to just do a lesson a day. It doesn’t take up much time, but I can already see a change in my skills when I flip through my sketchbook. If you are a person who wants to learn more about drawing techniques, but are too busy or find it hard to commit to learning for a big chunk of time each day, I think it is worthwhile to check out this book and see if it may help you.

3. Watch other people draw their drawings

I guess this could be under the YouTube category, but since I talked more about tutorials in that one, I will consider this a separate category. I like to watch pictures of other people’s artwork to get inspiration to keep drawing. I also like to see what other people do and gather ideas for my own work. Another thing that I think is helpful is watching speed drawings and seeing the process that artists use when they draw. When you look at the steps that other people take to get to their end product, you may want to try something new!

You could follow all of these steps but the most important step to becoming a better artist is…DRAW! Sometimes I fall into the trap of just sitting and watching video after video, but not actually trying anything that I have learned. The only way to improve is to take action. So pick up your pencil and sketchbook and just doodle away!

Taking a Step Back from Technology

After what felt like forever, summer is finally here! We have such a long summer vacation, so it is really easy to lose track of time or waste time scrolling through our phones for hours or sitting and watching Netflix all day. A way that I make my summer more productive and fun is by taking some time to put away my tech and engage in activities that do not involve screens. Here are some of the activities that I enjoy and that make me feel like my time was well spent:

1. Drawing or Coloring

Although I am not very good at drawing, it is an activity that I have always found enjoyable. I like to sketch items that I see around me or animals that I see in the backyard. Other times, I look up cartoon characters (using technology, oops!) and see how my drawing compares with the image online. Sometimes if I don’t feel like drawing, but I still feel like being creative, I pull out a coloring book and start to color! Adult coloring books are really popular today, and you can find a huge selection of them at stores like Barnes and Noble. There are many pretty books that are animal or nature themed, but my favorite coloring book is Harry Potter themed!

2. Painting

Another fun thing to do without technology is painting. I am personally really bad at painting, but I really enjoy messing around with watercolors. They aren’t very messy, and they look really nice when you learn some of the techniques that go along with it. I like to make watercolor bookmarks that I can use in the books that I am currently reading. Going back to the coloring suggestion, in some books if the paper is thick enough, you can use paints instead of colored pencils for a completely different effect.

3. Writing or Journaling

Writing is something that many people can enjoy. I like to write about characters that I created and describe the fantasy worlds that they live in. For people who do not feel like writing an intricate story, journaling is a great alternative. I recently started journaling since I think that it is a fun way to write down and sort through my thoughts. I like decorating my pages with pretty pictures and inspirational quotations. This brings me to my last suggestion…

4. Lettering

This summer, I am trying to learn brush lettering and faux calligraphy. I like how this type of script looks when it is used for motivational quotes or headers in my journal, so I am trying to improve my technique. I find that learning a technique like lettering is very enjoyable and relaxing, and I feel like it is very rewarding as well. Once you perfect this skill, you will be able to apply it to other things like posters or projects.

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Hopefully one day I will be able to create art like this!

Now that I look back at my list, I realize that a lot of my suggestions are art-related. After spending so much time studying in school, I think that it is really worthwhile for us to take some time during the summer to engage in art, and exercise the creative part of our brains. You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. If you have some free time this summer and are looking for a break from your tech, I guarantee you will have fun with any of these activities!