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Meningitis and the College Student

by Lisa Lowdermilk

With the holidays just around the corner, the last thing you want to think about is getting sick. But with kissletoe (err...I mean mistletoe) in the hallways of the dorms and the impending threat of cold season, it's important that you do everything you can to stay healthy. Specifically, let's talk about meningitis – one of the biggest threats to college students' health today – and what you can to prevent it.

Meningitis is a serious illness which can cause headaches, fever, vomiting, sensitivity to light and more and if not properly treated, meningitis can lead to seizures, amputation, coma and even death. The way meningitis is spread varies depending on the type of meningitis (i.e. bacterial, viral, fungal, non-infectious, etc.). While not as contagious as the flu, bacterial meningitis is spread by coughing, sharing drinks or kissing.

Several things you can do to prevent meningitis include washing your hands properly, getting plenty of rest, not sharing drinks and getting vaccinated, though bacterial meningitis is the only type of meningitis which can be prevented with a vaccine. Because it's the most common type to afflict college students (as well as the most deadly), it's extremely important to get vaccinated before attending college. With that said, if you're already in college and haven't been vaccinated, now is the time to do so! In fact, beginning January 1st, Texas is requiring all incoming college students to get vaccinated prior to attending.

If you think you or someone you know might have symptoms of meningitis, see a doctor right away. Meningitis is treatable with antibiotics but only if you act in time!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Sleep 101

September 19, 2011

Sleep 101

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Insomnia is the bane of so many college students' existences. In a world filled with late nights and early classes, catching enough Zzz’s can be difficult...but it doesn't have to be. So breathe deep, avoid caffeine and try these other tips to make falling asleep easier:

Don't use electronic devices before bedtime. This tip is by far the most difficult one for me to follow. I love playing video games before bed and while I don't pay for it every time, I know I've had plenty of sleepless nights because I’ve been too revved up from trying to beat one high score or another. In addition to increasing your heart rate, using electronic devices before bedtime inhibits melatonin production, which makes it more difficult to get to sleep.

Turn your brain off. Again, following this tip is easier said than done but it's arguably the most important. As much as I love reading thrillers before bedtime, I regret it when it comes time to turn the lights off. (*creak*...Was that a burglar I just heard?) And it's not just thriller novels that will make sleeping difficult: Mentally running through lists of assignments, worrying about exams and thinking about the argument you just had with your best friend are equally detrimental to catching 40 (or more) winks.

Head to bed around the same time every night. This tip may be difficult if you have roommates who throw parties until 4 a.m. but try your hardest to go to sleep on a schedule. It takes time for your body to adapt to a new schedule so don't make matters more difficult by going to bed at 8 p.m. one night and 3 a.m. the next unless it really can't be avoided. (And if you do have roommates who throw parties all night long, the best solution is to voice your concerns and come to some sort of compromise.)

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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The Benefits of Community Colleges

by Lisa Lowdermilk

For many students fresh out of high school, the idea of going to a community college is not appealing. After all, one of the most exciting aspects of attending college is living on campus away from home, right? Well, living on campus may not be all it's cracked up to be.

Although few people would argue that universities' clubs, fraternities and parties are superior to anything offered at a community college, the stress of being away from home for the first time, learning to live with one or more roommates and being forced to make new friends can be quite an adjustment. Community colleges help students ease into the transition between high school and college more gradually.

Then there’s the cost: Tuition at a community college per year costs $2,713 per year, whereas four-year universities cost $7,605 per year on average. This second figure assumes you're living in-state but if you're living out-of-state, expect to be set back about $11,990 your first year. If cost is the major deciding factor, your decision is easy: Go to a community college for your first two years, then transfer. With all the extra money you're saving, you can throw your own parties, buy that new car you've been wanting or just save up for when you do go to a university.

Even if you're not going to your dream school for your first two years, you'll still have the opportunity to experience campus life after you get your associate degree at a community college. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find out community colleges aren't as bad as they're made out to be!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Getting Creative is Easier Than You Think

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Even if you’re not a creative writing or visual arts major, you can still benefit from being creative. Employers and teachers alike value creativity and it’s a great way to build your self-esteem. Plus, without creative people, we’d never have kooky inventions like the carpet alarm clock!

So, what are some things you can do to enhance creativity? First off, work on improving your puzzle-solving skills, as solving puzzles can activate previously dormant neural pathways, which in turn can improve creativity. Besides crosswords, Sudoku, riddles and mazes, there are also grid puzzles, lock puzzles and tessellations.

A simpler way to enhance creativity is to change your surroundings. After all, if you’re constantly surrounded by the same drab wallpaper every day, it can be hard to think outside the box. Even if moving to another dorm isn’t an option, you could always take a walk along a route you don’t normally take. It may seem clichéd but you’ll have a much easier time enhancing creativity if you keep an open mind.

The way I’ve found to be most beneficial, though, is to just setting aside time each day to come up with as many outlandish ideas as I can think of. The key is to not reject any ideas no matter how bizarre they may seem, as I can sometimes find ways these ideas could work. And even if I ultimately decide my ideas make no sense whatsoever, just going through the process helps me come up with ideas that do make sense.

Regardless of how uncreative you may think you are, you can always take steps to improve your creativity. Creativity is not something that only a select few of us are gifted with – with enough effort, anyone can be creative!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Devices That Make Students’ Lives Easier

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Between all-nighters, being away from family and having to balance work and school, going to college can be trying at the worst of times. Fortunately, a variety of gadgets designed to save you time, relieve stress and make your life easier in general are available online and at a store near you.

Let’s start off with the backpack scooter, like this one from Glyde Gear. This quirky contraption is just what it sounds like: a rolling backpack with a retractable skate platform. You can roll it, skate on it or carry it like you would a normal backpack. Seeing this kind of backpack reminded me of when I visited a few campuses in Hawaii and California, where many students got from class to class on longboards while carrying backpacks. While the backpack scooter may not look as cool as a longboard, it’s definitely a lot less cumbersome.

Next up is a portable espresso maker. With this product (check out this one from Handpresso), you can enjoy hot cappuccino, espresso, Americano and latte without electricity: All you need is some hot water and an Easy Serving Espresso (E.S.E.) pod. If you’re the type who waits until the night before a test to start studying, you might want to snag one of these gadgets to get your caffeine fix.

Last but not least is a laptop lock. Laptop theft is unfortunately as rampant as ever but using a laptop lock goes a long way towards deterring potential thieves. These devices (Kensington makes them as well as a number of other companies) connect to the security slots in laptops using ultra-durable T-bar locks. The lock itself is attached to a carbon steel cable, which can be secured to your desk.

Though money can’t buy your GPA, it can help you buy these and other gadgets to make your time as a college student just a little bit easier.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Getting Along With Your Host Family

by Mariah Proctor

A practical stranger just walked into my room in her underwear to tell me not to be so rough with the cold water handle of the kitchen faucet.

Yes, living with host families is an adventure but can also be one of the most rewarding parts of a study abroad. It’s an adjustment to suddenly be sharing personal space with people you hardly know but here are a few rules of thumb that can help make the whole experience a little smoother for all.

Follow their rules, not yours. One of the biggest adjustments of attending college in general is that not everyone grew up with the same sensibilities as you did and the things you thought everyone knew (i.e., obviously mustard should be kept in the fridge) might be a ‘just you’ thing. That gets compounded fourfold when you are in a different family and a different culture so when your host family sets up initial guidelines, follow them. Even if it’s not how you would ever do things, you are in their home and you should respect their rules.

Monkey see, monkey do. For all of those other things that just have a big question mark and for which those new strangers whose , two words: watch and learn. Try to be observant and aware of the way things are done and follow suit.

Communicating isn’t stepping on toes. Don’t assume, ask! If there’s a language barrier, use some clever props or charades; through giggles and victorious discovery, they’ll figure out what you mean. Don’t feel like you’re being silly or an imposition for communicating your issues. Solving those issues will make you a less imposing presence.

Show your gratitude. Most of all, remember to be gracious and courteous! Your host family has opened up their home to you; learn all that you can learn from them because you will have no better opportunity for cultural immersion. Maybe, just maybe, these complete strangers can become like family after all.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Coming Home and Moving On from a Study Abroad Experience

by Mariah Proctor

I arrived back in the U.S. on a Friday and the following Monday was the first day of a whole new semester of classes. One second, I was walking around Paris and soaking up the romance of the city. The next? I’m back with the same pack of people as always, as though the summer never happened. I love my friends in college and I love the life I’ve created for myself, but studying abroad is a life apart and coming back to a reality that seems unchanged when you feel transformed can be taxing.

What’s worse than feeling ever single one of the 5,000 miles between the place you just fell in love with and the place you’ve come back to is that the general public (even good friends) tend to turn off when you start a sentence with “When I was in Europe...” As memories that now boast an additional silver lining spill from your lips, you will undoubtedly be met with rolled eyes and pantomimed hair flipping. It does sound pretty snooty to talk about your summer in [fill in the exotic blank] but conversation and connection with people is built up on sharing ideas and experiences. Just because your experiences involved gelato and fine art doesn’t mean their jealousy or discouraged expressions should get you down on yourself!

At points through the many months of studying abroad, you feel acutely homesick for all things familiar and for people who love you. But that old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is true and the second you’re home, you’ll want to be back. My advice? Don’t let yourself live in a constant state of yearning for what you can’t have, don’t resent your friends for not understanding and be so grateful for all the experiences you’ve had and make that new, stronger, more cultured you the driving force for the exciting next step – whatever it may be.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Taking the Edge Off of Culture Shock

by Mariah Proctor

When you’re preparing to study abroad, the images that illustrate your anticipation are the ones that you’d find on postcards. You have romantic images of sunsets and famous buildings but you often neglect the mundane – the Dumpsters, the traffic, the bathrooms. You fail to realize that your study abroad will see you taking on a new place in its entirety and those routine, everyday things are not only present but are done differently than back home. That moment of ‘that’s not how you’re supposed to do that’ or ‘the people here are so _____’ is called culture shock; take the edge off by anticipating its inevitable arrival.

There’s an emotional sequence that one experiences sojourning in a foreign land. You arrive, buzzing with the anticipation and gleefully jet lagged. Everything is still new and exciting at this point but after the novelty wears off, a sinking feeling that most don’t expect kicks in. You feel overwhelmed and overstimulated, you start to develop anxiety if you are not filling every moment with something new and valuable and, most of all, those little quirks of daily life that aren’t at all like your home life stop being charming and start being annoying. It’s obnoxious that the shower and the toilet are in two separate rooms and the people here seem determined not to smile or laugh and find it a nuisance when you do. Everyone is so quiet and punctual, not like your loud, late family back home.

Though you’ll try to stave off that sour phase for as long as possible, it will come. You will get homesick and things will not be as you’re used to. Then there will come a day when you suddenly realize that you’ve fallen in love with your new home; you didn’t even feel it getting under your skin but suddenly, you’re hooked. It’s also usually at that same time that you’re scheduled to leave.

Studying abroad is not an adventure every minute and it’s a lot harder than the recruitment people at your school will ever let on...but oh the delight in finding you love a place that at one time you’d only dreamt of visiting.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

by Mariah Proctor

A good study abroad program is designed to seamlessly integrate the graded classes into the active, living experience so that the two aspects don’t find themselves in conflict. That is the hope but, as my roommate will tell you through frustrated tears, that is not always the way it goes down.

You’ve got to feel for the professors – they are often experts on the place you are visiting and they look into the blank, ignorant and often not properly appreciative eyes of their students and want to tell you everything there is to know to make you see what they see. Your average student, however, cannot synthesize all of that new information while simultaneously managing a new climate, new customs and money that, it turns out, is not Monopoly money and actually does deplete your savings as you spend it. All of this while trying to have a completely carefree, time-of-your-life, otherworldly good time? It can’t be done.

My advice is to forget the classes. Don’t misinterpret my meaning: Be the person who goes to class, is present in body and mind, takes in everything they can, inhales knowledge the way they inhale gelato and fancy pasta outside of class. It truly will add depth to the place. If you’re the person who is a perfect GPA, point-pinching, anxiety-ridden, stress cadet that thinks that excelling in the classroom will make you excellent as a person, studying abroad will break you.

Do as well as you can and keep up on your classwork but if you have to choose between an evening in studying or going to the opening event of the world’s largest international dance festival downtown, choose the dancing. If you can either finish some back reading for class or go to a procession celebrating Corpus Christi, don’t let a textbook literally rain on your parade. I know it will be hard but please when you prioritize, remember not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.


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Understanding Your Housing Options

by Mike Sheffey

The college experience is a great one but can be a little challenging with respect to housing and its wide range of options. For example, many students choose to live off campus at big universities following their freshman year, while others who attend smaller schools might be in student housing or dorms all four years. I know that at Wofford, we have it pretty good but there are some general things that all colleges seem to do the same.

The housing at your prospective college will get better each year. The dorms will get bigger, nicer and easier to live in. The difference between first-year student housing and senior housing, regardless of institution, is huge. At my small college, our senior housing is essentially apartments (though our laundry is in a separate building) and our junior housing is huge dorms. If you go back to my first year, the housing was livable but far from spacious. That’s par for the course for anywhere you look (generally, though, there are smaller rooms at big universities).

There is always the option (sometimes the preferred/recommended option) of living off campus after your first year. Many of my friends have taken this option to get better rooms, more independence and, in some cases, cheaper housing. Lots of apartment complexes are still qualified as “student” housing and have primarily students that live there. And it seems that they are constantly being built as enrollment grows each year.

So whether it’s on campus or off, student housing or apartments or simple dorms, the best way to determine what works for you is to visit, tour or maybe stay at a friend’s dorm or apartment to see how it is. Small spaces were never an issue for me in freshman and sophomore dorms because I did all my work in the study building but if you’re someone that might need space to work and can focus in a dorm, you might want to look for the option with more room space. Research before you move in. Just remember that living conditions improve in college over time, though small rooms and hall settings can make for great memories!

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.


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