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!

What You Need to Know About President Trump’s (Proposed) Education Budget

President Donald Trump’s pick for the secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, just recently hit the 100th day milestone of her tenure in that position. Just like almost everything else in the Trump administration, her appointment, her words, and her actions have been controversial. Just last week, President Trump’s first full education budget was revealed, and it displayed both Trump and Devos’ desire to shrink the federal role in education and expand charter schools. For future teachers, for current families and children, and for you, the general population, a human being with a beating heart, this new budget should worry you.

President Trump’s Education Budget proposes cutting $10.6 billion in federal programs.

Under this proposal, 22 federal education programs would be eliminated. $1.2 billion for after school programs serving 1.6 million children would be eliminated. Let’s just take a second to fully understand the impact of after-school programs. Numerous studies and decades of research have showed that participation in after-school programs positively impact academic achievement, social and emotional development, prevention of risky behaviors, and health and wellness. Don’t believe me? Search this topic on any reputable academic journal and you will find the same answer. (And I made it a little easier for you: here is a link to the Harvard Family Research Project’s study on this topic). Additionally, after-school programs allow parents to work longer, or work in general, knowing that their children are safe and in a secure environment. After-school programs provide safe spaces for children residing in dangerous neighborhoods. In short, after-school programs offer a plethora of wide-ranging benefits for students, for families, and for society.

Perkins loans benefiting disabled students would be cut by $700 million. Teacher training will be cut by $2.1 billion. Additionally, according to budget documents obtained by the Washington Post, the Trump administration proposes to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which more than 400,000 students count on in being able to gain an education. Signed into law in 2007 by George W. Bush as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, this program offers those whose jobs benefit society (government and non-profit employees) the chance to have their student loans forgiven after ten years of on-time, income-based payments. Furthermore, the proposed budget shows cuts to federal work-study funds that help students work their way through college by $487 million.  The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which is a grant for undergraduate students with exceptional final need, would also be eliminated. Programs such as TRIO and Gear Up, which help disadvantaged students in middle and high schools prepare for college, would also see nearly $200 million in cuts. For college students with children, this proposed budget eliminates all funding for Child Care Access Means Parents in School, which is a program that subsidizes campus-based day care for low-income parents earning a degree, and is often the only reason young parents can still be able to gain a higher education.

Increasing access to post-secondary education for everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, external situations, financial capabilities, or disabilities, should be a priority.  It is irrefutable that higher education leads to better health outcomes, higher earning potential, and lower unemployment rates. Not only does higher education benefit the individual, but it also benefits the broader society in general. Why would anyone want to take that away? The Milken Institute released a study that shows that higher education leads to a better regional economy. The report associates education with increases in real gross domestic product per capita and real wages, “linking the addition of one year in a worker’s average years of schooling to a 10.5-percent rise in a region’s real GDP per capita and a 8.4-percent rise in the region’s real wages. The regional jumps in GDP and wages grow even larger—to 17.4 percent and 17.8 percent, respectively—when applied to workers who already hold at least a high-school diploma” (A Master of Degrees: The Effect of Educational Attainment on Regional Economic Prosperity, 2013). With cuts to programs that help students both have access to school as well as stay in school, not only will the student suffer, but the nation itself will suffer.

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This proposed budget helps charters and religious schools, the direction that DeVos and Trump want America’s education future to be headed. The budget proposes taking $1 billion out of the federal government’s Title I funds, which allocates money for states to support education poor children, to instead pay for a new grant program that will give states incentives to fund privately-operated charters and religious schools.  $500 million will be provided for charter schools, which is over $50% of the current funding for charters, and $250 million will be proposed for grants that would pay for “pay for expanding and studying the impacts of vouchers for private and religious schools”.

This proposed budget for the future of our nation’s students and overall education is worrisome. The majority of the nation’s college students rely on grants, repayment programs, work-study, and loans to pave their way through college. And it’s not just paying for college that this administration’s proposed budget negatively affects, but also just gaining access to college. With severe cuts to teacher training, to after-school programs, and to public education, children will be negatively impacted. Education is the most powerful investment in our future, and today’s children are tomorrow’s future, so let us allocate our resources where they really matter.

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5 Things I Learned My Freshman Year of College

INDEPENDENCE: there can be too much of a good thing

The biggest change would have to be the sudden increase in independence. The idea that with every meal swipe you have access to unlimited desserts and soda can be overwhelming at first. Usually in the beginning of the year, it’s especially hard to resist stuffing your face when your parents can no longer yell at you for eating ice cream for dinner. You also no longer have a bed time, or a set time you have to wake up at, since deciding if you’re going to class and when you’re going to class is completely your own decision. I’ve learned to never leave any assignment so last-minute that I have to pull an all-nighter, but I have a feeling I’m not quite done with those yet. But as crazy as things seem at the beginning of your first semester, things tend to settle down as the year comes to a close.

Finding what you like and what you don’t like

For your first year of college I would say the best thing is to get involved in everything you find interesting, because as the year goes by you can always drop what you don’t like and become more involved in the things you’re more interested in. I think sometimes it’s hard to find what you’re interested in and deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life can be difficult, so taking part in clubs and even just events around campus can open your eyes.

Bad Grades are Just a Part of Life

For me, I was very surprised by the whole basis behind the grading system and how most of my grade was the result of two or three exams. We had quarterlies in high school and the final grade was the cumulative of a year of tests, quizzes, and homework, so this new system was a little hard for me to get used to, and I got some grades my first year that I was not used to seeing. I think the biggest thing to remember is that the only thing you can do in the face of a bad grade is to just keep working to do better the next time, and to treat every semester as a fresh start, a new you, and a way to improve your study habits. See what worked the last time and what didn’t work, and make adjustments accordingly.

Friends are everywhere

In college, you tend to make friends in the weirdest places. I have made friends in the bathroom of my hall. Other friends, I’ve met while getting off at the wrong bus stop and wandering around trying to find my class. Others I’ve met while loudly complaining about a class only to have someone come over and say “same”. The truth is almost everyone is always trying to find new people and make new friends: all you have to do is open your eyes because potential friends are always milling around.

High school is ALL in the past

At first,  I was worried that I wouldn’t get my fresh start because there were so many people from New Jersey and specifically, my high school, at Rutgers. But one thing I realized was that everyone comes into college with the same mindset and that everyone wants their fresh start. There are also around 30,000 undergraduates at Rutgers, so meeting new people is not an issue. So don’t worry about any remaining high school awkwardness or seeing the same people. Be the person you’ve always wanted to be!

 

Thank you Mom

Even though Mother’s Day was last Sunday, I wanted to make a blog post to pay tribute to my mom and all other moms out there. My mom, like so many other moms, works so hard each and every day to provide what she can for my brother and I. I try to remember and honor that every single day. So here it goes.


Dear Mom,

Thank you for all the sacrifices you make. I know that I am not the easiest daughter to have, but you have always loved me despite all of my flaws. You gave up all of your dreams of getting an education when I was born and made sure that I got what you never had. It is always a humbling reminder that many women in this world don’t have access to a quality education and that I should work hard for mine. For that, I am truly grateful that I am going to Rutgers and that I have an education.

Thank you for always listening to me. You have showed me what it means to be open-minded, empathetic, and strong.

Thank you for all the skills and lessons you taught me.  Despite all the stress and struggles that you go through, you take each day one at a time, which is what I admire about you. I also admire how you always put your family’s needs before your own. You also showed me that it is better to change that to just say that you will change. You always remind me that if I make a promise or a goal,  I have to work and commit to that goal. The biggest lesson that you taught me is to have my priorities in check, some thing that I am still learning each and every day.

Thank you for supporting my passions. When I wanted to be in the school orchestra, you bought me a violin. When I became interested in photography, you bought me a camera. When I wanted to learn how to sing, you took me to a summer workshop. When I wanted to learn how to dance, you took me to a teacher. You have always supported everything that I wanted to do, but also made sure that I was practical in my endeavors, which is what I admire about you. I will never forget this.

Thank you never giving up on me. I will admit that I get distracted and lose focus a lot when I study. I know that I don’t always instill the utmost confidence in you and I will work on changing that.

And finally thank you for being my mother. Words can’t describe how grateful I am. I love you so much.

Love

Akhila
Even though Mother’s Day is once a year, our moms do so much for us daily, so it is important to be grateful every day. We should honor that every day. So be sure to honor your mother and any other important women in your life today.

Thoughts from 39,000 Feet Up

I write these words while I fly from New Jersey to California –  passing over Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, the whole middle of America that I sometimes forget exists – as I realize that I am on a time machine.

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Well, I’m on a plane, but your mind goes to a special place when you’ve been sitting in between a baby that alternates between being heart-meltingly adorable and the worst thing on planet earth at random intervals, and your mother, who seems to need to use the bathroom every half an hour, for the past who-knows-how-many hours. When you’re in that special place, an airplane and a time machine are the same thing.

I say this because the plane had taken off from Newark International Airport at 11:00 AM and will arrive in LAX at 1:00 AM after spending five hours and nineteen minutes in the air. If this sounds like the set-up to a weird riddle, let me tell you that the answer right now is time zones. There are two hours between 11:00 AM and 1:00 AM  and there are five hours between 11:00 AM and 1:00 AM and both of these things are somehow true at the same time. I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost three hours that I know I had somewhere. Where did they go?

(Okay I know where they went. I watched like five hours of Chopped in two hours while pretending the complementary trail mix was the wagyu beef in the mystery basket. Also, funnily enough one of the contestants on one of the episodes was from Jersey City, went to Rutgers, and made a fat sandwich for the appetizer. I was morally obliged to support her no matter what. The episode was the Midnight Snack Attack episode, if anyone’s curious).

Chef John is Me and I am Chef John

I think I have this obsession with time. Actually, that isn’t an “I think” statement. I know I have this weird obsession with time and if you know me in real life, you know I like to say that time is fake and maybe that’s true. Maybe time is a social construct, a system designed to measure the space between one moment and the next, and the only thing that is real are those moments themselves, but it feels real. And if it feels real then can it be fake?

Apparently I get philosophical when I’m on an airplane, or maybe this is the result of running on four hours of sleep for the past couple of days, but if I can’t think weird thoughts while sitting a metal tube hurling through the sky at who-know-how-many miles per hour, where and when can I? I’m living in a missing hour in the middle of nowhere in particular. The world is a strange place.

I don’t know why, but this felt appropriate

Right now it’s 12:05 PM but it is also 1:05 PM, just like it’s also 11:05 AM and 10:05 AM based on where the sun is in the sky? Is that what time is? A measure of the way the sun hits the Earth at any given moment? I wonder.

Creating a Summer Bucket List

Every year I tell myself to pay attention to time, and every year I am surprised at how fast time has passed. I tend to apply this, and my YOLO attitude, to the summer in particular, as two months are much shorter than they seem. As I wrap up my freshman year of college though, for the first time in my life I have four months of summer. What am I going to do for four months at home, away from all of my new friends from Rutgers? How will I fill my long, hot days, and the weeks that seem to each pass by quickly? After a shorter and rather dull winter break as previous experience, I have decided that in order for me to enjoy my summer to the fullest, I need to give myself purpose. Purpose comes in many forms and may be different for each person. As my life consists of lists, I decided to make myself a “Summer Bucket List”, make others aware of it as to hold me accountable, and check off as much as possible (corny, I know, but hopefully it will work). Of course, I have the classic action items on the list, such as going to the beach and reading books, but I’ve also thought of some unusual ones, which are listed below for your reading pleasure.

Have an e-free dayHikers with backpacks walking through a meadow with lush grass

During the school year (and life, in general) we are constantly using technology. Whether it is looking at my phone on the bus, or taking notes using my computer, then studying, doing homework, and writing essays on the computer, I am in front of a screen for a large portion of the day. Summertime provides the perfect opportunity to get away, if even for a day! Either leave your phone at home or put it on airplane mode and go outside! Do something really cool and don’t even Instagram it (I promise that even if you don’t take a picture, it actually happened). Try using this time to really connect with nature, or have some alone time without distractions — there are so many opportunities! To think that just ten years ago we all would have had no problem doing this, and it would not have even been a challenge.

Plan a themed party

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Pick a date, pick a location, and pick a theme! Get a friend to help you with preparations, create a guest list, and you are set! My themed party this summer will be a puppy party! I plan on inviting all of my friends that have dogs (luckily they all do), buy or make some dog treats and have an AMAZING day playing with dogs. It cannot get any better than that… feel free to use this idea!!

Look for opportunities

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As fun as this time of year is, summer also provides a lot of free time to put to use for the future. Try to take advantage of this and set aside some time for yourself every day or week to search for scholarships, jobs, or internships. Not only look out for them but begin to apply too! There are SO many opportunities out there just waiting for someone to reach out and take the first step.

Farming

This summer I plan to develop my ‘green thumb’! There are so many benefits to gardening and farming, including taking ownership of your food, and knowing where it comes from, stress relief, vitamin D, etc. You can start your own garden with simple plants like mint, tomatoes, or lettuce. You can also choose to get a full on farm experience by volunteering or working on a farm! There are many opportunities for this, include practicums that count as school credit, or WWOOFing (linked). If you’re spending time outdoors, just be careful not to get sunburnt!

 

These just provide a glimpse into my summer to do list, but take them into consideration. Create your own summer bucket lists and share them to inspire others to do the same! Have a great summer!

 

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

Wow.

Graduation is on Sunday. Four years really have flown by. They have been packed with activities: switching my major, taking Orgo, and participating in Dance Marathon are among the few things I’ve done. Yet I feel like I haven’t really accomplished much. I wish I had gotten more involved on campus with clubs or organizations or club sports. I wasn’t really able to find my specific calling on campus —  I wish I had put more effort into exploring all that Rutgers has to offer. I didn’t want to stretch myself too thin, but I wish I had some group or organization to which I truly belonged.

But that didn’t happen. And while my lack of involvement may be a minor regret, I nevertheless loved my college experience here at Rutgers.

The realization that things here are coming to an end are slowly starting to dawn on me. I don’t think the feelings will really hit until after convocation is over. Over the course of the past few weeks I have been taking in Rutgers and the aspects of the campus that I will miss. While walking down college ave from Brower to Scott Hall, I admired how the sun lit up the light green leaves on the trees as groups of students leisurely chatted with their friends or rushed to catch a shortly departing H bus. I savored the ability to get a slice of pizza at 2:30 AM from one of many late night food joints on Easton. I rode one of the buses and fondly remembered how clueless I was about them when I was a Freshman. I will not miss fighting with a throng of people to get on a bus at Scott Hall or the SAC. However, those survival-of-the-fittest moments have prepared me for New York subways. I’m going to miss the dining halls and getting food so conveniently. I’m going to miss the red and white flowers that line campus. I’ll miss tailgating for football games and partying afterward. I will miss many, many things about Rutgers…

Sure, I can always visit if I want to, but being at Rutgers as an alumna won’t feel the same as being here as a student.

These have been some of the best years of my life. I’ve made and lost friends, met new people, traveled to incredible parts of the world, had existential crises over my major and life plans, learned a lot in classes that interested me, stood on my feet for 30 hours to raise money, completed a thesis, connected with brilliant and kind professors and deans and staff members who have helped me every step of the way. I want to thank Rutgers for all the memories and life lessons that I have gained, because of which I am a better, more mature, and confident person than I was when I first started college.

Graduation is just around the corner and I am a mix of emotions. I’m a little sad to close the book on this chapter of my life. I’m shocked that I’m actually going to graduate; this day seemed so far in the future but now it’s happening. I’m a little scared and uneasy and anxious and a little excited for my life after graduation. Up until this point, every year has been planned out. It was easy — school. But now what? Freedom is a bit daunting because there are so many opportunities that I fear I won’t spend it correctly and I’ll end up doing nothing and wasting time. I’m scared that my motivations and desires are going to drastically change and I’ll be lost, unsure of how to proceed.

Despite my fears and worries, I know I will be ok in end. Because I am a Scarlet Knight, and I have learned how to stay strong, and persevere, and think my way through problems.

R U RAH RAH and all that. See you in the real world.

~Stephanie

Great Short Reads: A Colloquium Alternative

So as members of the SAS Honors Program, we need to do two Honors Colloquiums or an alternative. And there are a lot of alternatives. This past semester I took part in a relatively new one: a one credit Pass/Fail course called Great Short Reads.

So, you ask, how was it? Should I take it?

The answer to the first question is highly enjoyable and to the second, as with much advice, is it really depends on you and your situation.

In short: If you have the time to read three novellas/short novels and enjoy not only reading but discussing and briefly writing about literary fiction, then yes this is a great alternative to another colloquium that has all your favorite things and free pizza.

The course is led by Professor Paul Blaney, who also teaches that course that goes to Ireland every spring. For the past semester, he picked our first novella, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, then the class voted on our second and third pieces, which ended up being Slaughterhouse Five and A Clockwork Orange, three incredibly different pieces in terms of style, topic, and genre that were fantastic, if somewhat depressing, reads.

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For each of these, we read them, watched a movie adapting them, and wrote a short piece on the Sakai forums. Then, at the end of the semester, we had to write a short piece imitating the novels that could fit into the novel (essentially, we were told to write canon-compliant fanfiction for class). At each of the five meetings we held over the course of the semester, there was free pizza and everyone was generally into discussing the books. Overall, I liked it a lot more than colloquium and found the reading to be very rewarding and to be a nice change of pace from my other classwork. If you’re looking for summer reading, I would recommend any of these books (though maybe spread it out and read things that are maybe a little more optimistic in between each).

If you have any questions about the course or any summer reading recommendations, leave a comment 🙂

Have a great summer!

Also, since my last final is today at 4, enjoy this meme:

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Spring Bloom…More like AH-CHOOO!!

You know what’s worse than sneezing six times in a row? Sneezing six times in a row with itchy eyes!! (Actually, I lied. Sneezing six times in a row with itchy eyes while trying to drive is the worst!). While the beautiful flowers and gardens amaze most of y’all, I’m here trying not to break the world record for most sneezes.

I have had pollen allergies since I was very young. That means every spring/summer brings about the sneezing and the itchy eyes. Over the years though I have tried to figure out ways that can help me the most. Here they are:

  1. Washing your face/shower: So whenever I’m experiencing bad allergies, I always try to wash my face, especially my eyes, with cold water. This really helps to sooth your eyes and removes any pollen on your face. Also whenever I come back home from an outside activity, I try to take a quick shower to remove all the pollen that might be on my body and hair.
  2. Stay indoors: Yah I know that might be tough. Great weather and sunny days. With school over you probably want to be outside every day. But I try to stay indoors especially when pollen levels are high. The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and other sites can provide you with daily pollen levels.
  3. Medication: There are a lot of over the counter drugs that can really help with your allergies. My advice is to either ask your doctor for a strong medication that can keep the allergies symptoms low, or try out which over the counter drug works the best for you.
  4. Goggles: While I don’t really recommend it, I have actually worn swimming goggles to keep the pollen out of my eyes. When your eyes itch like mine, you will be asking for the goggles too!!
  5. Rain Dance Rituals: During the spring and summer, rain is your best friend. It washes all that pollen away and you can finally enjoy life! Even though my rain dance rituals have not yet been successful, I still try!!

Well, I hope your allergies don’t affect your daily activities too much. Remember to stay safe while driving if you do start a sneezing marathon! Good luck on finals and enjoy the summer!

What I Learned in Boating School is… Failure is Okay.

For many of you, college is the highlight of your lives. It may be better than high school, and you know, you probably discovered yourself here. Or are on the path of discovering yourself here. (I’m the latter).

As I look back at my college career, I’m proud of myself. I had no qualms that I would graduate when I first started, but things got a little hairy as I went further in. No worries, though! If there’s one thing college has taught me, it’s that if you persevere and sometimes, hang on for dear life, you’ll make it through.

Honestly, I didn’t realize that sometimes all you have to really do is just hold on, y’know, like that new Louis Tomlinson and Steve Aoki song. Anyway.

Finals are coming up, and a lot of you may be worried about where you stand. I’m telling you, really telling you, to stop worrying. I know this is easier said than done, but in the bigger scheme of things, these exams are a blip in your life. Your GPA is a blip in your life. This time is a literal blip in your life!

If you find yourself worrying, do this: take a deep breath, and think about the length your life will be, based on probability and averages. Think about what happens if you pass, and what happens if you fail. The most realistic effect: your GPA falls a little, your parents are upset, etc. etc.

Okay, fine, but you’re not dead, right? You still have the brains to solve any problem that comes at you in the future? Yes, it makes life a little harder if you don’t do as well. But I’m also trying to say that the future isn’t impossible if you fail. Everything has a solution. And failing is sometimes okay.

Failure puts things into perspective. We feel that we can’t fail, as if we won’t be able to handle it. But we are a lot more resilient than that. I think we’ve forgotten that.

So I just wanted to remind you all that failing is okay sometimes. It means you tried something, and it didn’t work. It might give you insight as to how you function as a person. It certainly gave me that insight. I realized I had to be myself and stop doing things the way everyone else did them.

So yeah, I love college (this is a very recent understanding, trust me) because I failed a lot. A LOT. And at first, I was ashamed of how much I’ve failed. But I’m not worried anymore. Those failures were just a blip in my career; they’re so small, just like the amount of time that I’ve spent at Rutgers.

So it’s okay to fail if you do.

But.

I’m not giving you the go-ahead to party instead of studying for your finals.

If you have the ability to change your circumstances, like studying as hard as you can just to pass a class, then do it. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but if you can do it, then do it.

Failure shouldn’t be used as an excuse; it’s another tool in your arsenal. And college should help you build an arsenal of strategies to overcome problems with brilliant solutions. It did this for me.

College was wild. I hope it’s wild for all of you too.

And here is where I leave you all.

It was a pleasure writing for you and giving you all advice. I hope it’s helped the lot of you, even a little. As I graduate and just move to another pasture, I know I’ll be ruminating over the lessons I’ve learned here. And I hope I’ve made some lessons at Rutgers easier to learn.

And now, I bid you adieu.

Signing off,

Nida Saeed.